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

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

Apeman, never realizing that his actual strength was that of but a puny human being, was racing with Ellen Estabrook into the very midst of animals which would tear him to bits as easily as they would tear any human being to pieces. Apeman, being but an ape after all, would merely think that he was joining his own kind, bearing with him a mate with white skin.
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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 VII: Lord of the Jungle

CHAPTER VII. Lord of the Jungle

Apeman, never realizing that his actual strength was that of but a puny human being, was racing with Ellen Estabrook into the very midst of animals which would tear him to bits as easily as they would tear any human being to pieces. Apeman, being but an ape after all, would merely think that he was joining his own kind, bearing with him a mate with white skin.

But to the other apes he would be a human being, a puny hairless imitation of themselves which they would pounce upon and tear asunder with great glee. Apeman would not know this: would not realize his limitations. He would try to take to the upper terraces of the jungle, to swing from tree to tree, carrying his mate—and would find the body of Bentley incapable of supporting such an effort. Apeman would be a child in the hands of his brethren, who could not know him. Apeman could probably speak to them after a fashion, but his gibberish would come strangely perhaps unintelligibly, through the mouth of Bentley. They would suspect him, and destroy him, and with him Ellen Estabrook, unless other apes discovered also her sex and took her, fighting over her among themselves.

Bentley made good time across the jungle clearing. Behind him came the voice of Barter in final exhortation.

"Your human cunning, hampered by your simian body, pitted against the highly specialized body of your former self, in turn hampered by the lack of reasoning of an ape—in a contest in primitive surrounding for a female! A glorious experiment, and all depends now upon you! You will save the girl who loves you and whom you love, but you must return to me and be transferred before you can make your love known. I shall wait for you!"

In Bentley's brain the shouted words of Barter rang as he hurried into the jungle in pursuit of Apeman. Ellen Estabrook was crying: "Hurry, Lee, hurry!"

Yet she was really yelling to Apeman, the man-beast which carried her, bidding him race on to escape the pursuit of Manape, in whom she would never recognize the man she loved. She must have thought that Bentley had taken a desperate chance to escape the clutches of Barter, and that Barter had set his trained ape to pursue them. What else could she think? How could she know that she was actually in the power of an ape, and that her loved one actually pursued to save her? With every desire of her body she was urging Apeman to take her away from Manape. But she must also have heard the challenges of the man apes in the jungle ahead. She was looking back over Apeman's shoulder, wondering perhaps if Barter would again come out to save them from the anthropoids.

Bentley could guess at her thoughts as he raced on in pursuit of Apeman.

Would he be in time? Even if he were, Apeman himself would turn against him. If he were to try to aid Ellen she would fight against him, believing him an ape. And how could he fight? Would his brain be able to direct his mighty arms and his fighting fangs in a battle with the apes of the jungle?

As he thought of coming to grips with the apes on equal terms, something never in this world before vouchsafed to a human being, he felt a fierce exaltation upon him. He felt a desire to take part in mortal combat with them, to fight them fist and fang, and to destroy them, one by one. He had their strength and more—he had the cunning of a human being to match against the dim wits of the apes. He had a chance.

But he must protect not only Ellen, but Apeman. Both Ellen and Apeman would be against him. Ellen would fear him as an ape that desired her. Apeman would fight against him as a rival for the favors of a she....

And he must harm neither. His own body, which Apeman directed, must be spared, must be kept alive—while every effort of Apeman would be to force Bentley to slay!

It was a predicament which—well, only Caleb Barter had foreseen it.

The bellowing of the apes was a continuous roar on all sides now. Bentley felt a fierce sensation of joy welling up within him and he answered their bellowing with savage bellows of his own. His legs were obeying his will. His knuckles touched the ground as he raced on all fours.

He could hear the shriek of Ellen there ahead, and knew that Apeman and the girl were surrounded—that he must make all possible speed if he were to be in time.

Apeman and his captive were on the trail, trapped there just as Apeman had started into the jungle. Apeman had lifted Ellen so that her hands might have grasped a limb; but the girl had refused to attempt to escape by the trees if her "lover" remained behind. She had crumpled to the ground, and Apeman, snarling, smashing his chest which was so sickly white as compared to the chests of the other apes, had turned upon his brethren. They hesitated for a moment as though amazed at the effrontery of this mere human.

Then a man ape charged. Apeman met him with arms and fangs, and Bentley saw Apeman's all too small mouth snap out for the vein in the neck of Apeman's attacker. The ape whose brain reposed in Apeman had been a courageous beast, that was plain. But he was fighting for his she.

And he did not know his limitations. Apeman was bowled over as though he had been a blade of grass, and the great ape was crouched over him, nuzzling at his white flesh when Bentley-Manape arrived.

With a savage bellow, and with a mighty lunge, Bentley leaped upon the attacker of Apeman. His arms obeyed him with more certainty now, perhaps because the matter was so vitally urgent. Bentley's brain knew jiu-jitsu, boxing, ways of rough and tumble fighting of which the great apes had never learned, nor ever would learn.

He hurled himself upon the animal that was on the point of pulling Apeman apart as though he had indeed been a fly, and literally flattened him against the ground. His mighty hands searched for the throat of the great ape, while he instinctively pulled his stomach out of the way of possible disemboweling tactics on the part of his antagonist. But the great ape twisted from his grasp, struggled erect.

And, amazed at what he was doing, surprised that he, Lee Bentley, could even conceive of such a thing, he launched his attack with bared and glistening fangs straight at the throat of his enemy. His mouth closed. His fangs ripped home—and the great ape whose throat he had torn away, whose blood was salt on his slavering lips, was tossed aside as an empty husk, to die convulsively, a dripping horror which was humanlike in a ghastly fashion. Bentley felt like a murderer. Not like a murderer, either, but like a man who has slain unavoidably—and hates himself for doing so.

Ellen was backed against the tree into which Apeman had tried to force her.

Apeman was up now, moving to stand beside her. Apeman had discovered that he was not the invincible creature he had thought himself.

Bentley moved in closer to the two, as other apes charged upon him from both sides, smothering him, giving him no time. He was a stranger, seemingly, an upstart to be destroyed.

And he was forced to fight them with all his ape strength and human cunning, while Apeman, whimpering, caught up Ellen and darted away with her, straight into the jungle.

For Bentley this was a sort of respite. Ellen was not afraid to go with Apeman, thinking him Bentley. The great apes were bent on destroying this strange ape which had come into their midst and had already destroyed one of their number, perhaps their leader.

He must be destroyed.

Bentley fought like a man possessed. His arms were gory with crimson from the slashing fangs of his enemies. His mouth was dripping with red foam as he slashed in turn, with deadly accuracy. A great arm clutched at the hair of his chest—and fell away again, broken in two places, as Bentley snapped it like a pipe stem because he knew leverages and was able to force his ape's body to obey the will of his human mind.

One ape whimpering, rolling away to lick at his wounds; whimpering oddly like a baby that has burned its fingers. A great ape weighing hundreds of pounds, crying like a child! Yet that "child," with his arm unbroken, could have taken a grown man, no matter how much of a giant, and torn him to pieces.

Two other apes were out of the fray, one dead, the other with only empty eye-sockets where his red-rimmed eyes had been.

Bentley guessed that Apeman had gone at least a mile into the jungle, heading directly away from the dwelling of Caleb Barter. He must get free and pursue. There was nothing else he could do. If he were slain, Ellen was doomed to a fate he dared not contemplate. Apeman would never be accepted by the apes because to all outward seeming he was a man. His body would never stand the hardship of the jungle, yet Apeman would never guess that, and would be slain. Bentley must prevent that.

He must make sure that Apeman's body at least remained sufficiently healthy that it could become his own again without the necessity of a long sojourn in some hospital. Ellen must not be left alone with Apeman, who was still an ape, running away with a she.

A ghastly muddle.

Now the apes broke away from Bentley. They broke in all direction into the jungle. Some of them seemed on the trail of Apeman. One of them took to the trees, swinging himself along with the speed of a running man, flying from limb to limb with no support save his hands.

Bentley stared after the fleeing ape, and then gave chase. He felt that the ape was on the trail of Apeman. Bentley did not know that he himself could follow the spoor of Apeman, for he had not yet analyzed all of his new capabilities. But while he was discovering, he would follow something he could see—the fleeing ape, who would overhaul Apeman as though Apeman were standing still.

So, in a manner of speaking, Bentley essayed his wings.

He took to the trees after the fleeing ape, and was amazed that his great arms worked with ease, that he swung from limb to limb as easily and as surely as the other apes. He climbed to the upper terrace, where view of the ground was entirely shut off. His eyes took note of limbs capable of bearing his weight—after he had made one mistake that might easily have proved costly. He had leaped to a limb that would have supported Bentley of the Bengal Queen, but that was a mere twig under the weight of Manape. It broke and he fell, clutching for support; and fate was kind to him in that he found it, and so clambered back and swung easily and swiftly along.

In his nostrils at intervals was a peculiar odor—a peculiarly human odor, reminding him of the work-sweat of a man who seldom bathed. He knew that for the odor of Apeman, and a thrill of exaltation encompassed him as he realized that he was following a spoor by the cunning of his nostrils.

There was a great leap across space. The ape ahead of him made it with ease. Bentley essayed it without hesitation, hurling himself into space, all of a hundred feet above the ground; with all the might of his arms—and almost overshot the mark, almost went crashing once more through the branches. But the tree swayed, and held, and Bentley went swinging on.

It was wildly exhilarating, thrilling in a primitive way. Bentley remembered those dreams of his childhood—dreams of falling endlessly but never striking. Racial memories, scientists called them, relics of our simian forebears. Bentley thought of that and laughed; but his laughter was merely a beastly chattering which recalled him to the grim necessity of the moment.

Fifteen minutes passed, perhaps. Twenty. Half an hour. He was following a trace which led away from the coast, and further away from the cabin of Caleb Barter. But with his jungle senses, and his human memory, Bentley was sure he could return when the time came.

Had Barter foreseen all that? Was Barter smiling to himself, back there in his awful hermitage, waiting for the working out of his "experiment"?

But Apeman had jungle knowledge, and must have forced Bentley's body to the limit of its endurance, for it was near evening when Bentley, who had lost the ape ahead of him, but had continued on the spoor of Apeman by the smell, came to swift pause on his race through the trees.

He had heard the voice of Ellen Estabrook, and the voice was pleading.

"Lee! Lee! If you love me try to regain control of yourself. Please do not stare at me like that. Oh, your poor body! The brush and briars have literally torn you to bits."

But the answer of "Lee" was a bestial snarl, and traveling as quietly as he could, Manape dropped down so that he could gaze upon his beloved, and the thing she believed she loved.

Ellen was unaware of him. But he had scarcely dropped into view before Apeman became aware of him, and rose weakly to tottering limbs, to beat his bruised and bleeding chest in simian challenge. Apeman was simply an ape that had run until he was finished, and now was turning to make a last stand against a male who was stronger—a last bid for life and possession of the she he had carried away.

Then Ellen saw Manape, screamed, and for the first time since she had been saved from the deep by Bentley, fainted dead away.

The two so strangely related creatures faced each other across her supine body—and both were savagely snarling. Apeman weakly but angrily, Manape with a sound of such brute savagery that even the twittering of birds died away to awed silence.

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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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