Story A Week (SAW) 16: April 16th, 2018
By Adam O’Sullivan
Have you ever wanted to tell someone a story, but you couldn’t? Maybe you couldn’t find the words to express the feeling of being in that single moment. Maybe you’re still trying to process the event yourself. Maybe you physically can’t put it into words.
This is one of those stories.
I was there when it first happened. It was pure insanity. No-one knew what was going on. You would never in a million years believe me if I told you. Let me at least try to form the correct words. Someone needs to know what happened at the start.
The day was overcast, like a normal UK autumn day. Not freezing, but cold enough to wear an extra layer. Bree and I had decided to visit London Zoo. We had a tourist pass that allowed us free entry to as many attractions as we could get to in a set number of days. You didn’t pay based on what you wanted to see, you paid based on how many days you dared yourself to rush around London. The London Zoo had not started high on our list, but by day 5 we had done the main attractions and were looking for something that was different, unique and above all, close to the hotel. A display of animals from around the world sounded like fun way to spend an afternoon. There was a whole display of Australian animals that we breezed through as kids stood around looking up in amazement at the emus and kangaroos. Hell, maybe Australia is exciting sometimes. If it isn’t for all the animals trying to kill you.
Bree had her ‘little kid moment’ when we got to see the giraffes. I know, they don’t seem like the kind of animals that would get anyone excited. When you’re there, staring up at them, there’s just something about them. They’re so weird looking, compared to other animals. Some animals are sleek and stealthy, built to hunt or to run away. Others are massive creatures, built for power over speed. The giraffe seems like a mixture of both, but by someone who took the wrong parts of each side and mixed them together. Sure, they could run, but who’s going to miss a creature that stands so tall? Where are they going to camouflage themselves? Then when you’re standing in front of their enclosure… Well, it’s like standing in front of a bald guy or a really tall person. You can’t help by look. I could tell I wasn’t the only person surprised to see a live giraffe. There were families and kids and adults all standing around just watching the giraffes eat. Nowhere else on this great green planet will you find something so unique. Seeing a giraffe in person is another experience altogether. It looks like a giant puppet, like underneath you’d expect to see a team of puppeteers following it around. They stand awkwardly, they walk as if they’re going to fall over at any moment. They look like they’re constantly waiting to be pushed around or blown over. Then they stand still, and they start eating, and you can see their true beauty. These amazing creatures, standing head and shoulders above the rest, eating from the tops of the trees. With the sunset in the background, you can see why they’ve been revered for so long. There is nothing quite like them in the world.
The trail through the zoo goes past the giraffe enclosure multiple times. They’re like a hub for the half of the park that hosts the non-avian animals (although the penguins have their own swimming enclosure). Visit the leopards, back to the giraffes. See the meerkats, giraffes. Rush through the kangaroos (they’re all just laying around scratching their balls like a typical Aussie male anyway) – woo, giraffes! We went through and saw the little stables that they rested in, where they ate. They were the highlight of our day. We got all sorts of photos, from all different angles.
It must have been the fourth time we walked past them. We were getting pretty tired of walking through the park, but the giraffes always perked us back up again. We could still easily spend 20 minutes watching them run around. There were 4 giraffes in the enclosure. They were mostly eating, but every now and again they would stop and look at the crowd, almost as if they were watching us. Wouldn’t that be a crazy idea? Imagine if the giraffes thought everywhere outside of their enclosure was a zoo. Say if they thought that people were paraded through every day for their amusement. Maybe they think we’re the entertainment for them. Ha, crazy.
There was one alpha giraffe, about a head taller than the other three, and their coat was slightly darker. Maybe it were a family of giraffes, and the slightly bigger one was one of the parents. The plaque near the gate only had a bunch of generic giraffe information, which I could Google when I got home.
When the bigger giraffe turned and looked at the crowd, the others soon did the same. Talk about an alpha giraffe. When the bigger giraffe started walking towards the crowd, the others followed. When the big one stopped just in front of the fence, the others stopped running (do giraffes gallop?). This was the closest we had been to a giraffe all day, heck in our entire lives. We would never forget this moment.
Oh, how right we truly were.
Bree giggled with excitement as the giraffe brought its head down to our level. She reached out a hand to pat it on the nose. It’s head came closer and closer to us. Then in a quick motion, like watching a snake attack, the giraffe lunged forward and bit into Bree’s head. A splash of blood landed on my face and I started screaming. I went to grab Bree but the giraffe lifted it’s neck, taking her with it. I tripped back and fell to the ground as a distinct chattering resounded above me. I looked up and where my head had been seconds before was now the face of a giraffe, biting down on the air that I had just previously occupied. My flight reflex took over and I scurried away on my palms, my vision blurred in terror, until I bumped into someone standing a safe distance away. When my eyes focused again, the sight that awaited me was like nothing I had ever seen. It could be a poster for a horror movie. It could be the sight of your worst nightmare. Imagine a bloody, war-torn unicorn, taking the imagine of something beautiful and twisting it into something dark. This is what had happened to those giraffes. Bree’s body limply hanging from the mouth of the biggest giraffe, and two other people had suffered the same fate, swinging from the mouths of two of the smaller giraffes. A zookeeper raced towards the fence carrying a rifle of some kind, shouting at people to get back. As he raised the tranquiliser gun to shoot, the giraffe that had missed me latched onto the head of the zookeeper with the sort of speed I had never seen before. The zookeepers eyes went glassy and he dropped the rifle he was holding.
The four giraffes backed slightly away from the fence, dangling their catches in their mouths. People were screaming all around me, but I must have been in shock because I didn’t feel anything except for the adrenaline coursing through my veins. It was a scene of pure dread. Families had been enjoying a day at the zoo, and now we had been attacked by what had seemed like peaceful creatures.
I stood, my legs shaking but finally able to hold me up. I watched the giraffes as the bodies swayed in their mouths. My first thought had been that they were feeding, eating people like some sort of zombie flick. That didn’t appear to be the case as the bodies just hung limply from the mouths of these African animals. Their lips pressed against the skin of the foreheads of the people, including Bree, covering up the teeth that I had heard drilling into their skulls. I could see trails of blood oozing from the connection point and running down Bree’s hair on the back of her head. It seemed to be slowing, coagulating, as if no new blood was being shed. Imagine your body as the stick of a horrifying lollipop, one that ends in a gigantic giraffe. God, what am I talking about? The bodies continued to sway, as if caught up in some sort of slight breeze. But I could see that Bree’s body had started to turn. When she had been bitten, she had been facing the giraffe, but her body was being rotated around so that it faced us. Her mouth was open and I was reminded of a sickening version of a carnival game. Then, like screws being put in place, the other three bodies turned as well until they all faced us. I heard someone nearby whimper and I suspect someone must have fainted.
Other than Bree and the zookeeper, the two other victims appeared to be a man in a suit and an older woman. I wonder if the man was spending his day with his family, or just taking time off from work. The older lady could easily have been out with her grand-kids, or enjoying the day with her partner. They all shared the same expressionless, glassy look. They must be dead. There’s no way they could have survived being bitten that way.
Bree’s eyelids began to move. They opened up wide, and you couldn’t see the pupils in her eyes. They were almost translucent, and you could see something pink slithering around behind her eyeballs. I didn’t want to think what that was. Bree’s mouth closed slowly, and I could see that all four bodies were doing the same thing. Then Bree’s mouth opened quickly, causing me to jump back, and twisted in a horrified smile. She bared her teeth and looked ready to bite, before her lips relaxed. Her ears moved back and her mouth opened in a wide O. Then her eyes were open again, and her mouth closed. It looked like someone was stretching her face. It reminded me of someone trying on a new set of dentures. Or trying out how their face felt after surgery. Like those horror movies, where someone gets their face replaced and they test it out for the first time. Her eyes were lifeless but not closed. She was staring blankly out towards the crowd and wasn’t focused on me. I wonder what was going through her head, or if she was even still there anymore. I saw the pink thing slithering behind her eyes and I almost threw up. I don’t know how I found the strength to keep standing.
I spent so long focused on Bree’s face that I only realised something else was going on where I heard the screams right beside me. People were pointing to one of the other giraffes. There was a sick tearing noise, bones snapped and wet squelching. I looked over and one of the other giraffes had his mouth over the entire zookeepers head. There was a final pop and the body fell to the floor. The giraffe rose it’s head up to the full length of it’s neck. It’s head pointed towards the heavens as the sun turned from bright yellow to deep orange. If it wasn’t so horrifying, I would say it was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Then the lump in the giraffe’s throat started to make its way down that distinctive long neck. The head of the zookeeper was being swallowed. It seemed to take an eternity, but the light was still visible when it was finally digested. I just know that no-one moved. Everyone was fascinated with watching this lump slide its way down the giraffe’s neck. Not a single word was spoken. When the lump finally disappeared into the giraffe’s abdomen, there was a moment of silence before someone softly started sobbing. The giraffe itself looked to the others and I’m sure that it looked sheepish. Giraffish? The moment was broken by the shrieks and screaming as more people ran away. The crowd was dwindling again. The giraffe picked up the zookeepers body and flung it over the gate of the enclosure. People scattered like cockroaches, running in terror. The giraffe galloped to the back of the enclosure and started eating leaves off the trees again. Its mouth was stained with blood. The zookeepers body skidded to a stop next to an abandoned hot dog cart. The other giraffes turned to look at the bloody giraffe, and you could tell that they were not happy. The other giraffe was being punished for its poor display. I felt numb as I stood there watching the movements of these creatures. The two remaining smaller giraffes deferred to the alpha, the one with Bree in it’s mouth. They all turned back to the crowd. There was maybe only 5 of us left watching. I remember vaguely thinking that some sort of help must be on the way. Police. Or firefighters. Could you take down a giraffe with a hand gun?
Bree’s giraffe stepped forward, closer to the gate. People stepped back from the gate, even though the small crowd that remained through a sense of morbid fascination was already out of reach of the giraffe’s necks. The other two giraffes stood to either side of the giraffe that held Bree. There was a moment of silence. No-one seemed quite sure to know what was going on.
Then I saw Bree twitch. It was just a little thing at first, her fingers moving slightly, like grass being blown by a slight breeze. Then her right arm started to slowly lift, before dropping back down. Her legs made a running motion, suspended in mid air. Then the body was lifeless again. The other two giraffes made the same motions with the bodies in their mouths. The man in the suit had his fist clenched, and there seemed to be a real difficulty in getting the fingers loosened. I wonder if he had been holding a briefcase, or if he had made the first to punch the giraffe. The older lady had a pair of glasses hanging from a chain around her neck, and they jiggled around as her body moved in time with the others. It was the most sickening exercise video you’ve ever seen.
Bree’s body opened it’s mouth again and the noise that came out of it was closer to a shriek of terror than any human noise. It sounded like an animal mating call. It was guttural and desperate. The mouth closed and she was silent again before opening. It seemed to be trying to communicate. Through Bree’s mouth.
“Weee Doooo Noooott Wwwwwwwaaaaaaant Tooo Bee Dissssssssssssturbeddddddd.”
“Leeeeeeaaaaavvvvvve Us Alonnnnnnne.”
Bree’s body swung through the air at the end of the giraffe’s head.
I stepped forward – out of the group, but still far enough away from the fence.
“What do you want?” I called out to them. The giraffe holding Bree focussed on me.
“Leeave Uss Alone.”
“We are now on the En. End. EnEnEnEn.” there was a brief pause “Endangered Species list. We do not want to become… Extinct.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. I didn’t know.”
“It is a recent developmmmment. Heard carers talk. Your kind is desdoy. Destroying this planet.”
“Why are you doing this? Why are you hurting the people we love?”
“We must adapt. We must protect oursssselvessss.”
The giraffe moved forward, lifting Bree up over the fence. The giraffe stood close to the fence and lowered Bree down near me. She was about 5 metres away from where I stood. Her eyes were swimming towards the back of her head. Her skin was pale white.
“Do you llllove this person?” I could see something pink slithering around behind her eyes. Who knows what kind of monsters these creatures had become. “Do you love… me?”
Suddenly, Bree’s eyes moved back around to the front of her head. It was if she was looking straight at me.
“Phillip?” Her voice. It was speaking in her voice. “What’s happening?”
“Bree?” I couldn’t believe it. She was still in there? I had assumed the creatures had killed her to use her body. If there was a way that she was still in there, then maybe there was a way to save her.
“Phillip, I’m so scared. We need to help these creatures. I don’t want to be like this forever.”
“You won’t, Bree. I’ll help you, I promise.”
I realised that I had been stepping forward. I was standing right in front of Bree, in front of the love of my life. I reached out to touch her face. Her skin still felt cold, but warmth was returning to it.
“I’m sorry, Phillip.” Her eyes lolled back into her head. I went to step away but I realised that Bree’s hands were holding on to my shoulders. They were gripping me so impossibly tight. I couldn’t pull free, no matter how much I jerked my body. Suddenly I felt myself being lifted into the air. The giraffe was bringing me over the fence. I was screaming and yelling as it put me to the ground. The crowd was watching in horrified shock, but there was nothing they could do to help me.
I felt the teeth grip on to my head. The teeth broke through the skin and embedded themselves in my skull.
I had forgotten about the last giraffe.
“Don’t worry, Phillip, it will only hurt for a little bit.”
I could feel the giraffes tongue licking the top of my head. It felt like it was clearing the hair away. Then the tip of the tongue pressed against the top of my head and I could audibly hear my skull fracture and crack. Pain shot through my entire body and I lost control of my movements. My body flopped like a rag doll at the end of the giraffe’s mouth as pain shot through me and back up to my head. I blacked out as the giraffe’s tongue pushed deeper into my head.
Now the giraffe and I are one.