I went to the zoo this afternoon, and it made me write this story. It is a little over 1000 words long. It is a first draft, needless to say.
Diane loved The Zoo.
The Zoo did not love Diane.
In fact, perhaps no one and nothing loved Diane.
Certainly her brother, Brad, did not. “Hey, Brad, I looked you up in the dictionary, you know what it said? Brad: A small boring tool!” the back half of the school bus population chortled, the front half cringed.
Her mother didn’t. She made that plain years before. She’d spat angry accusations at them all as she drove away, her tires spewing a final arc of gravel.
Not her father, she figured. He fed them, he gave them some stuff. Mainly when Diane badgered and bullied and broke his stuff. Sometimes he’d hit her, but usually that seemed too much effort. He didn’t hit Brad, but he didn’t bother talking to him either, so it evened out.
Not anyone at school. The other students feared or ignored her. The staff were sick of sending her home for her acts of spite and destruction, only to have her return unfazed.
Diane loved The Zoo for several reasons. It was close to their house, so she could bike there any time it was open. Her father had bought a season pass to keep the kids out of his hair, so she could get in free. The dippy dots ice cream product was tasty, with the added benefit that you could ping them off toddler foreheads from a safe distance, and nobody would spot you. Best of all, the animals could not tell on you.
Diane liked to pound on the snake’s glass, drop trash into the massive hippo enclosure, and shriek at any creature she found asleep. She felt a thrill anytime she could share pain or fear with another living thing. She even got a laser pointer and tried to blind polar bears. She got caught though, the laser gun (as she liked to think of it) was confiscated, and she was exiled for a month, so she stopped that game. Her pleas of ignorance and repentance worked. She was back. To be banned from The Zoo was not acceptable.
She was taking a risk today. She craved more excitement. She took her father’s bolt cutters. He’d used them to cut the padlock off a box in the garage. This gave her an idea. She slipped around to the gate of the porcupine exhibit. The lock was harder to cut than she expected, but she put all of her anger into it. She thought how satisfying it would be if she could see on the news that someone got a bunch of quills in the face. She planned to release the lions too, but she could not find the gate, it must be inside a building somewhere, so nobody could do as she planned. Damn.
As Diane sauntered toward the exit, after several pointed “The Park Is Now Closed” announcements, she felt satisfied. She had not been caught, and probably somebody would suffer for it. The trees limbs lashed overhead, as if tossed by a hurricane. Looking up, Diane saw no clouds in any direction.
Diane liked the tall, metal barred turnstiles at the exits to The Zoo. She could pretend not to know how to make it go, and stand in people’s way, blocking it up for a minute or two, and causing a frustrated mob to bunch up in her wake. On the way out of The Zoo, the revolving cylinder clanged to a halt. She knew it was after hours, but she did not see how The Zoo could stop the rotation invisibly, from afar. It was a simple mechanism, just iron bars, welded together to form a straightforward, 4 compartmented roundabout, inside a cylindrical cage, with an open top on the inside half, and a roof on the parking lot side . Diane shouted for a worker to come release her. Nobody came. The silence was cloying. She realized, her own voice was not creating any sound. She screamed then, over and over, but the silence held. She kicked the bars, bruising her flip-flop clad toes. There was no clang. She tried to scale the ladder-like bars, but the top of the cylinder stayed several feet away, no matter how she climbed. It didn’t appear to rise any higher, she just could not make progress, despite placing hands and feet on higher bars and seeming to move upward with each push. That’s it, she thought, this must be a dream, like the ones where she ran from a menacing robot, but could not flee, futilely leaping and thrusting through endless, heavy spider web.
She next noticed the black hair on her arms. It was sprouting fast, racing to cover her skin. She gasped, turning her hands and arms over to examine then. Her arms seemed so long, and there were white markings on her hands. Terror clamped her throat shut.
Diane felt dizzy, leaning back against her cell. She set her backpack beside her, and put her head down on her knees. Was this a heart attack? Her arms, her legs, her skull, all pulsed with bright pain. She determined to wake from the nightmare. Diane squeezed her eyes shut hard, a few tears leaked out, then harder, now hardest! Then, flung her lids wide, demanding of her subconscious give up right now.
She was strong. She felt an unfamiliar sense of peace and confidence. Everything was as it should be. She rose, kicking off some confining fabric she was tangled in. This time she able to climb the bars, and fling herself over the top and back into The Zoo effortlessly. She was swift and powerful. She clamored up a tree, then swung to the next. She had never known she could do this, but it was so graceful and natural a means of travel. The wind caressed her as she soared through the landscape. She sang out, a beautiful ululation into the twilit sky.
Eventually she noticed a man, gesturing to her, and a woman, bearing a bowl of fruit. She dropped down to examine the fruit, it smelled delicious. The woman held out the tray, and she took sweet slices, cramming them into her mouth. The man touched her arm, and she felt a sting. She would bite him for that, as soon as she was done eating this mango.
She awoke sometime later, it was dark. She saw the woman who’d given her fruit people talking into a cell phone on the other side of glass.
“I don’t know where this gibbon came from. It must have been another one of those stealth donations. Probably someone had her for a pet, and got fed up when she got too big. She’s fairly young yet, not quite adolescent. It has happened with all sorts of animals since I came to work here. We can work her into the exhibit once she clears quarantine.”
Diane loved The Zoo. The Zoo loved Diane.