Author : Kate Runnels

The monkey tattoo stared at Zim. Forever frozen as it climbed a tiny branch. All it did was stare at him.

No, that wasn’t quite right. It had started something else. It questioned him.

-Why am I here?-

Zim had gotten the tattoo long ago. Too long ago. He wasn’t that rebellious teen anymore. No. he was a soldier on an outpost that really didn’t matter if he was here or not. An outpost on the edge of nowhere, scanning the darkness for who knows what. It was just dark outside.

He’d had a partner once with him in this isolation. That one had breathed vacuum about six months ago. Too long left in this outpost, with the dark looming, surrounding outside their small shelter. They weren’t even allowed to light a fire as their ancestors had, as he longed to do, to take comfort from the flames that withstood the dark.

-Where’s the replacement for Richardson?-

“That’s what I’d like to know.” He paced the corridors of the outpost even as he answered the monkey. “I’d like to know when a replacement is coming for me too?”

-Maybe no one is coming.-

For that, Zim didn’t answer.

No one was coming. It was him and the all consuming dark, with the questioning frozen monkey.

He woke up and started his day as he had everyday. He worked out, not because he really wanted to, or had to, but for something to do. He sent out the daily reports to sector command and still had no reply to his request for an update on replacements. He fixed lunch, knowing he wouldn’t starve if no one came.

-Why are you here?- the monkey asked again. It always asked that question. He had no good answer for it.

He paced the corridors, not thinking about the darkness, about eating a bullet, about breathing in vacuum. No, not thinking about that. He would stay here.

The monkey stared.

It was just a couple of lines on his forearm, so why did it question him?

-Why did you leave your home?-

-Why did you leave your loved ones?-

Why? Why? Whywhywhy WHY?!!!

Zim cut it off.

It still asked. The monkey asked.

Zim stared at the darkness but saw the monkey.

“Please…” his forehead touched the polyglass, “leave me alone. I don’t know why.”