The Gods of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 101

of Issus of which Issus herself does not dream."

"What do you mean?"

"I laboured with the other slaves a year since in the remodelling of
these subterranean galleries, and at that time we found below these an
ancient system of corridors and chambers that had been sealed up for
ages. The blacks in charge of the work explored them, taking several
of us along to do whatever work there might be occasion for. I know
the entire system perfectly.

"There are miles of corridors honeycombing the ground beneath the
gardens and the temple itself, and there is one passage that leads down
to and connects with the lower regions that open on the water shaft
that gives passage to Omean.

"If we can reach the submarine undetected we may yet make the sea in
which there are many islands where the blacks never go. There we may
live for a time, and who knows what may transpire to aid us to escape?"

He had spoken all in a low whisper, evidently fearing spying ears even
here, and so I answered him in the same subdued tone.

"Lead back to Shador, my friend," I whispered. "Xodar, the black, is
there. We were to attempt our escape together, so I cannot desert him."

"No," said the boy, "one cannot desert a friend. It were better to be
recaptured ourselves than that."

Then he commenced groping his way about the floor of the dark chamber
searching for the trap that led to the corridors beneath. At length he
summoned me by a low, "S-s-t," and I crept toward the sound of his
voice to find him kneeling on the brink of an opening in the floor.

"There is a drop here of about ten feet," he whispered. "Hang by your
hands and you will alight safely on a level floor of soft sand."

Very quietly I lowered myself from the inky cell above into the inky
pit below. So utterly dark was it that we could not see our hands at
an inch from our noses. Never, I think, have I known such complete
absence of light as existed in the pits of Issus.

For an instant I hung in mid air. There is a strange sensation
connected with an experience of that nature which is quite difficult to
describe. When the feet tread empty air and the distance below is
shrouded in darkness there is a feeling akin to panic at the thought of
releasing the hold and taking the plunge into unknown depths.


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