In another suburb, this one closer to resembling the storybook varietywhite picket fences bordering property (a.k.a. territory) on lots in strict conformity to a geometric grid, tree-lined, every single-family home and two-car garage connected by sidewalks, driveways, avenues (ensuring soles need never touch thoroughfares other than those graded, leveled, and paved)an asymmetric shagginess blurred edges once kept tidy. Lawns trespassed on lawns, tree roots on plumbing; branches mingled with telephone wires (none of them in service); gardens shriveled or flourished thanks to opportunistic weeds; and nothing of a mechanical nature broke the spell of Sunday mornings summer silence: no mowers, hedge clippers, sprinkler systems, chain saws, or the revving of car engines, no motorcycles (traffic nonexistent), the sky devoid of vapor trails, propellers, and sonic booms.
Flanked by plastic trashcans filled with rain run-off and snowmelt from the previous winter, one backyard (in a neighborhood of hundreds) emitted sounds of habitation. Splashing noises disrupted the hushed serenity. A naked youngster was spanking his palms on the surface of dingy water that surrounded him where he sat, waist-deep, in a saucer-shaped wading pool
that sloshed against and overflowed the inflated, canary-yellow perimeter. Wet strands of long, unruly hair obscured his facial features. Size, and weight, and musculature suggested an age of
His mental age, however, seemed less mature
almost retarded (if taking delight in so simple a recreation betrayed lack of wit). Further confusing the issue were wisps of underarm hair, incongruous, given the youngsters pre-pubescent stage
as was the hair, exposed by random ripples, that colonized his pubes. Something about the boys vocalizations also hinted at a lower level of functioning, as if his speech were impaired; or perhaps he spoke no language at all.
"Eeeee-annnnn," came a call from the house, its back door propped agape like an unhinged jaw.
The bather cocked his ear, then wriggled over the rubbery ring to hide, flattening his little mans body on turf made mushy by the sloppy spillover.
Evelyn, identically clad, entered the yard, and, dropping to all fours, pretended to stalk her progeny like a prowling lioness. His squeal, when she pounced, was a mixture of giddy glee and make-believe fright. Snorting an odd nasal laugh (Mom had missed, earning herself a mud bath), Ian scampered away, mimicking the gait of a frolicsome chimpanzee.
Adam, drawn outside by the commotion, shed his threadbare bathrobe, pajamas, and slippers (winked a wink of conspiracy at his up-a-tree heir), then crept toward the still-sprawled pulchritude of an unawares Mrs. Smith
languished in the sun-stroked sod
its sogginess oozing aromatic warmth and gooshy-gosh fertility
luxurious to her sinuses, tangled coif, and unencumbered pores
mother, with Mother Earth, re-commingled
terra cotta sculpture immersed in a slick of liquefied clay
rolling in it
coating her tip-to-toe tan with sludge lewdly succulent
into which her husband, tailed by their son, similarly slid.
At the same time, Ann, come from a vacated corner store pulling her little red wagon piled high with groceries (atop which Geezer rode, august as any emperor), turned in at the Smith house and ambled up its drive. Looking quite the young lady (despite some traits enduringly toddler-esque), Ians twin no more resembled him now than a rose does a thistle. Secondary sexual characteristics (equally premature) expressed themselves quite differently, sister to brother. Breasts, in the former, had blossomed, albeit little ones, yet big enough to distend Anns Mickey Mouse shirt, beneath which concave curves conspired with bumps to foreshadow womanhood. Still childlike, still diminutive, her anatomy was that of a changelings, hovering between ungainly and borderline precocious. A full set of adult teeth (resembling piano keys crammed into a squeezebox) taxed her lips to cover them, yet lent her mouth, overall, a winning grin. The same duality described her outsize feet, which were charming, in a clodhopper sort of way. A body at sixes and sevens was hers (teeter tottering between six and seventeen), with brains on a fast track toward brilliance (outstripping "His Royal Highnesss" already).
Come full stop, Ann stared at her nuclear family with outright chagrin whereas they seemed all too happy she had found her way back home.
"Hello, dear," Evelyn trumpeted, rising from the muck with open-armed grace, fluttering toward her daughter like some disinterred swan, a heartfelt hug besmirching Anns ensemble (which the girl had washed by hand).
"Hi, Mommy," Ann replied, glancing at the smudges without complaint.
Ian ambled over, likewise latching on with a greasy, grimy grip, tugging at his sibling, cloyingly, intent on her accompanying him into the pool-turned-troughwhere Adam, hostage to another trance, sat eerily immobile.
"Stop it, Ian. Go play with Daddy. I have to fix us lunch," Ann countered, prying loose his mitts with a firm yet gentle hand.
"Let me help you carry these in," her mother offered, then got distracted, drifting back, instead, to soak in the muck.
Geezer, used to being ignored (by everyone except Ann) was taken aback when Ian popped up and gave him the raspberry, retreating, then, wary of certain limits beyond which he dared not venture.
Moron, the monkey retaliated (subliminally).
Dont call Ian names! If hes not smart, whose fault is that? Ann defended (also subliminally, hers and Geezers an exchange transmitted via telepathic pulses, tongues, by comparison, too sluggish, the spoken word like doing math on ones fingers and toes).
Maintaining Simian silence, Geezer lambasted Ann for her shop-till-she-dropped excessiveness.
Just because you seem to be immune from repercussions, doesnt mean you ought to overdo, Geezer lectured. How do you suppose that surplus got generated?
Shut up, you, or Ill boil you for dinner, was Anns ill-tempered reply. She had eyes (albeit non-amber ones). She had seen the havoc wreaked on humans robbed of any recourse, watched her neighbors go berserk for want of self-restraint. Owl-Eyes, everywhere, had toppled institutions, braked progress to a standstill, clobbered every culture into categorical submissionMankind forced indubitably, irreversibly to its penitential knees. Before the TV stopped (for lack of electric current; few things worked without power) news reports claimed anarchy raged and ruled in the world at large: governments, militaries had crumbled; countries fighting for identity had lost more than they gained; those at peace waged war, the results disastrous; worldwide population was reduced to a peripatetic smattering
with casualties leaving a legacy of global stink
hung like Humors from Hades over the legions decomposed.
Even now the Four Winds exhaled breath befouled by far-flung carrion, as the Corpse of Humankind rotted unilaterally coast to coastlandfills finding themselves pocked with unmarked graves in an acne of compost.
Hey, Blue-eyes; no ones going to eat that tuna fish salad.
Its for me. Want some?
Nope. Ill stick to my staple.
Cant. No more apricots.
Here; try nuts.
Ann plopped down a giant, vacuum-packed jar in front of the resident alien, defying him to open it without assistancea challenge Geezer met with roguish aplomb.
Be that way, he remarked with an impudent scowl, as he leaned against the jar and pushed it slowly toward tables edge.
Youd better not, Ann warned, this place is messy e
Too late. "CRASH!" An avalanche of cashews tumbled across the kitchen floor, the squalid kitchen floor. Alive with cockroaches, ants, and vermin more imposing (as in field mice during the day, sewer rats by night, "scrabbling" here, there, everywhere on nail-protuberant paws), the linoleum set off boundaries of a zone Ann tried to avoid
preferring to barricade herself up in her room
sequestered from the family
Evelyn, Adam, and Ian, taken to sleeping in a huddle on a mattress lugged downstairs
stuffed haphazardly into a corner of the living room
blankets, sheets, and pillows all jumbled in a helter-skelter mass
smelly, too, despite Anns efforts to hang the bedding outside to air.
"Leave things be!" her mother had admonished, underscoring the ostracism Ann so frequently felt not that they discouraged her from joining in (quite the contrary); she simply could not tolerate the familys horrid hygiene. Seldom washing, never brushing their teeth, Mother, Father, and brother (worst of the bunch) courted sundry ticks, voracious fleas, and haloes of body liceall the better for grooming of a lazy afternoon
a lazy evening
a lazy morning
industriousness having ceased to be a thinkable occupationwhich frustrated Ann no end. It was she who had collected the containers that housed their precious water supply. Left to themselves, parents and sibling would have bathed in soda pop and beer (after exhausting the stocks of bottled water), or let sporadic rain afford them a superficial shower when inclined toward sanitation which was not often not often enough by Anns fastidious standardsto which she clung with tenacity, ever-fearful of losing herSelf. Im okay, Im okay, Im okay, had become Anns personal mantra, drowning out importunities from her poor relations to play
Why be so stubborn? Why resist the Call reverberating through Evelyns every vein, Adams every artery, Ians every corpuscle? What made Ann resistant to the irrepressible Wild? Had Owl-Eyes failed to take? Or had it sent her racingdevelopmentallyin the opposite direction?
"FOOD!" was announced through the backdoor entrance (thoroughfare for anything of a mind to wander in), whereupon Ann, with her pseudo-sidekick, climbed the stairs to dine in private (spared, thereby, from having to watch, and worse yet listen, while the Smith threesome fed).
Following his nose to one of several platters, Ian showed up first, stacked some canned pineapple rings (like yellow washers) on his grubby thumb, then wandering back outside before his parents put in an appearance
Adam roused, evidently, from his most recent interlude
Evelyn nestling her buttocks onto the dining-room table chair
seated by her spouse with skimpy civility
neither having donned a solitary stitch
though, unlike Ian, they had rinsed off most of the mire
proceeding to pick at victuals with fingers a tad less foul
without a word spoken
yet giving an impression of communication, content to satisfy hunger side by side
having endured a lot and savoring the fact with this scrumptious smorgasbord
glad for life and its bounties, as spread out in front of them: asparagus spears, artichoke hearts, a sprinkling of pickled mushrooms, framed by a lovely fan of sectioned tangerines; Ann had done well. Ann, praise the Lord, had been her familys salvation.
Evelyn, bowing her head, gave thanks by saying Grace
to The Presence she felt poignantly
whose battleground was best staged right at home
surrounded by familiar things
when evil challenged good to a looking-glass war
spitting images split over who resembled Whom
Maker and made un-flattered
declared guilty by association
stewardship all but rescinded
canceled, it appeared, forevermore.
Could it be God now deemed Humans untrustworthy?
Had Man been stripped of rank for gross misconduct?
Was Judgment passed already, morals become pass�?
Nakedness, for example, no longer caused embarrassment. How so? Never, in a million years, would Evelyn have traipsed around in the nude; before, that is. Now, she wore her birthday suit unashamed in front of her children, no less. Nudity seemed only natural. Flesh, unhampered by clothing, felt free and refreshed
like a whole revitalized organ
like Aunt Minervas furniture shed of its plastic sheathes.
Yes, Evelyn was aware of her de-sophistication, cultural affectations flaking off like scales, lingerie and make-up abandoned without a qualm. She giggled.
When had she last bothered to "put on her face"?
During the evacuation, she remembered, when authorities still flexed authority, warned that the nearby power plant was in danger of melting downa threat which virtually emptied their township for miles in every direction. Why had she decided to disregard the order? What had made her choose to hide her husband and children, instead? And how had they escaped when those who fled met an uncertain
"Death," she said aloud, commencing to spoon feed
succumbed to another stupor
his face untroubled
limbs gone limp
though somewhere deep inside he remained alert
to sounds especially
the closed-in type
like those within the confines of a brim-full bath
echoes inundating eardrums sunk below the waters surface
perked to hear a veritable rhapsody of anatomical riffs:
heartbeats keeping impeccable time
digestive juices gurgling
lungs (with a heave) expanding
(with a ho) contracting
if held, if kept, if coveted
cease to carry out its cycle
letting go as key as taking in
like life, breath hinged on faith
what is expended
day in, day out
year in, year out
eternal inklings lighting darkness
leading Adam from the macro
to the micro
to least-conspicuous speck
his Now-ness narrowed to consider, in detail, such quaint minutia:
as an eyelash
as a pinhead mole
as a cheeks enchanting dimple
as a nape of neck
his helpmates quiver
live-wire nerve-ends trembly
(What a dainty, is a womans earlobe, dangling like some tidbit, like some soft as kidskin purse containing toothsome sweets to gnaw.)
"Oooo, thats ticklish," Evelyn trilled, then shrugged and squirmed without evading
(Tastes of sweat, in salty keeping with its teardrop shape, ambrosial.)
bore his prickly-pear caresses, ovum not quite at its peak, that phase when sperm can swim the distance to impregnate
though her tender breasts and privates signaled soon, her moon was near, its tidal tug revealed by flashes subtly sensible
(Not quite ripened?)
ovulation, once a mystery, now pronounced, unveiled, discerned, its secret published by her puckered paps and musk-exuding vulva, which inflamed her husbands ardor to a record strength (and breadth), the heat turned up, unleashed libidos urged to sniff and lick and nuzzle.
Adams kisses crept down Evelyns throat to linger at her clavicle, as his palms enclosed her wriggling shoulders
(Ultra-supple curves, the bones beneath betraying God Almightys eminent displeasure when He snapped the wings off angels.)
(Here, and here. A pair of stumps where once grew feathers broad and strong, reduced to relics, sunken treasures under the dunes of a desert isle.)
Ian picked his nose and ate it, scratched his abdomen, sucked a cut on his wrist, snapped his jaws at a passing horseflyknowing he would have had to spit it out had he succeeded; his stomach rejected anything that was not vegetation. And even some of that proved barely palatable, depending upon the noises it made when un-packaged. A lot of things had gotten processed, evidently, under hostile circumstances. Insects, poisoned by plumes of pesticide, tended to drop dead screaming. Maybe their collective echoes were responsible for contaminated so many foodstuffs. Whatever; as long as he got enough to eat (and it went down uncomplainingly), how it actually tasted was unimportant.
Mud; now there was something to savor! Ian loved the way it sucked when you tried to leave a puddle, like it wanted to hold on, like you were it and it was you all warm and mushy and gloppy. It kept the bugs from biting after it dried, too. How come Ann failed to appreciate that? Girls were weird. Mud could hold a shape; that was another good point. You could make it into just about anything, let it harden in the sun, then throw it against a wall and see it smash into smoky rubble! You could even eat it, once you rescued all the moving bits: beetles, spiders, worms, and suchwhich did not like being handled, but were glad to not get gulped then barfed back up, of course by Humans, anyway; other animals ate whatever they pleased. Why? Ian was confused by the New World order. Figuring out its rules (and rulers) had been a pretty painful process. That piss-pot Geezer, for example (whom Ian never liked and never would) could outsmart people (reason enough to hate the monkeys guts). Plus, he hung around with Ann. Constantly. Thick as thieves, they were. Kept mostly to themselves. Made everyone else in the household feel "uncouth." Ian aimed to get even. Tried, once. Almost managed to set the monkeys tail on fire. No luck, though. Match ignited okay, but burned right down to the would-be firebugs fingers; no matter how hard Ian struggled, he could not force himself to let the damn thing goor even to blow it out. After that, he laid low, for a while, hatching schemes of vengeance that stopped just shy of actual execution. Maybe Ann would eventually come back, forget that snooty varmint and act like a sister. Playing by himself was a bit like one hand clapping.
Cloistered in the room upstairs once shared with her ousted brother, Ann made rounds to replace the batteries in her hoarded appliances: digital clocks, CD players, VCRs (rigged to operate on dry cells), multiple flashlights, radios (useless, broadcasts having ceased), and several laptop computers.
Let there be light, Geezer quipped sarcastically, critical of Anns reluctance to part with the past, viewing her penchant for progress as a post-nasal nuisance.
Ignoring him, she turned up the volume on Beethovens Seventhwhich did not serve to quell the monkeys communiqu�s.
Why dont you go watch the grass grow, he chided, or hobnob with that Heathen? This puttering only prolongs your expatriation.
Spoiling for an argument, irked himself at the status quoappointed fall guy in a plot he only feigned to comprehend (for Anns benefit, for prides sake)Geezer felt more isolated than his antagonist. Especially now that the Worldwide Web had crashed, and its alternative (telepathic air waves) proved similarly un-surf-able, with nary a brain-cap generated for as far as the mind could reach a negligible distance, in the erstwhile lab rats case, his casting true to type, the role sufficiently humble to excuse his lack of acumen; a mighty mind among Simians the marooned apes was not as evidenced by his ducking Anns chronic interrogations:
How did he get from China to Upstate New York?
He did not know. He had BLINKed, was all, but did so flanked by escorts which led to Anns follow-up:
Why not simply BLINK himself back home?
He shrugged, not wanting to acknowledge gross incompetence and that Time-Space Transport, for him, was a hit-or-miss affair; without guidance from Adepts, Geezer was a hopeless clod.
Did the dreams she had about a hunchbacked midget represent real events?
Maybe. Possibly. Probably. Many of the details Ann related jived with concrete facts (allowing for a childs poetic license). However Geezer would admit to being no more than Projectionist for whatever Anns subconscious chose to represent.
The same way she had witnessed wolves surround and kill that buffalo?
Sort of, kind of; those were true-to-life images, sure enough Next question.
Would people be able to defend themselves, or could they never, ever hurt other creatures?
Again, the monkey sidestepped. Human Beings had been so obsessed with polishing off each other (even the passive personalities), how they would react to outside perils remained unclear. Only Ann, for instance, dared resist the households teeming verminsymbolically; threats of extermination were never quite carried out. If it came right down to a competition, People versus Predators, Owl-Eyes might inhibit the formers self-defense.
Look to your spitting image, had been Geezers artful dodge.
How come Ian just got duller, whereas she got sharper daily?
The interviewee (rather dull himself) could offer not a clueso he invented something, cited the anomaly of twinship as responsible for subverting what he dubbed the Simian Scheme, the Tour-de-force, the Feat of Monumental Bio-engineering about which he knew less than she whose avid curiosity had occasioned Ann to overcome nearly every hindrance met: no school (her kindergarten classes canceled long ago), no television (stations, one by one, from coast to coast, had left the air), no supervision by her parents (even bedtime stories languished); only videos, talking books, and a wealth of software had abetted her pursuit of education, plus her taxing Geezers wits, whose store of knowledge, truth be told, was close to depletion.
What then, the monkey fretted? Once outliving his utility, would this Sorcerers Apprentice deem him worthless, obsolete?
How did he BLINK from place to place? (she asked and asked and asked ad nauseam).
Geezer, cleaving to his only edge, resolved to tell her zilcha rather practical ploy, considering how unskilled was his facility.
Oh, an arcane knack, is all, passed down through countless generations, he dissembled, with a heavy hint he knew more than he did.
Ann chewed the last bite of her tuna fish salad, washed it down with Cola, making "slurp-slurp" sounds through a plastic straw, deliberations deep, her thoughts concealed behind a veil of inaccessibility.
This, too, was worrisome; nearly every stratagem Geezer plied (like cloaking certain subtexts), Ann acquired with ease (then raised to an art). How to BLINK must stay covert.
Arcane since when? Ann would not let the subject drop; she wanted answers, her expression (as the straw protruded rudely through her teeth) a combination of inquisitiveness and menace.
Since the Dynasty of Mung, the monkey hazarded.
You mean Ming?
Had she been reading Chinese history? Geezer cocked a wary eyebrow. An equivocal dissertation on the subject might divert.
Atop his favorite roosta beanbag lodged in an Old World globes curved armatureGeezer idly kicked the Arctic Circle, set the map in motion; lines of latitude merged with longitude as he spun both yarn and sphere:
Mung was the Mother of our Counter-Revolution, he transmitted.
Ann, in spellbound mode, relaxed her spine from nape of neck to coccyx, lowered her eyelidslight diffused therebyrelaxed her high-strung nerves, allowed her body to indulge the hum that overcomes a listener when regaled with tales farfetched or true, with faithful facts or lore, a state that hovered between wakefulness and daydreamcalm, susceptiblewherein pictures took the place of words
while the ape took on his role as Cinematic Bard:
An old, old soul when returned from the land of Uprights (as Human Beings were called back then), Mung survived to remember one hundred and twelve (an age in an Age when people, much less monkeys, rarely lived past forty). "Captured," some say, "apprenticed," claim others, she spent her youth as the minion of a man named Chan Ling (an Ink Maker) pounding raw materials, year in, year out, into suitable paste. Repetitive work, no mistaking, but not without reward, since Ling was also a Scribe who copied learned manuscripts, the contents, unbeknownst to their Transcriber, finding a grade-A pupil in the minds eye of Mung. After mastering every character in the ancient Chinese alphabet, she committed all to memory, logarithms to logistics. Quite a labor of learning for an animal reckoned "dumb," though dumb Mung was in only a verbal sense; Simians, even then, flexed minds in lieu of tongues.
Geezer gave the globe another kick to keep it twirling; Ann looked on with an eyes-half-open stare
as continents alongside oceans blurred
their colors interchangeable
specifics un-pinpoint-able on the orbs dynamic whirl
until deceleration brought the passing features into focus (slowed momentum now kept constant by the flicks from Geezers tail)
each spin hypnotic
round and round went Anns perceptions
round and round went her ability to envision how things were
Mung thus grew privy to the march of Mankinds reckless machinations, epochs-past suggesting those impending, Earths demise foreseen. So she escaped, by climbing the string of a kite (one version of the legend has it). Then, once gnawing free, she petitioned Wind to send her, air mail, home.
The globe revolved, with Geezers tall-tale telling, prayer-wheel fashion
its solidity, first opaque, become translucent
like a crystal ball at which Ann gazed with graphic meditation
visions prompted by her fancies based on the monkeys mute portrayal:
Reunited with her kinfolk, Mung soon shocked them from complacency by predicting Mans monopoly on a worldwide-habitat scale. A Great Convention was assembled to address the coming Crisis, to avert the Eco-Tragedy by what methods might prevail. And thus The Lab was born, its motley staff selectively recruited for the quantum leap to sciences theoretical and applied, our Simian Nation led, round-trip, down the Garden Path.
Anns intellect swirled
observed a cadence
pre-established by rotation
China, every time it passed, attracting note
her mind arrested
like a phonograph needle
caught by a ruined record
every skip an X
each X the spot
that marked the fateful scourge
its point of origin
round and round
by means nefarious
round and round
by means insidious
by nothing more, nor less, than a Simians sneeze.
Goddamn, that monkey! Ann, grown viscerally aware of how her Race had been negated, glared at Geezeralias Typhoid Mary. He had brought disaster. Him and his, those early
It took time. Recruits were willing, but unused to life down under. Isolation made them homesick. Lack of light killed cones and rods. And color blindness, spurred by headaches, fostered frantic innovations. Pacts were sought with other dwellers in the requisitioned cave, to wit a colony of bioluminescent microorganisms was induced to lend its glowthe gloom reduced, one problem eased, while others waited for solutions by the ground crew overhead, support from gatherers, go-fors, petty thieves, a horde of opportunists who appropriated tools, utensils (everything in miniature), an amazing range of paraphernalia filched, adapted, forged from bits of refuse, odds and ends, the bric-a-brac of ethno-progress (as pervasive as the species that produced excessive wastes), procured year round, from far and wide (the Uprights reign a bane expanding) and conveyed through arcane avenues, hidden pathways, cryptic trails (until the boon of Time-Space Transport revolutionized these forays) to the cavern Mung, and her troglodytes, commandeered.
At Time-Space Transports parenthetical mention, Ann grew hopeful that the monkeys best-kept secret might, at long last, be disclosed; one tiny bean was all she needed for the rest to spill unwittingly thoughts of BLINKing where and when she pleased engendering such ambitions, Ann took pains to keep them under wraps, yet every ploy conceived had netted shrugs, thus far, prevarication. Geezer was evasive, unavailing to an intellect primed to comprehend all things, to understand, become the champion of her race (despite its apathy), seek the Truth (regardless how few people gave a tinkers damn). Ann was (accordingly) abashed to see her family slipping backward. They withdrew from anything more complex than the most mundane concerns: securing food and drink (which she provided), grooming (done incessantly), noting nothing-in-particular (things that moved, whatever changed), observing weather (which they did examine closely, senses active, sundry smells, sights, sounds, tastes, textures coaxing wits to reconvene), but little else, it seemed, could tweak their Owl-Eyed interest
Could the world have caught so vast a plague in so few revolutions
mixed malignancy, with its metaphors, and abolished Man post-haste
destroyed initiative, ingenuity
wiped out culture, progress, aptitude
slain conviction, squelched philosophy
rendered Faith a flightless finch
an artless dodo reconstructed from some Blueprint of Creation wherein Heaven need not fit the flock with wings to storm its Gates
tellurians grounded, of the Earth itself, an Eden un-abandoned by the likes of those whose swallowed bite of Knowledge had been spat
Original Sin disgorged, replaced by the Bliss of Ignorance?
There she preached, a shrunken monkey midst a sprawling mob of mesmerized disciples, Mung refulgent (wisdom shimmering like a lodestar born within), her views outspoken, if transmitted via tacit elocution
Once taught to BLINK, the Subterraneans gained advantage over Uprights, whose development had been slowed for want of common cause (and sense). Within a decade, what was once a cave resembled a cathedral, former treetop-browsers transformed into academic priests. Prestige was high among those chosen to combat Mankinds encroachment; always spreading, Homo Sapiens plundered each frontier they breached. Thus Mungs prediction, in her lifetime, was supported by the evidence. Every habitat Man invaded saw its former residents ousted (that, or butchered when evacuation failed to move apace). The race was on, one species overrunning, one pursuing trip-wires, yours relentless in its exploitation, mine ordained to save, to rescue Planet Earth from Mans MANiacal rampage.
Ann engrossed in Geezers lecture cum account cum explication
had a mind to contradict him
plead her own beleaguered case:
Were people really so contemptible as to warrant decimation? Surely virtues offset vices weighed on an even-handed scale.
Her Mom was kind, and good, and never harmed things. Why should she be punished?
Why should Ian? He was naughty, true, but children were excusable. Boys were brutal; most grew out of it. Was it fair to nip his bud?
Her Dad respected the environment, saw that bottles got recycled, put out campfires, seldom littered. How come he got Owl-Eyes?
The epidemic was a dirty trick to play on humans.
There was no way Ann could think about it otherwise.
JUST PLAIN MEAN!
The world would NOT be better off because its people all got stupider. What a lame idea that was; brains were everything. Think of school, about the teachers being just as dim and silly as their students, all the textbooks gone to waste, the countless software programs squandered, not to mention all the art and music sight-unseen, unheard.
Her brother made things, stillfrom mud and stuff; her parents hummedatonally. What were these, compared to Masterworks produced by Moore and Mahler? Only Geezercurse the pesky poopappreciated genius, parked himself between her headphoneswearing out the boom-box batteriesas he tapped his twitchy tail in time to prerecorded tunes, expressing sadnessso he saidabout Mans Muses being sacrificed for the Earths return to health.
Since when did healthy birds not sing?
Or healthy bees refrain from buzzing, frogs from croaking, elk from trumpeting?
Healthy humans set their lives to music. Why deny them that?
It was not right.
It was unnatural, even; Owl-Eyes made folks aberrant.
It reduced them to a level no more noble than a turd.
It made them equal to the lowest, commonest, dull-as-dung denominator.
As the globe continued spinning Ann (still rapt) saw settings change:
Said vivid stock of primal memories granted Ann a glimpse, if fleeting, of the link between these brutes and those whose minds conjointly summoned, called up images a la newsreels from an archive out of date.
The family tree of Man and Simian, at its basest base, took root here, one small shoot, a stalk at most, from whence our separate bearings branched, our fates as fickle as a famine or a drought, a flood, an ice age, or a chromosome that got bent, somehow, from a sympathetic shape, then passed along its woeful prospects for engendering a disaster that would upset Natures balance worse than a blow from outer space. These two were kin, yours/mine identical, save for one slight deviation in our founding fathers make-up.
Once again the scene transfigured:
A prime example of the cunning that became your Human hallmark, Man (the solitary species that kills extra, sells the surplus, or inters it when the victims are relations) started here. Or so suggest recessive genes that trace their lineage back millennia, past-lives printed like a palimpsest all but totally erased, a vague impression, d�j� vu, a dream renewing lost awareness, mine and yours a recollection held like fossils, bugs in sap, or shells made mute until their glacial ocean thaws an inner warning that alerts us to such chilling reminiscences.
Round and round
Anns eyes, enthralled by lands that seemed to lose their moorings, watched them wander.
Set adrift, each continent crossed the Seven Seas
approached its neighbor
Pangaea formed before Anns woozy stare (the globe, at last, immobile), Island Earth a giant garden fringed by one continuous surf
a ring of ripples
as encircling waves reached shore
their froth the white of an egg whose yolk formed Life Everlasting
whence Ann BLINKed
and felt her body pass through something thick
like a membrane
surface yielding with an all-embracing dent
a soft plasticity
as a pearl might find
once passing through a scrim of liquid mercury
reappearing as a silver lump
a stretched-thin droplet
as from a womb
Ann sat, not face to face with Geezer; she was somewhere foreign
she had moved onto a place at once uncouth
and wildly weird
its mood of feral incivility
dense as blood clots
dank as catacombs
like a jolt of volts
electric to each vertebra
Anns aquiver with anxiety
the aggregation boosting every sense
to a pitch of such alive-ness
each contended with the other
for directing her reflections to the
birds big as biplanes
flies droning loud as buzz saws
as stale as mildew,
fresh as jasmine,
rank as rancid cheese
sweet and sour fumes released
discharged so headily
they adhered their cloying essence
to her palates roseate polyps
from spongy clumps of humus
oozing dew to Anns posterior
sturdy denim leaching moisture
to her panties underneath
the ground an outlet for a thousand gasps
of gaseous pent-up energy
dawn to dusk to dawn to dusk
erupting molten heat
as might vents above the lair
of a fire-breathing dragon.
Ann wrapped her arms around her body
holding tightly to identity lest she stray
become identical with this Realm
transferred by osmosis
steeped her souls sequestered substance
as if mingling all she was
with all she hoped to be
by selfless loss
Again, Ann BLINKed, and there sat Geezer (nonchalantly) on his bean bag (looking derelict) tail looped limply round the North Pole like a lackadaisical noose, his pose indifferent to the feat that Ann ostensibly accomplished (face as distant and oblique as a village idiots).
Ann, confused, explored her bottom which was wet From perspiration? It was hot out, therefore stuffy in her ultra-cluttered room.
The globe looked normal; continental drift had re-divided seaboards. Where she traveled, if she traveled, bore no semblance to this sphere, whose chart made countries into jigsaw pieces; Whole-World had no borders. Whole-World merged the planets landscapes into one diverse terrainor such was Anns persistent notion.
Based on what? Some sort of reverie? Had she BLINKed, or merely dreamed she BLINKed?
She fixed her eyes on Geezer, who, on two occasions, de- and re-materialized, both on site, once in the bathroom, once in her fathers den (as the monkey boasted latter), having shifted, merely. Ann, on the other hand, transposed place and Time which seemed implausible so unlikely she distrusted her experience yet its lucid colors, odors, vapors left so clear an imprint she could feel it like the flesh retains a freshly pricked tattoo, the memory tingling no less raw than when she first
The how it happened (once more if it had) aroused Ann so acutely she could not help testing Geezers outward show of disregard.
You didnt see that, I suppose?
He twitched his whiskers, stretched his arms out, shut his eyes and spread his jaws in a long-drawn yawn of unconcern.
She hated when he played the numskull; Geezer was not stupid, though, of late, his limitations, next to hers, seemed more severesuggesting his had been a mission planned by incontestable betters.
Youre expendable, Ann transmitted.
Beg your pardon? Geezer minced, a semi-haughty, condescending scowl remodeling his features
They just left you, knowing full well your ineptness meant youd rot.
afraid to give the slightest hint that might confirm Anns doubtless breakthrough
You were sent with a one-way ticket, Mister Simple Simon Simian.
worried sick that Ann would learn to BLINK, then flex it, no-holds-barred, abuse her newfound knack in ways akin to Mankinds infamous arrogance
Mister Gullible, Mister Patsy.
though he knew not how she could, and yet the very threat of any Human mastering Time-Space Transport, independent of its Code
You couldnt BLINK from here to here, Ann held her thumb and index finger up to illustrate the distance.
which ensured Adepts used prudence and the utmost self-restraint before enacting even the humblest BLINK
Return to China? Phooey!
so inviolable were its strictures, so revered its solemn Pledge
Unless Collaborate with me.
Anns proposal scandalized the Simian. Did she really think him fool enough to credit her achievement? She had left for scarcely half a minute; Geezer clocked her absence, watched Ann reappear with a look of utter bafflement on her puss. A stroke of beginners luck was all this teen-tike's would-be triumph signified. She, of course, could not repeat the process; not in a million years.
I could, with your cooperation.
Ann had eavesdropped! Trespassed! Mind-robbed! Geezer blanched, aghast, beneath his furwhich Ms. Smith likewise gleaned; was there no blocking her intrusions? Could she read his thoughts unedited? Could she tap his deepest feelings, lay his very conscience bare?
Nice try, but no deal. Yours is hardly more than a pretense of accomplishment. Whats more, our Code precludes imparting certain truths to non-initiates.
Ann regarded Geezer skeptically. Did he know, or did he not? The thought had, more than once, occurred to her that maybe his abandonment was to make him both an Agent of Infection and a Spy. Was he reporting to superiors on the plagues insidious progress? Had her brother been a test case, she, as twin, the tests control? Except controls, her studies taught, were used as models for comparison; deviation only showed against a pre-established norm like breasts at five? A toddlers teeth displaced by a grown-ups full-size chompers? Feet like Bozo? Cramps and backaches, followed by bloodstains in her drawers? Nor was Anns soaring IQ normal; anything but. Exam scores proved it (on a software program labeled "Guide To Higher SATs"). She could have won a Fulbright Scholarship on the grounds of pure potential. She was smart. Too smart for someone harboring hopes of so-called normalcy, smart enough to see intelligence, gained at her pace, was a freak.
Code? Theres a Code? What Code might that be, Mister Up Shits Creek Sans Paddle?
It was Geezers turn to analyze Ann, her rapid growth-rate troubling. Every day, it seemed, bore witness to developments come too soon, made manifest physically; she was filling out (her limbs and trunk diminutive, but, like a bonsai, all the more striking for appearing so mature); while, psychologically, id and ego waged a war for absolute dominance, Ann the animal squaring off with Ann (by default) the households head. Was it surprising she got testy at the source of her solicitude? Were attacks on Geezer natural, or indicative of Dis-ease? A strain unplanned and unanticipated may have found itself a culture wherein something far more sinister than a Human Being now bred (for which the monkey had neither explanation nor antidote).
Do no harm.
To what; mosquitoes, microbes? Life subsists on conflict. You cant eat, or step, or scratch an itch without inflicting hurt. It seems like something always has to suffer for something else to prosper. Why should people have to be exceptions? Arent we life forms, too?
Before the monkey could refute this argument, focus quickly shifted, darkenedDaylights dazzle shrouded as by Midnights swarthy cape. Ann had to grope her way to the window, where a wide-eyed Geezer joined her; both looked out, then up, with wonder
at a storm cloud?
The sky was blue-black, as from coal dust
only sleeker, chunkier, shinier
crows, in staggering profusion, flew in a flock of swarthy tiers
collective caws and manifold wing flaps seeding clouds with antic thunder
like a low and guttural grumble
interspersed with chortled shrieks
a hail of droppings loosed concurrently
starkly visible under patches when the semi-circular flight path banked abruptly
(impelling Adam, Evelyn, Ian from the backyard; run for cover, they now cowered in a downstairs closet, dumb from terror and dread)
while Ann, with Geezer, watched the spectral scavengers swoop
and dive bomb
in a frenzied exhibition of
they knew not what.
Were these novel aerobatics bent on flexing rights to air space finally free of jumbo jets, and radar blips, and broadcast beams, and all the other forms of high-tech static hogging Heavens headroom?
Such bravado seemed to say so:
Birds were back,
the crows proclaimed.
Earths equilibrium, nearly lost, had been recovered.
END OF PART TWO