The following piece of flash fiction was inspired by Chuck Wendig’s Cocktail Writing Prompt, for which I rolled Monkey Gland. I’ve never had a Monkey Gland, and unfortunately, there isn’t any absinthe in my liquor cabinet. [Insert impotent shaking of fists.]
I stuck to a fairly literal interpretation of the title, and left actual alcohol out entirely. Of course, feedback is encouraged.
Jonathan Rigby poured his third cup of coffee, wrinkling his nose at the acrid scent. He was hardly a squeamish person, but there was something about subject thirty-seven which had been keeping him up at night. Since he worked the morning shift, sleeping late wasn’t an option, which left him with no recourse other than the foul-smelling sludge that passed for coffee at Typhon Industries. A glance at his watch revealed that it was five to nine, which gave him only a few minutes to get back to his office before the conference call with the DOD.
The nerves which gnawed at his insides seemed excessive – he’d engaged in dozens of similar calls during his time at Typhon – but the lack of sleep and excess of caffeine had made him jittery. It didn’t help that the project was still floundering. Sure, he had pages and pages of data, neatly collated and analysed, waiting on his desk. He knew, however, that the scientific details were little more than a nicety. The bottom line was that they’d had no success in boosting adrenal response so far. Incidentally, they’d turned up some other intriguing details, but the DOD was only interested in concrete, practical results. As far as they were concerned, all of his precisely worded reports were a big, fat stack of nothing.
Returning to his office did nothing to brighten his mood. The several hundred pages of the report were scattered about his desk and the floor, exacerbating the visual impact of the already cluttered office. Grumbling, he began collecting the pages in no particular order. There would be plenty of time to sort them later, during the conference call. The subjects’ charts were in a state of particular disarray, with some lying by the door, clear on the other side of the office.
As he gathered the charts, Jonathan caught a glimpse of thirty-seven’s photographs. Anesthetized, the rhesus monkey looked almost peaceful, and Jonathan would have guessed he was asleep if it weren’t for the fact that the top half of his skull was missing. The recovery photos, however, were a different matter. Thirty-seven’s personality had changed markedly after the surgery, which wasn’t entirely surprising when one considered that they’d removed his adrenal glands. Still, the way the monkey stared at Jonathan from the two-dimensional printout typified all too well the cold, dispassionate way that it watched him work.
The clock read 9:01, which meant that he was already late for the conference call. He knew his supervisor would not be pleased, but the best he could do was jump on the call as quickly as possible. Shuffling the disorganized heap of papers, he sat down, placing them in a relatively orderly pile on the desk. He was just about to dial in when he heard a muffled, shuffling noise from behind him, followed by the sound of a filing cabinet drawer rolling in its track. He felt a sudden, sharp pain in the fleshy part of his thigh, followed by the cool rushing of liquid from a syringe.
Shocked, he spun in his chair to find thirty-seven looking at him, those same somber eyes watching him with their characteristic patience. The anesthetic went to work quickly, dulling his senses and relaxing his muscles. He felt himself slump forward, falling face-first to the floor of his office. As he began to black out, the last thing he heard was the mockingly triumphant cry of the monkey.
Bob Carroll choked down a hot dog, steering his van with one hand. He didn’t normally eat while driving, but he hadn’t had a meal all day, and the call had come in just as he got to the end of the vendor’s queue. Pulling to a stop, he checked his teeth in the mirror before exiting. It wasn’t hard to find the animal in question – a small group of people stood around the monkey, keeping their distance in case it proved dangerous.
The police officer who’d put the call in to animal control had stuck around, and began shooing the spectators away as soon as she caught sight of Bob. The animal sat on the ground, motionless but for its constant shivering. Bob had seen plenty of loose zoo animals before – some posed a danger to themselves and to any bystanders, running unconstrained among people who didn’t have a healthy level of respect for wild animals. Others were simply afraid, unsure how to function outside of their artificial and carefully constructed habitats.
The rhesus didn’t seem to be afraid, in spite of its trembling. The animal’s face was almost expressionless, staring forward unresponsively, and the weather wasn’t nearly chill enough for it to be shivering from the cold. Rather, it appeared to be in a state of shock. As Bob moved closer, he felt for his radio, refusing to take his eyes off of the wounded creature. It’s head was wrapped in white bandages, stained brown with dried fluids in places, and wet with fresh blood in others. The dressing didn’t follow the natural contours of the monkey’s head. Instead, the bloodiest patch of fabric stuck out in a lumpy protrusion, as if someone had hastily crammed something into the wound before applying the bandages.
Bob tried to still the shaking of his hands as he switched on the radio, vaguely aware that the cop was also squawking something into her own device, signaling dispatch for assistance. Her concern lay not with the monkey, however, but with his grim, surgical accessories. There on the grass, reflecting the light of the park’s dim lamps, sat a bloodied bonesaw and scalpel, still crusted with bits of bone and grey matter. In his quivering tail, the monkey held a single, laminated employee identification card. Jonathan Rigby – Typhon Industries.