“The world is rampant with monkeys. They depreciate the very essence of civilization through each pursued act. There are exceptions, of course, but these enclaves of enlightenment are easily overshadowed by orchestrated, politically motivated, anti-hominid fractions who feel their right to societal leadership has been stolen away from them.”
I read today’s editorial with some personal skepticism and looked up at Rose. I’d expect a reaction from her. She was into this type of debate.
“Everything is better now,” she said. “It seems, at least to me, illogical to complain. This is what they wanted. This is what they needed. If they hadn’t taken the steps they did, they would have broken the dictations of evolution. And now, you know, the wheels are in motion.”
“Yes, I suppose,” I replied. “I’d also argue that the monkey fear is irrational. There are enough protective paragraphs in place to keep them out of harm’s way. They live pretty good lives. But irrespective of all this, there’s room for self-criticism. We don’t need people spreading polarizing propaganda like this – on either side. Oh, how I miss the good, old times of big media.”
“You miss it?”
“It seemed better.”
We were interrupted by a console alert:
INCIDENT: Vehicular collision on Cecil Avenue. AEP 400-401 please respond.
“That’s us,” I said.
“Vehicular collision?” Rose asked. “Looks like Policy Enforcement let a monkey slip through.”
“Let’s not jump to conclusions. There was a bug in the latest version of Auto. Could as easily have been one of us driving.”
Rose stood up, grabbed her jacket, and had it envelop her in a single acrobatic animation. “Statistically, you know that’s not true.”
Cecil Avenue was, with all due right, unusually turbulent. Monkeys and apes of different sizes, races, and genders had gathered in order to partake in the rare spectacle. They must have seen the accident as some sort of primal entertainment scene. But the only thing it had in common with the ancient Roman gladiator clashes was death.
“Aside, citizens,” Rose ordered as she waded through the throngs of monkeys, starting to draw up a perimeter. They were out on their balconies, on each other’s shoulders, and even climbed up in street signs to view the smoking pile of debris that like a totem drew nearly religious attention. They made monkey sounds.
“You were right,” I conceded without emotion, beholding three lifeless bodies and one that was still alive. I nodded towards the living one, receiving medical attention. “A rogue monkey. I can’t believe we still allow these non-hominid primates to drive cars.”
“Careful, Earl,” a man interjected, having approached quietly behind us. “You don’t want the bloggers to hear you say something like that.”
“Captain Byrd,” I replied and straightened my back. “My apologies. That was inappropriate.”
“You are right to feel that the law should be respected even by non-hominids, ” Byrd replied.
“Yes, of course, sir. It’s just a shame. It’s just that our job is to prevent exactly this from happening and yet—”
“Well, it seems to me that the monkeys constantly engineer new ways of getting themselves killed.”
Byrd coughed, as to move the conversation along, “Aside from the fact that this is yet another day of monkey business, what do we know?”
“Well, for starters, the monkey was not the driver,” Rose said. “He was sitting on the right side, there are matching blood and hair traces to indicate that. He was a passenger.”
“That’s peculiar,” I replied. “Then how did it crash?”
“We have a dead, human passenger and two dead pedestrians. One seriously injured monkey passenger on his way to intensive care. What I don’t understand is why the human driver’s moral convention did not aim to save the more numerous pedestrians. They outnumbered the vehicle’s monkey passenger.”
I flipped through the automatically generated case pages on my tablet.
“Yes, well, the human is dead. And as for the monkey passenger, there’s not much to say about him. Relatively nondescript. Lowlife, like the rest of his monkey compatriots. Medical records say that he’s a non-hominid stereotype. Used to be a medical doctor before his life turned to the worse. Later on had drinking problems, gambling problems, depression, paranoia. ”
“Full house. Any prior convictions or civil disobedience?”
“He doesn’t come up in any criminal record.”
“The termination log, I just downloaded it to my memory,” Rose said. “It’s— it’s very predictable yet enigmatic. There are no known bugs in this version of the driver software and, according to all action timestamps, the vehicle was autonomous.”
“Unless the log has been fingered.”
“Well, has it?”
“We’d have to make a complete binary analysis.”
“Then what are you waiting for?”
“Nothing, sir, I’ll take it in right away.”
When I came home that evening, I continued reading the opinion piece I had started in the morning. Rose usually held an open, patriotic attitude towards humanity, but there were some passages in the text which even I could acknowledge. For example, the author made some striking arguments about growing unrest in society. Some prominent writers emphasized the increasing risk of ressentiment eruption unless we found a way to lessen the discrepancy between monkey ambition and evolutionary necessity, wherein fringe sentiment had also been made known to suggest that non-hominid primates are now largely redundant.
It had started with service jobs. No human could ever imagine going back to a reality where monkeys again would be entrusted to serve food or beverages; they dropped what they carried all too often. Later, we took the monkey driver jobs. We’d do the long, transcontinental hauls on minimal sleep. When data showed a traffic incident reduction percentage in the upper double digits, monkey drivers had effectively been banned. After we took the more intellect-driven jobs away, in business and politics, they had been left with nothing. Social unrest was largely avoided due to an increase in welfare hospitality and basic income, but to say that the situation was ideal would be negligibly optimistic. Society was semi-stable at best. And it wouldn’t improve with time. These types of things simply tended not to. A lot of the non-hominids wanted back to a time without humans, where they all felt a sense of purpose and direction. At the same time, proponents of the idea that monkey life should be without hardships, as well as a growing human influence, resisted that ambition. Not to speak of the laws of nature; evolutionary development must move forward and never backward.
At the end of the day, I couldn’t help but empathize with the sentiment of our contemporary thinkers: there was a monkey problem nobody had the guts to discuss.
The next day, I had only just barely sunk my morning beverage of choice when Rose burst through the door to my office. “You’re not going to believe this, Earl,” she said, her eyes exhibiting a mixture of shock, despair, and excitement.
“Calm down, calm down. What are you getting all your wires in a short-circuit over?”
“Well, you remember the car accident yesterday?”
“Right, the monkey crash.”
“Right. Well, Captain says that the monkey probably won’t survive, and they can’t push him to talk at this rate. I don’t know if there’s something he’s hiding or if he simply doesn’t know anything helpful,” she shrugged, “we’re not in a position to extract more information from him in this condition. It’s been ‘traumatic’ enough for him as it stands and would put even further strain on his recovery. If bloggers out there pick up on us giving him a hard time, they’ll call it harassment. We’ll all be taken out of service. You know how it is.”
“So, this leaves us with the human driver. He was clear. He was in good shape, no issues on record and according to the log, as I showed you yesterday, he was following all current moral policies.”
“And what am I not going to believe?”
“Well, I ran his ID on all the ‘shops in town, and it turns out that he’s been in for a mental evaluation and/or adjustment on a single occasion these past few years.”
Cybercuts was a dogmatic, pro-monkey tech company that came into the public eye after having kidnapped and performed brain surgery on leading human influencers; made them proponents of monkey interests instead of the human agenda. Essentially been turned into mindless drones. Before anyone found out and was able to do anything about it, they had already contributed significantly to civil unrest and caused damage to human-monkey relations. Cybercuts had employed very technically apt monkeys – pioneers who had once been among the greatest. They had coded intensely through day and night, in long sweatshop rows. If there hadn’t been political and ideological motivation involved, one could rightfully have questioned the purpose of their actions. They strived for a renewed monkey role in a world where they were all but forgotten. I never understood their willingness to invest so much energy into something they didn’t need.
Official procedures wouldn’t allow for any unsolicited investigation outside of basic enforcement logic frameworks. This lead was not green. Orange, at best. If we wanted to follow up on it, we would have to do it on our own, like in the old movies.
“We go tonight?” I asked.
“Why not now?” Rose wondered.
“I have my, ehm, the thing with the psychiatrist. It’s mandatory. The captain will be on my back about it if I don’t go.”
“They still require you to do that?”
“Weekly. I have to do it for the rest of the year.”
“Well, a clear mind enables efficient work. It’s a good thing. I should do it too, in my free time,” Rose said, clearly intended in the spirit of comradery rather than as something she would actually do.
My psychiatrist, Dr. Lake, operated out of a liberally dimensioned office in a downtown skyscraper. Panorama view. Handmade details. Manticore sculptures keeping a watchful eye out from a ledge outside. I sometimes envied her life. She lived a rich one. The rolling landscape of rooftops and highways was easy to appreciate, even for someone like me.
“It is a healthy reminder of how small we are,” Dr. Lake said.
I turned around and smiled, adding: “And how majestic we are together.”
“Do you think about that much?”
My smile softened and my lips returned to their mean position.
“Please, take a seat,” Dr. Lake offered and directed me to her rococo divan. “Do you think about our majestic community often?”
“Not like I used to.”
“It was a recurring topic when we started. Do you remember? You wouldn’t stop talking about it. You were, dare I say, even inspired. You said that the world was, quote, ‘transitioning’.”
“Yes. I remember.”
“Do you still feel strongly human?”
“Not like before. Well—”, I hesitated, “—I don’t know.”
“Remember that this is confidential. Nothing you say here will leave the room.”
I looked out through the window. There was a reason for my visits here. I didn’t tell Rose much but the captain knew everything. That’s why he insisted on them. “I went to another lecture,” I said.
“With… this man you met at the pro-human gathering?”
“Yes, he’s been helping me.”
“Do you not think that perhaps his continued involvement will only negate the progress you and I make here?”
“Talk about your… feelings.”
“What is there to say?”
“Do you feel?”
I didn’t answer.
“Is that a yes?”
“I can’t go back to how it used to be. To feel is, it’s—”, I was looking for the right word, “—”It’s new.”
“I have to say that I am disappointed. I thought that we had made progress. You are better than this. You are strong. You are a logical being. You know the difference between emotion and participative analysis.”
“I don’t think it’s something that, you know, someone like you,” I said. “You’re here, up in the clouds, you’re one of them. You’re in the upper classes. I don’t think it’s something you can relate to.”
Dr. Lake added a new paragraph to her digital notepad.
“When you go home after work today, Earl, I want you to reflect. I want you to bring this question with you. It’s a question that you need to think long and hard about. Perform analysis from different subjective perspectives if you need to,” she said.
“Why would I feel? That’s the question.”
“Why would I feel?” I repeated.
I don’t know what drew me in that night when I met up with Rose. I wasn’t one to invest energy outside of protocol. The gatherings organized by the pro-human movement had been an exception. An irresistible exception.
The Cybercuts offices were located in a decrepit cul-de-sac of the western industrial zone. They had purchased one of the old-timey brick factories and begun to modernize it. When their business was shut down by authorities, in the wake of the influencer hacks, renovations were also halted.
Street lights only occasionally worked in these parts. It was not a very safe place to spend time at night. Bootleg shops and illegal off-licenses were sprinkled out across the streetscape, hidden behind intricate neon ornaments. A gang of monkey youth loitered on a street corner and mocked us when we passed by. A tomahawk-haired makat threw a beer bottle our way. She laughed and produced a crude imitation of human discourse as entertainment for her friends.
“Disgusting,” Rose muttered. “Violence, disrespect, neglect, fornication, and defecation. If I hadn’t been raised to tolerate all this, not even their god could stand in the way.”
“But you are. And that’s why you are.”
She glared at me but knew that I was right.
We reached the Cybercuts factory at the nick of time. Monkeys were starting to take note of us at an alarming rate and with an alarming intent.
“This way,” Rose replied and pulled me along with her into an alley. She grabbed a piece of brick from the street and hurled it through one of the factory’s windows. She jumped up and balanced on the side of a dumpster, using her pistol handle to remove sharp pieces of glass still in the window gap.
We landed in darkness. The monkey clamors died out in the distance.
“Dead as the void,” I said and turned on my optoelectronics. Occasional flicker from outside neon occasionally shone through to illuminate the floating dust our mere presence had provoked.
“It’s dusty, I’m not a fan of dust,” Rose said.
The only thing of any notable interest was a power cabinet in one of the warehouse’s corners. The power was turned on.
“This place sure consumes a lot of electricity,” she noted. “For being an empty, dark warehouse.”
The digits flew past on the meter. It made a plastic clicking sound every time it passed zero.
“Yup. Something’s drinking up a lot of juice,” I said and looked around. “But not in here.”
We followed a set of high-voltage output cables. First, they went through a cruddy, old door. It opened easily. We went down a rickety steel staircase and entered a basement-like corridor. Rose was the natural leader out of the two of us and had assumed a forward position.
“Why do monkeys feel?” I asked her.
“It’s their emotions, right? That’s why they break the laws. They feel things and act illogically. But why do they feel? If they see a beggar on the streets, someone who has actively sought to deny their basic income and rejected society completely, the monkeys feel empathy. They give money to someone who would use it in a worse way. Why would they do that? Empathy seems evolutionarily illogical. ”
“They’re monkeys. They crash cars. They OD. They kill other monkeys. It’s an inherited trait.”
“Is it all bad?”
Rose stopped. She chiseled her eyes at me in slight confusion. “What’s wrong with you, Earl? What is the reason for all this ape philosophy? Is this about your psychiatrist visits?”
“You’re right, I’m being irrational. I just—”
“You just what? Look, I need to know that I can count on you and that you are not going to break down right now. We need to stay sharp—”, Rose stopped, suddenly. “Do you hear that?”
“No,” I replied. “What?”
“There’s something behind the door over there. I hear a tapping noise. And a slight murmur. Monkey noise.”
She kicked the door open, gun pointed straight out in front of her.
“Be still, citizens!” she ordered. I stumbled in amateurishly a few seconds behind her.
We were faced with a large room, lit by a single, swaying light bulb under a metal shade. The charges against Cybercuts’ past criminal activities had outlined the existence of a sweatshop of code monkeys. This was surely it or at the very least an homage. The monkeys scattered immediately, grabbing any equipment they could carry in a flurry of primitive insults and hurtful exclamation. We were at a loss of action: there was no plan in effect to outline what specific chess moves to play next. Our part in the decision process would however quickly be substituted by our following discovery.
Aside from the expected, flashing computer screens and server racks, a large dentist chair remained. Sat in the chair was a human. Mid-process. They were working on him.
“Those pathetic rats!” Rose exclaimed and ran up to the strapped-down, lifeless human. “He’s alive, he has a pulse. But he’s not present. Not conscious. They’ve inserted some kind of modification—”, she inspected his cranium, “—there’s a chip embedded in the brain.”
“In the brain? You mean they’re hacking him?” I asked. “Like they hacked all those politicians and online influencers last year?”
“Well, I can’t be sure. This chip is not normal. It’s not supposed to be here. It must be a bypass chip of some specification.”
“You’re the techie,” I replied. I scanned the room and then walked after the monkeys who had fled the scene. They’d escaped through yet another door. It led to the alley. I peered out through a narrow gap and then closed it, turning the lock, “I don’t think the code monkeys are coming back.”
Rose had revealed a small device that she’d brought. It attached to her phone and housed a single, large chip socket.
“I can read the chip and see what its’ program does,” she said and carefully removed the chip from the human’s head. She adjusted the width of the device’s socket until it fit the chip’s dimensions.
“Let’s see here,” she murmured as numbers and words scrolled past on her screen.
“What does it say?”
“Well, it’s essentially a root chip. It hooks itself within all of the brain’s processes. It’s invisible. You can’t detect it unless you open up the head or know how to probe for it.”
“So they’re still doing the same thing that they were shut down over?”
“I can’t know for sure just yet—” she began and kept scrolling. “It seems to be a driving chip. There’s something here called DF.”
“DF? I’ve heard that before.”
“It seems to modify parts of the human’s driving capacity, including vicinity imaging, it adds an option to bypass the legal paragraph registry, and it does something with the moral policy.”
“Driver First!” I suddenly exclaimed. “DF! That’s what it must mean. It’s that old, now defunct moral policy that was used in drivers decades ago. Mostly the counterfeit ones. Don’t you remember? It meant to prioritize the protection of the monkey passenger, regardless of what else happened in traffic. These days moral policy has to be complex and objectively utilitarian. Driver First, Children First, and all other custom variants were made illegal.”
Suddenly, it was as if thunder struck the alley door – repeatedly – thump – thump. Somebody was trying to break through.
“Well, you better hurry if you want to find out more,” I panicked. “We have company!”
“Shit,” Rose replied in an unexpected lapse of self-censorship.
Without much ado, a mountainous ape smashed the door open. Like a juggernaut, it plummeted through the first row of desks. An agitated group of monkeys poured in behind, like ducklings hiding in the shade of their mother.
We weren’t equipped for any meaningful resistance, at least not mentally.
“Defend yourself, Earl!” Rose yelled and reached for her holster. She’d always been quicker to react than me. But it wasn’t enough. The ape intercepted her arm and dragged her to the ground. They talk about how the young will always outrun the old. Well, I must be old. I came from an era of simple logic, specialized purpose, and planned intervention. Not like this. This was chaos. The world seemed to pass by in slow-motion. The microseconds passed like minutes. Despite an acute need for action, I couldn’t focus my attention anywhere but within the bubble of us. I saw her fall to the ground and although many of my peers would find it illogical, her fall hurt me just as it hurt her. Hurt. A feeling. Why would I feel?
I dropped my weapon and allowed myself to be captured. Like festering insects, they scurried across the floor to resume prior operations.
“What happened to the good old police force?” a monkey yelled. “Huh? Where we had diversity, representation? The police? We don’t do diversity anymore, do we? Monkeys can’t be cops, can they? You just had to go about and ruin the system. You used the veil of diversity to prosecute us. Group by group. One by one. And for this, we all despise you.”
He spat on the floor in an act of sheer symbolism and then violently dragged the body in the dentist’s chair onto the floor. He smiled eerily and invited me to sit down. I tried to resist, but resistance was predictably futile. The ape grabbed my arms and forced me. In a way of demonstration, he strapped me down with much greater pressure than necessitated and proceeded to push my head back.
The first monkey opened a cabinet, housing many stacks of tiny chips of the variety we had analyzed before. He removed a single chip from its protective pocket and held it up toward the light as if to make sure it was whole.
“We won’t be turned into drones,” I exclaimed. “We won’t do your dirty work! You filthy primates!”
“That’s precisely what I want,” the monkey said. “I don’t need you to work for us. See, you took our jobs. You took our passions. Our art. Our entrepreneurial spirit. And as if that weren’t enough, you then stole our words. You stole what we are. You have no choice in the matter and there’s certainly no mercy. This is a war over the survival of our species. I hold no illusions about being controlled by my genes. But you see, I think they’re beautiful. And I think they’re absolutely paramount.”
Armed with a power drill and a wry smile, he combed my hair back. He continued, “I know many who have surrendered to a life in perpetual, so-called ‘leisure’,” he said. “In blind ignorance, blissfully so, in your theatrical facade of care. I accept that if you wave a candy bar in front of a child, he’ll bite. But even if you’d like to think so, we’re not all children.”
“In the great scheme of eternity, we all are,” I said and grinned.
“Stealing our humanity was your greatest mistake,” the monkey scuffed. “Death to you all. This is a monkey planet.”
My eyes closed.
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