The Blackmane, the creature without a name, walks home.
He walks on two legs, as a man would walk, though he knows that he is not a man. But he is not like the other beasts, either. Those most like him, the lions, go on four feet. Four legs. He has but two legs to carry him. His other pair of limbs, his arms, do not serve him well for walking. It is uncomfortable for him to walk on four legs.
Crawl, his mind says.
Yes. That is the word. Crawl. For one such as he to walk upon four limbs would mean he has to crawl.
*I am a biped.*
He knows the word, biped. Understands the word. A two-legged animal. Like a man. But he is not a man.
Sometimes apes can walk on two legs, too. He has read about that. And bears, though he has never seen a bear, except in pictures. Bears are capable of standing on two legs for a short amount of time. But only men, only people, always stand and walk that way.
The sun is high, which means it is near the middle of the day. (Noon, his mind says.) The hottest time of the day. (Because they are near the Equator. He has read about that as well.) But neither the heat nor the blistering sun bothers him. His skin is too thick. Although the heat often makes him sleepy. The heat of the day is a good time for dozing in the coolness of his den. But not today. Today he is too agitated to sleep.
There is a herd of elephants not far away. They see him and he sees them. One flaps its ears and trumpets as he passes downwind. He will not get any closer. Elephants have no fear, because of their size. They hate predators, and they hate men. He was chased by an elephant once. It tried to catch him with its trunk and he had to use his claws. An elephant’s skin is so thick that claws do little damage.
He is too agitated to be concerned with elephants today, and they are content to let him pass.
The air is alive with a thousand different odors. He could attach a word to most of them, if he wanted to. The names of animals. Ones that are good to eat and ones that are not, and ones that are best left alone (like elephants). Or the ones that he most hates (hyenas) because of the noise that they make. Like laughter. It annoys him.
He smells lions, too. The animals that are most like him. But he is not thinking about lions.
The smell of the women at the water did not remain long in his nostrils. But it remains in his memory. The smell of the women has made him agitated. He knows one of the women. The one who sings.
“My name is Judith. Judith Mocker.”
That is what she had said to him the first time he saw her. She is older, this woman who is always singing. And she is familiar. He is not curious about her so much anymore. But the other one—
—she is young, and he has not seen her before, or smelled her scent. She has not been here long, then. Her scent has made him agitated.
Did I frighten her? he wonders.
The woman who sings had said that he frightened them. But he has gotten close to the old woman before and she was not frightened. The women with black skin are always afraid of him. He understands this; he has killed a woman with black skin before. But why would the woman who sings and the other (Maribelle) be afraid of him?
He will ask them.
The creature stops outside his den. He found it here, many months ago. The smells of other animals were inside it, but he had made it his own. Now he pauses, digs his penis out of the thick patch of hair at his groin, and urinates of the ground and grass outside the opening of the den. He sprays the outer walls, the mouth of the small cave.
*This den is mine.*
No animal will come here. Not now, with his scent all over it. Not even the lions will cross the markings. There is something in his own scent that all the other animals seem to fear. Even the elephant looks at him with a wary eye.
*It is because I do not belong.*
But if he does not belong here, then where? This is his den, his home. But he is not content. And he is agitated.
The creature goes to the rear of the cave. There, on the ground behind a rock, he keeps the thing. The laptop. The instrument that allows him to speak. Joseph gave it to him and taught him to use it, then took it and brought it back to him, along with a stack of crisp white paper. And on that paper…
Beside the laptop are the books Joseph had given him. A dictionary. A Holy Bible. And the most important of them all: The Handbook For Basic Grammar Usage, Grades K-4. This latter Joseph had used to teach him how to read words on paper. Joseph had written the letters on the sand of the cave floor until the creature could do the same and understood the meaning of each one, its sound and its use.
A, E, I, O, and U are vowels. And sometimes Y.
There are other books, too. And stacks of paper that are not bound like books but are kept in folders. These are important, too. These told the creature what it was, how it had come to be. The creature had stolen these papers from the laboratory and from the bad people.
*The ones who killed Joseph.*
Now the creature desires to see his words on paper again. As he did before, when he wrote and Joseph used the laptop to put his words on paper. He had given those words to the woman who always sings.
Of course Joseph is dead now. But maybe the creature can take the laptop to the woman and she can read his words that way. If he can just get the machine to work again.
He sits down and picks up the machine, opens it. As gentle as possible, he taps the POWER button with the tip of a claw. Nothing. The screen does not blink to life. He taps other keys but no words appear on the screen. One last thought passes through the creature’s mind—dead batteries—before all thought is swallowed, drowned beneath a flood of fury. The creature roars, tearing the device in half, smashing its two parts against the walls of the den. The rage still burns, and the creature without a name pounds on the walls, the ground with his fists. His roars fill the air and, for over a mile in every direction, birds flee the branches of trees and hoofed animals break into wild, panicked flight over the grass. Baboons squeal in terror and hyenas cackle. Even the elephants shake their big ears and move off in the direction opposite that awful sound.
In the den, his rage abated, the creature gives voice to a sound that, had any man or woman been near enough to hear it, would have described as a cry of despair.