By Spencer Allan Read
Spencer Allan Read, 19, grew up in a suburb of Austin, Texas. He is a fiction/playwriting student in his junior year at Columbia. He enjoys video games, punk music, reading and playing bass. Read’s work “The Meta” is a structural parody of Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis.” In class, his teacher told him to make sure humans transform, but Read decided to turn the idea of a human turning into a monster upside down. Another inspiration came from a memory he had of a trip to the Dallas Zoo in Texas when he promised a chimp he would get him out of there.
As Blimbi awoke from unsettling dreams one morning, he found himself transformed on his bed of leaves into a monstrous vermin.
The first thing Blimbi noticed to be different was his right arm, which felt much lighter and shorter than it had in previous memory. However, Blimbi was a rational chimp above all else, and so had an almost immediate justification to suit his predicament. It had rained before Blimbi had made his nest for last night. Blimbi, along with many other chimps, was forced to make his nest for the night in the rain. His best chimp Bruno and he had often discussed that after a rain, one will feel much heavier than before a rain and will wake up in a puddle. Blimbi, the brains of the duo, then discussed with Bruno, the brawn of the duo, the possible ramifications of drying themselves out before taking to bed after a rain. The solution was just as simple as Blimbi and Bruno’s idea of wringing out leaves brought in from the rain and using the dry leaves as a top layer of the nest to sleep on. In order to keep from going to bed wet, Blimbi proposed to Bruno last night that they simply wring their own fur out. He had never done this before, but Blimbi now assumed that the feeling his right arm was experiencing was a side-effect. If one wrings one’s fur out after a rain and right before taking to nest for slumber, then one will wake feeling lighter and shorter. Blimbi had no doubt in his mind quite often. Thus Blimbi did not even consider any other possibility than the one he had just attained.
Ease of mind firmly grasped, Blimbi continued his morning with one of his only solitary habits, a pre-groom. One of Blimbi’s true joys as a chimp was giving his arms a comb-through with his fingernails before the actual grooming later on that day. In fact, so ingrained was this habit of pre-grooming upon waking, that Blimbi did not even hesitate or give the slightest flick of his sight toward his right arm before digging into it with his fingernails. There was a millisecond of time, not long enough for Blimbi to change the trajectory of his long, jagged nails, but a millisecond nonetheless, between the moment Blimbi realized he no longer had arm hair and the moment that Blimbi’s long, jagged nails made contact with Blimbi’s tender skin. Blimbi looked at what he just felt and saw that no injury whatsoever had happened. How could it have? The hand that Blimbi gazed upon with rising fear in his heart was not his own. The nails he had now were rounded and of a pink hue. How was Blimbi supposed to live with these? These hands could not tear meat or build nests or battle other chimps! Blimbi would be alone forever! All of Blimbi’s plans, hopes, dreams of one day taking down and killing the current alpha, gone! As if it weren’t enough that Blimbi’s thoughts made him an outsider in the chimp exhibit, now Blimbi had to overcome two hideously smooth arms and a disgustingly well-manicured pair of hands. Blimbi let out a shrill cry in anguish, but then instinctually slapped an open left palm over his mouth, instantly discovering that his entire face was smooth. While this would have made any other chimp faint, Blimbi did not concern himself with fainting then. Blimbi could not, under any circumstances, alert any being about his present condition. To do so would be a death sentence.
So Blimbi sat upon his dead leaves and dirty ground and tried to calm himself. Through a couple of trials and a couple of errors, Blimbi discovered that while he could not pre-groom, per se, he enjoyed the feel of his new nails scratching his skin, especially on his back and near the crack of his ass. This calmed him enough to assess his surroundings. Unfathomable to Blimbi, his cave had not changed. It was still the same, dull place that he used only for sleeping. Blimbi was always an outdoor chimp, not only because he was popular, but because Blimbi believed that the cave made him think more than he should. Bruno had said it best when Blimbi first started noticing that he thought different than other chimps: “Oo oo gck ee aaeeaaoo, Eeooee. Gck kck oo aa kck.” Bruno could just be so right sometimes. As Blimbi looked around his cave and it’s dull rock walls, Blimbi remembered the bed of leaves he had made for himself seemed much softer the previous night. However, now the ground seemed hard and cold. He could find no explanation for this, but decided not to think upon it too much. Blimbi was already feeling the beginnings of a dull ache in his mind and it was not even sunrise. Blimbi knew it must be close to sunrise though, as Blimbi could hear the clamoring of feeding time going on behind him. The employees at the zoo always seemed to take pride in being very loud, calling each chimp by name as if the chimps could not think for themselves (this was, in fact, only partially true in Blimbi’s mind). This was how Blimbi knew that the day was nearer and nearer to beginning.
Then Blimbi thought to himself, “Oh no. The day is beginning. I am not even pre-groomed! I can’t get groomed without having pre-groomed! It’s the only difference from other chimps that I allow myself!” These thoughts jolted Blimbi into an upright position on his bed of dead leaves and dirty ground. Blimbi thought to himself, “If I am not out by grooming time, then I will look suspicious and surely never take my rightful place as alpha male.”
Blimbi could not explain to any chimp, himself included, how the current alpha got to be the current alpha. To Blimbi, it was one of the many great mysteries that puzzled him in solace, and one of the few mysteries he could truthfully claim shame at having tried to solve. To Blimbi, alpha denoted prowess in some aspect, but the only prowess that the current alpha seemed to have was prowess in ordering other chimps to do whatever he asked them too. It was as if the current alpha made himself feel special by doing so; actually, no, that is exactly what the current alpha does. Rather than having a prowess in any certain area, Blimbi felt and knew deep down that the current alpha had a deficiency in pride and self-respect. The current alpha relied completely on his position as the current alpha male to get him everything in life, from women to food to kiss-ass servants. And oh did the current alpha have a plethora of kiss-ass servants. These chimps, although unwilling to do anything that would not further their own relationship with the current alpha, spent no hesitation in throwing slanderous stones about their competitors. Blimbi wished he did not fall into this category of kiss-ass servant to the current alpha, but it was a set in stone fact that he did. Although he often raised the current alpha’s ego enormous amounts when he was near the current alpha, Blimbi felt no kinship toward the current alpha at all. To put it plainly, Blimbi, rationality and logic notwithstanding, would have liked nothing more than to kneel the current alpha down and shove his own feces into every one of the current alpha’s orifices fistful by fistful.
Blimbi’s true feelings toward the current alpha were augmented by the irony that Blimbi was actually one of the closest chimps to the current alpha. The current alpha even trusted Blimbi with such information as who the current alpha wanted to be the next alpha. It wasn’t Blimbi. Blimbi had put more of himself into the current alpha than he had intended to when he first began to work his way up the pecking order. Blimbi most certainly felt that there was no other chimp better than he to become the next alpha. Hearing from the current alpha male’s own two lips that it was not Blimbi quickened Blimbi’s plan to take over the throne. Two nights ago, Blimbi got together with Bruno and discussed the bad leadership of the current alpha. Blimbi and Bruno devised a plan to take the current alpha male down and then to take over the zoo itself. After all, it was the chimps, and not the humans, who ran the zoo. Blimbi didn’t have to do much convincing for Bruno to go along with the plan conceptually. However, it did take a little bit more convincing for Bruno to agree not to kill any of the zoo employees. Here, the reader must take into account that, while Blimbi was born in captivity here in The Big Spring Zoo, Bruno was rescued in the wild from a much more savage breed of zoo employee. Thus, Blimbi often served as a calming force whenever one of their kind insulted him from beyond the habitat. As long as Blimbi could manage Bruno’s violence, Blimbi held no doubt in his mind that he and Bruno could successfully start a kingdom. And it all started today, the day that Blimbi and Bruno had agreed upon to overthrow the current alpha…TODAY!
Blimbi just knew that there was something he could not remember, and that was it! The day that he and Bruno would overthrow the current alpha and set-up a new pecking order was today! In a rushed state, Blimbi tried to get up, as Blimbi never took action about anything unless out of nest. Very soon after arising from the dead leaves and the dirty ground, Blimbi found that, to his astonishment, walking on his toes and knuckles hurt his knuckles. How could this be? Blimbi did not like to praise himself alone, but today (perhaps owing more to his current state of being than anything else) Blimbi admitted that his knuckles could easily endure rougher terrain than any other chimp’s knuckles in The Big Spring Zoo chimp exhibit. Blimbi’s mother always said that Blimbi stood and walked more like a chimp than Blimbi could ever hope to think like a chimp. Now, however, Blimbi found none of his usual comfort in standing on his hind toes and front two knuckles. Doing so without bending his legs (something he could not remember having to do in order to stand before) caused his ass to shoot in the air, as if he were a female presenting herself to a male. The humor of this image, a kind of humor Blimbi adored, did not find it’s way to Blimbi. Instead, Blimbi discovered that walking only on his back two legs allowed for less difficulty in walking. Wobbly and still not completely sure about his current position, Blimbi decided to just go for it. He stood completely upright extremely fast causing his head to collide violently with the ceiling above. The surprise of hitting the ceiling of his cave caused Blimbi to started wobbling again and soon Blimbi was stumbling uncontrollably throughout his cave. Before Blimbi could say his own name, Blimbi was falling back to the ground in agony. Blimbi clutched the tiniest toe on his left foot. It throbbed and pained Blimbi like nothing he had ever experienced in his nineteen years of life at The Big Spring Zoo. The closest Blimbi had ever come to this sort of sharp, pulsating pain was when he was sparring with Bruno in his youth and Bruno carved a large canyon down the right of Blimbi’s face. However, at least the pain from that was so intense that Blimbi mercifully fainted. This pain he had to suffer through.
Light from the entryway to Blimbi’s cave illuminated his wound. The toenail was completely split in two. Blimbi nearly fainted as he gazed upon his contorted tiny toe, bent so far to the left that a bit of bone could be seen protruding from where it had once been. Blimbi wished nothing more than for Bruno at this present moment, but he knew that Bruno would not come until after the zoo employees had finished delivering breakfast. Bruno knew his rage, and was smart about keeping it locked away. Blimbi thought for a moment about actually voicing his need for help. But instead of raising his voice in the direction of the entrance to the cave, he strangely turned his head slightly to the left (where, even more to Blimbi’s future curiosity, Blimbi’s breakfast already lay out and ready for him to consume) and called outside the bars separating him from the zoo employees, “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” Blimbi stopped in shock after hearing the words he had just spoken. That voice. Those words. That was not the language of Blimbi’s kind, but the language of a zoo employee. Blimbi quickly calmed himself by remembering that he was still in copious amounts of pain. Indeed, it was more than possible that the pain had temporarily changed the sound of his voice to his ear.
No sooner had Blimbi calmed himself than he began to hear the rustling of another chimp’s limbs drawing ever closer to the entryway of his cave. His heart beat faster and faster. Bruno and he were not meeting until after grooming. The sun had just arisen, and everyday of the nineteen years Blimbi had lived at The Big Spring Zoo, grooming took place either just before or just after lunch. Neither of those times occurred for a matter of some hours, so why was there another chimp at the entrance of his cave? Had Bruno gone ahead and done away with the current alpha right now? No, this was an impossibility. Even Bruno, with his immense strength, could not single handedly take down all the guards standing watch for the current alpha. But was it not truly naïve of Blimbi to think that Bruno was above any kind of reproach, above trying to steal the throne in the night? Then that would mean that Bruno would have gone through questioning, he could even be dead. Could Blimbi really expect Bruno to go through tremendous torture when all Bruno had to do to get out of it was give them Blimbi’s name? Blimbi confessed to himself that he would certainly give up Bruno’s name if he were put in that position.
The rustling of chimp limbs stopped at the entrance of Blimbi’s cave. “Oo ee oo oo ee aahh ee oo oo eah oo gck,” Blimbi heard outside of his cave. It was Bruno’s voice, alright. This gave Blimbi a few moments peace and Blimbi was about to answer “Sure, just give me a second to gather myself” until he remembered that he was no longer Blimbi. Blimbi was now a creature of horror, a disputable and despicable vermin to chimps like Bruno. If Bruno saw him in this state, Blimbi could lose far more than his friendship with Bruno and a chance at ruling a kingdom of his own, Blimbi could very well lose his life. So Blimbi resolved to stay silent. In his silence, Blimbi hoped to lure Bruno into the notion that Blimbi was elsewhere. But this was a wish in vain, for Blimbi knew that Bruno could easily smell Blimbi’s presence in the cave (Blimbi would later ponder why he could not smell Bruno’s), especially since Blimbi was bleeding on the floor. The injury concerned Blimbi most, for no chimp dared to infringe upon the privacy of another chimps cave unless the safety of the chimp was involved. Blimbi could not honestly tell anyone, if indeed they had cared to ask, where he first heard this rule, but Blimbi had always held it in his mind and had never seen any chimp violate it in his nineteen years of life at The Big Spring Zoo.
An inquisitive grunting of “Eeee aa ah oo oo oo ee oo eeeahooee, Eeooee?” came from just outside Blimbi’s entryway once more. Bruno was getting ready to enter. Blimbi scooted back with the upmost caution in the direction of the darkest corner of his cave, hanging onto a glimmer of hope that Bruno would give up his search and just leave. Rocks scraped and cut Blimbi’s back and dirt began to fill every wound. Blimbi heard the soft crumple of topsoil under Bruno’s fists and knew that Bruno had begun his careful search for Blimbi. Blimbi finally smelt Bruno; Bruno smelt of determination. Blimbi smelt himself; Blimbi smelt of blood, feces, and fear. Bruno had always had a swift nose and so instantly swung his head in Blimbi’s direction. Blimbi had made it to the shadows, but in his crippling fear, kept backing up. Bruno simply stared in Blimbi’s direction and scanned the darkness for any evidence of his friend’s sudden absence. Later on, Blimbi would look back and swear his heart had stopped at least four or five times.
To Blimbi’s absolute delight, Bruno began to slowly stray back toward the entrance of Blimbi’s cave. Blimbi knew that Bruno’s humility allowed for moments of disbelief, and it was this fault in character, this humility, that saved Blimbi. Bruno was nearly out of the cave when Blimbi finally allowed himself to relax. Blimbi found that he had in fact been pressing himself upright against the wall of his cave furthest from the light. He slid down the wall, nearly letting out a telling sigh of relief before
The sharp crack of a twig and Bruno was face to face with Blimbi. The volcanic air pulsated from Bruno’s nostrils onto Blimbi’s upper lip. While Blimbi’s upper lip was accelerating towards an oasis of perspiration, Blimbi’s bottom lip quivered uncontrollably in fear, causing bullets of sweat to catapult upon Bruno’s face. However, no matter how many bullets were shot into Bruno’s snarl, no matter how many beads of sticky sweat pierced Bruno’s wide glare, Bruno did not avert his gaze. Bruno looked upon Blimbi and Blimbi could see Bruno’s only thought: “OO EE CK GK EEOOEE!!! AHH AHH AHH!!!”
This of course was completely false. Blimbi could not have taken Blimbi, for Blimbi was there right before Bruno, only now Blimbi did not look, smell, or feel like Blimbi. But in Bruno’s mind, which, to Bruno’s credit, worked at just beyond decent speed, Blimbi was not in his cave and a zoo employee was. In short, my reader, this was Blimbi’s time to die.
Before Blimbi could comprehend an attack, the best fighter in the The Big Spring Zoo stabbed his nails into Blimbi’s lower jaw. Classic opening move for Bruno: an uppercut leaving the neck open for his next attack. Blimbi’s head stretched to the ceiling. Droplets of blood trickled from his new wounds onto his thighs and crotch. Then Blimbi felt a pain worse than the agony he had felt when his toe snapped. Blimbi lowered his eyes to see the side of Bruno’s head clamping onto Blimbi’s neck. Fat tears carved trenches from Blimbi’s eyes to Blimbi’s open mouth, still desperately trying to make any sound at all. The taste salt filled Blimbi with the sense of unending drowning until
Blimbi’s bruised flesh found itself slammed against the opposite wall. He was now directly in the blazing heat of the Big Spring Zoo’s sun, and for the first time in Blimbi’s memory, Blimbi wished for death in the sun. And Blimbi braced himself for death. What else could he do facing the strongest of all the chimps in The Big Spring Zoo exhibit? But Bruno came upon him slowly, instead. As Bruno neared to Blimbi’s bruised and broken pillow of flesh, Blimbi dared to look one last time upon his best chimp. Bruno no longer terrified Blimbi with stoic anger. Now, Bruno looked a mix of intensely curious and scared.
Bruno heel-knucked heel-knuckled until finally Bruno was maybe a branch length away from Blimbi. Hard as Blimbi tried, he could not stop whimpering, and this to him was most embarrassing. Blimbi had never hurt so much in his life, but Blimbi was a self-respecting chimp, and to show such hurt in front of another chimp is disgraceful. Blimbi closed his eyes and turned his head away from Bruno. Then, he felt a familiar finger, Bruno’s finger, trace from the right of his forehead down his cheek. Bruno was tracing Blimbi’s scar.
It was then that Blimbi knew exactly why Bruno had stopped attacking. Bruno had seen Blimbi’s scar in the light. It was Bruno who gave Blimbi that scar, and hard as Blimbi tried to get Bruno to forget this, Bruno never would. When Bruno saw this scar, Bruno started having doubts about this particular zoo employee in Blimbi’s cave. Only one animal on Earth had this scar. And that animal was not a zoo employee. Bruno knew who Blimbi was.
“Eeooee?” Bruno grunted.
Blimbi recognized his own name. Then Blimbi did something very stupid, my reader. Blimbi spoke. While this would normally not be a bad thing for Blimbi (after all, he was considered one of the most gifted speakers in the chimp exhibit at The Big Spring Zoo), however, Blimbi did not speak chimp anymore but the language of the zoo employees. Looking back, Blimbi would remark that he did not even catch himself once as he whispered in pain to Bruno: “Bruno…my…dearest and old…oldest friend. Thank you so…so…much…for spare…sparing…my life. But my pain…it is…too…intense…Please…End…end me now…end me now Bruno…Bruno? Bruno?” Blimbi open his eyes and Bruno was puffed up once more ready to attack. Blimbi whispered: “Shit” before a swipe from Bruno caused a quick fade to black.
END PART ONE