“The world is rampant with monkeys, seemingly depreciating all that is civilization by each act they pursue. 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 from them.”
I read today’s editorial text with some personal skepticism and looked up at Rose. I’d expect a reaction from her. She was into this type of debate.
Rose frowned. “Everything is better now, it seems illogical to complain. This is what they wanted. This is what they needed. If they hadn’t taken the steps they did, they would’ve 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 fear is irrational,” I said. “There are enough protective paragraphs in place to keep them out of harm’s way. They live pretty good lives. Besides, we don’t need this polarizing propaganda. 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. APP 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 uniform jacket and let it succumb her in a single acrobatic arm animation. “Statistically, you know that’s not true.”
We arrived at the collision site just a minute later thanks to a nearby standby station where the police kept official vehicles parked for quick traversal around the city. Cecil Avenue was unusually rowdy that day, and it was easy to see why. Monkeys and apes of various sizes, races, and genders had gathered to witness the strange spectacle. It must have seemed like some kind of primal entertainment to them. But the only thing this accident had in common with ancient Roman gladiator clashes was death.
“Aside, citizens,” Rose ordered as she waded through the throngs of monkeys, starting to draw up a perimeter. The monkeys 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 driving cars.”
“Careful, Earl,” a man interjected, having approached quietly behind us. “You don’t want the wrong ears 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. This is curious, considering that the human driver’s moral code should have aimed to save the pedestrians. They outnumbered the vehicle’s monkey passenger.”
I quickly browsed through the case pages on my tablet. “The monkey passenger is an individual by the name Alfonso L Saki,” I read aloud. “According to his records — reasonably well-off. Doctor by profession, but, like the rest of his monkey compatriots, medical records tell a story of eating disorder, drinking problems, gambling problems, depression, and paranoia. It seems he fits the non-human stereotype quite well.”
“Full house. Any prior convictions or civil disobedience?”
“He doesn’t have 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 resumed reading the opinion piece I had begun in the morning. Rose was a more intelligent and patriotic human than I was, but there were some passages that even I could make sense of. For example, the article discussed the growing unrest in society, which I agreed was a real concern. Some prominent writers emphasized the increasing risk of ressentiment erupting unless we find a solution to the discrepancy between ape ambition and evolutionary necessity. They also argued that non-human 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 never did. 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: they dictated that 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 and despair.
“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, the Captain says that the monkey won’t talk. I don’t know if there’s something he’s hiding or if he simply doesn’t know anything helpful. Besides, we’re not in a position to extract more information from him right now. It’s been ‘traumatic’ enough for him as it stands. 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 mental evaluation and/or adjustment on a single occasion these past few years.”
Cybercuts was a dogmatic, pro-monkey tech company that had gained notoriety after kidnapping and performing brain surgery on leading human influencers, turning them into advocates for monkey interests instead of the human agenda. The human influencers had been essentially turned into mindless drones. Cybercuts had employed highly skilled monkeys who had worked tirelessly, coding in long sweatshop rows. If it weren’t for the political and ideological motivations behind their actions, one could legitimately question their purpose. They had been striving for a renewed role for monkeys in a world where they had been all but forgotten. I could never understand why they would invest so much energy into something that didn’t make their lives materialistically better.
In the end, the entire Cybercuts leadership, along with a few of the key code monkeys, had been given life sentences in national internet isolation chambers.
“Are we going tonight?” I asked.
Official procedures prohibited any unsolicited investigation beyond basic enforcement logic frameworks. If we wanted to follow up on this lead, we would have to do it on our own.
“Why not now?” she replied.
“I have my, eh, you know 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?”
“Yes, weekly. I have to do it for the rest of the year.”
“Well, a clear mind enables efficient work. It’s a good thing,” Rose said. “I would need it too.”
My psychiatrist operated out of a liberally dimensioned office in a downtown skyscraper. Panorama view. Handmade details. I sometimes envied her life. 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. San 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. San 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.”
“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 right-wing gathering?”
“Yes, he’s been helping me.”
“Don’t you think that 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.
“You are better than this, Earl. 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. San 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.”
“Why would I feel?” she said. “That’s the question.”
“Why would I feel?” I repeated.
That night, I don’t know what drew me in. I wasn’t one to invest energy outside of protocol. So, was it my innate loyalty to Rose, a partner whom I had held dearly for as long as I can remember? Or was it something else? What did we even expect to find?
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, renovations were shut down with it.
In this part of town, street lights only occasionally worked, making it a dangerous place to be at night. Bootleg shops and illegal off-licenses were scattered throughout the streets, hidden behind intricate neon ornaments. As we passed by, a gang of monkey youth loitering on a street corner mocked us. One of them, a tomahawk-haired makat, threw a beer bottle in our direction and laughed, making crude imitations of human discourse for her friends’ entertainment.
“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 neck of time. Monkeys were starting to take note of us at an alarming rate and with an alarming intent.
“This is it,” I said. “It looks abandoned, though. And based on how the general monkey vibe is developing, I don’t think they want that state to change.”
“This way,” Rose replied and pulled me into an alley with her. She picked up a piece of brick from the street and threw it through one of the factory’s windows. She then jumped up and balanced on the side of a dumpster, using her pistol handle to remove any sharp pieces of glass still in the window.
We landed in darkness. The monkey clamors died out in the distance.
“Dead as the void,” I said and turned on my optoelectronics.
“It’s dusty, I’m not a fan of dust,” Rose said.
We found a power switch in the corner of the great hall and turned it on. The occasional flicker from the neon lights outside shone through, illuminating the dust that our presence had stirred up.
“This place sure consumes a lot of electricity,” she noted. “For being an empty, dark warehouse.”
She pointed me to the electricity meter. The digits flew past. A simple click sounded each time it rotated past 0.
“Yup. Something’s drinking up a lot of juice,” I said and looked around. “But not in here.”
We followed the high-voltage output cables from the power switch panel. They led us through a cruddy old door that opened easily, down a rickety staircase, and into a basement-like corridor. Rose, the natural leader of the two of us, took the lead as we walked.
“Why do monkeys feel?” I asked her.
“What?” she replied.
“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 lose its 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 on drugs. They kill other monkeys. It’s an inherent 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 will not break down right now. We need to stay sharp.”
“They were questions to pass the time,” I said. “Disregard them.”
Rose wouldn’t have any of it. And she was right. If we lost focus, at a time like this, that could be disastrous. We shouldn’t be in this warehouse. But I couldn’t shake Dr. San’s question. Why would I feel?
“Do you hear that?” Rose asked, suddenly.
“I don’t,” I replied. “What do you hear?”
“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 entered a large, dimly lit room with a single light bulb hanging from a metal shade. The charges against Cybercuts’s past criminal activities had mentioned a sweatshop of code monkeys, and this must have been it, or at least an homage to it. As soon as they saw us, the monkeys scattered, grabbing whatever equipment they could carry and hurling insults and exclamations at us. 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.
“Oh, no, those pathetic rats!” Rose exclaimed and ran up to the strapped-down, lifeless human.
“Is he alive?”
“Alive, surely, he has a pulse. But he’s not present. Not conscious.”
“This is lobotomy,” I said and inspected his cranium. “He’s opened up.”
“They’ve inserted some kind of modification. There is a bypass chip there.”
“You mean they’re hacking him?” I asked. “Like they hacked those influencers last year?”
“Well, I can’t be sure. This chip is not normal. It’s not supposed to be here.”
“You’re the techie,” I replied and traced the many monkey steps I could still smell on the ground. They’d escaped through another door. It led to the same alley we were in before. 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 could attach to her phone and housed a single, large chip socket.
“I can read the chip and see what its program does,” she said, carefully removing 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 rootchip. 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.
“Like, for cars?”
“Yes. Cars. Planes. Ships. There’s something here called DF.”
“DF? I’ve heard that before.”
“It seems to modify parts of the human’s navigational capacity, including vicinity imaging. It adds an option to bypass the legal paragraph registry, and it does something with the morale policy.”
“Driver First!” I suddenly exclaimed. “DF! That’s what it must mean. It’s an old moral policy that was used in drivers decades ago, mostly in counterfeit ones. Don’t you remember? It meant to prioritize the protection of the monkey passenger, no matter what else happened in traffic. Back then, they didn’t have the complex systems we have today. Nowadays, moral policy has to be complex and objectively utilitarian, which is why Driver First, Children First, and other custom variants were made illegal.”
Suddenly, the alley door shook as if struck by thunder, over and over again. Thump, thump. Someone was trying to break through.
“Well, you better hurry if you want to find out more,” I said, feeling a growing sensation of panic. “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 was always quicker to react than me. But it wasn’t enough. The ape intercepted her arm and dragged her to the ground. They say that the young will always outrun the old, and I must be old. I come 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 felt like minutes. Despite the urgent need for action, I couldn’t focus on anything but the bubble of us. I saw her fall, and although many of my peers would consider it illogical, her fall hurt me as much as it hurt her.
I dropped my weapon and allowed them to capture me. Like festering insects, they scurried across the floor to resume their previous operations.
“APP scum!” a monkey yelled. He walked in circles around us. “It’s no surprise that the most unintelligible leadership imaginable created the most pathetic acronym imaginable. Autonomous Patrollers and Peacekeepers, ‘APP’. What happened to the good old police force? Huh? The police? It’s a good old, simple word. But we don’t do good, old and simple anymore, do we? Everything has to be so damn evolved and fancy now. There’s no room for people like us.”
He spat on the floor in an act of sheer symbolism and then violently dragged the human body in the dentist’s chair onto the floor. He smiled eerily and invited me to sit down. I tried to resist, but according to my calculations, 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. Without any notable effort, he flicked my chin up to face the ceiling.
The monkeys had a momentary disagreement, something which was common among non-hominids. Humans were also, albeit occasionally, irresolute—but never in illogical, emotional debate.
Following eventual concord within the group, 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 ensure 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 the outcome I’m hoping for,” the monkey said. “I don’t want you to work for us. See, you took our jobs. Then you came for 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.