Chapter 1: Erin and the Malmagni
I had turned my back for only a moment.
Tog, our pet adibadi, distracted me with a spate of mischief. He discovered in our garden a small nest of dracos, those rare, exquisite, truffle-like delicacies that grow when they want, where they want and within an unpredictable, infinitesimal window of time. To find a nest of dracos is to find a little pot of gold.
And there stood Tog with the first nest of dracos our garden had produced in half a year. I could see them clinging to the underside of a rock he held in his large, dexterous hand. He stood upright, almost as tall as me, far on the opposite side of the garden.
Instinctively, I shouted at him. “No, Tog! No!” I had a singular burning focus: to save my treasured dracos from an ignoble consumption.
Tog is an adibadi, cousin of the primate species from which we, libera sapiens, evolved. They’re a wonderful animal with a near perfect spectrum of qualities. Adibadis are large and strong, yet nimble with their hands and fingers. But adibadis are not just animal helpers (guilt-free slaves as those who spread rumors of us like to call them), they are loyal playmates of the children and loving members of the families with whom they live. Adibadis are highly relational and possess many of our qualities. Perhaps this is because adibadis very nearly became us, half a million years ago.
“Tog, no!” His hunger for the dracos had fully over-powered him, and in a single, elegant, almost choreographed movement, he scraped the dracos from the rock,… dropped the rock to the ground,… opened his mouth wide,… and with both hands, remorselessly gobbled my precious dracos.
The treasure was his.
“Tog!” I scolded indignantly. “Bad! Bad with the dracos!”
Never had I been angry at Tog. Even though he was still very young, he was a perfect gardener who never in two and a half years retrieved anything but weeds and the foods we asked him to harvest. He was flawless at all of his chores, and most importantly, he was gentle with our daughter Erin — insatiably curious, but very gentle. Tog was an exceptionally trained adibadi.
I turned back toward Erin, almost a year old, who slept on her blanket, angelic and oblivious to our ruckus.
And then it happened.