“Monkeys” by Jeffrey James

This week, as promised, we have a fun little piece of fiction written by Jeffrey James over at Lifeincharge.com.  Normally he spends his time writing common sense solutions to common problems in the areas of health, finance, and productivity.  Today he’s given us something a little bit different.  Enjoy!

“Monkeys,” she said.  That’s all she said.  She never gives me more than two words.  I never know what the heck she’s talking about anymore.  I mean, seriously, who in their right mind answers a serious question with “monkeys”?!  New York is falling apart out there, and she just sits there watching the tube and smoking her electric cigarette.  Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the lack of second-hand smoke.  What I don’t appreciate is the way she is totally disconnected from reality.  Or maybe she knows exactly what’s going on, and doesn’t give a rat’s rickshaw.

But you know what?  I’ve had enough of it.  I’ve tried to warn her, tried to snap her out of it, tried to be patient, tried everything I could think of.  But nothing’s working.  And I’m not gonna wait around here any longer — she can die in her La-Z-Boy on the 51st floor if she wants, but I’m gonna make my exit while there’s still time.  My uncle’s got a place out in the mountains that is pretty remote.  And well-stocked with food and ammunition.  I saw on the news that we have 48 hours at most before we’re completely overrun.  She saw it too, but that doesn’t really mean anything at this point.  As long as it was coming from the TV in front of her, she could watch a woman get eaten alive and it wouldn’t faze her.  We’ll see how she does when she’s dealing with the real thing.

Two weeks ago we started hearing reports of these things popping up in the surrounding states.  Nothing too unusual — after all, bad stuff happens on the news all the time.  But then there were more and more cases, and pretty soon it was apparent that these weren’t random happenings – they started getting closer and closer to New York, and from multiple states too.  People getting attacked, mauled, killed (if they were lucky) and eaten alive.  If I was seeing this in a theater, I would probably think it was cool, but this is totally different.  It’s completely terrifying.

And I might not have believed it, either, if I hadn’t seen one myself.  I was walking back to our apartment building after stopping off at the grocery store.  I was just about at the entrance when I saw one turn the corner and we locked eyes, or at least, I was looking at where the eyes would be.  There was a split second of hesitation that felt like hours of terror before I found myself bursting through the front door, my groceries on the ground behind me.  The unfortunate guard didn’t even have a chance to draw his gun before I heard a loud snap.  I didn’t bother looking back because I knew it would only slow me down.  I kept sprinting until I got in the private access elevator.  When the elevator door closed, I slumped down and started breathing again.

And even though I was almost just another victim — even though I heard a man’s life end — even though I came back to the apartment shaking, sweating, and pale — she won’t even look away from her precious television set.  Like watching reality happen somehow insulates you from being part of it.  Are there others like her?  Is this one of their ploys?  No, that would be too sophisticated.  They don’t really seem to use weapons — though they don’t seem to need them either.  Maybe I’m just getting paranoid.  Maybe that’s what they want.  But that doesn’t matter, because I’m not gonna sit here and wait for them to come find me.  I’m getting outta here, with or without her.

Of course I want her to come with me, but she won’t budge.  I tried picking her up but that nearly ended with me losing an eye and a finger.  Something’s got her glued there, and I can’t for the life of me figure it out.  You know what the last full sentence was that she said to me?  Before she started giving random cryptic one-word responses?  She said “Deep down, I always knew the rumors were true, but I hoped that I was wrong.  Maybe we can find a way to communicate with them.”  Yeah, like that would do any good.  These are very basic creatures: they kill and eat, kill and eat.  That’s their baseline.  I tried explaining to her that these things haven’t shown any interest in communicating with us.  I tried explaining that they don’t see us, they just smell us.  I tried to tell her that no one knows much about them, and we shouldn’t be the ones to stick around and find out.  But she just slowly faded away, sinking deeper into her chair and turning up the volume more and more.  After that it wasn’t even worth talking to her.

I started stuffing food into a bag, along with an extra pair of clothes.  I put in a few water bottles, grabbed my pocketknife, and tried to think of anything else I’d need.  Flashlight, jacket… my bike is on the first floor in our storage locker… ooh, my nephew left his teeball stuff here last summer.  I’ll bring the bat too.  That’ll come in handy.

I should be able to get to my uncle’s place in a day and a half if I ride hard.  The cabbies have already started abandoning their cars, leaving the streets a sea of frozen yellow.  My bike is my only chance to get through at this point.  But I better get riding.

“I left you some food in the fridge.  Last chance if you want to come with me — I think the guard had a patrol bike he won’t be needing anymore, if you want it.”  No answer.  “What are you gonna do if they come up here?  They’re much stronger than we are, knocking out the lights doesn’t slow them down, and you won’t be able to stand their stench even if you managed to hide somewhere out of reach.  Do you even have a plan?”  After a moment, she said, “Monkeys.”  “No, they’re not monkeys,” I huffed, “they’re people–er, sort of– at least they walk on two legs.  They look hairy, but I think a big part of that is just that they are caked with dirt.  They do live underground, after all.  Maybe they got fed up with hearing subways rumble by at all hours.  If they even were that close to the surface, who knows?  All I know is that I don’t want to be next on the menu.  I had only heard about cannibals before, but I never thought I’d have to deal with them.”  She just sat there, smoking.  “Are you listening to me at all?  Do you really think they’re monkeys?  This isn’t Hollywood; this isn’t special effects; it’s a bona-fide living nightmare.  And I’m getting out of here while the sun’s up.  I think I can make it to the city limits by nightfall.  The news said there haven’t been many of them to the north, so I think I can chance one night if I have to.”  Not even a wave or a glance.

Well, I tried.  I’ve wasted enough time waiting for her.  She’s hopeless.  “Well, I enjoyed this past month, minus the part where you went crazy.  See you in another lifetime.”  Monkeys.  Sheesh.