Astounding Stories of Super-Science June 1931, by Astounding Stories is part of HackerNoon’s Book Blog Post series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here. Manape the Mighty - Chapter IX: Fate Decides
Morning brought the great apes of the jungle—scores of them. They had approached so silently through the darkness that Bentley had not heard them, and his ape's nostrils had not told his human brain the meaning of their odor. It appeared too that his ape's ears had tricked him. For when morning came there were great apes everywhere.
Bentley still held the wrist of Apeman, whose chest was rising and falling naturally, though the body was limp and plainly exhausted, and exuded perspiration that told of some jungle fever or other illness perhaps, induced by hardship and over-exertion. The ape's brain of Apeman had driven Bentley's body to the uttermost, and now that body must pay.
Bentley wondered how far he was now from the cabin of Caleb Barter.
He doubted if Apeman could stand the return journey, though Bentley's ape body could have carried Apeman's with ease. But would Apeman stand the journey? Apeman, Bentley knew, was going into the Valley of the Shadow, and something must be done to save him. But what?
And the great apes constituted a new menace, though they were making no effort to molest the three in the tree. Apeman must be placed in a shady place and some attention paid to his needs. But the human body with the ape's brain could not tell how it hurt or where.
The first task was to get the two beings down from the tree, and much depended upon chance. To the apes Bentley was another ape, one moreover which had slain a number of them. But Apeman was a human being, as was Ellen Estabrook. The whole thing constituted a fine problem for the brain of Manape.
If Manape were to attempt first aid for Apeman, how would such a sight react upon Ellen Estabrook? If Manape were to attempt to take Apeman back to Caleb Barter, leading the way for Ellen, would she follow, and what would his action tell her? She would think herself demented, imagining things, because a great ape did things which only human beings were supposedly capable of doing.
If she knew, of course, it would make a difference. But she did not, and Bentley had no means by which to inform her. That was a problem for the future. Ellen was sleeping the sleep of utter exhaustion and he felt that he could safely leave her for the moment while he swung Apeman down from the tree. He must work fast, and return for Ellen before the great apes discovered the helpless Apeman at the foot of the tree. He hoped to get Ellen down while she slept, knowing that she would be in mortal fear of him if she wakened and found herself in his power.
Bentley got Apeman down, and looked about him. No apes were close enough, as far as he could tell, to molest Apeman before Bentley could return with Ellen. He raced back into the tree, lifted Ellen so gently that she scarcely altered the even motion of her breathing—and for a moment he hesitated. So close to him were her tired lips. So woe-begone and pathetic her appearance, a great well of pity for her rose in the heart of Bentley—or what was the seat of this emotion within him? Was the brain the seat of the emotions? Or the heart? But Bentley's true heart was in Apeman's human body, so there must be some other explanation for the feeling which grew and grew within Bentley for Ellen.
He leaned forward with the intention of touching his lips to the tired thin lips of Ellen Estabrook, then drew back in horror.
How could he kiss this woman whom he loved with the gross lips of Manape, the great ape?
He could, of course, but suppose she wakened at his caress and saw the great figure of the jungle brute, with all man's emotions and desires, yet with none of man's restraint—bending over her? Women had gone insane over less.
He hurried down with Ellen, and placed her beside Apeman.
By now the great apes had discovered the strange trio and were coming close to investigate. There was a huge brute who came the fastest and seemed to be the leader of the apes, if any they had. But even this one did not offer a challenge, did not seem perturbed in the least. But he did seem filled with childish curiosity. The apes themselves were like children, children grown to monstrous proportions, advancing and retreating, staring at this trio, darting away when Apeman or Ellen made some sort of movement.
Bentley could sense too their curiosity where he was concerned. Their senses told them that Bentley was a great ape. Their instincts, however, made them hesitate, uncertain as to his true "identity"—or so Bentley imagined.
Ellen still slept, but she must have sensed the near presence of potential enemies, for she was stirring fitfully, preparing to waken.
What would her reaction be when she opened her eyes to see Manape near her, standing guard over Apeman, with the jungle on all sides filled with the lurking nightmare figures of other great apes?
A moan of anguish came from Apeman. He stirred, and groans which seemed to rack his whole white bruised body came forth. The brain of the ape was reacting to the suffering of Bentley's body—and a brute was whimpering with its hurts. The advancing apes came to pause. They seemed to stare at one another in amazement. They were suddenly frightened, amazed, unable to understand the thing they saw and were listening to. Bentley crouched there, watching the apes, and he fancied he could understand their sudden new hesitancy.
He did not know, but he guessed that the moans and groans of Apeman were comprehensible to the great apes. They knew that this strangely white creature was an ape, though he looked like a man. Already they had wondered as much as they were capable, about Manape. They had sensed something not simian about him which puzzled them.
But from the lips of Apeman, to add to their mystification, came the groans and moans of an ape that was suffering. Bentley held his position, wondering what they would do. That they meant no harm he was sure, else they would long since have charged and overborne the three—unless they remembered the super-simian might of Manape and were afraid to attack again. Bentley hoped so, for that would make things easier for them all.
Now the nearest apes were almost beside the body of Apeman, which was still covered with agony sweat. The lips emitted moans and faint blurs of gibberish. Bentley noted that the leading ape was a great she. The female came forward hesitantly, making strange sounds in her throat, and it seemed to Bentley that Apeman answered them. For the she came forward with the barest trace of hesitancy, stared for a moment at Manape, with a sort of challenge in her savage little red eyes, then dropped to all fours beside Apeman and began to lick his wounds!
The she knew something of the injuries of Apeman and was doing what instinct told her to do for him. Now the rest of the apes were all about them—and Ellen wakened with a shrill cry of terror.
Bentley remained as a man turned to stone. If he moved toward the woman he loved she would flee from him in terror—out among the other apes and into the jungle where she would have no slightest chance for life. If he did nothing she might still run.
Wildly she looked about her. She screamed again when she saw the she bending over the travesty she thought to be Bentley, and licking the poor bruised body. Ellen cast a sidelong look at Manape, and there was something distinctly placating in her eyes. She recognized Manape, and wanted his friendship. What thoughts crowded her brain as she realized that she was in the center of a group of anthropoids who could have destroyed her with their fingers in a matter of seconds!
She did the one thing which proved to Bentley that she was worthy of any man's love. The great she who licked the wounds of Apeman was thrice the size of Ellen. Yet Ellen crawled to Apeman, little sounds of pity in her throat. Instantly the snarling of the she sent her back. The she had, for the time being at least, assumed proprietorship of Apeman, and was bidding Ellen keep her distance. And the she meant it, too. For she bared her fighting fangs when Ellen again approached close enough to have touched the body of Apeman.
This time the she advanced a step toward the girl, and her snarl was a terrible sound. Ellen retreated, but no further than was necessary to still that snarl in the throat of the she. Manape moved in quite close now, into position to interfere if the she tried to actually injure Ellen Estabrook. If only, Bentley thought, there were some way of making himself known to Ellen! But how could she believe, even if a way were discovered?
"What shall I do?" moaned Ellen aloud, wringing her hands. "Poor Lee! I can't move him. That brute won't let me touch him. Oh, I'm afraid!"
Bentley wanted to tell her not to be afraid, but had learned from experience that when he tried to speak his voice was the bellowing one of a great ape. And if he were to enunciate words that Ellen could understand, what then? English from the lips of a giant anthropoid! She would not believe, would think herself insane—and with excellent reason. Slowly, as matters were transpiring, she had already been given sufficient reason to believe that her mind was tottering.
Manape stood guard over her. A she had adopted the thing she thought was Bentley. A score of great apes, which only three days ago had tried to destroy both Bentley and herself, now surrounded Bentley and Ellen with all the appearance of amity—crude, true, but unmistakable. Certainly this was sufficiently beyond all human experience to make Ellen believe she were in the throes of some awful nightmare. What would she think if an ape began to address her in English, and "Bentley" suddenly held speech with the great apes?
Add to this possibility, suppose she were suddenly confronted with the truth—that the essential entities of Bentley and Manape had been exchanged, and the whole thing were explained to her from the gross lips of Manape himself, while "Bentley" looked on and chattered a challenge in ape language while Manape talked?
No, at first she might have understood. Now it would have been even more horrifying for her to hear the truth. She must think what she would, and be allowed to adjust herself to the astounding state of affairs. Apeman could not be moved for some time. Ellen would not leave him, naturally. Nor would Manape. And the apes apparently intended to remain with them. Which made the problem, after all, a simple one. The trio must remain for the time being among the great apes. They needed one another in a strange way, and they needed the apes themselves, which were like a formidable army at their backs, as protection against the other beasts of the wilds.
Bentley watched the great she continue her rude first aid for Apeman. Apeman was still moaning, though less fitfully, like a child that nuzzles the milk bottle, but is drifting away into sleep. The she gave the travesty her full attention. There was something horribly human about her maternal care of this creature before her. Her great arms held Apeman close while her tongue caressed his wounds. Bentley knew that that tongue was an excellent antiseptic, too. All animals licked their own wounds, and those wounds healed. Only human beings knew the dangers of infection, because they had departed from Nature's doctrines and had tried to cheat her with substitutes. Only the animals, like that great she, still were Nature's children, healing their own wounds in Nature's way.
Satisfied that the apes would not molest Ellen, so long as she kept her distance from Apeman, Bentley decided to seek food, which Ellen must sorely need. The need for water was urgent, too. Bentley knew the danger of drinking water found in the jungle—but an ape could scarcely be expected to build a fire with which to boil the water, nor to produce a miracle in the shape of something to hold it in over the fire.
Here were many makeshifts indicated, then. Bentley smiled inwardly, the only way he could smile. He must feed himself, too. He must go wandering through the woods, feeding the body of Manape with grubs, worms and such nauseous provender, because it was the food to which Manape was accustomed. Apeman, when he was well enough to eat, would sicken the body of Bentley with the same sort of food, because the brain of Apeman would not know what was good or bad for the body of a human being—nor even would understand that his body was human. What did Apeman think of his condition, anyway?
That question, of course, would never be answered—unless Barter could really speak the language of the great apes and somehow managed to secure from Apeman, if Apeman lived, a recital of these hours in the jungle.
What food should Manape secure for Ellen? What fruits were edible, what poisonous? How could he tell? He watched the other apes, which were scattering here and there now, tipping over rocks and sticks to search for grubs and worms—to see what fruits they ate, if any. They would know what fruits to avoid.
An hour passed before Bentley saw one of the brutes feed upon anything except insects. A cluster of a peculiar fruit which looked like wild currants, but whose real name Bentley did not know. Now, feeling safe in his choice, because the ape was eating the berries with relish, Bentley searched until he found a quantity of the same berries, and bore them back to Ellen Estabrook.
Beside Apeman, who now was awake and exchanging crazy gibberish with the she who had licked his wounds, Ellen Estabrook, trying to be brave, did not cry aloud. But her face was dirty, and her tears made furrows through the grime.
Manape dropped the berries beside her. The she snarled as Ellen reached for the berries. Manape flung himself forward as the she strove to take the berries before Ellen could grasp them—and cuffed her over backward with a cumbersome but lightning-fast right swing.
"Manape," said Ellen, "if only you could talk! I feel that you are my friend, and my fears are less when you are with me. I'll pretend that you can understand me. It helps a little to talk, for one scarcely seems so much alone. How would you feel, I wonder, Manape, if you were suddenly taken entirely out of the life you've always known, and forced to live in another world entirely? It would not be easy to be brave, would it? Suppose you were taken out of the wilds and dropped into a ballroom?"
Bentley could have laughed had the jest not been such a grim one. What would Ellen think if he were to answer her:
She would not understand that.
Nor did she understand when the she went away for a time and came back with a supply of worms and grubs—which nauseous supply vanished with great speed under the wolfish appetite of Apeman. There was little wonder that Ellen found it difficult to orient herself.
"I must tell her somehow," thought Bentley, "and that soon. Surely enough has been done to satisfy the devilish curiosity of Caleb Barter."
Toward evening the apes began to drift further into the jungle. The she gathered Apeman in her arms and moved off with him. There was nothing for Manape to do but follow, and nothing for Ellen to do but follow, too—if she loved the thing she thought was Bentley. She did not hesitate.
With unfaltering courage she followed on, and the lumbering forms of the great apes drifted further away from the sea, seemingly headed toward some mutely agreed upon jungle rendezvous. Everything depended for the time upon the return to health of Apeman. All other matters depended upon that. Each in his own way, Manape and Ellen, realized this. Caleb Barter had schemed better than he could possibly have foreseen.
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Various. 2010. Astounding Stories of Super-Science, June 1931. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved May 2022 from https://www.gutenberg.org/files/31893/31893-h/31893-h.htm#Manape_the_Mighty
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