As the morning sunshine dappled through the bars, Tian traced the sun ray lines in the dirt of his cage floor. He lifted his gaze when the pattern was interrupted by the flittering shadow of a butterfly. His eyes smiled as he raised his hand and uncurled his finger between the bars so the butterfly could rest on the end of it, which it always did when it passed by. It was like an unspoken language for those who couldn’t speak, for creatures unlike Kamnan.
Kamnan was an ape, but unlike Tian, he could speak and had no fur. He fed and watered Tian when it suited him, but Tian knew it was for his own benefit. He would unlock his cage every morning and yank Tian out by the cord attached to his collar. Tian’s collar felt like a part of his body as it never came off, and the cord it was attached to was like an extra limb that he had no control over.
TUT TUT TUT TUT! Kamnan sang out to Tian, not knowing that Tian understood his words perfectly well when he spoke to others like himself. There were always others like Kamnan, but never any close enough like Tian. Tian had seen them from a distance, in their own little cages and with their own Kamnan’s but never close enough to communicate with. Tian ran over to the motorbike and took his seat in front of his minder, ready to begin another day of coconut picking.
They raced along the winding road, finally reaching a patch of palm trees that had been marked with bright blue ‘X’s. Work began immediately as Kamnan got off the motorbike and bashed his long bamboo stick against a tree, prompting Tian to climb up to the canopy. He twisted the coconuts one by one with his nimble fingers, always hoping that one might fall onto his minder’s head.
After he had picked for a few hours, it was time for a quick break and a drink of water. Kamnan sat on the ground and took out his tobacco tin, so Tian could wonder as far as his cord allowed. He inspected strange debris on the ground and threw the unappealing pieces over his shoulder. He ate a few ants that he spotted racing around in the grass and stretched his long legs out, and just as he felt his cord being tugged, he caught sight of a monkey much younger than himself, running away with a coconut from the pile Kamnan had stacked.
Tian was just about to screech out when something stopped him. The young monkey looked at him with startled eyes and then profusely rubbed his neck. Tian rubbed his own neck and felt his collar digging into him as Kamnam pulled harder.
TUT TUT TUT TUT! he tutted out loudly so Tian turned around and ran up the tree that Kamnan was impatiently bashing. From the tree canopy he looked down to try and spot the young monkey but couldn’t see him anywhere. It was only after picking a few coconuts that Tian heard Kamnan screaming out. He looked down to see that the small monkey was hurling coconuts at Kamnan’s head with force. Tian jumped in excitement and then scampered down the tree as fast as he could. He looked on in awe as the young monkey showed no fear, and ducked and jumped every swipe that Kamnan swung at him. The little monkey finally got close enough to bite Kamnans leg, sending him crashing to the ground as he wailed out in agony.
The young monkey continued to bash coconuts on Kamnan’s head until finally one split open, spilling white liquid everywhere. Tian became mesmerised by the white milk as it flowed and merged into the red that covered Kamnan’s face. He walked over to his minder and then looked down at the young monkey that had his finger outstretched with a blob of coconut cream on the end. Tian trepidatiously took a lick and closed his eyes. He had never tasted the fruits of his labour before. The young monkey then leaped at Tian with wide eyes and started to gnaw at his neck. Tian shrieked and leaped backwards but the young monkey persisted and grappled him to the ground.
Tian fought back and finally managed to push the small monkey onto his back. He ran from the small beast as fast as he could and then slowed down as he realised he was still running. There was no limit to how far he could go or the sensation of being pulled back by the neck. Tian turned around to see the monkey sitting by Kamnan’s still body, contently eating the smashed coconuts.
He ran back to the small monkey and sat next to him as him as he ate a whole coconut to himself. After they had gorged for a while and the sun began to set, Tian stood up and walked over to the motorbike. He jumped on and waited for a moment, as he had done every sunset. The small monkey followed him and looked up in confusion. He then jumped up and sat in front of Tian, as Tian pressed the ignition button and rode off with his new found freedom. They drove to the next coconut grove marked with blue ‘X’s and slept in the treetops, ready for a new dawn.