My name's Magochigyau. Don't ask me why I've got such an unusual name. Monkeys aren't the smartest. I like bananas, but I like that bread-crust stuff they give us too. Over here! Give it to me, to me!
I was begging food from the visitors peering down over the wall into our enclosure, jumping and leaping as wildly as I could, not to be outdone by the others in the troop. The visitors point and laugh when I wave my arms and legs around, but in the end they usually throw the food to the kid sitting still in the corner. Sometimes I copy him. If you lie down and look sick, they practically dump the stuff on you. Isn't that right? Yeah, they always do that.
Don't get me wrong. Just because we compete with each other for food, doesn't mean we don't get along.
We've lived here together since we were born, so there's no fun in fighting. There's Boss, of course, but he's a kind monkey. Everyone likes him. I like him too. The keepers are nice. And the visitors give us food, so they're okay too.
My buddies and I were grooming each other when some keepers brought a stranger into this place. A strange monkey—or more like some different animal. We all stared at him like, Who's this? Do we know this monkey? The newcomer looked around at us kind of warily, and turned his head and looked back at the humans, and then faced us again.
He wasn't the first newcomer to join us here, but this one seemed different from the others. He was like us, but his body was different, and so was his face. "This guy's a chimp," the keepers said. "Be nice. He didn't do so good with the other chimps, so he'll be in with you for a little while." I didn't understand what they meant, but I didn't worry about it. Sure, no problem. Even though he's on the big side for a monkey.
The newcomer himself seemed to be frozen in place by the sight of the twenty or thirty of us. He didn't move for a few minutes. When I looked closely, though, I could tell he was actually paying more attention to the keepers behind him than to the troop. Funny guy, I thought. Boss and the other monkeys seemed to notice it too. We'd never had anyone like him before.
None of us approached him while the humans were observing us. Once they finally left, one of us went up to the newcomer and checked him out, and tried to wrestle him. But he couldn't do it. He couldn't move his limbs very well, or even posture decently. He looked about as old as I was, but he was worse than any female or juvenile in the troop. My buddy went ahead and jumped on him anyway to get acquainted, and the guy, the newcomer, he acted like he was dead! We were all like, What? We thought, There's something off about this guy. It was really weird. My buddy bit him, but he just stayed totally limp, didn't move at all. So then my buddy got spooked, and let go.
Boss stared at the guy from a little way off, didn't say anything about what we should do. The guy was lying on the ground face down. He stayed there like that until dark. That took some nerve, we were thinking. We were a little impressed. No one thought he was dead, obviously. He's just pretending, right? Yeah, definitely just playing dead. He's not fooling anyone.
At night, I sneaked over to where he was. He'd gotten up and was sitting in a way I'd never seen a monkey sit, kind of cradling a knee with both arms, and gazing really intently up over the wall. There was something about his eyes. They were deep, like when one of your buddies dies. I crept closer to him and said, "Yo. I'm Magochigyau."
He hardly glanced at me. The wall's pretty high, so it almost seemed as though he was looking at the sky, counting stars. I thought maybe he was going to ignore me. It didn't make me angry, though. He had this air of quiet around him, and it almost seemed more right for him not to reply. I could tell he had more going on up top, compared to us.
"Who are you? Where do you come from?" I thought he might ignore me again, but I asked anyway, and held out some of the food I'd collected during the day. He turned his head as if my voice had finally reached him, and looked at me, and then at the food.
"Thank you." He didn't snatch it, just put his hand under mine and opened his palm. It made me feel I was holding something really precious. I let go. Here you are. The taste won't be anything special, but I worked hard for it.
"Thank you." He went back to looking at the sky.
"Aren't you going to eat it?" I asked. "No eat?"
He seemed to have completely forgotten about the food. Maybe he'd only taken it because he thought I wanted to give it to him, not because he was that interested in it.
I said, "What are you looking at the sky so much for? What's up there?" I sat down beside him the way he was sitting, both arms around one knee. When I did it myself, I realized: I've seen this shape before. Humans sit like this.
Then I knew. The reason his eyes seemed different was that they were just like human eyes.
"Hey, you're not...human, are you?" I said.
He paused for a moment, and nodded, and said, "I might be."
I asked him what he meant. He told me he had the IQ of a human child.
IQ? Huh? "What's the IQ?" I asked him.
"Intelligence? What's that?"
Instead of answering, he pointed to his own head.
"A head? I've got one of them too. I'm Magochigyau. What about you?"
He finally told me his name: Gordon.
"So, Gordon, are you human?"
"I was raised by humans."
"That's cool. Are humans kind?"
"Some are, and some aren't."
"Oh! I knew that. I know some humans that aren't kind. They'll probably show up soon."
Now that I'd remembered they were coming, I tugged at Gordon's arm to try and get him to stand, but Gordon didn't want to move. He wouldn't say why. I went behind him and tried to drag him that way, and I found out why he wasn't moving. He had a wound where my buddy had bitten him earlier. There was blood. The wind had been blowing toward him, so I hadn't noticed the smell.
So he wasn't just playing dead. "Gordon, are you going to die?"
"I don't know. But it doesn't matter." Gordon was calm.
"Why? You don't want to die, do you?"
"I've had humans running experiments on me my whole life. Now that they've left me here, I don't know what to do with myself."
"You've got me, Magochigyau. All of us."
"I'm not like you."
"I can't sense the light of reason in you."
Reason? What's that? "Are you sure you don't wanna move? Boss might be able to help."
"It's fine." Gordon breathed out slowly and moved my hand from where I'd tried to drag him away.
"I think I'll stay here too," I said.
Gordon didn't reply.
Gordon lay on the mound. He was getting weaker and weaker. I stayed by his side the whole time. I brought him water and food, but he said he didn't need any. He seemed just to want to teach me things.
"Gyau, this ground's made of concrete."
"This is a zoo, and you live in a place called the monkey mound."
"Gyau, monkey. The visitors all shout it from over the wall."
"That's right. Gyau's a monkey."
"We're in a zoo."
"In a zoo."
"Do you know what's on the other side?" Gordon pointed at the wall with a finger he could barely lift.
"Humans?" I said. "That's where the humans always come from."
"There are other animals in captivity."
"Captivity? Other animals?"
Gordon pressed a hand to his side, and started saying things I didn't understand at all. I kept my mouth shut and listened.
"There's a creature called the dolphin. Dolphins. I wish I could have met one before I died. Dolphins are totally different from us. They live in the water, and humans love them. Because—" Gordon grimaced again in pain. "Because dolphins are able to communicate their emotions to humans. The sides of their mouths go up, like this, and that makes them look like they're always smiling."
"The sides of their mouths...go up? Like this?" I moved my face with my hands, and showed Gordon.
"That's right. That's a smile," he said. "If you smile then humans know how you feel. Humans love dolphins the best of all animals."
Gordon wanted the humans to love him, I realized. I'd never thought about it like that. They were okay to me as long as they gave us food. I wasn't sure why it was important to Gordon to be loved.
He fell asleep again. He was probably tired. I was sitting next to him, but it was getting cold, and I thought about going back to the sleeping area for a while. It's warmer over by the wall, so we all huddle together there when we sleep. No one sleeps up on the mound like this. Because it's all con-c-rete, and cold.
Something fell down from the sky, and everything turned bright. There was an overwhelming noise that went bang bang bang and made my ears hurt. They're here again, I thought. It had been happening a lot recently. Different humans appear at the wall in the dark, and throw the flashing, banging things down onto us. One of them said, "Twist and shout, monkeys!" and the bang bangs got thrown into the warm place where the troop sleeps. Someone screamed, and the troop scattered. Everything was loud.
I tried to wake Gordon. "Gordon, hurry. We need to hide. You don't wanna get hit. It hurts a lot, and stays red, and doesn't get better."
Gordon opened his eyes, and shook his head.
"Gordon, I'm gonna go. I'm gonna get out of here."
The bang bangs were falling next to us. In the flash of light, we looked into each other's eyes. Gordon was still on his back, facing up at the sky. He shivered and said, "Don't go," and grabbed my hand. "Don't go, Gyau."
I shook off his hand and ran. When my buddy had gotten hit by a bang bang, he'd had red flesh hanging off his face for days, and stopped being able to eat. The bang bangs were bad news. Fireworks, they're also called.
"Over there, monkey down! Get him!"
I ran to a place where the humans couldn't see me, and watched bang bangs fly toward Gordon from different directions. Even just one hurt enough to make you pass out. The noise was huge. The air around Gordon lit up as though it was daytime. He still wasn't moving. Keeee. I heard Gordon's cry. He kept crying out. Keee. Keeee. Keeeeeee. I covered my eyes, but there was another, louder boom, and I heard the humans cheer.
I headed back to where Gordon was lying. None of the humans noticed me. He was the one they cared about.
The bang bangs had hit him all over his body. His skin had peeled back, and parts of him had turned black. He was desperately trying to smile at the humans. He showed his teeth, and tried to lift up the corners of his mouth. Like a dolphin, I thought. He was trying to be a dolphin so they could understand how he felt. But the humans kept throwing the bang bangs, and then they started throwing rocks. After one the size of my head hit his belly, he stopped moving completely. Gordon died.
We made a circle around Gordon and prayed. Boss said it was cool. We danced and raised our voices, and then, as usual, a light gathered in the middle of the circle that was brighter than the bang bangs, but quiet, and Gordon's body lifted up into the air. When he opened his eyes, his body was back the way it was before it got hurt. For reasons nobody knows, this method only works on dead monkeys. We've tried it with apples and bananas, but nothing happens to them, most of the time.
Gordon looked surprised and said, "You know how to bring things back to life?" He seemed to be having a hard time grasping this.
I told him, "That's right."
"That's a miracle," Gordon said.
"I don't know what a miracle is," I said.
"Can you make miracles happen any time you like?" Gordon was asking me the questions now. We had switched places. "Why don't you use your amazing powers to get out of this place?"
"We don't know what's outside."
"Don't you want to find out?"
"When we don't know what could be out there?"
"Listen to me. The powers you monkeys possess—"
"I've got a name, remember?"
What with the shock of having been hit by all those bang bangs, Gordon seemed to be having a hard time remembering.
"Hmm, hmm," he said.
So I told him. The name's Magochigyau. Don't ask me why. Monkeys aren't the brightest, as you know.