The air was cool. It tingled with the scent of rain and change that was still far off, thundering over some distant ocean. Disconcerted voices regularly rose and fell in agreement over big nothings. The Tedious Giraffe’s long mane stood piqued and erect in the wind that swirled over the Grand Basin. Grass blade tips rippled in gusts that cut and curled in waves over the surface producing an uncanny illusion of a Martian sea.
The Morose Blue Gorilla emerged from the mountain, between two giant boulders that appeared to halt the jungle’s assault on the lowland plains. He was small for an adult male gorilla, graceful, androgynous and utterly beguiling. An arresting stripe of silver hair followed the spinal groove of his back. Disconsolate eyes like oysters filled his face, trapping his spectacular symmetry and beauty and made others jealous, uneasy, confused and angry at him. His family and cousins named him ‘fish leach,’ and ‘white tick’. Goodwill and optimism didn’t feed the Morose Blue Gorilla. He was a black hole of despair, such a sullen creature it was unavoidable not to be affected by his presence. When anybody got too close, happiness and contentment simply escaped them, sucked into the vortex of the Morose Blue Gorilla’s endless dark depression. The Bedlam Marshes were never kind or welcoming to strangers and the Morose Blue Gorilla preferred his own company. No one knew why he left the jungle. And the Morose Blue Gorilla didn’t entertain curiosity, or gossip.
The friendship struck between the Tedious Giraffe and Morose Blue Gorilla was strong and sudden. It was an unlikely match. But best friends are often found this way – forged together by convenience or circumstance. Vulcanised by a tacit reluctance to evolve, the bond becomes impervious to corrosive elements such as time, disaffection and betrayal.
The Morose Blue Gorilla’s coat fluctuated through the spectral aspects of aquatic formations to reflect his dark moods; from a barren ocean, and indigo sea to a flooded reservoir and briny estuary. In rare moments he hinted an emerald lagoon, or tropical embayment. Only once, stuck on a childhood memory did he reach near contentment and the cerulean tincture of an alpine lake, with his silver stripe erect, reflecting a lucid teardrop in the sunlight.
They never spoke much, but it became a common sight on the Grand Basin to see the Gorilla on the back of the Giraffe, galloping through the long grass in the distance. At sundown when they went to drink at the marshes, the Morose Blue Gorilla protected the Tedious Giraffe’s honour. He jumped up and down, roaring tyrannically and smashing his fists into the boggy ground to silence the toads and newts – at least while they carefully recovered and regained their position on rocks and stones and started their hollering all over again.
Over time more and more clouds began to gather over the Grand Basin. They expanded and melted together and grew dark and bold, drawing a low, heavy sheet over the sun and sky. Then it started to rain – jungle rain that falls fast and hard. It struck the ground discharging pillows of cold breath that makes feet skip, hearts jump and breath shallow because it’s something powerful and exhilarating to be caught in.
Three months pass. The torrential downpour continues with endless determination and consistency. The intricate network of tributaries and billabongs swell and the banks burst. Water freely flows through the long grass to the base of Mt Thirsty and floods the Grand Basin. Large, able beasts retreat to the elevated jungle slopes. Beyond the prominent ring of monolithic stone boulders, under the saturated jungle canopy the Morose Blue Gorilla sits astride the Tedious Giraffe in silence.
Distant, desperate cries travel feebly through belts of rain, from where Bedlam Marshes used to be. Exhausted toads and newts thrash and struggle without any purchase in the deep, swirling underwater currents. They yelp the singular tone of helplessness and despair.
The Morose Blue Gorilla punctuates the liquid static with his sonorous growl.
’We need to help.’
‘I know,’ the Tedious Giraffe replies. Humility can’t be directed or contained. And kindness can’t be exclusive – to do so is a form of retribution and will never end well. And as her pink prehensile tongue wraps around her own words she realises how deeply she cares for the Gorilla and every other creature. It is a release of potential that fills her insides the way water swells over a thirst.
‘Do you trust me?’ she asks.
‘There’s not much time,’ the Morose Blue Gorilla replies.
‘You’re the only friend I have,’ the Tedious Giraffe says.
‘I’ll hold on.’
With that said the suddenness of the Tedious Giraffe’s initiative is inspiring. She hurtles down the soft decline, leaps over an uneven rocky outcrop between boulders and splashes heavily into the Grand Basin. Her momentum slows temporarily. She regains her rhythm, her long legs slicing through the water like rudders. The Morose Blue Gorilla bounds up and down on the Tedious Giraffe’s hard bare back. His obdurate grip digs into her mane, pinching her neck, while his strong shoulders and arms fix him in place. The Tedious Giraffe flinches with pain, but it is a pain she doesn’t mind. Her neck begins to sway back and forth like sapling timber. Her graceless design is exaggerated by the motion. Then her gallop strikes a rhythm. The parade of disconnected movement, stilted hooves splashing down and up and slender neck gyrating forward and back synchronise in a display of extraordinary magnificence.
The pair nears the cries for help. The Tedious Giraffe slows and cuts deep figure eights in the flooded swamp. The Morose Blue Gorilla stretches out his superior hands and feet and his opposable thumbs and toes wrench the obnoxious drowning amphibians delicately from their grim fate. The nimble newts clamber high as they can up the Tedious Giraffe’s neck while the fat toads stick to where they can on her wet, knotted, shaggy fur. The Tedious Giraffe soon becomes completely covered in a second skin – glistening, wart covered, black and marbled green. She lopes to the Crab Claw Trees. It is higher ground and even the young trees are only up to their knees in flood waters. The Tedious Giraffe ambles alongside their ivory trunks and watches her slimy second skin peel off like a disease and traverse across to the trees. The noisy, amphibious veneer on the trees gleams in the gloomy light. The Tedious Giraffe doesn’t notice the Morose Blue Gorilla squeezes a baby toad until he’s an empty tube, or see him capture and stash a handful of juvenile toads in his armpits. They turn their backs on the bizarre spectacle swaying out-of-water in the storm and return to the safety of higher ground.
The Morose Blue Gorilla conceals his prisoners away from the Tedious Giraffe, high up in the jungle canopy out of her sight. He warns them with horrific clear detail – if any of them escape he’ll squash them into oblivion. The rain continues for three more weeks. The Gorilla milks the toads to untangle his moods. Passing the days his demands grow too frequent for their supply, and he becomes aggressive. Unaware of his growing addiction the Tedious Giraffe wraps her long neck around the Morose Blue Gorilla. She senses a force governing the Gorilla. She ignores it in favour of enjoying the glacial glint in his coat and his long arm around her thick throat. She remains silent and they fall asleep each night to a din of croaks, whistles and bellows above the rain, praising their names across the Grand Basin.
Stay tuned for Part III…. Follow or Subscribe so you don’t miss what happens to The Tedious Giraffe