You’re a long way from Earth now.
“Does the child speak?” The gorilla snapped. I must have stood there with my mouth agape for a little too long. It was just such an amazing situation to be in that I couldn’t find any words. Here I was, face to face with a huge silverback gorilla, in some kind of elaborate palace - his palace apparently and he was talking to me. An orangutan to one side spoke quietly to me.
“It would be advisable for you to answer his majesty, young human.”
“I’m not altogether sure what to say.” I replied, without thinking.
“You can start by answering my question child!” the gorilla roared.
“My king,” said the orangutan, “calm yourself. There are,” it paused, “guests in the palace.”.
The gorilla snorted and started at me. I felt I should probably answer his question.
“I’m afraid I cannot tell you if I can do something your majesty, unless I am first told what it is.”
Now it was the gorilla’s turn to be stunned. He glanced at the orangutan who shrugged.
“You mean to say,” the orangutan said, “you do no know why you are here?”
“That is correct.” I said.
“Did Lord Titan not explain before he sent you?” the silverback asked.
“I presume Lord Titan is the gorilla from the zoo,” I said and saw both the apes before me nod, “in which case I am afraid he didn’t say anything to me. Not even that he was going to send me here. I don’t even know where I am.”
“What?” the gorilla asked angrily. There was a raucous noise from the apes around the room. “You mean, Lord Titan has sent a boy to fulfil the prophecy and the child has no knowledge of either it or of my kingdom which he will save?”
“It would appear so, my king.” said the orangutan, meekly. “Can this child, a human child no less, really fulfil the prophecy under such circumstances?” the gorilla turned and went back to his throne. “We can but pray, your majesty.” the orangutan said. Then it paused for a while and added “Perhaps we should consult an expert on the prophecy?”
“Are there any, above me?”
“No my king, of course not.” The orangutan bowed, “but perhaps Augustus might be able to ascertain if this is indeed the prophesied boy.”
“Hmmf!” puffed the gorilla, “that old has-been refuses to come to my court. Why would he take on this human?”
“Because my king, Augustus is obsessed with the prophecy.”
The gorilla thought for a moment and then dismissed us with a wave of his arm. “Fine, take him to Augustus and see what he can do with him. But the battle is in two days and, prophecy or no, this boy will be entered into it.”
“My King.” said the orangutan and then to me. “Come with me, human.” and he walked off.
I followed, mostly because I had no idea what else to do.” We left the large hall through a small door in the corner and walked through a maze of corridors. We went down a few levels although there were no stairs. Instead there were knotted ropes and the occasional pole. My guide descended these with a lot more grace and ease than I did. By the time we arrived at a small, dark room I was quite puffed out. The orangutan indicated I should wait and then walked slowly into the darkness.
“What do you you want, Sharif?” came a gruff voice from the dark.
“You have a visitor, by order of the king.” The orangutan replied. It was clear these two did not get along.
“So his majesty thinks he still has need of me, does he?” mumbled the voice, “What has he sent me now?”
“I no longer take apprentices. The king knows that.”
“I didn’t say a youngling. I said a boy. A human.”
“A human?” said the voice. “You mean the prophecy?”
“That is for you to determine, Augustus.” A shape shuffled out of the darkness. “Oh this I will see.” said the voice.
I watched, more than a little afraid, as the shape stepped into the light and became a grey chimpanzee. It walked, dragging one leg, right up to me and held my chin, much as the gorilla king had. After a few moments inspecting me the chimpanzee said “You may leave.”
I started to turn but the chimp held onto me. “Not you boy. He,” it nodded towards Sharif, “may leave.”
Sharif turned and started to leave, speaking over his shoulder. “The battle is in two days, Augustus.”
“I know.” said the chimp, “I have known for longer than you.” It released my chin and stood back. “So, young man. Who are you?”
“My name is..”
“I don’t care what your name is. “The chimp interrupted, “I asked who you are. Where have you come from.”
“Earth.” I said. “Ah, one of Titan’s. How did you get here?”
“I don’t know. I was at the zoo and a gorilla threw something at me. When I touched it, I passed out and woke up in the king’s throne room.”
“Was it wooden, this object?”
“Yes it was.”
“And where is it now, this object?”
“I don’t know.” I replied. I decided to push my luck a bit. “Can you tell me where I am, I mean this isn’t Earth and I have no idea what any of you are talking about.”
“That makes sense.” said Augustus. “I imagine apes that can speak are the stuff of stories on Earth?”
“Yes they are.”
“Well, you’re a long way from Earth now. This world has no humans on it. There used to be but they all died in the first centuries of the war.”
“War? The gorilla king and the orangutan said something about a battle. Who are you fighting?” The chimp laughed, “We’re not fighting anyone, not anymore. We used to. Whole armies of warriors lost their lives in the battles of old but war has become more sophisticated since then. Now we have smaller battles with select warriors. The winner of the battle gets to rule the world, until the next one.”
“So these battles are smaller?”
“Much smaller and more entertaining.”
“You didn’t answer me.” I said, “Who are your opponents?”
“Ah, I was hoping you wouldn’t ask me that but as you have.” he sat as he spoke and gestured for me to do the same. “Long ago this world divided into factions, all of whom wanted supremacy over the others. At first the factions all fought each other, then we made alliances but as ever they were soon broken. Then somebody came up with the idea of the battles. The idea is that the factions are paired off against each other with the winner given the chance to face the winner of another battle. Eventually only two will remain and then there will be the final battle. The winner shall reign over the whole world.”
“And the gorilla king leads one of those two factions?”
“You catch on quickly boy.” the chimpanzee smiled, “Yes, where there were once fourteen factions, now there remains two. The Simians and the Reptilia.”
“Simian? You mean apes?”
“Yes and other primates and Reptilia meaning reptiles and their kind.”
“Yes, all kinds of reptiles to be exact. If they win, the king fears all the world will descend into darkness.” He saw my puzzled look and added “You have a question, boy?”
“Yes,” I said, “what happens to the other factions? The ones who have been defeated in previous battles?”
“A good question. They are made to serve the victors. The two factions become one.”
“So they become slaves? That can’t be right!”
“Right?” smirked the grey chimp, “Since when did right have anything to do with war?”
“So where do I come into all this then?”
“Well, “ said Augustus picking at his toenail, “many years ago a prophecy was made by one of the great wise apes. It said that when the final battle approached, a human child would be sent. It was said that this human would end the battles forever, bring freedom to all simian kind and, through them, to the whole world.”
I puffed out my cheeks, “and you think that’s me?”
“The king mentioned something about my shirt?”
“Ah I hadn’t noticed that but yes, it is remarkably similar to the prophecy.” I must have looked puzzled so it explained further. “The prophecy said the child would be a boy of around your age and would wear a distinctive attire: green and bearing an image of a big cat devouring a grazer.”
“Well that does sound like my shirt.” I said. “What else did this prophecy say?”
“Nothing much really.” he smiled, “You know how these things are? They are always vague and open to misinterpretation.”
“So what does the king expect me to be able to do?”
“That’s why he sent me to you. To find out if I can do ‘it’. I just don’t know what ‘it’ is?”
“Hmm,” said the large ape, “I suspect neither does he. He will imagine, as have others, that you will fight in the final battle.”
“Fight? Against reptiles?”
“I don’t imagine he wants you to fight for them.”
“No I mean, I can’t fight. I’m just a kid!”
“Well you may be that but you are here and there is no other human on this world.”
“I’ll get hurt, I could die!”
“I imagine that’s the point of a battle.”
“Well I’m not doing it! Can you help me get back home?” For the first time since arriving I thought of my family, back at the zoo, probably wondering where I was.
“No, I can’t but I can help you understand the prophecies so you have a better chance with the task.”
“I told you,” I snapped, “I’m not fighting!” Augustus leaned towards me. “You may have no choice.”
“There is always a choice.” The large ape sat back and grinned, showing what teeth he still had. He gasped as he spoke, “You are the one.”
“You are the one the prophecies speak of. I am convinced of it.”
“I told you, I’m not fighting..wait prophecies? There’s more than one?”
He chuckled, “Did you not think the other factions would have their own wise ones, all of whom prophesied victory for their faction?”
“But how can they all be right?”
“Exactly. They can’t but still the kings put their trust in them because their subjects need to believe they will win.”
“What about when they lose?”
“In that case the victorious faction will declare only their prophet had true insight and thus justifies them continuing in the war.”
“You mean they could stop?”
“Indeed but it would mean trusting the other factions not to invade or enslave them.”
“So nobody will take the risk?”
“You are smarter than you appear.”
“So what did the other factions say about me?”
“Mostly the same stuff, that a human child would appear before the final battle and free the world from this continuous war.”
“But each said the human would make their faction victorious?”
“Well, actually, no.”
“None of the prophecies say anything about a winner, just that the war will end. Of course the factions have all chosen to interpret their prophecy as meaning they will be victorious.”
“So who will win?”
“Nobody knows, although that is not a popular view around here.”
“But that is what you think?”
“Yes. The king banished me to this room for saying as much. He insists I am free to enter court at any time as long as I declare the prophecy speaks of simian victory.”
“And you can’t do that?”
“I won’t do it.” All of this was very interesting but I was still trying to think how to get our of fighting and how to get home. “Do the prophecies say what happens to the child after the battle? I mean if I survive, do I get to go home?”
“They don’t mention that specifically and to be honest if you were the king of the victorious faction would you want to send away the one who gave you victory?”
“So I’m stuck here?”
“Can you help me get home?”
“It is possible you could return the way you came but you would need the object that transferred you here.”
“The piece of wood?” the ape nodded, “Do you know where it is?”
“If it is what I think then it will be locked away by now. However, the king considers it important to his victory and will probably bring it out at the battle.”
“So if I could get to it there, it would take me home?”
“Yes but consider if you want to go home and the consequences if you do.”
“If you leave before the battle ends, the simians will have to concede defeat to the Reptilia. The whole world will be enslaved to them.”
“But if I stay, and the simians win, the world will be enslaved to them. Is that any better and who am I to decide such a thing anyway?” The chimpanzee smiled. “Are all humans as wise as you?”
“I’m not sure I am to be honest but no we’re not. In fact we have moments of wisdom and even more of stupidity.” I leaned in towards Augustus and looked into his eyes. They had a brightness which made him look younger. “Will you help me to get to that piece of wood?”
He thought a bit and then stood, saying “I thought you’d never ask.”