This log begins shortly after we realised my bot crashed.

I did not, in the end, fix it in post.

Two covers of Animorphs Book 5 'The Predator'. One shows a very young boy transforming into a gorilla in a series of stages. The second, rather more poorly edited, shows the same boy transforming into a lobster.

So, see, I’d like to tell you my name, and address, and phone number, too, because if I could do that, it would mean I no longer had any enemies.

I slipped into the opening of the alley and hid in the shadow of a very smelly Dumpster

I had become a gorilla.

The first thing that happened was the fur. It sprouted quickly from my arms and legs and all down my body. Thick, rough, ragged, black fur. It grew long on my arms and back and head. It was shorter everywhere else.

My jaw bulged forward. I could hear the bones in my jaw grind as they stretched and the nonhuman DNA changed my body.

Morphing doesn’t hurt. It creeps you out some times, but it doesn’t hurt.

“Hoo hoo hrrraaawwwrr!” I yelled, in pure gorilla.

My shoulders grew so massive it was like having a couple of pigs sitting on my back.

If the punks had had any sense, they would have run.

They didn’t.

The old man. The one I had risked my life to save. He was standing, facing me. He was shaking with fear and red in the face.

Oh, I thought. So that’s where the gun went.

The old man was pointing the gun at me.

“Back, you demon! Don’t come any closer.”

Now, find someplace private, demorph, call 911 to come arrest these guys, and you can still get home in time to watch Letterman.

She did a forward flip as we walked across the springy grass. Rachel’s into gymnastics. It’s very distracting when someone flips while they’re talking to you.

Now, as you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking, Um, Marco? Time out. You’ve left out a few things. Like, how can you turn into a gorilla?

Marco? It was good of you to rescue the old man. But you really shouldn’t be turning into a gorilla.”

He’s the kind of guy who always seems like he’s bigger than he actually is.

That’s because he has that whole “I’m in charge, and you can trust me” thing going on.

He also has a great sense of humor and is very smart, and I would trust him with my life any day, any time. Not that I would ever tell him that.

He has sensible brown hair, and trustworthy brown eyes, and one of those confident chins.

Cassie actually knows how to get an injured, angry wolf to take its pills.

You go out to her barn and you’ll see this little, short, black girl in overalls and boots with her arm halfway down the throat of a wolf that could just bite it right off.

So that was the deal. The five of us, five regular everyday kids, were supposed to fight the Yeerks until the Andalites came along and rescued us.

Then there’s Rachel. Very beautiful. Very leggy-blond-supermodel type. Ms. Fashion. Ms. Properly-Applied-Makeup. Ms. Has-It-All-Looks-and-Brains.

Here’s what Rachel’ll say whenever we decide to do something so dangerous it makes you want to wet yourself: “I’m in! Let’s go! Let’s do it!”

To be honest with you, I don’t even remember what Tobias looked like back then.

I tease Tobias sometimes. What happened to him scares me.

Jake’s brother, Tom, is one. A Controller.

And all we had was five kids who could turn into birds.

“I just don’t think we should be morphing out on the street in order to get involved in everyday crimes,”

“Well . . . probably not. Ax wants to go home,” Jake said.

“Home?” Rachel repeated.

“To the Andalite home world,” Cassie said.

“We tried to figure it out in miles. But none of our calculators go that high,” Jake said.

He has four hooved feet that flash with amazing speed.

According to Cassie and Rachel, Ax is cute. I wouldn’t know, being a guy.

Ax has no mouth. No one had asked him yet how he ate with no mouth.

I’d seen the first Andalite do it. In the seconds before the evil creature known as Visser Three murdered the Andalite prince, he had struck with that tail again and again.

That memory came back to me as I watched Ax galloping toward us, tail arched and ready.

The concept of clothing kind of puzzled the Andalite.

Sticking your tongue in an electrical socket is dangerous - not to mention painful.

“Ax, you could be either a really pretty guy, or a kind of unattractive girl,” I said.

<Do you fear them?> Ax demanded. He stared at me with all four eyes. “You better believe I fear them.” <Fear is unworthy of a warrior.>

The deadly scorpion tail shriveled and withered and slithered up inside him like someone sucking up a piece of spaghetti.

“Ax, you could be either a really pretty guy, or a kind of unattractive girl,” I said.

“I am an Andalite,” he said. “Andalite. Lite. Ite.”

“More clothing? Clo. Clo-theeeeng. Clo-theeng?” Ax said.

“Ax? Don’t do that,” I said.

“What? Wha wha wha. Tuh.”

“That. Where you play with the sounds. Just say what you need to say, and stop.”

Somehow, by some process we did not understand, he was able to combine all four genetic patterns to come up with one person.

The mall was a zoo.

Mall police trying to look tough

After dying in a traffic accident, I find myself standing near an unfamiliar lake. My body won’t move, I can’t hear my voice, and when I try to shout in confusion, words that I never expected come out!

“Get one free with a winner.”

I-it seems I’ve turned into a vending machine…! I can only do what actual vending machines can. It’s impossible to move by myself, and there’s no way for me to have any meaningful conversation-how am I going to survive some fantasy world’s dungeon like this?!

“Over at Starbucks. The coffee place.”

“Um, Ax?” I said. “You have to drink where the little hole is in the lid.”

“A hole! In the lid! No spills! Ills!”

“I have wanted to try other mouth uses. Drinking. Eating.” Then, as an afterthought, he added, “Eeee-ting. Ting.”

“Just line the little hole up with your mouth,”

“Ahhh! Ohhh! Oh, oh, oh, what? What? What is that?!” “What?” I asked, alarmed. I swiveled my head back and forth, looking for some danger. “A new sense. It . . . I cannot explain it. It is . . . it comes from this mouth.” He pointed at his mouth. “It happened when I drank this liquid. It was pleasant. Very pleasant.”

“This must be a primitive gairtmof,” he said, inspecting a small switch. “And this could be a sort of fleer. Very primitive, but it will work.”

That’s when the screaming started.

“Ahhhhhhhhh!”

“What is it? What IS it?”

Most of the crowd had been left behind, but the mall police were still with us.

“You kids get out of the way!” one of them yelled at us. “This guy could be dangerous.”

“It’s a monster! Mommy, it’s a monster!” some little kid yelled.

“It’s just a pretend monster,” his mother said.

Yeah. A pretend monster. Right.

Then we were off and running again, with Ax skittering shakily on the slippery floor and banging into groceries. Cans of olives and tomatoes crashed behind him.

I pointed at the live lobster tank at the end of the aisle by the seafood counter.

“Oh, no,” Jake groaned.

“Oh, yes.” I grinned.

It was not easy “acquiring” the lobster.

Jake’s face seemed to open up, to split open into a complex mess of valves. I think I would have thrown up, seeing that. Except that I, also, no longer had a mouth.

Eat. Eat. Kill and eat. The lobster brain surfaced suddenly, bubbling up within my human awareness. It had two thoughts. Eat. Eat. Kill and eat.

Which was a good thing. Because I really did not want to see what I was becoming.

I think I might have just started screaming and never stopped. But I no longer had a mouth, or throat, or vocal cords capable of making sounds.

I could not look down and see my belly, or the hairy swimmerets scurrying away, back beneath my tail.

<This is really creepy,> I said. <I’ve never had an exoskeleton before.>

I guess suddenly having lips appear on a lobster was enough to make the woman drop me.

“You . . . you . . . you . . . you . . . lobsters!” she managed to say.

“Yeah, it is slightly weird, I’ll admit,” I said. “But it’s okay. It’s just a dream.”

Ax was a truly disgusting combination of Andalite and lobster.

Jake and I were playing video games at the mall. I was kicking his butt. He was distracted because he was eating.

He was eating a big red bug with huge pincers.

I told him not to eat it. It would upset his stomach. But he just ignored me.

Then, suddenly, his stomach exploded. It just exploded outward, guts flying everywhere. Eight huge spider legs appeared, like something in him was trying to crawl out.

I tried to get away, but the steam was rising. I was burning up!

I tried to run, but my legs were gone, replaced by a tail that jerked and kicked.

I screamed.

And screamed.

I didn’t have to ask why my dad was awake. He often sat awake late into the night. Sometimes watching TV. Sometimes just staring into space.

The hull was shattered. There was no sign of my mother, except for a frayed safety rope. They never found her body.

This was what my life had come to. We ended up spending a couple of hours debating whether we should be red ants or black ants. I finally left in disgust. I didn’t want to be an ant, red, black, or any other color.

“And sucked blood.” He looked a little uncomfortable. “Well, it was Rachel’s blood. Kind of. I mean, okay, it was cat blood, but Rachel was morphing the cat.” “Jake? Do you ever listen to yourself?”

I nodded. “Yeah. You’re right. But I almost died the other day. I was almost boiled alive. I know you’re the big hero type, Jake, but I’m not.”

Yes, believe it or not, some people choose to accept Yeerk control.

Different ant species run at different speeds. For example, fire ants (Solenopsis spp.) travel at a rate of nine body lengths per second. Scaled up to human size, this is roughly equal to running 30 miles per hour.

Sometimes I really hate having a conscience.

The Sharing is a “front” organization for Controllers. It’s a way for Controllers to get together without anyone being suspicious. Supposedly, it’s just a sort of combined Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. In reality it’s a way for the Controllers to recruit willing hosts.

Then, wham! The ant’s mind erupted inside my own! There was no fear. None. There was no hunger. There was no . . . no self. No me. No me.

<Listen to me! You are going the wrong way! The ant minds are controlling you!>

Then, wham!

The ant’s mind erupted inside my own!

There was no fear. None.

There was no hunger.

There was no . . . no self. No me.

No me.

No . . .

<Hive,> Cassie said, sounding shattered. <They are social insects. Part of a colony. A hive. I should have guessed. I should have known. Ax is right. Each of us is only a part. Like a single cell within a human body.>

My huge, human feet could crush my friends!

I didn’t answer. I was too scared to want to talk about it. If I talked about it, it would become real, you know? Better not to think. Better to shove it out of my mind.

It was the moment I dreaded. I didn’t want to return to that ant body. It made me want to cry, just thinking of it. But there was no other way.

<Yes.> He stared intently. <It is an announcement. The Yeerks have an important visitor arriving soon. Visser One.>

“Visser One? That would be like Visser Three’s boss?” <Yes. Visser One is more powerful than Visser Three. Just as Visser Three is more powerful than Visser Four. There are forty-seven Vissers in the Yeerk empire. Or so we believe.>

<Only Visser Three has an Andalite body. Only he can morph. Visser One has a human body, I believe.>

One second the tunnel ahead of me was empty. The next second it was full.

Full of a charging, racing army of ants.

Enemies, my ant brain said. Now the killing would begin.

The speed of the attack was incredible. The force of the attack was impossible to explain. There were hundreds of them.

I couldn’t breathe. Sand blocked the air. Pressure. Then, the ground around me opened up. I swear it was like climbing up out of a grave.

That night, when I went home, I took a shower. I found the head of an ant. It was still locked onto the skin of my waist.

Jessica probably outweighs Rachel by fifty pounds. But it didn’t matter. Rachel had her on her back, on the table, scattering dishes and food everywhere. Rachel leaned over Jessica and in a voice of cold steel, said,

“One day I’m a lobster. Then I’m an ant. I figure the next step down the evolutionary ladder is a virus or something. And I just want to say right now, I’m not doing it. I am not going to become phlegm, even to save the world.”

Lots of people think only humans fight wars. That only humans are murderous. Let me tell you something - compared to ants, human beings are full of nothing but peace, love, and understanding.

A month or so after the experience with the ants, I picked up a book about ants. The author said, “If ants had nuclear weapons they would probably end the world in a week.”

He’s wrong. It wouldn’t take them that long.

Even Cassie seemed grim. It had gotten to all of us. It’s not so easy to just forget terror. It’s not easy to just ignore the memory of your leg being ripped off. Of being dismembered. Torn apart.

Now we just had to figure out where to lay our trap.

<I have admired Tobias’s shape. It is truly wonderful in every way. The sharp talons. The beak. Much better than the human body.>

“I mean, you haven’t said a single mean-yet-funny thing the whole way. That’s not you.”

Ten more seconds and those ants would have had us. And before that it was a pot of boiling water. And before that I was practically killed by sharks.

“What are you going to do Sunday?” he asked.

<Remember the good old days?> I asked. <When we used to argue over who had the best jump shot? Now it’s who has the best bird eyes.>

We had risen high on a beautiful thermal. A thermal is a warm bubble of air that acts like an elevator, letting you soar high with almost no effort.

She was the biggest bird. She got stuck lifting the weight.

<This is so mature,> Cassie said. <Arguing over who could beat who.>

You haven’t seen weird till you’ve seen pretty, blond supermodel Rachel grow a trunk as thick as a small tree

“And let’s keep our fingers crossed,” I added. “Or talons, claws, or hooves, as the case may be.”

I mean, let me put it this way: if Klingons were real, they would be scared of Hork-Bajir.

<Joe Andalite, you’ve won the Superbowl! Now where are you going?> I said, mimicking the Disney World commercials. <I’m going to Earth to turn into a lobster!>

“Tsseeeeerrrr!”

The entire quarry was lined with Hork-Bajir warriors, each armed with a Dracon beam. There must have been a hundred of them. We were surrounded.

We were trapped. Outnumbered. Outsmarted. Finished. And that was when he came.

His body was an Andalite. He was the only Andalite-Controller in existence. The only Yeerk ever to infest an Andalite body. The only Yeerk with the Andalite power to morph. Visser Three. Visser Three, who had murdered the Andalite Prince Elfangor while we cowered in terror. Visser Three, who even the Hork-Bajir and Taxxons feared.

<A little one,> he said, surprised. <Are the Andalites now reduced to using their children to fight?>

I was sick with dread and fear. But not so afraid that I didn’t notice a sneer in Visser Three’s tone when he said “Visser One.”

<Did you catch that?> Jake asked me in the thought-speak version of a whisper.

<Yeah. Visser Three doesn’t like Visser One.>

The next day was Sunday. My dad would go to my mom’s grave. Alone.

It would be a while before he would admit that I, too, was gone.

Just like when my mom died - there would never be a body.

Just like my mom.

We looked. Through the eyes of the animals of Earth, but with the minds of human beings, we looked down at our planet.

<The Yeerks must bathe in the Yeerk pool every three days and absorb Kandrona rays. There must be one on the planet below, too.>

<Yeah. We know,> I said.

Cassie sidled up next to him and nuzzled him with her wolf’s muzzle.

I guess it should have been funny. The wolf and the tiger, sharing a tender moment. But all it did was make me a little jealous.

Through the window, we could see Yeerk crewmen - Hork-Bajir, Taxxons, and two or three other alien species, in simple red or dark brown uniforms.

<Do . . .> Ax hesitated. Then, <Do humans fear death?>

<Yes. We’re not crazy about death,> I answered. <How about Andalites?

> <We’re also not crazy about it.>

My mother - Visser One. Most powerful of the Vissers.

And now, I noticed, there were distinct kinds of uniforms, one red-and-black, the other gold-and-black.

Visser One nodded. She looked up at us with those dark brown, human eyes.

Eyes I knew. Eyes I remembered.

The same eyes that watched me sleep every night from the framed picture beside my bed.

My mother.

Visser One.

My mother looked at him and curled her lip. “I took a human host and learned about the planet and the humans. And because of that I was able to begin the invasion that you have now endangered with your criminal incompetence!”

<Don’t tell the others, Jake,> I said. <You’re the only one who recognized her.>

<Okay, Marco.>

<You can’t even tell Cassie, okay?>

<It’s okay, man. You are my oldest and best friend. You know that. No one will ever know from me.>

He seemed to think it over for a minute. Would he realize the truth? Would he figure out that the reason we remained silent was so he wouldn’t guess that we were human? Would he figure out that’s why we stayed in morph?

He seemed to shrug.

<Take them back to a holding cell.>

Standing there were three Hork-Bajir. They were wearing gold uniforms.

Lying on the floor were four other Hork-Bajir. They were each uniformed in red. They were either dead or unconscious.

I saw a flash of a Taxxon, foolishly running as if to cut her off. A few seconds later I had to jump over the crushed remnants of the big centipede.

He had a very human look of total amazement on his face. Possibly because while standing there, he’d seen a flying elephant, followed by a gorilla, a wolf, an Andalite, and a tiger.

The Hork-Bajir staggered back, minus an arm.

<It’s okay. I found the dropshaft. I am . . . dropping.>

“Oh, Dad, you never could figure computers out. Especially games.” He stared at me with the blank eyes I had seen for the last two years. Then, suddenly, he laughed. “You punk kid, I’ve forgotten more about computers than you ever knew.” “Oh, right! So why did I always kick your butt whenever we played Doom?”

A few after-the-fact thoughts: those short, choppy sentences are really noticeable when you’re editing a log. I guess that’s just The YA Style though (c.f. Maximum Ride).

It feels like a significant chunk of these books has to be scene-setting preamble and plot-recapping by nature.

At this point, I feel like the status quo is in for a shakeup. We’ve had a number of iterations of ‘the gang gets in a fracas with the Yeerks and narrowly escapes’. Over that framework, each book has its specific variations

  1. The Invasion: setting the scene, establishing the plot
  2. The Visitor: establishing the nature of controllers, building up Visser Three as a villain
  3. The Encounter: exploring ‘losing onesself’ in a morph, establishing space stuff
  4. The Message: introducing Ax to the narrative
  5. The Predator: introducing Visser One and establishing that she’s Marcus’s mum

The promise of more complexity in the Yeerks has yet to be realised. So far, they remain Generic Evil Invader Species from just about any cartoon. But let’s give it time.

So what next? And how long are they going to drag out ‘the Yeerks don’t know they’re human kids not andalite soldiers’? Hopefully, we’ll find out soon!