I lay down in my hotel room, far from home and low in spirit. In place of the usual Gideon’s, to my surprise, was a copy of “A Princess of Mars” – a first edition, no less. I flipped through the pages in a desultory fashion, at once recalling the the adventures of John Carter and Dejah Thoris and puzzling over the mystery of this volume’s presence in my room.
My eyes started to drift shut, and I placed the book back where I had found it in the bedside drawer. I found my accustomed sleeping position – and immediately fell asleep.
I woke, almost at once it seemed, but with a groggy-start, as if from a deep sleep. I sat up, shook my head and looked around, trying to find the light switch. As I continued the rise from the depths of sleep, I realised that it was already light, about as light as on Spring day.
I looked around. This was most certainly not my bed, not my hotel room. The ground I was sitting on was cold, and covered with greenish-lichen. I got to my feet: the lichen crunched underfoot as a turned around, looking at the terrain. The depression of ground spread out for tens of kilometres in every direction; off in the distance, I could see hills, low and red.
I jumped. It was not as graceful as I had hoped, but John Carter’s first attempts had warned me of what to expect. Leapt and bounded to the top of rise, covering tens of metres with every stride. From my vantage, I looked around and saw two clouds of dust closing on each other. I wished I had binoculars, but had little doubt that two tribes of the fearsome, fearless green warriors of Mars were closing on each other ready for battle and conquest.
Dare I go closer? No. I was sure to be seen and captured, if I did not stop a radium bullet fired with malice or by mistake. I continued to look around, warily returning to view the distant fight from time to time. I saw a flotilla of airships, perhaps from the fair double city of Helium itself, crest the hills. Gracefully they floated across the arid desert-bowl. I stood between the ships and the Green Martians and did not know where to look.
I gazed too long at the airships and, when I turned again, I saw that a part of Green Martians had broken free of the battle and were racing towards me. I turned and ran, taking long jumping strides. I was just able to keep my lead, but I was no Fighting Virginian and quickly became winded. I landed a little too heavily on a rock that shifted underneath me. It threw me off my stride and I tumbled headlong, striking my head on a rock.
I woke in the middle of falling out of bed, and landed on the floor of my hotel room with a bump, that would have been embarrassing if there had been anyone there to see it. I landed on my shoulder, but not too heavily. I sat up and saw the glowing red figures of my travel alarm o’clock. Surely I could only have been asleep for minute, two at the most.
I got back into bed, and wondered why my ankle hurt, why the bed felt gritty.
© David Jesson, 2018