It began to rain yet again, as Dr. Drake, Dr. Berwick, and their crew made their way through the dense overgrowth of the tropical floor.
They rode atop a crudely built wooden cart, drawn by a tired, old horse. Even with the help of their guides forging their paths ahead of them, chopping and sawing with their machetes, the thick green vegetation seemed to almost close in around them the farther they crawled through the jungle. Where there had once been a clear path at the beginning of their journey, was now a wall of twisted vines and shrubbery.
It had been a tiring trip, travelling all the way from the United States, but they had made it this far, and for Dr. Drake, nothing was going to stop him at this point.
Dr. Joseph Drake, Joe, was the son of Dr. Lincoln Drake, the world-renowned Paleontologist, Evolutionist, and famous author of four best-selling books. He had published multiple articles and various theoretical works, and was well respected throughout the scientific community for the past thirty years.
Joe had admired his father’s work his entire life! When he was younger, all he could do was to dream of following in his famous father’s footsteps. He had read every book in his father’s library at home. He watched every video of his father’s lectures. He graduated at the top of his class at his father’s Alma Mater, Columbia University. He dreamed of working side-by-side with his dad, and his dream had come true! They had worked together on many different projects, including publishing an extremely controversial article about refuting the Garden of Eden myth, by claiming that the real Adam and Eve, were really apes, ancestors of the Western Gorillas, and that the Garden of Eden was actually in the jungles of the Congo.
Joe brought with him, Dr. Melissa Berwick; Mel. She was an Anthropological Linguistics Professor and had met Joe at the University. The two had become very close in the past two years, ever since Joe’s father had disappeared.
Dr. Lincoln Drake, Link, went missing on what was first believed to be just a routine jungle expedition in the far Western edge of Zaire; Now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He was “in the midst of making a monumental announcement” according to his last email to his son. He had stated that he had “discovered a world changing breakthrough,” and it “was going to change all of the history books!”
When he hadn’t arrived back from his trip on his scheduled return date, his son found himself in a whirlwind of chaos, and a gut-wrenching reality that maybe his father had somehow met with foul-play.
Joe’s mother was ill, fighting a quiet yet deadly form of cancer. He was not able to leave her at the time his father first went missing, so he spent hours on phone calls, and Skype, speaking to local officials, trying to track down his father’s last movements. There were strange pieces of the story that were not adding up, and ultimately, the last time his father had been seen, was at his make-shift lab about sixty kilometers inside the western section of the designated zone; An area set up specifically for animal study and conservation efforts.
After his mother’s funeral, Joe began preparations to go to the jungle to find his beloved father.
Now, they were here, finally, and Joe was grateful that his best friend Mel was by his side. She began as his co-worker and associate, and later became his comforter, lover, and now fiancé. The two were not going to leave that place without knowing what had happened to dear Dr. Lincoln Drake.
Drenched, yet hopeful, they only had a short distance remaining in their journey. The doctor’s camp was known by the locals, and by all accounts by the people that spoke about him, he was a very well liked, and a very well-respected man.
There were always tensions in the area, the rebellion activities, the poachers, the traffickers, Joe’s father was well aware of the dangers he faced, as did Joe himself; However, the last information he was able to gather, did not give him any reason to believe his father would have been a target of any of those groups. Still, Joe had to acknowledge the various possibilities of what may have happened to his dad.
"Daar voor! Daar voor!" Shouted one of the guides.
Joe and Mel, realizing they had reached their destination, began to gather their packs, bags, and equipment and prepared to disembark the crude, four-wheeled chariot they had been on for the last five hours.
They arrived at the tent, still intact, and were greeted by a short dark man, named Soobee.
“Welcome Mr. Dr. and Miss Dr.! My name Soobee! I help take your things, is okay?!”
As Joe and Mel approached the tent they could see it had been well taken care of. Joe had spoken to a local reservist when his father first went missing, who had assured him that they would do their best to keep the lab as it was left by the senior doctor. Joe could tell that they had kept their word. After two years, it was remarkably clean and tidy inside.
The two decided to rest up a bit before delving into their search. They were treated to a small but delicious meal prepared by their new helper, Soobee. A beautiful plate of locally grown acai berries, some passion fruit, a variety of nuts, and some exotically seasoned dried fish. It was a welcome change from the cold broth and stale tea they had been sipping on during their ride in.
As they dined, Soobee gathered several notebooks and presented them to Joe. “Soobee go now.” He pointed outside to a small single man yurt. “You need Soobee, you call Soobee,” he smiled with a big, beautiful and sincere grin. He respectfully put his hands together and slightly bowed, as he backed his way out of the large tent, leaving Joe and Mel inside.
Joe began to review his father’s notes. Each notebook was numbered, as a guide to indicate the detailed steps he had meticulously followed. One thing about Joe’s father, he was very meticulous!
The first two notebooks seemed somewhat routine. His father was documenting standard ape behaviors. He spoke about certain social group activities amongst the younger apes, and he spoke about his attempts at interactions, and even a couple of close calls with an extremely dominant alpha male. Nothing was really reaching out to Joe, nothing life altering or spectacular.
It wasn’t until the third notebook, when he discovered something unusual.
The notebook was labeled number four. There was no number three, it appeared to be missing. Joe hastily went back through the other notebooks to make sure he hadn’t missed it. He had not, there was no number three notebook.
The other peculiar thing was that beginning with number four, instead of diary style notes by his father, there was page after page of calculations, equations, formulas, and nomenclatures. Nothing but complicated formulas that Joe knew right away was not normal. Even from the calculations he could decipher, they were frighteningly outlandish!
“Mel dear, take a look, will you?” He handed the number four notebook over, and began number five.
“What is this?” Mel was as puzzled as Joe. “Looks like a chemistry experiment.”
Number five was even more bizarre. The writing was getting more disoriented, not as neat. The formulas were shaky, some running off the edge of the page. None of this made sense to either of them.
They both fell off to sleep after several hours of reading and reviewing the strange notes left by Joe’s missing father.
When morning arrived providing a slight reprieve from the rain, Soobee was already busily preparing a warm breakfast for the couple.
“Soobee,” asked Joe, “Did you know my father?”
“Oh yes, Dr. Link very kind man. You ready, go see?”
“Go see, go see what Soobee?” Inquired Mel.
“Ahh, we go see, eat, eat, then we go see.” Soobee gently pushed their plates toward them, motioning for them to finish.
“Well, I am quite done!” Joe said as he jumped up from his chair. “I’m ready to go see!”
Not knowing what they were about to see, they eagerly followed Soobee from the tent, and through the thick greenery, and it wasn’t very far before they came upon another tent, much like Dr. Drakes lab.
A strange feeling crept up inside Joe’s stomach, and Mel, grabbed his arm, as if beckoning him to protect her. Neither of them knew what to expect, but they obediently followed Soobee inside the tent.
There, just inside, in a chair, was a midsized gorilla. He was not chained, as a matter of fact, his body language was more like that of a human. He was sitting, holding a notebook, as if he was waiting, expecting these out of town visitors.
“Welcome” said the ape, in a low, yet crystal clear voice!
Mel gasped out loud, and almost fell to the floor in shock, and had to be helped to a chair nearby, as Soobee graciously assisted her.
Joe, stood in awe, unaware that his fiancé had almost fainted next to him. He stood motionless, staring for a moment, contemplating what he was witnessing. His mind was rushing with an almost denial, that what he had just heard could actually be true. As a scientist, he had to challenge this anomaly.
“H-hello?” Barely able to utter the words, “Uh, I’m Dr. J-Joseph Drake.”
“I know who you are, I have been expecting you for quite a while now.” The primate began to rise from his seat, and extended his arm out to shake hands.
Joe could not believe what he was seeing and hearing. He stood there, waiting for a punch-line. He even looked around to see if there were hidden cameras, or some rationality to this impossible event.
“I am real” chuckled the ape, again, extending his hand for Joe to take.
Joe, hesitated for a moment, but then he made eye contact with the creature. There was a sense of calm and civility in it’s eyes, that somehow assured Joe that he was not in danger. Joe reached out, and shook the apes hand.
Mel’s panting and hyperventilating became louder, as she began fanning her face with her hands.
“Soobee, please get Dr. Berwick a glass of water,” ordered the ape, as he backed down into his chair. “Or would you prefer something stronger Mel?” He pointed at the aged bourbon in the decanter on the table.
"Now that was odd, an ape that not only speaks English, clearly, but has manners like any human, and drinks whiskey! This day could not get any stranger,” thought Joe.
His father’s messages had all made perfect sense! His father had discovered a talking ape! But, what pray tell, had happened to his father? And, how does this gorilla know Dr. Berwick's nickname?
“I think you both should have something stronger, please join me.” As the ape dispensed 3 glasses of bourbon.
“Joe, your father discovered the biggest breakthrough humanity has ever known. He created a serum, a concoction that alters recessed genes; He discovered the missing link!”
Joe and Mel both listened in awe as the ape spoke, so eloquently, so precisely…
“The serum, was one hundred percent successful!” He drank one of the glasses of bourbon, and slammed the glass on the table.
“The only problem, is that there is no reversal serum!”
“Well, perhaps Dr. Berwick and I can help to find some answers, um, I’m sorry, what shall I call you?” Joe asked as he walked to the table taking each of the remaining drinks for himself, and for Mel.
Tears came to the gorilla’s eyes, he smiled lovingly, looked up at Joe and said, “I am Dr. Lincoln Drake, your father.”
Written by Patricia
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Pictures courtesy of HQ Definition Wallpapers, and Pixabay