picket fence

Geezer, it could be said, was a semi-finished product of Cre-volution’s crawl (‘finished’ products existing only in a terminal sense), his refinements (more apparent now that he was delivered of the Proto-plasmic Dis-ease) attributable to ages of adaptation and genetic roulette, some traits taken on in a nonce, others in their own sweet geological time (the manufacture of life forms on Earth being anything but an orderly, predictable process), his acumen freakish and uncanny to monkeydom’s Alternate Outgrowth (a.k.a. Humanity) which ascribed to itself the jewel of Life’s intellectual crown. In Simian terms, Geezer was no genius (a bit of a smart aleck), but, in Human terms, he was an astonishingly quick study. So, eluding detection by his unwitting hosts (the adults and Ian, that is) was relative child’s play. Keeping himself under wraps from Ann, however, presented more of a challenge.

The family, having adjusted to their unusual ocular status, returned (they thought) to the routine of everyday life. Ian’s—and, more recently, his parents’—blood work had turned up negative, as had the test results of countless others, nationwide. Not a known communicable agent had yet been identified (let alone counteracted). The phenomenon, dubbed "Owl-Eyes" by the media, was "a seemingly harmless condition" (not to worry) whose "singular symptom" (officially) was "temporary" (this term stressed) "discoloration of the irises." The word "epidemic," to date, had been expunged from every report (in deference to the authorities paternalistic attempt to stave off public panic). Contraction might well be "unavoidable," due to "the ease of transmission" (said infection so widespread that quarantine was out of the question). "Think of it as a common cold," one anchorwoman advised, "without the discomforts of a fever, sore throat, or splitting headache." News on the World Wide Web was no more enlightening (if far less sanitized), but did confirm that oceans already had been crossed; "Owl-Eyes" outbreaks extended from Des Moines to Dar Es Salaam.

"Maybe it will go away by itself," was the common sentiment, a wistful, wishful thinking by populations at large (now largely infected). A veritable bonanza in the contact lens business had occurred, "curing" (cosmetically) the masses, while masking the only means by which the uninfected could avoid being exposed. This Vanity Factor (personified by the aforementioned newscaster) further frustrated efforts to track the malady’s progress, complicated by the extraordinary brevity between contamination and exhibiting the first telltale sign… the sole sign, evidently; post-contraction, nothing other than eye color appeared to change (especially as perceived by those already stricken).

"Am I any different, darling?"

"No. Am I?"

"I couldn’t really say. I mean… Well, no. I guess you’re not. We’re not. I think we’re A-okay," was the Smith couple’s conclusion… drawn additionally from the fact that one family member only (her eyes still blue) behaved somewhat oddly.

"Except for your daughter."

"Oh? She’s not yours, too? Why is it, whenever one of our children…"

"MOMMY!"

Ann’s outcry cut her parents’ bickering short.

Attic? Basement?

Basement, Evelyn determined… near the furnace, hence her confusion; Ann’s emphatic call had echoed throughout the heating vents, her tone less panic-stricken than tinged with a sense of urgency.

Arriving in tandem, Mom and Dad were beckoned by their over-excited daughter—poised like a traffic cop, with one hand beckoning, the other pointing to a crack between washer and dryer.

"It runned through there!"

"What ran," her mother corrected, an undertow of skepticism arching her brow? She had just about had enough of these childish ‘apparitions.’

"Not again. I’ve warned you, Missy, one more false alarm and…"

"Dad, I really see’d it! It’s that itsy-bitsy monkey, with a scarf round its neck, what went in there," she avowed, aiming her finger at the gap between appliances.

"Where’s your brother?"

"Outside playing."

"How come Ian never sees this mysterious ape?"

"Him’s a Owl-Eyes. Owl-Eyes always look the wrong way."

"That’s enough! You’re not to call him that; it’s impolite."

"I hate him!"

"Ann, now stop it. Mommy and Daddy have the very same condition."

"I hate you, too! I hate you all!" she screamed defiantly.

(Owl-Eyes always stuck together, didn’t notice things—like snorting, for example; they were always making nose noises, either sniffing stuff or puffing little whistles out their schnozzolas. Or how they’d sit around like statues. It was silly when they did that. They’d just stare at something. Anything. Not to look at it, or really see it. They’d just go blank, was all. For seconds. Once, it lasted half a minute. That was spooky. Even pinching couldn’t make them pay attention. And another thing was how they always combed each other’s hair. That part, though enjoyable when someone combed hers, was still weird… kind of funny… made Ann feel all ticklish, in a pleasant sort of way… gave her goose bumps, actually, and felt like her spine was covered by bumble bees. But for the most part, she felt sad and horribly out of place.)

"To your room, Young Lady. March!"

Accepting her foregone punishment with angry contempt (What did she care if the monkey sneezed them all to Smithereens!), Ann abandoned her pursuit (and its mufflered object) to STAMP A RUDE RETREAT UP THE CELLAR STEPSINTO THE KITCHEN THROUGH THE DINING ROOM AND LIVING ROOMUP ANOTHER FLIGHTDOWN THE HALLTHEN INTO HER (shared) ‘BOUDOIR,’ the soles of her slipper-socked feet good and sore by the time she flopped, facedown, in her unmade bunk-bed.

Evelyn, grown weary of her daughter’s shenanigans, simply shook her head and went back to doing the housework. Adam, however, feigning interest in a stint of puttering, lingered. The hot topics on chat lines all over the Internet were how, where, and when this Owl-Eyes Calamity had begun, and though Adam had no inkling that the buck stopped in his own backyard (underneath his very nose, now that he had gone to the trouble of shoving both washer and dryer about-face to conduct a thorough, once-and-for-all investigation), none of the earliest reported cases (entered on the Web, at least) pre-dated his son’s. Fueled by an interest best characterized as ‘fleeting,’ Adam (of late, feeling apathetic about a great many things) unscrewed half a dozen bolts from the dryer’s back panel, pried it loose, and set it carefully aside. Lint clumps were his reward, which triggered a fit of sneezing, affording the largest cluster (Geezer’s fur become a dust-magnet) to make another (undetected) getaway. Out the bottom, around the corner, and up a pole he scampered, before Adam was released from his purblind paroxysms.

Insubordinate as it was to be hanging around (Geezer had no authorization for carrying out a surveillance), the lure to watch develop that which he and his had authored (regardless certain hazards) proved irresistible. Besides, early-winter snow had buried his escape route. And there did remain the issue of an unforeseen ‘resistance’(?); the little girl had shown, thus far, not a solitary symptom.

In a way, Geezer felt sorry for Ann. (Poor kid, destined for isolation, the only Human likely to go uninfected… lest there be others(?)—a prospect that might justify further observation; perhaps the portal’s closure had been propitious.) Spying on Adam from an overhead perch in the rafters, Geezer readjusted his makeshift scarf.

At length, Adam, finding nothing to contradict his expectations, left the basement to its creepy-crawly denizens: spiders, silverfish, cockroaches, ants, pockets of diligent termites, and a pet turtle (given up for dead the previous summer)—whom Geezer might have befriended had the reptile veered from (typical) cold-blooded indifference. People were more engaging—a shame they had become such immodest menaces. Perhaps, after the imminent weeding out period, those few folks remaining would adjust to their altered constitutions, and manage to co-exist alongside species rebounding from near-extermination. Geezer sure hoped so, if for no other reason than his deep appreciation for Mankind’s music-making. Of course, there was scant evidence to substantiate this private desire. Proto, once his role of test subject had been fulfilled, did whistle… hummed to himself, too… though none of his post-op. melodies were the least bit recognizable—so tone-deaf was the midget. Still, the near-imbecile had retained a tuneful ‘inclination,’ an ‘urge’ to vocalize lyrically his predicament. Would that suffice to inspire some spirited brand of apocalyptic Blues? Or a Requiem? An Opera? A simple lullaby? Or would Human creativity soon be obsolete? Either way, the question gave an excuse for continued monitoring, which Geezer performed, in part, by use of the household’s PC… during late-night/pre-dawn sessions… mindful that technology would likewise fall by the wayside… as would most Man-made devices. Computers did as much harm as good, and, therefore, were dispensable. The planet and its inhabitants must be restored.

Brushing himself off, Geezer climbed down from the horizontal beams that supported all three upper stories, and crept, with fleet-footed stealth, to a second-floor linen closet—one of several homes-away-from-home he had scouted out and secured for ‘covert activities.’ With acute hearing, a consummate sense of smell, and an ability to see in the pitchest dark, the ape had tools enough to duck Adam, Evelyn, and Ian (whose genetic re-engineering rendered them less adept). Ann, on the other hand (as if she were equipped with perceptions extrasensory), was forever catching by surprise the pesky provocateur.

Once comfy-cozy, Geezer unwound the strip of curtain bunting he had taken to wearing around his neck for warmth, groomed it free of lint, and settled into the pile of a terry cloth face towel… only to have his afternoon snooze disrupted by sobs (barely audible) that infiltrated the wall like snot through a cotton-wool hankie.

Ann, feeling very much ‘the ugly duckling,’ ‘the odd man out,’ was irked at having insult heaped upon injury. Why should she be ‘grounded’ for reporting what she had seen with her very own eyes (whose natural color, day by day, seemed aberrant to a population losing interest in contact-lens disguise)?

Geezer, against his better judgment, made his way from the closet to the twin’s adjacent bedroom, bounding from a polyester carpet onto a square of quilted comforter, his featherweight agility failing to attract the toddler’s teary notice. Ann kept weeping. Geezer waited patiently, arms wrapped round his knees, positioned less than a foot from the youngster’s runny nose—which, sniffling, finally lifted from the pillow to point in the meddler’s direction, smelling his presence before confirming it with a bloodshot glare.

 

Mung’s was a bold...

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