Based on the theme ‘Feeding The Animals’

A shard of ice slid across the damp yellow feathers of the chick. It’s corpse was defrosting in the sink amongst a pile of its frozen brethren. From behind his glasses Oliver stared at the chick pile, behind him the door to the keepers area opened and his wife, Joy, bubbled into view,

“Are they ready?” She asked peering over his shoulder, “we’re running late.”

Without turning to look at her, Oliver asked, “Why not insects?”

“We ran out, so this week, chicks!” She informed him, her effervescent mood unfazed by the grisly sight in the sink.

“You’d think they’d be allowed to kill them themselves, like the insects.” Oliver continued, the subject as grim as his visage. Joy’s mood was now starting to fray in the presence of her husband’s vacant demeanor,

“They’re not allowed to, it’s cruel. Creatures with complex nervous systems can’t be fed to the animals alive.”

When Oliver failed to respond she bristled past him and slipping on a pair of gloves she dumped the yellow pile into a bucket. His mood was tugging at something that she wanted to ignore, now she would punish him for it. She pushed at the door, bucket in hand and a scowl on her face,

“Come on,” she insisted tersely, the door opened briefly showing a slice of grey sky then Joy was gone.

The sounds of the zoo were subdued that morning although it’s stench was not, it was rotten and raw. Oliver fumbled through his broken psyche for some conversation, any topic which might re-forge their connection,

“Are they fully defrosted?”

Joy gave him a dismissive look as she walked towards the meerkat enclosure,

“It’s really not that important,” she told him, “what are they going to do? Complain to the management?”

She upended the bucket and the canary coloured clump slid out and hit the floor of the enclosure with a thud, a couple of meerkat sentries regarded their breakfast with disdain. Joy was already marching off, happy to leave her maudlin husband staring into space. How easy she walked away from him, he thought, like their passions shared had just fallen apart, cooled and compartmentalized.

He caught up with her in the bat house, his paranoia and desperation peaking, almost pushing over the brink of verbal accusation. She was slipping a dish of blood into the vampire bat habitat, her attention on the luminous slab in her other hand. She didn’t look up at Oliver, out of the two men in the palms of her hands Oliver was the one whose need she felt repulsed by. Oliver caught sight of his rivals avatar as she the swiped the app into oblivion with a practised finger, indignation bubbled up within him

“You’re talking to him again?”

Joy sighed, a sound full of finality and regret “Oliver this can’t go on, we’re lying to ourselves.”

The words continued but Oliver could not hear them, there was a rushing void in his head. It had consumed him. He couldn’t even see. Eventually sound returned to his world, then he saw Joy staring at him, now not even trying to disguise the scorn in her eyes,

“So that’s it then,” she told him with a shrug she added, “I’ve got to feed Tilly.”

His eyes drifted to the vampire bat, it had looked up from its scarlet repeats, its head was twitching back and forth as it listened to the echoes of its own voice, lost in the dark.

Tilly was locked in her sleeping area, the lever that kept her secure Joy had double checked. Joy thoughtlessly tossed chunks of torn flesh about, emotions warring within her. The clash of the  gate caused her to spin around. It was closed and locked, behind it she saw the watery, unfocused eyes of her husband, his hand on the lever. She mouthed a silent ‘no’ then he pulled it downwards.

Tilly’s enclosure door slid aside releasing the promise of death. Tilly flowed forth, slick sinew under verdant gold and ebon fur, she ambled elegantly towards a wad of bloodied beef and sniffed at it disconsolately, then she caught the scent of the woman. Joy ran, stumbling in her haste she began to plead wordlessly at her husband but his back was turned, he was walking away, head between his hands. Joy turned, her back pressed against the mesh, fingers curling into it. Before her crouched Tilly, eyes alien and cold, back legs tensing for a forward lunge. When Tilly leapt Joy’s brain released a torrent of mind bending panic chemicals, her experience of the attack was distant, her torn flesh false and plastic. Her blood ran in rivulets across the dirt floor, her neck home to three inch fangs that had pierced her spinal cord.

The attack was not so distant for Oliver, despite his attachment as he walked away every scuffle, scream and gurgle scarred his consciousness as the wife he loved was torn from her life as she was torn from his.

-Anthony