The Animal Within
By John S., St. Joseph, MO
The World As We Knew ItIt has been three days since the war has ended. Humans could not control the feuding species. They seemed so cute when we thought they were “just” animals. That was just a distraction, hiding their true intentions. What humans remain are either hiding or enslaved. We were the lucky ones. My parents cared for the new overlord when he was an “animal”. He granted us freedom, to live in luxury with him. However, we are not allowed to leave past the castle walls. We also have to do his bidding. Are we really free? My family was able to escape with her family. We had been out on an errand. When we came back, they were gone. All because of that wretched beast, we were separated from our families. His dictatorship will end soon. What humans remain in the castle have formed a resistance. Although occasionally we meet to snicker at his name. He tries to block out his name by declaring that all are to call him Red Death, but in reality, is name is Dr. Fluffykinz.
Red Death is a very cunning creature. He had to be to rise to power as leader of the Red Pandas: even more cunning to outsmart the Raccoons. However he did it, he left us to live in a barren land. Devoid of all life other than the Red Pandas and their slaves: the Raccoons. Of course there is the Underworld, a place where humans find shelter, away from Red Death's sinister rule. Someday I hope to break free of this prison and reunite with my family in the Underworld. For now, I am trapped. Bound by four regal walls of a castle I don't want. Even though I get a leisured life, I feel like one of the Raccoons. A pawn on the Red Panda's chessboard
Sunlight peered through the windows. The first time in a long time. Maybe it's a sign of change? Hopefully for the better. A knock at the door announces breakfast is ready. “Gryphon!” calls a voice, “Get your lazy butt up! We have work to do and you still have to eat breakfast!” That would be Genevieve, my best friend in these dark days. We grew up together. Our parents worked at the zoo while we played with the animals. She has always had a smile on her face. Even now, in the mess of things, she still smiled. It's for the best that she smiles. A bright smile ensures a bright future. However, an empty stomach means a painful day of listening to Red Death and his cohorts talk for hours before lunch. Being gluttonous pigs, all they talk about is food.
Genevieve and I took the time to have a nice breakfast. Well better than the outsiders. Fresh, hot rolls that Manna made everyday greeted our growling stomachs with warm inspiration to carry on our impossible schedule.” Looks like the market is first on our list.” I said as we hitched the horses to the wagon. How I missed cars! The heat in the winter, AC in the summer, and non-wooden seats. The stupid Red Pandas can overthrow civilization as we knew it, but they can't keep up with the old modern ways. I'm never taking my old life for granted if we ever get back to the way thing were. With a carrot in each of the horses' mouths, and pockets full of gold, we set off to the market to acquire the items on this unusual shopping list. (By the way, yes, he made us change currency to gold instead of dollars.)
I hate going to the market. It smells of animal poop. Another strange setback of the Era of the Red Panda: no indoor plumbing. It really sickens me around food. The first thing on the list ironically is fertilizer. “Not like you can get that anywhere else.” Genevieve joked. That was true, and as I skimmed down the list, I notice that everything is a little off.
“This is a little odd, don't you think? We went shopping yesterday for supplies, and now we have to get all this off-the-wall stuff today.” I said. With the fertilizer in the wagon we went off for the next items, at the Witch Doctor's hut.
“Shrunken heads, puppy dog tails, snake venom, and..... laffy taffy? Does he really expect us to pick him up a treat while we are here?” Genevieve was almost in tears as she laughed at the bizarre list. We finished with the rest of the list and headed home. “That was the quickest we have ever shopped!” I laughed.
I spoke too soon. A tree blocked our path. “Good thing the sun is hours from setting. We'll have to take the path through the Dark Forest.” I said glum. She guided the horses off of the old highway onto the dirt road.
“On the plus side, at least the birds are singing so beautifully.” She said cheerfully. I admit the birds are singing beautifully, especially after the never-ending winter. While entering a sunlit grove, the music stopped. We thought that the horses had caused a slight sound to frighten the birds, but none were seen flying away. They were scared stiff.
“Wow, this is so strange? I wonder what caused them to get quite all of a sudden?” Genevieve sounded scared. “Quite strange indeed my dear! Now you'll see the face that silences the birds!” A strange voice echoed.