City Park Monkeys
She’d been zig zagging through Launceston City Park trying to evade capture. Something, or someone, was hot on her heels, and it didn’t help that all the lights went out the moment she reached the centre of the park.
She’d always found the park ironic. It was both beautiful and depressing. There’s no Zoo in Launceston, in fact a day out at some semblance of a Zoo had to be carefully prepared. It was a day trip to northwest Tasmania, but in City Park, on the outskirts of the city, there was a monkey enclosure. Those monkeys were important to Rob and Marly.
Realising she’d lost all sense of direction, she stopped, pressed her back in amongst a freshly trimmed Box hedge and merged with it. Her sharp breath caught in her throat, and she exhaled a plume of frost into the night. Heavy footsteps pounded the pavement, but she couldn’t tell from which direction they were coming, but as they neared, she put her hand over her mouth and nose to quiet her breathing. Just as she did, from out of the darkness stepped a huge black mass. It looked like it was human but lacked a mortal’s natural gait.
What is that? She thought as it passed.
Having decided to wait a few moments before making a run for it, her mobile began playing the bridge to Katie Perry’s, I Kissed a Girl. She’d used it for her older, by one year, brother, Rob’s ring tone, when he confided in her that he’d finally met a nice girl. He hated it but found it funny as hells, but it was loud and in the almost empty park, it rang out like the tower clock bell near the library at noon.
She fumbled for her phone. Tried to turn it off. It was giving away her position and she had to make a decision: dig herself in deeper and hope for the best, or run?
Now or never, she thought, pulled herself from the hedge and ran.
As she ran, she was able to get her phone from her jeans pocket, pressed the first favourite in her call list and Rob picked up. She breathlessly begged him for help.
“Where are you?” he asked, the panic in her voice was scaring him.
“The park,” she whispered.
She was about to respond when the right toe of her running shoes kicked the edge of a large rock skirting the path she was on. Before she knew what was happening, she was flying through the air. All she could do was watch in horror as her phone, lit up like it was, fly ahead of her. She heard her brothers’ voice fade, the further it went.
“Marly? Marly,” he was yelling, but she landed over one of the large metal wheels holding a WWII cannon and hit her head.
Her adrenalin kept her focused, but a crack in her chest as she wrapped around that wheel didn’t sound like a good thing. She bounced off and hit the concrete pad the cannon sat on. Winded and worried, she hoped whatever had been chasing her hadn’t heard her impressive smack down. She couldn’t do anything but lie on the ground, and pressing her hand over her mouth, she hoped to limit the noise of her rasping breath.
Her head pounded, and sharp stabbing pains shot through her body.
Think I broke something, she thought and tried to sit, but the pain pushed her back down.
She looked for her phone. She’d seen where it went, but the screen had turned to black. Marly knew she’d have to search for it. On her hands and knees would be best, but, Not a viable option, she thought.
She'd slid off the metal wheel and was lying on the concrete looking up into the night sky. A large cloud covered the fullness of the moon, and the only light she had to reveal where her phone had landed.
I’m gonna die, she thought. This is it.
With that, the gods must’ve been with her because the cloud moved and bathed her in the moon’s rays.
“Thank you,” she whispered, and searched for her phone, but every time she moved, her pain increased.
Gotta move, she thought, but how?
She looked for a place to hide, somewhere to wait for her brother. The space beneath the cannon looked high enough. She could crawl around, and roll under, the cannon and wait.
It’s gonna hurt and I’m gonna scream, she thought, maybe I'll howl… like a wolf. Moon’s out. Who’d know the diff?
It was teenage logic.
She took a deep breath, wrapped her arms around her ribs and rolled. The moment she did, the pain moved through her as though she’d been hit by lightning. She let out a howl to hide her screams and thankfully, it woke the monkeys. They too started screaming.
Under the cover of their screams and her howls, she made the short painful the journey and wriggled under the cannon. As she swallowed, Marly recognised the taste of blood in her mouth, and knew she was burning up.
As she crawled through, she tipped over a cement pot plant. Its contents were cool against her hot skin. She lay on her back for comfort, and to her surprise, she found her phone lying against the inside edge of the other cannon wheel.
“Thank you,” she whispered.
Picking it up, she saw the screen was cracked, the back cover was off, and the battery had dislodged.
Might work, she thought pushing the battery into place, and held down the “Start” button.
“Please work,” she whispered.
To her surprise, the screen lit up, but she was prepared, and shoved her hand into the pot plant where she’d scraped half the dirt out. It was the perfect soundproofing. A muffled Da Dum sounded, and a message from Rob came through.
“Stay where you are,” it read. “We’re coming.”
Marly might’ve been in pain but had her wits about her. She switched her phone to vibrate and lay it on the soil hoping for the best. She hadn’t heard the footsteps since the hedge, but to be fair, the monkeys probably had a lot to do with that.
The night didn’t start out like that, it had begun with a family dinner of roast beef and veggies. Her dad was telling groan worthy jokes and they were all laughing when her phone started playing Blondie’s, Call Me, and they all knew it was Kayla.
“That’s me,” she said, getting up from her seat.
“Her parent’s away again?” her mum asked.
“Alway’s,” Marly said, pushed her chair in, picked up her dishes, and walked into the kitchen.
She did all that while navigating her phone with her thumb, an art form her mum had tried, but never mastered. Her family were laughing at, Another dad joke, she thought, when a video download message popped up.
“Messin’ with me, are ya?” she said and pressed the download button and lay the phone on the counter.
“Marl’s,” she heard while putting the last dish in the dishwasher, “Come stay over? Please? You know you want to. Mum ‘an dad are out. Text me.”
Probably scared, she thought, picking the phone up, Marly looked at the video and was about to play it again, but saw Kayla’s face.
It was distorted, but she shook it off and thought, Technology!
When she took another look at it, she noticed everything behind Kayla seemed to be blurred, and she could’ve sworn there was someone there with her.
Maybe she’s learned how to use the blur function, she thought, though an involuntary shiver ran up her spine.
“Don’t know where that came from?” she said, walking back to the dining room.
“Where what came from?” Rob asked.
She showed her family the video to see what they thought, but no-one was in the mood for Kayla’s games.
“Mum? Does that look odd to you?” she asked demanding more than a cursory look.
“Looks like every video I get on my phone—”
“That’s because you refuse to wear your glasses,” her dad said.
“Yeah,” Rob agreed and was met with mums well-honed icy stare, and he looked to their dad who pretended to grimace.
No-one like the stare, not even dad, but when Rob and Marly got older, she only used it in fun. When they were younger it meant, “Wait ‘til we get home!”
“Oo oo,” Rob said, keeping his eyes averted from his mum with a hand up to his head like a horse blinker, “bet she’s a vampire… what do ya reckon, Dad?”
“Oh, definitely,” he said, and lifted his head up to reveal two green beans stuck to his canines. “I’m a vampire ah ah ah ahhhh.”
A rowdy round of laughter filled the air as one of the beans fell to the floor.
“A naughty vampire,” her mum said, “who’s never brushed their fangs,” and the laughter continued.
Is that what’s hunting me? Marly thought. A vampire?
She was still lying beneath the cannon and the monkey’s had become silent, so when her phone vibrated in the dirt, she jumped. The pain in her ribs radiated from the front of her torso to the back and around again. She grabbed the phone with one hand and shoved the other hand over her mouth. The the pain was so intense, she grabbed tight to the mobile and a sharp sting, like a blade, sliced into the palm of her hand. She dropped the phone in the dirt and her hand was filling with, Blood? What the?
Marly pulled her hand from the pot and saw it in the moonlight.
Shear panic rose in her chest and those lunging, lurching footsteps she thought had gone, sounded again, and came to a stop close to where she lay.
The blood, she thought, it’s following the blood.
With quick thinking, Marly shoved her hand back into the pot, covering it in dirt. She was frozen in her terror, and it was possibly the only thing not giving away her position. Unsure if she’d broken her mobile for good, she tried reaching for it, but had to use her bleeding hand. If she tried with the other, she’d likely scream.
And it’s too close. Come on, Rob.
She just thought those words, looked towards the pot, and that’s when she saw it. There was a huge black mass standing between a Norfolk Pine and a Man Fern, in a patch of winter posies. She took in the height and mass of its body while digging her bloodied hand further into the dirt. When she looked up, thinking she’d see the glint of moonlight of the whites of a human’s eyes, she was shocked to see it was instead a pair of bulging white eyes set in sunken black sockets staring out of the trees.
Not a vampire, she thought, then thought, how’d I know what a real vamp looked like. Not the movies, Marls… Rob! Oh gods, what if—
She barely finished that thought when she heard her brothers voice.
“Marly? Marly?” he called, and she so wanted to call, “I’m here,” but knew she’d put him in danger too.
Just go home, Rob, please, she thought.
Hot tears sprung in her eyes.
“Marly? Marly?” another voice called, one she didn’t recognise.
“Marly?” Rob called again and her instinct screamed for her to call, “I’m here,” but the thing in the trees hadn’t moved, then she heard that strange voice again.
“Marly?” and saw the jaggered yellow of razor-sharp teeth open and close beneath the bulging white eyes, and knew the thing was mimicking her brother.
Why isn’t it moving? She wondered, then remembered the blood, her hand, and grabbed another fist full of dirt to pack into the wound.
She didn’t know how bad the cut was, or if it was even still bleeding, but she did know the thing in the bushes could smell it and possibly knew exactly where she was. Helplessness had begun to overwhelm her, then the monkeys began to scream.
The monkey’s, she thought, He’s near the monkeys. Thank you.
They’d made a pact, Marly and Rob. They walked the streets of Launceston at night a lot. The plan was if one was in trouble, they’d wake the monkeys.
“They’ll scream,” Rob had said, “and we’ll be able to find each other.”
She looked to see if the thing was still there and couldn't see it but hadn’t heard it move. She knew if she ever had a chance of escape, it was in that moment. Knew it’d hurt like hells but didn’t care. With one last look around, she made sure she couldn’t see the thing, then went for it.
She rolled to the side of the cannon, grabbing a handful of dirt as she went, took another look, then wriggled out. She’d just got to her feet when, out the corner of her eye, she saw those horrific yellow teeth smile from inside a conifer. The thing hadn’t left at all. It’d just hidden. It was waiting her out, and she was, out that is.
“Rob,” she screamed, but doubted he could hear her over the monkeys. “Rob?”
Marly ran as fast as she could. Her pain was debilitating and her breath had become a wheeze, and the taste of blood overwhelmed her.
Where is it? she thought falling onto a bench.
She and began coughing up blood.
What have I…
Her thoughts fell away as she fell into unconsciousness.
“Geeze you’re a dag, dad,” Marly said, but everyone, even she, couldn’t help laughing.
He got up out of his seat and was chasing her with those green beans held between his fingers up to his lips.
“One, a ah ahhhh, two a ah ahhhh,” he said.
Her mum was saying, “Stop it,” but was laughing just as hard as the rest of them.
“So, can I go?” Marly asked.
“Go on. But Rob can walk you,” her mum said.
“I’m sixteen,” Marly complained, and Rob piped in with his two cents worth.
“Do I have to?” he asked, pretending to complain.
Rob and Marly smiled at each other. Both wanted to go, but it was the same game every night, and their parents knew it.
“Just do as you’re told,” mum growled.
Rob, running from his vampire dad, ran his fingers up along his mums back like a spider, then gently over her short brown curly hair, to give it the full-service effect.
“Stop it!” their mum said smacking him on the hand.
“All right,” Rob said, “I’ll walk her, and mum?”
Marly and Rob readied themselves for their walk.
“There’s hardly a night when Kayla’s not scared,” their mum called. “What are you two up to anyway?”
“We’re not up to anything,” Marly said and ran into the dining room and kissed her on the cheek.
“Come on,” Rob called from the front door.
Marly grabbed a coat and her, Kayla Go Bag, as everyone in the family called it. Rob grabbed his coat and they called, “Bye,” as the front door slammed.
Once outside, Rob pulled his jacket around him.
“Sure ya wanna walk that far in this?” he asked watching the sleet falling around them. “We can turn back? Say ya never got the message?”
“What do you mean? It’s a beautifully clear night. Look at that moon. Gotta go anyway,” she said. “Our messages are synced. Kayla knows when I’ve seen it… You could hurry up and get your license.”
“Look here, Marl’s. I can’t speed up the planet and skip through a month just so I can drive you everywhere.”
“Have you even tried?” she asked with a cheeky smile.
“For I am Superman,” Rob proclaimed into the night, “and instead of going back in time to save Lois Lane, who means nothing to me, I shall go forward, to save my super, yet unknown sister from having to walk everywhere.”
Marly was laughing so hard she thought she might wet herself.
“Stop it,” she said, and they walked from Kmart to the parks first gate in silence.
They stopped under the lone streetlight before entering the park.
“I know you wanna see her—”
“No idea who you’re talkin’ ‘bout, sis.”
“Susan?” Kayla said with a sidewards smile.
“Oh, her. Why didn’t you say so… Ouch!” he said when she playfully punched him in the arm.
“Just go,” she said, “I’ll be right.”
“I won’t tell if you don’t?”
“You know me. Tight as a drum,” Rob said running his index finger across his lips. “Text me when you get there. I’ll see you tomorrow?”
“Sure will,” Marly said and Rob opened the gate for her before walking towards the rail line to Susan’s place.
“Where am I?” she groaned and looked up to see if she could recognise anything, but she couldn’t see the moon anymore.
Instead of the soft dampness of grass, or a cold hard slab of cement, Marly realised she was lying on a dry dusty dirt floor. The taste of blood was thick in her mouth, and she found she couldn’t move anything but her eyes, nose and mouth.
“Is this… a cave?”
There’re no caves in Launy, she thought, and why can’t I move?
“All interesting thoughts,” a low voice, with a gentle growl behind those words, said from the darkness.
“What?” she asked.
“You can talk if you’d like,” the voice said, “but you’ll only bleed more, and you need your strength, Marly.”
A long furry thing ran across her throat, Like Mr. Tiggle’s tongue, she thought.
Marly had named a stray ginger cat that’d begun visiting her home over a year ago. He showed up once or twice a week, got a feed, a cuddle and sometimes slept with her.
“Mm, blood’s slowing,” the voice said. “Feel it. Embrace it.”
Rob? she thought, Where’s Rob?
“Let him go, doesn’t know,” it almost sang to her.
Where are we?
What do you want with me?
“I was just out looking for a snack, then you wandered willingly into my snare.”
What? I didn’t… I walked into the park.
“Semantics,” a soothing male voice answered.
“Who’s that?” she asked, her hopes growing at the thought she'd been found.
“It’s me,” they said and a person about Robs age, maybe a bit older, came into view.
“Are you here to save me?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said. “I am here to save you, Marly.”
“You’ve gotta watch out for the—”
“Beast, thing, it?”
“Yes,” she said, wondering how he knew her name. “It was just here. You must’ve seen it?”
“No, just me,” he said.
“I... I can’t move,” Marly said. “It did something to me.”
“I know,” he said. “I had to, or else you would’ve died.”
“What?” she asked, unwilling to believe her ears.
“I had to,” he said again, “and you can’t move because your bones are… realigning.”
Marly’s eyes widened as they adjusted to the darkness like a cat.
“Realign? Who are you?”
“I am Mark.”
“Are you a friend of the thing that was hunting me?”
“I am the… thing,” he said, and she felt a certain sadness behind his words. “I wasn’t hunting you. I was making sure you were safe.”
Safe? She thought, her mind reeling.
“It was you? In the bushes. Near the cannon?”
“What? No, I was up a tree—”
“I’ve seen you before,” Mark said.
“Really?” Marly asked, What a honey, she thought, then, am I under his thrall?
“Yes, thank you, and no,” he said.
“Under my thrall. I’ve watched you walk the park to that daemons house—”
“You call it, Kayla,” he said. “At first, I was curious about what kind of daemon you were, but found you were human, a beautiful, kind and loving human, but that daemon had you in its thrall.”
Marly was silent. Captivated by the soothing tones of his voice.
“Hang on,” she said. “You’re saying, Kayla’s a—”
“Daemon? Yes. She’s been hunting the park for years—”
“But I’ve known her since primary school.”
“I know,” he said. “I’ve been protecting you for a long time, Marly.”
She was about to speak, when suddenly the sound of her bones cracking and mending pounded in her ears, but it wasn’t painful.
“Did you give me something to numb the pain?”
“I did,” he said.
“Will I be better soon?”
“You will, but—”
“But to save you, I had to share a part of myself.”
“What part?” she asked unable to hide her shock.
“I cleaned your hand. Lapped up your blood, but you’re bleeding internally,” he said. “I couldn’t let you die, I… need you to live… with me.”
“What?” she asked just as her spine expanded and contracted repeatedly. It felt so good. She felt good. “Can you please stop being all coverty? Tell me what is goin’ on?”
“It was the daemon hunting you in the park,” he said.
“He’s okay, he got out of the park. After I brought you here, I made sure he got home safely.”
“Mum, dad,” she said. “They’ll be worried.”
“I know,” he said, “and I’m sorry, Marly.”
“Sorry? For what? For helping me?”
“Because I’ve done what I could… Never wanted… But you can’t go home—”
“Cause you’ll never be yourself again.”
“What? What’ve you done to me?” but before Mark could answer, Marly twisted and turned.
He knew the paralytic agent in his saliva was wearing off, and it was now up to Marly if she wanted to live.
“Make the right choice, Marly,” Mark whispered, cupping her head in his hands.
He leant down, kissed her forehead and rested her head on his lap.
“Come back to me,” he whispered. “I’ll show you the world, but you have to choose me.”
Marly’s family, the police, the community, searched the area for days, but all they found was her phone inside a pot. It had an odd video on it.
“She must’ve hit record,” Rob said and broke down, “while she was running. While she was talking to me.”
The clip ran for 23-seconds. It was mostly black except for one frame where it looked like there were a pair of white eyes and yellow teeth in it. Rob uploaded it to social media where it was examined and discussed by every pseudo detective and keyboard warrior around the globe.
Every day Kayla visited the grieving family. Marly was, after all, her kill. She hoped Marly would return. In the meantime, Rob was smelling mighty nice. Days went by, then weeks and when Rob got his license, he spent all his time looking for his sister. Kayla insisted on riding with him and Susan. She got upset when they began to refuse to have her with them. They searched the park night and day looking for clues.
High in a conifer, out the way of humans below, sat two cats, one ginger one black, their tails entwined. They saw beyond the veil and protected Rob from the daemon. During the day, they’d visit Marly’s mum and dad. They were devastated and swore they’d never give up looking for their daughter. The cats would sit on the kitchen windowsill, and Marly’s mum fed them, petted them, talked to them, but most evenings the cats returned to a secret hideaway, and transformed back into Marly and Mark.
They lay in each other’s arms, and whispered words of love. They waited for night to fall before transforming. They watched the park and became Marly’s family guardians. In the beginning, Marly wanted to visit Kayla. Her hunger for vengeance was immeasurable, but eventually she listened to reason.
They were not limited to the size of house cats, or even panthers and lions, they were much more than that. If they could imagine it, they could become it, and Marly had a great imagination. Once She imagined how big the lions in the time of the dinosaurs must’ve been, and one dark night, when the park was empty, she transformed into the one in her imagination. With a quick look around, Mark joined her.
“We can be anything,” Marly said, looking out above the tree tops.
Mark was in awe of her fearlessness, and he was no-longer alone, but he knew one day Marly was going to eat Kayla, and he feared losing her.
What’ll happen if she eats a daemon? He wondered many times, and was thankful Marly couldn’t read his thoughts, but not so thankful he couldn’t read hers anymore.
Kayla still stalked the park, but she was being watched by two very powerful beings. In her sadness, Marly’s mum came to believe Mr. Tiggle’s new friend must be her Marly. Some nights she'd let them in, and they’d sleep on the end of their beds, sharing their love and warmth with them all.
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