by Nicholas P. Snoek
Brother Andre watches the burly figure of Brother Boniface approaching. He is a heavy powerful man of Austrian extraction, with iron gray hair and a strong bulldog jaw. He is well travelled, and has had more experience with the people of Bhutan than the other monks. Being somewhat of a linguist, he has become the automatic intermediary for contact between the monastery and the local people.
"Brother Andre, we have a guest. A man is in the kitchen at breakfast with Brother Rudolph, and he has a letter for you."
"A letter, Brother Boniface? A letter, for me?"
"Yes, he will not give it to anyone but you. He didn't ask for you by name, but he insists the letter is to go only to the priest in charge. At least I think that's what he meant. He's a little difficult to understand, an unusual dialect."
"I see. When he is finished, please bring him to me."
"Yes, Brother Andre."
The traveller eats hungrily, with obvious enjoyment. He is a balding small man, a bit unkempt, and dusty from the road.
When he meets Brother Andre he stands and waits.
Brother Boniface translates...
"Good morning, Sir. I thank you for the food."
"You're welcome. You have a letter for me?"
"I have a letter. It's for the priest in charge. It is a private letter. No one else can see it. That's important."
"I am the priest in charge. And the letter will be private. May I know who sends this letter?"
"It is a private letter. I do not know who wrote it. A monk gave it to me. He made me promise to give it to you. No one else can see it."
When the visitor is quite certain his meaning is clear, he reaches in his ko and produces a very dog eared envelope and hands it to Brother Andre, who takes it and immediately puts it out of sight.
"Thank you. Will you wait for me to answer this letter? Would you like to rest a while before you go again?"
"No, I cannot rest. I must go. And there can be no answer for the letter. I will not go that way. Thank you. Goodbye."
With that he turns, and walks right out the gate, evidently a man with a mission, but one has the impression that whatever his mission might be it could not be easily ascertained. A fitting person to trust with an important letter.
Brother Andre goes to his study to read this missive. It is in English, and the writing, although jerky and uneven, is legible.
"14 April 1946
In December of 1940 I left my baby at the door of the monastery. When I was pregnant with this baby I was very troubled. I thought I would be better after I gave up the baby, but I was not better. I was even worse. I was raped by an apeman in March 1940. When the baby was born it was very hairy. I am not hairy. My husband is not hairy. In both our families no one is hairy, and no one is blond. So I think the apeman was the father. I have heard of this, it can happen.
I know you kept the baby, I have asked in the valley and I have seen the little boy. And I know he is not hairy now. He is almost blond, and his skin is not very dark. They told me his eyes are green. I have not seen a man with green eyes. It is worrying me what can happen with the boy. If he is part apeman he may be wild or crazy. I think you must know this so you can be careful.
Please do not try to find me, I can not help. And I do not want my husband to know this. I hope I will be better now.
He reads it several times, and sits for a time, thinking. Then he takes down several books and scrolls, and searches back and forth, comparing passages, making notes.
After about an hour of this activity he goes to the door. "Brother Guillaume!"
"Yes, Brother Andre."
"Please send Brother Boniface to see me."
A knock at the door. "Come in."
"Brother Boniface. Please sit down, this may take a while. I remember a comment you made once about apemen in this area. Can you tell me more about that?"
"Well, there are apemen in these mountains, that is well known. They exist in other parts of the world as well, in China, in Canada, in the States."
"I've just been checking, and there are a number of well attested accounts of sightings, of footprints, and of local folklore in Bhutan, Sikkim, and in Nepal. I'm not familiar with the other places. Please bring me up to date."
"I have a brother in California. He's quite an enthusiast on this subject. We write each other from time to time. I can tell you what I've been able to make out so far myself. If you need more, I can write to him for you, or give you his address. May I know why this is important just now? Is it something to do with that letter?"
"Yes. But please just give me a quick summary, for now. We will talk in more detail later."
"Alright. As far as I know there are two distinct groups of two-legged primates which are not human. They walk on two legs, like men do, never on four. One is clearly a specialized ape. He is very large and heavy, is mainly vegetarian, and he lives primarily in dense forest. People call them Yeh-teh or Abominable Snowman around here, and in western North America they are called Bigfoot or Sasquatch. The other group is much less familiar to westerners, and has mostly been encountered in Eurasia. They are smaller, more or less the size of humans, but much heavier, more muscular. In China they are known as Wild Men, but closer to the north of the Himalayas they are called Almas. Both groups are more or less nocturnal but the second group is now very seldom seen. The Almas is less hairy, more like people."
"I see. Do you know of any incidents of matings between these creatures and human beings?"
"The idea of mating seems to be involved in several kidnappings. There are six or seven cases of Almas taking women away from villages in southern Russia. In two of them they were killed for their boldness. One man was supposed to have been kidnapped by them, and he had a son from an Almas female. The son became a lama. In America there were two kidnappings in the early twenties. One was an American Indian who escaped the same day from a group of twenty or so of the Bigfeet. They only examined him, more or less. The other case was a camper who was kept by a family of them for more than a week. He thought they wanted him to mate with their young female. He fed them some snuff and got away when they got sick. I believe mating would not succeed with the larger type, but it may be possible with the Almas."
"Thank you, Brother Boniface, you've been very helpful. I will speak to you about this again. For now, please do not discuss this with the others."
It is early evening. The air is still, and the whole monastery seems at rest. Jack is in bed, sleepy but awake. In one corner of the cell his crib still sits, long outgrown. He lies on a cot now, like the monks do. Near the window opening is a small desk, especially made for his fifth birthday by Brother Joseph, a perfect little desk.
Brother Cyprios is reading by the light of a butter lamp in the adjoining room. Jack lies very still, his eyes half shut. With the keen hearing of the half asleep he can hear the rustling of the pages, and the creaking of the chair when Brother Cyprios shifts his body for comfort and light.
There is a soft knock at the door.
"Hello, Brother Andre. Please come in."
"Thank you, thank you, Brother Cyprios. I hesitate to disturb you at this hour, but I thought it best to come here to speak with you. It is quiet and private; and I think no one but you and I should know what I am about to tell you. Is Jack sleeping?"
"Yes, he went to bed some time ago, and I haven't heard a sound."
"Good. Perhaps you know there was a letter brought here today. It came from his mother. I may as well show it to you, and you can tell me what you think. Here it is."
Brother Cyprios takes the letter to the oil lamp, and with some difficulty reads it through.
"This is very disturbing."
Brother Andre takes the letter and again he puts it back in the folds of his robe.
"Brother Cyprios, there's little doubt in my mind that Jack was fathered by an apeman, probably an Almas. It seems to be the only deduction which fits all the facts, and as the mother points out, this kind of thing has happened before."
"Jack's father was an animal? His father was an ape?"
"No, no, no. His father... may have been... an ape-man. There is a difference. But you know that. Come, come, your excitement is affecting your judgement."
"I'm sorry, yes. The Almas are said to be cross fertile with human beings. But they are animals, are they not?"
Brother Andre, pacing the floor, "I don't know if they are. Let's consider some key concepts here. One is as one does. Now, as far as I can determine, none of the apemen have a distinct language. They use no tools and wear no clothes.
And you know Jack does not fit this description. Jack speaks fluently, for a five year old; he eats with knife and fork; he wears clothes. On top of that he reads endlessly."
"But he was very woolly; I was worried about that."
"Yes. Jack was a hairy baby. But that only lasted a few weeks, so we need not attach a lot of significance to that.
Now, if his mother was a native here, and from the letter it seems she likely was, and if her husband was a native also, and that seems likely too or she would not stress the boy's blond hair and green eyes, then the only way he can have such hair and eyes would be from a non-Bhutanese father.
So it seems logical to accept the only straightforward deduction, namely: Jack's father was an apeman."
"I can see no other. But that's a frightening thought. My little boy Jack, part apeman, part animal."
"Brother Cyprios, you're wandering again. Jack's father may have been not quite a man, but all indications are that Jack himself is in every way, in any discernible way, clearly human."
"It does seem so. He's even a bright child. As near as I can remember about my own and other children, Jack is actually somewhat precocious. He has a good mind."
"Exactly. Exactly. And that's why we must hide this letter, if we do not burn it, and we must lock this conversation in our hearts and minds and not discuss it with anyone. That is the wise and prudent thing to do. Do you agree?"
"Yes I do. I certainly do."
Jack has a restless night. The next morning, after prayers and breakfast, he comes over to talk to Brother Cyprios.
"Brother Cyprios, I had a funny dream last night. I was in the garden, and some monkeys came and played with me. And they talked to me!"
"Well, Jack, I guess that was a fun dream, wasn't it?"
"Yeah. But they weren't very friendly. There was one without a tail. I asked him what his name was, but he wouldn't tell me. He just looked at me, and then he walked away."
"Oh, well. We dream strange things sometimes. Don't worry about it. Let's get on with our lesson now, shall we?"
As soon as he has the chance, Brother Cyprios speaks with Brother Andre.
"Brother Andre, I'm worried about Jack."
"Well, Brother Cyprios, that's not the most surprising thing you've ever said to me. What is it this time? What has the little scallywag done now?"
"It's not what he has done, but perhaps what we have done. I'm afraid he heard us last night. Or partly heard us. He told me this morning that he dreamt about monkeys and apes, that they talked to him, and that he talked to one of the apes."
"Oh my! Has he dreamt such things before?"
"He's never mentioned it."
"Hmm. What can we do, what can we do. We must get his mind off this subject. I hope you had the insight to make little of this dream."
"I tried to divert his attention as quickly as I could. The only thing I could think of was to start his lesson right away. I think that worked alright."
"To be sure, to be sure. Good, good. You know, there's a small farm not far from here, where I believe they have some dogs. Not the usual mastiffs, a more docile breed. I'll ask Brother Boniface to see if we can get Jack a pup. That might help. Yes, that would be a good idea. It'll give him some company besides old monks. What do you think?"
"Brother Andre, I think you found exactly what we need. A boy and his dog. We should have thought of it before. I hope we can get a pup. Jack would be delighted, I'm sure."
Brother Boniface is summoned, and commissioned to procure a pup, if possible. He grumbles his way to the farm, and somewhat reluctantly receives the news that, yes, there are several pups, and the monastery can certainly have one, the pick of five. He chooses a short legged flop-eared beagle looking pup, mostly white with several large patches of brown. A pup after his own heart, sad eyes and all. He brings it to Brother Rudolph.
"Brother Rudolph, we have another mouth to feed. This will be Jack's puppy. Do you have some dishes we can use, to feed and water this little mutt?"
"Oh, I think so. It'll be a nuisance and more bother, but I'm glad for Jack. I'll keep two bowls right outside the kitchen door, so I can keep an eye on them. Jack can bring the pup over for a while till he gets to know his way around. Why don't you leave the doggy with me, and I'll take it to him."
"No, that's alright. I'll do it."
Brother Boniface promptly goes to where Jack and Brother Guillaume are practising French, and pushes the pup through the door ahead of him.
"Oh, Brother Guillaume, look, look! A little dog! A puppy! Where did he come from? Come here doggy, here pup! Come on!"
"Hello Brother Guillaume. I'm sorry to interrupt your tutoring, but as you can see, this could not wait. A boy and his dog must not be kept apart."
Jack is on the floor, hugging the squirming pup, and the two men chuckle at the sight.