Pig-Boy and The Insectorator - 26. A Gimbal and a Gambol
River waited at the highway junction in darkness. David appeared out of the night. They hugged and rode toward the mountain without conversation.
When they had climbed the old logging road, David said, “Let’s dump our bikes in the forest, then come back out to the road. I said we’d meet Hector and Melissa here. Then we can guide them the rest of the way.”
They sat on a stump by the roadside. David looked at River. In the faint, pre-dawn twilight, he could see the distress on River's face. “Okay, Riv. Out with it! C’mon, tell me. We’re friends. You’re supposed to tell me stuff.”
“Jeeze, David. I went home last night, and it’s all just shot to hell. Aaron’s moving out, and my dad is either crazy drunk or like a zombie.” He sobbed.
David pulled him close and held him. “Things’ll get better, Riv. It’s gonna be okay. These things just take time.”
“No, it’s not gonna get better. It’s probably gonna get worse. The bank is kicking us out of the house. Aaron’s leaving this morning. Ricky’s dead. They put Nicky into some kind of hospital place. He’s never coming home. My mom’s dead and my dad’s out of his mind.”
“Wow, man! That’s terrible!” David desperately tried to think of something he could say. “Hey, listen, Riv: You don’t need to worry about where you’re gonna live. You can come and stay with us. I’d love it, and I know my mom and dad would like it too. I mean it, Riv. I want you to come and live with us. I’d like us to be brothers. I know that doesn’t solve any of your problems, but at least you don't need to worry about where you’re gonna live.”
“Thanks, man.” River shrugged himself deeper into David’s embrace. “I feel so bad about my dad. He wasn’t always like this. He used to be a good dad. When my mom was alive, he was always taking us places and buying stuff for us. And he was funny; he used to make us laugh. I tried to wake him up last night, so he could sleep in his bed. When he opened his eyes, he looked at me like I was a fence post, like he didn’t even know who or what I was.” Another great sob burst out of River.
David pulled back a bit and kissed him on the forehead. Then he kissed the tears off his cheeks. “Hmmm, they really are salty. Tears, I mean. If you were eating something, and you didn’t have any salt, you could get someone to cry on your food; it’d be okay. A human salt-shaker!”
David tucked his head under River’s chin and kissed his neck until he laughed. “I mean it, you know, about coming to live with us. I’m sure it’ll be okay. I’d love it, getting to sleep with you every night, but maybe that’s why you’re crying. We can put a cot in my room if you want your own bed.”
Headlights came around a bend in the road lower down. “That must be them,” said David. “Do you feel a little bit better now?”
“You always make me feel better. Yeah. I just needed to complain. Thanks.”
The camper-truck pulled up beside them. David went to the driver’s window and greeted Hector and Melissa. “There’s a turn-around up ahead a little ways. If you park up there and then come back, it will be better.” David pointed ahead. Hector drove up a couple of hundred yards to where the road widened. He parked, and he and Melissa walked back to the boys. The darkness had lifted, though the sun had yet to rise.
David said, “I think everybody knows everybody except River and Melissa. Melissa, this is my very good friend and sidekick, River Jameson. River, this is Melissa Blackstone or Earth-girl.”
Melissa laughed. “Oh, River and I are old friends. Hi River.”
“You two know each other?” asked Hector.
“Yeah, from the health food store. Melissa’s been real good to me, helping me buy good vegan food.”
“It’s a small world,” said Hector.
“It’s a small town too,” laughed Melissa.
David led them across the clear-cut to where the tall forest trees marked the park boundary. There was enough light by then to see Erg and Berky resting beside the boys’ bicycles. Both animals stood and gave low growls. Melissa and Hector froze.
David said, “Okay, I warned you about the animals and clothing. Now is when we need to undress. Everyone. They won’t let us get close to Zhiv until we’re naked.” David pulled off his T-shirt, dropped his shorts and knelt to remove his shoes and socks. River did the same. Melissa and Hector stripped, though both were shy and embarrassed.
“Okay, we’re in the mara now,” said David, “and in the mara, we hug our friends. Don’t be afraid. I’ll show you how it’s done.” He looked at Berky. The bear stood and opened his forelegs. David moved in and hugged him. Then he hugged and caressed the mountain lion. “C’mon River, you know how to do it.”
River embraced the two animals.
David waved Hector and Melissa forward. “Don’t be afraid. Be respectful.” They moved forward and hugged Berky and Erg.
When Melissa put her arms around the puma, she exclaimed, “Oh, isn’t he beautiful!”
“That’s the same thing I said,” said River, “the first time I hugged him.”
“Now,” said David, “all that hugging includes us.” He stepped over to Hector and pulled him close. Then he turned to Melissa and embraced her. Her small breasts pressed against his chest, and his penis immediately stiffened and pointed toward his chin. Even in the dim light, he knew his blush and his erection must have been like flashing neon signs. River followed him and had the same reactions when he hugged Melissa.
David looked at Hector. The professor studiously kept his eyes focused above David’s shoulders. “Can River and I have a little chat with Melissa, about being boys, please? Is that okay, Melissa?”
She nodded. David, River, and Melissa stepped aside. “Melissa, it’s about these things.” David pointed to his and River’s erections. “We have no control over them. They do whatever they want, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Please don’t let it bother you. It just means we like you, or the breeze feels nice, or the sunshine is warm. It happens all the time. We’re not gonna jump on you, or anything. Okay?”
“Yeah, no problem,” laughed Melissa. “They look nice. I’ve never seen any standing up like that. They’re very interesting.”
“We think you’re interesting, too. We’ve never seen a naked girl before. We thought it might be easier for us if you let us look at you. Then we don’t have to keep sneaking peeks and trying to see what you’re like down there. Is that okay?”
“Sure, that’s okay. Have a good look.” She tucked her long hair behind her ears so her breasts were visible. Then she stood with her legs apart, so the boys could see her vagina.
River pointed to her vagina. “So that’s where it goes, I mean, when people do it?”
“Thank you, Melissa.” David moved in the direction of the clearing where he had first seen Zhiv. “Zhiv must be coming. We might as well start walking. We’ll meet him on the way.” As he spoke, Zhiv trotted through the trees up to where they stood.
David handled the introductions. “Zhiv, this is Melissa Blackstone. And this is Hector Sanchez. And this is Zhiv.”
Melissa spoke first. “I’m very happy to meet you, Zhiv.” She paused, overcome with emotion. “Just terribly happy.” She started to cry. Zhiv reached out to her and hugged her. She buried her face in his hair and sobbed.
She sniffled. “I don’t know why I’m crying.” Zhiv patted her on the back.
Hector gave a weak laugh. “Hi Zhiv. I, uh, thought you’d be bigger.”
“Well, I’m still growing. At least, I hope I am. I’m trying to be bigger.”
“No. No. I don’t know why I said that. I think you’re just the right size. I’m real happy to meet you, too.” Hector’s voice cracked. “I don’t know what to say.”
Zhiv reached out with a free arm and pulled Hector into his hug with Melissa. Hector heaved a great sob and tears ran down his cheeks.
Zhiv smiled up at Hector. “David said you’re a professor?”
“Yes,” sobbed Hector, “I’m a professor.”
“Wow. I’ve never met a professor before.” Zhiv patted Hector on the back. “And Melissa, you’re the person who made that video of me and the pigs.”
Melissa was still moved almost beyond words. “Mmmhmm, that’s me,” she snuffled.
“Well, let’s shoot another one, I mean, if it’s okay with you.”
Hector and Melissa stood back and wiped the tears from their cheeks. Zhiv hugged River and David.
Melissa put the gimbal harness over her shoulders. When she had turned on her camera and adjusted all the settings, she attached it to the gimbal. Then, in full control of what she was doing, she nodded.
They set off through trees ringing with the morning chorus. A hundred fluting voices saluted the sun as its light brought the woods to life.
Forest animals came up to Zhiv as they walked. He paused and greeted each creature. Most were larger animals and included a vixen with her two kits, a couple of coyotes, and a mule deer and her fawn. Hector and the boys greeted these creatures as well. Melissa always paused her video and took time to hug and pet each. Several animals accompanied them. David recognized Chirko, the squirrel, bounding through the branches above them. Lilili came and sat on his shoulder.
River and Hector fell a little behind. Hector cleared his throat. “Is he always like this?”
River looked at him and smiled. “You ain’t seen nothing yet, Prof.”
Zhiv first led the party to the ridge overlooking the valley. Hector and Melissa, not used to the climb, welcomed the chance to rest. David brought out a tube of sunscreen for the newcomers. He and Zhiv applied it to Melissa’s back, and Hector and River did each other’s hard-to-reach areas.
Hector sat on a rock beside Zhiv. “I thought we might do the video in two sections. Maybe, in the first section, you can tell us about why you came up here, and what happened to you. Then, in the second section, you can talk about the animals’ decision to make war on humans. Finally, we need some suggestions on what humans can do about that. Maybe we could do the first part here, while Melissa and I catch our breath. Then it would be nice to go up to the meadow and do the second part up there. How does that sound?”
“Sounds good. Do you want to ask me questions or should I just talk?”
“For the first part, why don’t you just talk. Tell us about your life on this mountain, how you came to be here like this.” Hector turned to Melissa. She signaled she was ready. “Whenever you’re ready, Zhiv.” Hector moved out of the frame.
Zhiv looked down for a second, then up into the camera. “Hi, everybody. My name is Zhiv. Since you’ve looked at the videos of me with the pigs, many of you have asked questions. I’ll try to answer some of them today.” He stopped and a shy smile crossed his face. Then he told the story of how he had come to the mountain, and how the animals had rescued him. His absolute sincerity and sweet nature reverberated in every word. Melissa, Hector and River were all in tears when he finished.
“Please, I need to take a break,” said Melissa. She turned the camera off, wiped her eyes and blew her nose, but never took her eyes off Zhiv. He was consulting with David.
“What do you think about a ball game with whoever is up at the meadow? I mean, for the video. Do you mind being in the video? Naked? What about River?”
“It’d be great. It’ll be good for people to see animals having fun, and having fun with humans like us. I don’t care if they see me naked. You’re naked and that makes it all right. It’s just a bum and a dick. I don’t even think about it anymore. River’s one of us, now. I’m sure he’ll join in. But you should probably answer some questions first. Then, if we still have time, we can do a ball game. Hector said he has to be back in town around one o’clock. If we don’t have enough time, they can always come back another day.”
A half-hour later they came out of the trees at the edge of the meadow. Cows, deer and the horses grazed with each other. Goats browsed among bushes at the forest’s edge and pigs rooted there as well. When the horses saw the boys, they lifted their heads and whinnied. They trotted over to exchange greetings.
The bay mare walked up to River and nosed his chest. He hugged her and kissed her forehead.
Hector reached out with his hand to touch the mare’s head. She shook her head and backed away. “I guess she’s your horse,” he said to River.
River buried his face in the mare’s flowing mane. “No, she’s not my horse. She belongs to herself. She's my friend.”
The mare made a chuddering noise in her throat, and Hector started weeping again. The horse knelt.
River said, “She wants to take me for a run. She knows I love it.” He lay down on her back and wrapped his arms and legs around her. She rose, cantered for a hundred yards, then broke into a gallop and raced to the other end of the meadow. There she stopped to graze in the shade. They could see River lolling on her back.
“She’s kidnapped him,” laughed Zhiv.
Hector wiped his eyes. “Right! Questions!” He looked at Melissa. “Where do you want Zhiv to be?”
Zhiv sat cross-legged in the grass. Melissa set the main camera on a tripod, so the peak of the mountain was behind him, and the light was on his face. She put a second camera on the gimbal so she could walk around and take clips from other distances and sides. She planned to intercut these with the main video.
First, Hector asked Zhiv about the mara, what it was and how it worked. Then he asked, “Some people think you’re like Tarzan or Mowgli, that you’re the king of the animals and they all worship you. What do you think about that?”
Zhiv laughed with such genuine amusement he wouldn’t have needed to add any words to his answer. He said, “No, I can’t tell the animals what to do, even if I wanted to. It’s kinda the other way around. They tell me what they want, and I try to help them if I can.”
Hector then asked about the mara’s decision to make war on humans.
“I’ll try to answer that in two parts. First, the animals agreed that the world was out of balance. Their surroundings were not good for them anymore. They were too hot or too cold. The lakes and rivers were filled with poisons or plastic. Many animals were dying off, and humans were killing many others. There were fewer and fewer wild places, places where animals could live like they always had in the past.
“Then they decided that the root cause of these problems was humans. Humans were making the world a place where other kinds of life couldn’t exist. There were too many humans, and they were bad. They had no respect for any other living creatures.
“The second part of the answer is their decision. It didn’t come easy, but eventually they all agreed. Humans are the main threat to all other life on the planet. They needed to get rid of humans.”
Hector then asked, “But don’t the animals realize that many of them will die, and that they probably won’t win?”
“They feel humans are going to kill them anyway. People will do it with guns or in slaughterhouses, or by poisoning and wrecking the world. They decided that they might as well die fighting. If they succeed, the planet will recover. If they lose the war with humans, they'll die, but if they don’t try, they’ll all die anyway. I’m sorry — I wish there was a nice answer, but there isn’t.”
“Is there anything humans can do to reverse this decision? To make peace with the animals?”
“First, people should realize that the animals didn’t start this war. Humans have been making war on animals for thousands of years. They capture them, kill them, and eat them. Most humans do it every day. Every time someone sits down to a plate full of animal parts, it’s an act of war. What’s changed is that the animals have decided to join together and fight back.
“Many people will think this war is some kind of game. They will think that if humans make a good move, then the animals will back down. It’s not a game. They’re determined to wipe out humans, and that’s when the war will end. We’ve been treating animals like enemies for a long time. Now it’s mutual.”
Belnit, the stag, sauntered up, lay down behind Zhiv, and began to chew his cud. He rested his chin on Zhiv’s shoulder for a moment, then licked behind the boy’s ear. Zhiv laughed. An undercurrent of sorrow in his laughter echoed the grim statement he had just made. He kissed the stag's nose, and Belnit went back to his rhythmic chewing.
“So, what can we do?” asked Hector.
“The animals made this decision because humans have caused the world to be out of balance. Humans are destroying the natural balance, so the world doesn’t work like it used to. What humans need to do is to get the world back in balance. Then the animals might reconsider their decision. I’m just guessing about that. It’s not part of their decision to think about it or change it.”
Erg, the great mountain lion, stretched out beside Zhiv and yawned in the morning sunshine. He laid his head across Zhiv’s thigh and seemed to go to sleep.
Hector’s voice shook with emotion. “What do you think we need to do to get the world back in balance?”
Kek, the crow, landed next to Zhiv.
“Stop eating animals. Stop cutting down the forests. Stop polluting the environment. People know how to do these things, but that’s not enough. They have to do them. The time for talking is past. What’s needed now is action.”
Kek cawed in clear assent.
“People must respect the right of other animals to live in peace and freedom. We need to become the caretakers of the planet and all its life. We should try to make it a better and happier place for everyone, not just humans. Maybe if we learn to respect persons in other kinds of bodies, we can win their respect and earn their affection. Right now, we’re the enemy of every other creature.”
While Hector was interviewing Zhiv, the pigs came over and settled down beside the boy. One tried to nudge the puma away from Zhiv’s side. Erg looked around and raised a whiskery eyebrow. The pig backed away. Several field mice hopped up onto Zhiv’s lap. Lilili perched on his shoulder.
Zhiv looked up into the camera. He raised his palm. A tiny field mouse stood there on his hind legs. Zhiv stroked the mouse with one finger. The little animal moved his head back and forth in obvious pleasure. “It’s not hard to treat animals with love and respect. If we do, they will love and respect us too. If we treat the earth the same way, many of our problems will be solved.” He gently put the field mouse down in the grass, and then jumped up. “Now, let’s play!”
He kicked the ball away from one of the snoozing pigs and ran away into the field. David and River pursued him, followed by a crowd of excited pigs. Several goats galloped out to chase them, and the game was on.
Melissa filmed the game for five minutes. Then Hector went up to her and pointed to the gimbal. “Take that contraption off and go play with them.” Moments later she ran out to join the crowd racing after the ball.
Twenty minutes later, the humans sat puffing and sweating at the edge of the meadow.
Zhiv turned to Hector. “I know you’re on a tight schedule, but if you have a bit more time, you should meet David’s animal family. It won’t take long, and they’re very beautiful.”
A five-minute walk through the aspens brought them to the shore of the lake. Zhiv motioned for everyone to sit down and then nodded to David. “Do it.”
David stood on the shore and focused on the lake. He held his arms out as though waiting for a hug. The surface of the water trembled, and the trout began their greeting display. When the last gleaming fountain of trout had subsided, the shoal gathered in the shallows. David glanced back at Hector and Melissa. “Yeah,” he said. “I cried the first time I saw them do that too.”
Zhiv stood. “Let’s have a little swim to cool off and greet David’s family properly.” He led them into the water, and the trout surrounded them as they swam.
When they returned to the shore, Hector said, “We have to go. I can’t tell you how much I want to stay, but I have a meeting.”
“Of course,” said Zhiv. “We’ll walk back with you.”
At the edge of the forest, Hector and Melissa put their clothes on in silence. Melissa turned to Zhiv. “Can I come back, again? I mean, not to shoot video, just to be here with you, even for a little while? Please?”
“Me too,” said Hector. “Do you think I can learn how to be in the mara?”
“I’d like to see both of you again,” said Zhiv, “but talk to David before you come. Otherwise, you might not find me.”
Hector and Melissa hugged David and River. Then they hugged Zhiv. Both were overcome with emotion. They stumbled out into the clear-cut with tear-filled eyes. When they arrived at Hector’s camper-truck and were sitting in the cab, Hector said, “I’m wrecked. How are you?”
Melissa sniffled. “Totally destroyed.”
At three o’clock, Sheriff Morgan stood up at the head of the conference table. When the chitchat had died, he welcomed everyone and invited them to introduce themselves. “I’ll start with myself. My name is John Morgan. I’m the Sheriff of this county. The governor asked me to get this task force together. The purpose is to look at the recent, great increase in attacks on humans by animals. I have no special expertise in this field, so I’m happy to have the guidance of Dr. Hector Sanchez, on my right. Dr. Sanchez, please introduce yourself.”
They went around the table. Each stated his or her name, qualifications, and reason for attending. Hector then stood and summarized the information he and Pete had compiled. “Starting a couple of weeks ago we noticed several incidents near Jana Mountain. Then other incidents were reported further away. Within two days we were getting reports from all over the state and neighboring states too.”
Hector then categorized the incidents by the kinds of animals involved, their locations, and characteristics of the victims.
“We don’t have so many details of incidents in other countries. One thing is clear: the number is increasing dramatically. We have reports from every continent except Antarctica. We don’t know what’s causing these attacks on humans. All we know for sure is that such attacks are very unusual. In the history of human-animal relationships, many of these recent events are unprecedented. The number of incidents has moved far beyond what might be coincidental. It looks like the animal kingdom has declared war on humanity. This is going to have both immediate and long-term effects on all human beings.”
From the discussion that followed, it seemed most participants had not been aware of the large number of animal attacks. The global scope of the problem was even more surprising to many.
Homeland Security had sent two representatives. Their questions related more specifically to the events around Jana Mountain Park. They wanted to know if the boy who rescued the pigs had been located. Was there any connection between the pig-boy and the Nazi slogans? What was the story about that boy who was bitten by rattlesnakes? They were interested in any strange events in or near the park.
Hector tried to put the park incidents into a more widespread context. The Homeland Security representatives doggedly returned to the local angle. They reminded Hector that he had suggested Jana Mountain was the center of all these events.
When Hector had answered everyone’s questions, he outlined his suggestions for the next steps. Then he proposed they meet in two days to develop a plan of action. Most of the participants nodded their approval.
One of the Homeland Security people held up his hand until he had everyone’s attention. “It seems everyone is okay with not knowing how this situation has come about. At Homeland, we’ve gamed biological and psychological warfare of various kinds. What we’ve been talking about here is something we’ve been expecting for some time. We’re ready for it.
“It looks like this activity started on that mountain. So, the first thing we need to do is go up there and find out what caused it. There could be some kind of installation there that has spread a virus, or radiation, or something. It could be the Chinese or the Russians, or one of those Arab countries that are always crawling up our nose. Or PETSELF! We don’t know, but we’re gonna find out. The rest of you can go back and discuss whatever you want. We’re gonna be searching that park with a fine-tooth comb, starting tomorrow morning. I’ll let you know what we find at our next meeting.”
After everyone had left, Pete and Hector closed the conference room. They agreed to meet the following day.
Pete was deep in thought as he made his way home. He stopped at his local hardware store and made a couple of purchases.
I write in order to be read, and I hunger for feedback - negative, positive, or indifferent. Please share your thoughts on this story in a review, a comment or send me a personal message. I will reply.
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