prompt – A space monkey from a planet of apes crash lands in India.
The fruit set down just outside of the temple its occupants had targeted. It set down quietly, barely rustling the trees. It wasn’t born of any of them. It was born far off in the sky, and had fallen to Earth only temporarily. It had a few seeds inside it, but it sought to gather more.
The creatures who helped grow the fruit emerged from a circular hole in its bright metal rind. Though their landing looked smooth, something had gone wrong. Their ship had fallen into a malaise. Only new seeds could brighten its spirits. They would have to succeed in their mission or be trapped on Earth. One of them checked a flash of light in a small bead on one of her bracelets. The map said they were in India. Outside Delhi. The names mattered little, but the creatures refreshed their memories over the custom anyway. The seeds might have names of their own and desire their use.
Five exited the fruit, the vessel that protected them from the black ice of space, and marched across the forest floor. The troop would go in search of seeds at the temple while the two twiddlers would remain behind and try to keep their ship’s spirits up. Their technology had diverged much from the first craft they’d left Earth in. Now, life was integrated into the machines. They valued their possessions and their possessions valued them back. The troop would not let the fruit down. They would all return to their far off home with new friends, eager to show them their beds in the tree-that-covered-all.
They had a few days before their rendezvous outside the solar system, but the five were on edge. This was their species’ home world, and they worried the ground would grow teeth and tongues to reclaim them. Their data told them there were plenty of seeds that lived under the abandoned temple. The problem was, it wasn’t abandoned. It had plenty of visitors: humans. They didn’t stay long. They dropped off favors. Scents. Little glinting things. Possessions they hoped could love them back if they left them in the presence of spirits long enough.
They did not know of the troop or their progress worlds away, even though they were the ones who launched them into space and abandoned them. If they saw a human, there might be violence. There might be the old gnashing of teeth and the cries of rage that were actually just, as they now understood, the agony of non-love.
The heat was oppressive on their trimmed fur. They marched on all fours, but they broke formation so they could each find the best individual path in the shade. Eventually they split further, each of them heading for one corner of the temple for their recruiting efforts. The one with the map took the closest corner, and stepped out into the sun at the edge of the stone temple.
Human favors were everywhere. Cards with pictures of women with closed eyes. Colorful sticks. Trails of smoke weaving around pillars and loose leaves. Among them sat a group of seeds, as they had hoped. There were ten, sitting on the stairs and grooming each other with their tails draped down the sides. They didn’t notice the mapbearer. She wasn’t sure how to introduce herself, so she simply walked forward.
The monkeys stopped grooming, one lucky louse escaping from between two filthy fingernails to bite another day. They’d never seen such a strange one, and many came to the temple. They were used to the humans and their colorful reverent garbage, but not the mapbearer. Her fur was too neat. She wore jewelry like the humans, but she didn’t look like she was about to abandon it to the past. If she was a rival, she couldn’t be allowed to trespass. They’d fought hard for the temple’s shade and the human food regularly offered.
Two male guards broke off from the stairs and approached her. They bared their teeth, but she had been trained for such situations. There was no time for diplomacy. They needed enlightenment, and they needed it now. She slipped her bracelet free and held the end of it. She spun it as she backed up with her other knuckle. The left one charged, ready to bury its fangs in her chest. She leapt straight up, bringing her feet down on its snout. She pressed one of the beads against the defender’s head. It glowed red and pink, and his rage was quelled.
The other charged. With a flat palm and one precise strike, the mapbearer pressed the bracelet against his forehead as well. He stopped, mouth slowly closing, teeth disappearing as realization dawned. Within her jewels was the gained knowledge of all the experimental monkeys launched by mankind those decades ago. They had fought hard, and died across the darkness, to earn it. Now they gifted it freely. The tree had room for more fruit and more seeds. They could be saved from this barren soil and its spiritual light shows.
The two male guards quickly apologized. They did have names, which the mapbearer was happy to use. They were Deepak and Nithish. She told them about the fruit and how they needed to leave very soon, before the flat feet of humans could be heard in all directions. They did not deserve nests in the trees. They did not deserve the computers that could feel and grow and love you back and protect you fiercely against the black ice that was most of reality.
They would help. They vouched for her, and escorted her up the stairs. From there she gifted each member of their family with the stored knowledge. They all had names. The mapbearer would never remember them all, but they would likely shed them once they had lived amongst the swinging lights of the tree. For now she just smiled and tolerated their declarations of identity.
The sun was setting. The fruit hated sunsets. It was best to leave before their solar sail-leaves wilted. The troop, now grown, moved back towards the forest, but something stood in their way. A human. A human with a net.
There were all sorts of possibilities. Perhaps one of the monkeys had stolen something the other day and there’d been a complaint. Perhaps one of them was diseased. Maybe they weren’t supposed to be in the temple at all, even though they had stone likenesses within it that resembled the new space-faring monkeys and their jewelry. Whatever the reason, he was there to capture them, and he didn’t like the strange look of the mapbearer.
He ran at her, net raised. Monkeys weren’t supposed to have greenish skin. They weren’t supposed to play dress-up. He cursed her for existing, something that seemed very strange to the mapbearer. Then again, she’d been living in the tree that provided all for all. There was no strife to create division. The human could not handle the enlightenment, but it was her only weapon.
As the net spread across her head, she poked her arm out of one of the holes and smacked the bead against the young man’s forehead. It flashed, and he fell over backward. He fell back into his own head, and it took him ten minutes to climb back into his eyes. There was a monkey sitting on his chest, somebody left behind. He didn’t shoo it away. He let it sit until it got bored and headed towards the scent of popcorn and lentil wafers in the distance.
The young man sat up. He saw something leave the trees, a beautiful vibrant green dot, and plant itself in the sky. Those were interesting things he’d seen. A tree of metal and bark, of light and life. A society that didn’t war. Was it the work of the temple? Did the gods gift him with a vision? He felt compelled to leave something behind for them, so he took out a coin and put it on one of the steps.
Silly humans, always leaving things behind rather than taking things away. No matter. Sooner or later, a monkey would take a liking to that shine, and learn more than the cloth-wearers and head-bowers ever could.
Author’s Note: This flash fiction story was written based on a prompt provided by Athulisgg during a livestream. I hereby transfer all story rights to them, with the caveat that it remain posted on this blog. If you would like your own story, stop by twitch.tv/blainearcade during one of my streams and I’ll write it for you live!