Inspired by the backlash against the killing of Harambe. I won't go into detail about my feelings surrounding it, but I will say that a lot of people on my Facebook feed informed the character of Neil. Originally written in 2016.
Neil Thomlinson gritted his teeth as he pulled his battered Toyota into a slot marked STAFF and killed the engine, cutting the second ABC news break of the morning.
Three-year-old Lonnie Wallace is still missing this morning after disappearing from the Albany Zoo yesterday, police say. Lonnie, who was in the care of his grandmother, was last seen near the gorilla enclosure...
Neil chuckled bitterly as he swung out of the truck and slammed the door behind him, the sound loud in the early morning still. He remembered finding the boy the previous afternoon in a stand of bushes in the gorilla exhibit, his little neck broken and his pale white eyes staring sightlessly into the sky, remembered the horror...the rage. Standing there over the shattered body, he could only think of one thing: Harambe, the gorilla who had been gunned down like a mad dog when that stupid little kid leapt into his enclosure; the poor, mighty, majestic creature who had tried to help the boy only to be blown away. It should have been the kid they shot. Stupid little fuck. Neil had worked with gorillas for almost twenty years; he knew what kind, gentle creatures they were; how intelligent and understanding. Roxanne, the female Mountain Gorilla Albany prided itself on, was a loving, caring soul. When no one else in the world listened to Neil, Roxanne did. When the world shoveled shit into his face in the form of a divorce, Roxanne listened. She sat quietly in her corner, not judging, not laughing, not shaking her head...she cared. He could feel it.
When he saw the dumb little prick, who most likely slipped through the gate and fell, he decided to hide the body lest they come for Roxanne. He was dead anyway. What did it matter?
Then he moved.
His eyes, still cloudy, rolled, and a tiny, breathless groan escaped his lips.
Kneeling, Neil stared into the boy's eyes for five full minutes, silently hating him, before wrapping his big hands around his neck and squeezing. When it was over, he dragged the boy into his workshop and cut him into tiny pieces. Roxanne, normally a vegetarian, was pleased.
Now, clocking in, Neil went into his domain and set about getting the animals' breakfast together. An hour later, he went to every cage, box, and exhibit the zoo had.
He saved Roxanne for last.
The woman (he couldn't think of her as an animal) sat on a rocky incline above a lazy pool. He could tell instantly that she wasn't feeling right. She looked distant, ill at ease.
"Hey, girl," Neil called. "How are you this morning?"
Roxanne looked at him, and something about her seemed to change. She became tense, agitated.
Something was wrong.
Parking his cart, he let himself into the enclosure through a door hidden behind a screen of bushes and closed it behind him. Something like dread rising within him, he hurried to the bank of the pool.
"You alright, girl?"
Roxanne looked at him.
She began to pant.
"Hey, look, I..."
With a speed and agility that one would not expect a gorilla to possess, Roxanne leapt into the air, her massive, black bulk momentarily blocking out the sun, and came down directly on top of Neil, knocking him to the ground. She was screaming, trembling.
"Stop!" Neil yelled. "Honey, stop! Listen to me!"
The gorilla's claws tore into him, its teeth, too.
I thought we had something special, Neil thought as he sank into death. I thought she understood me...loved me!
But she didn't.
She was an animal.
An animal that had discovered the taste of meat.