cave

Time/space, space/time tickled Mung’s intelligence like a sneeze-inciting nose hair. On the verge…

she was on the verge…

of comprehending…

finding out…

if…

if…

if one more time the cat could pounce…

attack her unawares…

except…

her knowing would inject anticipation; there had been none…

How could Chance be reproduced…

if…

if…

the keystone was surprise?

Try as she might, and had, and would to make the selfsame leap that saved her, Mung could not quite grasp the means by which escape had been attained. From there to here? For the umpteenth time she gauged the distance… No; impossible. Were she young and spry, the feat would still defy the laws of gravity. When that civet snapped its jaws she flinched, was all, she merely blinked. And yet… Perhaps a law unknown had been in force.

‘Relax,’ was Mung’s suggestion to herself, ‘enjoy the jungle,’ on a morning, sweetly scented as a honey-coated mustache. Apt advice was hers to offer; therefore apt advice to heed. Let Breeze concern itself with physics; ask not whither it had issued. Yield to Sun the calculations about interval, span, duration. Life was better understood by being present in the Present. Each and every instant bore the Truth of Truths. Consider Now, and lay the rest to rest; a nap, perhaps, was fitting.

Mung leaned back, her spine conforming to the banyan branch she occupied well above its spindly multitude of intermingling roots, and watched her diaphragm shrink… expand… the gentle cadence of her breathing like a surf-song deep in the throat of a seashore’s shell…

She dreamed of Chan…

… or was his face a reminiscence, with its tragicomic cast of careworn grooves and ink-stained pucker, drifting in and out of focus underneath the leafy canopy? Not an evil man, nor one too much distinguished for his goodness, Chan, in retrospect, seemed common, merely typical of his Kind, a walking, talking contradiction unaware of his potential as a planetary purge that ousted everything in sight which Man perceived a threat, superfluous, or a stumbling block to "progress." That was Chan’s most grievous error; he served a Manmade God of Goals, a God that blessed MANipulations, reckoned Might a sacred rite, an obligation, almost; Chan felt duty-bound to ply his trade, make tools of animals, take up residence in a land deemed "private property." Mung had watched the Scribe draft deeds, proclaiming "title" to vicinities that he fancied—he and his erecting homes without regard to those displaced. Dens, nests, hives, burrows; nothing mattered to an Upright, nothing counted to a creature conscious mostly of itSelf. Had Chan consulted those whose lives his needs affected, asked permission, said a prayer or made an offering to the souls there first, okay, Mung might have granted he possessed at least the semblance of intelligence. But, through all the years that she had served him, Chan, not once, behaved as if his mind were more magnanimous than a slug’s.

Mung changed position.

Not that Chan’s plebeian heart had been her prime preoccupation. More important were his customers. It was they who steered the masses. Chan, and his ilk, manned Humanity’s stern; the conn belonged to merchants—those hell-bent on (mis)-directing every aspect of existence; every insight, every Science rushed, headlong, to be applied. To learn for learning’s sake was foreign (save to overruled idealists). Bending every bit of knowledge to transform Life was the norm—without compunction, qualm, misgiving, or the humblest hesitation to infringe upon a System known imperfectly—if at all. Mankind, in choosing to disrupt, impose, and hastily engineer (in lieu of practicing adaptation with a Simian-style passivity), set upon a course that Mung (through Chan’s transcriptions) could foretell would lead (if unchecked) straight to extinction's fare-thee-well brink.

Mung dreamt of toil, next, Chan Ling Ink, on which she labored, dawn to twilight—when her sweat at last would dry, fatigue immobilize every muscle, and the wages paid for industry fill her bowl with a tasteless gruel that served to underscore the pointlessness of "livelihood." Why trade leisure for security, Mung had asked herself? For instance, hoarding food stocks missed the point that food was very often scarce. And though starvation was unpleasant it enforced essential balance by reducing populations grown too large. The key was: move. By staying put, imposing permanence on a state of fluctuation, Man was able to pretend the world was stable. It is not. But one pretension bred another and another and another, until Uprights, less and less and less, considered what was what. It took a violent storm to shake Chan Ling from such prevarication. Once, in Mung’s eleventh season on the premises, Wind invaded, sending Scribe and manuscripts scurrying under a roof half blown asunder, life and occupation nearly lost in an updraft. Chan’s response? Add reinforcement to the thatch, once patched, hold tighter, fiercer, sturdier. Build a thicker insulation to protect a misconception based on how things ‘ought’ to be, instead of how things really are. It seemed this ‘ought’ demarked the point at which Mankind and monkey parted (i.e. Simians; other monkey species lacked equivalent smarts); a discontent with Natural Law provoked such actions (violations) of which Uprights thought themselves uniquely capable—thus entitled. False on both accounts, as Mung et al exemplified; Man had company. Plus, possessing an ability never warranted its abuse—as human beings abused their knack for reckless tampering.

Ah, the rain. It came from nowhere; clear blue sky had changed to bruises, clouds endowed with random tears transformed to fearsome boohoo squalls. A warm relief from scalding heat declared the humid air more breathable, in a season marked by panting tongues, perspiring pelts, and fungi that could colonize a living skin in the space of a midday snooze. Mung felt her fur absorb its fill then shed the excess; there was plenty, as precipitation fell through leaves unfiltered, poured unchecked, gaps left agape beneath the cloudburst’s unremitting volume.

Then, surcease.

As abruptly as convened the clouds disbanded, fled, dissolved, their fallen moisture on the rise within an instant of suffusing soil that gave back saturation in the form of sultry steam—Mung’s bath converted, on the spot, to a percolating sauna.

Up she stood. A shake from head to tail sent droplets in a light-refracting halo that encircled Mung like a deity: "Sanctified Guru," she was labeled by her entourage, "Reverend Sage." High time she lived up to her billing; there were truths to be imparted. There were pupils needing lessons in the World of wicked ways—which must be learned without corrupting those awaiting Mung's arrival at the grotto’s secret entrance.

Raw recruits, from far and near, were still abuzz with explanations as to Mung’s amazing marvel:

she had flown…

no, disappeared…

performed a trick, some said…

a stunt…

while others credited light and shadow…

youthful legs…

a gust of wind…

opinions varied…

none agreed…

except that each and every one was eager to be taught.

Mung understood. A leader always gives the sense, to gullible minds, of working miracles (whether actual or imagined); souls enthralled are readily led. But time was short, and Mung could ill afford to play the living legend. It was useful to be lionized; she could hold her fans’ attention; she could fashion a philosophy that could put her plan on track. It must be kept on track, however, irrespective its designer. It must outlive her, and no doubt all whom Mung now saw assembled, as she climbed a vine that spanned the cavern’s lichen-crested maw, a frame befitting one whose speech (though mute) would resound for centuries.

 

OongKa...

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