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Thread: Monkeys in the Machine

  1. #1
    Registered User Tallefred's Avatar
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    Monkeys in the Machine

    Towering above the landscape, its many gears and wires glittering and glistening in the sun, stands the machine. It sits in the middle of a plain, its shadow stretching for miles, almost to the ring of mountains that encircles the level field. The identity of the creator is lost in time- it seems to have been there forever.

    Around it in the fields, tribes of monkeys roam. They pay no attention to the machine- it has always been there, like the mountains and the grass and the river. They live their lives, and when they die their children live theirs, and so time passes for generations.

    On a day like any other, a group of monkeys are playing in the fields near the machine, when one of them stumbles upon a wire lying near an outlet. Curious and delighted with their new toys, they play with them for a while before they realizes that they fit together. They connect them, and the machine comes to life with a grinding of gears and a spark of electricity.

    Startled, the monkeys run away. The machine settles into a low hum, and the curious monkeys gather to witness this phenomenon.

    For a long time they sit and stare at it, mesmerised by the moving gears and flashing lights. Finally a monkey gathers his courage and approaches the machine. With the masses watching, he reaches out a shaking paw and touches it.

    Nothing happens. The machine continues to hum quietly. The other monkeys approach and touch the machine as well, rubbing their hands over it and marveling at its beauty.

    A flash of light attracts their attention to a large door, set in the otherwise smooth wall. Behind it, a long hallway extends inside the structure. The lights set in the ceiling flicker for a moment more, then burn steadily. The monkeys stare at it for a while, and finally, huddled together and pushing each other along, they enter it.

    The hall opens up into an enormous round room, its dome rising up to form a ceiling far above them. The walls are covered in rows of buttons, all blinking on and off with red light. The monkeys gather within and stare in fascination at the sight. They are unsure of what to do next, but as they huddle against the wall, one monkey accidentally brushes against a button, and a banana falls from the ceiling and lands in front of him. He eats it as the others watch, amazed at this new magic.

    Another monkey pushes a button, and recieves a banana as well. Outside, another group of monkeys sit and stare at the machine, mesmerised by the moving gears and flashing lights. A few moments later they are joining the monkeys inside, who receive them with happy screeches and a demonstration of the powers of the machine.

    Years go by. The monkeys all live inside the machine now. They pay no attention to it- it has always been there, like the mountains and the grass and the river. They live their lives, and when they die their children live theirs, and so time passes for generations.

    On a day like any other, a group of monkeys are playing in the fields near the machine, when one of them stumbles upon a wire in an outlet. Curious and delighted with their new toys, they play with them for a while before they realizes that they come apart. They disconnect them, and with a grinding of gears, the machine dies.

    Startled, the monkeys run away. The hum is gone, replaced by dead silence as creatures all across the plains stare at the machine, wondering at this new phenomenon. Inside, the monkeys continue to push buttons for a while, but nothing happens, and eventually they grow bored and wander away.

  2. #2
    Registered User Tallefred's Avatar
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    Well, I guess that other one wasn't such a big hit. Let me try again with a story I don't have a name for. I had a name for it, but it wasn't any good, so consider it untitled for now.

    -----------------

    In the middle of the ocean, far from any other land or shipping route, there is an island. A dry bar of sand that stretches but a few miles, it is populated by a unique species of snake. It is the only form of life on what is otherwise a desert island.

    For millenia, ever since the separation of their island from the rest of the world long ago, these snakes have survived by eating the only other food source on the island- each other. Through their endless competition, they have grown stronger and more intelligent, developing communication and societies, as well as technology and philosophy. They have no means of construction other than mudbrick, but they have done astonishing things with it. Ziggurats reaching into the sky, elaborate carvings, and houses like small fortresses are all staples of their architecture, and they have mapped out the skies to a greater degree than our ancients ever did. They are no barbarians, but are rather an advanced culture severely limited by the resources at hand.

    From the days when the first snakes had crawled across the small strip of water separating the island from the main landmass, many things had changed. But one thing was still the same as it had been many millions of years before- there was still no other food source on the island. Even as they advanced in myriad other ways, they were still forced to practice cannibalism to survive.

    Many thinkers had dedicated their lives to this problem, thinking long and hard about how to survive without murdering each other to do so. At long last, a certain philosopher came up with a solution, and he called a meeting of all the snakes to unveil it.

    The snakes gathered in the town square to hear the news. There was a feeling of festivity as they beleaguered creatures emerged from their hiding places and joined the throng. At no point before had such a large gathering of snakes happened. Everyone knew that today was going to make history.

    After the obligatory wait, the philosopher appeared on the podium. He waited until the cheering calmed down, then began to speak.

    "For as long as history goes back, we have been trapped on this island. We are isolated from the rest of the world, if such places exist as has been theorised. Perhaps somewhere out there, snakes live free, without the need to eat each other in order to survive. Perhaps not. Likely we will never know, as we have no way to leave and find out.

    "But what if we did not need to? What if we did have an alternative food source with us, right here on this island? For so long it has existed right beneath our very eyes, though we were too blind to see it. Can any of you think of what it is?"

    There were a few murmurs from the crowd, but no one offered an opinion. The greatest minds had worked on this problem for centuries. How could they come up with the answer on the spot?

    The philosopher flicked his tongue in and out, then flashed his fangs in a smile and spoke a single word.

    "Eggs."

    There was a stunned silence as the snakes processed what he had just said. Eggs. They were not yet alive, were they? They could eat the eggs! And all of a sudden there was a thunderous cheering, snakes everywhere shouting and hissing and slapping their tails against the floor. At long last, the solution to their problem had been found.

    That evening, there was a massive feast, as snakes from all over brought their eggs to the town square, where they were shared among them all. Everywhere, snakes were conversing and making friends, as they never could before. The festivities only wound down in the early morning hours, when everyone returned home and back to their lives.

    Things were better now. It was safe for snakes to walk the streets, safe to let their children play outside and even to leave the home after dark. There was less fear, more joy, and a higher quality of life.

    Things lasted this way for several weeks. One day, however, the snakes awoke to a terrifying discovery. There were only a couple of eggs left. Very soon, their food supply was going to run out, and things would be back to the way they were before.

    Another meeting was called, but the mood this time was much more somber. This time, snakes looked at their new friends sadly, wondering if tomorrow or the next day they would soon be at each others throats again. After a short wait a philosopher mounted the stage. This time, there was no applause.

    He gazed sadly down at the crowd, then cleared his throat and began to speak.

    "As we all know, a few weeks ago we were introduced to a wonderful world free of violence and fear. A certain philosopher showed us what we thought was a new way, a means of surviving on eggs instead of each other. And while it lasted, it was wonderful.

    "But such a plan could not work in the long term. It was shortsighted, for it left us with no tomorrow. Very soon, our supply of eggs is going to run out, and then what shall we do? We will return to eating each other, but this time there will be no eggs. This time, there will be no next generation.

    "If any of you can think of a solution to this problem, now is the time to speak."

    There were a few murmurs from the crowd, but no one offered an opinion. If the greatest minds could not think of an answer, how could they think of one on the spot?

    The philosopher flicked his tongue in and out a few times while he waited, then continued his speech.

    "We have made a foolish mistake, but it is not too late to do something about it. If our nation is going to survive, I see only one way about it. We must take the few remaining eggs and hide them away, keeping them away from ourselves when we begin starving. We will die, but our species will not."

    There was a long silence. Slowly, the snakes began drifting away to their homes. They returned that night, carrying their remaining eggs with them, and placed them in a pile in the town square. The philosopher carried them away, burying them in a secret location, where they would be safe.

    That night, snakes across the city locked their doors and sharpened their fangs, preparing for the morning. And when morning came, it was as horrible as it had been before, with snakes across the island hunting each other to the death. In a few weeks, the last snake succumbed to starvation, and the island was desolate.

    Several months later, the first egg hatched. The snake slithered out and looked upon the ruins of his parents' civilization. Then he crawled off over the sand in search of food.

    ----------

    For the record, I wrote this before the recession. I guess you could call me a prophet. I also drew a picture of two tall, identical towers in flames back in '99 as well. I'm thinking there's gotta be a way to make money off of this.

    If you read it, please respond, even if you hate it. I'm looking for some feedback on it, which is hard for me to get in real life.

  3. #3
    Registered User Delta40's Avatar
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    I think both stories are a lighted hearted stab at the short sightedness of humankind and how quickly learned behaviour can lead to our own self-destruction. I like the circle of life you portray in both tales. in the second, I kinda got the feeling that this was folklore on why a snake hisses or rattles but that isn't how it unfolded and I was a little disappointed.
    Before sunlight can shine through a window, the blinds must be raised - American Proverb

  4. #4
    Registered User Tallefred's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Delta40 View Post
    I think both stories are a lighted hearted stab at the short sightedness of humankind and how quickly learned behaviour can lead to our own self-destruction. I like the circle of life you portray in both tales. in the second, I kinda got the feeling that this was folklore on why a snake hisses or rattles but that isn't how it unfolded and I was a little disappointed.
    The first one isn't very clear, I know. No one I've showed it to has been able to tell what it was about, but I like the story enough that I've held on to it. It's about how we rely on this massive "machine" of technology that we've built up over the centuries, that most of us have no way of understanding. Kind of like Douglas Adams' idea that a man marooned on a desert island couldn't make a toaster. But no one's ever guessed that, so I guess it's technically not a very good story. I've even had people come up with ideas that fit the story far better (one of my teachers said it was about God, back when the story ended with another monkey finding the plug. How people rely on God for everything, and are slowly abandoning him in the modern world, but will return eventually. I thought it was brilliant even if I didn't agree with it, but too bad, my story).

    Hmm, I kind of see why you would think the snake story is folklore. It does kind of have that feeling, doesn't it? Especially in the beginning. I wonder if there's something I should do about that. Did anyone else have the same thought at first?

    Thank you for the feedback.
    Last edited by Tallefred; 09-13-2010 at 07:56 AM.

  5. #5
    Registered User Tallefred's Avatar
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    Gathering Moss

    In the dawn of time, a little rock was born. It was not a very large rock, nor a very small one. It was a pretty average rock, all around.

    The rock lived in a field of other stones, all very similar to itself. Yet they were different in subtle ways. Some were larger, others more solid, some more square. Others were interesting colors, or marbled in beautiful designs. But overall, the rocks were very similar to each other.

    Our little rock was at home among all these others. Still it had dreams, goals that went beyond the boulder field. It wanted to be part of a building, the cornerstone or spire all others would depend upon and admire. It wanted to be a statue, or a flagstone. It did not know exactly what it wanted to be- all it could say was that it wanted something bigger, something great, for itself. Something beyond the little boulder field, however comfortable it was there.

    For millions of years the rock sat in the field. It did not mind waiting- it was patient, as only a rock can be. And at long last, its dream came true. A group of humans came upon the rock field, and exclaiming over the many beautiful stones there, decided to built their town on that spot.

    The night the rocks were very excited. Many of them had similar dreams to our little rock. And now, at long last, it seemed their dreams would be fulfilled.

    The next day, the men began building their homes. They gathered many stones, standing them atop one another as walls, or placing them side by side as floors. But they did not choose the little rock. It sat there trying to look its best, hoping every time a man approached that it would be its turn. But it did not happen. Slowly the rock field emptied, as one stone after another found a home, until at last our little rock sat by itself, the town completed and there being no more need for it.

    It resigned itself to patience once again. In time, there would be more people. Soon these people would have children, and they would need homes of their own. It would find a job soon enough. And so it waited, as the babies were born and grew into children, into teenagers, waiting for the world to need him.

    One day, a truck pulled into the town, the back of it covered in tarpaulins. As the paper gathered in curiosity, a man jumped out and pulled off the cover, showing the people his supply of shiny pieces of metal. The rock knew at once what they were, although the people did not.

    Steel.

    The people all gathered around the truck as the man explained the benefits of steel. How strong it was, how sturdy, but also flexible. Its resistance to rust. The rock knew it all already, but the people were amazed.

    Soon the highly anticipated weddings took place, and the next generation began to build their homes. But they never spared a glance for the little rock, sitting alone in the empty field, watching the steel buildings go up. The world had moved beyond it.

    Still it waited, hoping against hope that perhaps things would change. Perhaps some day things would change, people would stop building with steel and go back to stone. Perhaps if he waited he would have a role to play after all. And so he waited, while the city grew up around him, buildings rising up into the sky, as generation after generation grew up and started homes of their own, as the city grew and grew and finally became an enormous metropolis, sprawling out in all directions.

    But nothing changed for the little rock. It sat and it sat, and it waited and waited, and slowly, slowly time passed, the wind grinding the rock down into sand, and by the time the people moved on and the city was abandoned the little rock was long gone.

  6. #6
    Registered User Delta40's Avatar
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    Ok, so the central character, a little rock spends its existence yearning to be part of something, but it never is. It is an onlooker while other rocks get to be in the saga of of life.

    lol. its cute but I might need to be further enlightened on this one...(I like your style though)
    Before sunlight can shine through a window, the blinds must be raised - American Proverb

  7. #7
    Registered User Tallefred's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Delta40 View Post
    Ok, so the central character, a little rock spends its existence yearning to be part of something, but it never is. It is an onlooker while other rocks get to be in the saga of of life.

    lol. its cute but I might need to be further enlightened on this one...(I like your style though)
    This one's a little bit angsty. At the time that I wrote it it felt a bit as though I was letting life get away from me, while I sat around and waited for things to happen to me, rather than going out and trying to do things. I wrote this story when I realized what I was doing.

    I think. Or maybe I just thought it was a cool idea. I wrote it a while ago. Anyway, this little rock needs to stop sitting at the sidelines expecting everyone else to do things for it. It can't help it, I guess. It's a rock. But I'm not.

  8. #8
    Registered User Tallefred's Avatar
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    A Butterfly's Eye View

    A little caterpillar crawled through the grass. Around it, roots twisted out of the ground and rose away, becoming trees that soared into the sky and hid the sun. It was dark down here, beneath the forest canopy, dark and dank and stuffy, down in the mud with the worms and the ants.

    A low hanging leaf caught its attention, and it stopped to eat. There was darkness down here, but also comfort, and ease. There was plenty of food, and safe places where a young caterpillar could catch a nap. It felt secure as it munched on the leaf, gathering the nourishment it would need to grow.

    Satisfied at last, it continued on its way. It passed centipedes and earthworms, writhing in the mud, but although they looked the same as it it knew that they were not. They would never know anything more than this, but it felt as though it were merely passing through. This was a stage like any other, and soon it would be over.

    The little caterpillar continued on this way for sometime, in the cold comfort of the underworld. It ate, and it slept, and it waited. After a long while, when it felt its time had come, it headed out to take the next step.

    It settled down on an appropriate leaf and began its preparations. For a long time it did nothing, then it began to spin, coiling silk around itself faster and faster, wrapping itself in a cocoon that hugged its body tightly. Still it did not stop. The cocoon had to be thick and strong to support it for the next few weeks.

    At last, the caterpillar was still. It had preparations to make, changes that needed to be happen for the next leg of its journey. The cocoon hung from the leaf for a long time.

    A long time later, the cocoon began to shake. Softly at first, then more strongly, it swayed back and forth, until finally a brightly colored wing broke through the layers of silk. A head followed, then the rest of the butterfly, struggling out of the package and onto the leaf, where it rested for a moment. When it felt ready, it flappped its new wings and flew away into the air, seeing the sun for the first time as it broke through the forest canopy and soared above the trees.

    For the first time, it experienced sunshine, and birdsong, and the pleasure of a soft breeze. It looked down on flowers and grass, and although it could not see it, it knew that it looked down as well on the dirt and the dead, the hidden underbelly of the world. The bees and the birds that buzzed and fluttered around it looked down too, but they knew it not, for they had never been there, had never experienced the darkness. They looked but did not see, for they lacked the butterfly's eye view.

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