Chook: The Vort Conspiracy – Part 5 (The Monkey Cube)


Everybody loves ’em, no one can stand ’em. In some cultures they are associated with of wisdom, acclaimed as blessings of the gods or gods made flesh. In other areas, let’s say your average Starbucks, calling someone a monkey is tantamount to S/H.

Monkeys are many things to many people. Are they cute clingy human analogues or harbingers of terrible disease? Do you see them as maliciously threatening or pleasantly mischievous? It is impossible to tell for the attitudes of a monkey are as mercurial as a breath of air but each emotion as elegantly simple and understandable as those of a young child.

Because of their dual nature, the ease with which they brachiate between opposing forces, the monkeys of Chook are often viewed as universal mediators, philosophers stones if you will. Without monkeys it is thought that none of the alchemical processes in the universe could continue to function, the great works of the elder gods would be torn from the world and the subtle forces with which the Vort grips onto Chook and Lunar Chook would slip like so many well buttered fingers.

Monkeys have been vital in the work of Joe especially, and at no time during the Great Clean-Up Project did he have less twelve dozen spider monkeys and howlers, all armed to the teeth with monkey wrenches and other implements of destruction. In fact the best monkey wrenches are crafted from the humerus’ of long deceased monkeys who served on Joe’s custodial staff.

That was in the early times when things were still pulling together. You needed a couple of monkeys to get the job done quickly. Now these primates have been slowly replaced by their easily gulled relatives: homo sapians (for as the old chestnut goes, “I’d more easily trick a man than a monkey.”).

“Where did all the monkeys go?” you may well ask. And you may well receive some sort of answer.

It is true that for a time they lived in the forests of the Vort and in the ducts of Lunar Chook. During the “Ages of Mages”, that 50 year span when the arcane “artes magicas” were all the rage, many had monkey toe clippings, monkey fecal matter, monkey hair follicles and ground up monkey livers put into more potions than anyone would like to shake a stick at (even if that stick were a Staff of the Magi at full charge capacity). And one might think from this that monkeys were all hunted to extinction. But in assuming this one forgets exactly how many monkeys there were in Chook. And that number is. . . A WHOLE FREEKING LOT OF THE %$#& &^#@ #%&@$%#!!!!

There were monkeys everywhere. In this regard they might be likened to some non-corporeal deities who manifest themselves everywhere and nowhere. Only, in the case of the monkeys, they manifested themselves everywhere and everywhere.

It was not uncommon for a wife to say to her husband, “Honey, would you reach outside the door and grab us a monkey for dinner!”

Monkey bread was a common commodity and often three loaves could be bought for a nickel. Auto mechanics used monkeys as high quality universal joint replacements or in catalytic converters as a cheap substitute for platinum.

There were entire cults who followed the monkeys around seeking only to learn from them the great secrets of monkey lore. Many of these cult members grew fat and listless in time since the monkeys were really everywhere and there was no need to really ‘follow’ them. Also these cult members often found easy meals by cooking any nearby ape whose fire and brimstone sermons did not live up to the cultist’s high standards.

But one man got greedy. His name was Bopko, a registered trade mark at the time. In truth he was not so much a man as a gnome. Yes, one of the much dreaded. The tinker-gnomes.

Oddly enough this gnome had more in common with the monkeys that one might think. It is said, with a spit to the side and a grunt of disgust, that his mind was a veritable monkey maze. And, if that weren’t bad enough, to make matters worse, he was a mage ta’ boot. That’s right, a wizard class guy. Didn’t think gnomes could do that did you? Well check the original Gary Gygax rules pp. 173-75. This guy read a different book.

He was a gnome, and he was an inventor, and he was a full time wizard. And he had an avid interest in monkeys. But this little fellow had one bee in his bonnet and it did not involve a night light. This was a fellow who actually wanted to ‘be’ a monkey.

Oh sure, you say, so he wanted to be a monkey. In a place like Chook anything is possible, right? Couldn’t he just whip up some crazy gnomish device, big as a seven story mountain and powered by rubber bands to perform gene therapy on himself? Couldn’t he cast a polymorph spell and a permanent spell to make himself permanently a monkey? Isn’t there something in the Dark Sun rules where Refilers and Deservers get to become monkeys past 20th level?

Probably, I would say you’re right. But this guy is a little different. He didn’t just want to BE a monkey, he wanted to have at his finger tips all the qualities that monkeys possess. The ‘quintessential’ monkey, as a noted Korean physicist might put it.

And how to go about this? Why Hell Raizer style of course!

In a cafe somewhere on a dirty street, in an ill reputed district, in some quazi- North African country a man in a fez sits at a table with a scruffy looking yuppie. A trade seems to be taking place. The man in the fez has his hand next to a small box six inches on a side. The box has two monkeys carved into each side and inlaid with silver to make them twinkle and move almost like an infinitely changing animated hologram.

The yuppie keeps offering him more and more money but the man in the fez just keeps looking at him with a leering, half maniacal expression. Finally the young man throws his last C-note on the table with some jab like,”Fine here’s your filthy money.”

He grabs the cube and stalks off to do who knows what unspeakable things, or have such things done to him. The man in the fez folds his hands across his chest and smiles gently in that, I know what’s going down, kind of way. He says something like, “It’s yours, my friend. It always was.”

There are many convenience stores in New Vort. Some are little cozy mom and pop shops hidden on the corners of residential neighborhoods. About half of these are worn down little places with big cans marked ‘Goya’ lining their shelves. The other half are various other ethnic stores, one or two renting Bruce Lee movies, three or four more catering to walking animals or stranger types of clientèle.

The other type of convenience store is the 25 hour store (an invention of the Floating Land which recently achieved pop-cultural status in New Vort). This type of store is generally much slicker, much seedier, and without an exception, lit by florescent lighting. All things being equal Jerico would prefer somewhere he can get vegetable Maruchan and Half a Loaf of Kung Fu, but right now he is under cover, and can not afford to visit old haunts.

The Vasen-3 Cloud Flitter is Jerico’s vehicle of choice. It’s a squat little three-pod shaped thing with wrap-around pleather seating. The kind of thing popular thirty years ago when the New Vort boom was on. Of course there are much sleeker anti-grav rigs out now, but Jerico thinks of himself like Scotty that way: There’s no substitute for NCC-1701, “No bloody A, B, C, or D.”

Of course it’s possible the ravers will be all over it in a year, replicating old models like this for themselves. Trying to relive those days gone by, but some crucial piece of their je no se qua will be missing. They’ll like old Cloud Flitters like this one, but some part of the word ‘like’ will be too forced in their case. No matter how hard they try, some part of their fascination will be social pressure and not genuine enjoyment of ancient workmanship. Even now Jerico is using one hoof to make a mental note that he should stay out New Vort until the whole Vasen-3 Cloud Flitter fad blows over.

Jerico banks his Vasen-3 Cloud Flitter over the empty parking lot. New Vort zoning laws require convenience store parking lots to have not more than three vehicles in them between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., ‘for amibance’ the sign reads. The ambiance is thick tonight and the fluorescent street light falls like snow upon the cool macadam space below. Gently, the vehicle eases through a slow, tight half circle maneuver much like the last leaf falling from a tree in Autumn.

Umika has never encountered anyplace like this before. The white noise silence of the center city parking lot is almost gentle, yet at the same time pregnant with potential activity. Jerico glances at Umika and gives a nod that she might want to join him in exploring the inside of the store.

By intent and nature, Jerico is never a ‘smooth operator’ and, as if to prove this, he is sure to slam his door at least a moment or two after Umika shuts hers. The ‘C-chunk!’ of slamming car doors in the parking lot creates a discontinuity to the atmosphere similar to that created by a chainsaw being winded in an ornamental park during an especially tranquil sunset.

This scene has been building for quite some time, and there are thousands of movie makers who would capture it if they could

Definitions: S/H – Coloquial. Retail jargon used in some establishments to denote Sexual Harassment.

Editor’s note: The Monkey Cube was inspired by some unexplained illustration of a cube with monkeys inscribed on each face. I thought Mike did it awhile back, but unfortunately I can’t find any record of it here or on, and I’m not sure where else it might be. Anyone who can dig up a copy please feel free to append it to this page.

About Peter

This guy lives in Boston MA with his beloved wife and two kids. You can get some idea of his likes and dislikes from posts on this website or elsewhere.