Prompt Day #180: Design and fictionally perform an outrageous stunt
The Brief and Poorly Imagined Career
Of Aaron “The Ape-Man” Torrance
When Aaron Torrance was seven years old, he was hit by a car. Suffering a fracture of his frontal skull bone, doctors warned his parents he may never wake from the coma and if he did, he may be a different boy than the one who had jumped on the sled that fateful day. His brain swelled. The surgeons removed a small piece of skull to relieve the pressure. He remained in a coma. He awoke two weeks later when a group using therapy animals came to visit.
Aaron swore that it was the monkey they’d brought with them who woke him up. He said the monkey whispered inside his brain saying “they’re going to forget all about you if you don’t wake up soon. His doctors and parents believed it was his subconscious, child-like worry that made him think that but humored him. Later, when the horror of that long month grew weaker with distance, his parents would encourage him to tell the story of the monkey that woke him from his coma.
With his “soft spot”, Aaron became a special child. Never allowed to participate in gym class or go off to the park with friends. He was a loner now, more by circumstances than personality change. His favorite activity was visiting the city’s zoo, spending all his time in the Ape house, where he insisted he was conversing with the chimps and gorillas.
As a child, his insistence was cute, a fun story to share with other parents, but as he grew older, his insistence in interspecies telepathy ostracized him and his family completely. Considered strange by most, it was no surprise when he announced that he was going to study magic and illusion. He entertained family at holiday parties and became quite good. Soon he was developing his own tricks and stunts and found he got the best response from family when he appeared to put himself in peril. “Now, Aaron, you can’t forget you have a soft spot, you have to be careful.” His mother would admonish. But he liked the gasps and the chest clutching he saw and so he continued to design more and more outrageous stunts.
Aaron had one ultimate goal in his young adult life; he wanted save up enough money to buy a chimpanzee. He spent all his free time at the zoo, where bystanders would comment on the strange boy who never spoke, only sat staring intently into the ape enclosures. The keepers knew him well and brushed his odd behavior off on brain damage and humored him when he told them Betsy was constipated and needed more fiber or that Olaf, the zoo’s old male orangutan, said he wanted a new tire swing. No less than once a month, Aaron made a plea to enter the Gorilla enclosure. He maintained that the glass was so much thicker between them and the public and it interfered with his ability to communicate.
A sad truth in the world of magic is that unless you find a gimmick that allows you to become famous, it is hard to make a living off of small, local shows and birthday parties. Aaron knew that if he was ever to move out of his parents’ house (where owning a chimp was expressly prohibited) and get his own place, one big enough to comfortably house a primate, he needed to make a lot of money. He needed a stunt, a big one.
Sitting at the zoo, concentrating on a message he was trying to send to the grey-back gorilla named Goliath, his head ached. He rubbed it, his fingers following the now familiar contour of the divot above his left eye. It was throbbing with his mental effort. Damn that glass partition. Damn the zoo for not letting him in beyond it. If he was famous like David Blaine or Chriss Angel, they’d let him in in a heartbeat.
Yes, that was it. He would devise a stunt, one that would draw so much attention that the zoo couldn’t refuse. It would be just as much free publicity for them as it would for him and if he pulled it off (of course he would because he had the power to speak to these dangerous animals telepathically), he’d be famous. The whole thing was a win-win situation. He sat there thinking, his soft spot thumping along; a percussion accompaniment to his concentration.
The other monkeys in the huge, steamy ape house had all quieted down, each sitting quietly, picking at bugs like popcorn watching Aaron think. Only the gorillas went about their business, paying no attention to the man with the otherworldly connection to their cousins. First, he needed a gimmick, a moniker that would get everyone’s attention, then he needed the stunt that would bring him fame, fortune, and finally a companion who understood him—someone who could see inside Aaron’s brain. His forehead bulged out of its hole like a cartoon goose egg. He stood up. He had an idea, but he would need some help, which would likely come from someone outside the country. He had some research to do.
When Aaron returned from his trip to Mexico, his parents were horrified. They thought they had paid for a trip where he would meet a retired magician and purchase the man’s secrets. He had insisted that the money they were lending was no different really than college tuition. But when he returned, his hair just beginning to grow back, a scar that ran the entire length of his hair line and a forehead which now bulged out over his brow in a bulbous, flaccid way reminiscent of the head of an octopus. He grinned at them and when he began to talk, his forehead pulsated in and out with the cadence of his speech. His mother fainted. His father gagged.
Once both had come back around, Aaron explained excitedly that he believed his abilities to communicate with primates lay in the unobstructed “telepath” that ran from his brain to the primate’s. With just a small window through his skull he was limited in the strength of the messages he was able to send, but after having his entire frontal skull bone removed, he would now be able to send clear, intelligible messages to the wild animals. This was his “gimmick”: he was “The Ape-Man” now. His brow protruded like an Ape’s and he could communicate with them. He planned to go to the zoo where he would live within the Ape enclosure for a month, proving his ability to calm the great beasts.
“What kind of magic trick is that? Sounds like they removed some of your brain with the skull” His father scoffed.
“Have you ever heard of an Endurance Artist? David Blaine does stunts like this all the time, he’s lived in an ice cube for like two and a half days. He’s been buried alive, lived on a small platform 100 feet in the air. He’s famous and rich. It’s part of his magic acts. I can communicate telepathically with apes and monkeys. Probably other wild animals too, but as you know, it was the monkey who brought me out of my coma, and so it is the primates who I prefer to interact with.” His parents tried to avoid eye contact with him because the pulsating forehead was such a distraction.
As soon as his jetlag had improved and he was able, he went to the zoo. There he was able to get the attention of Goliath who came to the glass divide to listen to the messages The Ape Man sent. While Goliath did not send messages back Aaron was convinced the Ape understood and would continue to respond when he finally got inside. He ran an ad in the paper declaring himself a modern day Tarzan. He promised the public that if the zoo agreed, they would be able to visit and watch him as he lived peacefully among the Gorillas without harm.
The zoo’s lawyer responded with a five page document releasing the zoo from any liability in the event of an injury or death. Aaron, The Ape-Man, Torrance signed the release in a live press conference wearing a purple metallic turban wrapped tightly around his forehead shielding it from the public until the exciting reveal once he got inside.
The day he was scheduled to move in to the Ape House, Aaron woke up with a head cold. His forehead puffed out so far, it shaded his eyes like a baseball cap. His mother thought it best if he “just rescheduled the trick” which as far as Aaron was concerned was out of the question. Aaron had been waiting for twenty years to talk to Goliath and he was only one month away from his dream of success and financial independence. The sooner he began his month of living with the apes, the better.
His forehead pushed against the itchy fabric of his turban in time with his heartbeat as he stood in the doorway to the gorilla pen. He could see Goliath and his mate Gwendolyn watching suspiciously. The crowd gathered on the other side of the thick glass partition was larger than he could have hoped for. He knew his parents were there somewhere. Finally they would see, and could no longer deny what he had been telling them for years. They and everyone who had ever met him, heard his story and scoffed at it would finally see. With confidence he stepped into the courtyard hearing the steel gate close behind him.
He approached Goliath slowly, unraveling the turban as he walked. He could hear the murmurs and gasps in the crowd when his forehead filled with cerebrospinal fluid and puffed out. Goliath stiffened at the site. The Ape Man held up his hands and sent his first message.
“I don’t want to hurt you. I just want to communicate with you, learn your ways”
“Enemy” Goliath answered
“No. No. Friend. I am your friend”
“Competition” Goliath thrust his chest out and chuffed. Aaron continued his approach, his concentration evident in his throbbing head. “Stop” Goliath sent
“Show them that you can understand me, Goliath, show them that we can be friends” Aaron knew he was pleading now, his confidence wavering just a bit. Goliath responded to the weakness in Aaron’s voice and began his own approach, his mate staying behind, statuesque.
“Goliath. Stop” The Ape Man commanded. That was it. A show of weakness followed by an attempt at dominance was all the wild animal needed to determine the appropriate response to this intruder. He charged Aaron. Grabbing him by the head, the ape sunk his teeth into the soft, pulpy unprotected grey matter bulging out above Aaron’s eyes. There was a spray of blood like the juice of a grapefruit as Goliath’s teeth bit into Aaron’s center for future planning. The Ape Man’s eyes rolled back almost as if to see just what the beasts teeth were doing inside his head.
It was hard to tell from the crowd’s positon if the jerking and writhing the man was doing was death throes or the rag-doll response of a dead body being handled roughly. It didn’t really matter though, the end result was the same.
Later, after the funeral his father would say that it seemed only fitting that Aaron should go that way.
“After all, if he was to be believed, a monkey brought him back to life, so it’s only right that a monkey send him to his death.”