PART ONE

 

 

Picket Fence

Out in the backyard, the twins were digging their way to China, confident they could reach Shanghai—if they dug fast enough and deep enough—by dinnertime. Already the hole’s wormy walls were oozing water (salt water, probably—Shanghai being a seaport). So, brother and sister angled left, with their miniature shovels, in hopes of breaking through at a safer distance inland. (This was important, since neither knew how to swim.)

"We there, yet?"

"Almost, I think."

Ian, the answer man, had to rest his cheek at ground level in order to scrape bottom. His filthy arm, fully extended, just managed to sink the shovel’s blade another inch… happily; the tool (a spade, in truth), did its job with enthusiasm, transferring a five-year-old’s energy into nifty pokes and prods at Mother Earth—whose thick skin yielded like an elephant’s under siege by a pesky bore-beetle… a ‘pair’ of bore-beetles; Ann’s spade, too, reveled in utility, gouged at the rust-red clay, prying up stones that made a sucking sound, as mud healed wounds with an analgesic slick owing allegiance to Wholeness and Gravity.

To the West, a bloodshot sky lowered its cloudy lid over Sun’s staid setting. Day departed with a wink. Night, eager to cast its shadow, waited for Twilight to animate the airwaves with bats and barn swallows.

"ANN! IAN! SUPPER!"

Mom’s call to table tugged at identical earlobes. Both heads weather-vaned house-ward. Duplicate noses, under a veritable camouflage of smudges, sniffed, picked up airborne hints about the evening’s meal… (meat loaf; "Yuk"—neither twin’s favorite), followed by tandem grimaces, each tyke weighing the consequence of disobeying his&her summons.

"IN A MINUTE!" their voices piped in unison, their burrowing recommenced with accelerated zeal… until arrested by:

"NOW!"

Whereupon operations, instantly, were suspended and the duo reported, on-the-double, at the backdoor screen—their grimy bodies poised like a pint-size pair of troglodytes.

 

Meanwhile, on site, the abandoned ‘crater’ gaped in its excavators’ wake. Darkness closed in—with Autumn’s chilly breath—and child’s play, of a sudden, turned ominous, as something, within the shallow grave, subtly stirred.

Then, out it crept… a tiny Simian… chipmunk-size, of a species long suspected of being extinct. Its amber eyes, conducting a quick reconnaissance, glowed, in the stealthy dusk, with intelligence drawn from some prehistoric THEN—though its Ancestors overlapped epochs that stretched unto NOW—having shared, then eavesdropped, then withdrawn from Times overruled by The Super Predator, The Prodigious Breeder, The Creature Blessed and Cursed by Contradictory Powers, a.k.a. MAN.

Upon some imperceptible all’s-clear signal, Monkey One was joined by its carbon copy. Monkey Two, equally diminutive and of the selfsame mottled coloration (ill-lit in the gathering pitch), assumed a seated posture beside its evident twin, scratched at a flank-pestering flea, then abruptly froze… as if waiting… as if more of its kind were due to arrive from the pock cum pit cum portal linking dimensions. Sure enough, Monkey Three soon emerged, warily, moving in fits and starts, fine-tuning its several senses to whatever frequency was extant in the strange locale—pupils, nostrils, eardrums testing the atmosphere. The newcomer, settling between its look-alikes, similarly turned to stone… or so it appeared in the surrealistic gloom, as proliferating stars pricked the heavens to emit darning needles of silver light, an eerie luminescence thereby haloing the motionless threesome.

Earth then grumbled… in a low, subterranean growl, as though predisposed to belch objectionable gas… or to puke some indigestible morsel. Indeed, it did. At half the pace and a fraction of the agility displayed by its predecessors, a fourth monkey pulled its misshapen self from the supernatural cavity. Baring atrocious teeth, it issued a frothy snarl, then skulked away with a crippled gait from the still-stationary triplets, taking up a defensive pose opposite, quarantined and made miserable by whatever foul malady it harbored.

Whereupon each of the others, by turns, shifted position; Monkey One covered its eyes with its paws, Monkey Two covered its ears with its paws, Monkey Three covered its mouth with its paws, this age-old tableau serving to indict, forewarn, or put to shame. Again Earth grumbled—more of a shudder, this time. Rid of what ailed it, the ground welcomed back Monkeys Three, Two, and One, as they broke ranks and scampered into the breach, disappearing, returned from whence they came, leaving (as if on purpose) Monkey Four behind.

 

Chan Ling mouthed...

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