By Alan Green
I hate shaving monkeys but someone’s got to do it. The monkeys aren’t going to shave themselves. Even if they were smart enough there would still be some spots that they just couldn’t reach. They have to be shaved all over you see otherwise it’s a waste of time. It’s not too bad once you’ve got them sedated but it’s difficult to get close enough to inject them with the anesthetic. Being super smart monkeys they know exactly what you are up to and they always try to escape. I guess the actual business of physically shaving them isn’t that hard really but it is very tedious. Sometimes I detest my job but on the other hand there are moments when it all seems worthwhile. When I see the shriveled bodies and the weird little faces of those shaved monkeys I feel a wave of pride rush over me. That might sound ridiculous. After all I’m only a lowly technician, I mostly just shave the monkeys but I’m still a part of all this. I am a part of what we’re trying to achieve here. If shaving monkeys is going to help bring about world peace then shaving monkeys is definitely an important job whatever anyone might say.
The other day one of them actually managed to break out and someone in the Ministry in their infinite wisdom decided that muggins here was the right person to go and retrieve it. Honestly these people are supposed to be our nation’s intellectual elite and they give a job like that to a humble grunt like me. It makes me sick. I blame budget cuts. Governments just aren’t prepared to invest properly in secret conspiracies anymore. If it’s an investment they can’t claim credit for on Newsnight then they simply aren’t interested. It’s a good thing the Ministry has so many generous private backers and overseas connections or the world would be in real trouble.
I was in the Ministry’s staff canteen discussing the cricket with Phil when a call came over the tannoy for me to report to my supervisor’s office immediately for reassignment. I don’t mind admitting that I was a tad apprehensive. There are worse jobs than shaving monkeys. Not many granted but there are some.
Half an hour later I found myself driving around the moors listening to the beeping and whirring of various bits of expensive hardware that were meant to be helping me to locate that damned monkey. In the end it was the car radio that actually told me where the renegade was. A little old biddy phoned into the local radio station Wildpony FM to say that she’d seen a goblin in her garden.
“Yes. I’m telling you it was a goblin. It was running around my garden like a wild thing. I was a bit worried that it might be after my George’s carrots. Goblins like carrots I remember my nanny telling me that when I was small. I never thought I’d see a real one but there it was as large as life, right there in my vegetable patch. I got quite a fright.” And so on. She rambled on about it at great length but I think you get the general idea. I realize that she was getting on a bit and people are a tad behind the times out here but a “goblin”? Are we living in the Middle Ages? In the early twenty first century if you see a mysterious inhuman figure in your garden you don’t think it’s a frigging goblin. Honestly with all the time and effort we put into our work. It’s enough to make you cry.
Unsurprisingly the DJ treated it as a joke. Actually he was bit cruel to the poor old dear but that was the least of my worries. The monkey had made it as far as the village of Highhill. It’s a small village in the middle of nowhere but it’s large enough for someone there to be intelligent enough to work out what the monkey was if they caught it. He was bound to be spotted by at least some people but that wasn’t the end of the world. In fact as long as people didn’t know what it was they had seen it was actually a good thing. It all feeds into the mythology. It all feeds into the creeping tide of unease, into the reservoir of fear that is gradually building up over the generations. Waiting for the Ministry to let it overflow and sweep away all the rubbish.
Once I had reached the village I had to decide where to start looking. I didn’t know exactly where the little old lady lived and the monkey had had plenty of time to move on since she’d spotted it. In what turned out to be a flash of inspiration I decided to start at the police station. My only known witness was of a generation that still reported strange incidents to the appropriate authorities. Bless them. I grabbed a press pass out of my pile of fake IDs and wandered nonchalantly into the station. Having introduced myself as Jake Steel of the Daily World I started trying to interrogate the desk sergeant. It was a thankless task. He wasn’t the brightest cookie in the proverbial cookie jar.
“Some lady saw a goblin? Wow, that is really weird. We don’t usually get goblins round here. Not that I can remember anyway and I grew up here. A goblin in Highhill, fancy that.” I tried to explain once again that there was no goblin just an elderly lady who thought she’d seen a goblin but I soon gave up. My cover story that I was reporter working on a lighthearted piece about the survival of ancient superstitions in isolated rural communities had obviously been too sophisticated.
I was about to head back to my car to have a bit of a rethink when a group of officers came in carrying a cage. My heart missed a beat. Surely it couldn’t possibly be but of course it was. What else was it going to be? The local police force had captured my monkey. I thought about sidling out of the station and giving the Ministry a call. I was obviously going to need backup. Unfortunately the fat idiot behind the desk ruined that plan.
“Hey look mister the boys have caught your goblin.” The other officers noticed me for the first time. The all looked at me inquisitively.
“Your what? You reckon it’s a goblin? Well that’s an interesting theory.” The last sentence oozed sarcasm. It appeared that the desk sergeant wasn’t a typical representative of the local police force. That was a shame. If the local bobbies had been dumber more of them might still be alive.
I’d like to think that I would have been able to talk my way out of that little predicament if I’d been given a chance but it wasn’t meant to be. Everyone in the room was suddenly startled by the sound of a mysterious voice coming from the monkey’s cage. “This one looks perfect. Just right for the crossbreeding program. We’ll take her with us.’ Obviously for me there was no mystery. I knew exactly what had happened. The monkey had tripped one of the switches on its tech belt and the implant in its head was broadcasting one of our prerecorded messages. All the policemen were completely convinced that the strange creature in the cage had spoken.
A few of the bobbies ran out of the room, most of them just stood there in stunned silence but one brave soul edged towards the cage and tried to communicate. “Hello there. Um err; welcome to the planet Earth. Don’t worry. We won’t hurt you.” I looked around; nervously offering up prayers to whoever might be listening that someone would laugh at that little speech. No laughter came. They were all taking it absolutely seriously. I was left with no choice. I got the monkey’s attention and then gave the relevant hand signal. It nodded in a spookily human way and tapped another switch on its tech belt. The would-be ambassador of Earth suddenly burst into flames. He had time to let out a scream of agony but it was mercifully quick really. He was reduced to ashes in seconds. The monkey danced a little jig for no real reason. It clapped its hands in twisted glee as another four coppers went up in flames.
Unsurprisingly everybody else ran out of the room yelling. I was left alone with my good friend the monkey. I was soon desperately struggling with the lock of his cage. After a while I began to panic. I assumed that sooner or later someone would work up the courage to come back in and face the invader or even try to rescue the missing reporter but they never did. The forces of law and order adopted a different strategy. They decided to set fire to their police station. By the time I’d managed to bust the monkey out of his prison the roaring flames had blocked all the exits. I dragged the nervous beast around the station frantically hunting for an escape route. The thick black smoke filled my lungs and everything faded into darkness.
I woke up on a white bed in an anonymous sterile white room. It was obviously a clinic of some kind but beyond that I had no idea where I was. At first I wasn’t sure if I was back at the Ministry or still in the village. A doctor soon showed up and assured me that I was safe and sound at Elm Lane Clinic, Highhill. In other words I was still an active agent, still in the field. Oh great.
The kindly doctor proceeded to tell me all about my injuries but I blocked him out. That wasn’t what was worrying me. If a doctor got hold of one of our monkeys he would quickly work out what it was. I knew that if my cover were blown the Ministry would send in the black helicopters to kill us all. I wouldn’t be spared. Frankly I’d probably been chosen for the simian retrieval mission because I was entirely expendable. I really hate my job sometimes. I took a big breath and asked him what had happened to the “strange creature.” He laughed.
“You’re not going to believe this but it turns out that it was just a monkey. Someone had shaved it. I don’t know where it came from but kids get bored out here in the sticks. There isn’t much for them to do. I’m not sure how they managed to fool people that it was talking though. That was pretty clever.”
I stammered. “But, but it killed people.” He chuckled again. “So people say but if you ask me Callam and the rest of them have just run off somewhere. They’ll come crawling back looking sheepish when they realize it was all just a practical joke.”
“How many people know that it’s a monkey?”
“Oh it’s all over the local news. Everyone knows about it. The Highhill Alien is quite a celebrity now. The press wanted to talk to you but I told them you weren’t fit enough. I suppose you’ll be wanting the exclusive to yourself anyway.”
I smiled weakly. Highhill was finished. The Ministry was going to wipe it off the face of the Earth. I idly wondered how they were going to manage to cover it up but I didn’t really care. The certainty of your own impending death brings a wonderful clarity of thought. I’d dedicated my life to the cause and I didn’t regret a single moment. Someone with less faith then me might have worried that they’d blown the whole operation but I knew that the Ministry would hush things up. They’ve been manipulating the media ever since it was invented. There was nothing to worry about. A minor slip up by a small time operative wasn’t going to knock the show off course but it did seem that my part in the great pantomime was over.
At that point the flying saucer turned up. God, It was beautiful. It was the first time I’d ever seen one of the really big ones in action. Obviously I’d seen them in their hangers before. Indeed I’d spent many a happy hour cleaning them. One of the few jobs in the Ministry that ranks below shaving monkeys. Seeing one hovering in the soft darkness of the moonlit sky was a very different experience. It was a vast shimmering disc covered in dancing ethereal lights. It hung in the cold night air like a huge unbelievably expensive Christmas tree decoration. I ran out into the street. Holding my arms up to the sky I yelled at the saucer. “Take me with you. Take me with you.” Childish I know but I couldn’t resist. There was a sudden flash of light then for the second time that day I passed out.
Naturally I woke up safe and sound back at the Ministry. They really are amazing. That was textbook stuff. The flash of light knocked out everyone in the village. They woke up half an hour later but they didn’t remember having passed out. It’s an old trick but an effective one. It creates the impression that time has been stolen from your life. In this particular instance the good folk of Highhill woke up to find that the so-called monkey and the visiting reporter had both completely disappeared.
We rushed out the usual completely implausible conflicting cover stories. You know the kind of thing. They just want to get on TV. They just want attention. They’re all on drugs. It was mass hysteria. We were testing a secret plane. It was a comet. It was marsh gas. It was a hot air balloon. It was a kid in a Halloween costume. It was the communists. It was a storm. It was Jupiter. It was a hoax. It was a joke. It was the northern lights. It was a movie prop. Don’t listen to them they’re all drunk anyway. There is nothing quite like an official government denial to convince people that something is true. Highhill quickly became famous as England’s Roswell. It was great for the local tourist industry but as always there was no cast iron evidence to be found.
Do you know that one third of Americans believe they have been abducted by aliens? Seriously, one in three people. I’m not sure what the figure is for Britain but I’d be prepared to bet good money that isn’t anywhere near as high. All the other countries are lagging behind as well. Do you know why that it is? Lack of commitment from the politicians. That’s why. Government after government has failed to invest in our work. They are lucky that we are skilled professionals who can produce such great results on a shoestring budget.
They take us for granted but we soldier on. We have to. Where would the world be without us? Without our flying saucers, our abductions, our weird implants, our mind control rays, our experiments, our impregnations, our anal probes and our cattle massacres? All the weird and wonderful threads of the alien mythology. We’ve got a whole fleet of flying saucers hidden all over the world. We’ve got hundreds of trained shaven monkeys or “Grays’ if you prefer. We are getting ready to launch the invasion of the Earth. The planet needs it. We are going to provide the vital ingredient for world peace. The common enemy for humanity to unite against. Oh yes, it’s going to be a glorious day. The war to truly end all wars. Until then I’m just keeping myself busy, helping the Ministry to get ready for the main event, doing odd jobs here and there. Most of the time I just shave the monkeys.