Chapters One, Two, Three
The monkey’s girlfriend went missing. The monkey climbed to the top of the tallest tree in the jungle. There he sat days and days, his eyes opened wide for any sight of her. The monkey kept his constant vigil until he couldn’t stand it any longer and thought “even this is not enough!” So he climbed down and began to walk, his little monkey feet padding the ground, his head hung low, his tail sweeping crescents in the dust. The monkey came upon a troop of monkey friends gathered in a circle around a pile of fallen fruit. The group happily hopped and tumbled around the fruit until one looked up and seeing his friend’s dejected appearance said “Hey hey pal. Hey pal hey! What’s got you so down? Have a date and cheer up!”
But the monkey could not and would not so instead asked them if they’d seen his mate. The circle of monkeys looked at one another for a moment as they thoughtfully munched before one gave a reply.
“The pretty one, the monkey girl you spend your time with. We know who she is but we haven’t seen a sight of her for days now, since we last saw her with you.”
The monkey sighed and began to wander away.
“But you might ask the birds. They fly high and see a lot. Climb a tree and ask the birds.”
So the love-sick monkey went back to the tallest tree in the jungle and began the climb back to the top. He was not moving quickly and so it seemed a long climb back up to him but even so he was a monkey and a slow climb for a monkey is no slow climb for anyone else.
Before long he was sitting in the open air, a breeze in his fur. The birds flew high and the birds flew long but no birds yet flew close to his waving arms. The monkey’s arms began to hurt as he held them up to the open sky and he became frustrated.
“Eep oh Eeping birds! Oh oh Eep!” The monkey heard a branch beside him barely rustle. He turned his head to see quite a large snake staring intently at him. He must look strange indeed with his arms held high.
“Why are you sstanding up here at the top of thiss tree you ssilly monkeyy?” The monkey was startled. It was not often a snake would talk with a monkey. It was not often one saw a snake before one was in a snake’s belly.
“I ooh um am looking eeh for my um girlfriend snake sir. She went missing.”
“Sshe went misssing did sshe? And how do you know I didn’t eatss her?” The monkey looked up and down the snake’s coiled length.
“You ooh do not look like you’ve eep eep eaten her snake sir.”
“Well, you are right. I haven’t eatenss anyone and I am hungryss. Perhaps I ssshould eatss you.”
“Please eeh eeh sir. Don’t eep eat me. I only came to this tall tree so that I might ask a bird what they might have eep seen.” The monkey saw a something like longing in the eyes of the snake as it lifted its head to the sky.
“Oncsse I dreamed of flying amongsst the cloudss with the birdsss. But ssuch wass not my fate. Now I’ve no legss to turn to wingsss.” The monkey watched the serpent warily but could sense some lingering emotion run through the cold reptile blood.
“The reasson thesse birdsss do not come down to sspeak with you iss becausse I’ve ssstolen three eggsss from their nesst. I’ll give thesse three eggsss to you monkey and then the birdsss will come down to you.”
The monkey was incredulous. “You’d do that for me?”
“Of coursse I will. But you must do ssomething for me.”
“Ah! I knew there was a catch!”
“No catchh monkey. No catchhh. My only requesst iss that as you ssearch for your monkey-love you might bring news back to me if you come acrosss a certain tree deep within the foresst. On thiss tree you will find the mosst perfect fruit you’ve ever sseen. Remember well the trees’ location if you find it and come quickly with the newss once you’ve found your girlfriend. If you promisse to do thiss for me I’ll give thesse eggsss to you now and the birdsss will come down and ssspeak with you.”
The monkey like all forest animals had no trust for serpents but he would do anything to find his girlfriend.
“I’ll do it. I’ll find the fruit for you serpent,” said the monkey. Some look of triumph flashed in the snake’s eyes. The snake dropped his long body below the leaves of the tree top and came back up with three eggs wrapped in his coils.
“Here are the eggsss monkey.” The serpent began to slither away.
“How will I know the fruit?”
“You will know monkey. You will sssurely know,” it said as it disappeared.
When the monkey was alone he took two eggs up in his hands and the third in his tail. He offered them to the sky and the distant wheeling birds. After some time a great, graceful and powerful bird dropped upon its wide wings and landed before the monkey.
“Little monkey form. We saw you commune with the serpent form. We saw too that you’ve liberated these three eggs from the forked tongue fanged one.
“It is a great deed you’ve done for us monkey form but I wonder what pact you’ve formed with the tempter.”
“Wise bird,” the monkey began, “days ago I lost the light of my little life, the sun that blooms the bud of my heart, the one monkey girl in my jungle. Wise aviator, she has disappeared and I must find her but I do not know where to look. The snake gave me these eggs so that I might ask you winged ones.”
“You have a true heart for your monkey love but I cannot help feel the serpent has involved you in some wicked plot and now you’ve involved us wide eyed ones.” The monkey did not know what to make of the great bird’s harangue but he silently listened.
“The serpent is a wise form but full of tricks, one to be respected and one to be feared. I will tell you what I’ve seen with these eyes at those heights.
“We fly high across the sky and survey the verdant canopy. We see what the light of the sun can see. The ray that falls through the jungle leaves to settle upon your earthen fur is the beam of our shining eye. You ask after your monkey love and I have news to tell you. There is a place where the high forest ends and the swamp ground begins,” the wise bird continued to speak.
“Here where the dirt becomes moist, the giant flower bulbs lie close to the ground and where the biting bugs are thick as clouds I saw your monkey love wandering away from kin and kind spirit into the wild dark places. Our eyes do not pierce that moldy canopy but I can tell you true I did not see your monkey love leave that place, either by the way she entered or any way this side of our green forest.”
The monkey opened his mouth to speak and to start on his way but the bird continued.
“Here in the sun we are lords of the air and our eyes are cast downward in constant compassionate thought for all these earth-bound creature forms toiling away here in the trees and the dust.” The monkey opened his mouth again.
“Thank you kind bir…”
“And we do our best to fulfill our role as avatars of the sun…”
The monkey began to step backward and climb down the nearest branch.
“It is not a simple task to be as great a creature as we winged ones are called to be.”
The monkey slowly climbed downward but kept his eyes on the bird who did not seem to notice him anymore.
“It is a difficult task but one I accept and embrace with honor and courage! There is no greater calling than this! No greater purpose than…
“Monkey? Monkey..? The bird looked around. The bird ducked his head below the top branches.
The monkey was far down the tree by this point, scampering and swinging as fast as he could, his mind on one thing only, his monkey love. Above the bird cocked his head back and forth, more than a little confused. He bellowed.
“Find your true love in the swamp and beware the serpent’s forked tongue!”
These last words barely reached the ears of the monkey as he scampered through the forest. At last he knew where to look for his love! He ran by his ring of monkey friends who by now had finished off the pile of dates and lounged around lazily.
“To where are you so quickly running my friend?” one of the monkeys called after him. He did not stop but shouted over his shoulder.
“I’m off to find my love in the sticky swamps!”
The little monkey ran and skipped and cart wheeled through the jungle because he felt his ordeal was almost at a close. But such is not the way of life and darkness grows darkest when threatened by the light. The trees began to thin and the ground grew soft. The air thickened with moisture as mosquitoes hummed in the monkey’s ears. The swamp lay before him. Somewhere nearby a long body slipped into the water.
The monkey heard strange calls, croaks and cackles coming from deep within the swamp as he stood at its threshold. The mosquitoes gathered around him. Thicker and thicker the buzzing swarm grew as he took tentative steps forward. When the itching needles began to strike the monkey knew he would not survive this assault for long.
“Eeep eeping bitey bugs. Let me pass! My monkey blood flows for my love.”
He could not continue through the aggression. The monkey was forced to jump back, run a short way to the safety of the jungle and rethink his situation.
“Come on monkey brain. Think!” And it just so happens that monkeys have been blessed with ingenious little brains and it was not long before the spark of an idea flared in the mind of our hero. With an abrupt eep! he scampered back into the jungle depths.
A hammering rang between the tree trunks. Our monkey sat hunched over a flat stone. He held a smaller stone in his hands and his repeated blows of rock against rock made a constant crack in the air. The monkey stopped, set his small rock aside and surveyed his work. Bits of millipede shell and a sticky liquid covered the large rock. The monkey scooped this ooze up in his hands and brought it to his face.
The monkey spread the millipede goo across his face and his fur, down his arms and legs, in a circle around his belly and even covered his tail. Some monkey babies has gathered in the trees above to watch our hero.
“Why ooh ooh you doing this mister?” one monkey baby asked.
“Just watch little ones and learn. This is a good trick to remember and one I believe will earn you a merit leaf in Monkey Mornin’ Learnin’.”
When the monkey was slathered with the millipede goo he stood up tall, stretched his arms above his head, straightened his tail and bounced a few times as he let out a monkey howl.
“I’m coming for you now dear monkey girl!” The baby monkeys jumped up and down in the tree branches above him and wished him luck as he took off in a jog toward the swamp.
Tendrils of swamp gas threaded the thick air and blanketed the soft ground. The monkey’s feet silently displaced the miasma as they fell in hesitant rhythm. The eagerness the monkey felt as he hurried into this dark place evaporated into the muggy atmosphere. A strange unease collected as a lump in his belly. Clouds of the mosquitoes hung around him still but the improvised repellant turned them back.
The monkey heard the deep croaking of fat frogs, the hum of insect wings, a splash from some large body dropping into the murky water. No sun was able to force its way through the tangle of umbrage above. The monkey moved farther into the dark swamp and the light slipped away behind him. There was no breeze. There was no bird song or monkey chatter. Still our hero pressed forward into the heart of that place.
He parted heavy vines hung across the sliver of a path through the mud. He could not imagine his monkey love wandering through this cursed place. Why had she come this way? There was nothing to be had here that she could not have back in the jungle with him.
Beside deadly swarms of mosquitoes and stinky mud stuck between the toes of course. This was a question that plagued him but one to be answered only by moving forward.
The questing monkey came upon a great fallen tree. It was hollow and partially submerged in the algae-ed water, an unsteady platform across the deepening swamp. Our monkey looked around for an alternate route but it seemed there was no way forward but across the crumbling and slimy bark. Hesitantly the primate stepped upon the log. It sunk a few inches but stayed afloat and his confidence returned.
Thump thump thump sounded the monkey feet across the old wood. Something stirred down there in the dark water. A few bubbles rose to the surface from one end of the hollow log.
The monkey felt his makeshift bridge shift beneath him. More bubbles popped up in a line along side the log. There was a sudden splash as the water parted and some great form flopped across the log before the startled monkey.
Insects chirped in the still air. Thick water quietly lapped against the log. Otherwise there was no sound. The monkey stood stock still as he tried to comprehend the animal before him. It was long and thick with stubby legs, a fat tail lined by flaps of skin along either side. Its mouth was huge. Two feathery ears stuck out from the creature’s head. Finally the monkey spoke.
“What creature are you stranger?”
The slimy hulk opened its cavernous mouth gaping wide and a thick tongue flopped out and across the creature’s lips. Its strange pupils thinned into slits and unfurled as lotus leaves.
“I…am…the watcher…of…this place. I…am…Chthublious…and…I…am…a king…among salamanders. You…monkey…should fear…me.”
The salamander slammed his foot down onto the log. Our monkey flinched.
Chthublious, the mucky terror of those dark parts, advanced upon our hero. The large sticky feet of the beast wrapped around the sides of the floating log. Wood creaked and groaned and splintered under the salamander’s weight. The monkey backed up until he stood at the edge of the log. Water sloshed behind and around his feet. Chthublious licked his fat lips as he eyed his intended snack.
“Wait wait wait! said the monkey, raising his hands.
“You should not eat me Oh Great Chthublious.” The massive salamander stopped and looked down upon the primate.
“Why…should I…wait…little monkey? What could…keep me…from eating…you?”
“You are the wise King of these swampy parts.”
“And a King should have respect for a fellow King.”
The monkey pulled himself up tall and stuck his chest out. He raised his chin and looked down his nose at the salamander.
“I myself am a King. King of the Monkeys I am and I am on a quest to find the sacred fruit grown deep within this swamp or beyond.” Chthublious looked the monkey over.
“A King…you say? You…do not…say…”
“That is right Grand Chthublious. We are two Kings met at a crossroad.”
The salamander looked down at the log and around. Some slight confusion surfaced in his wide amphibian eyes. The monkey continued.
“When two Kings meet at a crossroad it is customary that they both display some feat of the power that has made them Kings.”
“Some feat…of power…”
“That is the truth Grand Chthublious. Since this is your kingdom I insist that you go first. Show me the power of your Crown!”
Chthublious looked at the brazen little monkey.
“Yes! Show me what you can do.” So the salamander began to rock back and forth on the log. He then began to rhythmically lift and stomp his feet. His tempo increased and as it did the beast let out gurgling roars. He lifted himself up on his back legs and slammed down onto the log which threatened to capsize. The whole swamp seemed to shudder.
As the great beast continued his violent dance the trees rang, the water rippled, the frogs silenced their croaking, sap and dirty dew rained down all around, tadpoles rose from the depths to watch. Finally Chthublious ceased his spectacle and the swamp quieted. Our monkey hero clapped his hands.
“Brilliant! Magnificent. Spectacular show oh great Chthublious. The fierce movement of a true King I have now witnessed.”
The clever monkey waved his hands flamboyantly as he stood up tall and said,
“Now it is my turn to display the power that has made me King of all the Monkeys.”
Chthublious backed up to give the primate ample room. His dull eyes began to show interest.
“I must tell you my power is very mysterious. I will change my form for you so that my appearance will be totally different than this monkey body I now inhabit.”
Our hero stood before the salamander terror with his arms raised.
“You may hear strange sounds and you may feel strange sensations but that is all part of the magic I will be working. You must close your eyes until I tell you to open them.” Chthublious hesitated but then his orb eyes closed and stayed closed.
“Are you ready great king Chthublious?”
There was silence for a moment then some rustlings as the log rocked beneath the feet of the salamander. More silence followed. The anticipation built in his stomach. Still Chthublious’s eyes remained shut. The swamp king was slow and slovenly but honorable to a fault. He heard a low thump on the log before him and then some strange sensation of light weight upon his back. Then nothing. No sound. No movement.
Grand Chthublious stood upon the rocking log and stretched out every thread of blind awareness he possessed. No monkey.
“TA DAaaaaaaaaaa a a a a…” came a sudden shout. The call rang out in the swamp air and seemed to circle around the salamander before fading away into the distance. Only then did Chthublious open his eyes.
There was no monkey before the swamp king. Instead a lumpy form sat on the log, a bundle of vines and swamp grass tied together with two mushrooms for eyes.
“Monkey King..? Monkey King?” said Chthublious. Of course the grass doll did not answer.
“What an amazing trick!” said Chthublious. Still the doll did not answer. The salamander touched the form with his slimy toe. It simply rocked as the log rocked in the water.
Our monkey hero sat in a tree a safe distance from the salamander king and laughed to himself. But he would not sit still. There was his love to find and he’d already been delayed too long. As he turned to scamper off he saw in the distance Chthublious take the doll upon his back. The monkey laughed again and went his way. In the darkness of the twisting vines a serpentine form watched the monkey.
“Hsss ssss sssh”