Tuesday, May 15, 2012

guest post: "leopard" by rae zhong

Here is the final installment in the series of short stories written by my students. Today's story, which received first place votes from several students in the class, is rather morbid. Despite the "ick" factor (or perhaps because of it), I really enjoyed this story, the first place winner in our contest. (See Natalie's second place story here and Elaine's third place story here.)

by Rae Zhong

It was at noon when I woke up, and I was in an unfamiliar place. The last thing I can remember was the sound of a gun. I was hungry. I tore off the bloody flesh from the chicken which was just two feet away from me, the scarlet liquid splashing upon my face and the grass.

Stale. Yuck.

I ate part of his body and threw the rest in the brushwood. The bloodstained chicken corpse made me sick.

“Hey, take it easy, buddy. Don’t waste your food.” There was a voice from the tree behind me. I ignored him. Because that’s the way I treated a stranger.

“I know this is your first day here, but as a leopard, especially in a zoo, you can’t be picky on your food. I understand you want to have something that tastes delicious, yet in this place, the choices could only be chicken, chicken, or chicken.” The leopard smiled and swung his tail, looking like he'd been telling a funny joke, although it sounded dumb to me.

In the next hour, he was being so loquacious that it seemed to me his tongue was going to fall off from his mouth. His name was Jeffery, which was given to him by his feeder. I sneered at him. "We are wild and solitary hunters. We don’t need names. Names are for little cats that are obedient to humans."

“You act exactly just like me when I first came here,” he said, “Arrogant and unbending. I tell you, time will swallow and perish all of your pride. Once you are here, you will never escape from this cage. Your world is this forest and the people outside the iron fence. And don’t even try to run off; they would seize you again.”

I didn’t retort; neither did I tell him the plan that was already in my head.

Life in the zoo was miserable. People turned us nocturnal animals into diurnal just because the zoo opened during the day. We could not have any freedom on hunting food nor choosing food. We could not even stay in the cave because people would not be able to see us. The only thing we could do is walk in front of the fence in order to let people visit us.

I wanted to end this boring life as quickly as possible.

So I obeyed everything the humans said, acted just like a biddable kitty. I didn’t bite or roar at anyone. I ate what they gave me. I wagged my tail like a stupid dog while they were feeding me. I smiled at them even though they could not understand a leopard’s smile. I could tell they trusted me bit by bit. I waited patiently until one day my feeder approached me with another disgusting chicken, calling me “Tom” (what an ugly name!), and I knew that it was time.

It was time for escape.

I immediately jumped on the feeder, using my claws to scratch his arms and legs. I saw shock and fear on his face, and I saw my dreadful face in his pupil. Was this right? I doubted myself for just one moment. "But what can you do? Stay in the zoo till you die?" another part of me retorted.

“Tom! What are you doing! Stop! ” It was Jeffery. Oh, I forgot he was in there, too. He ran to me, tried to separate us. “Don’t you know what it would cost you to kill a human? Your life! ” He shouted at me. I knew. I didn’t plan to kill people. I just tried to run off. The back door of the leopard forest was unlocked and two workers of the zoo were standing outside. They saw me running to them. They tried to shut the door. But it was too late. I jumped on the open door and broke it with my cuspid, and those frightened people ran away.

I heard Jeffery yelling, but I could not stop myself. I kept running like an arrow shooting out of the bow. I ran out of the zoo. I ran into the city. I made a huge ruckus among the frightened people. I didn’t stop until my shins cramped and my claws hurt. And I realized I was at the outside of the city. There was only grass, trees and mud roads around me.

Am I free?

I could not tell. I was out of the cage, but I had no clue where I was. I didn’t know how far it was from here to my home or how long would it take to go there. What could I do?

I was depressed. I missed my talkative friend Jeffery. I missed his dumb jokes, his laughing, and his amiable advice. I regretted my actions. Well, kind of. Yet I knew I would never go back to the zoo. I walked and walked. I hunted a rabbit. I ripped his head off, tasted his fresh flesh, but it didn’t taste as good as I thought it would.

"What’s wrong?" I sighed.

Suddenly, my legs started walking back. I could not control them; it was not my brain that told them to do so. The direction was to the zoo. I was insane. Yes, I was sure of it. The light wind blew my soft fur, leading me to the place I hated but missed.

I was going back.

I heard the sound of a gun.

The last sound I heard in my life.

CITY NEWSPAPER: The leopard that ran out of the zoo was found dead. Greedy hunters stripped off his fur and threw his dead body in a field.

About the author: Rae Zhong (center) is a sophomore from China. Art is her passion. She also participates in music, speech, and track.

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