Out of Time's Abyss

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 38

upon the floor. He saw it
move and slowly raise itself to its hands and knees, where it swayed to
and fro as its eyes roved about in search of him; and when at last they
found him, there broke from the drawn lips the mumbled words: "Food!
Food! There is a way out!" The pitiful supplication in the tones
touched the Englishman's heart. He knew that this could be no Wieroo,
but possibly once a man like himself who had been cast into this pit of
solitary confinement with this hideous result that might in time be his
fate, also.

And then, too, there was the suggestion of hope held out by the
constant reiteration of the phrase, "There is a way out." Was there a
way out? What did this poor thing know?

"Who are you and how long have you been here?" Bradley suddenly
demanded.

For a moment the man upon the floor made no response, then mumblingly
came the words: "Food! Food!"

"Stop!" commanded the Englishman--the injunction might have been barked
from the muzzle of a pistol. It brought the man to a sitting posture,
his hands off the ground. He stopped swaying to and fro and appeared
to be startled into an attempt to master his faculties of concentration
and thought.

Bradley repeated his questions sharply.

"I am An-Tak, the Galu," replied the man. "Luata alone knows how long
I have been here--maybe ten moons, maybe ten moons three times"--it was
the Caspakian equivalent of thirty. "I was young and strong when they
brought me here. Now I am old and very weak. I am cos-ata-lu--that is
why they have not killed me. If I tell them the secret of becoming
cos-ata-lu they will take me out; but how can I tell them that which
Luata alone knows?

"What is cos-ata-lu?" demanded Bradley.

"Food! Food! There is a way out!" mumbled the Galu.

Bradley strode across the floor, seized the man by his shoulders and
shook him.

"Tell me," he cried, "what is cos-ata-lu?"

"Food!" whimpered An-Tak.

Bradley bethought himself. His haversack had not been taken from him.
In it besides his razor and knife were odds and ends of equipment and a
small quantity of dried meat. He tossed a small strip of the latter to
the starving Galu. An-Tak seized upon it and devoured it ravenously.
It instilled new life in the man.

"What is cos-ata-lu?" insisted Bradley again.

An-Tak tried to explain. His narrative was often broken by lapses of
concentration during which he

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