A Withering Species Breeds Mutants
Part 2 of Chatty Chimps, Chirpy Chimplets,
and Old Chuckling Chimp
Majid Ali, M.D.
Excerpt from Part 1: “Then something mysterious invaded the Chimpland and spread with ferocity. Within weeks, the forest canopy evaporated, leaving behind bare trunks of dead trees, sticking out as a painful reminder of what Chimpland once was. The rains dwindled. The thick underbrush thinned. Hardy weed took over. Tears of blood rolled down their furry faces as Chimps watched the devastation, not much mindful of how the poisons that killed the trees might affect them as well.”
Even before the blight denuded the forest , Old Chuckling Chimp was aware that something in Chimpland was not quite right. Rain water was not as refreshing as it had been in past years. The air was often brown and stale. Fallen leaves were moldier. Old and large trees had always fascinated him. He saw birds and bugs disappear into and emerge from holes in tree trunks, and realized the trees must feed them well. Along with changing air and rain, he noted that old and large trees were dying faster than they used to. He wondered whether what changed clouds, rain, and air also hurt his beloved old and large trees. He surmised that the new clouds may not have been good for the old trees. Nor were they kind to birds and bugs that lived in them. Might that also not be good for chatty chimps and their chirpy chimplets? The question did not escape his notice.
Chuckling Chimp As Chimplet
As a chimplet, Old Chuckling Chimp was different from others. He was curious and forever searched for things. He keenly observed whatever reached his eyes, ears, and his sense of smell. Often he stared in the void, lost in deep thought for hours, oblivious to chatty chimps and chirpy chimplets around him. Sometimes he lay on the ground intently watching grey-green spots appear in tiny cracks in the dirt, waiting for hours until the spots grew into tiny bright-green shoots. He was mesmerized when the green stuff burst into red, crimson, yellow, and white flowers.
Chuckling Chimp As a Wandering Sub-adult
His mother, Chimpi, worried about him when he wandered deep into the forest without telling anyone where he was headed. With time, Chimpi’s anxiety subsided and he was accepted as somewhat strange but not dangerous. She loved him as a loner who was at ease with himself and avoided contact and small talk with other chimps. Left to himself and pulled deeper and deeper into nature around him, he observed more, thought deeply, and made connections. In his mind, he organized birds in one group, moths and butterflies into another, and worms into yet another. There is an order here, he told himself. They look so different and yet are so alike. They all live, have babies, and then die. Life begets death and death begets life, he mused. He noticed mold growing on dead birds and bugs and wondered about what might have come first, death or mold. These were the seeds of his search for relatedness of all he saw.
Chuckling Chimp As a Naturalist
Sparrows fly. Why don’t snakes do that? Frogs leap. Why don’t turtles do that? Papayas fall down from trees. Why don’t they fly up? Or sideways? Crows lay eggs and chicks hatch from them. Why don’t crows have butterflies babies? The moon grows larger and then shrinks. The sun does not do that. Why not? What keeps both up? Why don’t they drop into his pond? His questions were never ending. The answers were sparse and arrived when he least expected them. Then there were more questions, each spawning even more questions. Sometimes the answers brought smiles, at other times gentle murmurs. And there were chuckles. It was during one of those moments that he was spied chuckling by himself and was given the endearing name of Old Chuckling Chimp.
With time he grew into a naturalist. He learned about the rhythms and moods of the forest—the enlarging holes in the thick canopy of tall trees above, the bustling underbrush beneath, centipedes crawling on rustling leaves, worms turning the soil over, fish leaping in brooks leaping in the air.
Once Old Chuckling Chimp picked up a perished baby chimp’s skull from a thicket of brush and tried to imagine what substance might have filled its empty skull cavity when the chimp was alive. He wondered if this skull-substance had anything to do with why chimplets chirped, chimps chatted, and older chimps slowed down and faltered. When he saw a chirping chimplet with fever suddenly become mute, he imagined that his skull-substance had stopped working due to the fever. When he found a mother chimp crying because her baby had never chirped, he thought about whether its skull-substance might have changed while in the womb to make him mute at birth. Or was there some other bad substance in some other part of the body that did that?
A chimp fell ill with high fever, headache, and vomiting. In spite of the best efforts of all chimpologists who attended him, his condition deteriorated rapidly and he became delirious. Soon tremors followed and he became unresponsive, and within several hours died. Old Chuckling Chimp had watched the case from a distance and had a strong sense that the illness had affected his skull-substance. At night under the cover of darkness, he cautiously approached the body of the dead chimp and made a hole in the skull. His suspicion proved right when he saw bloody skull-substance dripping out when he tilted the head. The connection between the head-substance and head symptoms was firmly established in his mind.
Chatless Chimps, Chirpless Chimplets
Not too long after the blight arrived, Old Chuckling Chimp began to see what he feared most: What was killing the trees also affected chimps. Some chatty chimps seemed less chatty and many chirpy chimplets were less chirpy. They seemed tired and irritable. Some were losing fur and others gained weight. Males were less interested in females, who often complained of cramps, experienced mood swings and hot flashes. Old Chuckling Chimp made yet more connections and recognized that the bark and root remedies of chimpologists, which worked well in the past, did not work for the new problems. Something awful was happening. He sorely needed someone with whom to share share his chilling findings and deep fears. He found no one to take into his confidence. Chimpologists were clueless and the sick chimps too numbed to wonder about what made them sick.
When the blight arrived, it came too swiftly for Old Chuckling Chimp. With stunning speed, the blight killed young trees and old trees. He saw dead squirrels, bugs, and butterflies. The dead and dying butterflies, toads, and squirrels were the forest canaries which told much about the shapes of things to come. It became clear to him that what poisoned the canaries would also poison chimps. It was only a matter of time. Yes, there would be differences because each member of their species is a unique organism. He knew that the skull-substance of chatty chimplets functioned differently than that of chirpy chimplets. The skull-substance of the young was more delicate and hence more vulnerable than that of the adults, who rarely became mute when in fevers.
Muted and Angry Chimplets
What troubled Old Chimp most was the increasing frequency with which chirping chimplets turned mute and angry. He understood that chimplets quit chirping when their skull-substance was damaged. What damaged it? Something from within their little bodies or something from outside? In agony, he tried hard to deny what was self-evident: what killed trees in blight was what was damaging the skull-substance.
There was yet another question: why don’t all chirpy chimplets become mute when they have fever? There must be something more to it, he reasoned. But what? Did something come from within their bodies or from outside? Did it have anything to do with the skull substance? Or was there something bad in their bellies? Some bad belly substance? More and more chimps were becoming flatulent. Was there some connection?
A Withering Species Breeds a Muted Species
Old Chuckling Chimp was an astute naturalist when the blight hit Chimpland. Like all good naturalists, he had become an evolutionist at heart. He knew that the blight poisons that killed trees would soon enter the skull-substance of adult chimps and shrink their brains. And that the poisons would also enter the skull-substance of the unborn chimplets chemicalizing them and blocking their development. The scale of suffering of the trees foretold him about the expected scale of suffering of the skull-substances of chatty chimps as well as yet unborn chirpy chimplets. Nature prefers to be hands-off, but only up to a point. Then it becomes ruthlessly hands-on to preserve its own order. With a trembling heart, he saw how Nature played its hands-on card. It shrank the skull-substances of adult chimps with the same ferocity as it killed the trees. With equal zeal, it damaged the skull-substance of unborn chimplets.
And then Old Chuckling Chimp saw something he had missed all along. He recognized Nature’s mercy. He realized that chirping chimps were falling silent and seemed not to suffer at all when their skull-substance shrank rapidly. As for the muted chimplets, he saw no evidence that they were aware of anything. They were a muted species, free of chirping, free of social needs, needing no eye-contact, and free of troubling thoughts. They were simply chimplets of a different chimpland, totally oblivious of the old chimp order, indifferent, uncommunicative, uninterested, easily angered, an altogether new species. Nature was merciful to both groups and blessed them with an escape from unbearable suffering delivered by shrinking brains, a total bliss of sheer unawareness. The adults were a withering species that bred a mutant species.
Old Chuckling Chimp at Chimpland Congress
When Old Chuckling Chimp was called upon by the Congress of Chimpland, he simply told them the problems were much deeper than they imagined but the end of this sordid story for them would be good. What he did not notice then was that Chumpa Chimpess, a noted chimp seer, was in the audience. She had also keenly observed what Old Chuckling Chimp saw. Deeply saddened, Chimpess had trouble accepting his reassuring words. She decides to challenge him forcefully but not then.
What did Chimpa Chimpess know and how did she plan to challenge Old Chuckling Chimp’s spin? For the answer, please read part 3 of the story entitled “Chimpa Chimpess Exposes Old Chuckling Chimp’s Spin.”