Green Hills Literary Lantern

Discovery Channel

 

 

8:00pm

At a Super 8 in Sacramento the killer whales are playing with their food. The seals are so cute and cuddly pleasuring on the pebbly shore, sunning their spotted bellies, making love along the Patagonian Sea. There’s sand in their whiskers.

Suddenly a six-ton orca torpedoes onto the beach. It rides the rolling waves through a deep sea channel, bursts from the shallows in an explosion of foam and water, snatches the baby seal in its massive jaws, snaps its back, takes it out beyond the surf and thrashes and drowns it till its dead six times over, then smacks the pulverized lump thirty twirling yards into the heavens with its powerful tail.

The seal soars like a bottle rocket through the stark-gray sky of the Valdes Peninsula, cracks down in the water like a sack of grain. In time another orca comes along. The two get together and whack the seal back and forth. They play a game of pass. An hour later the leisure loses its thrill, and the young whales abandon their kill the way little boys leave their footballs lying in the yard. The sea settles down; the whales swim away; and the listless, lifeless pup sinks softly to the bottom. 

Out of all the orcas in the world only seven are known to kill for amusement, and all seven belong to the same pod.

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9:00pm

The Americans have a new gun. It looks like an igloo.

The igloo fires 16,000 rounds a second and can tear to shreds an approaching convoy of high-armor tanks in less than a minute. Of course this is strictly an incoming-missile-harming igloo—a keep-you-save-from-harm igloo. But if the situation should ever arise the igloo can be attached to the bottom of a fighter jet and made to drop its incoming-missile love on enemies of democracy.

Of course the Russians are not easily outdone. They have a new gun, too.

It’s the first automatic rifle with an adjustable barrel that can be fixed to a ninety degree angle so Russian soldiers can kill things in blind corners. The gun has completely eliminated the need to walk into a room to kill people. Now the soldier simply wraps the barrel around the doorway and opens fire on that mortiferous part of the room.

Experts in the field of human extermination are confident the gun will drastically reduce the number of civilian casualties; and just to be sure the rifle is attached with an ultra-advanced, infrared video camera so soldiers can be sure they are only killing the humans they are supposed to kill.

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10:00pm

Translocated monkeys are attacking the locals in India. The element of human scare being absent in these monkeys, they tend to be aggressive and brutally attack people, children especially.

The monkeys pose a serious threat to their area of translocation. They carry with them the typical strains of diseases, pathogens, and deleterious substances, and a decrease in the number of certain jungle fowl has accelerated as their nests are raided by these monkeys and their eggs consumed.

The Delhi natives are afraid. The monkeys demand food, damage phones, destroy electricity wires. They break into homes, sneak in through open windows, eat infants while they sleep. The people are scared to leave their houses. They only go out if they don't see a rhesus monkey. Even then they carry heavy sticks and kitchen knives.

They don't feed their babies on their balconies. They've stopped making pickle. They can’t dry papad or clothes on their terrace. It’s all science’s fault. Haphazard trapping of individual monkeys for biomedical research led to chaotic fissioning within the community. Monkeys formed single units for better safety. These subgroups required more space from each other. The monkeys lost their community spirit.

In the holy city of Vrindavan, the devout have been feeding monkeys for centuries; some cults have even turned them into sacred cows. But simian aggression has gone too far. Holy or not, all monkeys must go. Petitions for monkey translocation pile up. The people demand action. But nobody wants these ghastly monkeys. Forest officers don't want them. Zoos don’t want them. Other countries don’t want them. Even biomedical researchers don’t want them. Nobody loves the goddamn monkeys; and the goddamn monkeys don’t care a bit.

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11:00pm

Akmad Hussein is in charge of trafficking dead bodies from the Tigris to the grave. The bodies float down the Tigris from the city of Baghdad and wash up on the banks, most with no papers, some with no limbs, faces.

The bodies are bloated and swollen from where the river has seeped in through the bullet wounds. The water-logged corpses are a mix of Sunni and Shiite and occasionally some Kurdish. Slaughtered, decomposed, many bearing signs of supreme torture, they are taken to a country hospital, a shanty, where workers try to restore some dignity to the remains. The final ceremony is brief. The gravediggers recite a prayer. The bodies are buried without family claims.

At sundown Akmad stands on the banks of the ancient watercourse.

“For six millennia the Tigris nurtured us. Our people drew their water from it, their food, the children played in it, we traveled on it. Now the cattle won’t bring their lips to it. Now it gives us diarrhea and dysentery and kidney stones. This was God’s river once. Now everything in God’s river is dead. It runs straight from hell and back into it. The only fish you catch are the ones already floating. The only thing in our nets is garbage and human pieces.”

He speaks with his fist by his mouth. His dried-up, withered face looks like the complete history of man’s inhumanity to man. The next morning brings a naked fisherman with his wrists and ankles bound, and I nearly fall asleep as workers pull him from the mud and kneel over his pelvis to better examine the cigarette burns on his testicles.

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12:00am

Dark times for the black-footed ferret. The deadly sylvatic plague has brought medieval woe to a huge prairie dog town in the grasslands of the badlands of South Dakota. The prairie dog is the main prey of the ferrets, and the sweeping disease has killed a third of the area’s population. The plague is carried by fleas and has the capacity to take out more ferret habitat than anything ever encountered. “It’s the most challenging issue ferrets have ever faced,” warns an expert on issues facing ferrets.

These black-foots were once considered extinct. But a colony was discovered in Wyoming in 1981, and a captive breeding program succeeded in increasing their numbers. Since then, ferrets have been reintroduced at 17 sites in South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana and Mexico. Of course reintroduction efforts have failed in some locations, and plague has hit most of the ferret colonies to some degree. But establishing reintroduction sites helps protect a population from being wiped out by superior forces.

“It's the old risk management approach,” says the federal wildlife official tasked with saving all ferret-kind. “Spread the weak among many baskets.”

****

1:00am

I turn off the television and go to the window. I want to look out at the world where all these things are happening. There’s never much out there from here. Always just a parking lot. An old man under a cone of streetlight, getting something from his trunk. The night clerk having a smoke by the juniper shrubs.

What is that sad, dead serenity staring out of motel windows? Beyond the parking lot a great and wondrous world is destroying itself with lunatic splendor, but there’s hardly any sign of that here. One can hardly imagine a bomb or plague or six-ton orca wasting it’s time in Sacramento. Where is my Baghdad? My shanty morgue? My torment of rhesus macaus? This is a very pleasant place indeed. But oh, if it were otherwise, if only for a moment, why then my blood would flicker and kick, and I shouldn’t lose anymore sleep.

The air-conditioner comes on. The air coming out smells like sanitized piss.

In the morning there will be mini packaged pastries, 2% milk from a silver udder, warm old fruit, English muffins, Styrofoam bowls; a box-and-tap that pours the proper amount of corn flakes.

 

 

 

 

Timothy Marsh is a folklorist currently completing research at Memorial University, Newfoundland. His work has appeared in a variety of literary and academic journals including, The Crab Orchard Review, The Oregon Literary Review, The Newfoundland Quarterly, and The Nashwaak Review, among others. He has served as Managing Editor for the Foreign Language Institute at Yonsei University, Seoul, ROK, and was the recipient of the Galway Writing Fellowship in 2005.