It was hard for her to see the gaps on the land where the trees used to grow. It was as if she could still feel the sunlight dripping through the trees like mist, and the dappled shadows it created on the ground beneath her feet. All that was gone now, and there was an emptiness left in its place, as if the land was mourning the thousand-year-old forest that used to stand where she stood now. As she walked along the road, towards the village up ahead, she wanted to turn around one last time and hold the picture of that long-ago place in her mind, but she didn’t allow herself to stop, to glance back.
In the heart of the village, the paths were uneven and crumbled beneath her shoes. Children with wide eyes stared out of the dark houses with curiosity, their gazes followed her down the street as she went. She wasn’t interested in these children, she was looking solely for an orphan of a different kind, an orangutan was kept as a pet in these parts. She had heard that his mother was killed by the loggers who felled the trees for pal oil, and she knew that he needed her protection now more than ever.
She found him in the garden of a worn-down house, in a thrown-together pen made of rotting wooden crates rusted corrugated sheets and metal bars. It was the size of an old kitchen cupboard, and as she peered in through the gap she heard a whimper. His arms were small enough to fit through the bars of the cage, they reached out to her and as she knelt beside him he wrapped his hands around her fingers in the same instinctive way a baby would. He leaned close to her so that she was cradling him with only the bars between them. His fur was the colour of autumn leaves, shades of orange and deep sunset reds, but there were patches missing and it was easy to see the sore skin underneath. The dark round eyes that looked up at her were tired, as if the little creature had been in the cage so long he had forgotten to be afraid of it.
She carried him the whole way through the village, back up the dusty road that had paved its way where the forest had been, and across the empty land that the orphan had once called home. He was so small, yet he felt somehow heavy, as if he carried the loss with them as they went. He let out a loud cry, and she snuggled him closer to her chest, knowing that he must leave his lost world, and she must find him a new one where he could be safe.