Nightmares aren’t all super scary to other people. In fact, when I say I’m scared of monkeys, people often laugh. But trust me, there is nothing funny about it.
A few years ago I was asked to write about my phobia for Hidden Thoughts Press and this piece describes exactly what sort of chaos monkeys can cause. To read the PHOBIAS book in its entirety, it’s available on Amazon.
The Monkey Queen
by Emerian Rich
As a little girl, I had this reoccurring nightmare. Everything started nice and innocent. I was on a tropical island at a big luau. The dream was extremely vivid and in color, which was rare for me. A volcano in the distance spewed pink ash into the bright blue sky. The jungles were vibrant with life and color. Happy calypso music played in the background. All in attendance cheered as I was carried on a throne of bamboo and deposited at the head of a bedecked table. Dressed in a Hawaiian frock of loud oranges and greens, I sported a banana leaf skirt and flowers around my neck. Atop my head was a wreath weaved from vines and hibiscus flowers. I was fanned by palm fronds and hundreds of exotic fruits were paraded before me.
I remember the taste of the mangos, grapes, kiwi, bananas, and papaya. The smell of the tropical flowers and fruit lulled me into a false sense of peaceful tranquility. Cool ocean air wafted over me as if Mother Nature had found my perfect temperature and set the island’s thermostat to please me. In a word, it was paradise.
I was the only human there, but that didn’t bother me, because I was amongst friends. Snakes massaged my toes as they slithered past. Panthers and tigers yawned as they lay in the late afternoon sun. Macaws and toucans sang gleefully along with the drums beaten by tree frogs in tiki masks.
And then there were monkeys. Hundreds of the primates sat at my table and ate fruit, chattering happily as they paid homage to me, their ruler.
Little groups of two or three monkeys danced before me, putting on a show. They spun and twirled and did death-defying trapeze stunts. Several would come up at a time to honor me, or kiss my feet, or mist me with fragrant water. Some even sang or played musical instruments.
As the sun went down, torches were lit and the festivities got more rambunctious. Soon the merriment became too much for me. The crowd got rowdy and I closed my eyes, thinking I might pass out from exhaustion. It was eight o’clock and I knew I had to get home before my curfew.
As I stood, the music stopped and all the monkeys turned to me. Hundreds of little beady eyes stared, their tails curled upwards into question marks.
They asked a flurry of questions.
“What can we get you?”
“Are you well?”
“Do you need something to eat or drink?”
“Where are you going, my queen?”
I smiled and patted the one closest to me on the shoulder as I said, “It’s been lovely playing with you all, but now I must go home.”
The monkey put his tiny fingers on mine and said, “Oh no, you are our queen. You can never go home.”
I laughed at first, thinking he was joking, but as his fingers tightened on mine, I realized he was serious. Panic filled my heart and I screamed. I jumped down from my royal perch to the damp jungle floor. I ran as fast as I could through the dark jungle, trying to find my way home. I felt like Alice, running from all the cards. Vines tangled in my hair and lashed across my bare arms and legs as if trying to hold me back. I heard chattering and scampering of thousands of little monkeys chasing after me. The path never seemed to get clearer and as I looked around, I saw the menacing stares of red beady eyes at varying levels on trees, vines, and bushes. Every once in a while, I’d feel a scratch on my shoulder or tickle on my ankles and I could never find my way home.
With the touch of a whiskery kiss at my neck, visions of being pulled apart by minuscule monkey nails shook me awake.
My scream would bring Mom. I recounted the tale between labored breaths as my adolescent heart raced and tears blurred my eyes. She’d assure me that no monkeys were or would ever be in the house. Glancing around the room, I would spot several places they could squeeze in. Through the ripped screen on the open window, under the closet door, or from the heater vent leading to the basement. I knew the creatures would invade my home. No matter how harmless or accommodating monkeys seemed, they were out for blood.
I don’t know why I had these dreams. They were so real, they seemed like memories, not simply nightmares. Could they be a product of watching Jungle Book as a child? Were they past life memories or perhaps…a premonition?
As I grew up, my childhood nightmare blossomed into a full-blown phobia. Cute “Hang in There” posters on office walls featuring a monkey can conjure all kinds of horror stories in my mind. They are everywhere! Waiting to pluck out your eyeballs and juggle them for tips.
If you haven’t been terrorized by a hoard of primates chasing you through a jungle, you probably don’t realize just how many damned monkeys are around us every day. Curious George, Bubbles, Planet of the Apes, Barrel of Monkeys, Donkey Kong, Chunky Monkey, monkey emojis, monkey bread, sock monkeys, marmosets, orangutans, baboons, the list just doesn’t end! And don’t even get me started on those friggin’ cymbal clacking organ grinders.
When I hear in the news that some lady’s face was ripped off by a monkey, I’m not shocked. Did you ever see that movie Monkey Shines where a shoulder monkey terrorizes a man in a wheelchair? It should be turned into a public service film. I say, anyone who wants to own a monkey must watch this movie before adopting, because the things are evil, people!
I’ve tried to get over my primate aversion, but I just can’t do it. Photos of the creatures make me shiver. While other people fear typing a word in on Google and having porn or blasphemous content pop up, I panic about the possibility of seeing one of those fanged mouths open in what some would say a laugh, but I say an evil shriek. I wait in fear of the day they will attack, tiny nails digging into my skin, creating infested blotches all over my body. Have you seen the pygmy marmosets that are so small, they wrap themselves around your finger? My skin crawls at the thought of their little bodies embedding themselves under my skin. Chilling!
Despite my distaste for primates, one of them infiltrated my monkey-proof perimeter a few years back when my son was a baby. Being an alternative lifestyle, child of darkness, city dweller, people don’t normally give me things that might have monkeys on them. The Nightmare Before Christmas décor, spiders, and jack-o-lantern gifts abound, but primate nonsense? Not a whisper. I enjoyed this fact until I became pregnant with my son. Suddenly all sorts of cutesy baby gifts poured in, many of them monkey themed. Most of them went straight into the giveaway pile, but there was one soft, fuzzy blanket I fell in love with by touch before I realized its sinister side. When my fingertips found the blanket at the bottom of a pink polka-dot box, it felt like wisps of cloud from heaven. I held the blanket to my cheek for fully five minutes, breathing in the deep scent of baby lotion before my husband said, “Um, did you notice it has a monkey on it?”
Fear pierced my chest. I started breathing heavy and felt a tingle up my spine as if I were being watched. My first instinct was to throw the evil blanket across the room–to distance myself from such a vile, ghastly object–but the touch of the baby soft fabric made me hesitate. Was I being too judgmental, to chastise an item of such sensory enjoyment, just because some manufacturer had wrongly decided to decorate it with the image of my nemesis?
I ultimately put the blanket in the keep pile, somehow knowing my newborn child would adore it. As predicted, it’s become my son’s favorite blankie. Since his birth, I’ve had to endure hundreds of movies containing monkeys. I keep my head turned, eyes focused on something else, praying not to hear the shrill monkey squeals from my dreams. If I happen to miss the appearance of one of these creatures on the screen, my son will point and squeal with delight, “Momma don’t like monkeys!”
You would think my son’s innocent delight of the vile creatures would make them more acceptable in my eyes. That with every trek through the zoo or watching of a primate cartoon, it would get easier to see them, easier to push my fear in the background. No such luck. I’m still just as much a Pithikosophobian as ever.
I guess you could say a smidgen of the fear has gone, but is tolerance the same as acceptance? I don’t think so. I still get nervous when people start talking about marmosets or pretend to be a monkey as they hand me a banana. And every time I wash that blanket, I wonder if the monkey is mocking me. Perhaps one day, the little bugger will peel himself from the plush fleece and hop onto my shoulder, pledging his undying love and pulling at my hair ’til I scream. He may even take me back to Monkey Island.
But for now, the blanket can stay, as long as it behaves, keeps my son happy, and doesn’t sprout miniature fingers.
Update: The blanket did get thrown away (finally) much to my relief. My son is now fourteen and my home is once again a place of tranquil monkey-less bliss. Yet, every so often someone who doesn’t know me sends a monkey emoji or posts a monkey meme and my fear spins once again out of control.
My biggest fear is not the apocalypse. It’s an apocalypse where I am, alone with only primates as my companions. I’ve been told to write that book, that it would be the scariest tale I’ve told yet, but I’m afraid the only one it would instigate nightmares in would be me. And it’s just not worth the price.