The Chessmen of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 23

a stone wall
enclosing several acres of ground. The valley appeared to be in a high
state of cultivation. Upon the opposite side of the hill and just
beneath her was a tower and enclosure. It was the roof of the former
that had first attracted her attention. In all respects it seemed
identical in construction with those further out in the valley--a high,
plastered wall of massive construction surrounding a similarly
constructed tower, upon whose gray surface was painted in vivid colors
a strange device. The towers were about forty sofads in diameter,
approximately forty earth-feet, and sixty in height to the base of the
dome. To an Earth man they would have immediately suggested the silos
in which dairy farmers store ensilage for their herds; but closer
scrutiny, revealing an occasional embrasured opening together with the
strange construction of the domes, would have altered such a
conclusion. Tara of Helium saw that the domes seemed to be faced with
innumerable prisms of glass, those that were exposed to the declining
sun scintillating so gorgeously as to remind her suddenly of the
magnificent trappings of Gahan of Gathol. As she thought of the man she
shook her head angrily, and moved cautiously forward a foot or two that
she might get a less obstructed view of the nearer tower and its
enclosure.

As Tara of Helium looked down into the enclosure surrounding the
nearest tower, her brows contracted momentarily in frowning surprise,
and then her eyes went wide in an expression of incredulity tinged with
horror, for what she saw was a score or two of human bodies--naked and
headless. For a long moment she watched, breathless; unable to believe
the evidence of her own eyes--that these grewsome things moved and had
life! She saw them crawling about on hands and knees over and across
one another, searching about with their fingers. And she saw some of
them at troughs, for which the others seemed to be searching, and those
at the troughs were taking something from these receptacles and
apparently putting it in a hole where their necks should have been.
They were not far beneath her--she could see them distinctly and she
saw that there were the bodies of both men and women, and that they
were beautifully proportioned, and that their skin was similar to hers,
but of a slightly lighter red. At first she had thought that she was
looking upon a shambles and that the bodies, but recently decapitated,
were moving under the impulse of muscular reaction; but presently she
realized that this was their normal condition. The horror of them
fascinated her,

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