Chapter no 35 – MONKEY HEAR, MONKEY DO


Isaac was the last one down the slide behind Donnie. They both made it through the plastic channel without issue. When he arrived to face the other four remaining children, he once again felt relief.

He was also thankful that there were no razor blades integrated with this slide or bushels of barbwire to offer them parting gashes. It was just a small victory, but a welcome one.

Isaac moved toward the edge of the new platform and toward a sign they’d now come to expect, which of course read: PLAYGROUND RULES.

The long, multicolor set of monkey bars extended from their platform, all the way over to a separate area. On the other side of the monkey bars, a few yards apart from each other, stood two slides that extended to nosebleed elevation. The nerve-racking height of the towering chutes was all their current vantage point could offer. What came afterward was still anybody’s guess.

But before they could worry about what was next, they needed to worry about what was below. It wasn’t a surprise to any of the children that the space below the monkey bars didn’t contain anything pleasant.

The drop was about twenty-five feet; probably just high enough to break a leg or two. While the fall most likely wouldn’t kill anyone, the contents of the gigantic pit surely would.

The odd mishmash consisted of a collection of countless shattered glass fragments. But the broken bottles, cracked windows, and lengthy shards weren’t alone.

Within the piles of transparent torture, there was movement. The variety of colors on the scaly exteriors of the countless serpents was beautiful in a way that they’d never be able to appreciate.

Many of the snakes had already cut themselves from slithering against the razor-sharp shards. The gushing effects made the mass below a pulsating monstrosity; one giant moat of horror. The bloody, glimmering rows of reptiles throbbed like they were one with each other. The visual alone of the countless lines of living agitation would’ve been enough to horrify the children. Never mind the sinister chorus of hisses that seeped up from the pit.

Isaac peered down at the countless knots of reptilian tissue intertwining. Their split, pink and purple tongues ejecting every few moments, ready to unhinge their jaws at the drop of a hat.

He frowned as his heart accelerated; Isaac hated snakes. He didn’t know why he had that feeling or how he’d come to find such a particular fear, but ever since he’d seen one on the television, the dread lurked inside him.

Tanya looked at the sign, shaking her head.

“Like a monkey swing all the way, but slip and the fangs will find you today. Should any feet reach the other side, then pick just the right moment to go down the slide.”

CJ and Tanya looked at each other.

A tiny smirk came across CJ’s face; he couldn’t help but be proud of his sister. She remained calm and thoughtful even when it felt like they were hopeless.

“What?” Tanya asked. “Nothing,” CJ replied.

“As much as I don’t wanna do this, it seems a lot easier than the last thing we did.”

“Yeah, but what about the smaller kids? How the heck are they supposed to do monkey bars this big? It’s a long way to get across.”

“Who gives a fuck? They’ll have to figure it out on their own. We can’t hang back and help everyone, we need to keep moving forward. Isn’t that what you said?” Bobby asked.

“But we can’t leave them—” Bobby stepped up to CJ again.

“Look, you were the one that asked me if I wanted to get outta here.

Don’t make me ask you the same thing.”

“We all want to get out of here, but we’re not leaving anyone behind.” “Suit yourself.”

Bobby pivoted his body to the monkey bars, turning his back on his brother.

“Isaac! Sadie! I love you—and—and your daddy does too. I don’t have much time, please just listen.”

Isaac and Sadie both looked up where the digital crackle had come from. They couldn’t believe their ears. The voice that rang out through the loudspeaker was one that they weren’t certain they would ever get to hear again.

Molly sounded terrified. “Mom?!” Isaac yelled.

Hearing his mother’s voice left him utterly confused.

“Mommy! I wanna go home! Mommy, please! Take us home!” Sadie cried.

While it broke her heart, Molly didn’t directly answer them. She just continued talking.

Isaac wondered if she could even hear what they were saying. If she wasn’t directly responding to them, he knew whatever his mother was saying must’ve been important.

Isaac put his finger on his lips and looked over toward his sister. “Shh! Just listen a second,” Isaac said.

“Listen carefully, the monkey bars are greased. Look up close at how shiny they are. Don’t try to hang from them and swing across, you’ll slip right off. See if you can get up on the top of them and—and maybe you can crawl across instead. But whatever you do, don’t grab the monkey—”

The speaker projecting Molly’s voice cut out. “They’re still alive,” Isaac whispered.

A sigh of relief whistled out of Isaac as he squeezed his sister tight. He felt selfish at that moment. Things had been so chaotic since they entered the playground that he hadn’t dedicated any time to thinking about his parents and their well-being. Suddenly, the thought jarred him to the core, like the impact of a car crash. His parents, like Sam, could’ve already been dead.

“Mommy!” Sadie cried. There was no response. “I want Mommy!”

A fresh wave of tears started up again. Isaac looked into his sister’s runny eyes.

“We’re gonna find a way back to her, I promise.” “Why did she go?”

The question was also puzzling to Isaac. But the distress and dread in his mother’s voice didn’t sound promising.

“I don’t know, but I’m sure they’re trying to get back to us, just like we’re trying to get back to them.”

Isaac made a promise to his sister, but whether he could keep it would be out of his control. But what the fuck did it matter? They were all in anyhow. It wasn’t as if Sadie could call him out on it if they wound up dead. To Isaac, it was more fuel to the fire, a promise of more potential energy and motivation.

CJ stepped up beside Bobby and inspected the colorful monkey bars. He noticed thick globs of a slimy, translucent grease had been applied to all of them.

“Your mom’s right, these things are all gunky,” CJ said. “Crap,” Isaac replied.

Tanya positioned herself back beside CJ.

“She’s right then. We’re gonna need to get on top of it,” Tanya said. “Fuck!” Bobby yelled.

“What?” CJ asked.

“I’m the biggest one, that’s gonna be hard for me.”

“We’ll figure it out, don’t worry. We’re not leaving anyone behind.”

CJ’s slight annunciation when he spoke the word we’re was a subtle way of trying to let his brother see the error of his ways.

Bobby was prepared to leave anyone behind, but now he was looking for comradery to hoist his heavy ass atop the structure. Still, he gritted his teeth, annoyed that he had to depend on anyone at all.

“But since you and I are the biggest, we’re gonna have to get everyone up first. Then, I should be able to get to the top and help pull you up myself.”

“I’ve gotta go up last?! No fucking way!”

“Well, how else would you work it, Einstein?”

Bobby thought momentarily. The warped, clunky wheels spinning in his big head soon became his undoing.

“Fine,” he said.

CJ found his smile again. He knew his brother wasn’t happy to do the right thing, but at least he’d agreed to do it. That was about as much as he could ask for.

CJ nodded his head in Bobby’s direction. “That’s the spirit.”

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