Astounding Stories of Super-Science June 1931: Manape the Mighty - Chapter V by@astoundingstories

Astounding Stories of Super-Science June 1931: Manape the Mighty - Chapter V

Before continuing the thread of my narrative—the vast sweep through Time which presently we were to witness—I feel that there are some Now Bentley was beginning to realize to the full the horrible thing that had befallen himself and Ellen Estabrook. He knew something else, too. It had come to him when he had heard Ellen's words next door—telling Barter that she loved the creature Barter was beating, which she thought was Lee Bentley. That creature was Lee Bentley; but only the earthly casement of Lee Bentley. The ruling power of Bentley's body, the driving force which actuated his body, was the brain of an ape.
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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 V: Fumbling Hands

CHAPTER V. Fumbling Hands

Now Bentley was beginning to realize to the full the horrible thing that had befallen himself and Ellen Estabrook. He knew something else, too. It had come to him when he had heard Ellen's words next door—telling Barter that she loved the creature Barter was beating, which she thought was Lee Bentley. That creature was Lee Bentley; but only the earthly casement of Lee Bentley. The ruling power of Bentley's body, the driving force which actuated his body, was the brain of an ape.

As for Bentley himself, that part of him of which he thought when he thought of "I," to all intents and purposes, to all outer seeming, had become an ape. His body was an ape's body, his legs were an ape's, everything about him was simian save one thing—the "ego," that something by which man knows that he is himself, with an individual identity. That was buried behind the almost non-existent brow of an ape.

In all things save one he was an ape. That thing was "Bentley's" brain. In all things save one that creature in the room with Ellen Estabrook was Bentley. Bentley, driven to mad behavior by the brain of an ape!

The horror of it tore at Bentley, as he still thought of himself.

"If I were to get out of this cage," he told himself voicelessly, "and were to enter that room with Ellen, she would cower into a corner in terror. She would fly to the arms of that travesty of 'me,' for she thinks it is 'I' in there with her because it looks like me."

Now that Ellen was beyond his reach, more beyond his reach than if she had been dead, he realized how much she meant to him. In the few mad hours of their association they had come to belong to each other with a possessiveness that was beyond words. Thinking then that the travesty in there with her—with Bentley's body—was really Bentley, to what lengths might she not be persuaded in her love? It was a ghastly thing to contemplate.

But what could Bentley do? He could not speak to her. If he tried she would race from him in terror at the bellowing ferocity of his voice. How could he tell her his love when his voice was such as to frighten the very wild beasts of the jungle?

Yet....

How could he allow her to remain with that other Bentley—that body which perhaps was provided with a man's appetites, and the brain of a beast which knew nothing of honor and took what it wished if it were strong enough?

There was one ray of hope in that Barter had hinted he would protect Ellen from the apeman. That meant physically, with all that might indicate; but who could compensate her for the horror she must be experiencing with that speechless imbecile she thought was Bentley? If this thing were to continue indefinitely, and Ellen were kept in ignorance, she would eventually grow to hate the "thing"—and if ever, as he had hinted, Barter were to transfer back the entities of the man and the ape, Ellen would always shudder with horrible memories when she looked at the man she had just now admitted she loved.

Bentley was becoming calmer now. He knew exactly what he faced, and there was no way out until Barter should be satisfied with his mad experiment. Bentley must go through with whatever was in store for him. So must the ape who possessed his body—and in the very nature of things unless Bentley could train himself to a self-saving docility, both bodies would repeatedly know the fiery stinging of that lash of Barter's. Bentley could control himself after a fashion. The ape might be cowed, but long before that time arrived, Bentley's body would be made to suffer marks they would bear forever to remind him of this horror.

"I must somehow manage to continue to care for Ellen," he told himself. "But how?"

He scarcely realized that his great hands were wandering over his body, scratching, scratching. But when he did realize he felt sick, without being able to understand how or where he felt sick. If he felt sick at the stomach he thought of it as his own stomach. When he thought of moving the hairy hands he thought of his hands. He grinned to himself—never realizing the horrible grimace which crossed his face, though there was none to see it—when he recalled how men of his acquaintance during the Great War, had complained of aching toes at the end of legs that had been amputated!

He was learning one thing—that the brain is everything that matters. The seat of pain and pleasure, of joy and of sorrow, of hunger and of thirst even.

Bentley waddled to the door of the cage. He studied the lock which held him prisoner, and noted how close he must hold his face to see at all. All apes might be near-sighted as far as he knew; but he did know that this one was. Perhaps he could free himself.

He tried to force his massive hands to the task of investigating the lock. But what an effort! It was like trying to hypnotize a subject that did not wish to be hypnotized. A distinct effort of will, like trying to force someone to turn and look by staring at the back of that someone's neck in a crowd. It was like trying to make an entirely different person move his arm, or his leg, merely by willing that he move it.

But the great arms, which might have weighed tons, though Bentley sensed no strain, raised to the door and fumbled dumbly, clumsily. He tried to close the gnarled fingers, whose backs were covered with the rough hair, to manipulate the lock, but he succeeded merely in fumbling—like a baby senselessly tugging at its father's fingers, the existence of which had no shape or form in the baby's brain.

But he strove with all his will to force those clumsy hands to do his bidding. They slipped from the lock, went back again, fumbled over it, fell away.

"You must!" muttered Bentley. "You must, you must!"

He would discover the secret of the lock, so that he would be able to remove it when the time was right—but so slow and uncertain and clumsy were the movements of his ape hands, he was in mortal fear that he would unlock the door and then not be able to lock it again, and Barter would discover what he had in mind.

But he struggled on, while foul smelling sweat poured from his mighty body and dripped to the floor. He concentrated on the lock with all his power, knowing as he did so that the lock would have been but a simple problem for a child of six or seven. It was nothing more than a bar held in place with a leather thong. But the powerful fingers which now were Bentley's were too blunt and inflexible to master the knot Barter had left.

Bentley paused to listen.

From Ellen's room came the sound of weeping. From the front room came Barter's pleased laughter as he talked with the thing which so much resembled Bentley. That was a relief—to know that his other self had been at least temporarily removed from any possibility of injuring Ellen.

In Bentley's mind were certain pictures of Barter. He saw him plainly on his knees begging for mercy, while Bentley's ape hands choked his life away. He saw him tossed about like a mere child, and casually torn apart, ripped limb from limb by the mighty hands of Manape.

"God," he told himself, refusing to listen to the slobbering gibberish which came from his thick lips when he addressed himself, "I can do nothing to Barter—not until he restores me properly. If he is slain, it is the end for me, and for Ellen! He is a master, no doubt of that. He anesthetized me through the door with something of his own manufacture that smelled like violets, and put my brain in Manape after removing from Manape the brain of the savage. Then he removed an ape's brain from a second ape and put it in my skull pan—all within the space of a few hours! Yet his knowledge of surgery and medicine is such that even in so short a time I suffer little from the operation, save for the dull headache which I had on awakening, and which I now scarcely feel at all."

He straightened, close against the bars, and began again to fumble with the leather thong which held him prisoner. In his brain was the hazy idea that he might after all make a break for it, and carry Ellen away to a place of safety, taking a chance on finding his way back here to force Barter to operate again and restore him to his proper place. But would not Ellen die of fright at being borne away through the jungle in the arms of an ape? Was there any possibility of forcing Barter to perform the operation? No, for under the anesthetic again, Barter, angered by the thwarting of whatever purpose actuated him, might do something even worse than he had done—if that were possible. Again, even if he reached civilisation with Ellen, every human hand would be turned against him. Rifles would hurl their lead into him. Hunters would pursue him....

No, it was impossible.

Bentley, Ellen, and the Apeman—his own body, ape-brained—were but pawns in the hands of Barter. Barter might be actuated by a desire to serve science, that science which was alike his tool and his god. Bentley scarcely doubted that Barter believed himself specially ordained to do this thing, in the name of science; probably, unquestionably, felt himself entirely justified.

Plainly, now that Bentley recalled things Barter had said, Barter had waited for an opportunity of this kind—had waited for someone to be tossed into his net—and Ellen and Lee, flotsam of the sea, had come in answer to the prayer for whose answer Barter had waited.

It was horrible, yet there was nothing they could do—at least, to free themselves—until it pleased Barter to take the step. It came then to Bentley how precious to them both was the life of Caleb Barter. He could restore Bentley or destroy him—and with him the woman who loved him.

Suppose, came Bentley's sudden thought, Barter should think of performing a like operation on Ellen—using in the transfer the brain of a female ape? God!...

He prayed that the thought would never come to Barter. He was afraid to dwell upon it lest Barter read his thought. He might think of it naturally, as a simple corollary to what he had already done. Bentley then must do something before Barter planned some new madness.

He sat back and bellowed savagely, beating his chest with his mighty hands.

Instantly the outer door opened and Barter came in.

Bentley ceased his bellowing and chest pounding and sat docilely there, staring into the eyes of Barter.

"Have you discovered there is no use opposing me, Bentley?" said the professor softly.

Bentley nodded his shaggy head. Then by a superhuman effort of will he raised the right arm of Manape and pointed. He could not point the forefinger, but he could point the arm—and look in the direction he desired.

"You want to come out and go into the front room?"

Bentley nodded.

"You will make no attempt to injure me?"

Bentley shook his head ponderously from side to side.

"You would like to see the Apeman?—the creature that looks so much like you that it will be like peering at yourself in the mirror? Or, rather, as it would have been yesterday had you looked into a mirror?"

Bentley nodded slowly.

"You understand that no matter what the Apeman does, you must not try to slay him?"

Bentley did not move.

"You understand if you destroy Apeman's body, you are doomed to remain Manape forever, because the true body of Lee Bentley will die and be eventually destroyed?"

Bentley nodded. He felt a trickle of moisture on the rough skin about his flaring nostrils and knew that he was weeping, soundlessly.

But there was no pity in the face of Barter. He was the scientist who studied his science, to whom it was the breath of life, and he saw nothing, thought of nothing, not directly connected with his "experiment."

"You give me your word of honor as a gentleman not to oppose me?"

It was odd, an almost superhumanly intellectual scientist asking for an ape's word of honor, but that did not occur to Bentley at the moment, as he nodded his head.

Barter still held his lash poised. He unfastened the leather thong which held Bentley prisoner and swung wide the door. Then he turned his back on Bentley and led the way to the door.

Bentley followed him on mighty feet and bent knuckles into the room which had first received Lee and Ellen when they had entered the cabin of the scientist.

Bentley would have gasped had he been capable of gasping at what he saw.

In a far corner, cowering down in fear at sight of Barter and his coiled whip—was the Bentley of the mirror in his stateroom aboard the Bengal Queen, and before that.

It was an uncanny sensation, to stand off and peer at himself thus.

Yonder was Bentley, yet here was Bentley, too.

Then he noted the difference. The face of that Bentley yonder was twisted, savage. That Bentley had seen Manape, and the teeth were exposed in a snarl of savage hatred. There a man ape stared at another man ape, and bared his fangs in challenge. The white hands of Bentley began to beat the white chest of Bentley—to beat the chest savagely, until the white skin was red as blood....

The Bentley buried within the mighty carcass of an anthropoid ape watched and shuddered. That thing yonder was dressed only in a breech-clout, and the fair flesh was criss-crossed in scores of places with bleeding wounds left by the lash of Barter. The Apeman's brows were furrowed in concentration. The human body made ape-like movements.

Bentley knew that soon that creature, forgetting everything save that he faced a rival man ape, would charge and attempt to measure the power of Manape—fang against fang. The white form rose.

Barter caused his whiplash to crack like an explosion.

"One moment," he said. "Back, Apeman! I'll bring Miss Estabrook. Perhaps she can placate you. She has a strange power over you both!"

Bentley would have cried out as Barter crossed to unlock Ellen's door, but he knew that he could not stop Barter, and that his cry would simply be a terrible bellow to frighten the woman he loved when she entered the room.

The door opened. White, shaken, her eyes deep wells of terror, circled with blue rings which told the effect of the horror she had experienced, Ellen Estabrook entered.

And screamed with terror as she saw the hulking figure of Manape. Screamed with terror and rushed to the arms of the cowering thing in the corner!

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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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