Etwart has a good life as the only pygmy Cypriot hippopotamus
in the world-famous San Diego Zoo. But every day he wakes up with a
hole in his heart. He wants to know the story of his family and the
deeds of his forehippos-- maybe even find some of his relatives. So
with his friend junior zookeeper Katterly Meadows he sets out on a
journey of discovery.
That night, after their trek in the ancient hippo habitat, Kat, Etwart and Ioli sat out on the balcony of the hotel sipping orangeade. The full moon hung in the east, a shade lighter than their drinks.
"Mmmf..." Etwart took a big sip. "I don't understand. If there are no more hippos on Cyprus, where can my parents have come from? Some hidden place on the island?"
"Maybe," Ioli, their Cypriot guide, said. "It's a small island, but there are many mysteries still to be solved."
Kat said, "But Etwart was found washed up on a beach in a basket. Maybe his parents were never on Cyprus. Hippos are good swimmers. Maybe they were swimming by."
"Could they have come from a nearby island?" Etwart asked.
"There aren't any, I'm afraid," said Ioli.
Marios drove them north next morning to a border checkpoint. Tour buses lined up in front of them.
"What's this?" Etwart asked.
Ioli said, "We are entering the Turkish-controlled area of Cyprus. Today we are visiting Professor Gul Atsur at a university in Northern Cyprus. She is an authority on Neolithic Cyprus."
"Neolithic. You mean the last time they say hippos on the island," Kat said.
"Ten thousands years ago," said Ioli.
Marios moved forward. A police officer met them, and Ioli and Kat gave their passports to be checked. He eyed Etwart warily, then went into his office and came back with an orange.
"They know how to treat you around here," said Etwart, munching.
"Someday we hope to unify the whole island," said Ioli. "But at least now we can go back and forth between the two communities, Greek and Turkish. Between 1974-2003, no crossing was allowed."
Professor Atsur was a young, friendly woman who had plenty to say about Cyprus of ancient times. She told them that the earliest known instance of a domesticated cat was found on Cyprus, dating to 9,000 BC.
Before long, the subject came around to the pygmy hippopotamus, and Etwart explained his situation. "They found me on a beach in a basket. Do you have any idea where could my parents have come from?"
"Hmm..." Professor Atsur said. "Turkey is very close to the north coast of Cyprus-- only 40 kilometers. But there are no hippos there. The only islands even remotely close are the Greek islands-- Rhodes, Crete, Karpathos, Thera." She laughed. "I guess they could always have sent you from Atlantis."
Etwart snorted. "Atlantis? Where's that? In Georgia?"
"No, hippopotamaki mou," said Ioli with a smile. "It is a mythical land, invented by the philosopher Plato. He said this was a great island in the Atlantic ocean that ruled over much of the Western Mediterranean long before his time. Then there was a great earthquake and the island sank beneath the waves. Nothing of it is left."
"The Atlantic Ocean isn't close," said Kat.
"Yes," said Professor Atsur. "I was referring to another theory-- that Atlantis was really the island Thera, which had a huge volcanic eruption about 3500 years ago. Much of that island fell into the sea. It had been host to a beautiful and advanced civilization."
"So maybe it was in two places at once?" The hippo's ears twirled.
"No. Just two different theories about the location of the same island."
Kat said, "But wait a minute. Isn't there a story about an island that used to travel around?"
"Yes," said Ioli. "The island of Delos. It was a wandering island until the goddess Leto gave birth there to her two children, Apollo and Artemis. From then on it was rooted, and is there today."
"What is it, child?" Ioli asked.
"Maybe..." Kat rubbed her forehead. "I know it sounds crazy, but is it possible that when the first humans came to Cyprus ten thousand years ago, some of the hippos recognized it wasn't healthy anymore to stay there, and so they swam away to Atlantis?"
"But then they would've died, just like everyone, in the earthquake."
"What if it wasn't an earthquake? What if it just disappeared-- you know, wandered away?"
"Kat, there has to be a simpler explanation," Ioli said.
"She's right, though. It would explain things," said Professor Atsur. "Quantum physics has shown that we don't quite understand time and space. Atlantis has never been found-- maybe because it disappeared, and only comes back now and then, in a shadowy way."
"Not a very scientific view, Professor," said Ioli.
"A scientist studies what she can see and verify," said Professor Atsur. "But that doesn't mean that's all there is."
Etwart's ears twirled a little more. "Is there anyone on Cyprus that knows about this... Quantum whatsits?"
Kat rubbed Etwart's eyebrows. "I think we'd have to go to a big university in a big city," she said with a sigh.
"No," said Ioli. "If there's anyone who knows about quantum physics, it's the Mountain Lady."
Etwart said, "The Mountain Lady? Who's that?"
Someone..." Ioli looked away and up, as if in the direction of mountains. "...who knows about shadows."