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Attached to the pole is a beam alarm; she trips it and you switch on. You have twelve seconds of film where her tail is the star, and behind her tail, her family. She is a Black-crowned Central American Squirrel Monkey. This is very important to you. It’s the reason you’re tied to that pole.
Now you’re falling sideways and your image is falling after you. You’re lucky you haven’t broken your glass. You’re not a rock. You aren’t fruit either. If there are tortoises in this forest, maybe that’s what she thinks you are. You land like a tortoise. Shell-up. You film the canopy and the sky showing through.
You don’t do sound. The monkeys’ chat, their teeth on fruit, are added later in a studio. There’s never the sound of a microphone dropping, though some of your viewers will swear they’ve heard it. You’re watching the branches. This forest is the last stronghold of the Black-crowned Central American Squirrel Monkey. They’re next to you. You can’t see them.
From the edge of your picture comes a hairdo. A face follows. One of the monkeys is talking to another, but you can’t hear what she’s saying. Now comes the famous part, when she jumps on top of you. This is the bit that everyone has seen. Tortoise or not, she likes you. She even brings her mouth up to your lens, which the comment section will say is a kiss, though looks toothy. Her son falls asleep on you. His humanish face is pressed against your glass. In the video, with its multimillion views, this has been cut to fifteen seconds. For you, it lasts hours.
Those monkeys make you a celebrity. Facebook is cooing at you, and someone has drawn what is meant to be a Hollywood star, there, on your battery pack. They Think This Camera Is A Real Monkey: half a minute of film and, in the subtitles, facts about the Squirrel Monkey, which a zoologist had to beg for.
You find it all embarrassing. You’re happier now that you’re anonymous, tied to a different pole in a different country. Another animal could pass at any time. You’ll send the image – blurry, unlovable – to base camp. It won’t exist outside of a single USB. That is enough. All that is enough – enough for you.
About James Appleby
James Appleby is the editor and translator of Interpret Magazine, a multilingual review. Commended in the 2021 McLellan Poetry Competition, his work is widely published. He was born in 1993 and works in Edinburgh.