“Good grief!” Chris heard someone saying as she woozily came to. “I wasn't expecting this! But it makes sense, I suppose. A world as corrupt as this, twisting you to the shape of a man.”
“I'm not a man,” said Chris, wondering who she was talking to.
“Quite right! You're a baboon the same as me, blessed by name and nature. Doesn’t matter what you look like; even an infant would know that. Did you kill him, at least? Is our mission complete?”
Chris looked at her surroundings as the voice was speaking to her. She was sprawled at the centre of a wide dome, a large room lit with a harsh white light. Beneath her a starfish of shadow squirmed, and around her was a cage made entirely out of light. She got to her feet, to look over at the voice’s owner.
“I’m not who you think I am,” said Chris. “I’m not a baboon, or a Christian. I’m just a little girl.”
“A girl?” said the baboon, sounding confused. “I’ve not heard of one of those. Though I suppose the Cardinal said men had hair all over their mouths, and yours seems very hairless to me.
“Men are bigger than girls,” said Chris. “And the one you want to kill is grumpier. But we're all the same sort of thing. We’re all humans.”
”Bigger than you!” gasped the baboon. “But you're already enormous! I can see why the Cardinal was so frightened to come here.”
“I'm not enormous,” said Chris, “and I don't see why you're here. I don't like Charles Darwin much, but that's no reason to kill him. You can't just go around, killing the people you don't like. Do baboons do that, in the place where you're all from?”
“No! We're not animals! But it's not that we don't like him. We knew our place in the universe, you see; it was just as the Bible said. God created the stars and us to rule them; guided us from this world into the Heavens. And He knew we were broken, but that was okay, because through His Son we could all be redeemed. It gave us hope, you see? But then we came across that bloody book, and of course it was written by a man–”
The baboon looked up. She was embarrassed, though Chris couldn't know, and another baboon could have seen she looked very awkward indeed.
“I’ve not asked your name,” she said.
“I'm Chris,” replied the caged girl. “Christina Sillars.”
“Good. I'm Pilotoon Fliss,” said the baboon, “and I like to know people’s names before I insult them.”
“Insult me? But I haven't done anything! I'm in a cage!”
“I must get you out of there,” said Fliss, who made no effort to do so. ”But I don't mean you, not really, but your species. I mean, we’re not the best to judge! But some of the things you people have done, well. Perhaps there are worse things than sin, is what I’m saying. And finding that book, and realising we’d come from you… it was more than a lot of us could bear.”
“That makes sense,” said Chris. “Sometimes I'm ashamed I'm descended from humans, too. But it's not Charles’s fault, is it? He just wrote it down in that book of his. It’s not like he made it become true.”
“He made our pain true. He took us further from God. Death’s a mercy, with a crime as great as that.”
A long shadow, Chris thought. It was strange to think, that a person could cause such anger so long after they were gone. She thought of what Darwin would have felt, had the thing in the study hit him, and just for a second she understood what the Doctor had been so scared of.
The shadows were here as well, of course. They lapped at Chris’s feet, tugging at her socks like little fish biting away.
”You took them here,” she said to the Pilotoon. “You released these shadows into the world, and they attacked me. It was horrible!”
“Oh, no, that wasn't us,” said Fliss. “We just assumed they belonged down here. When we crash landed they swarmed into the ship; shadows can get through the smallest cracks. So we put them in a cage, not that it helped you much. That’ll just be the head of it, there’ll still be bits all around the wood looking for food to swallow up. Like you, for example!”
“Please let me out of this cage,” said Chris, feeling her socks get bitten away. Fliss bounded over and waved one of her paws, so the girl fell through the light and into the ship beyond.
“It's odd, though,” said Fliss as Chris slid out of the cage. If the shadows aren't from around here, then why are they here at all? What possible reason could they have, to come somewhere as ghastly as this?”