HAGAR NEEDED IT quiet. He reached into
his shirt pocket and pressed the Record button. He unclipped his lapel mike and held it
in his hand. They were now about thirty yards
from the orang. They passed a sign along the
trail that said BUKUT ALAM ORANGUTAN SANC-
TUARY. This was where orphaned orangs
were nursed to health, and reintroduced into
the wild. There was a veterinary facility, a
research station, a team of researchers.
Read on for a
sneak peak from
By Michael Crichton
The Costco Connection: In your
career, you have been very successful. What
motivates you to keep writing and creating?
Dutch,” he said. “Sumatra used to be a Dutch
colony. That’s Dutch.”
“I wouldn’t know,” Hagar said.
“I would. The animal said, ‘Stupid, leave
me alone.’ And then it said, ‘No lights.’ When
the camera flashes went off.”
“I don’t know what those sounds were,”
“But you were recording them.”
“Just out of curiosity—”
Michael Crichton: I think it’s really
curiosity. I’m always interested in how
things work, and why people believe what
they believe, and why they don’t believe in
things as well. There are certain kinds of
questions that, it seems to me, ought to be
answerable, yet never get answered. I’ve also
become uncomfortably aware of how little
solid knowledge we have. For instance, in
many areas of medicine it’s been a difficult
year for conventional wisdom. Many long-standing tenets about health have been
overturned. That all excites me, and I’m
really interested in all that.
“If it’s a sanctuary, I don’t understand
“You had your microphone out long
before the sounds began. You knew that animal would speak.”
CC: Is there anything that you hope to
achieve that has, as yet, eluded you?
“George, you heard what he said. Be quiet.”
Twenty yards, now.
“Orangs can’t speak,” Hagar said.
“Look, another one! Two! There!”
They were pointing off to the left. High in
the canopy, a one-year old, crashing through
branches with an older juvenile. Swinging
gracefully. Hagar didn’t care. He was focused
on the first animal.
“That one can.”
They all stared at the orangutan, still
swinging from one arm. It scratched itself
with the free arm. It was silent.
The heavyset man said loudly, “Geen
The white-streaked orang did not move
away. Now he was hanging by one hand,
swinging in the air, head cocked to one side as
he looked at them. The younger animals in
the canopy were gone. White-streak stayed
where he was, and stared.
The ape just stared, blinked slowly.
The orang gave no sign of comprehension. After a moment, he swung to a nearby
branch, and began to climb into the air, moving easily, arm on arm.
Ten yards. Hagar held his microphone
out in front of him. The tourists were pulling
out their cameras. The orang stared directly
at Hagar and made an odd sound, like a
The ape kept climbing. The woman in
the big straw hat said, “I think it was just
coughing or something.”
Hagar repeated the sound back. “Dwaas.”
The orang stared at him. The curved lips
moved. A sequence of guttural grunts: “Ooh
stomm dwaas, varlaat leanme.” One of the
tourists said, “Is he making those sounds?”
“Yes,” Hagar said.
“Hey,” the heavyset man yelled. “M’sieu!
Comment ça va?”
The ape continued up through the
branches, swinging in an easy rhythm with its
long arms. It did not look down.
“I thought maybe it speaks French,” the
man said. He shrugged.
“Is he . . . talking?”
MC: Yes, actually. I’ve had, for about 20
years now, an interest in computer games
and interactive media, and I’ve never been
able to design a game that really did what I
hoped it would do and that worked in the
way I wanted it to work. The interest for
me is storytelling in an environment where
you can’t control what the person does.
Most storytelling enables the storyteller to
control the order in which things are
revealed. But you can’t necessarily do that
in a game, because the person is free to go
where he or she wants to go in the game.
And, if you narrow their options to the
point that you’re driving them toward a
certain direction, they feel that. Then it’s
not fun, because they’re not free to do what
they want to do. On the other hand, if you
just make an interesting space and allow
the person to move freely, then it’s not
really a story. It’s an unsolved problem.
This may not be doable. But I think more
and more of people’s time is being spent in
various kinds of interactive forums, the
Internet probably being the primary one.
Video games increasingly interest me. C
“Apes can’t talk,” another tourist said.
“Orangs are silent. It says so in the book.”
Several snapped flash pictures of the hang-
ing ape. The juvenile male showed no surprise.
But the lips moved: “Geen lichten dwaas.”
“Does he have a cold?” a woman asked
nervously. “Sounds like he’s coughing?”
“He’s not coughing,” another voice said.
Hagar glanced over his shoulder. A heavy-
set man at the back, a man who had struggled
to keep up, red-faced and puffing, now held a
tape recorder in his hand, pointing it toward
the orang. He had a determined look on his
face. He said to Hagar, “Is this some kind of
trick you play?”
A light rain began to drip from the canopy.
The other tourists put their cameras away.
One shrugged on a light, transparent raincoat.
Hagar wiped the sweat from his forehead.
Up ahead, three young orangs were scampering around a tray of papayas on the ground.
The tourists turned their attention to them.
The group stared up at the canopy,
searching the dense mass of dark leaves. They
could not see the ape up there.
The heavyset man yelled, “Qu’est-ce que
From high in the canopy came a growling sound: “Espèce de con .”
The phrase came to them clearly, surprisingly distinct in the still air. The heavyset man
spun around. “What?”
There was no answer. Just the crash of an
animal moving through branches, and the
distant cry of a hornbill. C
Everyone turned to look upward.
“No,” Hagar said.
“That was a swear word,” the teenager
said. “In French. I know it was a swear word.
The man pointed to the orang. “That’s
“Hush,” his mother said.
The foregoing is excerpted from Next, by
Michael Crichton. All rights reserved. No
part of this book may be used or reproduced
without written permission from
HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd
Street, New York, NY 10022
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