Monkey Glands

(This is my contribution to Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: The Cocktail is Your Title. Needless to say, I got Monkey Gland, which I changed to Monkey Glands because I like the sound better. Anyway, enjoy!)

They lay in the bowl. Specks of vibrant blood shining against the stainless steel. Perfectly smooth, pink as an infants backside, they didn’t seem real, let alone something he had cut out of a fellow primate just moments before. A scalpel was raised, it’s blade a dull grey apart from the razor fine edge, so sharp that anything living would see their own blood long before they felt the pain. By then the scalpel’s work would be done. There was a clattering in the corner. His eyes snapped up, electric yellow surrounded by a ring of deep brown, pupils expanding as his gaze moved from the bright light to the gloom beyond.

“Servile? What are you doing back there?” There was a pause. “Servile?” He called again. The pause was deeper, somehow darker. Sighing at interrupted work he removed himself from the office chair and moved towards the cage. Peering through the bars he leaned closer. A vaguely human shape huddled in the far corner. Every few seconds a shudder rocked the dark form. A second, shallow, stainless steel bowl was overturned. The yellow eyes searched the cage but found nothing else out of the ordinary. He stood and sighed again, looking down at the cowering creature. “Well, are you going to pick that up?” No answer. Another shudder. Perhaps the language centres were malfunctioning. Chewing the inside of his cheek he breathed a word. “Shit.” If the language centres fucked up then he might as well scrap the entire thing. Stooping, he reached through the bars and began to right the overturned bowl. With a movement twice as quick as a shudder, the creature’s hand shot out, it’s black nails dragging bright lines of pain across the back of his hand. Hissing in pain he reflexively cradled it to his chest. “Damn you!” He kicked the cage as he turned back to the desk. The kick did little, but sent a ringing through the bars. The creature leapt to the centre of the cage, and sat there, head tilted to the side, russet hair flopping over one ear.

Still swearing he returned to work, desperately hoping that the scratches wouldn’t bleed and cause a vitium. The white envelope stopped him. Placed carefully against the edge of the bowl, it certainly hadn’t been there before. His name, Tages Haruspice, was written in unfamiliar elegant script across the front. The envelope itself he had recognised instantly. Tages tilted his head back as he looked at it, as though repulsed by the innocence of the crisp white paper. His nose instinctively wrinkled as he reached for it. Black nails shining under the harsh white light his lithe fingers opened the envelope with barely a sound. He cast a cursory look around him. The room seemed normal, concrete walls running with water and mottled with green, the doorway leading to the storage units, the cage, the railway pallet piled with mouldy blankets and pillows he used as a bed, and the desk, with it’s secondhand office chair, stainless steel bowls, scalpel and bright, bright light. There was no sign of unfamiliar life. With a shrug he turned right back to the envelope. The folded paper slid smooth as cream out of it’s confinement.

Dear Haruspice,

Terribly sorry for using your surname, but I can never remember which of you is still human. I expect my runner will observe you and rectify this once he arrives, in order to assure correct delivery. In any case, it hardly matters. As long as you are still practising, you will do this for me. Find someone. Of the same kind as you. I understand how your barbaric art works and realise what it means, but it is imperative that this specimen is found. Drastic times call for drastic measures and this is not a step I would take otherwise. You understand? Yes. Of course you do.

There was a movement from the cage and one of Tages’ russet ears flicked backwards before slowly swivelling forward again.

I, of course, am sorry for the sacrifice you will have to make. I know of your attempts to revive him, but all your efforts will fail. Trust me on this. No matter how many humans you slaughter and insert into your brother, it will not fix him.

On a related note, those ‘storage units’ as you so inadequately put it, and their contents, will continue to be permitted as long as my request is met within seven days. After which… I leave the consequences to your abundant imagination.

Your father is well. He talks of you rarely if at all and then often with a spit on the floor. I trust this news pleases you. Your brothers and sisters are developing nicely. Well enough to escape at any rate. We managed to catch all but one when it happened, which is of course why you have been sent this letter.

Much obliged for your cooperation in this pressing matter.

Yours,

Mother.

Tages sat for a long time before putting the letter aside. His eyes travelling anywhere but the now silent cage in the corner. He then pulled his phone out of his pocket and began to dial a number. The voice on the other end was short, but Tages cut them off. “I couldn’t find him… There was an interruption, several actually…. No! Of course it wasn’t my fault …. Look, I have a much more pressing matter to attend to so if there’s nothing else… Good. Pleasure doing business with-” The line was dead. Placing the phone back on the table, Tages delicately picked up one of the kidneys and took a delighted bite out of the adrenal gland. It wasn’t much, but after three days of ritual fasting it was better than nothing. He considered giving Servile the second, but decided against it. After all he had another three days without food ahead of him. Afterwards, he would have to go out and hunt again, supplies were running low. At least he would only have one mouth to feed.

Three days later, with his twin still and dripping before him, Tages felt his first flicker of emotion for a very long time. All his work for nothing. The regret was a small, hard lump, just underneath his thyroid. He swallowed, and learned that emotion could not be shifted with physical movements. Then the scalpel was put to work. Within the space of fifteen minutes it was done. Kidneys slashed to peices in the shining bowl gave Tages all he needed to know. After scrawling his reply on the back of the letter, he scrambled out through the single window and was suddenly, violently sick. Afterwards, he was hungry and so a night of hunting began. Two children, only one adult but it would be enough, a dog and a cat. Enough to feed him and give him more than enough to search out his most popular requests.

By the time he returned both the letter and the body of his brother were gone. The small concrete room had been scrubbed of blood. After storing the bodies safely away, Tages crawled into his former twin’s cage and slept.

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