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The loud screeching of nails echoed over the surveillance system causing a sharp ringing in my ears. I struggled to click mute on the monitor with a startled sense of urgency. My ears would need to recover however my eyes purveyed the screens to uncover the cause of this disruption. Working overnight security at the zoo was mundane but when issues arose it was crucial to deal with them swiftly before things got out of control. Animals could sometimes be unpredictable.
It was impossible for me to determine which enclosure the menacing noise came from so I would have to investigate all sites. Public safety is top priority but the animals also deserve to be free of danger within the walls of their captivity. A small tranquilizer gun and a flashlight were a night watchman’s best friend. A low dose could not kill an escaped beast but definitely ensure they did not inflict harm on any guests or attractions.
Mammoth claw marks were found on one of the map signs for the park. The source of my temporary deafness had been found. This minor achievement was quickly overshadowed by the realization that I was alone. Alone in the darkness surrounded by natural predators. I could not take comfort in the fact that their exhibits were secure. One was without a doubt not!
I was not safe. I was not safe standing there with the scent of fear perspiring from my pores filling the humid summer air. Protocol requires extra security to be called in an event. That message is dispatched from the control room, over a mile away. The equivalent of two thousand steps. The usefulness of my flashlight was now negated as it would just act as a beacon to lure the creature to me quicker. My only saving grace was a single dart. If my hearing impairment had some permanence it would have been a blessing. Commotion was coming from the monkey encounter just yards from dispatch.
A trickle of cold sweat that gave me goosebumps as it ran down my spine. It felt as if I was in a dream, as if what was happening was not real. I ran as fast as I could to the security door on the side of the building. It was locked. I frantically reached for my keys on my belt loop but felt nothing. I was not wearing my belt. It was inside the room. I heard the branches of the trees crackling under the weight of something monstrous. I turned to face my aggressor this time as I showed the light into the treetops. This was it, fight or flight.
A warm feeling of relief overtook my body as I realized the culprit was just Abagail. She was a curious sloth who thought she was a monkey. The monkeys obviously thought otherwise. I could handle this one on my own and called out to her to follow me back to her own little playground. It would take all night to get her back, which was normal, but then I noticed something alarming.
Bloodshot red eyes stared back at me with evil intentions. Thick, white foam covered her lips as drool leaked uncontrollably from the corner of her mouth as if she saw something appetizing. All visible signs pointed to rabies and she needed to be sedated before she could harm any of the other animals. I grasped for the tranquilizer to put her at ease but soon realized something was terribly wrong. That initial warm feeling I got was not relief at all. It was the dart stuck in my leg releasing the medicine. In my haste I had accidently shot myself!
Suddenly I could not feel my legs. My knees buckled as I stumbled to the ground putting both palms down to avoid face planting directly onto the pavement. The weight of an elephant was now on my shoulders. My arms began to shake as if I had just attempted a thousand push ups. I used my last bit of strength to lift up my head to see where Abagail was. She was nearing the bottom of the tree and approaching me methodically. Her movements were very purposeful. Mine were now nonexistent.
I passed in and out of consciousness. Time seemed to pass at an inconsistent rate. Every second that elapsed in my mind was actually a minute in reality. My thoughts were abruptly interrupted by the trampling of my body under a mass exodus. Opening my eyes completely was impossible but my hazy glare managed to focus on the monkey encounter once again. The intelligent little climbers made it out. Abagail could not get to them anymore, but now she was free!
I had no idea where Abagail was or how much time had passed. All I knew is that I was a sitting duck. Just one swipe of her huge talon like nails is enough to sever an artery. Worst case scenario was getting bit and contracting rabies while I lay there being mauled to death. How long would it be until somebody finds me? How long until the zoo opens? A sloth can only move 120 feet in a day on land. Will I be found in time?
Bright light blinded my eyes, seemingly awakening me from my lethargic state. Was this the tunnel of light people talk about when they medically die? I could see nothing now but my hearing was all too clear. I could hear someone calling my name in the distance. I’ve been found! This nightmare would soon be over.
Abagail is found first however. I hear the person ask her if she escaped again, talking to her as if she were just a naughty child. Then I heard the screams of utter terror. Then the screams stopped. Minutes passed with nothing but silence. Again, I was alone. Not alone. Abagail was here, right next to me.
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