The Gods of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 115

my own choosing in event of
failure.

"Reverse?" screamed Xodar, behind me. "For the love of your first
ancestor, reverse. We are at the shaft."

"Hold tight!" I screamed in reply. "Grasp the boy and hold tight--we
are going straight up the shaft."

The words were scarce out of my mouth as we swept beneath the
pitch-black opening. I threw the bow hard up, dragged the speed lever
to its last notch, and clutching a stanchion with one hand and the
steering-wheel with the other hung on like grim death and consigned my
soul to its author.

I heard a little exclamation of surprise from Xodar, followed by a grim
laugh. The boy laughed too and said something which I could not catch
for the whistling of the wind of our awful speed.

I looked above my head, hoping to catch the gleam of stars by which I
could direct our course and hold the hurtling thing that bore us true
to the centre of the shaft. To have touched the side at the speed we
were making would doubtless have resulted in instant death for us all.
But not a star showed above--only utter and impenetrable darkness.

Then I glanced below me, and there I saw a rapidly diminishing circle
of light--the mouth of the opening above the phosphorescent radiance of
Omean. By this I steered, endeavouring to keep the circle of light
below me ever perfect. At best it was but a slender cord that held us
from destruction, and I think that I steered that night more by
intuition and blind faith than by skill or reason.

We were not long in the shaft, and possibly the very fact of our
enormous speed saved us, for evidently we started in the right
direction and so quickly were we out again that we had no time to alter
our course. Omean lies perhaps two miles below the surface crust of
Mars. Our speed must have approximated two hundred miles an hour, for
Martian fliers are swift, so that at most we were in the shaft not over
forty seconds.

We must have been out of it for some seconds before I realised that we
had accomplished the impossible. Black darkness enshrouded all about
us. There were neither moons nor stars. Never before had I seen such
a thing upon Mars, and for the moment I was nonplussed. Then the
explanation came to me. It was summer at the south pole. The ice cap
was melting and those meteoric phenomena,

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