The last safe place [Short story]
It was the last safe place on Earth for him.
A brain, an intelligent brain, enclosed in a tiny skull. His head. His head was the safety zone. He kept telling himself that. His brain would never ever betray him. It was his and his alone.
It was his last home, his last sanctuary.
All his life, people had tried breaking his shell. Attacks, tens, hundreds of them – they had all infiltrated his outer shell, his exoskeleton, his reinforced concrete cage, rubbing into his soul, causing him to break down and have to start everything all over again. He had put up a fight in the beginning, he had put up a fight even after so many defeats, he had put up a fight even in the end – but alas, to no avail. They were all too strong, too many, too determined for him to face. He was just one – one poor, helpless little magpie, the first animal ever documented to have an intelligence on the same level as a human.
Zouri the Magpie couldn’t sigh like humans did, but there were times like these during which he wished he could. Being a genetically modified bird came with its limits. Sure, he understood language; and he could talk, and read, and write, and most important of all, think for himself; but to them, he was nothing more than a black and white bird with a black and white bird brain and a black and white heart. They would have never consented to the idea that he was as subtle as them, as fragile as them, as capable of feelings as they were. To them, he simply had the ability to solve complex problems that only a human could solve. But that was all.
They had always made him solve things, picture things, invent things, to the point that he had come to be even smarter than some of them were. His days passed slowly, in between arranging cubes of different colors to assigned plates and discussing the world politics with his zookeeper. He was bored, very bored. And he knew they wanted to make him bored, wanted to make him fly all over his cage, wanted to make him do something outrageous. Because whenever he was bored, he played a prank on someone from the zoo staff; and whenever he played a prank, they recreated the conditions in a lab and made him to the same thing, but this time with electrodes attached to his brain; and after all of this was over, they would shock him, put him back into his cage and leave him alone for a few days, a dumb bird in a dumb zoo in a dumb world.
And each time, he grew more and more attached to his own brain, to his own conscience, to his own self and less and less connected to them.
They were responsible for making him this way. That, he knew. They were the ones at fault for everything. He didn’t owe them anything. They owed him the world.
At some point, he lost the will to cooperate. Lost the will to think. Lost the will to go on.
And that was when they started forcing him to think.
Pain, punishment, panic – THEY. THE HUMANS. Comfort, calm, safety – HIM. HIS BRAIN. It was that simple.
It was long after he’d reached this conclusion that he started doubting it.
There had to be something else. Something in between the two notions. Something intermediate, something that made him and humans equal. Something stronger than both of them.
And that’s when it hit him.
Nature. Freedom. Shelter.
Cackling loudly, Zouri flipped his wings. The time had come for him to act.
It was during one of their electroshock experiments. Zouri shuddered, refusing to let them connect him to the electrodes. He bit them. He mocked at them. He scratched them. He yelled at them. He made them tremble the same way he used to. He even called them “Silly, puny humans!” in his sharp magpie voice.
And then, he took off, flying in any direction he could, flying with all his might.
And he flew. And still flew. One hour, two hours, one day, two days, changing directions, changing altitude, changing pace. They could never ever find him again; for he had torn his tracking chip, severed the last connection he had with them. He was now free.
Fatigue overcame Zouri. He stopped on a branch to rest, watching the sunset unfold. It was his first sunset outside the glass cage. It was his first real evening far away from them. It was his first real moment of happiness.
At long last, he had reached his sanctuary.
They found him by the chip they’d put inside his brain when he’d hatched. He was resting on a branch, head under his wing, almost smiling.
Such an experiment could never escape into the outside world. It was way too outrageous for humankind to accept it.
They shot him instantly.
Runda a doua de la concursul de scriere de pe DeviantArt, 2013.
Tema era “The last safe place”.
Imaginea e de pe pixabay.com