I succeeded in sleeping till daybreak through a defense mechanism against the intrusion of thoughts that were too unbearable. My sleep was interrupted, however, by feverish nightmares, in which Nova's body appeared in the guise of a monstrous serpent wound around my own body. I opened my eyes to the light. She was already awake. She had drawn a little away from me and was watching me with her eternally bewildered gaze.
Our vehicle slowed down and I saw we were entering a town. The captives had risen and were squatting beside the bars, glancing out beneath the tarpaulin at a spectacle that seemed to revive their emotions of the previous day. I followed their example; I pressed my face against the bars and for the first time viewed a civilized city on the planet Soror.
We were driving down a fairly broad street flanked with pavements. I anxiously examined the passers-by: they were apes. I saw a tradesman, a sort of grocer, who had just raised the shutters of his shop, turn around curiously to watch us go by; he was an ape. I tried to see the passengers and drivers of the motor cars flashing past us: they were dressed in the same way as people at home and they were apes.
My hope of discovering a civilized human race became chimerical, and I spent the last part of the drive in gloomy despair. Our vehicle slowed down even more. I then noticed that the convoy had been split up during the night, for it consisted of only two vehicles, the others evidently having taken another direction. After passing through an entrance gate we came to a halt in a courtyard. Some apes immediately surrounded us and tried to calm down the captives' mounting agitation with a few blows of their pikes.
The courtyard was enclosed by buildings several stories high with identical rows of windows. The general effect was that of a hospital, and this impression was confirmed by the arrival of some new figures who came forward to meet our guards. They were all dressed in white smocks and little caps: they were apes.
They were apes, every one of them, gorillas and chimpanzees. They helped our guards unload the carts. We were taken out of the cages one by one, stuffed into big sacks, and carried inside the building. I put up no resistance and let myself be hauled off by two gorillas dressed in white. For several minutes I had the feeling that we were going down some long corridors and climbing some staircases. Eventually I was dumped down on the ground; then, after the sack had been opened, I was thrown into another cage, this time a stationary one, its floor covered with straw. I was alone. One of the gorillas carefully locked the door from the outside.
The room in which I found myself contained a large number of cages like mine, lined up in two rows and facing a long passage. Most of them were already occupied, some of them by my companions of the roundup who had just been brought here, others by men and women who must have been captured some time earlier. The latter could be recognized by their attitude of resignation. They looked at the newcomers with a listless air, scarcely pricking up their ears when one of them gave a plaintive moan. I also noticed that the newcomers had been placed, as I had, in individual cells, whereas the old hands were generally locked up in pairs. Putting my nose through the bars, I saw a bigger cage at the end of the corridor containing a large number of children. Unlike the adults, these appeared
to be extremely excited by the arrival of our batch. They gesticulated, jostled one another, and pretended" to shake the bars, uttering little cries like young monkeys quarreling.
The two gorillas came back carrying another sack. My friend Nova emerged from it, and again I had the consolation of seeing her put into the cage directly across from mine. She protested this operation in her own way, trying to scratch and bite. When the door was closed on her, she rushed to the bars, tried to break them down, grinding her teeth and whimpering enough to rend one's heart. After a few minutes of this behavior she caught sight of me, stood stock-still, and extended her neck slightly, like a surprised animal. I gave her a cautious half-smile and a little wave, which to my intense delight she clumsily tried to imitate.
I was distracted by the return of the two gorillas in white jackets. The unloading had been completed, for they carried no further bundle, but they pushed in front of them a handcart laden with food and buckets of water that they dished out to the captives, thus restoring order among them.
It was soon my turn. While one of the gorillas mounted guard, the other entered my cage and placed in front of me a bowl containing some mash, a little fruit, and a bucket. I had decided to do all I could to establish contact with these apes, who seemed to be the only rational and civilized beings on the planet. The one who brought my food did not look unpleasant. Observing my tranquillity, he even gave me a friendly tap on the shoulder. I looked him straight in the eye, then, putting my hand on my chest, gave a ceremonious bow. I saw intense surprise on his face as I raised my head again. I then smiled at him, putting all my heart into this gesture. He was just about to leave; dumbfounded, he stopped short and uttered an exclamation. At last I had succeeded in attracting attention to myself. Wishing to reinforce this success by showing all my abilities, I uttered rather stupidly the first phrase that came into my head:
"How do you do? I am a man from Earth. I've had a long journey."
The meaning was unimportant. I only needed to speak in order to reveal my true nature to him. I had certainly achieved my aim. Never before had such stupefaction been seen on an ape's face. He stood breathless and gaping, and so did his companion. They both started talking together in an undertone, but the result was not what I had hoped for. After peering at me suspiciously, the gorilla briskly drew back and stepped out of the cage, which he closed behind him with even greater care than before. The two apes then looked at each other for a moment and began roaring with laughter. I must have represented a truly unique phenomenon, for they could not stop making merry at my expense. Tears were streaming down their faces, and one of them had to put down the bowl he was holding to take out his handkerchief.
My disappointment was such that I immediately broke into a towering rage. I, too, began shaking the bars, baring my teeth and cursing them in every language I knew. When I had exhausted my repertoire of invectives I went on giving incoherent yells, the only result being that they shrugged their shoulders.
Nevertheless I had succeeded in drawing their attention to me. As they went off, they turned around several times to look back at me. When I had finally calmed down, completely exhausted, I saw one of them take a notebook from his pocket and scribble something in it after carefully recording a sign inscribed on a panel at the top of my cage, which I assumed to be a number.
They disappeared. The other captives, at first agitated by my demonstration, had resumed eating. There was nothing else I could do but eat and rest while waiting for a more favorable opportunity to reveal my noble nature. I gulped down another mash of cereals and some delicious fruit. Opposite me, Nova stopped munching every now and then to dart a furtive glance in my direction.