Flash! Friday – ‘Monkey on Your Back’

 

Barbary Macaque, Gibraltar. CC 2.0 photo by David Stanley.

Barbary Macaque, Gibraltar. CC 2.0 photo by David Stanley.

Monkey on Your Back

Tired. So tired.

My last success a distant memory. Scraps, and leftovers, and charity, have been my portion ever since, but the sun is warm, here; the pace slow. It is the perfect place to start looking. The ideal spot in which to begin again.

I swing, lightly, onto a pitted metal balcony. My nose twitches with the scent of effort. Through an open window I hear muttering, the clack-clacking of a typewriter.

Soundlessly, I pad toward the room. A man sits at a desk. Novels, all bearing his likeness, lie scattered around, but he struggles, it seems, with today’s words.

I smile. I can help with that.

He screams as I climb onto his back and sink my claws in, but then his fingers reach for the keys. He begins again. It is good work. His best. With every word, I feel my strength returning.

Soon, and until it is too late, he won’t even notice I am here.

**

Years ago, I’m sure I read a vintage short story about a monkey which acted as a sort of ‘twisted Muse’ to a writer, driving him mad as he strove for greater and greater success. I can’t remember how it ends – and I also can’t remember the name of the story, so if anyone can help, please let me know – but when I saw today’s prompt, I knew this was where I had to take my tale. Flash! Friday‘s nefarious rules for today’s challenge stated that we had to write a story based on the image prompt above, and ‘a famous writer’ – not necessarily a named famous writer, but simply one which features in the story. So, what was a gal to do?

I’m not sure if the monkey in the original story was a soul-vampire (or whatever the monkey in my tale is; I’m afraid to really look) – I just know that it was about an unhealthy relationship between hard work, inspiration and mental and physical health, which is why the phrase ‘monkey on your back’ has come into use now as a shorthand way of describing a drug addiction, or something which is a burden but which the sufferer cannot, or will not, part with. Writers and their muses have long had a tortured relationship in fiction, but usually it’s the writer who torments the Muse – just check out the way Calliope is treated in Dream Country if you don’t believe me – and so I like the idea of it being the Muse tormenting (and quite possibly destroying) the writer, this time around.

Anyway. Whatever your feelings on monkeys, Muses, or drama-queen writers, I hope you enjoy my tiny tale this Friday. Tune in tomorrow for a book review (it’s fun, I promise), and I’ll see y’all next week for more travels through the labyrinthine torture chamber that is my mind. Adios!

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