Andoval Menkoff, Chief Documenter of Natural Proceedings for the Royal Court, was unsure if he was up to the task given to him by the Minister of Natural Affairs. It seemed simple enough in concept; document the day to day goings on of the Mothran living in the Royal Menagerie. However, with such vague guidelines, Andoval felt horribly overwhelmed. Was he to sketch out an entire day of activity? Go minute by minute, second by second of what the Mothran were up to? Was he supposed to analyze their lifestyle in a broader sense?
Such was the way of complex bureaucracies like Natural Affairs. Somehow this order had made its way down the long chain of command from Her Royal Highness to him and he didn’t understand its meaning in the least. “The day to day goings on” for goodness sake. But Andoval was nothing if not determined and curious, a dangerous mix for a bureaucrat, but then he imagined himself more of a naturalist than a bureaucrat.
“You’re sure I’ll be perfectly safe?” Andoval asked one last time. The beast keeper laughed.
“Nothing’s perfect, Mr. Menkoff,” she replied. Andoval swallowed hard and nodded.
With documentation instruments ready, he entered the sanctuary that held the last family of Mothran in the entire world, a group of maybe a dozen individuals. The enclosure was kept at a comfortable temperature with a reasonable amount of space for walking, flying, laying about, whatever activity the inhabitants felt like indulging in. It was early morning, and so a majority of them were waking from a restful sleep.
“Greetings. Good morning to you fine, um, creatures,” said Andoval. The Mothran closest to him stared at him blankly. The rest ignored him. “Um, I am Andoval Menkoff. By order of her Royal Highness I will be, uh, observing you for the foreseeable future. Yes.”
A lone Mothran, a young pup by the look of him, slowly fell to the ground toward Andoval. His wings were fully developed, but he was thin and scrawny and had yet to ripen into an adult physique. He must have been newly pupated.
“Who are you?” the Mothran asked.
“Andoval. Menkoff. I’ve already told you,” said Andoval.
“That is your name. But who are you?” asked the Mothran.
“I, uh, am the Chief Documenter of Natural Proceedings of the Court of Her Royal Highness Cynthianne Cursta…”
“That is your title. But who are you?” asked the Mothran.
“I think you misunderstand the question you are asking, for I don’t know how else to answer you,” said Andoval.
“I understand perfectly. Maybe it is you who do not understand. ‘I don’t know’ is a perfectly reasonable answer if that be the truth,” said the Mothran.
It was well spoken for such a young creature. They generally had trouble enunciating the common tongue for their mouth structures were so radically different from that of humans. Yet this one had but the slightest hint of an accent. It left Andoval perturbed.
“Well then, perhaps I shall ask who you are,” Andoval asked, wiping sweat from his brow.
“My name is Kreeachipustyvanoflynngiwanko. I do not have a title right now. I am too young for that. The rest of who I am is impossible to know until I’ve grown. That is all,” said the Mothran.
“I see. Do you perhaps have a shorter name I could call you?” Andoval asked.
“If it is easier for you, you can call me Ipus,” said the Mothran.
“Well, Ipus, it seems your kind have a slow start to the day,” Andoval said, motioning to the sluggish Mothran lazing about the enclosure. “Nearly Halfday by now and still sleeping.”
“Mothran are nocturnal by nature,” said Ipus.
“Oh. But then, why are the lights so bright in here?” asked Andoval.
“You would have to ask the beast keepers. I do not know. My guess would be that they want us to be well lit so we can more easily be seen by whoever comes to visit,” said Ipus. Andoval nodded. The sanctuary didn’t seem so luxurious anymore.
“Maybe I can have a chat with the beast keepers later if time permits,” said Andoval.
“That is a nice gesture. Why have you come to observe us?” asked Ipus.
“Inquisitive, aren’t you? I’m here by order of the Queen, like I said,” Andoval replied.
“Yes, but why?” asked Ipus.
“I suppose because she is curious about your kind. You all are disappearing slowly and may soon be gone. The record of your kind is surprisingly sparse in the Royal Archive and so I will be supplementing it. Besides, it is a rare opportunity to study a thing on the brink of extinction. If only the Machia Bird or the Pyranos Hog had been studied in such a manner, a great deal would not have been lost about their nature. Oh look at me drivel on and on. I’m supposed to be working,” Andoval said with a chuckle. Ipus did not reply. Instead he nodded and flew away.
The rest of the day went by uneventfully. Andoval finished his notes quickly and found himself bored out of his mind. The beast keeper shift changed twice by the time night fell. Andoval packed his things and noticed that the light in the enclosure did not dim when the sun finally set. Instead they only seemed to grow brighter.
“Good sir,” Andoval said, calling for a nearby beast keeper. The beast keeper on duty spit on the ground and shuffled over to him.
“Wut,” he said.
“Do these lights ever go off?” Andoval asked.
“No,” the beast keeper replied.
“I see. Why is that?” Andoval asked.
“Cuz,” the beast keeper shrugged.
Before Andoval could ask another question he was already shuffling back to his post. The night passed slowly as Andoval had trouble getting to sleep in the cot they’d set up for him near the sanctuary and it wasn’t just because of all the lights. His mind was alight with questions, but the answers would have to wait for morning.