At the first clap of thunder as loud as a volcanic eruption, Winston had fled the garden. The humans could stay in the rain, hail and frightening lights. He headed for the place he knew was safe. He loped and scrambled into the laboratory. The orangutan stood balancing on his heels rocking to and fro and quaking as the storm raged and rain hammered against the window panes. He was looking for a place to hide, somewhere quiet. Winston crept inside an empty cupboard and curled up into a ball.
When the storm outside had subsided Winston slowly crawled back out into the lab and stood there shaking with fear. It wasn’t over. There was a strange, uncomfortable almost sticky stillness in the air like there was more to come, so hang on. A scurrying sound inside the laboratory caused his fur began to prickle.
There was something else in the room and it wasn’t another one like him.
Neither was it a human. Winston bared his teeth and curled back his lips. His fingers flexed into claws. He moved slowly.
Around him, the banks of computers and mini-replicators hummed and blinked. In the semi-darkness, the bottles, jars, tubes and the convoluted metal frame that housed the molecular synthesizer assumed altogether different shapes than they did in daylight. They loomed and shifted in the half-light. Winston sniffed and cautiously padded towards the synthesizer control panel. Something told him he shouldn’t be here. This was where the humans locked themselves away. This was not a place for orangutans.
Something was moving behind the laboratory bench by the tall windows.
Suddenly, it appeared in a bedazzling blaze of multi coloured light. A creature about the size of a fox, with front paws like graceful human hands, stood upright on long hind legs. Its face was beautiful and timeless; its eyes were deep pools of knowledge and peace. Ripples of colour moved in bands through its body as it appeared to change shape in front of Winston’s eyes. From the sides of its body a pair of diamond bright wings sprayed with jewels suddenly emerged and began to revolve shimmering and glimmering. Winston could not tear his eyes away from the circling, hypnotic, kaleidoscopic membranes. He fell into a relaxed state, comforted by the strange being as it communicated directly with his spirit.
Then the creature spoke, or at least, it appeared to use a kind of language. A series of bell-like, glockenspiel-pure sounds poured from its mouth – or was it its mind? The words formed beautiful globes of light that hung in the air, drifting slowly like the brightest Roman candles, in every colour imaginable.
Winston knew the creature was his friend, in fact, it was more than just his friend. Winston knew that it was part of him and part of every animal there was or ever would be. It was like looking into his soul.
The magical apparition told him it was called Animus and it was the essence of all animal spirits. Animus explained in simple picture images caught within the bubbles of light that touched Winston’s skull that he was being selected for a very special purpose and that, whatever was about to happen to him, Winston must not be frightened. Animus would be with him, even though no one would see him. And he would stay invisibly linked to Winston until the events dictated by the Guardians took their course.
Winston could hear the rain pelting outside and the humans running and shouting as they battled to return to the house. He heard their urgent, worried voices approaching. Animus heard them too and abruptly vanished. The beautiful golden creature faded into the darkness just as the loudest bang Winston had ever heard exploded outside shaking the very walls of the house. The shattering thunderclap caused him to leap high into the air, jump onto the chemistry bench and clatter along it smashing equipment, bottles, glasses and jars as he went. He saw more lights, just like the ones that had hypnotised him a moment before. The voices outside grew louder, more urgent. Winston knew he shouldn’t be here. With one bound he jumped onto the molecular synthesizer and became entangled in the metal tubing. He found himself squatting at the control desk and in front of him was the keyboard of the master computer. It was blinking at him. Peaceful shapes drifted across the screen.
Crash! More thunder.
Winston screeched and began to pound the keyboard with his knuckles. Somewhere in the darkness, unseen by anyone, animal or human, Animus watched and sent out its spirit towards the ape. The soul of Animus entered Winston and filled him with mysterious sensations and understandings.
Suddenly the computer screen blazed with light. Pages of data began to scroll down the screen. Winston stared at the images. To him, they were an explosion of pretty shapes and colours that made him feel warm inside.
“Winston!” Morgan’s voice bellowed behind him as the lights burst on.
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