The People of Brandwell Zoo – Excerpt 7

It’s now getting harder to choose passages from The People of Brandwell Zoothat are interesting to read but don’t contain spoilers! Following his own feelings and Pilo the Sloth’s encouragement, Chimpanzee Regulus has finally managed to get through to the Tiger, and has found his character to be quite different than he and the other Animals expected. They are now on their way to the third of five meetings with the other Animals. All text copyright Quinn Sermon 2013.

Regulus stepped out first, and then watched as Amar’s glowing yellow eyes slowly came into view; the Tiger’s face cautiously poked out through the second open door and became illuminated by a small light on the wall. Even now, Regulus marvelled at Amar’s features, remarking to himself that any human that tried to sabotage their escape would now stand no chance.

Amar’s large front paw slowly settled onto the ground; his eyes closed for a moment as he dug his claws and padded toes into the grass and soil. Then his other front paw ventured out, followed by his magnificent, deep orange body laced with thick black stripes, his equally large back paws and his long, flexible tail. Regulus grinned, watching Amar’s face as he relished the reality of being outside a cage; Regulus knew that Amar could now attack him, but his expression and demeanour assured him that he now had no intention of doing so.

‘How do you feel?’ Regulus asked quietly.

Amar’s eyes slowly opened, but he didn’t speak immediately. When he did, he still struggled to form fluent sentences.

‘This is first time … I go outside,’ he said. ‘Outside cage … without human.’

Regulus looked at him, surprised.

‘Were you born in the zoo?’

‘No … I grow up India … circus.’

‘Circus?’ said Regulus, never having heard the word before.

‘Circus … is worst way to live,’ Amar growled, looking at the ground as they started walking together. ‘Worse even than zoo.’

‘Worse than a zoo?’ said Regulus, appalled. ‘How can that be?’

Amar sighed and shook his head, still staring at the ground. Regulus continued to look at him.

‘You sound like you need to get some bad memories out of your system.’

Amar hesitated for another few seconds, and then started to speak again.

‘Circus … kept in small cage, smaller than this, humans give orders, you do tricks.’

‘Tricks?’

‘You know … run, roar, carry humans, jump through hoop … jump sometimes through hoop of fire.’

‘Fire …’

‘You know fire?’

‘Yes,’ said Regulus, hesitantly. ‘I’ve never seen it, but I know what it is – my father Homino told me about it.’

The Tiger nodded and said, ‘If you not do tricks, humans hit with whip. I grow up all the time do tricks and hit with whip.’

‘You grew up with humans your whole life?’

‘Yes. I never live wild, never hunt.’

‘You’ve never hunted before in your life?’

‘Never.’

‘What happened to your parents?’

Amar hesitated.

‘I know not,’ he said eventually. ‘I think humans kill. Maybe eat.’

‘So you never had a proper Tiger name? The humans called you Amar?’

‘Yes. Is human name, language Sanskrit. Is mean … how you say? Never die.’

‘Immortal?’

‘Yes. Amar is mean immortal. Is good meaning, but human name. I hate everything human.’

‘So do I,’ said Regulus, ‘which is why I’m doing my best to get everyone away from this place.’

‘I hope you do good job, Ape,’ said Amar. ‘I want get out fast.’

‘We will get out soon,’ said Regulus. ‘You know, you can call me Regulus if you want –’

Amar snarled viciously.

‘I call you what I want, Ape.

The People of Brandwell Zoo – Excerpt 6

Here’s the sixth part of The People of Brandwell Zoo. I don’t think there’s much to say about this one. Have a look and see what you think. All excerpts are also now available on my blog. All text copyright (C) Quinn Sermon 2013.

‘It’s time,’ said Regulus, rising from his nest and picking up the key he had stolen from the lazy human.

‘You’re sure about this, are you?’ Prima asked tentatively.

‘Yes,’ he said firmly, ‘and I don’t want anyone with me. The Tiger and I will need to be alone.’

Almost effortlessly, he angled his key through the wire door of the enclosure and unlocked the padlock on the other side. It was the third time he had opened the door, and by now he knew exactly how to do it. He was the most intelligent member of a family of one of the most intelligent species on Earth. He was sure he could do anything.

Followed by the other five Chimpanzees – Simi reluctantly bringing up the rear – he made his way along the tunnel to the second door, unlocked it and stepped out into the night. A cool breeze gently stroked his face; closing his eyes in delight, he relished how much he had already achieved: over half of the Animals in the zoo had been involved in his meetings, most of whom agreed with his excellent idea. Only a few opposed it, and they would be converted soon enough, or face the consequences of their own actions. He was sure he would get though to Simi one way or another, and he had a feeling it would not take long.

Vulsutus the Fox was waiting for them in a small clump of bushes. Stepping forward, he raised his head and presented Regulus with a single thin piece of metal from his mouth.

‘Thank you, Vulsutus,’ said Regulus, taking the metal. ‘Panto, Panja, you’re the best at lock picking. Use this to open the building where the keys are kept, next to the Penguins’ pool. Then you’re responsible for getting the Giraffe and Ostriches out. Father – Elephants. Auntie Prima – Birds with the help of the Armadillos and Aardvark. And that leaves you to get the rest,’ he finished, turning to Simi.

‘Me?’ she protested. ‘On my own?’

‘Yes,’ said Regulus. ‘That’s not a problem, is it?’

‘But I got the Beavers, Porcupines and Meerkats out last night,’ said Simi, ‘and that was hard enough. Now I’ve got to get all the ones Panto and Panja got as well? Why can’t they do it?’

‘Simi, were you even listening? They’re sorting out the keys; they’re going to have enough on their hands as it is. Now, hurry up.’

They all made their way along the path to the key building, where they were hailed by the Macaroni Penguins.

‘Just a moment,’ said Panja, in response to Sphenti’s honking calls. ‘We’ll get you out once we’ve got the keys.’

Shaking Panto off as he offered to ‘help’, Panja quickly picked the lock of the key building and went inside; she was greeted by a wall adorned with several metal hooks, each bearing one or two keys. Below each hook was a small white rectangle with a word of human language written on it.

‘How are we supposed to tell which one’s which?’ Panto asked, gawping at the wall. ‘We can’t read those human markings.’

‘We’ll just have to guess,’ said Panja.

‘Guess? That could take all night!’

‘Well then, we’d better get on with it quickly,’ said Panja. ‘It won’t all be guesswork – the bigger keys will be for the bigger locks, and we can probably pick up scents on some of them. And look – a few have little pictures attached to them.’

She reached up and grabbed a large keyring with two keys and a small tab bearing a photograph of a Giraffe.

‘See? This one’s for us. Come on – grab all the keys you can carry and we’ll all work out who needs which ones.’

Regulus didn’t help much with identifying the keys; as soon as he saw a picture of a Tiger he snatched up his keyring and set off for the Tiger’s enclosure.

This is it, he thought as he approached the long glass window through which Prima had seen the Tiger two nights before. Now, the Tiger either joins us or stays locked up for the rest of his life. If he has any sense, he’ll listen to me and submit to my command.

The People of Brandwell Zoo – Excerpt 5

After a longer-than-planned hiatus, here’s the fifth installment from The People of Brandwell Zoo. It’s part of the second meeting of the Animals, and many more of the zoo’s residents have come. The character who is speaking at the beginning is Regulus the Chimpanzee. All text copyright (C) Quinn Sermon, 2013.

‘Now, the main topic I want to bring up tonight is the larger and more dangerous Animals. Last night, Porcupines Pumil and Hysti told us about the Tiger.’

‘What’s a Tiger?’ said Chrys.

‘A huge Cat that rips you to shreds as soon as it sees you!’ Cingus the Armadillo shouted.

‘Now, Cingus –’ Regulus began.

‘But it’s true! I was familiar with Pumas and Jaguars in South America, but Hysti’s description of the Tiger sounded worse than both of those!’

‘If we let it out, it will kill us all!’ cried Hysti, triggering squawks of distress from many of the Birds and other cries from the Mammals; even Ceratos the Tapir stopped sniffing the ground and looked up with a grunt.

‘Everyone, please,’ Regulus shouted. ‘We mustn’t make assumptions; if we assume that a fellow Animal is no good to us, we will start to fall apart. Soon, people will stop trusting each other and we will have no hope at all of escaping safely.’

‘But Regulus,’ said Hysti, ‘the Tiger – you have no idea – you’ve never seen –’

‘Neither have you, Hysti,’ Regulus said patiently. ‘In fact, of all of us here, the one who has come closest to this Tiger – or, indeed, any Tiger – is Auntie Prima. And that was for a few seconds, in the dark, separated by a wall of glass.’

‘Well, thank the Great Porcupine for that,’ said Pumil. ‘If it hadn’t been for the glass, she’d be stripped to her skeleton by now.’

‘Great Porcupine?’ Rodo thought. Some of these Animals are stranger than I thought …

‘Pumil, listen,’ said Regulus. ‘Listen to me, all of you. We are all Animal Beings. Whatever habitat we come from, whatever abilities we possess, whatever diet we eat, we are all Animal Beings. We have already had one instance of inter-species conflict between a herbivore and a carnivore –’ (Castor momentarily met Vulsutus’ eye, and then quickly looked away again) ‘– and it has been resolved. Had it not been, violence would have ensued, possibly resulting in death. The Tiger may be far larger and more powerful than Vulsutus, but he is an Animal Being just like the rest of us, and has the right to live freely in the wild.’

Regulus paused and looked round the enclosure. No one said anything, although the Porcupines still looked determined to oppose Regulus’ view.

‘If we are all to escape,’ he went on, ‘we will need all the help we can get. The Tiger is strong, fast and, yes, terrifying. These may be seen as reasons to stay away from him at all costs, but I see them as reasons why he could become an indispensible member of our community.

‘Certainly, he is capable of killing as many of us as he wishes, but once my idea of helping everyone to escape is explained to him, I seriously doubt that he will want to kill any of us; he will be far more likely to channel his speed, strength and terrifying demeanour into constructive pursuits that can help us and, if necessary, subdue humans.’

He paused again; Pumil and Hysti looked at each other with concern, and Hysti gave a tiny nod.

‘Do you really think so?’ said Cingus.

‘I do,’ said Regulus. ‘Every one of us, including the Tiger, is strong and intelligent in our own way – easily more intelligent than the stupid, goggle-eyed humans that stare at us all day long. That means we can all pool our abilities together in order to overcome the humans and their selfish, Nature-defying actions.

‘Admittedly, the green humans – or captors, as I tend to call them – are also considerably intelligent – at least intelligent enough to have been able to build this place and hold all of us here for however long. On the other hand – pardon the Primate expression; I should have said, “On the other hand, foot, paw, wing or hoof” – they’re also stupid enough to have acted on their desire to build this place, and arrogant enough to believe that they can contain over a hundred Animal Beings here indefinitely!’

His family, minus Simi, all cheered again; so did the Armadillos, Rodo’s family and many of the Birds.

‘In conclusion, I think it’s safe to assume that the Tiger will be attending tomorrow night’s meeting,’ Regulus said with a tone of finality.

All the cries were extinguished at once. After a moment of stunned silence, they started again:

‘No!’ shouted Prima.

‘This is folly!’ yelled Gulata.

‘It will be the death of us!’ cried Cingus.

‘We mustn’t have anything to do with that beast!’ said Hysti.

‘Quiet!’ Tragina shouted above everyone else; she was looking down at the mess of grey fur curled up by her hoofs; it was starting to stir.

‘Mmm …’ Pilo groaned, as his heavily lidded eyes gradually opened and his mouth widened into a sleepy smile. ‘I think it would be a good idea to go and talk to the Tiger,’ he said slowly, blinking in the bright light. ‘And I think you ought to be the one to do it, Regulus. You seem to know the ropes.’

Regulus stared at the Sloth; Rodo couldn’t tell whether his expression was scornful, excited or simply curious. A few seconds later he smiled and said, ‘Thank you, Pilo.’

‘Not at all,’ Pilo yawned. ‘Now, if you’ll forgive me …’

With another ‘Mmm’ he settled down again and closed his eyes. Regulus smiled more broadly and stood up.

‘Well then, it’s decided,’ he said, a new kind of excitement blazing in his eyes. ‘Tomorrow night I will go to the Tiger’s enclosure and speak to him myself.’

Nearly everyone else seemed unable to think of anything to say; many faces were staring in terror, a few in admiration.

‘Regulus, I … I really can’t advise this,’ said Prima.

‘Don’t worry about me, I’ll be safe.’

‘But how can you be sure?’

Regulus smiled again and looked into his aunt’s eyes.

‘Because I think I know what the Tiger wants.’

The People of Brandwell Zoo – Excerpt 4

This is the first of the excerpts I’m including from Brandwell Zoo that is from the humans’ point of view. Several human characters have already been introduced, and the Warden has previously been mentioned, but this is the first time she and Tristan appear.

With five o’clock only a few minutes away, a tall, ginger-haired woman in her mid forties prepared to leave her office. Her features generally resembled those of a statue rather than a person: her sharp, angular nose, high, prominent cheek bones, thin, pale lips and uniformly straight hands ending in long, claw-like nails made her look as if she had been carved out of a block of wood. The only hint of any life within the shell was a pair of small, deep blue eyes.

With great speed and accuracy that showed the twenty-three years she had been working in this office, the woman slotted all her pens into the black pencil cup in the far-right corner of her desk, placed her stapler next to it and cleared all the files and loose pieces of paper off the desk, putting them away in the drawers next to her right leg and the filing cabinet behind her; by now, she could have done it with her eyes closed.

Finally, with only a cursory glance at a glass dome containing a stuffed owl, she plucked a yellow duster off a hook on the wall and carefully ran it over the triangular nameplate standing at the front of her desk, throwing its engraved letters into sharp relief:

WARDEN J. H. RAMSBOTTOM

Just as the Warden was reaching for her coat, a series of three hard, heavy knocks on the glass of her door made her hand clench into a fist: she knew who was knocking, and would rather talk to anyone else at this time.

‘Come in,’ she said impatiently, still looking away from the door as she took her coat.

The door banged open and a tall, muscular man in a tight-fitting green polo shirt marched in: he had short, dark hair, a thin carpet of rough bristles on his face and strong hands with nine thick, sausage-like fingers; his right index finger was missing.

‘Tristan, it’s five o’clock,’ said the Warden. ‘This had better be important.’

‘Of course it’s important,’ Tristan said dismissively. ‘Any issue I bring up with you is always important.’

‘What is it this time?’ the Warden groaned, inspecting her fingernails. ‘I’m supposed to be meeting Max for dinner.’

‘Well, your boyfriend will just have to wait, won’t he? It won’t kill him if you’re a few minutes late.’

‘Don’t talk about Max like that,’ the Warden said through clenched teeth.

‘I need to talk to you about the conditions of the animals’ enclosures,’ Tristan pressed on. ‘And your decision to hire that lazy nephew of yours, Howard.’

‘Tristan, we’ve been through this before –’

‘No we haven’t. I’ve tried to talk about it several times, but you always think of some excuse to avoid it – usually something to do with your bloody boyfriend.’

‘Tristan, it’s five past five, Max is waiting and I’m going. Come back tomorrow.’

‘Tomorrow is Monday.’

‘So it is,’ said the Warden, putting on a falsely sympathetic smile as she picked up her handbag; she hadn’t forgotten that Monday was Tristan’s day off. ‘Well, you’ll just have to wait until Tuesday, won’t you? I’m sure that won’t kill you.’

She opened the door, still smiling at Tristan, and watched his brown eyes roll upwards before he strode out of the office. She waited until his footsteps became distant, then stepped out and locked the door. She was used to Tristan trying to complain about petty things that he exaggerated to make them sound more serious, but this time she thought he might actually have a point: Howard’s work ethic did indeed appear to be poor.

Checking that the door was locked, the Warden put the key in her handbag and set off to meet Max, deciding to talk to Howard tomorrow.

The People of Brandwell Zoo – Excerpt 3

Sorry it’s been so long since I last posted. Here’s the third excerpt from The People of Brandwell Zoo. It’s part of the first meeting in the Chimpanzees’ enclosure. All feedback is welcome. All text copyright Quinn Sermon 2013.

‘And now,’ Regulus continued, ‘I must introduce to you all the Animal who has made this meeting possible: an old but courageous and resourceful individual who has very kindly agreed to stand by us until we are all free, however long that may take. Armadillos, Aardvark, Beavers, Porcupines and Meerkats, I have the very great pleasure of presenting to you our good friend Vulsutus.’

From behind Homino stepped an Animal the size of a Beaver with a long face, a bushy tail and reddish-orange fur.

‘Fox!’ Castor cried in fury, and before he knew it he was charging at Vulsutus, teeth bared.

‘Castor!’ Regulus shouted, grabbing him with his strong hands. ‘If we are going to work together to get out of this place, we must all agree to co-operate with each other without resorting to violence, regardless of size, intelligence and species. Whatever experiences you have had with Foxes in the past are irrelevant here, because the only real enemy to any captive Animal is the human.’

Castor thought for a moment, still glowering at Vulsutus, and then remembered a scene from over a year ago: a beautiful reservoir of still water that he and Muru had created by building a magnificent dam across the river. They were busy collecting wood for their lodge, when suddenly a blast from a human tool shattered the peace; next moment, he heard Muru crying out in distress, but as he rushed to help her another blast sounded and he was knocked onto his side, trapped in a thick net too tough to chew through. Excited shouts of humans in the distance came closer …

Castor closed his eyes and relaxed his muscles.

‘I agree,’ he said quietly.

Regulus let go of him and stood up, addressing everyone again:

‘Vulsutus lives freely in the wild, but has chosen to come into the zoo to help everyone in any way he can. It was I who stole the key to this enclosure from a lazy human, but Vulsutus procured several small pieces of metal that were used and will continue to be used to pick the locks of other cages. We deliberately didn’t pick many locks tonight, because we are just learning how to do it effectively and without detection; we chose to get all of you out of your cages because we could simply carry you over the walls without opening any doors, and only had to pick a few locks to get into your night-time cages.’

‘Why do you keep saying “we”?’ asked Simi, glaring at Regulus again. ‘You didn’t bring anyone here – you just sat here while we did all the work.’

‘Simi!’ Homino shouted, making her flinch again. ‘I won’t tell you again.’

‘However, I’m sure that we will quickly get better at lock picking,’ Regulus carried on, as if Simi hadn’t said anything. ‘We are intending to bring more Animals to tomorrow night’s meeting, possibly including the Elephants. Naturally, we will have to meet outside once Animals their size start coming. This enclosure has an outside section, which is where I first managed to contact Vulsutus, but Elephants will not be able to get through the tunnel, so we will meet in the clearing next to the door you came in through.’

Elephants, Castor thought warily, picturing an enormous Animal with a long nose writhing like a colossal Snake and huge, horny ears staring down at him with piercing yellow eyes. He didn’t know what tusks were, but they sounded painful, so he imagined them as hundreds of gnarled spikes all over the Animal’s body. It made him wonder just how many Animals lived in the zoo and how many were dangerous …

As if in answer to his thought, an adult female Chimpanzee came rushing into the enclosure, holding what looked like a thin tube of metal and gasping for breath.

‘Prima!’ said Homino, looking concerned but not getting up.

‘Are you alright, Auntie?’ said Regulus, but Prima looked away, grabbed a piece of fruit from the floor and stuffed it into her mouth.

Panja hopped down from her nest to where Prima was crouching, gently stroked her head and shoulders and started to groom her fur. Prima’s breathing gradually became calmer, and she started to speak once she had swallowed the fruit:

‘I’ve looked around the rest of the zoo,’ she said slowly, still looking down. ‘Even with the torch,’ (she raised the piece of metal in her hand) ‘I couldn’t quite see into all the enclosures. My guess is that there are over a hundred Animals here; mostly Mammals and Birds. There is a section near here with many cages full of Birds, including Vultures, Parrots and Flamingos.

‘Quite a distance from here is a building I couldn’t see inside, but judging by the faint smell coming from it, I would say it houses a group of assorted Reptiles; indeed, just outside that building is a wooden pen containing two enormous Tortoises.

‘Some of the Animals are very large and dangerous: there are five Elephants, five Ostriches, one Giraffe and a pair of Antelopes I didn’t recognise. The last Animal I saw … frightened me.’

Beginning to shake again, Prima raised her head and looked Regulus in the eye.

‘It was huge – easily as large as at least three of us. It had deep orange fur, a long, swishing tail, four large paws with sharp claws and a mouth full of long, sharp teeth. When it saw me shining the light it roared and started attacking the things in its cage; if it got out, I’m sure it would tear us all apart within minutes. Regulus, more than anything else, it looked like a Lion – a giant Lion with black stripes.’

Someone gasped; Castor looked round to see Hysti stepping forward timidly.

‘Stripes?’ she said, sounding terrified. ‘I think I know what that is – it’s a Tiger.’

‘I think you’re right,’ said Pumil, trembling with fear.

‘Tell us more, Hysti,’ said Regulus, looking perfectly calm.

‘They don’t live in the Philippines,’ Hysti said, ‘but we’ve heard rumours about them from mainland Asia. They will attack anything, even enormous Animals such as Buffalo, hunting mostly at night with insatiable hunger and a constant desire to kill. They are the most dangerous things we know of … except humans, perhaps.’

The Porcupines looked expectantly at Regulus. So did Prima and the other Chimpanzees. So did everyone else.

‘Interesting,’ was all he said.

The People of Brandwell Zoo – Excerpt 2

Thank you to everyone who’s read my first excerpt from The People of Brandwell Zoo so far, and thank you in advance to everyone who will read it in the future! Here’s the second excerpt, set on the evening of the same day. Panto and Panja, cousins of the main Chimpanzee Regulus, are taking some of the zoo’s Animals to the first of five meetings to plan how they can all escape. Copyright Quinn Sermon 2013.

‘You took your time, Beavers,’ said Panto, when the three of them emerged from the water.

Castor took no notice of him and addressed Panja:

‘My mate Muru is staying behind to look after the kits. This is my son Solum and my daughter Fibrica.’

‘Good,’ said Panja. ‘That’s everyone, then?’

‘Yes,’ said Castor, without hesitation. ‘We’re a family of ten.’

‘Right, let’s go then,’ said Panto, reaching across with a long arm and seizing Fibrica around the middle without warning.

‘Hey! What are you doing?’ she demanded.

‘Getting you out of the cage,’ said Panto, grabbing Solum with his other arm. ‘You can’t get over that wall by yourselves.’

With both young Beavers in his grasp, the Chimpanzee shuffled over to the wall on his bent hind legs and vaulted over it.

‘Panto!’ his sister called after him. ‘They might not have spines, but you still need to be careful with them!’

‘Spines?’ Castor asked, looking worriedly at the place where Panto had disappeared from his sight.

‘Don’t worry,’ said Panja, ‘he’s just showing off because he couldn’t do that with the Porcupines. Er – excuse me.’

Panja gently lifted Castor up in both of her hands, carried him the short distance to the glass wall and carefully placed him on the ground on the other side before climbing over herself.

Castor barely had time to take in the feel of the rough, sharp stones under his feet before he saw something that shocked him: two Animals who looked like Beavers – small Beavers with no tails and long spikes all over their backs.

‘What happened to you?’ was the first thing he found himself saying. ‘Were you attacked?’

‘Attacked?’ said one of the Beaverlike Animals, who had a gruff but friendly-sounding voice. ‘No, nothing’s attacked us since the humans, two years ago.’

‘Did they stick those spikes in you?’ Castor asked, appalled. ‘They look horribly painful.’

‘They are,’ said Panto heavily.

‘Spikes?’ said the Animal. ‘No, no, we’ve always had these; they’re growing out, not going in. We’re Philippine Porcupines, you see. The name’s Pumil; the mate’s Hysti.’

Hysti inclined her head to Castor, who was about to introduce himself when a group of at least ten long, skinny Animals came scampering into view; they ran to within a tail’s length of Castor, then suddenly stopped and raised their slender bodies up one by one, each saying a different greeting as they stood up:

‘Hello.’

‘Good evening.’

‘How do you do?’

‘Pleased to meet you.’

‘Nice weather, isn’t it?’

‘Perfect night for a gathering.’

‘We are Meerkats –’

‘– from southern Africa.’

‘We all have one of two names:’

‘Suricatta –’

‘– and Suricata.’

‘May we ask your name and species?’

Castor was rather taken aback by the Meerkats’ volley of introductions, but after a second’s bewilderment he shook his head and said, ‘Uh, Castor. Eurasian Beaver.’

‘Pleasure,’ said the Meerkat who had asked him. ‘Suricatta at your service. And here we have Suricata, Suricata, Suricatta –’

‘Yes, we get it,’ said Panto. ‘You’re all Suricatta. Now let’s go.’

As Panto set off on his knuckles, Suricatta and the other Meerkats followed him, taking turns to correct him:

‘No, no!’

‘Not all Suricatta –’

‘– only six of us are Suricatta.’

‘The other six are Suricata.’

‘There’s a distinct difference:’

‘Suri-cat-ta,’

‘Suri-cah-ta.’

‘Oh, please shut up!

Panja laughed at her brother’s annoyance and beckoned to the Beavers and Porcupines:

‘Come on then, I’ll show you our enclosure.’

They all set off, and Pumil fell into step beside Castor.

‘Don’t mind the Meerkats,’ he said warmly. ‘Their enclosure is right next to ours, so we hear them all the time. They may seem annoying at first, but after a couple of years you start to wonder how you ever used to get to sleep without their inane gabble ringing in your ears.’

‘I see …’ said Castor, hoping that he wouldn’t have to spend too much time with the Meerkats.

The People of Brandwell Zoo – Excerpt 1

Over the next few weeks I’ll be including a few excerpts from my as yet unpublished novel The People of Brandwell Zoo, which features a host of assorted Animals who live in a zoo and work together to plan how they can escape. The perspective frequently switches from that of the Animals to that of the humans; when it’s from the Animals’ perspective, all Animal names and the word ‘Animal’ itself are deliberately spelt with capital letters. All text copyright Quinn Sermon 2013. Here’s the first excerpt:

Even though the young Chimpanzee didn’t understand all of the humans’ language, he knew that the little girl had called him a Monkey several times, and he saw that as a gross insult to the most intelligent of all the Great Apes.

Even above the squabbling of his cousins Panto and Panja, who were chasing each other up the ropes as usual, he had heard the captor calling him by the disgusting human name that had been enforced upon him at the age of three months: Dandy. If it hadn’t been for the glass …

‘Regulus?’

He felt his aunt Prima’s warm hand on his shoulder, and met it with his own hand.

‘I’m alright,’ he said quietly. ‘The ones that shout like that are so annoying …’

‘I know,’ said Prima, ‘but if this plan of yours works, it’ll all be over soon. Are we going out tonight?’

‘Yes,’ said Regulus. ‘The new lazy one will be on night guard duty; it won’t give us any trouble. The key and torch are hidden in my nest, and Vulsutus will be arriving with the metal once the humans are gone.’

‘Excellent.’

Regulus stood up, turned away from the blank-faced, staring humans and looked round at the surviving members of his family: twins Panto and Panja were now scuffling about on the floor, shrieking at each other over a piece of mango; his aging father Homino, leader of the troop, was sitting in his nest of leaves, fishing assorted fruits out of a blue plastic container; his sister Simi, the youngest and smallest member of the troop, was curled up on her own in a net of woven material near the ceiling.

‘Yes, Auntie Prima,’ said Regulus, ‘we are getting out tonight. Every unfortunate Animal Being incarcerated in this Nature-defying place will soon be free. The liberation of all Animals shall be brought about by the superior intelligence of the Chimpanzee.’