Aphelion Issue 223, Volume 21
November 2017
 
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Kitty Litter

by R.D. Harris




Every time I clean this giant box, I can't help but think of what led me to this point.

Legentus, my home world, provided many opportunities to enjoy wildlife as a child. Days of chasing Crested Lagoon Terns and Lazy Palm Leatherbacks on the equator fed a desire to study Zoology. Long days in school on Prona eventually led me to the Prona Plains Zoo.

I spoke softly to myself as I crept around the litter box. "Six years of school to scoop shit." Bitter wasn't a strong enough word to describe my feelings.

The bellowing purr of Renault made my heart jump into my throat. He, a male Specter Lion, paced back and forth in his temporary quarters while I cleaned the box. His natural cloaking processes were active so only his shifting translucence was visible. The low grass of Prona's sub-arctic plains had forced his species to adapt. I knew he was stalking me when I couldn't hear him.

Renault grew agitated every time the half-track motored along. When I would stop to shovel litter, a calm settled as he stalked me. It was impossible for him to scale the wall of reinforced Optum glass, but I rarely broke eye contact with what I could see of the large feline.

Before my career started, the zookeeper prior to me had suffered a grim fate. According to my boss, she'd been half-eaten by Renault. He leapt over the original wall of his auxiliary enclosure during a box cleaning. The wall was subsequently heightened by ten feet.

As I neared the end of the litter box, ten feet did nothing to comfort me. Almost forgetting to get a stool sample for analyses, I pulled out my culturing cup. The smell was foul even with litter coating it.

Shoveling of the litter was done. My half-track scurried across the small field of Prona Plains' replica environment. I felt momentary relief when I closed the doors to the half-track's garage. Still within the main enclosure, all that was left was to walk the thirty meters to the exit door.

I sprinted, as I usually did, across the browned grass. Meanwhile, clattering of glass had caught my attention. I thought it was other zookeepers. With dread, I realized it was Renault scaling the auxiliary wall.

Renault landed with a thud in the main yard as I opened the exit door and slid out. Coworkers looked on, eyes wide, as Renault slammed into the glass behind me.

The impact shook my gums. Over a ton of lion, uncloaked, snarled at me through a mere two inches of glass.

*****


"That'll be eighty credits please," I said to the couple from my safe, cozy booth. I'd taken a major pay cut to work the ticket booths. It had been weeks since the day Renault almost ate me.

My break came and I paid the big cat a visit. The new, higher ceiling in the auxiliary holding area almost beckoned me back to my former position. Almost was not enough. Renault would find a way out. His instincts, the killer inside of him, would find a way.


THE END


2017 R.D. Harris

Bio: Ryan is a native of Charlotte, North Carolina but currently resides in Arizona. He is a graduate of Stanly Community College and enjoys time with his son.

E-mail: R.D. Harris

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