Jandrax 86

He forced her back to the mud and overcame her.

She lay on her back, panting, and the entire camp was leaping about in mad abandon. He grinned down at her and she smiled, this time without derision.

“Stubborn would be a good name for you, but I don’t think you’re afraid of women at all.”

“Ha!” came an exclamation from beyond the fire, “I see I got back just in time for the entertainment.” The speaker entered the firelight. Jean would have known him even if his express pistol had not hung at his side like a badge of authority. His pale hair had turned white, but otherwise his face and frame were ageless. Jean grinned up at him, never letting go of Mist-on-water’s struggling form and said, “Welcome back, Papa.”

Jan Andrax squatted down beside his son, ignoring his squirming rug, and nodded with satisfaction. “I don’t know how you got here, but I’ll bet it’s some tale.”

***

Jean ate that night with Jandrax and his wives and retold his story, including the details of his encounter on the island. Jandrax shook his head and asked, “Did you tell anyone else this story?”

“Of course. Everyone else has heard it.”

“Damn! How did they take it?”

“With skepticism.”

“Only skepticism, not outright disbelief?”

“No.”

Jandrax cursed. Jean was taken aback by his vehemence. “Come, Papa; even Mentor Louis Dumezil recognized the possibility of further enlightenment.”

“Jean, we aren’t even speaking the same language. You know that the original crew members were cast out for religious reasons.”

“Yes,” Jean answered, “But only Nur Mohammet was not a Monist, so Helene told me; you were tarred with the same brush, but you surely haven’t all become Muslims since then.

Jandrax got up to pace. “Jean, for twenty years Helene has been preaching Monism and I have been scoffing.”

Jean was bewildered now. “Are you trying to tell me that you don’t accept the Monomythos? That’s absurd.”

Jandrax opened and closed his hands spasmodically.

That old, hated, trapped feeling had returned at this reminder that he was enmeshed in a community too small for anonymity. “I do not believe in your presence,” he said, “or your winged girl. I do not accept the Monomythos or any supernatural being. I believe only in life, death, and oblivion.”

“My God! That’s horrible.”

“At times, Son. At times – do you want to be a prophet?”

“No!”

“You will be if you don’t watch yourself. I have infected the tribe with enough of my discontent to make them susceptible to a new doctrine.”

“I am a Monist,” Jean snapped. “I don’t want to start a new religion.

“Neither did Jesus.”

Jean could only shudder at the blasphemy.

“They are ripe for a religion tied to this particular planet. Earth is three planets and five generations removed. They no longer need the Gods of Earth.”

“I cannot deny what I have seen.”

“Visions always come to lone and lonely men, cast out from their people and suffering great personal tribulations. They are nothing more than projections of unconscious needs in conditions of deprivation.”

“No. I saw what I saw.”

“I don’t believe it.”

“And if you are wrong?”

Jandrax scowled still more deeply. “Then I would truly fear. I have seen what men can do under the delusion that they have a god’s approval. If they really had it . . . unthinkable!” more tomorrow

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