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Tall Tail Challenge

By AphoticPublished about a year ago 6 min read

The beast stared at me from behind the plexiglass with its black, beady eyes. They reminded me of the obsidian marbles I used to collect as a kid. “Are you afraid to die?” It asked again, it’s voice robotic, detached.

A clay cap was mushed over its head to replace the missing part of its skull. Electrodes protruded from the cap, almost resembling spark plugs. They had receptors at their tips to carry signals through the attached wires to and from the monitors.

Obviously Todd Clemons programmed the thing to ask me that. It was a prank. He was probably in the control room right now laughing his ass off at my expense. He was still wounded from my rejection and this was his idea of revenge. I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of a reaction. I would play it cool despite being caught completely off guard.

I set my pen and clipboard down on the desk in front of me and leaned back in my chair, folding my arms over my chest. I smirked at the chimp on the other side of the glass as if the poor thing wasn’t just a pawn in someone else’s game. “No, I do not fear death. The sound of eternal sleep actually sounds pretty good considering I’m only getting four hours of sleep per night as it is. Why do you ask?” I said smartly, picturing Todd deflating in the control room at my calm demeanor.

“Because you’re going to die.” The chimp replied in the same dead, monotone voice. It was almost mechanical, unlike how it sounded when responding to my questions. Very funny, Todd. I continued to play along, putting on an act of being unfazed when really, it was starting to creep me out.

“Everything dies.” I reminded the animal. “It’s the punctuation mark on the prison sentence we call life.” I leaned forward and collected my clipboard and pen from the desk. “We do need to get back to the exam now though, if you don’t mind.” I added, annoyed by the disruption. I poised the pen over question number eighteen. “What color is a banana?” I asked the chimp.

“You’re going to die tonight.” My heart stuttered and chills raced down my spine, but I managed to keep my expression and tone even.

“What makes you say that?” I asked as the uneasy sensation creeped through my entire body. I didn’t know why I was letting it freak me out.

Todd had a crush on me since my first day working in the lab. He almost certainly grew up with parents that excused the poor behavior of little boys with the dreadful phrase boys will be boys. Whatever the hell that was supposed to mean. These were the same boys that were excused from hitting and pulling hair because they obviously liked the girl. In other words, parents and teachers would tell upset little girls that they were only being abused by these boys because they were admired by them. Horrifying.

Todd was one that never grew up.

“Yellow.” The chimp said, pulling me out of my alphabet soup of thoughts.


“The color of a banana is yellow.” The chimp explained, avoiding my prior question. Perhaps Todd realized he was going to far and pulled back the reigns on his sadistic “joke”.

I managed to get through the remaining questions without further interruption. Chimp scored a 100/100.

I did all I could to convince myself I wasn’t freaked out by the chimp’s deviation from its programmed responses. After our session, I marched up to the control room and confronted Todd. He insisted he had nothing to do with it and promised to have the session reviewed by Leanne, the lead scientist, to determine what could have caused the disturbance.

I had no reason to be worried anyway, it’s not like a chimpanzee had the ability to predict the future, even if it could somehow formulate sentient thoughts. I was being paranoid and I knew it. On my way home from the lab, I drove ten under the speed limit and looked both ways at all of the green lights.

I was the last to leave. I thought that maybe if I buried myself in my work I would forget about the exchange with the chimp by the time I left. It was all I thought about on the drive home.

Home was a quiet street in the suburbs boasting a six figure median household income and virtually no crime. Still, I locked the doors and armed my alarm system—something I had never done since moving there.

When I went to hang my keys in the kitchen, I froze. I blinked hard a couple of times, not wanting to believe what I was seeing—who I was seeeing, rather, standing next to my table.

Todd reached out his hand, offering me a bouquet of chrysanthemums, my—

“Your favorite.”

I stumbled over to the counter and armed myself with the largest kitchen knife within reach. I don’t know if my hand or my voice shook harder. “What are you doing in my house?”

He scoffed like he was somehow taken aback, offended by the question.

“I brought you flowers.”

“You need to leave.” I said, stabbing the knife toward the door for emphasis. He stepped forward and I thrusted the knife back into the space between us.

“Stay away from me!” I warned. He put his hands up, dropping the flowers and took two slow steps forward.

“You continuously reject my advances. I show you nothing but kindness and generosity and you won’t even give me a chance. It’s not fair.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. He kept walking toward me.

“I said you need to leave!”

“I’m a nice guy, Claire. I deserve a girl like you.” He said as he snatched the knife from my trembling hand. The chimp’s words replayed through my mind like a mantra. You’re going to die tonight. He had programed the chimp to say exactly what he wanted to but couldn’t. Tonight, Todd planned to kill me.

I wanted to ask why he was doing this, but I knew the answer. People like him were beyond rehabilitation. With my keys still in my other hand, I made a fist and brought it into his ribcage. He doubled over and I kneed him in the face. He dropped the knife as he stumbled back, blood gushing from his nose.

I grabbed the knife from the floor just as he reached into his jacket pocket. I was on him before he could remove his hand with whatever weapon he had planned to murder me with. My kitchen knife went straight through his heart.

I decided not to call the cops after I found out that what Todd was retrieving from his jacket wasn’t a weapon, but a poem he wrote about me. I should have known. A total creep, but maybe not a killer.

I found his car parked two blocks away. At two in the morning, I loaded him into the trunk. Thirty minutes later, him and his Subaru were sinking to the bottom of the loch.

My skin prickled every time someone mentioned Todd at work later that morning. I hunched over my desk, pretending to be unaware, oblivious. It was just another ordinary day at the lab.

“Question twenty two. What are flexible metallic conductors used to carry electric currents in a circuit?” I asked the chimp as it stared at me blankly with those black eyes. I convinced myself that Todd’s intentions were sinister and just because he didn’t have a weapon didn’t mean he wasn’t going to kill me. Why else would he program the chimp to tell me I was going to die?

Then again, if his intentions truly were to end my life in if I can’t have you no one can fashion then why would he warn me?

“They’re going to find the body today.”

I snapped back to reality, unsure if the words were in my head or actually spoken. I stared back at the chimp, quiet and still as a statue.

“What did you say?” I finally forced myself to ask, my voice coming out unsteady. The chimp’s expression softened and it blinked.



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Comments (4)

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  • Leslie Writesabout a year ago

    What a twist! I was going right along thinking Todd or the chimp were going to be the villain. Although, frankly Todd needs to respect her boundaries! Also, poor chimp! Great story!

  • Rick Henry Christopher about a year ago

    Wow! This was really very good. Outstanding. One of the best I've read in a while.

  • Claudia Neavesabout a year ago

    Another masterpiece. I was absolutely gripped from the first paragraph. It was very American Horror Stories-esque and you did an amazing job making it unique. One of my earlier pieces "Don't Drink the Merlot" has a similar twist (although no way to the calibar of your talent!) and I would love for you to check it out and give me some feedback if you are willing.

  • Testabout a year ago

    Loved it! This is so unique and well-written! My favourite of yours so far! Guarantee this will be on the winner's list. So good. x

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