Yungpin, of the Juju clan, clung to a thin branch at the top of the Home Tree. The young Macaque looked out over the tribe’s territory, running from the big water by the mangroves, to the rocky outcroppings where the hills began. On one side ran the wide river, swift and murky in the rainy season, and on the other, the territory of the Bobo tribe. Yungpin was Muladee; three summers from his birthing. Tonight he and all his siblings, those born in the same year, would stand still beneath the half-moon, in the clearing below, and become full members of the clan. All but two.
There were twelve in Yungpin’s season. They had come to know each other, clinging each to their mother during grooming sessions, or jumping madly from branch to branch, playing tag in the dry billowy summer dirt, flinging mud and rain-soaked leaves in the fall, tumbling, chasing, and biting, in rituals of dominance and hierarchy. They were twelve, but there was only one of any real interest to Yungpin. Her name was Juputin.
Yungpin longed to pair with her. But union was forbidden for Muladee. Pairing was a privilege reserved only for full members of the clan. The bloodline must be protected. Tonight, as he and the other initiates stood still in the clearing, two of them would be chosen, donated to the strengthening of the bloodline. The pair would be given to the Bobo tribe, taken from the home of the Juju, passing into the unknown.
Dewal, the dominant male, had conveyed the tradition. The bloodline grows weak without donation. Each summer, beneath the half-moon, two Muladee are selected from each clan. Before dawn they are exchanged at the boundary of our range. The half-moon, the demi-light of the night sky, is the brightness of the bloodline and the darkness of the failure to honor the ways of the ancestors. Yungpin hoped he and Juputin would not be chosen.
The afternoon passed slowly. The clan lounged lazily in the shaded branches, seeking shelter from the hot summer sun beneath the broad leaves of their sanctuary. Yungpin lay across a high limb, his long spidery legs dangling on either side, tail twitching nervously. Juputin sat with her family unit, nimble fingers combing through her mother’s hair, searching the briefly visible skin beneath for unwelcome parasites. The two young Macaques exchanged occasional brief glances, but neither moved to engage the other. The moment that would decide the future of their lives was fast approaching.
In the evening the clan crowded into the clearing beneath Home Tree. Through gaps in the canopy the cloudless sky was pierced with uncountable points of light outshone only by the semi-luminescence of the half-moon. Bright future – faded past. Dewal stood in the center of the gathering and called the Muladee before him. Stand still.
Welcome, new blood of the Juju, strength of the clan. Within you flows life or death for all the tribes. Tonight you will be Muladee no longer. Beneath the half-moon you will join a clan and be allowed to pair and keep the bloodline strong. But this night also, our bloodline is shared with that of the Bobo. We both donate our strength so each of our tribes does not grow weak and die. Through donation we live forever.
Dewal rose to his full height and threw wide his arms, showing his face to the half-mooned sky. The clan waited without chatter, surrounded only by the sound of rustling leaves above, swaying gently in the warm breeze brushing the forest canopy
It was decided.
Dewal lowered his arms and extended one towards the line of Muladee before him. A flick of his wrist indicated Juputin and a male, Jameet.
Come! Dewal turned from the gathering, away from Home Tree, toward the Bobo. The chosen two fell in behind.
Yungpin couldn’t breathe. He had thought he had been prepared, and he had been. But now the moment had come and he was unable to contain himself. He couldn’t lose her. He had waited four seasons. Without clear intention to protest, Yungpin began swaying from side to side. Small chirps of alarm emanated from his mouth. His lips pursed as his frustration grew and found voice. Soon he was hopping in place and slapping the ground with open palms.
Dewal stopped, turning slowly to face Yungpin, astonished. What was this new thing? He was more amazed than annoyed.
Yungpin raised his arms to the night sky where the half-moon hung silently mocking him and his altered destiny. He pointed to the chosen and back to himself.
Dewal frowned. Juputin is not for you. She has been chosen. Jameet has been chosen. They are for the Bobo. They are chosen together, they are Bobo now.
Yungpin would not be consoled. He was still Muladee, still young, he didn’t care about tradition or blood lines or even the future, not a future without Juputin. He didn’t care what they did with the other but he couldn’t lose the one he loved. The only one he had ever loved.
Dewal made his way back into the center of the gathering and stood before the one who had challenged the way of the clan.
They are the chosen. These are one. He gestured to the two timid and bewildered Muladee beside him. Together they are our donation, to the future of the clan, to the strength of the bloodline. It is our way. They are together for the Bobo, for the Bobo to decide…not you!
Yungpin was not cowered. Juputin is for me. She is mine. Do what you will with Jameet.
Dewal flew into a rage. His hair bristled and the dominant male puffed his chest and raised himself threateningly over Yungpin, screaming, his yellow teeth bared.
Stand still Muladee. How can you have Juputin if you donate Jameet?
Yungpin fell to the ground in the face of Dewal’s onslaught, limp, numb, uncomfortably so. Submissively, he turned away and stared up at the dark side of the moon.