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This isn’t a zoo, it’s a madhouse with animals living in it. It’s not even a madhouse; it lacks the psychology of a madhouse. It’s an unfortunate union of an animal kingdom and a rundown infrastructure.
That right there is the Ostridge. How is one supposed to pass through that wooden corridor without invoking the anger of the Ostridge, whose neck swings to the side like a crane out of focus?
Well, I’ll gladly take a tour of the place. Yes, direct me to the HQ, I’d like a tour guide. Perhaps he’ll explain the odd choice of animals.
I’m sick. I’m a sick sick lion.
Now, listen here you silly lion. You shut it, you hear me? You’re just a silly little lion whose back legs don’t work, because of your hunger strike at the dismal conditions of your peers. Now look at yourself. You’re the joke of the zoo. You’re to be dragged by the ear like a disobedient circus freak.
I hate to admit it, but this is no place for a lion. Hell, it ain’t no place for animals at all.
Take Mr. Horsey for example. Sure, he’s on a tight leash. But he could be a privileged animal, you see. He may be the cavalry horse of the institution, you see. Or he’s just another pathetic installation captured by this madhouse.
That’s another thought. How did all these animals come to be reduced to such shame; of all the zoos in the universe, they were sent to this wretched hole of a place? Why is there a labor worker throwing water at the bear? Why is the bear in a cage? Boy, if I could speak, I’d ignite a fierce response from Mr. Bear. But he just cowers in the corner in fear. Pathetic.
Moments later I’m to notice what’s supposed to be a pond, generally perceived by the four other enlightened guests that come each day as a pond in its own right, housing all species of the bird kingdom. Yes, ducks, pigeons and a chicken all come together there. I suppose they symbolize the ethnic diversity of this sad little country of ours. I’m quite fond of this symbol.
I’m quite fond, too, of the momentary joy I’m afforded, staring at Bambi, eating a chocolate bar to succumb the heat, all in a confused motion of ‘and what now, what next, what pity am I to feel next?’.
I don’t greet the workers the way I greet the sad little animals. How we’ve come to Hadath by way of perverted chaos in a fog of sand and dust, to reach a mindless state reminiscent of our own, to leave with a sense of gloom; bleak, they ought to call it, it has no other name.
Pictures by Ayla Hibri, text by Dani Arbid.