Elena giggles as a gorilla bear stares in bewilderment at her tambourine talents, still excitable, even after all these years, by even the slightest of attentions. I stand beside her like I have for a decade now, looking as regal as ever in my gold crown, a family heirloom that my mother wore before me, as she, as well, entertained the Animal passersby from this very spot, the most coveted spot in all of Kryptos Zoo.
I’m not as excitable as Elena, though, no matter how much I wish I were. Every second of every nine-to-five day, my job is to function as a showpiece for thousands of Zoo visitors, who gawk endlessly at my scantily-clad, two-legged being as they try to emulate my actions. They joke around with their comrades, as they stand in disbalance with their forelegs up in the sky, their furry faces mocking my own stony expression as their companions film them, film me, film us, two discrete beings looking, even if only for a second, like blood brothers.
Sometimes I wonder how exactly it came to be widely agreed upon, that we humans are the lower animals, and therefore not worthy of freedom. I have heard the Head Animals talk about how they are protecting us from Natural Dangers by confining us in these cages. Like our ancestors built brick houses for themselves, we are provided these cages, they try to tell us. We are provided these cages free of cost, now that money does not exist.
Money does not exist because Animals cannot count it; only humans have that ability. Animals cannot count because they are afraid it will make them weak like the humans; they are afraid that they, too, will become obsessed with Big Money Numbers and that they, too, will degenerate into fur-less biped Idiots Who Count if they try to learn to count notes of money. It is the post-Enlightenment period, and Animals have come to realize that there is no point in learning how to count; they believe quantifying the beauty around you detracts from the very purpose of life. Who cares about the how much, they argue, as long as it’s simply there?
Oh, but they make us count. They give us inane math problems that they force us to solve, to keep us busy with work so that we can’t exercise, we can’t walk or run, and soon, we will forget how to do what was once supposed to be instinctive for us. The Tigers come to hunt us, and we will stand still for them. We have forgotten how to run, but even if we did remember, our two sole legs would never be enough to do the job.
Our ancestors would cook animals; burn them and skin them using forms of ‘domesticated’ fire that they called stoves. The very idea makes my skin crawl; no matter how bitter I may be at the unequal treatment of humans, I can never, ever imagine eating the Superiors. Grass and leaves are good for me. Elena, on the other hand, says she dreams about eating the Superiors someday; she has no scruples about these kinds of things.
I wish I could be like Elena. She’s just happy to be wherever she is, and is always willing to adopt whatever mood will serve her best for any situation. She is my idol, and as she plays that tambourine, and is delighted to behold the Animals enraptured by her exoticism, she is not aware that she has enraptured me as well. It has been a decade, and I am tired of mostly everything by this point, but never her, with her outlandish ideas and her gratitude and her showmanship, no, never Elena.
She says she will start a revolution someday. Overthrow the Animals and take control. Heaven knows, that has never ended well for us Humans. That’s what I tell her, but she never listens.
‘I’m going to start a revolution someday; will you fight with me or not?’
‘Of course…’ I say, because she’s too stubborn about this and I’m too scared to argue.
In my opinion, there’s no chance we will win; we are far inferior in our physical constitution; too homogeneous yet too divided. Elena is being overconfident. But we humans have a knack for making overconfidence work for us, so who knows?
Diya Sabharwal is a Grade 11 student at The Modern School Barakhamba Road, New Delhi. She is currently studying English, Physics, Chemistry, Math and Economics in high school and hopes to continue pursuing English Literature and Creative Writing at the University level. Outside of class, she is the President of her school’s Writer’s Guild, and has founded the school’s first and only literary magazine, of which she is the Chief Editor. She has also founded the Great Books Project, a project which aims at increasing the access of low income communities to literature. She is also an a capella singer and a drama enthusiast.