Witness

I secured the day off work, so that I would be around for the call from the police. Mum kissed me on the hair before going to her own job.


“I could stay, if you wanted me to.”


“It’s fine,” I assured, shaking my head. “I’ll be fine.”


Mum and Dad left for work. Later in the afternoon, at 1:30pm to be precise, would be the TAG meeting, but until then I was on edge, knowing that the call could come at any stage from the police. No matter how much I’d been waiting, the ringing of the phone still startled me.


“Hi, Jumilah Fioray speaking.”


“Hello, Jumilah.”


The police officer told me what was going to happen. He told me that he wanted me to tell him the story of what had happened, when my grandfather died, and he’d ask questions as needed. While he introduced himself, I don’t recall what his name was.


“We were out in the sanctuary, my grandfather and I. I’d just arrived from Australia so he was taking me to show me the animals. We can walked down from the house, so we turned left, I think, the enclosures are that way.”


I closed my eyes, to remember, because I couldn’t forget.


“It was windy. I could hear thunder, there must have been a storm coming.”


“Did you see any lightning at all?”


“No. Not that I remember, at least.”


“Which was the first exhibit you came across?”


“The siamang enclosure. It was straight ahead of us.”


“How many animals are kept in that enclosure?”


“Two siamangs. There’s a male and a female. The male kept close to the mesh. I went closer, to look at him, but then he swung away.”


“Still within that enclosure.”


“Yes.”


“Where was your grandfather?”


“He must have been behind me.”


“Could you still see the siamang?”


“I’m not sure. I went back towards my grandfather. It was starting to rain, and that’s when I heard the gunshots.”


“How many?”


“Three. There were three gunshots.”


“What direction were they coming from?”


“From the direction of the road in, I suppose.”


“Did you see your grandfather shot?”


“I saw him falling. He was shot in the chest.”


“Did you see or hear any assailants?”


“No, I could hear the animals. I went down to the ground and crawled over to Kakek.”


My hands moved on top of one another, as my torso heaved with my increasing heartrate.


“He didn’t die straight away. I know, he was reaching for me, then he told me that he loved me. Then I screamed.”


“Was that before or after your grandfather was speaking?”


“Actually, I screamed before he told me that he loved me.”


I swallowed hard, to pull myself together.


“It was raining harder by then. Then I heard footsteps. I started trying to drag his body and I screamed again. Then someone turned up, Mohammed turned up, and my grandmother. She moved me aside.”


“Mohammed works at the sanctuary with your grandparents, is that correct?”


“Yes. I’d first met him that day. My grandmother sent me back to the house for towels and I ran back to the house. It had gone went by then. Then I could hear the siamangs, about the time that I got back to the house. I got some towels from the bathroom and the medical kit, then I ran back. He must have died while I was gone.”


The sob finally choked out of me.


“I’m sorry. I wish that I could tell you more.”


The phone call ended with the police officer telling me that they could call again if they had more questions. I thanked him, even though I dreaded the idea. Considering that I had a little bit of time before the primate TAG meeting, I wandered out to the letterbox. White envelopes bulged out. I collected them and went back inside. The air in the house was much cooler, and I firmly shut the front door behind me to trap it. I wandered through into the loungeroom and dumped the mail on the kitchen table. Walking over to the lounge, I lay down until it was time for the primate TAG meeting. I do think that this brief period of time being horizontal did make me more equipped to concentrate when I sat in front of the computer and logged in through the link Reuben had emailed me. He was already there, chatting, along with two women I didn’t recognise.


“Hello, Jumilah,” Reuben greeted me. “Isobel, Angelique, this is Jumilah, Jelita Calang’s granddaughter, she’s going to be join us for the meeting today, just sitting in to learn.”


“Thanks for having me.”


The regular crowd joined in. Christine commenced the meeting, recorded the attendance and the apologies – including Don from Adelaide, with Isobel the proxy in his place, then she handed over to Angelique for the first item of the agenda. I’d not met Angelique before, but she spoke with a squawky New Zealand accent.


“I’m reporting on a recent case of uterine adenomyosis in one of our female orang-utans.”


Angelique shared her screen, so that we could all see her PowerPoint slides, featuring images.


“Indah is a forty-three-nine-year-old Sumatran Orang-utan born in the UK. She was imported to New Zealand seventeen years ago.”


I thought that Indah had a friendly face.


“She has had four pregnancies, a stillborn female in 2007--.”


“Was there a cause of death for the stillborn female infant?”


“We weren’t able to determine a cause.”


Angelique changed the slides, which outlined Indah’s reproductive history. She then gave birth to two female infants, followed by a male, who is only five years old.


“Following that last birth, Indah experienced heavy menstrual bleeding, which was identified by our keepers and vets.”


“Was there any gap between that birth and the commencement of the bleeding?”


“Yes. It wasn’t noticed for about six months after the birth. We were able to rule out any potential uterine prolapse.”


“Right, thanks.”


There was a part of me which didn’t like that Reuben was asking so many questions. It’s rude to be always interrupting, but Angelique genuinely didn’t seem to mind having the details mined for more. My grandparents used to care for orang-utans, but I don’t really remember them.


“Indah, the female, was being housed with her three offspring, separated from the male.”


That ruled out the possibility of another pregnancy or miscarriage.


“We performed pelvic examinations on a routine basis, before deciding that we needed to perform surgery.”

“Was the intention of the surgery to be diagnostic?”


“Yes. We wanted a good outcome.”


I realised that I didn’t know the end of this story. While I wanted to skip ahead to the end of the PowerPoint presentation, I couldn’t, all I had to do was wait for Angelique to finish telling this story. That was the only way in which I could learn Indah’s fate.


 

Jumilah Fioray is a recent high school graduate from lutruwita, Tasmania. Her parents, Catherine and Adriano Fioray, met at the University of Melbourne in the 1990s and returned to Hobart after finishing their degrees, where they raised their daughter and worked in agriculture. Jumilah's passion for conservation reflects her grandparents' work running a sanctuary in Sumatra.


Abbey Sim is the founder of Huldah Media. She is a creative writing, law and theology student who lives on the lands of the Dharug people in Sydney, Australia. Abbey has long had a passion for the weird and the wonderful of stories, sport and zoo animals. 'From the Wild' is her first anthology.


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