I would like to point out that I’m not the author of the following journal, merely its translator. I have opted to do a communicative translation rather than a word for word translation in an effort to relay the exact contextual meaning of the original in a way that the language and content are both easily comprehended in English. Admittedly, however, as Chimpanzee is not my first language and I do not have any peers with which I can confer, mistakes most assuredly exist. To be true to Homer, I have taken painstaking efforts to be as accurate as my skills allow.
First, I feel I must tell you how it is that I came upon Homer’s journal, to begin with. I was working at the Après-Captive Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center researching chimpanzee language when I received a letter in the mail. The envelope looked dirty, beaten, and battered like it had been on an incredible journey even before reaching my fingertips. The return address simply said, “Звёздный городо́к, Россия,” having started out my career in the U.S. Air Force as a Russian linguist, I knew this letter had come from “Star City, Russia.” I had no idea why someone from Russia would be writing to me. I opened up the letter and read a most peculiar request. The person writing me had requested that I come to Russia to translate a document which had remained hidden for decades. The writer of the letter believed the document to be written in Chimpanzee and having heard of my work in the field of Chimpanzee linguistics decided to write me. Not a great deal of detail was given, but it was too intriguing to leave my curiosity unscathed.
I booked a flight to Moscow and then a train to Star City. Upon arriving in the city, I called a cell phone number given to me in the letter. The person on the other end directed me to a tea house. I promptly took a cab to the tea house, got a table, ordered some tea, sipped anxiously, hoping that the fact that my eyes were constantly darting from side to side was not too noticeable. I had waited for approximately one hour when a young man arrived and sat down across from me. He asked me, in Russian, if I was Clementine Porter, to which I answered affirmatively. He paid for my tea and asked me to follow him. I got into his car, and we drove to the outskirts of Star City to a charming little dacha nestled back in a grove of pine trees.
Inside the dacha, I met with a woman, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of repercussions from the Russian government or other entities within the country. She told me that her father had been a janitor at one of the Soviet Union’s Space Program center in Star City. She said she was just eleven years old in 1963. This was when her father brought home the lifeless body of a chimpanzee.
Her father told her that he overheard that NASA had launched a capsule into space and lost it, or thought they lost. In an effort to learn more about the technologies that NASA was using for its space program, the capsule was both lost and recovered by the Soviets as the result of a top-secret insider spy space program. Someone at NASA was working for the Soviets and deliberately “lost the capsule” for them. While her father had to have a security clearance to work at the space center, he was not privy to detail of any real consequence.
The capsule was left in space for over a month, as not to arouse suspicions of the also-spying Americans. A fake Soviet capsule launch was orchestrated so that the Americans would believe the Soviets were recovering their own capsule. Once recovered, the capsule was brought inside the hanger of the center. Her father was summoned to dispose of a chimpanzee body that was found inside. The body was in a wheelbarrow, they told her father to strip the body of the space suit, search it, and burn it. Then he was to toss the body into the dumpster. Even though the body was not human, her father couldn’t bear to treat it with such disrespect. He tore the patches off of the space suit and set them ablaze in the burn bin.
When he got the body home, they dug a hole and prepared to bury the body with dignity. Just as they were about to lower the body into the hole, they saw something sticking out of the bottom hem of the spacesuit on the chimp’s thigh. Her father pulled it out to discover a journal. Inside was a script of characters they did not recognize. Her father researched for years trying to find the language contained in the journal. He was not successful before he died from a heart attack in 1975. The journal was then buried in a box in the backyard garden where it remained until the woman’s grandson had come home from school and told her about a film he saw discussing my work in chimpanzee linguistics. That is when she decided to write me the letter.
And that is how I came into possession of Homer’s journal. Translating this journal has taken me years. The story which emerged has since shattered my heart into millions of pieces. I knew it would not have a chance of becoming whole again until I made sure that Homer’s story was told…and heard.
***This is a very early draft of one of those unfinished works I started years ago but never finished.***
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