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

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

As Apeman was borne deeper into the jungle in the great arms of the she, what was more natural in the circumstances than that Ellen keep close to her only remaining link with the world she had left—Manape, the trained anthropoid of Caleb Barter? A natural thing, and one that filled Manape with obvious pleasure.
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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 X: Written in Dust

CHAPTER X. Written in Dust

As Apeman was borne deeper into the jungle in the great arms of the she, what was more natural in the circumstances than that Ellen keep close to her only remaining link with the world she had left—Manape, the trained anthropoid of Caleb Barter? A natural thing, and one that filled Manape with obvious pleasure.

Once she touched his hand, rested her own small one in his mighty palm for a moment—and Bentley was afraid to return the pressure of her palm with the hand of Manape, lest he crush every bone in her fingers. Thereafter at intervals, while the whole aggregation drifted deeper into the jungle, Ellen clung to Manape; depended upon him. Was it her woman's intuition which told her that Manape was a safe guardian?

Bentley refused to dwell on that phase of this wild adventure however, for there were other things to think about. It required many hours for him to discover the truth, but he knew it at last. He, Manape-Bentley, was the lord of the great apes! Before his capture, or before the capture of Manape by Caleb Barter, Manape had been leader of these apes. Now he had returned and was their ruler once more. Upstarts had taken his place, and he had slain them—back there when Apeman had tried to escape into the jungle with Ellen in his arms. To the apes this must have seemed the way it was.

Bentley was putting things together, hoping and believing that they made four—yet not sure but that he was forcing them to equal four when in actuality they were five or six. If Manape—the original ape of Barter's capture, whose body now was Bentley's—had been the leader of the great apes, that explained why the animals remained constantly in the vicinity of Barter's dwelling. Barter had needed them in his plans, and had made certain their remaining near by making their leader captive. And of course only an ape sufficiently intelligent to rule other apes would have suited the evil scheme which must have been growing for years in the mind of Caleb Barter. Barter had merely waited with philosophic calmness for human beings to drift into this territory—and the Bengal Queen had obligingly gone down off the coast, throwing Ellen Estabrook and Lee Bentley into Barter's power.

What was Barter doing now? Would he not be striving to watch the course of his experiment? Would he not think of details hitherto overlooked and plan further experiments, or an enlarging of this experiment of which three creatures were the victims? Surely Barter would not remain quietly at Barterville while the subjects of his experiment went deeper into the jungle with the great apes. Barter was too thorough a scientist for that. Somehow, Bentley was sure, Barter would know what was happening, even at this very moment.

He would wish to know how a modern woman would conduct herself if suddenly forced to live among apes. Therefore he would try in some manner to keep watch over the conduct of Ellen Estabrook. He would wonder how a modern man would conduct himself if he suddenly found, himself the leader of that same group of apes, and how an ape would behave if he suddenly discovered himself a man. It was a neat "experiment," and Bentley was beginning to believe that there was probably far more to it than there first had seemed.

Barter would wish to know how all three creatures would conduct themselves in certain circumstances—Apeman, Ellen and Bentley. He would not leave it to chance, for Bentley now realized that Barter himself did not feel inimical to either Ellen, Apeman or Bentley. To him they were merely an experiment. Barter would not wish for Apeman to die, and thus deprive Barter of a certain knowledge relative to one angle of his unholy experiment. He would not wish for Manape-Bentley to remain forever as Manape-Bentley, lacking the power of speech, either human speech or the gibberish of the apes.

No, all this was not being left to chance. Bentley believed that Barter was directing the destination of these three subjects of his, as surely as though he were right with them at this moment, driving them to his will with that awful lash which had made him feared by the great apes.

Yes, Barter was still the master mind. It made Bentley feel awfully helpless. Yet—he was the leader of the great apes. That, too, Barter must have foreseen. Would Barter try in any way to discover how Bentley would behave in an emergency as leader of the apes? Would he wish to know sufficiently to create an emergency? From Bentley's knowledge of the twisted genius of Caleb Barter, he fully believed that Barter planned yet other angles to his experiment.

If he did, then what would he do next?

It was not until the storm broke over the strange aggregation of great apes, who seemed to be holding two white people prisoners, that Bentley understood that from the very beginning he should have been able to see the obvious denouement—the mad climax which even then was preparing in the jungle ahead, simply waiting for the great apes to drift, feeding as they went without a thought of danger, into the trap set for them.

Ellen now kept her hand in the great palm of Manape. She wept on occasions, when she thought of the apparent hopelessness of her position, but for the most part she was brave, and Bentley grew to love her more as the hours passed—even as he grew more impatient at his inability to express his love. If he tried he could simply frighten her—fill her with horror because, gentle though he was with her and he was a great ape, a fact which nothing could change. Nor could anybody change the fact, except Caleb Barter. Where was the scientist? What would be his next move if he were not leaving the working out of his experiment entirely to chance, which seemed not at all in keeping with the thorough manner of his experiment thus far.

The future was a dark, painful obscurity, in which all things were hidden, in which anything might happen—because Caleb Barter would wish for it to happen.

How long would Barter wait before making his next move? Long enough for Ellen to accustom herself to life among the apes? Long enough to discover whether her natural intelligence would guide her to eke out existence among hardships such as human beings never thought of, except perhaps in nightmares? Long enough to allow the brain of Bentley to discover what miracles intellect might do with the body of Manape? Long enough for Apeman to be well of his illness, so that he might observe what havoc an ape's brain might work with a human body?

Certainly when one gave the hideous experiment full thought, its possible angles of development, its many potential ramifications, were astounding in the extreme. Was it not up to Bentley then to do something besides mope and pine for the impossible, and thus hasten the hour when Barter should be wholly satisfied with his experiment?

What would Apeman do, how would he behave, when the white body of Bentley was well again? Would that body grow well faster when guided by an ape's brain than when a human brain was in command? Certainly Caleb Barter must have listed all these questions and hundreds of others which had not as yet occurred to Bentley. If he had he would not transfer the two intelligences back to their proper places until all of his questions were answered to his satisfaction. Bentley himself must somehow force an answer to some of them.

To do this he must try to guess what sort of questions Barter would have listed, and try to work out their answers—assuming all the time that Barter, from some undiscovered coign of vantage would be watching for the answers he hoped his experiment would provide.

Bentley arrived at a decision. Ellen must long since have become numbed to the horror which encompassed her. Bentley knew that a human brain could stand only so much, beyond which it was no longer surprised or horrified. He guessed, noting the pale face of his beloved, that Ellen had well nigh reached that stage.

He decided to take a tremendous risk with her sanity, hoping thereby to do his part in working out the details of Barter's experiment.

The sun was creeping into the west when the roving apes came to pause in a sort of clearing. Some of them curled up in sleep. The she who carried Apeman squatted with Apeman in her arms, and licked his wounds again.

That Apeman was recovering was plainly evident, and when he saw it filled Bentley with an odd mixture of thankfulness and revulsion. Apeman was essentially an ape. With all his strength back he would revert to type, and what if he forced the body of Bentley to do horrible things that Ellen would never be able to forget or condone—even when she at last knew the truth? What if Apeman selected, for example, a mate—from among the hairy she's? For Apeman that would be natural, for Bentley horrible.

Yet it might easily transpire. Apeman might relinquish the white she to a successful rival—which he would regard Manape as being—and content himself with a choice from the ape she's. Somehow that unholy thing must not happen. That was up to Manape-Bentley.

Or, with his strength fully returned, Apeman might again desire Ellen, and force the issue with Manape for her possession—which seemed equally horrible to the brain of Bentley.

Ellen remained as close to Apeman as the she would permit her. Manape-Bentley crouched close by. After a time Apeman slept, and Bentley was pleased to notice that the agony sweat no longer beaded Apeman's body, and that Apeman was recovering with superhuman swiftness—thanks to the ministrations of the unnamed she who had taken charge of him. Apeman now rarely groaned, sleeping or waking.

Ellen watched the sleeping Apeman with her heart—and her fears—in her eyes. Satisfied that he slept, and that his sleep was healthy, Ellen again approached the creature she knew as Manape, Barter's trained ape.

"If only you could talk," she said to him. "If only you were able to give some hope. If only there were some way I could cause you to understand my wishes—understand and help me."

Bentley did not answer. He knew that to be useless. But his brain remembered something. His brain recalled that moment in the cage in the dwelling of Barter, when his human brain had tried to force obedience from the great clumsy hands of Manape, when he had tried to force those mighty fingers to unfasten the knots which held the cage door secure.

Could he force those hands to something else?

Did he dare try?

It was a terrible risk to take with Ellen's sanity, but Bentley felt it must be taken. She was watching him hopelessly, and her lips moved as though she prayed for a miracle—as though by some weird necromancy she might force Manape to understand her words, and to answer her, allaying her fears, destroying her hopelessness.

When Ellen watched him, Bentley searched about nearby until he found a dried stick perhaps eight feet in length. He held it up, sniffed at it, fumbled it with his heavy, grotesque fingers. He focussed the attention of Ellen upon that stick, while his excitement mounted and mounted, and his fear of possible consequences kept pace with his excitement.

Then, his decision reached, he began again that species of hypnosis which seemed necessary to compel the hands and fingers of Manape to do things no ape's hands had ever done before, no ape's brain had ever thought of doing.

He pressed one end of the stick against the ground at his sprawling feet. With his left palm he smoothed out an area of dust several feet in either direction—a rough dusty rectangle.

Interested, her brows puckered in concentration. Ellen watched as Manape went through these gestures which were so strangely, terribly human.

Her eyes were watching the end of that twig which the trained ape was so clumsily clutching in both hands.

She saw the marks the twig made in the dust as Manape caused it to move—slowly, horribly, fearfully, from left to right across the area of dust.

Fear began to grow in her face, but Bentley forced himself on. Again the fetid odor of ape sweat covered him. This awful concentration, this awful task of forcing Manape to write English words was in itself a miracle, more miraculous even than Ellen would have thought of praying for.

Her eyes were glued to the sprawling, uneven, misshapen marks in the dust with hypnotic fascination. Bentley dared not look at her, because it required all his will to force the clumsy hands of Manape to his bidding.

He could only watch the marks in the dust, and will with all the power of his human intelligence that the hands of Manape make their shape sufficiently plain that Ellen might read them—and hope besides that this terrible thing would not send the sorely harassed girl into the jungle, madly shrieking for deliverance from a nightmare.

There, the words were written—and Ellen was staring at them, her eyes wide and unblinking, her body as rigid as stone, and her face as cold. Only three words were possible without an interval of rest, but those three words, among all Bentley might have selected, were the most to the point, the most unbelievable, the most black-magical.

"I am Lee!"

Minutes went into eternity as Ellen stared at the words. Silence that it seemed would never be broken hang over the clearing. The bickering of the apes passed unnoticed as Ellen stared. Then, slowly, she tried to raise her eyes to meet those of Manape.

She failed. Her body went limp and she slid forward on her face in the dust. Manape-Bentley gently turned her on her side and waited. What would he see in her beloved eyes when she regained consciousness?

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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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