Animal Dilemmas – Gibbon Butterflies

short story about journey

Short Story


The cloud of butterflies delivered the Bull’s soul to the appropriate authorities and promptly returned to earth for their next celestial errand. They traveled south for many days above the clouds before they descended to the warm green spans of the savanna. They were guided by an invisible thread, a never failing compass that showed them the way to the next animal due to switch worlds.

The Gibbon was not concerned with the world outside of its immediate needs, which boiled down to edible fruits and sturdy branches to swing from. The monkey woke early and stretched its arms from the stiffness of a good sleep in the tree tops.

The Gibbon was young and reckless. Its first mating season was still due to start in two months. The older members of the tribe were slow and lethargic. They were content sitting on the same tree all day, chewing on dry fruit and watching the next generation play on the high branches.

The young Gibbon didn’t want to eat dry fruit. It wanted the freshest delights the trees had to offer and it knew to get them it had to travel far. Traveling meant danger; giant hunters, lions and other beasts had their own agendas and most of the time it involved blood.

The Gibbon had not faced many difficulties in its life so far so it was overly optimistic. The monkey was successful on most occasions it had tried to steal  fruits  from smaller monkeys and birds. It never had that thought that its success was based on the size of its opponents and battles.

Every gibbon in the tribe has heard of the fertile patch of trees in the middle of the savanna. The leafs were greener and there was so much fruit that most of it fell to ground and rotted to waste. The trick was that no monkey could make it there because this island of plenty was surrounded by nothing but an open grassy plain teeming with beasts of every kind. Any gibbon that has attempted the trip has never returned. A few had made it there and sent news by a bird.

The Gibbon decided to leave its comfortable existence and aim for an upgrade. It knew the direction in which it had to go, it hopped from tree to tree until there were trees no more. It stopped for moment at the edge of the safe zone and jumped to the ground.

The monkey ran among the tall dry grasses as fast as it could. There was no path. For the first few days, it didn’t see many other animals. A few gazelles and zebras grazing peacefully in the distance reassured it that no dangerous beasts were in close proximity.

The Gibbon had to sleep in the unprotected low bushes because the landscape lacked trees. Only one night it was lucky to come across a lonely, leafless tree in the middle of the savanna. Some of the branches were bloodstained, indicating to the Gibbon that wild cats favored this tree to drag their pray up on it and have a lofty feast. So the Gibbon didn’t get much healthy sleep that night.

The rest of the crossing went uneventful until the monkey caught site of the promised fertile patch of trees. It had traveled for many days across open lands full of danger and had ate little. But with the finish line in sight, it was given a boost of energy and the monkey made for promise land in a straight line.

This excitement had clouded its judgement, for the Gibbon ran in the open plains and did not look sideways. A stone’s throw away from the first tree, a lurking lion emerged and made for the monkey with incredible speed and brut force. The Gibbon’s blood froze instantly. The monkey leaped up to the nearest branch and the lion leaped to intercept.

Both animals were in the air. The lion’s front claws ripped troughs monkey’s back. The Gibbon felt sharp pain but caught to the branch and the adrenaline dulled its wounds enough to climb all the way to the top. Lions don’t like to climb, so the beast accepted the loss.

The Gibbon rested between two branches, blood dripping down to the ground. It reached for a giant, fresh green fruit and smiled the best it could.

The cloud of Butterflies was not late. Minutes later they gathered hovering over the tree observing the monkey eating the fruit. One of them landed on the Gibbon, then another and another. But before all of them could land the Gibbon swept across his body with his good hand and chased them away. The Butterflies flew up and away, and eventually vanished.

The Gibbon was not ready to go. It pulled all its strength and ate all it could eat until it recovered completely in a few weeks. When its strength was back the monkey explored the fertile trees. Not many animals lived in those trees. A few lonely and nervous monkeys kept their distance. Mostly birds munched away on the plentiful fruits.

On the ground in the shadows of the trees was a lion’s nest. So one wrong step or miscalculated leap meant certain death. The Gibbon could see white skeletons littering the ground under every tree. Anyone who made it here eventually grew old and tired and slipped to the ground.

The Gibbon was optimistic, it was young, strong, it had survived a lion attack so it chose to believe that the universe was protecting it. It flew in between trees with incredible speed and accuracy. It feasted on the giant supple fruits and paid no heed to the lions bellow. It found a comfortable lodging in the highest tree and never looked down, only around to the endless landscape of possibilities.

One fine morning the Gibbon was perched on the strong branch and enjoyed the cool air. When a deafening sound filled the air. The Gibbon felt a shape pain in its left arm and blood started dripping.

The monkey was lucky that Ernest Hemingway was hangover and had just missed its heart. The gibbon swayed gently and collapsed stuck between two branches.

The Butterflies descended once again. A giant climbed the tree but before the man could reach the monkey a bored lion leaped up and tumbled him down. The man died on the claws on the beast. Hemingway fired at the wild cat several times until the animal ran way.

The Gibbon was awoken by the shots and chased the Butterflies away, reached with his good hand for a fruit and began a slow recovery.

Many weeks later the monkey recovered but its spirit was broken forever.




all stories: Animal Dilemmas

photograph by Thomas Tolkein


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