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Chapter 9 Tarzan: The Lost Adventure by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Tarzan had not gone far behind the strange and glittery formations when he came to a huge glowing chamber. Nearly transparent stalactites of gleaming calcium dripped from its roof. The floor of the cave sloped downward, and below Tarzan could see stacks of skulls on either side of the cavern wall, arranged neatly from floor to ceiling. In fact, the walls themselves appeared to be made of skulls. The skulls, like the cavern walls, glowed with green phosphorescence, and there were splatters of red ocher and lines of charcoal on them.

As Tarzan came closer and the glow became brighter, he saw designs had been drawn on many of the skulls with the ocher and charcoal. No, on closer examination, they were not designs, but sticklike drawings of what appeared to be some kind of insect. A praying mantis perhaps. On each of the skulls the insect appeared in some different position. Something about the arrangements struck a chord with Tarzan, but he couldn't quite place it. All of the skulls had holes at the top of the cranium. It looked as if something small and sharp had poked through the bone.

Beyond the skulls, arranged neatly, were stacks of leg and arm bones, and in yet another pile were collapsed rib bones. Tarzan touched one of the bones. It was petrified and permeated with the sparkly calcium. Near the bones were stacks of pottery and chipped fragments of flint.

The path wound deeper into the cavern, and for some distance beyond, the ape-man could see the stacks of glowing skulls and bones. Lying amongst the bones were stacked weapons. Spearheads. Knives. Tarzan bent to examine the weapons and was surprised to see that the knives were made of metal, not flint. The metal was bronze. The blades were huge, almost like bowie knives. The wood or bone sheathing on the hilts had long since rotted away. Tarzan picked up two of the knives, rubbed the nervous Nkima's head, and started back to join Hunt and Jad-bal-ja.

He found Hunt asleep. Tarzan bent and scooped water from the stream and washed his face, removed the dried blood from his neck and chest. He lay against the great lion and cradled Nkima in his arms. In spite of all that had happened, it felt good to be back in the jungle. Here every moment was charged with excitement and danger. It made him feel alive. Civilization had its moments, but in the end it was numbing and repetitious.

He knew time was changing everything, however. Soon the jungle would disappear. Eaten away by human termites in search of lumber. Industry. In some areas, game was already scarce. Even the most distant of jungle trails were now being traveled. Soon, there would be no more adventuring. There was nothing left to do but return to Pellucidar. The lost world at the center of the earth. There, beneath the eternal noonday sun, as long as there was little to no contact with the outside world, changes were gradual. It was a world he knew and understood.
In the end, Tarzan knew he would go there with Jane, his woman. And he just might stay.

Tarzan decided to sleep, store his strength. His instincts told him he would need it. He wondered about Jean and Hanson before he nodded off, but with his usual realistic resignation, decided there was nothing he could do, but rest, store his energy, and wait. He dreamed of his earlier encounter with the lion. Then Wilson's men, and the buffalo. In those moments, he had never felt so alive.

While Tarzan and Hunt slept in the cavern, small dramas were taking place. Small was holed up under a stack of fallen trees that had grouped and entwined in such a way as to make a kind of cubbyhole. He had found his shelter by accident. In fact, he had seen part of the shelter made. The wind had tossed a tree in front of him, fee limb striking him across the face, cutting his cheek, and when the great tree crashed into another and brought it down, the limbs twisted together into a kind of wooden maze. Small had scampered to it and found a place where he could crawl under the limbs and hide.

He was not free of the wind and the rain here, but he was better off than out in the open. He squatted in his little den and listened to the wind blow and the rain lash. The rain came through the boughs of the fallen trees and struck him and made him cold. The wind shook him. He feared some wild animal would also choose this spot to hide from the storm. He had read once that during a storm like this, animals, sometimes predators and prey, conducted a sort of unspoken (ungrowled?) truce. Cowering together, at least until the storm passed. It sounded like a lie, but for the moment, Small thought it was a lie he would like to believe and cling to with all his might. Of course, there was another consideration. When exactly did a truce like that end? Was there a free-zone time? Ten minutes after the storm and all bets were off?

Five minutes?


Or was it when the wind quit blowing it was everyone for themselves?

Small decided it was best not to follow this line of inquiry. He stretched out on the wet ground beneath the thick limbs and tried to sleep. The night howled like a demon.

When the storm struck, Wilson and Cannon had struggled to find the trail and managed just that. But the storm was furious. They fought their way through the wind and rain for some distance, then it became too intense and trees began to leap up and away, twist into splinters. One of the splinters caught Cannon in the arm, and the impact was like a .45 slug. The only advantage was that it shot completely through the flesh of his trice and the sleeve of his shirt and kept traveling.

Wilson and Cannon found a low spot behind an uprooted tree, pushed their backs against the dirt and roots, and listened to the storm twist and throb above and about them. They were hit by the rain; hit so hard welts were raised on their skin. Water ran in the low spot where they crouched and soaked their feet. They crossed their arms and held themselves and shivered.

"It's gonna be one long night," Wilson said.

"Yeah, and me without whiskey," Cannon said.

Cannon opened his shirt and looked at the wound. He clutched a handful of mud and leaf mold from the earth and pushed the cold compact against his wound and closed up his shirt. He grinned at Wilson. "Hey," he said. 'Think maybe I got a few splinters in my arm here. Want to pick them out?"

"Go to hell," Wilson said.

Back at Hunt and Small's camp, Gromvitch panicked when the storm struck. Before he realized it, half the bearers had melted into the jungle. Gromvitch went after a couple of them with a stick, but the bearers were too scared of the storm to fear a beating.

A couple of them broke for the jungle in panic, and Gromvitch tossed aside the stick and picked up his rifle. He shot one of the deserters in the back and killed him instantly. Before he could put the bead on the other, the campfire was guttered out by the wind and drowned by the rain.

As Gromvitch stood there in total darkness, the remaining bearers burst in all directions, exploded like seeds from an overripe pomegranate. Gromvitch fired a random shot at the sound of their movements, then the storm came down like a demon and sat on the camp. Gromvitch, scared and foolish, immediately took shelter in Hunt and Small's tent. The storm grabbed the tent and wadded it up and carried it above the trees, high into the sky, leaving Gromvitch squatting on the ground. The storm fed Gromvitch a camp table, knocking out half of his teeth. Then it took him up in a swirl of wind and water and debris and a couple of slow bearers. It whipped them through the foliage so hard and fast they were shredded like cheese through a grater.

The time the storm hit, to the time Gromvitch and the two bearers became nothing more than wet, leathery decorations for the trees, took less than thirty seconds.

Back at Hanson's camp, right before the arrival of the storm, Jean had voiced concern for Tarzan. He had gone out to hunt meat and had not come back. They had resorted to camp fare, hardtack and dried meat, and now the sky was black and the stars and the moon were tucked away like dead game in a croaker sack.

Hanson, Jean, and their head askari, Billy, were standing outside of Hanson's tent, looking at the sky. The kerosene lantern that hung from the front tent pole flickered in the wind, threatening total darkness.

"I don't like the looks of this," Hanson said. "We better peg and tie these tents better."

"Begging Bwana's pardon and excuse, please," Billy said. "But you better do more than tie better knots. What comes is the wind whip."

"The wind whip?" Jean said.

"Whip you up and out of here, put you over in the Congo. Put you over in the Sahara. Drop you out in the big water. Take you faster than a lion takes a mouse."

"You mean a tornado?" Hanson said.

"Have it your way, Bwana," Billy said. "But I tell you this. Lots of wind. Lots of rain. Whip you to pieces. Twist you like rope, tie you in a knot. Throws stuff, the wind whip does. Throws straw through trees. Makes elephant and hippo cower in fear. Not make Billy feel all so good neither."

"Poor Tarzan," Jean said.

"He's no worse off than we," Billy said. "Maybe better. He knows it's coming. He'll find shelter. He's the man of the woods, is what he is. He lives in the jungle. He's part of the jungle."

"The tents won't protect us?" Jean said.

"Tents?" Billy said. "You got to be joking, missy. Wind wrap you up in tents like sausage in pancakes, feed you to the storm."

"That's not good," Jean said.

"Not good," Billy said. "Seriously bad on everybody, is what it be."

The wind picked up, moaned. The lantern went out. The air was damp.

"Suggestions?" Hanson said, relighting the lantern.

"Hook 'em up," Billy said.

"That an old African term?" Hanson asked.

"No," Billy said. "American. Have man say that to me on safari once. He wanted to hunt lion. Lion came after him. He fired shot. Lion didn't fall. Hunter threw down gun, yelled to me, 'Hook 'em up!' and ran. Billy was fast. Hooked up real good. Hunter wasn't. Lion ate him. Or most of him. I say we hook 'em up quick before ole wind-lion get here and feed on us. What we do, is we take tents down speedy, peg them over supplies, close to ground. Then we run like hyenas with brush fire on tails."

"Just run?" Jean said.

The lantern blew out.

"We run that way," Billy said, carefully relighting the lantern. "Land goes down over there. We got to be lower than storm. Only chance."

The lantern blew out again. Billy unclipped his flashlight from his pants and turned it on. "We got just enough time," Billy said. "Talk another couple minutes, better leave tents and all the business. Talk another minute, can kiss ourselves good-bye. Too late to hook 'em up."

"All right, Billy," Hanson said. "Give the orders for it to happen. Let's move!"

Hanson and Jean set about taking down their tent, but as they worked, the sky grew darker and they could hardly see to complete the task. They had just finished pegging it, when Billy came running up, flashlight bobbing in the dark. "Get flashlights and let's hop. None of this stuff make difference if we too dead to use it."
"All right," Hanson said, unclipping his flashlight from his belt. "Let's, as the unfortunate hunter said, 'hook'em up!'"

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