Give a monkey a pair of thumbs and what does he inevitably try to do? Build a better way of throwing rocks.
First he attaches them to a long stick for stability. Then he takes them off of the stick, wraps them in leather, and swings them around overhead. Then he throws them down on a big stone, hammers on them with another rock, and attaches them to a shorter stick, which he throws. It doesn't go very far, so kills a deer, stretches its tendons over still another stick, and lets the dead deer do the work for him. Meanwhile everybody else is giving him a raised eyebrow.
Then, all of a sudden, he starts grinding down bat poo and sticking it in things. First a big tube. Then a smaller tube. He crams smaller, more refined rocks down both, and concludes that he owns half the world.
The worst part of it all is: no one can contest him for a couple hundred years. He tromps around, slaughtering what he pleases and planting bits of fabric in the ground. Everybody else retreats back into their warrens, noses to the ground and tails swinging low.
And finally the Equalizing comes. It washes over the ground, spilling from burst floodgates that no one can really see yet. It sweeps up the little monkeys and their dangerous toys, mixes them around a bit.
It also gives us a way of seeing the world that we hadn't thought of before. It gives us the audacity to walk upright. To make monkey noises with our minds. And it gives us the damnable, irresponsible urge to wear iron. To find ourselves a piece. To get heated.
I'm sitting in a bar. Well, more like I'm hunching. I could get up on my hind legs, but that's not the most comfortable position for perching on stools or sitting in booths. Plus, it sorta freaks some people out.
Anyways, my horizontal inclination matters little. The establishment I frequent has made arrangements for me. The Belle and Whistle caters to a very mixed crowd, and has containers ranging from beer hats to glass hibiscuses arrayed along the back shelf. To give you an idea how mixed the crowd is, let me say that on a given night, forty percent of the clientele has thumbs. Maybe eighty percent has legs. Seventy percent chooses to use them. Thomas Moore, the resident wraith, is levitating gently beside the bar. I wave at him (with my tail, of course,) and he lifts a glass to me. Then he quaffs the whole thing, upending it over his mouth. A goodly amount of beer sluices through him and hits the pile of towels on the ground beneath.
I smile. It's a complicated gesture, involving some raising of eyebrows and lengthening of stare, but I manage nonetheless. And then I return to drinking, undisturbed. There's a little pewter bowl of spirits on the ground next to me, and I lap a bit. It burns on my tongue and tastes like a rancid elk on the way down, but I've had worse. I've had rancid elk. Plus, I want to be relaxed for when my company does arrive.
Settling down on my haunches, I scan the clientele again. Familiar faces, for the most part. Wyatt, the mosquito-man. Veronica DeViere, with her demure leather jacket an three-inch incisors. Billy-Ray Jimmy-Earl Danny-Jones (Bergeorge, to his friends,) with his copy of The Divine Verses sticking out of his breast pocket and a long blonde mullet rolling down his back. A handful of university students—mostly human, plus a few limbs—leading a riotous drinking game in the back. One of them notices me and calls out "to the professor!" There's mixed laughter and one or two honest cheers. I scowl and hunch back down over my bowl. It's one thing to have Tom notice me. It's quite another to have the attention of the whole bar.
You see, the whole reason that I'm here tonight errs on the lee side of legal. I've been running into the odd problem outside of class (you know…threats, vandalism, dead rabbits on your doorstep) and I'd figured that it was time I started getting proactive about it. Which brings us right back to monkeys and throwing rocks. Most of what it amounts to is animal posturing, the kind any self-respecting pack knows by heart. Bare your teeth. Growl real loud. Scrap a little with the other guy, and all the ladies are yours.
Unfortunately, with monkeys, technology kinda ups the ante on their bluff. They still feel like they're just position-fighting, but their tools give them the power to kill. An ape starts talking trash, pulls a flintlock, and feels real confident for all of five seconds. Then his opponent pulls another one and they're stuck in a situation that neither can back down from.
For this reason, advanced ballistics weaponry (see: guns) are totally banned in the area around New Walpole University. There's a handful of firearms on campus, mostly experimental, for use by the physics department and the engineering faculty, neither of which I belong to. There's also a handful in the town, all illegal and unregistered. But there aren't many. And, if I can get a hold of one, I'll be able to send a pretty convincing message to my harassers.
I take another lap from my bowl and feel something pounding behind my eyes. It's a haziness. A dull weight that settles over my vision and squeezes the world into a thin slit. I whine softly, annoyed. I hadn't meant to drink quite so much.
"Barkeep? Water, please." I suppose the quotation marks are completely unjustified. Parenthesis might have been better. I don't really vocalize the words, but people around me hear them in their heads all the same. It's one of those little passive magics. The kind that everyone ignores these days.
Hey! There's a talking wolf over there.
Yeah, he teaches my 'history of technology' class.
I settle back on my haunches and wait for the new drink to arrive.