The Cuckoo's Progeny
18: Climbing Freaks
CopyrightÂ© 2016 Vincent Berg. All rights reserved.
“Man, where do these people live?” Gary asked, as he steered the car around another tree limb. “This area is a shambles!”
“To be fair, the roads aren’t bad. It appears they’ve suffered a microburst, a mini-tornado,” Al said, as the car rolled over another branch.
“How far away are we?” he asked his sister, traveling in the car behind them.
“We’re close. You should see them soon. We’re almost on top of them.”
“There’s a utility vehicle,” Gary said, indicating the bright orange bucket truck. “Hopefully they’ll get this cleared up before we return.”
“It’s strange they aren’t using their basket. It looks like they’re working, but I don’t—”
“Stop!” Betty shouted. “We’re here.
Al turned, looking for a nearby house. “Where?”
The only activity nearby were a bunch of kids, dancing around taunting something near the truck.
Gary pointed at the telephone pole beside the utility truck. “I’m guessing that’s who we’re looking for.”
Glancing up, Al saw one figure atop the pole, cutting away a downed tree limb, as another figure was scaling it. Neither used their bucket truck, nor any climbing equipment. Instead, they climbed using their hands and feet, their arms and legs seeming abnormally long. Yet they seemed perfectly fit for the task at hand.
“All right, we don’t have room for everyone here,” Al said, speaking to everyone else via Zita. “Pull over or move ahead. Let’s not scare these people. I’ll approach them on my own.”
“The hell you will,” Gary said, pulling over in front of the orange truck.
Getting out, Al shielded his eyes with his hand.
The kids were dancing around, shouting at the couple on the telephone pole.
“Go back to the zoo, you circus freaks!”
“No one wants your kind here!”
One figure tossed a couple small branches at the children, forcing them to retreat, which gave her partner his opportunity.
“Timber,” the figure at the top of the telephone pole shouted. A large limb fell to the ground, sending leaves aflutter and debris flying. The kids cheered, their taunting momentarily forgotten over the excitement of natural violence. The figure below, still ascending, simply shifted to the far side of the pole moments before the branch passed. It was amazing watching the two figures. They climbed with the agility of monkeys. The kids, though, were another matter, not to be denied their anger.
“You throw like you look. Like a monkey!”
Another began making primate noises, scratching his armpit and hopping around.
“I think we know what their abilities are,” Gary said, watching as the figure joined her partner, leaning out and grabbing a limb, holding it steady as the other worker cut it. The observers on the ground stood clear as the last branches fell. Instead of simply dropping them, the workers tossed them at the children, which only made their taunting worse. Despite the catcalls, the two workers finally descended.
“Can we help you?” the first asked, jumping the last five feet, landing hard, her long legs and knees absorbing the impact. “If you’re here to complain about your kids, you should corral them if you want to keep them safe.”
“No, no. We have no problem with your actions. They seem well-justified as long as you don’t injure anyone. I’ll make this as quick as possible.” Al held his wrist up as he pulled his sleeve clear.
The one figure fell to her knee as the other slid the rest of the way down the pole, slapping his chest as he hit the ground, then falling to his knee. That stopped the harassment as the kids crowded around, staring at the odd interplay between their targets and the newcomers. Al recovered his wrist, before the kids saw it.
“Come on, kids,” Kaci said, as she and Ivan herded the children away.
“Zita,” Al called, knowing she could hear him, even without speaking aloud.
Both the utility workers’ heads jerked back, their eyes widening as they stepped forward to speak to the newcomers.
“I’m Al, this is Gary.”
“Yeah, we got that already. I’m Lamar, this is my wife, Mui Chi. Are we really a dithinct subspecies?” he asked with a pronounced lisp.
“Not so much a sub-species as an entirely different people. We seem to be associated via something in our blood which controls how we respond to others and which undoubtedly accounts for your limbs and climbing skills.”
Lamar was an odd-looking man, aside from his oversized limbs. He was thin, effeminate, wore wire-frame glasses, a thin mustache and a bow tie, despite working in the field. Mui Chi was a thin, though exceptionally tall Chines woman, with long black hair tied back in a bun.
“We were always told we had an incurable growth anomaly,” Mui said, indicating them both. “The medical profession refused to believe we didn’t want corrective surgery. We’ve had to run away from multiple surgeons eager to operate over the years. I’m glad to hear someone say this is natural for us.”
“We’ll need to talk in detail to cover everything, as well as making the proper introductions. How long till your shift lets off?”
They glanced at each other, before turning back.
“We’re ready to go now, but give us another thirty minutes to finish up. We work fast, which is why we’re in high demand. Yet no one wants anything to do with us. We scare the kids, which upsets the parents, who complain to our bosses, but they want us back as soon as something goes wrong. I doubt any of these children have ever seen a circus, so they’re getting the circus reference from their parents. Frankly, there’s little keeping us here. We’ve been ridiculed all our lives, and not just by kids. Frankly, our employers would like nothing more than to see us disappear. We’re more than ready to pick up and leave.” He waved to indicate the extensive storm damage. “However, we feel obligated to finish clearing the mess. Besides, if we don’t return our truck, they’ll send the police after us—even though we rarely use it.”
“Well, we’re glad to have you, though we’ve yet to find a home. We’re hoping to discover one once we’ve found the rest of us. We already have a fairly large group.”
“All the better,” Lamar said, shaking Al’s hand. “We’d prefer a large group of new friends than a bunch of strangers calling us freaks. I think we’ll fit in perfectly.”
Eli glanced at the food offerings and scrunched his face up. “McDonalds? Really? Our funds aren’t quite that limited.”
“I’m not here for food,” Al explained, studying the patrons. “While we’re here, the rest of you should use the restrooms while you have the chance. I’m not planning on stopping again for some time.” The women glanced at each other before making their exit. Seeing someone of interest, Al wandered over. Curious, Eli followed.
“Excuse me, sir. I hate to be so forward, but could I borrow your laptop for a moment? My phone was stolen and I’m anxious to find it.”
The gentlemen he interrupted seemed surprised, but after a brief hesitation, turned it towards him. “Sure. This won’t take long, will it?”
“Not at all,” Al said, accessing the phone tracking website and typing in his ID.
“It’s not found. That doesn’t seem helpful,” their beneficiary observed.
“I agree,” Eli said, peering over Al’s shoulder.
“Actually it’s ideal. They’ve taken the bait.”
“You intended for your phone to be stolen?” the laptop’s owner asked.
“More like anticipated it. Now I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Thanks for the use of your laptop. This is actually a positive development.”
As Al and the others wandered off, the man scratched his head, burying himself in his computer again.
“You’re really into overpriced, hipster coffees, aren’t you?” Theo asked. “Isn’t it late for caffeine? It’s dinnertime.”
“We’re not here for coffee,” Al assured him.
“Is this like earlier, at the McDonalds?”