Having secured the necessary funds and papers required to venture abroad to the Philippines, Saurian set off by freighter on October 4, missing the Doktor's response by several days. The good Doktor did not, in any case, accept Saurian's generous offer. As of the time of the following letter, Doktor D. was deeply involved in a controversial effort to revive the ancient cult of the Eleusian Mystery Rites. These activities would eventually lead to the his arrest on charges of drug dealing and animal sacrifice, and the subsequent loss of his license to practice medicine. After a lengthy and highly public legal battle, and some three years of incarceration, this noble man's reputation and means of livelihood would never be fully restored to him.
What follows is among the most facinating, tantalizing and enigmatic of Saurian's letters to Doktor D. sent from the rain-forest.
Ed.November 7th, 1954
It will be well into the new year by the time these notes make their way to you. They cannot even be posted until I return to what passes for civilization around these parts. I write from the very heart of the northern Philippino jungle. After two weeks hard journey in the company of Hukbalahap communist rebels, I have arrived at last! Tonight, we will camp together for a last time.
Tomorrow, I am promised, I will be introduced to the locals, the nomadic jungle dwellers, the T'lai Mar, as they call themselves. I have been assured that, if I play my cards right, it should be no problem to arrange an audience with their renown Shaman, Kaumana. The Hukbalahaps tell me that the old fellow really likes Pez Candy and metal cookware, so I've brought along plenty of both.
Although few Philippinos, and fewer still westerners, have ever come in direct contact with the T'lai Mar, the reputation of Kaumana spreads far from their isolated homeland through the network of traders and contraband dealers who work the wilds of the Northern Province. Indeed, among the Spanish speaking people of the nearest villages, he is known as El Maestro de la Muerte, the Master of Death. This individual, I believe, is the very person of whom you have heard the legend spoke.
It is claimed that he has the power to heal the mortally ill, and is himself impervious to Death's cold hand. One story tells of Kaumana being slain in a confrontation with slave traders attempting to abduct T'lai Mar women. He is said to have taken several bullets through the heart, a machete across the neck, and to have been subsequently dismembered. The eyeballs were gouged from his severed head, itself skewered on a spit as his corpse, now in a dozen pieces, was set afire. Gleefully, his murderers made off with their human booty, and Kaumana's bloody scalp as a trophy.
Supposedly, he somehow reconstituted and resurrected himself! Out of his own ashes he rose, none the worse for wear and fit enough to make a twenty-mile trek in search of the slave trader's canoes. In so doing, he overtook his quarry and again confronted them at the riverside; this to their complete horror and surprise. Thus the T'lai Mar's tormentors fled back into the jungle and to their certain doom. They were dinner for the big cats.
How much of this story, and others like it, are fancy and how much fact, I do not yet know. As ever, I remain a wide-eyed skeptic in pursuit of Scientific Truth. It is also true, however, that this gentleman has the kind of reputation that any self-professed necromancer would envy. At the very minimum, he must possess powerful knowledge of applied neurochemistry. I very much look forward to making his acquaintance.
Well, the sun is setting, and I must turn in. Tomorrow will be a busy and challenging day; whatever it brings, that is for sure. I will continue this letter at my earliest opportunity. Until then, you remain in my thoughts.
Yesterday we met the T'lai Mar. As promised, I was given audience by the great Kaumana.
Quite a fellow, that Kaumana. We hit it off famously. He liked the Pez candy quite a bit and is now wearing a Number 10 aluminum stew-pot as a hat.
So, Doktor, now begins my latest and most enticing adventure. There is much more that I wish to tell you, but I haven't the time, right now. The sun is rising and Kaumana has promised to take me into the jungle, this morning. He has promised to show me something of great import to our Quest. He tells me that I will soon learn the secret of what the T'lai Mar call the Lightning Drink. I will write again, very soon. Ho-ho!
Yours, Deep in the Jungle,
Today, virtually nothing beyond this educated conjecture would be known of this episode of "missing time", were it not for a serendipitous, albeit tragic discovery made in the year 1978. World renown socio-anthropologist Jackson Emery Taylor had long since retired to his home on the island of Majorca. At the advanced age of ninety-four, frail and demented, calamity finally overtook the great adventurer's charmed and thrilling life. Confined to a wheel-chair, this courageous student of human culture, once as comfortable with the head-hunters of New Guinea as with the pre-soviet intelligentsia of Petrograd, he finally met his doom. A fire of suspicious origin consumed his mansion estate and he, perfectly helpless, with it. Of the old man, nothing but ash remained. So great was the conflagration, that little was left of his estate, his records or his personal belongings.
An official investigation of the fire unexpectedly revealed an incomplete but tantalizing clue to Professor Saurian's whereabouts during the period November 1954 through November 1955. Amidst the rubble and charred debris of the Taylor Mansion was a nearly incinerated strong-box. Upon police inspection, the contents were revealed to be personal papers; most oxidized and water-soaked beyond reconstruction. Still, within the center of the metal container, a diary dated to the time of Taylor's fabled Pacific explorations had been carefully secreted inside an asbestos pouch. The paper contained therein was largely consumed by fungus; only partially readable. Yet, what could be decyphered clearly tells of a surprise encounter between Taylor, then exploring an unnamed location in the Philippine archipelago, and a mysterious westerner. The presumption that this man was Saurian is grounded in the fact that the date of Taylor's notes coincides precisely with the time of Saurian's disappearance into the northern jungle of the Philippines.
Here, made public for the first time, is J.E.T.'s secret diary of his encounter with the man that we now presume to be Professor Anton Saurian. We have earnestly endeavored to faithfully reconstruct the late socio-anthropoligist's own words, but please bear in mind that, even in this brief passage found amidst the scraps, interpretation of the damaged original was not possible with absolute certainty.
February 25th, 1955
This morning, I had the strangest encounter, here in the rain-forest. I met a man, and he was apparently a westerner! I found him as he was foraging for grubs under rocks, down by the gully northwest of the camp. He was alone and naked and filthy. At first, I thought he was an aborigine, but this was not so. Instead, it seems that I have stumbled upon that rare instance, so often fabled, of the lost explorer gone native.
I offered him some biscuits from my kit. He refused them, preferring instead to eat insect pupae from matted jungle floor, which he shoveled down by the handful. He paused only to gesture that I should sit down with him. At this point, I was not sure if he spoke English or, for that matter, was capable of any speech. But I knew that under the grime, matted hair, and horrid stench, he appeared to be a caucasian. He had green eyes.
After some time, each enjoying our repast, I offered the fellow a bit of rum from my kit. Seeing the bottle, he...
Unfortunately, further interpretation of the writing upon the fungus laden paper was not in any way possible with any assurance of accuracy. In any case, we hear again from Saurian near year's end, 1995. He sends the following tragic report to his then faithful and trusted confidant.
To be continued…