“What’s happening?” squeaked Max the Meerkat as the world rushed by. He was cramped between these massive cubic objects made of wood, helpless. Max wished that he’d not had the audacity to climb up that ramp into the domain of “The Giants”. As a mere Meerkat he was not to know that this was a truck carrying an assortment of crates and other man-made items. He climbed to the side of the vehicle and looked out, only to feel giddy. The whole Earth seemed to be shaking on this dusty Kalahari road. A nightmare that went on and on. In fact the truck travelled over twenty miles before it reached a junction and slowed.
Seeing that the Giant-thing had almost halted, Max took advantage of the situation, and jumped. Needless to say he came down with a bang and rolled over a few times, but his tiny size helped preserve him from serious injury. Just. He gathered himself and turned his head to see the Giant-mobile turn and race away in a new direction.
As he watched that horrible thing grow smaller in the distance, Max comforted himself that jumping had been the right decision. Instinctively, however, he scurried under the nearest bushes. From his earliest days as a pup, his elders had drilled into him the importance of not being caught out in the open in case any birds of prey were around. So, he just rested and got his breath back. And some measure of composure.
Yet where in the world was he? Max did not even know from which direction he had travelled. These “roads” were very faintly defined even for those humans he called “Giants”. He was totally lost.
Eventually Max summoned fresh courage and climbed the nearest bare-looking tree. From there he saw an empty plain in all directions. Back down to Earth, he simply took pot luck and tried to head off in one consistent direction. When he eventually reached a broad but dry river bed, he just followed it downwards. For hours.
Then, wait, a familiar smell. Fellow Meerkat! Now he could follow his nose. Round another bush. Yes. Meerkats foraging. As he had just taken the Meerkat equivalent of a flight to another continent, Max was most relieved to find some company.
The thought struck Max, however, that he was now a “rover”. As one of the larger males in his own group, Max had seen off many a roving male. All those rovers had been trying to mate with his mum Mary, the dominant female of the group or any other fertile female they could corner. Now, though, the boot would be on the other foot. Max was not particularly looking for sex, just somewhere to be safe and secure again. But the males here would probably see him as a threat anyway.
Max made towards a group of females who were busily feeding. And sure enough four males shot into view and bound up to confront him.
“Go away, this is ‘Egghead’ territory!” snarled the leader of the pack.
Max was pleasantly surprised, these Meerkats looked somewhat smaller than him. This was not a new experience though: his own group “The Trojans” were easily the biggest and strongest Meerkats in his home area.
“Are you the Boss here?” demanded Max, showing his teeth.
“Of course you little pup.”
Instantly Max leapt upon the leader with a frenzied gnashing of jaws. Fur flew, and it was not Max’s. The leader hurriedly rolled over in submission. Seeing this, the others backed off. Max felt triumphant. If this was the leader...
“Show me The Queen!” Max demanded. Meekly, the males complied.
“There she is,” beckoned one of them, “She’s called Angela.”
“Thank you my friend,” smiled Max, and he gave the young male a playful hip-swipe. Rapidly he rubbed himself against as many males as he could, covering them in his scent in an extrovert display of dominance.
Then he went straight up to Angela and whispered, “Hello Angela, I’m Max, how’d you like some quality grooming?”
Angela looked enquiringly at the former leader.
“No need to worry about him, he’s a wimp,” Max assured her.
“I’m not, he’s my brother.”
“Oh, well, what happened to your Mate?”
“We lost him yesterday, when we were evicted from our land by ‘The Gorillas’.”
“You mean he was killed?”
“Yes, a sad day.”
“You have my sympathy.”
Max started to groom Angela delicately as they talked.
He continued, “Have you found a new burrow yet.”
“Yes, it’s just round those bushes over there. Not as good as the last place. You can tell from all these ticks on me. Would you like to see?”
“Yes, once you’ve all finished feeding.”
“But tell me, what are your plans for getting your territory back?”
“We need to tend our wounds first. We were really routed you know.”
“Okay, point taken, but when you are ready I’m willing to lead a counter-invasion.”
“Well you do look stronger than most of them, I must say, big boy. Maybe soon we’ll find out how large you are where it matters.”
She was no longer talking about war. Quite the opposite. However, she soon regained her focus.
“We Eggheads are renowned for our intelligence,” she explained, “but I must admit we could do with more muscle.”
“Well I come from a tribe called ‘The Trojans’,” replied Max, “and please forgive my arrogance, but I can offer both.”
“We’ll see. Time to go home I reckon.”
“Fine, and I’ll tell you how I got here, if I may.”
So off they went, Angela making lead-calls so that the other fifteen or so could follow. And they did.
((To be completed later)).