Iconoclast Orangutan by Adam Lock

The orangutan takes a long deep breath, looks left then right, his plate-shaped face blinking, chin raised, mouth closed. Endangered. An iconoclast.

Using a long stick, he prods a coin the color of his hair across the concrete riverbed. He tilts his head; look how the stick bends where it meets the water.

He should exercise, climb the wooden fort, or swing on the huge tire, maybe work out where they’ve hidden the fruit. He could make another nest, higher up. But what would be the point? Every day there are the same grinning faces, the same pointing fingers, the same clicking cameras.

He flexes his back, rolls his shoulders, thinks about the life and death struggle of past lives.

At night, he climbs the wall at the far end of the enclosure and takes a stroll around the zoo. One day, he’ll set them all free and they’ll march to freedom, all of them, together.

When the moon is at its highest, he knuckle-walks back to his enclosure, climbs the wall, and lies next to his mate in their nest. Revolutions take time to plan, to organize, and they can be messy, can be upsetting for everyone, for both sides.

He rests a hand on his mate’s hip. She’s warm, hazy with sleep, close to extinction. They use the rhythm method; he makes a mental note of her ovulations. Not that he needs to; there’s something in the shine of her hair, the shimmer of her fingernails, the sweetness of her breath.

A gust of wind bends the tops of trees in the forest on the other side of the enclosure. He shuffles his bulk closer to his mate. It’s inside her, life: a swirling nebulae, a nursery of stars, the Pillars of Creation reaching out light years in every direction. Shivering, warm with abstinence, with squandering, he sighs, breathing the orange hair on his mate’s shoulder one way, then the other. Tomorrow, he’ll save his species. Tomorrow, he’ll begin a revolution. For now, he’ll inhale the mammalian warmth of another, and sleep.


Adam Lock writes in the Midlands, UK. He recently won the TSS Summer Quarterly Flash Competition 2018 and the STORGY Flash Competition 2018. He was placed third in the Cambridge Short Story Prize 2017, and has been shortlisted twice for the Bath Flash Fiction Award 2018. He’s had stories appear in publications such as Lost Balloon, New Flash Fiction Review, Former Cactus, MoonPark Review, Fictive Dream, Spelk, Reflex, Retreat West, Fiction Pool, Ellipsis Zine, Ghost Parachute, and many others. You can find links to his stories on his website: http://www.adamlock.net. He’s also active on Twitter @dazedcharacter.

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