Today Steve Beaulieu prompted me with: trip to the zoo gone terribly wrong. Enjoy.
by Aaron Hall
“Are you sure about this, Director?”
The Director wasn’t one to be questioned, and with a single look he silenced his underling. The man was a peasant, a community college dropout who was happy to work for minimum wage, and he cowered beneath the gaze of the Director.
Satisfied he’d gotten his point across, the Director returned his attention to the glass enclosure in front of him.
“Is everything in order?” he asked.
His underling nodded quickly.
“News crews from all three major networks are here. I counted six different print media organizations represented, and there’s even someone from a foreign news agency.”
The Director smiled and nodded slowly.
“Good. The world needs to see what happens when you mess with my zoo.”
His underling felt a bead of sweat sliding down his hairy back. Even though he respected the Director’s fanatical devotion to keeping the zoo and its animals safe, he was still nervous about the plan.
“What about the coupons?” The Director asked. “Were they all delivered?”
His underling nodded quickly.
“They were. It should be a record turnout.”
The underling stepped up next to his boss, looking upon the glass enclosure. There wasn’t much light in the underground storage area beneath the lion exhibit, but he could make out the silhouettes of the creatures inside the enclosure. They gave him chills, and he began to sweat even more than before. He quickly turned away.
He closed his eyes and tried to calm himself. He considered quitting the job. He was forever grateful that the Director had given him a shot at the job, but truthfully he’d just wanted to use the big broom to brush the elephants. He’d never expected to work for such a visionary director, someone who took the safety and sanctity of the zoo and its animals so seriously. But he’d quickly learned, the line between visionary and madman was a thin one, and now that the Director had trapped these new creatures he’d existed solely on the wrong side of that line.
A series of beeps from his cheap watch told him that he’d waited too long. He couldn’t quit now. It was time for the show.
The Director threw a large switch on the wall. The floor began to rumble. He quickly climbed atop the glass enclosure. The floor began to rise, and the ceiling above slid open. The underling hurried up the side of the enclosure, careful not to focus on the things dwelling inside. He reached the top right as the enclosure emerged above ground.
The gathered crowd gasped and started snapping pictures with their phones. For a moment it was just the spectacle of the enclosure rising in the center of the large lion exhibit that had them amazed, but soon the gasps turned to shouts of confusion and terror. They’d seen what was inside the enclosure.
Once the enclosure was in place, the Director stood tall, addressing the ever growing crowd. He smiled, pleased to see so many members of the media and zoo patrons gathered. They would all be witnesses.
“Members of the media, faithful zoo patrons, and those of you watching around the world, I am the Director of this zoo, and for some time I’ve theorized that something was amiss here.”
A hush fell over the crowd as they listened to him speak. Their attention was split between the Director and the creatures in the enclosure. The lions had taken notice now and were starting to approach the enclosure.
“I know every animal here, know every curvature of their forms. I call them by name, I see them in my dreams. I can sense when one is hurt or bothered. For months, I sensed something was wrong, yet there were no natural explanations. No thing on earth could cause the injuries and mental traumas that my animals were experiencing.”
He paused for dramatic effect.
“That’s when I realized the threat was not of this earth.”
The crowd gasped again as they took in his insinuation. The creatures in the glass enclosure weren’t just abnormal, they were alien.
“They studied, and they probed, and they prodded.”
The Director pressed a button on his phone. The walls of the glass enclosure slid open.
“And now they pay!” the Director screamed.
The lions roared as they circled around the aliens. The small aliens were so black that it was almost impossible to focus on them. Their skin glimmered like the stars, and their image was constantly shifting.
“The whole world will witness what happens when someone messes with my zoo!” the Director yelled.
He pointed directly at the news cameras.
“Beam this signal to the stars, the whole universe will witness!”
The roar of the lions could be heard over the panic of the crowd. The Director had withheld food from the lions all week, ever since his trap had snared the aliens. He wanted them starved, wanted to see them tear these interlopers to pieces.
But the lions never moved in for the kill. They roared and roared, but never attacked.
“What are you doing?” the Director shouted. “Kill them!”
As soon as the aliens started to move the Director knew he’d made a grave mistake. Movement was a word that didn’t even accurately describe it. They blurred time, slipping across the surface of perceivable reality at the speed of a thought. One moment they were huddled together, awaiting death, the next they were on the backs of the lions. They looked like little kings, mounted atop deadly steeds. They looked like the death of the world.
The Director dropped to his knees. He barely registered the screams of the crowd as some of the aliens charged atop their lions out of the exhibit and onto the sidewalks. His precious zoo, his life’s work, gone in an instant. He noticed that of all the people the aliens attacked, they never touched any members of the media. They wanted people to watch, wanted them to see.
This had been their plan all along.
The Director heard a scream, felt warm blood splash across his back. He turned just in time to see the body of his underling land. Standing over the body was a starving lion, and atop the lion was its new master.
The alien nudged the lion forward with a thought, and as it neared the Director the alien leaned forward. It spoke, but not in any manner that the Director had ever experienced. The alien’s thoughts shot into his brain, then began tearing through his body like a bolt of lightning. All he saw were the lion’s jaws closing in on him and all he heard was the alien’s single word.