A million or so years ago, a gene designated hsa-mir-3998 appeared as if by magic from the junk DNA of the hominids who eventually evolved into Homo sapiens. It became a key player in brain development—specifically creativity—and laymen started calling it “the God Gene.” Keith had been tracking this gene through the evolutionary tree, and was excited by an odd blue-eyed primate he brought back from East Africa. But immediately after running the creature’s genetic code, he destroyed all the results and vanished.
Rick and Laura’s search takes them to an uncharted island in the Mozambique Channel, home of the dapis—blue-eyed primates whose DNA hides a world-shattering secret. In a globe-spanning mixture of science, mystery and adventure reminiscent of Michael Crichton, The God Gene takes you to the edge of evolutionary theory and beyond…way beyond.
The God Gene will be available on January 2nd. Please enjoy this excerpt.
Amaury gazed up at the sheer lava wall of the mysterious little island and could only pray that the rest of this trip went as smoothly as these first two days. The waters of the channel had been placid, the current gentle, and the John Deere engine had purred like a kitten. Bakari and Razi, who often fought as only brothers can, behaved themselves. Even Jeukens had relaxed enough to exchange a few words with them—not that they cared to have much to do with an Afrikaner. The brothers spoke Portuguese, Ronga—they were Shangaans, a Bantu tribe—and could manage some very broken English. So English, by default, became the Sorcière’s lingua franca.
Its anchor had found firm footing about a hundred yards from the western shore and the ship bobbed gently in the current. Amaury and Bakari were rowing the inflatable fifteen-foot raft he’d brought along. The cargo: the ladders and the tents.
As they approached the shore, Jeukens and Razi waded out to their knees and pulled them the rest of the way in.
“The ladders,” Jeukens said, scowling. “At last, the ladders. We should have brought them first.”
So anxious to climb up and over that wall.
“And if we had, where would you be now? We would lose you to those monkeys when we need every available hand to haul our equipment to the other side.”
“I am not part of your crew.”
Amaury had anticipated this moment. Jeukens had been a client on the first trip out here. As the man who had chartered Amaury’s boat, he’d had major say in the Sorcière’s course. But on this trip he was a passenger, with no say. With Bakari and Razi watching and listening, this had to be settled here and now, once and for all. The Shangaans’ father had fought in the Mozambican civil war against South African–funded forces. He’d lost a leg to a land mine. They were naturally suspicious of foreigners. Neither Amaury nor Jeukens were natives, but Amaury’s color was on his side, and he had to show the brothers that not only was he their boss, but the white man’s boss as well.
“Ah, but in many ways you are crew. And I am your captain—onboard, and ashore while we are here. We need—what is the English expression?—a pecking order. Yes, a pecking order if things are to run smoothly. Bakari and Razi understand that. You said you did too.”
Jeukens looked as if he were about to make an angry retort. His teeth were clenched, as were his fists. But he stood silent for a moment, then he spoke.
“You are right, of course. I … I apologize. ‘Impatience does become a dog that’s mad.’”
“Yet another quote, monsieur?”
“Shakespeare. Antony and Cleopatra.”
Amaury had never read it, but at least he’d heard of Shakespeare.
“You agree that I am your captain?”
The Afrikaner nodded stiffly. “I agree.”
“Then apology accepted,” he said, surprised how easy it had been.
Of course, he knew Jeukens did not mean a word of it. But, at least on the surface, a proper chain of command had been established. He glanced at the brothers, who seemed satisfied.
“I have never been known for my patience,” Jeukens added. “And you must understand that this island is completely unexplored. For all we know, we are the first humans ever to set foot on it. Who knows what wonders wait on the other side of that wall?”
Amaury winked at Bakari and Razi. “You are thinking maybe dinosaurs, monsieur?”
The brothers laughed and elbowed each other.
“Do not make light of this, Captain Laffite. Something of enormous importance awaits on the other side of that wall.”
Yes, Amaury thought. A fortune in cutesy creatures.
“We shall know soon enough, monsieur.”
Bakari and Razi unloaded the two extension ladders, each expandable to twenty-four feet, and carried them to the base of the wall. As they stretched one of them to its full length, Amaury inspected the nearly vertical lava. After the Afrikaner’s brief trip ashore on their first voyage, Jeukens had said the wall was not climbable. Amaury had taken him at his word and was glad of it. The lava was peppered with tiny pocks, worn almost smooth by eons of wind and weather. The vegetation that studded its surface clung precariously, offering no useful handholds.
Ladders were the only way up.
The brothers leaned an extended ladder against the wall with its top rung ending just shy of the rim. Jeukens stepped toward it but Razi was quicker, darting in front of him and clambering up the rungs like one of the primates Amaury intended to capture.
With Bakari steadying the ladder from below, Razi hoisted himself up to the rim and rose to his feet. For a few seconds he stood with hands on hips, staring into the caldera, then he turned, wide-eyed, and began babbling in Ronga. Amaury had picked up some Ronga during his years in Mozambique, but Razi was rattling too fast for him to understand.
“What did he say?” he asked Bakari in Portuguese.
“He says it’s full of trees.”
Excellent. Many trees meant many primates.
Jeukens reached again for the ladder up but Bakari blocked him.
Ah, yes. The pecking order. Normally Amaury would have allowed Jeukens to go, but because of the Afrikaner’s earlier challenge, he grabbed the rungs and ascended.
Soon enough, though, all four of them were standing on the rim, staring in fascination at the canopy of green. Well, three of them, at least. Jeukens seemed more interested in an area about ninety degrees to their left along the circular rim.
“Do you see something we do not, mon ami?”
Jeukens stiffened, then relaxed. “Just looking for signs of the primates.”
Why over there? he wondered. Why not directly below? Did the Afrikaner know something he was not sharing?
“No sign of a single one yet.”
“Let us hope that changes once we are inside … which should not be too difficult to reach.”
The inner slope of the wall was much gentler than the outside, with larger vegetation, even a small tree here and there making itself at home on the incline. The climb down looked easy, but it appeared to be a lot farther than twenty feet.
They began the arduous task of hauling up all the supplies and equipment—food, water, tents, Coleman stove, all the traps, and one cage—on ropes. The task was made somewhat easier by using the second ladder as a skid, but with no shade on the rim, and no clouds to shield them from the blazing tropical sun, they’d all soon soaked through their shirts.
By early afternoon, everything was arranged on the rim. Razi broke out bottles of water and protein bars. As they rested and let the westerly breeze cool them, Amaury felt a nudge. He glanced up to see a grinning Bakari pointing toward the caldera.
Amaury almost dropped his water bottle.
The leafy canopy was alive with little blue-eyed primates, clinging to the swaying upper branches as they stared at the newcomers. Some were as close as twenty-five feet.
“These are the lemurs we trap?” Bakari said.
No, not lemurs, but Amaury didn’t correct him—at least not yet. People all over the world were going to make that mistake. And that would be fine at first. The eyes would sell them. But Amaury would also whisper that his little pets were being intensely studied because they were suspected of being the missing link. If Jeukens ever published the connection, excellent! If not, so what? The mere possibility that someone might own the missing link would drive up the price.
Soon all four humans were staring back, though Jeukens seemed the least impressed.
“How many you see?” Razi said.
Bakari waggled his finger in the air in a show of counting. “Many hundred.”
“And they don’t seem the least bit afraid,” Amaury said.
“Why should they be?” Jeukens said with a shrug. “We don’t pose any obvious threat.”
Razi grinned. “Not yet.”
Jeukens waved his arm over the canopy. “Right now they’re kings of their little castle. I’ll bet they have no predators on this island.”
“No big cats or snakes?” Amaury said.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they killed them off ages ago.”
“Killed? They are little monkeys.”
“They’re also smart and adaptable.”
A group of five primates—three males and a female with a baby clinging to her back—cautiously moved to within a dozen feet. Bakari broke off a piece of his protein bar and tossed it their way in a high, gentle arc. The one with the baby snagged it out of the air with a one-handed catch. She sniffed the fragment, took a tiny test bite, then screeched. It must have been a happy screech because the other three immediately began fighting for it.
“This is going to be easy, mes amis,” Amaury said, raising his palm. “So easy!”
He and the brothers exchanged high-fives while Jeukens simply stared at the creatures.
“We’re back in the lemur business!” Razi said in Portuguese.
“Lemurs?” Jeukens said. “Did he say ‘lemurs’?”
“Yes. They are called the same in English and Portuguese.”
“They are not lemurs,” Jeukens said. “You know that.”
“Then what?” Bakari said. “Big eyes…”
Amaury shrugged. “No one knows.”
“What we call them?” Razi said.
“I propose we call them dapis,” Jeukens said. “They resemble an extinct species called adapiform primates. We can shorten that to dapi. That is, if no one objects.”
Dapi … Amaury liked it. Easy to say and easy to spell meant easy to sell. A cute little name for a cute little creature. Perfect.
“Dapi it is.”
Copyright © 2018 by F. Paul Wilson
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