Chapter One – The Chosen One
SILVERBACK – Molly’s twin sister’s death five years ago hasn’t been the only hardship her family has endured. It’s been one hard knock after another.
Now she has not one, but three little brothers to deal with, and it doesn’t help that two of the boys are disabled. Her mom wants to try again for another girl — a replacement for Molly’s dead twin, Madeline – the shining star everyone idolized.
When her family vacations in Florida, animal lover Molly is thrilled to spend her time at the animal park. It’s a chance to cast off her life-sucks attitude for a while.
When she receives an S.O.S. message from a gorilla behind the glass at the park, nobody believes her. Molly has no idea why or what she can do to help the Silverback, but she’s determined to figure it out.
It quickly becomes apparent doing so will change her family forever. What she doesn’t realize is, it might just change the world.
Author’s Note: This is the first chapter in my new book, Silverback. (YA Sci-Fi Fantasy genre.) I hope you enjoy it
The Chosen One
”The more you learn about the dignity of the gorilla, the more you want to avoid people.”
Molly’s hand shook as the enormous gorilla lifted his hand to the glass. Deep brown eyes gazed into hers.
“He likes you,” her mother said. “Huh.” Shifting Molly’s baby brother up further on her hip, she added, “Look, Charlie. Your sister made a friend. The gorilla is saying hi.” She took Charlie’s small hand in hers. “Do you want to try?”
Charlie tugged his hand free and squirmed. “Dink.”
“Okay, okay. Molly, I’ll be right back. I’m going out to get Charlie’s drink out of the stroller.”
“Yep.” Molly nodded, barely hearing her mother. The large Silverback gorilla on the other side of the thick glass hadn’t moved his hand, but his lips were moving, and he raised his other hand, his fingers moving quickly on the other side of the glass.
Molly’s eyes grew wide, and she broke eye contact, spinning around to stare at the swinging door her mother had just walked through. “Did you see that?” she whispered to nobody in particular.
She and a man in a white uniform were the only two people left in the gorilla viewing area.
The man, whose oval button introduced him as ‘Fred’ gave her an understanding smile. “You needn’t be afraid. He can’t hurt you. The glass is very thick.”
“I’m not afraid,” Molly said. “He is.” She pointed to the Silverback.
Fred shook his head. “Ben isn’t afraid of anything. He’s top dog in this exhibit, or should I say top gorilla. He’s the Silverback.”
“I know sign language, and I can read lips,” Molly began.
The man rubbed his chin. “That’s quite commendable, young lady. But our gorillas aren’t circus animals. We don’t teach them tricks, or sign language. We want them to live as natural a life as possible. Ben doesn’t use sign language.”
Molly’s cheeks flushed, and she turned her gaze back to the gorilla.
Ben moved closer to the glass and turned sideways, away from the attendant.
Molly watched his thick fingers begin to move, and her lips moved in sync with the words she saw formed in the gorilla’s hands.
The door banged, and Molly’s mother walked back in, pushing Charlie in the stroller. “Come on. Dad’s ready to get going. The twins are driving him batty.”
“Okay,” Molly said. She looked across at the attendant who was busy picking up a cardboard display pamphlet dropped by the last group of children.
She signed I like talking to you and smiled.
Ben’s huge head moved up and down, and once more he placed his hand on the glass.
Molly lifted hers back onto the thick glass, noticing how the SIlverback’s fur-covered hand dwarfed her pale, slender fingers.
Moving her lips slowly, she said in a low voice, “I have to go, but I will come back. I promise.”
The gorilla’s shoulders slumped, and his hand slipped down. He turned away and wandered toward the back of the large enclosure. He didn’t look back.
“Come on, Molly,” her mother said, in a firmer tone this time.
Heart pounding, Molly, followed her mother out of the building and into the bright sun. She trailed a few feet behind the rest of her family as they left the gorgeous park.
“Those animals are so lucky,” her father said. “I swear they have a better life than we do.”
“Yes. They couldn’t ask for a nicer environment to live in,” her mother agreed.
Except they couldn’t ask now, could they? Molly thought. Because gorillas didn’t talk. Everyone just assumed they were happier living here, than in the wild, where they’d have to fight off predators and find their own food.
“What was that one’s name? He sure was a big one.”
“The keeper said his name was Ben.”
“Grilla! I want a Grilla!” Molly’s little brother, Ryan, shouted as they walked close to a store with stuffed animals hanging from metal strips. Ryker, the other half of the twins, smacked his brother in the arm, and in a flash, they collapsed to the ground, wrestling.
Molly’s father grabbed each boy by an arm and pulled them apart. “I warned you two. Enough of this. You’re both going in time-out when we get home.”
“Noooo,” Ryan wailed, while Ryker howled his displeasure.
Charlie began to cry.
Molly rolled her eyes, wondering for the umpteenth time why her parents had wanted more kids after her twin sister had died. She loved her brothers, sometimes, and Charlie was cute, but she often wondered if they planned to stop now or keep trying to replace Madeline. The twins were five years old, Charlie was two, and she’d seen her mother pulling out the baby clothes last week. At fourteen-and-a-half, she was often put on twin-watching duty while her mother dealt with Charlie, or worked on her latest book project.
Molly scuffed her sneaker on the curb as they waited for a trolley to take them out to their car, sitting somewhere out in the ‘Jungle’ parking lot.
Ryker made a loud noise, and both parents quipped, “Sign it please.”
The young boy’s hands twisted in different directions as his parents watched.
“Sure, buddy. We can get pizza tonight. We’re on vacation after all,” his father replied, signing the words.
Ryker was deaf. Ryan could hear. The twins contracted meningitis when they were just weeks old. Skilled intensive care had saved their lives, but Ryker suffered hearing loss and seizures. Ryan was now considered ‘slow’ or developmentally disabled. She hated those words. She hated all ‘labels’ given to her family by others.
Molly sucked in a deep breath and exhaled noisily through her mouth. There wasn’t an easy way to do this, so she blurted it out. “Mom, Dad, that gorilla spoke to me. He needs help. He says he’s afraid.”
“Oh, really? We’ll contact the park administrators immediately,” her father said.
“You will?” Molly asked as they climbed into their car.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Molly. Gorillas don’t talk.” Her father shook his head and bent down to tie Ryker’s shoe.
“Molly, don’t be saying that in front of the twins. I expect more of you at your age,” her mother said. “You know they believe anything you tell them.”
“That’s not funny, young lady,” her mother retorted.
“It wasn’t meant to be,” Molly muttered underneath her breath, as she snapped her seatbelt in place in the far back of the minivan her parents drove. She thought about trying to explain that he’d signed, not spoken, but decided against it.
Her parents busied themselves fastening car seat buckles. Nobody spoke for several minutes.
Molly stared out the window, berating herself for blurting it out. Why had she expected them to believe her? What haunted her thoughts now were those deep, brown eyes. The hope, the fear, and the utter defeat when she’d said she had to leave.
How many others just like her had he asked? He couldn’t have known she knew sign language. Did he try it with every kid who walked in there? One thing was certain. He’d known precisely what he was signing because his lips mouthed the same words.
“Help me. I’m afraid.”