The Great Apes of Mars

A description of this peculiar species 

On Mars there is no human presence, but there do exist terrestrial primates - the gigantic Martian apes. These are tall and lean apes with long hair ranging in colouration from red to white. They are intelligent, but lack speech - instead they communicate through sign-language and simple animal sounds.

The Apes can live to an extremely old age, up to three hundred years of age, as according to historical accounts and legends. But this seemingly long-lived existence is shadowed by a disease that takes its toll on those who grow old: the Senility.

When an ape turns about a hundred years of age, a strong dementia sets in. Slowly, and bit by bit, the elderling loses her senses and reverts into infancy, finally passing through to the other side of humanity, becoming an instinct-driven animal who cannot sense or think.

Usually, the old are killed by family or the tribe, but sometimes an ape or two might survive in their feral state up to three centuries of age. Occasionally, an individual can retain their mind for longer times than the usual hundred years, and these usually become great sages of renown.

The apes of Mars are ill-served by the heavy gravity found on Earth, which can cut their life-span considerably through illness and organ-failure, if exposed to it for long periods of time; though most consider this only a nuisance, due to the grip of Senility upon their latter life anyhow. The effect this shortening of life-span has on the apes is almost imperceptible.

Martian psychology is peculiar. Though usually a martian can seem to be almost equivalent to humans in intellectual matters, they suffer from peculiar hallucinations and believe that they can communicate with "spirits" - which they seemingly do on a regular basis. These spirits seem to almost all only exist in a personal sense, as if bonded to the martian they speak to, and those spirits that a society or a village might claim to share always seems to be just slightly different between different mediums (though surprisingly similar).

One theory is that the mind of a Martian ape is compartmentalised, and that within the psychic landscape exists many sentiences, personalities if you will, that can perform psychological duties separate from the public persona itself. These personalities take the form of hallucinations about spirits and ghosts and other persons, and can communicate with the main personality and between themselves.

Gods and spirits shared by many people at the same time seem to be a kind of cultural construction, a mneme, that molds itself into a sub-personality within the mind of the martian. Through dogma and doctrine, the mnemetic ghost can become quite similar to other constructs in other minds, thus creating "God". It also seems this kind of mnemetic imprinting can also happen with a person, usually an important person in someone's life or who is charismatic in some way, whose public personality is semiplicated into an approximation of a ghost or personal projection.

 Because Martians do not communicate through speech, there is much less need for abstraction in their writing systems. Even when a tribe of apes loses its ability to write, it will rediscover it in short order by simply reinventing it, starting with elaborate paintings of their sign-language which is quite shortly abstracted into a semi-abstract writing system. 

This 'minimal leap' of language to stationary form is also present in Martian art: a great historical figure can be depicted as a many-armed statue with a message in its hands, or a painting may depict an elaborate discussion between two ancient philosophers. One of the most famous statues with this kind of sign-language is that of the great Primate of Green Stones, whose twenty four arms form a very clever Martian palindrome in the ancient language of the nation of Three Fingers Pulling Down the Left Lower Eyelid While The Nostrils Are Flared Twice. The message goes: "Why speak of war when you can make peace?"