The Apes of the Caves
When I was younger I was taken from my family and sent to a cold gray building in Washington State in the United States. I was devastated and scared. I felt so alone without my parents and my brothers and sisters. At least I had one brother with me. Without him I would've felt even worse. The scientist wanted me for an experiment to see if they could make me talk. I was the smartest of the 15 of us that they took from our home in Asia. I did not know the other apes very well at the beginning. We lived far apart in the forest. Weeks later when I started to understand what they were saying to me I said, “hello I am an ape, and my name is Gerald.” I didn't actually use words, but my hands, the humans call it sign language.
Years went by and I became the head of the 15 original apes. I have a brother named Roy that helps me with my daily duties. Roy is smaller than I am so he can never be in charge. That's how it works with us, you have to be big to be in charge. Roys arms are smaller and his chest is less hairy than mine. My wife is named Lucy. Lucy is shy and timid around the humans but when we are alone she is a chatterbox. Lucy's hair is much longer than mine and has a red tinge in the fluorescent lights. The air inside never seems to circulate and is always too warm for us. The Institute smelled like the humans not like the forest where I am from. I missed the smell of earth and trees every day. There are 12 other apes who are my closest friends. We live at the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute in Ellensburg, Washington. The Institute is very close to Central Washington University. In 1924 there is a famous report of fighting between miners and the creature they later would name Bigfoot. I guess that was just us trying to escape the Institute.
The Central Washington University Chimpanzee And Human Communication Institute was set up as a sanctuary for chimpanzees to learn American Sign Language. The humans were very nice and humane in our treatment and they tried to improve our living conditions for captivity every day. There were only three people that we saw every day. One was an old man who always wore a hat and had hair coming out of his nose and ears. There was a tiny Asian woman who had short black hair and wore huge glasses that made her eyes look like fishes. The janitor was the third person we saw every day. He was fat and short and completely bald. The Institute was a great place for apes to live. Or at least that's what the brochure said that they sell in their gift shop. Chimpanzees are closely related to human beings and share 98.77% of the human genetic makeup. I guess it was the 1.33% that made us want to leave the Institute. The plan came together one day when a visitor to the Institute was talking to her friend and I overheard them. The bigger one said, “I can't wait for our trip to the Ape caves in Amboy next weekend” the shorter friend said, “Is this it another place like this? Are their really apes there?” The bigger lady laughed and said, “I hope so the ones here are so cute.”
After that conversation that day I started to make a detailed plan with my other apes to go there. We started swiping maps from the tourist every time they came by and eventually found one that clearly said Ape Caves on Mt. St. Helens near Hill Bridge Rd., Amboy, WA. Now that we had an address and a map with directions we just had to get there. According to the map it was 184 miles away. The caretakers had no idea we knew how to use their computers and often left us alone with them. I Googled the directions and my wife Lucy started hiding food so we could take it on our long trip. Lucy was very sneaky. She was so shy that no one thought she would ever be brave enough to steal anything. That is why she never got caught, people underestimate Lucy all the time.
Late one night we snuck out of our cages we used the sign language the humans taught us to communicate silently so we wouldn't wake up our caretakers. We snuck out of the Central Washington University's Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute and never went back.
After sneaking out of the University the fresh air outside was wonderful. We stuck closely to the main highway route out of town following the main roads until we could not see any buildings at all. The road noise frightened the younger apes. The cars and trucks were spewing foul-smelling smoke that made us ill. The first night was easy we were all so scared of getting caught that we just ran all night. We were galloping like horses. We followed the roads that the cars used so we wouldn't get lost, that was Lucy's idea, and it worked. There were 15 of us all together. All that running made us extra hungry so our food only lasted the first five days. The only thing I missed from the Institute was the smell of popcorn popping in the microwave. The janitor would sometimes feed me popcorn when nobody was looking. My son Roy wanted to steal from the humans and I told him I didn't want anything to do with humans ever again. I was going to teach them how to live off the land. I didn't know anything about living off the land but the nice lady that taught me sign language left her laptop open and I Googled it before we left. It was not a good idea to let the other’s know I did not have a clue how to be away from the Institute, it would just worry them.
I learned years later that there was a famous report about a skirmish between miners and Bigfoot. We all laughed like hyenas about it. That was just us running away. We followed the Snoqualmie National Forest Road and came up upon a bunch of miners digging in a hole. They were pretty quiet for such big humans and we didn't see them right away. Once they saw us I think they were surprised as we were and we both ran away. Anyway I guess they told some newspaper people about it and people are still looking for us in the forest.
We had walked for weeks and were now following the National Forest Road 25. I had forgotten what real trees look like. Oregon had huge green trees with leaves the color of the sun. Some of the trees were tall and thin pine trees. My favorite trees were the ones filled with the delicious bugs to eat. The air was so clean and fresh outside I felt healthy and strong for the first time since we had arrived. Once we got to Route 90 at the Swift Reservoir my son Roy said, ”hey look up there I see a sign it says Ape Caves ahead follow Yale Bridge Road!” Everyone was so excited they all started running. The sound of all of us running was deafening. The loud noises from our running made the birds fly away in every direction.
The Ape Caves were beautiful. We arrived in the middle of a sunny day. The outside of the caves were gray and brown with green foliage covering every inch. The air smelled like pine trees and sap. There were huge boulders that were gray with moss growing on them. The air seemed wet somehow even though it wasn't raining. When you breathe in the air you could almost drink it. We learned once we got there that the Ape Caves do not contain any other Apes at all. The Ape Caves are just a name humans gave the area. They are actually a two-mile long lava tube formed when Mount Saint Helens erupted about 2,000 years ago. I learned that from the information at the visitor center. The Ape Caves are one of the longest lava tubes in the world measuring 2.5 miles and are completely dark. The tour guide said that humans need to bring a very bright flashlight and the temperatures are in the low 40s, even in the middle of the summer. We had come so far and even though we were disappointed we went and explored the caves anyway. The caves were wet and cold. It felt like the temperature must have dropped 10° every few feet we walked. The glow of light from the outside went further and further away as we hiked in. The walls were smoothed and wet and smelled like rotting water. The water coming down the walls tasted like Earth and was very cold.
My wife Lucy said, “I think I found a secret tunnel.” We pushed through some heavy lava walls and sure enough there was a beautiful oasis right behind the dark walls. There were swinging trees and way off in the distance there was a pool of water. We could barely believe how lucky we were. It was so much warmer here in the oasis. The new oasis smelled like a warm summer day. We named our new home Chimp Haven. We worked really hard to build houses in the trees and gather enough berry bushes to plant food for many years to come. We pushed the secret door back and closed ourselves off from the humans forever. Many of the apes had children including Lucy and I. We built homes just like we had back in the jungles of Asia. Everybody had a job to do and we were busy all the time just trying to make a safe place to live together. I remained leader for 30 years until my son was old enough to take over the job. All of the original 15 of us and all of the new children born lived in the secret oasis for the rest of our lives. We promised each other that we would never allow our children to be taken by the humans the way we were.
I don't blame humans for keeping us in cages and trying to teach us to speak. Some of the other apes were mad at the humans and wanted to go out and hurt them. I had to work hard to keep everybody calm. The Chimp Haven was home now and I had to teach them how to be happy there. I was mad at the humans too but revenge is a slippery slope. If we went after the humans our new home would be ruined. The humans outnumber us and eventually they would win any fight. The scientist and college kids were doing what they believed was right. Sometimes humans can be so stupid. Humans are always so convinced that they are at the top of the food chain when it comes to brains but let's face it, apes are much smarter. They were actually pretty nice to us, or so they thought, but we are much happier here in the Ape Caves of Washington in our beautiful oasis all together. Every once in a while one of us will go out and let the humans think they saw Bigfoot just for fun.