Early the next morning, Griffon woke up and scouted around the area to make sure the conservation crew had not returned. The coast was clear.
Griffon nudged Curie. “It’s time,” he whispered in her ear, and Curie was quick to rise and stretch. Griffon grasped Kineosho by the scruff of his neck and placed him gently on Curie’s back. They started walking and neither of them looked back at the cave, their comfortable surroundings for the last long while.
Kineosho was still fast asleep—he had basically been on autopilot since birth, waking up frequently for a feed and then heading right back to sleep.
The family moved at a steady but fast pace, heading deeper into the part of the forest that was still unexplored by the humans. Griffon and Curie were both experienced trackers and were careful not to leave a trail behind them. By sunrise they were deep inside the dense jungle, miles away from the cave. Griffon was single-minded about his destination—it was somewhere far away from humans, where Kineosho could grow up peacefully.
By mid-morning, the pair had reached an old watering hole. Both Curie and Griffon were still quite full from their feast the night before. Griffon’s stomach grumbled ferociously as he lapped the fresh water. “Are you ok?” asked Curie.
“Fine,” burped Griffon with a sheepish grin, “I just remembered why so few of us become human-eaters . . .”
“Oh . . . eeew!” smirked Curie teasingly, “chew on some of the short grass—it’ll help the wind settle a bit.” Curie had been with Griffon for a long time and she knew him well.
After a short break, they continued towards the end of the watering hole and began walking along the stream that drained into it. The climb became steeper—that was good. The further away and the worse the terrain, the less likely it was that anybody could track them down. By late afternoon, they were both tired. They had covered significant ground, and bar the few stops they had made to feed Kineosho, their pace was relentless. Curie found a cosy, well-protected resting spot and lay down to nurse Kineosho. “Let’s rest here for some time,” she said. Curie sighed softly as she watched Kineosho. Everything had happened so fast that she had not had time to be overwhelmed.
“Good idea,” said Griffon knowingly, “we had better slow it down for a while.” They both watched Kineosho sleeping and gradually Curie found herself nodding off into a restful sleep too. Griffon’s thoughts slowly drifted to his own childhood, his training with Master Wu, and how much fun it had been to learn new things. He smiled as his thoughts wandered to when he had first met Curie. Griffon watched her sleep, curled around Kineosho, and it wasn’t long after that he fell soundly asleep himself.
“Hmmph . . . lazy lumpy lions,” mumbled a well-groomed female porcupine as she passed the sleeping trio. “And in my spot too,” she continued mumbling as she walked a little further. She curled up behind some nearby bushes and soon fell asleep too.
The jungle is a surprisingly peaceful place when you’re asleep. It’s as though all the quirky whistles and croaks blend in harmoniously to form a smooth, soothing hum. There are certain sounds, however, as natural as they might be, that just jar with the rhythm of the place. One such sound is that of a young creature discovering the ample sonic power it can generate by innovatively using its own armpits. Rest assured, it’s not a pleasant sound to wake up to, and neither Griffon, nor Curie, nor the well-groomed female porcupine, were particularly impressed when they did.
There was thankfully a moment’s silence immediately after, but it wasn’t long before they all heard a very strange, loud sound. “Eep . . . eep,” it went. “Eep, eep . . . eep.”
Griffon immediately stood up on all fours and let out a low, deep growl. Curie stood before Kineosho in a protective stance. The porcupine frowned in disgust and darted her eyes from side to side to determine the source of the strange sound. It seemed to be getting closer.
Griffon could not pinpoint where it was coming from—sometimes it was at ground level, and then it appeared to be coming from the tree branches high above. Seconds later, they heard a rather traumatic Eep Eep, followed by a massive Thud!
Griffon was squatting, looking about as dazed and confused as the Pope at a Led Zeppelin concert. He was literally unaware of what had hit him. Curie was laughing hysterically at him. Well not really at him—more at what had just happened. The other animals that had gathered around to see what the commotion was about were all giggling too.
On top of Griffon was a peculiar-looking baby monkey stroking Griffon’s forehead in a rapid circular motion, repeating a distressed Eep? Eep? It was clear that the little monkey with its long, feminine eyelashes, had no clue what it had done and whom it had done it to. Judging by the pain it had experienced on its behind, the monkey only assumed that what it had hit was hurting like crazy too.
Curie could not stop laughing at this odd little hairy creature with its left arm almost twice as long as its right arm. The baby monkey was holding onto Griffon’s mane with its right hand, whilst vigorously patting him with the other, trying to make him feel better.
Moments later, Griffon gathered his senses and let out an enormous roar, spinning around to establish where the attack had come from and how large his opponent was. Griffon’s spin sent the little monkey flying across the patch until it slammed head-first into the still laughing Curie.
The disoriented monkey, not knowing what to do next, clutched Curie’s ear with its short hand and started rubbing her forehead vigorously with the other. By this time Griffon had realised exactly what had happened, and could not help but laugh at the weird little monkey who was swinging off Curie’s ear like a displaced ornament. All the excitement finally woke Kineosho, who although totally clueless as to what was going on, started laughing too.
Griffon gently lifted the strange monkey and put it on the ground next to Curie. It looked rather confused and scared now—understandably so, considering that it had never seen such large creatures with such big teeth before. “Eep?” it went, and then burst into tears. Kineosho, seeing the little monkey start crying, immediately began to bawl in chorus. Soon, in what could best be described as a wailing wall of dominoes, all the other baby creatures nearby joined in to generate a melancholic group sob.
“All right,” roared Griffon angrily at the spectators, “who does it belong to?”
The silence was deafening—half the animals had dashed off in fear and the rest remained quivering, unable to move. Even the wailing wall had mysteriously dismantled itself and disappeared into the bushes.
Finally, a chirpy voice from a branch high above said: “It doesn’t belong to anyone. I saw its troop leave the baby behind as it could not keep up because of its wonky hands.” The little voice whistled a short melody and flew off.
“No wonder—what an ugly freak,” mumbled the well-groomed porcupine from her curled up position in the nearby bush. This set off a chain of ugly-freak murmurs from the audience that remained.
“Move along,” growled Curie at the remaining animals. They dispersed immediately. She gently pawed at the strange little whimpering monkey trying to console it and eventually sat it down next to Kineosho. It was tired from all the excitement and promptly fell asleep. Griffon and Curie decided to continue their rest too.
When Curie woke, she stretched her limbs and let out a small moan of satisfaction. As she turned around, she saw Kineosho and the strange little monkey cuddled up next to each other. The baby monkey’s long left arm hugged Kineosho’s neck and its other hand clutched his ear. Curie smiled.
“Hey . . . no . . .” whispered Griffon behind her, “we’ve still got a long way to go, Curie—it’s just not practical.”
“I know,” replied Curie, “it’s a pity our circumstances are not different.”
Kineosho woke up when Griffon began to lift him off the ground to place him on Curie’s back. He looked around a little dazed and clouted his ear, which was still being clutched by the little monkey. The monkey looked up in shock and let out a piercing Eeeeep!
It grabbed Kineosho’s tail as Griffon lifted him higher, causing Kineosho to start yelping. The little monkey looked panic-stricken as Griffon parted it from its new-found friend. Griffon snarled, irritated with the game of tug of war. Shocked, the monkey released Kineosho and looked on as Griffon placed him on Curie’s back. Its eyes suddenly doubled in size and welled up with tears. “Eep?” it asked sorrowfully as the lions turned around to continue their journey.
They had not taken ten steps forward when they heard loud sniffles of anguish trailing behind them. Griffon turned around to find a rather distraught little monkey dragging its long left arm behind it trying to follow them. It was rubbing each eye in turn with its short right arm, brushing away the gushing tears like an overworked windscreen wiper. Griffon paused for a moment and could not help but grin at the sorry sight. He strutted back majestically and stared at the little monkey. The little monkey stared back at him.
Griffon leant forward. “Up!” he commanded.
The little monkey’s eyes lit up. It swung its long left arm over Griffon’s mane and clutched his ear with its dainty fingers. It pulled itself up onto Griffon’s back and gave him an appreciative hug. Curie shook her head briefly and smiled at Griffon. It was official—the trio had just adopted a new member of the family.
“Do you have a name?” Curie asked the monkey, who had already made herself at home in Griffon’s mane.
“Eep?” replied the monkey, looking a little confused.
“Kineosho,” said Griffon as he pointed his nose at Kineosho on Curie’s back.
“Eep!” shrieked the monkey excitedly. “Vid . . . di,” she said with the most peculiar smile showing her two teeth. “Vid-di!” she said again a little louder.
“Vid . . . di,” replied Curie, “. . . sleep.”
They walked quietly for a long time. Kineosho and the little monkey had fallen back to sleep on their parents’ backs. As they continued their fast pace upstream, the stream became wider and the forest denser. Finally, Griffon heard a waterfall in the distance. “Almost there for today,” he whispered to Curie.
When they reached the waterfall, Curie found them a place to rest for the night. She was good at that—finding somewhere safe and quiet, away from wind and prying eyes. Griffon rolled the little monkey off his back and nuzzled her next to Kineosho. Viddi immediately assumed her cuddle position with her new brother. They all slept peacefully after another long day of travel.
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