My Name is John Carter (Part 2), by James Hutchings

John Carter finds himself in a harsh and desolate land populated by strange and inhuman creatures! He is taken captive by the Green Martians and despairs of ever seeing another like himself again until an airship crashes, shot down by his captors!

I awoke as from sleep in an ungainly heap

and, like Adam, unclothed and alone

yet no Eden was there, but a desert as bare

as the West where I’d fled from my home.

 

For a moment I thought that delirium brought

the uncanny events of the night

and perhaps I had lain, overwrought and half-sane

and come back to myself at first light.

 

I could barely suppose I had lost my own clothes

and I somehow obscured Jim’s grave

but I saw I was wrong, for the mountains were gone

and my argument couldn’t be saved.

 

I remembered with dread all the things that I’d said

and I wondered if God had declared

that because of my wrong I would have to live on

after no other mortal was spared.

 

And perhaps a new Flood or a taint in the blood

had wiped out all the Earth while I slept

so that I could atone with a lifetime alone.

And, believing my theory, I wept.

 

Then it also occurred that God may not have heard

and the truth may have been more mundane:

that I merely was lying unconscious and dying

while fever-dreams flashed through my brain.

 

 

Though each subsequent guess caused me greater distress

they were nothing to what I would see

for wherever I’d landed was far from abandoned

yet held not one human but me.

 

Over bare broken ground they made hardly a sound

as they moved on six powerful limbs.

There was no one at all less than twenty feet tall

and no face was not hateful and grim.

 

I attempted to flee. They were faster than me

and they ran me to ground in a mile.

They were nimble as hounds as they circled around

and they made not a noise all the while.

 

I had ranted at God. I had called him a fraud

I had dared him to come from above.

Now I swore to behave like a groveling slave

as I pleaded my loyalty and love.

 

 

It is true what they say: when a man is at bay

he remembers the whole of his life.

I remembered the day when I’d put on the gray

and each day of the following strife.

 

I remembered before the events of the war

and I had a most terrible thought

of the people that we had kept chained and unfree

of the souls we had auctioned and bought.

 

For the slave, black or brown, kept his eyes to the ground

and he put on humility’s veil

but the face underneath, like a sword in its sheath

told who saw it the opposite tale.

 

There was never a slave, whether craven or brave

whether bonded to mansion or plough

had a face didn’t show all the pain that they owe

like the faces that looked at me now.

 

The unparalleled face of an alien race

with no feature of commonplace kind

but each pupil-less eye, I could scarcely deny

brought an ominous thought to my mind:

 

That behind those black coals were the newly-housed souls

of black children and women and men

who had suffered and died under folk such as I

and perhaps this was Heaven for them.

 

 

But whatever my crime, it was not yet the time

for my soul’s heavy debt to be paid

and perhaps each fell face hid a measure of grace

for their fangs and their talons were stayed.

 

But if they could forgive and allow me to live

they would not let me go on my way.

Not a one of them talked, but a gesture said, “Walk!”

and I saw naught to do but obey.

 

So they drove me along at the heart of the throng

never stopping for water or sleep

at my front and my back like a vigilant pack

herding one disobedient sheep.

 

At the end of our trek we arrived at the wreck

of a city, half-drowned by the sand

Though the doorways and stairs were my size and not theirs

it was no more a dwelling of Man.

 

I was greatly afraid, for now I was displayed

like a mouse in a city of cats.

Huge and silent they came, each exactly the same

as I shook like one facing the axe.

 

I was led by a score and out crept hundreds more

as the sun travelled low in the sky

and each monster took care to take time out to stare

at the alien beast that was I.

 

Soon the world blazed with gold, then it grew dark and cold

as the day had been boiling and bright

and the sands seemed serene as the face of a queen

and two crescent moons shone in the night.

 

As my captors, like me, lay among the debris

of a people unknown and long gone

I remembered the home from which I had been thrown

till I slept, and awoke with the dawn.

 

 

I had thought that the souls of our servants of old

lived again in a monstrous guise.

Given time to reflect I began to suspect

there was nothing behind those blank eyes.

 

For each mother would smile at the pain of her child

and each father, so too at his daughter

and the few that grew old, they were tortured tenfold

and died raving and pleading for water.

 

It is easily told how so few would grow old.

Though the desert was bitter and bleak

for each one that it claimed dozens more could be blamed

on the strong bringing death to the weak.

 

Now I still fail to see why these fiends let me be

but I felt small relief at the time

for my house and my bed were among the undead

and the world that I trod wasn’t mine.

 

Thus my banishment went, and I may well have spent

all the rest of my life in this way.

Hope had left me—but then it came calling again

with the name Dejah Thoris one day.

 

 

I was watching anew the monotonous view.

vaguely thinking of plans of escape

when a bird met my eyes of such mountainous size

that I gasped and my jaw hung agape.

 

Then I saw that I erred, for it wasn’t a bird

but some manner of ship of the air

and they labor in vain on the banks of the Seine

for no painting was ever as fair.

 

How a thing of such grace could be found in that place

I have naught of the wisdom to tell.

Are there vultures that nest on the Isle of the Blest?

Do the angels vacation in Hell?

 

As I hollered and waved and believed I was saved

on she sailed as if deafened and blind.

Shouting out for her pity I ran through the city

and cried, “Please don’t leave me behind!”

 

Now my pleading grew wild and I wept like a child

or a slave who is under the lash

but the creatures who found me were now all around

hoping not to escape, but to smash.

 

In the hands of each one was some manner of gun

that they shot with an Indian’s aim

and these weapons they bore built with alien lore

caused the timber to burst into flame.

 

So my battered heart broke as the ship bellowed smoke

and she split into two as she dived.

Pretty soon I could see naught but flames and debris

and just one of the crew had survived.

 

But that one was quite ample to once again trample

on all that I thought that I knew.

Though I’d bleakly resigned to forget my own kind

she was human as me or as you.

James Hutchings lives in Melbourne, Australia. He fights crime as Poetic Justice, but his day job is acting. You might know him by his stage-name ‘Brad Pitt.’ His work has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly and Wisdom Crieth Without among other markets. His ebook ‘Ideas and Inspiration For Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers’ is now available from Amazon, Smashwords, and DriveThruFiction. James blogs regularly at http://www.apolitical.info/teleleli.

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