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The Blip was written by our own Seth Godwynn, taking time out from his busy schedule of professional writing, professional editing, professional graphics design and his hobby of constructing a life-sized model of Ben Affleck, made entirely from little plastic coffee-stirrers.
This whimsical tale gives us a twisted insight into the workings of a severely damaged mind.
Have You Seen My Mountain Goat?
Let me begin by stating for the record that this is not an analogy. The little bugger has escaped, again, the second time this week!
They say that hindsight is 20/20, and that perhaps keeping a mountain goat in a sprawling metropolis is not the smartest move. They’re much more at home in the countryside, where they have all the space they need to roam freely, all the grass they can eat, trees and cliffs to climb. They’re happy to go wherever life takes them. They couldn’t be more different than —say—a goldfish.
But, we only get to play the hand that life deals us. The devil’s deck is shuffled in secret, and it falls to us to do the best we can with the cards we find ourselves holding. While this all makes perfect sense to a goldfish, it is a difficult concept for even a gifted mountain goat to grasp.
I often wonder if it’s any easier for us at times!
The fact is that I live in the city, I have to go out to work, and that means he’s alone in our apartment for upwards of 8 hours daily. That’s a lot of opportunity for a mischievous mountain goat to get bored, and even more so for a bored mountain goat to get mischievous! This situation is unlikely to change, wish as I might it would. So for now, this is our reality.
I’ve taken no end of precautions, believe you me, but no matter what I try, he always finds a way to slip out—to get outside and do a runner! I can normally find him eventually, if I look hard enough. The trick is always just to look up. He won’t be on the ground: it would be a waste of time looking there.
As my mother always said, if the Sheriff of Nottingham had kept a mountain goat for a pet, he wouldn’t have had half as much difficulty capturing Robin Hood as he hid in Nottingham forest, as his instincts would simply be that much better honed for such endeavours. Sadly, mountain goats were far less common pets in Britain at the time than goldfishes, endemic as they are to North America. Also, that time never really existed, as I believe Robin Hood and his Merry Men were fictional characters, while I am certain that I’m entirely real. I mean, I would know, right? But I digress.
If there’s a tree nearby, he’s probably perched up there with the birds, and hopefully not relieving himself on car windscreens. It’s far less hilarious than you’d think when it’s your own mountain goat. You quickly get bored of dealing with the reactions from bewildered strangers to several litres of steaming faeces, as you run towards it shouting, ‘That’s partially my fault!’
If there’s a cliff, he’s probably making his way to the top, enjoying the various exotic plants he finds along the way. Cliff plants are far superior to land plants! Learning such facts is just one of those things that makes mountain goat ownership so rewarding, especially when compared to a tiny aquatic creature with the memory span of a tube of toothpaste.
Sadly, there is little of either kind of plant where we live, but high rises we have plenty to choose from; too many in fact. It’s best to start with the tallest: he’s normally up on the roof, or climbing up the side, but it’s not always easy to get him down.
The fire service have already complained, and a lot of buildings charge a fee to get up there for the view. I suggested they try putting barbed wire around the top, but I’d rather not repeat where they counter-suggested I stuff my barbed wire.
Eventually, I always do somehow find him, bring him home, beef up my security and the whole cycle starts over.
At first, it wasn’t hard to keep him there. There was a simple operator handle mechanism keeping the windows closed, and although he occasionally tried, he knew he couldn’t just push them open. That was until he figured out he could put one foot on the operator handle forcing it down, and the window would then come open with a light shove. He was straight out on the balcony and up the fire escape. He only had to do it the once, and that genie was all the way out of the bottle!
I had to think fast! I managed to flummox him for a time by putting padlocks on them. It wasn’t easy: I had to drill holes through the handles to get the locks through, kissing goodbye to my security deposit, but it did seem to do the trick. He still hasn’t worked those out—at least not yet. I caught him a couple of times trying to manipulate the locks with a partially straightened paperclip, but he always stops and hides everything when he sees me come in. He knows I’m onto him!
He soon realised he wasn’t ideally suited to lock-picking and instead went straight for the front door. The double-latch mechanism proved little challenge for him, as they just needed a simple turn. What a human can do with one hand, a mountain goat can quite easily do with the inner pads of two feet, if sufficiently motivated. So to counter this, I installed a key-coded auto-lock, and as a precaution changed the combination on a weekly basis. Being able to correctly enter the right four figure code was the only way in or out!
Unfortunately, one of the weaknesses of such a system is that they’re vulnerable to brute force attacks. With only 10,000 possible combinations, it only took him a few days to crack it, and he only needed crack it once, because unbeknownst to me, he had been working on a more long term escape strategy.
I don’t know quite how he did it (I have a few ideas), but he was picked up at the local airport in an immaculately tailored pilot’s outfit, complete with cap, aviator sunglasses, and all the paperwork required to show that he’s a fully qualified airline pilot, attempting to board a Geneva bound 747 with the presumed intent of flying it himself. Having what appears to be a hairy quadruped pilot a plane to that part of the world evidently does not arouse as much suspicion as one might imagine. They only caught him when they checked his passport: it was professional work that would fool most serious inspections, but luckily the officer in charge recognised him from his previous, far less sophisticated attempts.
When I went to collect him, I had to say he looked very fetching in his little get-up, but I saw him let out a weary sigh as he realised he would not be getting on any planes that day.
It’s not that he’s unhappy living with me in my cramped apartment. He’s essentially my best friend in all the world, perhaps my only real friend now. It’s reciprocated too! We’ve had some great times, the two of us, and whenever I take him to the park, or out into the country for a day trip, he always comes back of his own volition.
It’s just instinct that makes him do it! Mountain goats feel easily trapped, and the impulse to escape their captivity and retreat to higher ground just takes over. I can’t blame him for being a mountain goat, any more than he can blame me for wanting to keep him safe and close by.
Yet, I can also relate in many ways. I know how it feels to be trapped.
My former wife was absolutely the loveliest person I was ever lucky enough to have met, she always insisted. Blessed were the many days we spent together. Yet in spite of this, I found myself developing an increasingly overwhelming urge to get the hell out of there.
It began innocently enough. She wasn’t happy living with me in the countryside, so she found us an apartment in the city, which was fair enough. A change is as good as a rest, as they say. I couldn’t really afford it, but she arranged for me a high profile job that paid very well. Her father, once a man of the country himself, had remade himself in the city and had founded a very successful technology firm.
There I was tasked with training a revolutionary new AI algorithm through a specially made computerised single-player card game. I would play the hands I’m dealt all day every day, and it would analyse my responses and the choices I made, learning human behaviour in the process. With near infinite possible combinations, the more it observed the more it could learn. My work was vital to the company’s future projects, and I felt privileged to play such a pivotal role in its development. The best part was that I didn’t even need to leave the apartment—I could do it all from home while she was out shopping and doing lunch with her friends. Her leisure time was practically a full time job!
It did get lonely there though. I soon lost touch with all my friends, even my family, and she discouraged contact with them. She didn’t exactly forbid it, but made it clear that any attempt to reach out would be taken as a heartless slap to the face. Surely she should be enough for me, she always asserted, tears streaming down her assuredly beautiful face.
Before long, it became increasingly difficult to leave the apartment, even for something as simple as grabbing a snack from the little café round the corner. The building manager was instructed to report my comings and goings, and if I went out without permission, I’d get the cold shoulder for days. On one occasion I popped out to a bookshop and was gone a little longer than expected. Before I knew it, a couple of burly men had arrived to escort me back home, in case I’d somehow gotten lost. I knew I wouldn’t hear the last of that any time soon!
Eventually I knew I had to get out of there, even though I would regret it every day. I found online an agency that could help me set up a new identity and a new home somewhere else. They normally helped people to escape abusive relationships, but they’d help those that weren’t—people like me—anyone who was willing to pay their rates, which were oddly excessive. It cleaned out our savings, but I knew it was the right move.
I couldn’t risk leaving via the front door, as it wouldn’t be long before they were hot on my heels to reel me back in. Then I’d really be for it! Instead, I headed for the roof where a chartered helicopter was waiting to take me to my new home, a new person, with a new future.
As we flew away and the agent briefed me on my adopted identity, I felt a strong pang of remorse about leaving her that way. It was, after all, my home, and she was my wife. We were a family, and I knew there was nothing she wouldn’t do for me, even if I didn’t always realise it was in my best interests.
At the same time though, I knew it was the only way. No man can live a prisoner, no matter how benevolently intentioned. That life had been crushing me, driving me into a pit of despair. In the end, instinct took over.
Despite relocating to a different city, I occasionally spot her father’s operatives around town looking for me, trying to bring me back in. They’re very persistent, relentless even. Thankfully they’re also not very smart, and are easily hidden from.
Why does nobody ever think to look up?!
Maybe one day I will relay to you the thrillingly true account of how I ended up sharing a one room apartment in London with a hoofed mammal endemic to North America. But it will not be this day. You see, right now, my mountain goat is missing, and it’s very important I find him soon.
Because as I said, this isn’t an allegory.
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