picket fence

"I don’t like you," Ann said to the monkey, after her initial shock at his proximity turned into scrutiny.

Unfazed by the child’s outspoken hatred, Geezer held his ground (risking capture, should this five-year-old’s reflexes prove quicker than his), the better to return her hypercritical stare, as he assessed her strength of character (stamped across Ann’s phiz like a parchment’s watermark), evaluated her eye color (not a hint of amber encroaching on Adriatic blue), then pondered implications of the imp’s unforeseen immunity (and what to do about it).

Meanwhile, Ann calculated her chances of seizing the toy-size ape… hesitating for fear of being bitten… intuiting, of a sudden, she had telegraphed her punch.

"Do you understand English?" Ann wanted to know, presuming that, if the monkey spoke any language at all, it was likely to be Chinese.

Geezer shook his head ‘no.’

Ann doubled-up her chin and deepened her scowl.

"How can you deny it, then?" she demanded, catching the contradiction.

Geezer merely shrugged. All laboratory personnel learned Human languages—several—though most were schooled in written not conversational forms. Regardless, interpersonal exchanges could be conducted by ‘other’ means. In fact, Geezer knew Ann’s thoughts in advance, before her tongue so much as gave them voice—adept as Simians were at side-stepping communication’s sluggish middlemen. Furthermore, his breed seldom vocalized, never verbalized; speech was strictly mute—an important adaptation in a world of sharp-eared monkey-munchers.

"You made Ian a Owl-Eyes, didn’t you! Mommy an’ Daddy, too. They’s just like yours," she said, leaning forward, peering into irises tinted a hue she had come to despise. "Why’d you do that, Monkey? Why change them, not me?"

‘The name is Geezer, chubby-cheeks. G, e, e, z, e, r; can you say that? Come on, try. Pronounce it Gee, like geek, then zer, like sir as sung by a horsefly,’ he coached extrasensorily.

Ann, never having been addressed in such a curious fashion, tried to decide if the monkey had spoken without moving his lips—like a ventriloquist, maybe—except that she was sure he had made no sounds. Instead, she sort of imagined them—not unlike the dialogs she made-up when playing with her dolls.

"Don’t call me chubby-cheeks," she ventured, sensing something condescending in the Lesser Ape’s look.

Geezer, impressed by the toddler’s astuteness (and her pluck), countered with a conciliatory bow. Whereupon Ann made a grab for him—which Geezer barely dodged, making a flustered, pop-goes-the-weasel exit.

 

‘So much for rendering aid and comfort to the enemy,’ Geezer muttered to himself, once safely back in his hideout. Ann, like all of her kind, was not to be trusted. Though she scarcely could be blamed for detesting her Race’s Scourge. Even those undergoing transmutation were scheduled to rebel (‘the more the merrier’). How else whittle down numbers of those so grossly overpopulated? Ah well, behavior modification would proceed soon enough… on a pair of fronts: physical and psychosomatic. The Mind of Man must come to accept its alteration as both ‘good’ and ‘irreversible.’ For this, a revolution was close at hand, a graphic (‘no doubt gruesome’) demonstration of environmental truth or consequences.

 

"Honey, will you take a look at this?" Adam called, beckoning Evelyn to read what he had just pulled up on his computer screen from The Journal of Strange Phenomena.

"Paraphrase it, will you, Sweetie? You know how crossed my eyes get, gawking at a monitor."

"Here; I’ll blow it up."

 

‘Extinct’ Monkey Is Found In Mountains

A tiny Chinese monkey the size of a mouse and long thought to be extinct has been discovered in the Wuyi Mountains of eastern China. The monkey weighs only 200 grams, has all the features of a monkey, and is highly intelligent. Chinese scholars of old kept the tiny monkeys as pets, training them to prepare ink, pass brushes, and turn pages. The Xinhua news agency gave no details about the species and did not indicate just how many had been found.

Click here to return to the report page.

 

"Honestly, Adam, you’re as daft as Ann. I thought you said you…"

"Didn’t find a thing; no monkey… much less one wearing a muffler. It simply struck me as odd, is all, tracking our daughter’s whimsy, then coming, face to face, with this tidbit of distant corroboration."

"‘Distant’ is right. China and Upstate New York are hardly next-door neighbors. I’ll grant you it’s a coincidence; beyond that… Well, the idea’s absurd."

And with that, wife-and-mother returned to her chores, eager to forget this silliness, anxious to restore her household’s equilibrium, desperate to suppress an ever-mounting premonition that something else was about to go awry—her maternal instincts warning of some new catastrophe…

…Ian’s, as it turned out—his mother’s vague foreboding fulfilled then and there, as he who entered the backyard tool shed came across (while rummaging through everything from mason jars to hedge clippers) a can of insecticide (the old aerosol variety) and, recognizing its skull and crossbones label, thought to try it out on a nest of hibernating wasps. What Ian (ostensibly) failed to note (once he managed to pry off the protective cap) was an arrow indicating the direction in which to point the spray.

On a ten point scale ranging from low-end distress to the sound produced by a child in MORTAL TERROR, Ian’s earsplitting shriek was a definite TEN, an attention grabber; mother, father, and even ‘grounded’ sister converged on the scene. And, though it took a moment to identify the trouble (Ian having dropped then inadvertently kicked the canister aside), events were reconstruct-able enough to warrant unanimous alarm (the victim’s in particular), his immediate transport to the nearest source of water well-advised. The garden hose being clogged with ice, Ian was rushed, instead, down to the basement’s zinc-lined sink, where, in hopes of restoring his self-exterminated vision, he received a second baptism.

"What next?" was Evelyn’s near-hysterical utterance, as she pried apart her precious little man’s tight-clenched lids—on which a crust of blisters already had formed, Ian’s amber eyes now encircled by fire-engine red, lending them the look of fried eggs in ketchup.

‘Good, God, for the love of Sweet Jesus…’ began Evelyn’s silent prayer—discontinued upon Adam’s placing a call to the Poison Control Hotline.

 

Later, Ann and Ian lay in their bunks facing one another in reverse, Ann above, her blindfolded brother below, this new arrangement imposed to protect the ‘patient’ from falling out of bed. Outfitted at the Emergency Room (his second admittance in two weeks) with cotton disks held in place by a black flannel mask, Ian looked (to everybody but himself) like an Infant Zorro. Drops had been prescribed, as had an antibiotic ointment. Application of either spurred a squirming, screaming affair, on which bribes (Popsicles, M&Ms, doughnuts, etc.) had minimal effect—save to fan his sister’s smoldering resentment.

"I see’d that monkey again," was Ann’s attempt to sue for peace; she had barely spoken to her twin since he had started behaving weird—picking his nose and eating it, for example. He did that a lot. He also neglected to wipe himself after going to the potty. Nor was he all that particular about where he squatted to poop—leaving a stinky-smelly mess once, right in the corner of their bedroom! How he escaped a spanking for that, Ann could not imagine… unless it had to do with her parents acting pretty weird, themselves.

"What monkey?" was Ian’s aggravating response.

"The one what sneezed all over you and gived you Owl-Eyes, Stupid; that one!"

"Oh," was all the satisfaction Ian would concede. He felt a bit once removed, of late, from his sister, as she did from him, although this threat to his eyesight renewed, somewhat, their bond.

"Does they hurt?" Ann asked in a gentler tone.

Yes they did! And his sister’s concern reopened the taps of Ian’s self-pity. Behind the gauzy goggles, he bitterly wept—which only made his eyeballs suffer worse.

Ann climbed down the bunk bed’s stepladder and joined her blubbering brother under the quilted comforter (her quilted comforter, come to think of it). Doing a perfect imitation of motherhood, she coddled, stroked, even tendered a loving kiss atop her sibling’s head.

"It can talk," she confided, to distract Ian further from dwelling on his infirmity. "Not out loud, like us, but clear, sort of. Calls himself ‘Geezer.’ I almost catched ’im this time. Fast, though. I don’t know where he hides, but not outdoors; he’s living in the house. Makes me mad;" she bristled at the impertinence. "Makes me mad," she repeated in a softer voice, cognizant that Ian was crying himself to sleep. "Wonder what he eats? I’ll have to check and see what’s missing from the cupboards. Prob’bly just bananas. ‘Cept maybe they’s too big; this monkey’s really small. Remember, when we spotted ’im, you thought he was a mouse?" she prompted Ian (alias ‘Benedict Arnold,’ him whose single sighting of his sister’s "hallucination" had been denied under cross-examination, testimony ensuring Ann never would be redeemed—unless she could provide hard evidence, produce the elusive rascal for all to see. "Makes me mad," she muttered once more, before matching Ian’s steady breathing… deepening the dent in a pillow their twin heads shared… dreaming (for the first time since Geezer’s fateful arrival) identical dreams…

 

 

… manifest by four white crows come to roost, one atop each bedpost, issuing "CAWS," in unison (a winged Greek chorus), heralding some spectacle’s final scene, a demolition derby of wanton destructiveness (led by no one in particular), "SMASH" "BANG" "BOOM" ringing out in every direction, intense and at random, more fun than a barrel-full-of-monkeys (there being an excess on hand), a free-for-all in which the twins would have taken part happily, had the boundaries of their berth been less inviolable, more virtually afloat above the wildly cacophonous fray, bunk and mattress nimbostratus-fashion hovering over dismantled scaffolding now jumbled into pick-up-stick piles midst parti-colored rubble, glass flasks, bulbs, and test tubes spilling their guts in outlandish streams, flowing into tributaries, slithering through the grotto like a school of mercurial eels, the artificial roof commencing to shake, to quake, to crumble, uniform chunks jarred loose and falling throughout as stones of gargantuan hail, a madcap dash describing the Simians’ deeks, and ducks, and nimble dodges as they managed to flee the collapsing premises unscathed, theirs a delirious dance in celebration of an Era’s triumphant end…

 

…or such was the impression made on both pajama-clad witnesses, Ann—wide-eyed, Ian—gaping through his blindfold (dream-vision unobstructed by reality’s blinkers), each beholding the action with three-ring-circus delight…

 

 

… as the laboratory ruins reverted to their former configuration—replete with stalactites and stalagmites—discernible through the mangled mounds of equipment, beyond which, gawking from an isolated vantage point, Proto could be seen (fully clothed, this time, in silk pantaloons, galoshes, and pork-pie hat) looking quite composed (compared to his former disarray), his lopsided features fixed in a grin of emancipation…

 

…likewise interpreted by the twins (to whatever extent they empathized, as kindergartners, with Prometheus unbound). Ian was especially moved, while Ann took critical note of the midget’s glimmering eyeballs, which mimicked her brother’s, her mother’s, her father’s, which glowed like their neighbors’ and neighbors’ neighbors’, which shown with the same amber luster as did those who had set the hunchback free—casting a certain doubt on his presumable liberation.

 

Proto: victim of circumstance, a simpleton ‘before’ his capture—and seemingly ‘ever after’; nothing done by the Simians was apt to elevate the midget’s aptitude, his congenital abnormalities having rendered him most ideal, a case study in compromised chromosomes that lent themselves, as predicted, to further and further deviation, turning him into a pin-cushion, his buttocks punctured repeatedly by injections of this, that, and the other, his nervous, neural, and blood systems systematically violated, then (subtly) rearranged. Carnival life, at its absolute worst, seldom had inflicted such indignities; midway machinations were never so cruel as these, the ones conceived and practiced daily, weekly, monthly by this army of anthropoid abductors. Better to be incessantly gaped at than incessantly tortured. Better to be a freak on display than an experimental subject, object, reject—for, once fulfilling his function, Proto had been released.

How had it all happened? How had he fallen into the mitts of these miniature Mongoloid apes? Drugged, maybe… on his day off. Set upon where he slept, on a hill that bordered the fairgrounds. Swarmed upon, as by a horde of over-achiever ants… come to cart off their prize once stinging it into paralysis. Proto had watched them—with great difficulty—as they opened, to examine, his near-catatonic eyes. What a frustrating feeling, to be strapped into an improvised litter (unable to protest), then hoisted and lugged through a forest (without so much as lifting a finger to resist), to be lowered into a chasm, into a Lab, into a refurbished cave. A nightmare, had been the hunchback’s stupefied kidnapping: hapless, helpless, hopeless, he had been unable to shake himself awake, to recognize what was bogus from what was legitimate during lavish abominations…

… a bewilderment that beset him even now, on the brink of deliverance, wondering at this spree of wholesale devastation (and what had incited it), puzzling at the certainty of all he had endured, thrilling (to the point of giddiness) at his ordeal’s termination…

…as decreed by the four white crows, whose cries—renewed—called a halt to the Pandemonium, wings flapping truce-flag fashion, rising from the wreckage like souls released from graves…

… only to evaporate…

 

… as the twins submerged into a non-REM realm of synchronized slumber, sinking leagues below the threshold of imagery latter retrievable, brain waves turned into ripples… submarine currents… then deep-ocean calm…

… their twofold equanimity leaving Geezer in a wake of agitation. Restless inside his linen closet, he had stolen into the children’s bedroom just in time to eavesdrop on their dream about the Lab. Why had he been left in the dark, he conjectured? Surely someone could have clued him in; at least telepathically. A rescue party might have been too much to expect; the choice, after all, to overstay his visit (bad weather notwithstanding) had been his alone… sort of. But to cut him off completely from communication afterward (not a single signal had been sent since the martyr had arrived) seemed odd… if not downright heartless… unless the toddlers’ dream were intended, not for them, but for Geezer himself… a plausible explanation… ‘conceivable’ given the quirks of Subliminal Science (a field in which his fellows were supremely versed). Why be so obtuse, though? Why, with the dye now cast, was there need to maintain secrecy? Was not the Human Race well on its way to being dethroned?

Looming over the twins, from his perch on their lower bunk’s headboard, Geezer shifted his gaze from Ian… to Ann.

 

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