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Chatter Monkey

Caroline Couderc is a multilingual writer and translator with a background in cultural anthropology, French literature, and linguistics. She writes speculative fiction, crime, and literary fiction. She has finished a dark fantasy novel and is working on a crime novel and a collection of short stories. Her work has been published by Fine Linen Magazine. She lives with her partner and their two black cats in Switzerland and the UK.You can follow her on Twitter @BeautyandtheCat or visit her at Beauty is a Sleeping Cat.

Part of the attraction for the emissaries of planet Donar was a visit to the zoo. At ten sharp, the driver stopped in front of the compound and the delegation of six ambassadors and one host boarded the elegant chrome craft.
"We've been really looking forward to this," ambassador Kellhoum said to the state secretary. "We haven't had any zoos on Donar since the uprising."
"Very unpleasant story that," the secretary said, smiling and showing one long tooth. "We have upped the security after we've been informed of it. Considering that the species you exhibited on Donar wasn't as rebellious as those we display here... one can't be too careful"
"Quite right," said ambassador Helme, who'd been listening to their conversation. "But they were far more intelligent."
"Oh that... certainly." The secretary chuckled. "You can't find dumber than those we found when we colonized this planet."
"Or uglier,"
"True," the secretary said and laughed again.
At the zoo, they were given popcorn and nuts and told not to get too close to the cages. They stopped in front of the first cage and watched a pair of ugly, naked animals eating fruit from the dirty floor. The moment they saw the visitors, they ran to the cages, screaming and chattering, waving spindly extremities.
"Oh my," said ambassador Tropp. "They are noisy."
"Yes and it's constant. Chatter, chatter, chatter."
"They seem cheerful, though," said ambassador Torkepas. "Our zoos were quiet. All they did was brood."
"I suppose their stupidity is a blessing under these circumstances."
"They look strange," said ambassador Lillisso. "That short snout and those two eyes."
Ambassador Kellhoum who liked Lillisso quite a bit, stood very close, smiling three bright smiles.
One of the animals came close to the cage and began to chatter until three others joined it.
"Stand back," said the secretary.
"They can't reach me," said ambassador Lillisso.
"No but--"
A scream from ambassador Lillisso cut short the secretary.
"Ah," Lillisso wailed, folded over and rolled into a ball.
The creatures chattered and jumped.
"What is it?" asked Kellhoum anxiously.
"It threw something into my eye." Lillisso whimpered.
"Show me?"
Lillisso looked at Kellhoum.
"This one?" Kellhoum asked.
"Which one?"
"The fourth on the left, I think."
"It's only sand," said the secretary. "They do it all the time."
"Punish it," said ambassador Kellhoum.
"We will. We'll split them up for a few weeks. That will teach them."
"Split them up?"
"Yes. There are two different ones. That's how they procreate."
"You mean sex?" The ambassador's scaly skin went one shade of yellow darker. "How rudimentary."
"What are they called?" asked ambassador Milued who hadn't said anything until now.
"Homo something. Sapiens, I believe."
"I wonder what that means."
"Chatter monkey, maybe."
"Or sex monkey," said ambassador Torkepas.
They all laughed, even ambassador Lillisso who was still sitting on the floor, rubbing one of eight eyes with a hairy paw.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

Author Comments

"Chatter Monkey" combines several themes that are close to my heart. Speciesism, stereotypes, prejudice, colonization. Two things inspired me in particular: my love for animals and a diversity project a friend worked on. Part of that project was a "Bias Check." You had to try to picture people on a list (an older person--a person of Asian origin--a 26 year-old white female--a gay man, a blind person, etc.). The idea behind it was that the harder it was for you to picture a specific person, the less likely it was that you held a bias. I found this so interesting that I thought I'd like to integrate the idea in a story. Many of the most deplorable things humans have done to other humans and to animals stem from a feeling of superiority and prejudice. I wanted to write a story that would show the reader how easily we make assumptions about characters. In holding back specific descriptions of the main characters, readers can experience how we create default characters in our minds. Moreover, I tried to show what could happen if human beings were seen as the inferior species.

- Caroline Couderc
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