It was 10 am on a scarlet frosted weekday morning, as a man wearing a fluorescent yellow jacket shuffled out of his house. He wore a chain of keys around his neck, which serenaded the morning with a fresh chime. Stopping for a moment and gazing upward toward the sky, his tiny eye was pierced by the sunlight, and he smiled. His day had begun.
It was an hours walk into the centre of town, ‘you would be quicker on the bus’ many would advise him, ‘especially with those little legs’. Yet, these words did not interest him, he enjoyed the walk, it awakened his body.
He strolled by the river‘s edge, with his precious tartan hold-all bag clasped tightly within the stubby fingers of his left hand, and took great delight, in listening to the voices of the river air. After a few minutes of walking along the riverside he crossed the road and passed the newsagents on the corner of the hill, by Abraham Park. He exchanged a respectful nod with the shop owner, as they both had always done, and probably always would.
The park had forever been a steep testing, stepping climb which many locals avoided. They would instead take the longer route; the road which winds gradually around the hill. But not him, no certainly not him, he thrived upon the ecstasy of this muscle firming thrust.
Spring, Winter, Autumn or Summer, he willingly engaged in it, enthralled each and every time by the nature surrounding his hands and feet and eyes and hands. Sometimes he would stop to kneel down and smell the sweet summer grass, occasionally he would bend over and feel the textures of a fallen crushed acorn and often he would devour the taste of the trees. About half way up lay a park bench, and inscribed on it were the words ’In memory of Keeble Volans 1888-1907’ however, this held little significance to him, in fact I doubt he had ever even read it. Yet he had sat on this bench, every day , sunshine or whoring rain, for over thirty years. Even in the days before the monkeys had came. When he had been a strapping six foot tall, young man of twenty years old, with flowing blonde locks. He would sit here and look out across the park and pull faces at the clouds. Whilst now at the tender age of fifty three and with an eagle bald head and soup spoon legs, he still gained great delight in doing this. He would sit and make the most gruesome of faces applying his hands to his nose and turning it into a snout, stretching his eyes into bloodshot positions and wiggling ferociously his tongue, growling, grating and shouting obscenities as he did. On many occasions passers by would simply gawp at this oddness and quickly shuffle onwards. However sometimes, an inquisitive soul would wander through this scene of madness and ask of him, ‘why are you doing that?’ to which he would always reply ‘have you ever pulled faces at the clouds?, if you do, they pull them right back at you’.
He would usually do this for ten minutes or so, dependent on the weather and the clouds moods and imaginations that particular day, and would then tightly grasp his tartan bag, and begin the final ascent. It was generally during this section of the climb, approaching the summit, in which he would begin to hear the monkeys. On rare occasions he would make it all the way into town and back, before would he hear their violent call. On these days he would arrive home with romantic comedies, tubes and tubes of Smarties, and plastic bottles filled with tremendously fizzy drink, tucked inside his hold all. Having spent the day talking to strangers in shops, and on the street discussing the delights of invisible celebrity weddings, the echoes and the disbelief he held over his friend David’s spending habits.
Yet today, when he was a little over ten or eleven steps away from the bench, the monkeys clasped open his miniature head and climbed inside. The haranguing had begun, and this sent him into a terrible rage. His tiny eye began to shuffle about irrationally, and with his right hand he would attempt to reach towards it, and scrape the irritant. This was always the first stage, soon he would have to warn people about them.
Ten minutes had passed and the monkeys were everywhere now. He needed to be amongst people, he needed to be indoors, he needed some fresh horror. He trundled down the cobbled lane, which links the park, to the main high street as fast as his tiny legs would take him. The wind was picking up, the birds had ceased to sing and his chest was convulsing as he reached the end of the lane. He turned the corner, and had to leap sideward to dodge an unexpected tramp seated on a step. At the sight of this the tramp stood up and raised his hands skyward as if mimicking one of those golf sale sign men, cackled wildly and shouted words. Who knows why. He did not have time to ponder this, and neither do we. After scampering across the road in between a vehicle and a taxi, he leaped upon the kerb. The little man stood bending over, his hands clasped to his legs and began to pant, the keys around his neck panted too, in tune with his breath. He had reached the charming electric doors of the department store. After this moment of regaining his composure and with his breath renewed, he ventured inside.
He immediately headed upstairs, in search of the DVD section. He could still hear the faint murmurings of monkey taunts. He needed horror films. Feeling his way toward the horror section of the DVD bay, he grasped hold of the first film that popped into sight of his tiny eye ‘Headless Virgin Chainsaw Hotel’ and turned back the way he came in, and descended the stairs, his tiny eye all the time fixed upon the pay desk. Reaching the till, he plopped his selection down for the pay boy to scan through, and pulling his envelope full of coins out of his florescent yellow overcoat, he began the purchase of the film. Whilst involved in this action of payment, he decided it only appropriate to warn the boy about the monkeys, and from his small childlike vimto and steak incrusted lips fell the words ‘they did though didn’t they’. The boy stared back blankly, so he began again ‘those monkeys, stealing your money’, adding a cackle, because he was overawed in satisfaction by what he knew. The boy still stood silent, and looked half intimidated, half confused. Then he made a third attempt ‘but they did though, didn’t they,’ a pause, ‘we know though don’t we’, this time adding hand movements and facial gestures. The boy still stood silent. The till clicked into life, and the uncomfortable boy handed the odd man his receipt. The man giggled and motioned to leave, yet as a last attempt to warn the child, he whispered the words ‘those monkeys, those monkeys’, placed his film into his bag and headed towards the exit of the shop. However, as he was about to leave, his eye was caught by some piece of retail tack, which hung around the front of the till area. He stopped in his tracks, and stared closely at the object, which appeared to be a set of Lord of The Rings top trump cards. He began to feel around in his jacket pocket for something. A smile pierced his small face, and he pulled from his pocket a battered blue notebook and biro. He then leaned onto a disused till counter, opened his book and scrawled the words; Money, Goat, Strange Monkey, Hilda. Ensuring he paused between each word and stared to the sky in deep thought. Then he returned the book to his pocket and headed for the exit.
As soon as he left the sanctuary of the store, he could here their voices echoing strong and virile. This was in spite of the ever flowing stream of traffic and city centre chaos, which surrounded him. Although he was fearful, the warmth of the shop, the film in his bag, the moment spent consorting with the boy and the writing of words in his book had renewed his energy. He rubbed his tiny fingers upon the keys which hung upon a chain around his neck and let out a faint smile. He felt confident, and able to take on the sewers once more.
He began to walk, and was soon shuffled along the bustling city streets with everyone else, passing stores and shoes and supermodel children at a thunderous pace. At exactly the right moment, he pushed his way through to the edge of the crowd and fell off it, into a side alley. He squatted down, next to one of several rubbish bins and drew his breath. The alley was a red wine dark and quiet in comparison to the hectic street just a few feet away. All he could hear was the sounds of water dripping down the sodden alley walls and the faint muffled movements of vermin, to which this alleyway was their abode. He removed his fluorescent yellow jacket and placed it into his hold-all, ‘don’t want to give you monkeys any helping hand’ he whispered toward the passing crowd. He then fastened up his bag and began to rub his fingers upon what he called his ‘lucky charm‘, the Coca Cola American football blazer he had once been given by a kind purple stranger, which he always wore. He then shut his eyes, and focused upon the job in hand. The sound of the monkeys was growing stronger and more distasteful every second, it echoed of the alley walls, mixing with the reverberations of dripping water and formed a waterfall of virile monkey chants which gushed toward his face. He grasped for the chain of keys around his neck, skilfully pulled one off and jabbed it into the ground. As he turned the key, a slight yet significant click was to be heard, followed by the sound of a very small man, heaving and straining to lift open a sewer door. A passing child saw this action unfold, and pleaded with her mother to return to the alleyway they had just past. At her daughter’s persuasion they revisited the alley were the girl claimed she had seen a small vole like man pulling open a sewer door. Yet, all that was to be found was an empty alleyway, abandoned except for a couple of rats.
The sewers underneath the city were a maze of sanguine concrete walls, metal pipes, darkness and water. Rat brown water. The stench was horrific, an amalgamation of human waste, vermin and sour dairy products which penetrated your nostrils within seconds of inhalation. However, this did not effect him, as he had no sense of smell. This was due to the countless hours he had spent in the sewers. However, what did strike fear into him, was the shrieking of monkey voices, which he heard echoing off every wall and pipe, from all directions. Nonetheless, this man, knew the sewers like no-one else. Since the monkeys had first appeared, he had been coming down here and had yet to be caught. He knew many routes home. After walking silent footed for over ten minutes, he stopped for a moment. Shifting his weight onto his right leg and grasping a metal pipe with his right arm, he bent down, dipped his left thumb into the putrid murky water and let out a small eek of wind. He then stood back up, firm on both legs and held his ear to the wall. He sensed the monkeys all around him now, there cries reverberated off every surface. Time was running out, he decided his only option was to hide, wait for them to pass, and then attempt another route. Luckily, he knew of just the spot, a disused shaft, which was no more than ninety steps away. He had once hidden in there for over seventeen hours, during a particularly close shave. A memory in which he did not like to immerse himself in. The shaft had been unused since the 1920’s, when the city had revamped it’s sewerage system, and replaced all the waste shafts with piping. It was a minute 4 foot by 3 foot, of decaying urine soaked metal, yet he managed to position himself inside it quite comfortably, even deploying his bag as a pillow. His skill of positioning enabled him to be completely hidden from the walkway underneath, and he lay there clasping his bag and focusing upon his breathing. The sound of monkeys grew rapidly louder. In little more than three minutes since he had concealed himself within the shaft, the shrieking orchestra of sandpaper sounds, had developed into a horrific blood thirsting mesh of noise and euphoria. He closed his eyes, crossed his fingers and hoped he would not be found. The sounds were directly underneath him now, ferocious and coarse, it felt as though his ears were bleeding with fear. The shaft began to rattle with the force of a thousand enraged monkeys, he could feel its support straining. His body began to inwardly spasm with panic, he desperately grasped hold of the chain of keys around his neck, in an attempt to silence their fearful shivering. He shut his eyes, it was horrifyingly dark, he could feel the bolts on the shaft loosening under the pressure. Tears streamed from his eyes, he began to concede that this was it, that it was over. He accepted defeat and awaited the end. But it never came, the shaft held firm, and the noise and the voices and the screams were growing increasingly distant, and soon became nothing more than a distant rumble upon his aching head. He rested for an extra ten minutes, to regain his energy and ensure the monkeys had definitely passed. Then stealthily he dropped down from the shaft and landed upon his feet with an expert precision. After observing the area around him was monkey free, he cupped his ear to the wall and listened. He could still hear their screaming virile sounds, however now they were much further away. He considered the situation, and decided that his best option was to take a route in the opposite direction from the monkeys, ‘could be an ambush, if I follow them’, he thought, as he turned away from their sound, and began to walk. This route, although much longer than the other, was proving to be safer. He had been walking for over forty minutes and the monkeys remained a fearsome yet distant tremor upon his ears. He stopped for a moment and felt the wall, ‘one exit away, not far now’ he whispered to himself, ‘must not be complacent, must not be complacent’, and pushed onwards at the same stealth steady pace. When the exit was not more than two hundred metres away, he ground to halt again. Something did not seem right, he could sense it, and once more he pressed his ear to the wall. Still, the monkeys sounded little more than a vague murmur of screams far away, yet he was certain he could feel something. He began to edge slowly towards the exit, he took one step, he look around, nothing. He took another step and looked around again, still nothing. However it was as he took a third step that he heard it, a rapid wave of piercing, gut wrenching screams, which dove deep into the dark recesses of his mind, causing his whole body to quiver and contract in panic. Without hesitation he dashed for the exit. The noise was gaining on him, yet he was almost at the ladder, and he jumped for it, desperately grabbing hold of it and hoisting himself up onto the first few rungs. He scrambled up as fast as his arms and legs could. The screams were gaining, yet he was now at the top, and could feel the cold iron of the metal gate which concealed his freedom upon his hands, and he pushed. The noises were now directly below him, coming up the shaft at an incessant pace, horrific shrieks, grunts, screams and howls vibrated up the exit shaft. He pushed again, this time harder, his muscles contorting underneath the weight of the metal, sweat was pouring from his face, his whole body ached and strained. Then with one last mighty effort, it opened up, a world of blinding light filled his eyes, and he clambered out onto the road. The noises were almost at the top of the shaft now also, throbbing and scratching at his ears. However, with what little strength he had left he somehow managed to jam the lid firmly into the hole. Immediately he clambered to his feet and picked up his tartan bag and ran towards home. Soon he was at the bottom of his road, but he could still hear the voices, even though they were now muffled screams beneath a metal gate. He was now outside his house, he turned in and ran up the driveway, and once again reached for the chain around his neck, skilfully pulling the key to his door off it and placing it into the keyhole. Once inside, he bolted the door and without delay scampered into the living room. Next he turned on the DVD player and TV, unzipped his bag, pulled out his recently purchased film, and thrust it into the player, whispering the words ’ fresh horror’ as he pressed the play bottom. Immediately the room began to shake with the insanity of the volume of the film. Yet he could not hear it. He leaned back and found himself in the loving caress of his favourite armchair. Then he turned his head and gazed out of the window, through his little eye, towards the sun, which was now slow in descent, and he began to laugh.