Silverback ~ Chapter Three ‘Prodigy’

Evolution is coming!

Author’s Note: This is Chapter 3 of my new Y.A. Sci-Fi Fantasy, Silverback.

BACK COVER BOOK BLURB FOR SILVERBACK – Molly’s twin sister’s death four 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 her 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.

Silverback

Chapter 3  ~ Prodigy

Doing what’s right isn’t the problem. It is knowing what’s right.
Lyndon B Johnson

Molly and Andre jogged through the park.

“You told your parents?” Andre said as they came to a halt just outside the gorilla viewing area.

Molly bent over, hands on her knees, as she caught her breath. “Yes, I had a moment of insanity.”

Andre ran one hand through his hair. “Yeah, you did. You’re lucky they didn’t cut your vacation short to take you back to that shrink.”

Molly groaned. “Right?” She flashed him a wan smile. After Madeline died, Molly’s school counselor recommended counseling for the entire family. Unfortunately, Molly’s mother interpreted this to mean Molly must have done something wrong at school, and she was forced to see a child psychologist, Dr. S. Fountain.

Molly closed her eyes, recalling her initial visit to the cheerful, old man sporting a white beard. She thought he should be in a red suit, entertaining children at holidays, and told him so when he asked her opinion of their first session. Dr. Fountain laughed so hard, his face turned bright red, and tears streamed down his face. For a moment, she worried she’d have to employ the C.P.R. skills they’d just learned at school. When he’d finally regained his composure, he’d smiled and shooed her out of his office, telling her to return in two weeks.

The sessions lasted a month. The good doctor informed her parents Molly was remarkably well adjusted for a teenage girl who’d just lost her twin sister. After the third visit, Dr. Fountain warned them against putting Madeline, who’d been a straight-A student, on a pedestal of unrealistic memories. Molly cringed as she remembered her mother’s angry retorts on the way home. “You’ve humiliated our family. He doesn’t know how wonderful Madeline was. He’ll think we’re crazy, thanks to you.” The final straw had come when Molly came down later that night to get a snack. She heard her mother praying, asking God why he’d taken the wrong daughter. She’d never been brought back to see Dr. Fountain again.

Andre touched Molly’s shoulder. “Hey, look. The keepers are feeding them.”

Molly peered through the glass doors leading into the viewing area. “Come on. You’re not going to believe this.”

They stood in front of the thick glass in silence. A group of elementary school children walked in behind them, flooding the small room with chatter and bright yellow teeshirts boasting their school logo. Several flustered teachers did their best to keep the noise level down, but it was like trying to tell the ocean to keep the waves at a dull roar. 

Molly lifted a hand to cover her eyes as she peered through the glass. “There he is. At the back of the pen. He hasn’t seen me yet.” 

Andre stood at her shoulder and waited. A child skipped across the room, and trying to get past the two teenagers, stumbled over Andre’s sneaker. 

“Whoa there, buddy,” Andre exclaimed, catching the child around the waist before he could fall. “Here, let me help you tie your shoelace. I think that’s why you tripped.”

The little boy stared up at Andre with saucer-like eyes.”Why is your skin that color? Did something happen to you?” 

Andre chuckled as he tied the lace. “No, that’s my skin color. I’m naturally dark.”

Nodding his head, the little boy smiled at him. “So you’re like chocolate?” He thrust out his bare arm. “The teacher says I’m white. I think I’m kind of peach colored.”

Biting his lip to hide his smile, Andre nodded. “You know, you’re right. I like it. It’s a nice color.”

 “My teacher needs glasses. Bye,” the boy said. “Thanks for tying my shoe.” 

One of the teachers hurried over, taking the boy by the hand. With a polite smile at Andre and Molly, she said, “Come on, Timmy. We’re leaving now.” 

Once they’d walked away, Molly shook her head. “You’re really good with kids.” 

Andre shrugged. “Comes from having little brothers and sisters.” 

Molly snorted. “Yeah, right. Didn’t work for me. I’m like Cruella DeVille to my little brothers. Just ask my mom.”  

“Don’t be so hard on yourself, Molly,” Andre began to say. He broke off and pointed. “Hey, one of the gorillas is coming over. That’s him, isn’t it? I think he’s seen you. What is he holding?”

Molly spun around.

The Silverback, Ben, approached and, cradled in the crook of his arm, was a small baby gorilla.  

He moved slowly, scanning the viewing area. 

“What’s he looking for?” Andre whispered. 

“I don’t know,” Molly said. “Maybe he wants to be sure his keeper isn’t around.”

Andre glanced over his shoulder. “We’re the only ones in here.” He rubbed his chin. “They’re excellent fathers, you know.” 

Molly smiled. “He loves his baby. You can tell by the way he’s looking down at him, and stroking his head so gently.” 

Andre stared through the glass. “I don’t believe it. Molly, you were right. Look!” 

Mouths open, they both stood in shock as the father and son gorillas conducted an entire conversation in sign language.

With a furtive glance to make sure they were still alone, Andre hissed, “What are they saying to each other?”

Molly turned to meet Andre’s eyes. “Ben just told him that we’re friends and he needs to trust us.” She wiped a glistening tear. “Damn it, Andre. What do you think he’s afraid of?”

Andre shrugged. “Not a clue.”

Ben scooped up the infant gorilla and approached the glass. Ben set the infant down on the grass right in front of the window. The baby gazed up at the teenagers for a moment, then noticing a rope toy, grabbed it and stuck it in his mouth. 

You came back, Ben signed to Molly. I knew you were different from the others.

Molly’s brow furrowed. Yes, I promised I would come back to see you. Is your son okay?

Ben gazed down at the baby, his deep brown eyes full of love. He touched the infant’s head, then looked directly at Molly. His hands began to move. 

Molly spoke the words as he signed them. “He will be okay if you help him. I’m so afraid for him.” She and Andre exchanged a puzzled glance, then looked at Ben. Are you worried someone might find out he can sign?

Ben shook his head. No, I’m terrified someone will figure out he can talk.

“What?” Andre and Molly said in unison. 

Molly looked at Andre. “You understood what he signed?” 

Andre shook his head. “No, I’m asking you what he said when he signed?” 

Before Molly could answer, a man in a white uniform entered the room, giving the children a polite smile. Moving closer, he stared at the infant gorilla sitting in front of Ben and snatched his radio from his pocket. “We need backup stat. The Silverback has the baby. I repeat. He has the baby gorilla. Get someone over here with a tranquilizer gun asap.”

“But he won’t hurt him,” Molly exclaimed. “He’s taking care of him. Didn’t Ben come from Rwanda? Gorilla’s from those regions take care of the babies, even babies that aren’t their own.” 

The keeper shook his head and gave her a wan smile. “Not this bad boy. He killed the twins his mate delivered last year. I don’t know how this baby even got in here. We had them separated.”

Andre swallowed past the lump in his throat. “I can’t believe that. They’re social animals, like humans. They need each other.” 

The keeper’s face betrayed his personal recollection of the incident. “Yeah, well, son, some humans murder their families too. You don’t know what goes on in their heads.” 

With a grim look, the man stepped to the side of the room when his radio crackled with a static-filled voice. He spoke in a low tone this time, and neither Molly or Andre could hear the conversation. 

Molly spun around and faced Ben, who was staring at the man. She signed an explanation of what the keeper had said about the baby being in danger, omitting the story he’d given them about Ben’s alleged past deeds.

With a loud hooting sound, Ben stood, slamming one palm against the glass.  

Don’t get angry. It won’t help, Molly signed. We will figure out how to help you.

 Ben seemed to relax. Stretching, he winked at Molly, and wandered away from the glass, leaving his son still playing with the rope toy.

“Kids, you better leave. The keepers are coming to rescue that baby, and it might not be a pleasant sight. We’re going to have to close this exhibit.”

Molly crossed her arms and glared at the man. “Listen here, Pet-er,” she said, making a point of reading the man’s name badge. “We’re not ‘kids’, for one thing, and-“

Andre looped his hand through Molly’s and whispered, “Take your own advice.” Then raising his voice and leading her to the door, “Come on, let’s go.”

“What are you doing?” she hissed.

“Relax,” Andre said. “I know how to get around to the back of the enclosure. I saw the keepers coming and going that way the last time I were here.”

They stepped outside to see several men in white uniforms approached at a jog. One of them held a tranquilizer gun.

The attendant who’d called for them walked outside. “False alarm. The baby just walked right back up to the gate and they were able to get him switched back to the other area.”

The two men shrugged and walked away. One of them began whistling along to the music now filling the air.

An announcer called out, “Ladies and gentlemen, children and fairy-tale creatures. The eleven o’clock parade will be begin shortly.”

Ignoring the announcement . Molly’s heart pounded. “Do you think Ben will be okay?”

“Yeah, I do. Coming?”

As they slipped through the nearly invisible entrance between two hedges planted in such a way as to strategically hide the walkway, Molly stopped. 

“What?” Andre said.

“Andre, I have to get that baby gorilla out of there.” 

“Have you lost it, girl? That’s a crime. You can’t steal a baby gorilla.”

Molly’s lips tightened into a thin line. “Watch me.”

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