The human brain is a kindly organ. When faced with extreme trauma it wipes out all memory which is why, when the couple woke up in their stationary car, they could remember nothing apart from a very large pair of headlights coming straight at them.
It was a sunny afternoon, which was strange as the last thing they remembered it had been night and there was no traffic on the normally busy road. Feeling somewhat shaken by the experience they decided to stop as soon as they caught sight of the café on the roadside, the car-park empty apart from a few motorbikes. Still discussing what could have happened but having no memory, they parked and got out, noticing a few dogs and cats wandering about. Some looked vaguely familiar.
“I desperately need..” the woman said as she pushed the door open.
“A nice cup of Red Bush!” finished the punk-Goth girl behind the counter, handing over a steaming mug. “And a lovely big latté for you, Sir.” With a mock-bow she gave the man his coffee. “Been expecting you.”
“Wait a minute! You’re… I’ve read about you…”
A hand that was laden down with heavy rings and decorated with black nail varnish thrust itself towards him and shook his. “Tink. Know who you are too!”
With a wink and a broad smile she waved them to a table as she strolled over to the old-fashioned juke-box to put on some music. Not just any music, their song. Under the table the elderly couple held hands as the strange young woman continued.
“Welcome to the Big-K Café. Don’t worry. Everyone here that YOU meet will be very friendly. You may even recognise some of them. After all, you did me!” She brought them cake and as they might have guessed, it was their favourites.
Two white mice scuttled up the table leg to join in.
“Oh sweeties! Here, let me get you some crumbs.” The woman said automatically. Like a typical cute video from social media, the mice sat up and held the cake pieces in their front paws to nibble “Oh you darlings!”
“Not so bad yourself” one replied as it wiped its whiskers with its paws.
The man’s chin nearly hit the table but the woman just smiled and held out a tentative finger to stroke the mouse’s head. It responded by scrambling up her arm to sit on her shoulder.
“So you’re Tink, the happy-endings fairy?” She mused. “I expect there’s a river out back where the otter and her friends live and if I’m not mistaken there’ll be a bridge nearby.”
Bringing refills, Tink put her head to one side and replied.
“Happy endings here, rather depends. The Big-K is a sort of truck stop. You come here to get your bearings.”
“And for you to decide if we get a happy ending.” The man added.
“You’ll decide that for yourself, in the end. When you’ve finished, why don’t you go for a walk around? Sure you could do with stretching your legs. Been sat in that car for a long while now.”
The mouse on the woman’s shoulder had appointed itself their guide. Sure enough, around the back of the café, some distance away was the riverbank world where Otter and Company lived. The woman broke down in tears and sat on the ground as the inhabitants of the world she had created came to chat to her. The man sat quietly with his arm around her, knowing that this was possibly the happiest she had ever been in her life.
“I’m you, mate” the Dog Otter nosed his arm. “Didn’t know that, did you?” The man smiled and wondered if it was otter etiquette to stroke another male. He decided it wasn’t, so just replied “Very big fish!” knowing that it was “otter-speak” for something wonderful.
Finally the noise coming from a windowless factory building became too much for them.
“Sure you want to?” The mouse asked.
“It sounds awful. What is all that screaming?”
“I can’t tell you. If you want to know, you have to go look. So how curious are you?”
The couple looked at each other and nodded.
“If there’s people in there who need help, we’ve got to go.” The man decided.
“Nobody in there needs help from you.” The mouse had become serious.
“Wait! I know. I can guess.” The woman clutched the man’s arm. “Those are human screams. Don’t you see? It’s a reversal of roles. People in there are having done to them what they did to animals. Am I right?”
“Still want to look?” The mouse sounded almost amused. “You didn’t use animal-tested products or eat meat, did you?”
“No. But I still ……………. No. I don’t want to see.”
“OK, this is my stop. I get off here. Carry on past the factory and you’ll meet some old friends. Catch you later!” The mouse had shinned down her clothing and was off across the car park.
When all the catching-up, tears and joy had finished, the couple were told to walk on. There was one last person they had to see. The field gave way to dense forest. Soon it was hard going just to walk forward. The bushes before them rustled suddenly. As a large silver-back gorilla burst through the undergrowth, the couple instinctively hit the ground, bowing their heads to avoid eye-contact and adopt a submissive position.
“Bless David Attenborough” the man whispered.
The gorilla sat on his haunches and reached out to stroke their heads. The man was the first to react and dared lift his head to smile encouragingly at the intelligent face in front of him. The dark, leathery fingers came down his face to touch his glasses.
Both of them burst out laughing. It was the most unexpected reaction from the enormous creature. The woman struggled to sit on her heels without making herself higher than the ape.
“Are you the one we are to meet?”
“Do you want to meet me?”
“Very much.” The man whispered. “I’ve always wanted to meet you, or one of your family. Always.”
“I know.” The delicate fingers again caressed their heads. “We nearly got it right with you two.”
Seeing the confusion on their faces, the ape settled down more comfortably and explained. “You humans got evolution all the wrong way around. You thought you were the highest form of life. We kept trying to correct that but you stubbornly carried on thinking that the rest of us were all here for your convenience. Some, like you two, got the message and did what you could, treated other creatures as equals.”
“So we get to stay?” The man dared to breathe his question.
“Wherever you like. Make yourselves at home, that’s where you are. You’ve come home now. Just don’t go in the factory, you don’t belong there.”
With a final pat on their faces, the gorilla rose and knuckled off into the undergrowth.
“We’ve come home. The BigK.” The man beamed.
“I know,” the woman replied. “Wonderful, isn’t it?”