The zoo was loud, crowded, and a smell hung in the air, not quite covered up by the more pleasant food smells. Skylar like to think of it as the smell of the wild, and they loved it.
If they ignored the people and the barriers keeping the animals a safe distance away, Skylar could imagine they were exploring Earth on their own. It took a lot of imagination, with inspiration from pictures and videos Skylar could see on the back of their eyelids.
Just after lunch, Skylar walked up to one of the signposts and pointed to the sign with a cheetah on it. “Let’s go see the big cats!” John agreed.
The two tapped their cans of soda, polishing them off before they entered the interior exhibit hall since they hadn’t seen the cheetahs outside. The smell of fur, sweat, and plants was stronger inside, but Skylar was more interested in both the animals, and all the information signs.
“Come look at this one.” John waved Skylar over, and the pair stood behind a cluster of children. They were all partially crouched, talking excitedly, and pointing to the creature on the other side of the glass. “It’s cute.”
The cheetah was laying on its back near the glass, white belly on full display. Their paws twitched a few times, and so did it’s tail. Skylar’s eyes traced the black markings on the cheetahs’ face, counting the spots and following the lines streaking away from the eyes like tears.
When the beast yawned Skylar squealed. “It’s adorable!” They eventually got a closer look, as children got called to the next enclosure by their parents. John and Skylar posed for selfies, the oil left behind by small fingers on the glass a clear sign of the barrier between them and the wild animal.
“Hey,” John paused by a sign as they headed towards the lion exhibit, “I didn’t realize how close the cheetah had been to extinction.”
Skylar leaned against John’s side as they read the sign. “Oh wow.” They traced the black tear marks on the picture with their finger this time. “It’s almost poetic, they now carry the tears for the near loss of their species.”
“They could have ended up with much worse characteristics considering how inbred they were at one time.” He tapped the family tree in the lower corner of the side.
“I suppose so.” Skylar looked at the family tree and then at John. They glanced around, but all the people close by were occupied with other things. They still dropped their voice to a whisper, just in case. “The loss of diversity could have been prevented if cheetahs had the ability to manipulate their DNA at will.”
“It seems that ability never came to be here.” John nudged Skylar towards the lions. “If we’re lucky, we’ll get to hear the lion roar.”
“That would be so cool!” Skylar grabbed Johns sleeve and tugged him as they hurried off to the pride of lions.
Word count: 500