This is a humor/horror story. I’m a big fan of absurd humor – Monty Python for the win! – and this is my attempt at something silly and scary.
A Trip to the Zoo
Hello! Hello! Yes, yes, this way, this way! Watch your step, honored guests. That foolish porter has spilled a tray of drinks and I would hate for my baheer to dirty their shoes!
This way, please. Let us get out of traffic, see, here is a good spot behind the food sellers. Now we can chat like civilized peoples, yes? My name is Tamzin Shatera and I am your guide for today’s trip!
Do you all have your waivers? Have they all been signed? And the other papers? Let me just check them over – ah, Mr. Tinsmith? You have not provided the Company with a next-of-kin and emergency contact form. Check your bag, yes, I can wait. Ah! Good fortune! You have it! Let me just file these with my assistant. Gatri. Gatri! Gatri, you shame of your mother, come here and help me with these baheer! For a single gold coin I would send you back to your family, cousin or not!
I trust the journey was good and that the boat ride was not too strenuous, yes? Now, if you will follow me to the pedicabs – what was that, Mrs. Hooper? The airport? Ah, we hope to have the airport open again very soon. The creeper vines are most unruly this year, but the government will not rest until the airport is back to order! Here, let me help you, Mrs. Hooper. This is the best pedicab, I promise you. It is driven by my very own niece, see her there, what a lovely smile she has!
If I can have everyone’s attention, please. Attention, please! Mr. and Mrs. Young, I know the wonders of a new marriage can be enticing but I do need your attention for just a few minutes! Thank you. Before we began I need to go over the safety rules. I know, Mr. Callahan, I know. The Company has discussed these rules with your and you had to sign the waivers. But I will be in wretched trouble if I do not do as the Company expects of their guides. Therefore, I beg of you your indulgence.
We will proceed to the Zoo in the pedicabs. Once there we will tour the Zoo on foot. Please keep in mind that this is an open-nature Zoo – there are no cages, no fences, no bars separating you from the exhibits. I’m sorry, could you repeat that, Mr. Tinsmith? Ah, yes. You are correct in stating that there are no large animals in the Zoo. Still! As with any wild thing there exists an element of danger. So please, all of my honored guests, you will stay on the path. The path is imbued with a charge that will repel any exhibits that get too curious. I will lead you through the Zoo, you will stay on the path, and everything will go very nice!
And here we are! The Zoo, the pride of our nation as we work to overcome the troubles of our past. We have taken a great tragedy and turned it into a sign of triumph! Now we precede through the gates of palm and gold – Mrs. Sweetwater, I promise you, your bag will be perfectly safe with the pedicabs. They will be waiting here for you after the tour is over. No, of course the drivers will not go through your things! The Company prides itself on hiring only the most trustworthy employees. Why, my own daughter drove my pedicab! No, no, Mrs. Hooper. I did not say ‘niece’, I said ‘daughter’. A thousand pardons, my accent is horrible, and you must have misunderstood.
Let us begin! Note the path – see how the stone glows green in the shadows? That is your protection. Stay on the path and all will be good. Now, for some history. When the terrible Mutagenic Virus was released on our island the effects were immediate and terrifying. Humans were not affected, and that and the fact that we are an island were the only good things to come out of the event. Our scientists, after months of hard work, completely eradicated the Virus! Oh, of course, Mrs. Sweetwater, the Americans were very big help in our efforts, as were the other countries of the world. Still, though the Virus was destroyed it was too late for much of the plant and animal life. They had been utterly transformed! Work continues throughout the island to remove these altered lifeforms, but here in the Zoo we have some of the specimens saved for the world to see!
Here on the right is the first exhibit – the creeper vine. The Mutagenic Virus changed an ordinary vine into something that seems to have a rudimentary intelligence. The creepers have been seen to change color, produce scent, imitate sounds, to entice prey close. Once an unsuspecting animal gets – Mrs. Sweetwater! Please, do not get any closer! We will have pictures, beautifully-framed photographs of all the exhibits, available for you at the gift shop! This is not the time for a selfie! I must warn you- ok, ok, Mrs. Sweetwater, remain calm. The creeper vine is around your neck. If you remain still the vine will tighten until – no! No, do not fight! Oh, there goes her head. Mr. Tinsmith, please, let the vine have her body, there is no need to try and salvage it now. A lesson there is, baheer. If, gods forbid, you should get a creeper around you, stay still! The vine will tighten but if you stay still the creeper will lose interest and let you go.
Yes, you may borrow my handkerchief, Mrs. Hooper. Better? Erm, no, you may keep it. Let’s move on, baheer. Remember, the path is your protection. What was that, Mr. Young? No, no, Mrs. Sweetwater did step off the path. I saw it. Let me assure you that it only looked like she was still on the path. But let us continue through the Zoo. Up here on your left is a tantan tree. Ah, such a beautiful specimen, no? The flowers of the tantan tree are the only food that our native monkey will eat. The Mutagenic Virus changed the little monkey into a ravenous predator – of tantan leaves! Ha! I did not mean to scare you into thinking that the monkey ate meat!
Look! Mrs. Hooper, there just above you is the tantan monkey. See how big its eyes are, and how powerful those hands? The Virus did that to the monkey. It can now see very well at night, and can strip the bark from a full-grown tree in minutes. The Virus also did something to the monkey’s brains. Before, they were so tame as to come right up to the people and beg for treats! Now, however – Mrs. Hooper! Mrs. Hooper, you must not take those leaves! I beg you, Mrs. Hooper, stop now! Oh, that’s done it. Do you all hear that shrieking sound? That one monkey has summoned its tribe, and they are rushing here. Mrs. Hooper, the monkeys have marked you as a thief and you should run, quick, back to the gates! Quick, quicker than that! Ah, she was not very quick at all, was she? That is a shame. No, Mr. Tinsmith, the Zoo’s custodians will clean that up.
Now, now, stop those tears, Mrs. Young! And you too, Mr. Callahan. The poor unfortunate souls were warned to pay attention to their guide, which is me, and they did not. Let us not have this tragedy ruin the rest of the tour. After all, you have all paid many hundreds of dollars to come to the Zoo, and you deserve to see all of the exhibits. Look, up here is a little courtyard. My nephew has a little food stall. Buy something to eat or drink and take a little break. I promise you there is no better food seller than my nephew.
Better, baheer? Then let us move on. Here, just ahead on the right, is this very ordinary-looking flat of earth. Smell that richness! Not unlike a good dark chocolate, yes? Now, here in this mud, is one of the island’s most dramatically altered animals. If you look close you will see something moving beneath the earth. There! See that little ridge of dirt? That hides a caterpillar! Yes! Our beautiful butterflies that once flitted through the trees and across the grasslands now spend their entire life underground. The caterpillars burrow deep and make very intricate tunnels and caves. Out in the wild they dug so many tunnels that they caused whole villages to disappear down sinkholes! The butterflies hatch underground, too, and mate and then emerge on their last day of life.
Mr. Callahan, I see you are the first one of the baheer to notice the emerging butterflies! Yes, we are most lucky to be here on this day to see these beautiful, fragile animals see the sun for the first and last time. Now, the Virus changed them in another way, too. The butterflies heat up very quickly and that causes them to explode. Ah, there they go! Like tiny fireworks, green and gold and red. The dust they leave behind is very – stop! Mr. Callahan, don’t touch the dust, it is very acidic! And there he goes. Mr. Tinsmith, do not attempt to help him. Yes, I know the flesh is boiling off his bones but you would only get the dust on yourself. Please, let us move on so the custodians can do their work.
Ah, up here is a most wonderful exhibit! Now this is surely the absolute best of the whole Zoo! Here on the left is our viewpoint to the pasture below. Quite a view, is it not? Over there is – what, Mrs. Young? No, I’m sorry, I gave my only handkerchief to Mrs. Hooper. Please, forgive me, I did not mean to make you cry. Look, let me show you the exhibit! There is a plant found only on our island. It is very like a violet, and the Virus mutated it in the most wonderful way. The plant is now ambulatory and intelligent! It grows quite tall and forms itself into something much like a giraffe. See, there is one licking your elbow right now! Oh, don’t be frightened! It is quite – Mrs. Young, stop! Don’t run back that way! Mr. Young, no, don’t follow your wife, the butterflies are still emerging and it is very dangerous! Oh, they ran right into the acid dust. What a shame. Such nice people and all, scared over nothing. This plant is most friendly; why, our children ride them in races.
Mr. Tinsmith, you are the last of the baheer, it would seem. Thank you for following the rules – what? Baheer? It means ‘honored guests’, of course! What? No, no, it does not mean ‘walking banquet’! Who would say such things? Your guidebook? May I see that? Ah, of course. Printed not by our island’s tourism council. You see, Mr. Tinsmith, our neighbors are jealous of our ingenuity, our resolve, our strength in overcoming the Virus. They spread lies! But you do not believe their lies, do you? Not such a learned person as yourself, no, of course not.
Now, Mr. Tinsmith, there is one more exhibit on the tour. It is not shown to everyone, no, but only to those baheer that show that they are worthy of appreciating our island. This way, Mr. Tinsmith, down this little path. Turn here, and then here. See that rather large shed up ahead? That is our destination. Let me get the door for you. Yes, it is very dark in here, but do not fear. Here, a chair, just for you.
There is one more animal that was irrevocably altered by the Mutagenic Virus. You see, I told you a little lie at the beginning of the tour. Humans were affected by the Virus. The islanders that did not adapt died. The strong survived, and merged with the new inhabitants of this land. The island itself, you could say, is a living being. We all worked together to ensure that we survived. It was quickly discovered that raw meat and blood sustains us very well, and food not touched by the Virus tastes the best.
And you look so tasty, Mr. Tinsmith.