What we have now is virtually all that is left.
The silverback gorilla raised his powerful arms until the gathered animals were silent.
“Tomorrow is an important day for us all. There’s going to be a school visit.”
Merv the Meerkat led the responding chorus of expletives.
“Look,” said Gary the Gorilla, “None of us like performing for snotty nosed children. But the visits pay the bills. And I for one prefer this sanctuary to a poacher’s bullet.”
“I belong on the African plains,” said Merv nostalgically.
“African plains?” said Gary. “You were created here, in the sanctuary. Get a grip, Merv.”
“The fact is,” continued Gary, “This is the safest place for us. And we need to put on a show. So let’s run through it.”
Gary waited until the murmurs died down.
“The show begins with the zebras drinking at the water hole. You need to appear nervous. Dart your eyes about. Twitch your ears. Build the tension. Now where’s Charlie? Please come out of the long grass for a minute. You’re the predator. We need you to make a spectacular kill, centre stage. Just be sure the children can see you approaching this time.”
“That isn’t in my nature,” announced Charlie the Cheetah, with an air of superiority. “I am a master of stealth.”
Gary sighed impatiently. “I’m asking you for one performance. You can spend the rest of the week being bloody invisible. Tomorrow you stalk the animals. Which of them you kill is up to you.”
Charlie looked at Zuma the Zebra and licked his lips menacingly.
“Right”, said Gary, “In the second scene, one of the rangers will creep through the bush, pretending to be a poacher. There’s a shot and then Ronald collapses.”
“Can I at least charge him?” said Ronald the Rhino. “I’m a rhinoceros, not some wimp of a wildebeest.”
Warren the Wildebeest looked up indignantly, but chose not to say anything.
“You can run at the warden,” said Gary. “But when you hear the gunshot, stop in your tracks. Stagger around a bit and collapse. Blink a few times when you hit the ground. Flop your tongue out. That’s the cue for the baby rhinos to come on stage. Gets the school kids every time.”
Watching from the front seat of the theatre, Ian the Innovator smiled at his creations. This would be the next big thing. Being able to hear animals talk. To have conversations with them. But the programming wasn’t quite there yet.
Ian switched the language module off. It was time to initiate the first scene. To make sure the holograms played their parts perfectly. The Extinct Animals of Africa was the museum’s most popular show.