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News & Features » February 2018 » “Monkey See, Monkey Do” by Alicia Hilton

“Monkey See, Monkey Do” by Alicia Hilton

In October 2017 we published An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon, a rare literary science fiction set in a future universe so gorgeously described and perfectly self-contained—and yet so harrowing and cruel—that its only parallel universe is our own. Solomon’s novel has inspired this speculative fiction series. We’ve been through the past, and we haven’t really learned from it. The present? We’re too busy attempting to survive it. So we’re asking you to provide us a glimpse of what comes next. Illustrate the essential choices we must make in the present that will lead us to your brilliant utopian future. Or, if you cannot anticipate utopia, provide us instead with your cautionary tale. Show us where we will fall if we—when we—fail to alter our course. Fri-SciFi stories are published on Fridays because we expect we’ll need the weekend to contemplate your vision. 

This week, a scientist and her gang of lab animals get back at her boss . . .

Monkey See, Monkey Do
by Alicia Hilton
21st Century America

The chimpanzee with a bandaged forehead grabbed a hypodermic needle.

Michelle smiled and watched Cynthia stab a syringe into the laboratory director’s kneecap. The chimp appeared to be making a flower design. The other twelve needles she’d jabbed were arranged around the knee like daisy petals.

Michelle had planned to do the cutting, but the animals that she’d freed wanted to punish the man who’d used them for experiments.

“So . . . sorry,” Michelle’s boss sobbed. Harold Wade’s pleas for mercy were muffled by the torn sleeve of his tweed jacket that was tied across his mouth as a gag.

A Norwegian rat that was the size of a large cat skittered across the stainless steel table where Harold was trussed. The rat bared his razor sharp teeth and said, “Sugar, we can’t hear you. Can you speak up?”

The biomedical scientist screamed and flailed against the ropes that were tied from his ankles and wrists to the table legs.

The rat glanced at Michelle. She nodded and Ralph locked his jaws over Harold’s bare right foot. With one snip, he severed the big toe and the little toe next to it.

The tiny bones made a crunching noise from being pulverized by the rat’s molars.

Ralph jumped from the table to a utility shelf when his victim pissed himself, the gush of yellow fluid soaking the scientist’s white boxers and spreading across the table, mixing with scarlet in a swirly pattern that reminded Michelle of a Rorschach inkblot. She wondered what her psychiatrist would say about the gory tableau. Dr. Taylor had encouraged her to express her feelings, but the therapist’s advice hadn’t worked.

She’d told Harold that his provocative comments about her breasts were offensive, but instead of apologizing, he’d threatened to have her fired. When she’d filed a complaint with HR, her supervisor wasn’t reprimanded.

Michelle had come into the lab on a Saturday so she could clean out her desk before she quit. No one was supposed to be working. She’d been putting her behavioral science books in her bag when Harold came up behind her and grabbed her throat. Remembering what he’d done, Michelle felt a wave of nausea. She swallowed the bile and tried to regain control of her emotions.

She felt a tug on her pants leg and glanced down.

A baby chimp danced with excitement, a syringe in his fist.

She lifted Rico. His little teeth jabbered in glee when he sank the needle into Harold’s rotund belly.

The scientist’s thrashing increased, and his face and chest turned a florid shade that reminded Michelle of sautéed tomatoes.

A gorilla standing by the heart monitor said, “The subject’s heart rate has risen to 141 beats per minute.”

Michelle set Rico on the floor and addressed the gorilla, “Do you want a turn?”

Amos shook his head and gripped a pencil in his fist, writing in the lab notebook.

Michelle watched tears streaming down her boss’s face. She touched her own neck. It was swollen and sore, and she knew she’d be bruised tomorrow. “You shouldn’t have raped me.”

“Please,” he sobbed.

His fear fueled her hate. She held a Bunsen burner to Harold’s cheek. The blistering skin made a popping noise and smelled sweet, like grilled pork sausage. Flames engulfed his dyed brown hair, greasy pomade sizzling. The halo of fire spread down his sideburns to the gag.

She stepped back and tossed a beaker of alcohol at his chest.

Now a human torch, his heels beat a timpani against the table. By the time fire burned through the ropes, he’d stopped moving.

The chimps scampered after the gorilla, knocking over a shelf of chemicals as they fled the smoke. She grabbed her purse and followed the rat.


Ralph leapt into the back of her minivan and curled up under a blanket. As she sped down the driveway, away from the conflagration, Michelle glanced in the rearview mirror and saw three figures crossing the pasture that led to the woods. The gorilla’s stoop-shouldered silhouette reminded her of her dead grandfather.


ALICIA HILTON is a writer, law professor, actress, and former FBI Special Agent. She received her BA from the University of California, Berkeley and her JD and MA from the University of Chicago. Her fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry have appeared in Neon, Breakwater Review, J Journal, Modern Haiku, Frogpond, The Heron’s Nest and elsewhere. She is taking time off from teaching to write a novel and a collection of short stories. Her website is www.aliciahilton.com.


Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Fri-SciFi series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines.

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should be set in a conceivable, not a fantastical, future. No dragons, please.
—With your byline, include the date or era OR galaxy or ship or planetary system in which your story takes place. Or both. But not neither.
—To be perfectly frank, we prefer dystopias. But feel free to surprise us.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words, and must be previously unpublished.
—Please include a short bio with your submission.
—Accepted submissions to Fri-SciFi are typically posted 1–3 months after the notification date, and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Feb 9, 2018

Category: Original Fiction, Fri-SciFi | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,