An entry in the Fortnightly Topic Challenge #22: Animals ...
The Secret Order of Animal Watchers
It's midnight. After a long stretch of unusual tossing and turning, you've finally gotten to sleep when the harsh ring of the telephone jostles you awake again. Muttering to yourself, you fumble for and answer the phone.
Immediately, any thoughts of going back to sleep vanish from your mind. It's your odd Uncle Elroy, and he sounds terrified! As solid and unflappable a fellow you could ever meet, Uncle Elroy is; anything that could send him into a panic, must be big.
Uncle Elroy asks you to meet him at his home, right away. You ask him what's going on but he says he can only tell you in person, and that it's very important that you come quickly, and that you come alone. More than that he won't say, no matter how much you ask. So, resigned, you say a hasty goodbye and get ready to go.
You arrive at Uncle Elroy's a short time later. An older, moderately run-down place at the end of a dark and lonely road, Uncle Elroy's house isn't the most inviting at the best of times; at this time of night, and under these circumstances, it's unnerving. And as you reach the front door, the peculiar emblem that has been on it for as long as you can remember does nothing to set you at ease ...
You knock and Uncle Elroy silently opens the door, takes a hasty look around, and pulls you inside before quickly closing the door again behind you.
"Are you alone?" he asks.
You nod quickly and ask, "Uncle Elroy, you've got me scared half to death. What is going on?!"
Uncle Elroy sighs, a long deep sigh. "Okay, I've dragged you out of bed and into this mess, I owe you an explanation. But this is important—you can't tell anyone what I've told you, or showed you, here tonight. No matter what! Agreed?"
"Sure, whatever, anything you say—just tell me what's going on!"
And with that, Uncle Elroy launches into a tale about a secret society of which, unbeknownst to you, he has been a member since he was in his teens: The Secret Order of Animal Watchers. He tells you that the Order was founded some 85 years or so ago to keep an eye on strange happenings in the world of animals. And then he tells you about his role in the Order - he has been one of its Recorders for the last 15 years, keeping notes in its official Journal as instructed by the Chief Recorder.
"But tonight... tonight!" he goes on, his face suddenly ashen and his voice anguished. "Murder! Betrayal! Skulduggery! Tonight, one of our own went mad! Started saying the whole Order is a joke, a mockery, a fool's errand - and that our sacred mission has been a waste of our time, of our very lives! And then he just went into a maniacal rage! I was studying a page of the Journal when he ripped the thing straight from my hands and hurled it into the fire! And what happened next.... oh, the destruction! the blood! the screaming!"
Uncle Elroy's eyes dart frantically around the room as if he expected the very shadows to come alive and renew the violence he is recounting. You try to calm him before he does anything rash. "But you got away, and now you're here in your own home, safe and sound. Right?" you reassure him.
"Yes...," he quavers. Then, emphatically, "Yes! And that's not all! I have something to entrust to you, something very important, that he doesn't know I have... if!"
You eye Uncle Elroy expectantly. After a few moments of silence, you ask, "... if?"
"If, you prove yourself worthy!"
"Worthy of what, Uncle Elroy?" you prod.
Uncle Elroy looks around, then whispers triumphantly to you, "Worthy to join the Secret Order!"
Uncle Elroy leads you to the desk in his study, and motions for you to sit. A few dashes to this cupboard or that storage trunk later, he spreads out before you a sheet of questions, a quill pen, and an ink well. Unsure of what you're getting yourself into you try to demur, but he's having none of it. "This is important!" he hisses, stabbing a weathered finger at the paper in front of you. "My time is nearly ended anyway, and I've always thought you were the only one I could trust to take my place. Why not now? The old giving way to the new..."
Lost in thought though he now seems to be, you nevertheless can see he won't take no for an answer. Besides, it is a little intriguing ...
You peruse the questions. There aren't many.
They come in streaks. They join in ambush. What are they?
lions tigers bears jaguars
How many legs does a stoat have?
2 4 6
A Clowder of Cats; a Scurry of Squirrels; a Watch of ...
Weasels Wombats Nightingales Hawks
It's like a White Man.
kangaroo jackrabbit peacock elephant lemur
She cares for her son Joey ...
kangaroo jackrabbit peacock elephant Mrs. Lawrence
... because Joey is a ...
kid joey pansy emo teen former child star
NBC is proud as a
kangaroo jackrabbit peacock elephant lemur
Travels in herds. Eats acacia.
rhinoceruses tigers giraffes warthogs camels
The Secret Order of Animal Watchers —— MEMBERSHIP EXAM © 1930,1974,2002 TSOoAW, Inc.
"What an odd test!" you think. With a shrug, you proceed to answer the questions. Good thing you remember all your Uncle's ramblings when you were younger... and now you know why he seems to know so many weird things about so many animals!
Before you know it, you've answered all the questions. Uncle Elroy gives you a wink as he shifts an old painting of a wildebeest to the side, revealing a safe hidden behind it, built into the wall.
"It's in here. The page from the Journal that I was able to salvage! You see, when he ripped it out of my hands, I was holding that single page ... and it tore right out. My heart nearly rent in two as I heard that tearing sound, but now I am overjoyed that this page alone, of the whole Journal, was saved from the fire. Though it got a bit singed, I'm afraid, when I tried to save the rest of the book."
You walk over to the safe, your curiosity beginning to overwhelm you. Why is this page so important to your Uncle?
"If you have shown yourself worthy, this safe will open for you. And if so, I will charge you with one final task to show yourself worthy to follow in my footsteps as a Recorder — once you have opened the safe, and found the page, you must tell me the two entries which were on the very next page. I can tell you only this — both entries were added this year!"
And with an expectant air, Uncle Elroy steps aside to let you reach the safe. You see the single dial is massive; it has 64 positions, labelled with letters and numbers and a couple symbols. You hesitate, daunted and unsure what to do. Then, your Uncle snatches up the exam paper from the desk and thrusts it at you.
"Here, now, do what must be done!"
Do you have what it takes to be a Recorder?
Take the test Open the safe Study the only surviving page of the Journal of the Secret Order of Animal Watchers Rediscover the next two Journal entries Make your Uncle proud!