13th August 2008
Samuel Peats had had enough, each and every night it was the same routine, check the gates, walk the tourist path, make sure the little shops and food court were still secure, every night, every day, the same routine. He had been head of security at the zoo for the past twenty-five years and had seen it all, escaped animals, idiots falling into enclosures, lost children and stolen property, and it bored him.
Sam had started out wanting to join the police force, but an injury to his knee as a child had restricted his ability to extend his leg properly, unwell to except a desk job, Sam had answered an ad in the local paper for the position of security guard. Over the years the zoo had expanded and grown, along with its income of tourists and staff, which meant extra security was required, Sam quickly moved up through the ranks and was head of the department in five years.
The hours were the hardest part of the job, especially since a batch of ‘Summer Flu’ was sweeping the nation, he was eight guards down already and the three who turned up for work that day had been pale and coughing, so, Sam was forced to cover a lot over the overtime himself, for the past three days he had arrived at seven am to prepare work details and rotas, then left around noon, only to return at seven pm to take the night shift, he was absolutely exhausted.
This particular night, Sam was leaving the food court, having checked the metal mesh gates were still firmly locked. He took the tourist path leading away from the court in two different directions, towards the animal enclosures, swishing his torch beam from side to side of the path, randomly pin pointing a bush or litter bin, never expecting to find anything
“Never anything there” he told the empty path “don’t know why I even both checking anymore”
Sam flickered the torch off and picked up his pace, the thought of a warm cup of tea and his sandwiches proving to tempting to ignore anymore. As Sam walked, he saw something up ahead, just a few feet from the Ape enclosure. He couldn’t tell what it was exactly, but as he was the only person who was even meant to be in the zoo, he had to investigate. Sam started jogging slowly, his lungs and body weight making running difficult. As he rounded a corner, the Ape enclosure came into view.
Sam ran to the massive wire mesh gate that kept the primates locked in, then stopped dead in his tracks, not quite believing what he could see. The animals, Baboons, were attacking the wire gate, as he watched, Sam saw the massive apes charge the electrified gate, hurling themselves against it just to bounce back off in an explosion of sparks and singed fur. The charge wasn’t strong enough to be fatal, just enough to put an intelligent animal off the idea of trying to escape over the gate again, and despite their uniquely unattractive aspect, the baboons were generally very intelligent.
Sam cautiously approached the gate, the apes saw him, yet they continued their assault, fifteen to twenty large, powerful animals all taking running jumps at the gate, one after the other.
“What the hell, has gotten into you lot?”
Sam was concerned, he had never seen any of the animals act like this, he patted his pockets, looking for his work mobile phone, he had to call the head keeper and park administrator, this could be a serious problem, a problem like rabies.
Finding his phone, Sam looked up the keeper’s number, but before pressing ‘call’, decided he should probably take a closer look, the keeper would want to know as much as possible straight away. Sam made his way closer and closer to the gate, covering his eyes from the sparks the apes were making in their attacks, as he approached, Sam got a good look at a big males face, it was standing as close as it could get to the other side of the gate, its head kept shifting, looking behind itself, the animal did not looked rabid, no foam or blood shot eyes, it did, however, look utterly terrified, Sam pushed the ‘call’ button.
After several long rings,
“Nigel, its Same Peats”
“Sam....do you know what time it is?”
“Yeah, sorry Nigel but I had to call we have a problem with the Baboons”
“What kind of problem?”
“Something’s got them spooked, their attacking the gate to the enclosure”
“But the gates Electrified? He sounded very concerned now
“Yeah I can tell from the sparks and stink of burnt fur”
“You’ll have to start tranquilising them for me, Sam”
“You what? I’m not qualified to do that”
“Sam their gonna hurt themselves” Nigel stated clearly and loudly
Sam sighed, “OK, I have the keys to the keeper’s office, I’ll get a rifle and see what I can do”
“The tranquiliser’s are all in the locked medical cooler, their all labelled for each animal by type and animal size, just grab the ones marked adult, in society when baboons fight, the females generally keep the infants away from the males, so you shouldn’t need to worry about that”
“Males, females, what are you talking about?” Sam blurted in confusion, “Nigel, their ALL attacking the gate, male, female, infants, these things are going crazy”
“WHAT?” Nigel was making a lot of noise on his end of the line “Look, Sam, I’ll be dressed and on my way in five minutes, just get the rifle and try to take as many down as you can” Nigel hung up.
Sam stored his mobile safely back in its pocket then, after giving the animals one last look, he took to his heels and ran as fast as his heavy stomach would allow,
“Got to lay up on those biscuits” he complained as he ran. As he went, Sam became aware of the other animal calls sounding in the dark, he stopped, some thirty feet from the door to the keeper’s office and listened, the lions roared, the elephants trumpeted, he could here birds screeching and monkeys screaming into the night,
“What is going on?”
Sam continued on to the door and unfastened the heavy padlocks latching the door, then opened the chubb lock and pushed the door open, he stepped in and was hit by the stink of animal fur so hard he nearly doubled over,
“Jesus” he raised a hand to his nose, the smell was quite intoxicating, worse than anything he had ever known. Sam ran across the cluttered office, kicking empty cages out of his way as he went. He reached a stack of lockers and running his finger along the tiny labels on each locker door, found the one mark, ‘Tranq Gun’.
Sam tried to door and found it unlocked, he pulled out one of the rifles and slung its strap over his shoulder. Then he crossed to a door leading to the medical section, for immediate treatment of injured keeper’s and animals. He opened the door and saw the medicine cooler on the wall across the room, he walked over opened the cabinet and skimmed the tags, looking for the baboon’s. Finding them, Sam took to his heals again and ran back out of the office, stopping only to lock the chubb lock, then back off towards the ape enclosure.
Sam could not believe what he was seeing when he got back to the gate, blackened, smoking bodies were hanging from the wire mesh, he couldn’t be sure, but it looked as though the apes had been hanging on despite the shocks running through their bodies, whatever had scared them had done such a good job, they were willing to kill themselves to get away from it. Sam over closer to the gate, holding his torch in his teeth, he loaded the rifle and took careful aim at a large baboon running straight for the gate. Sam took the shot and watched the dart strike the ape in the mid chest, the animal doubled over in shock then tried to get back to its feet, then fell back down, passing out.
Sam went to reload the gun, then that smell hit him again, like back in the office, it was disgusting, pungent, he couldn’t bare it. Sam actually dropped the dart and raised his hand to his nose, he tried moving away from the enclosure but it wasn’t helping, if anything, the smell was getting stronger, that was when he felt the icy cold. The hairs on the back of Sam’s neck went up, he felt shivers running up and down his spine, then he felt a presence, behind him, something was there, watching him. Sam heard a terrible sound, like a car trying to start, it was almost like the roar of an animal, but it was wrong, distorted, slowly, Sam started turning around, craning his neck round as far as it would go, then having no choice but to turn his body, Sam looked at the creature behind him, and screamed as an enormous animal, a pure, eerie white, leapt from four paws, and grabbed his neck in its massive jaws.