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.

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