The Carolina Indoor Zoo of Rare and Exotic Species

Submitted into Contest #58 in response to: Write a story about someone feeling powerless.... view prompt

33 comments

Creative Nonfiction Drama Fantasy

Miguel woke to gentle taps on the glass. He curled up tighter with a grunt. Not again. He was tired of those stupid people waking him up, hitting their fingers on the glass so they could see him move. Soon they’d want to watch him eat, scream at the way his body crushed a trash can into scrap.

Tap tap tap.

Okay I’m up, he thought, and raised his head, curving his body around to look at the walls of his cage, expecting to see a goggle-eyed idiot pressed there with his mouth open and his tongue waggling. 

But there wasn’t anyone there. Confused, Miguel turned a circle, sliding over to the other side and back to make sure. No one.

Tap tap tap.

He looked up at the ceiling and let out a hiss of pleasure. It was raining. He watched it for a few minutes, enjoying the way the water slipped off the glass and the silver of the clouds beyond. He had the urge to stick his head up and look around a little.

Across the hall from him, Aaron snoozed peacefully beneath a log. Miguel could see the tips of his horns peering out from the shadows. Cindy and Lulu, two baby crocodile girls, were in the water of their cage, peering through the glass with sharp eyes. Cordalles the Puerto Rican Coquí croaked, the sound echoing down the empty hall.

Was it that early? Miguel had a good schedule of waking up as visitors were arriving. Thunderstorms didn’t even stir him. Why had he woken up? He wondered if the place was closed, but no, it couldn’t be. The Carolina Indoor Zoo of Rare and Exotic Species got twice as many visitors on rainy days. Mr. Warren wouldn’t dare close it. 

He glanced around the Reptile Hall to see if anyone else was up, but nobody, as far as he could see. Ginny the Formosan Odd-Scaled snake was up at all odd hours of the night- he knew because she was constantly hissing at him through the walls, trying to engage him in conversation- but even she seemed to be asleep, her soft snores echoing through the glass.

A rattling behind him gave him his answer. All four of his walls and his ceiling were glass, and he saw, quite clearly, Louie the zookeeper leering at him through the glass. He arched his neck and hissed softly, but Louie grinned wider and rapped his knuckles on the glass, raising his eyebrows. See? You can’t hurt me.

Louie was a foul creature they hated. Five-four in height, with long yellow teeth, dirty dreadlocks, and sunken eyes, it was Miguel’s and many others’ dearest ambitions to give him a good bite.

Louie had unlocked his cage, all while eyeing Miguel carefully, and now he slid an open metal box in place of the door. He glared at Miguel.

Miguel knew this game, and had no interest in playing it. If he didn’t get in the box, Louie would put food in. If he still didn’t go, Louie would poke at him with a stick. And if Miguel still wouldn’t get in the box, Louie would climb into the cage, which meant Miguel would be trapped underneath a metal net and flung, hissing furiously, into the box with scratches on his neck from that stupid stick.

So Miguel slid in obediently, which made Louie smirk and slam the door shut with a menacing, metallic bang. They set off down the hall, with a few of Miguel’s now-awake friends blinking blearily at the dirty shape of Louie pushing Miguel on a cart, and Miguel curled miserably into a little ball.

He’d been in the box before, of course. Every once in a while he was taken away to breed with females from other zoos, or to put on a show where he squeezed his body around large and heavy metal objects and crushed them into tin cans. He assumed this was another case like that.

But he wasn’t led to the right where the exhibits were, or down the hall where he was sent to breed, but left to a staircase he hadn’t seen before, lined with cages of wolves and lynxes among a deep-green forest of moss. They eyed him majestically through the bars, pacing back and forth against the glass. Eventually Louie stopped at a handsome wood door that he pushed open to reveal a very odd room.

It was large and square, with a floor made of hard concrete that looked cold and a row of metal cages along one wall. The ceiling, like everything at The Carolina Indoor Zoo of Rare and Exotic Species, was made entirely of glass. Peeking through one of the air holes on his cage, Miguel could see that it was still raining. He was in awe for a moment of what such a large ceiling must look like covered in water before Louie’s haggard face appeared, grinning at him and revealing missing teeth. Miguel retreated instantly with a hiss.

“You’re in for a treat,” Louie chuckled. “Bloke here’s settin’ up a business and wants you to be a part of it. Mr. Warren said he’d think about it for the right price, and… well, guess they found the right price.” He grinned.

Miguel wasn’t sure what he meant, but the utter joy on Louie’s face both made him nervous and sickened him, and he coiled back farther into the shadows.

Louie wheeled him around to one of the metal cages and raised the crate up to it, opening the door expectantly for Miguel. Miguel slithered out and into the new cage, and Louie slammed the door shut. Something next door made a funny, high-pitched noise.

“Shut up, you bugger,” said Louie, banging on the cage. “Behave yourselves while I’m gone.” He vanished, presumably to collect another animal.

Miguel slunk to the back of his new prison and closed his eyes to sleep. Whatever was going on, he wasn’t going to worry about it until Louie got back.

Hey,” said a voice from next door, rasping and low. “D’you have any idea what’s going on?”

None,” Miguel said softly. “How long have you been here?”

While,” said the voice. “Over an hour, I think. There’s someone above me, but he won’t say anything. And I think the one next to you might be asleep.’ 

“Who else is here?”

‘I don’t know,” the voice said nervously. “You were the first I saw to come in. I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone’s asleep; it’s early.”

Right,” said Miguel.

“I wonder if they’re going to sell us. Or eat us. Or both. I’m a little scared, aren’t you?”

“Suppose so,” said Miguel. 

“I don't want to get eaten. Maybe getting sold would be better than here, I have so little room to stretch my legs and the food’s ghastly. Last week we got something that looked like little goat pellets, and the water had straw in it. Louie really doesn’t care for how we live. It's insulting to say the least-- if we’re prisoners we might as well have a nicer prison, that’s what my mother always said before she died. Owen and Pete wanted to eat her to have something decent for once, but I wouldn’t let them. Of course they wouldn’t listen to me, and I confess I was getting rather hungry myself, which sounds barbaric, but if you saw the things we eat you’d understand. Then Louie took her away and we were left with nothing but those goat-pellet things, I don’t know what they’re called, I think dog food-”

“Will you shut up?” snapped a voice above Miguel, which was good because Miguel was starting to want to bite him. 

Sorry,” said the first voice. “You’re right of course, I talk when I’m nervous, so sorry-”

“You’re still talking,” grunted another voice to the far right.

“Yes, well, I’m still nervous-”

“We don’t care,” snarled a low voice from the corner. From the lisp of her words, Miguel guessed it might be another snake. “I’ve been listening to you blabber for the past hour. And guess what? I still don’t care. So shut up, please.”

The first fell silent.

They sat there for a long time in a tense, angry silence, listening to each other’s breathing and the occasional high-pitched giggling of some creature. Miguel wondered vaguely if they were going to be fed anytime soon, and whether he could eat the animal next to him when the time came. 

Sometimes back in the exhibit an animal disappeared from their cage, never to be seen again. It was assumed they had died but Miguel wondered if something more sinister might be going on. Mr. Warren, the zoo head and a creature unpleasant as Louie, was greedy and awful, and Miguel could see him selling his animals to the highest bidder with no difficulty. In fact, Miguel doubted he’d think twice over giving a bear to a seven-year-old girl if she gave him enough cash. 

Suddenly Miguel was certain that this was the plan, that they were going to be sold to a rich stranger and shipped off to the circus or something, or sentenced to live in an old woman’s basement. Miguel wasn’t happy here, but he shuddered at the idea of leaving. What would he do without Mickey the Cobra, or Chloe the tortoise? Even Ginny seemed warmer in his mind at the thought of leaving her.

They can’t sell me. Would they really sell me?

He worried over this for several minutes until the door opened with a great clatter and Louie stomped through with another, larger, metal box on a cart. He went over to one of the cages on the floor, grunting, and carefully tipped a squealing lynx into it. Then he waited, tapping his foot impatiently. Two men sidled through the door, talking to each other loudly.

“$1500’s the deal, no bargaining…”

“Come on Walter, it’s just a fox…”

“A very valuable fox! It’s a Tibetan Sand Fox, brought directly in from China! He offers a good price, my friend.”

“Fine, $1500.” 

Miguel recognized the first man: Mr. Warren, the zoo head, but the other was a stranger. Mr. Warren bounced on the balls of his feet, looking incredibly smug. The other man walked up and down the cages, peering into them and occasionally sticking a finger in, smirking as a set of teeth or fangs snapped at him.

“I like ‘em,” he announced. “I get the whole lot, do I?”

“The ones you wish to use in your… business.” said Mr. Warren.

The stranger grinned at him. Louie, standing in the middle of the floor, cleared his throat impatiently but neither of them noticed.

“You think any of these guys stand a chance against, say, a bulldog? Lab? Maybe a Saint Bernard?”

“I should think so,” Mr. Warren said. “I picked the toughest and smartest just for you.” He gave the man a doting smile and Louie rolled his eyes.

“Heh,” said the man. “How do I know you aren’t lyin’? I mean, this one’s just a pig.” He frowned into one of the bottom cages and a loud snort answered him.

“That’s a wild boar brought in from Stuttgart,” said Mr. Warren severely. “They’re vicious, deadly, and extremely aggressive. He stands more of a chance against a Saint Bernard than you do.”

“You wanna see a fight?” the man asks, ignoring him. “I got a dog in the car. Pick one of your creatures and they can go head to head. Cheap even, just $85. That’s a deal, Mr. Warren, that is.”

Mr. Warren frowned, but Louie looked excited. “Please, Mr. Warren,” he said eagerly. “I’ll take on the night shift!”

“You’re already supposed to be on the night shift, son,” growled Mr. Warren, but he too looked tempted by the offer and stroked his beard. “I suppose just once?” he said finally. “I mean, it’s not technically legal, but no one has to know… you won’t tell, Louie? Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve seen a good fight.”

It took Miguel a minute to catch on, but when he did, he didn’t like it at all. He knew he could best a dog easily, but that sort of life didn’t appeal to him. He preferred sleeping under a log, being fed, and chatting with the neighbors. People tapping his cage and waking him up didn’t even seem so bad compared to this nightmare of an idea.

“It’ll be delicious, Mr. Warren,” the stranger said with a horrible smile. “Louie, get the dog from my car. Mr. Warren, I hope I can choose an animal?”

“Go ahead.”

The man walked up and down the cages, considering. Miguel pressed himself farther into the corner, shivering as the man’s yellow eyes passed over him. Finally he stopped at the end, smiling. “This one,” he said.

Mr. Warren advanced with a pair of gloves and a noose at the end of a stick. There was the frantic scrabbling of claws from inside.

Finally Mr. Warren succeeded in taking out a whip-thin wolf, with yellow fur covered in clumps of black and white and huge, batlike ears tattered at the edges. Its breathing was loud and its gold eyes darted around the room, plainly terrified. The stranger surveyed it with great interest.

“What is he, Mr. Warren?”

“African Wild Dog. They’re rare, them. Hard to find these days.”

The dog bleated pathetically and both men laughed. “I can see why,” said the stranger. “Ugly, aren’t you?” 

Louie came skidding into the room, panting and holding the leash of an enormous dog with black and brown fur over a barrel chest. The wild dog shrank against Mr. Warren’s legs as the creature advanced on it, growling.

“Back up, all,” grunted the stranger, tugging the dog back. “These things get nasty.” The men found chairs and propped them up onto tables before sitting eagerly to watch. The stranger let the dog go.

At once it pounced on the wild dog, grabbing an ear in its massive jaws and tearing, snarling horribly. The dog shrieked and leapt back, shaking its head to clear it.

The fight was horrible and over quickly. Miguel closed his eyes so he wouldn’t have to watch the final death-scream of the dog. For all he knew, he could have been great friends with him. He didn’t even know his name.

Louie was laughing and clapping his hands. “Another one!” he cried.

“Alright, but we need a better spot,” said Mr. Warren, who had a big, goofy grin on his face. The stranger laughed and money was passed around.

Miguel still had his eyes shut, and didn’t register for several minutes the presence of the stranger, pressed up against his cage and breathing loudly. His eyes had a feverish, eager light to them. “This one,” he cried. “This one’s perfect.”

Miguel was too shocked to even snap at him. Louie marched forward and dragged him from the cage with another of those foul sticks and into a metal crate similar to the one he’d been carried in.

They were taken to another place for the fight: a room housing several empty wire cages. The dog was dragged into one. Mr. Warren hesitated to release Miguel. “Are we sure he can’t get through the bars?” he asked.

“C’mon, it’s fine. Don’t be such a worrywart. Snake’s gonna be too focused on the dog to even think of gettin’ out.”

Actually all Miguel was thinking about was a way to escape. He could hear the distant thuds of rain on the roof, and all he was focused on was finding a way outside, so he could taste the rain on his tongue, feel it on his scales…

He felt rather than registered the sound of the door slamming shut, and had a few seconds to focus before the dog suddenly leapt at him, huge and bloody, with thick fur and teeth long as Miguel’s head. 

The dog was much larger suddenly, and Miguel shot back to the side of the cage, hissing furiously, his coils sliding against each other, his head arched in a warning. His mind was racing, and he was vaguely aware of clapping from the side.

Kill the dog, then escape, he thought, just as it pounced on him again. Teeth tore into his tail and he let out an angry hiss. And WAKE UP, you idiot!

Miguel slithered to the side, coiling himself up again. As the dog sprang, Miguel lunged forward, hissing a death curse, his fangs plunging into the leg. The dog collapsed, and Miguel surged forward again, sliding over its body, wrapping himself around its limp form. He began to squeeze, and heard cheers. The dog whimpered and Miguel looked down at it.

Its eyes were bulging, its tongue between its teeth, and Miguel felt awful. He loosened his hold. The dog was just as much prisoner as he was, and didn’t deserve to die. 

He slowly turned to face the men, rage pulsing beneath his scales, and lunged through the bars directly at Louie. His teeth sank into his arm and Louie screamed.

The other two jumped up, shrieking, Louie shouting with them. Miguel let go, and slithered to the door, sliding across the ground like a river, fast as he could. It opened a crack and he pushed through, glancing back once at the men shrieking and hopping around at the blood from Louie’s arm.

This is what happens when pigs get bored on a rainy day, he thought, momentarily amused. He moved through the halls as swiftly as he could, knowing one of them was bound to catch up to him soon. The screams had set off the animals, and the Carolina Indoor Zoo of Rare and Exotic Species was roaring, howling, hissing, shrieking, wailing and croaking their support.

Miguel hit the front doors and slid into a beautiful, beautiful rainstorm.

September 11, 2020 15:52

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33 comments

Niveeidha Palani
07:12 Oct 03, 2020

Hi Waverley, this was a lovely story and I love the last line. It was simply mind-blowing. I also loved how the animals could communicate, and somehow, I felt as if your story was very realistic. A beautifully written story!

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Laura Clark
18:15 Sep 23, 2020

I liked this so much! I was completely rooting for Miguel, even before you revealed the dog fighting angle. I’m not a big fan of zoos and so this stark perspective on them appealed to me greatly. You build such great characters - the protagonist was a snake and I still understood his personality very clearly. The three men were also well put together: the reprehensible villains. My only critique is that the men didn’t get more karmic payback. I was half hoping all the animals would break free and attack them. But that’s not a story c...

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You got COVID-19 TWICE Girl, you okay? YOU ROCKkk

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Waverley Stark
09:17 Dec 15, 2020

LOL thanks! My own stupid fault for going to visit my mom... should've known. That woman attracts viruses like a wildfire.

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Elizabeth Inkim
03:37 Oct 10, 2020

Interesting story, the vague point of view made it a bit hard for me to get into the story. I was personally confused as to if it were a human or animal in the beginning, but once more details were revealed it got clearer and easier to read. I really enjoyed the line, “Louie was a foul creature they hated,” because it adds a noteworthy flip side to how people describe animals as fowl; very good dichotomy and reverse. This might be a bit nit-picky but, I think the line, “Confused, Miguel turned a circle, sliding over to the other side and bac...

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Maya W.
19:32 Oct 01, 2020

Hi Waverley (cool name, btw)! I really enjoyed this story. You write dialogue seamlessly, and have a very creative approach to this prompt. I really like the idea of animals having real thoughts, but I often don't see it very well executed, but this was beautiful. Keep up the good work.

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The Cold Ice
05:33 Sep 29, 2020

This was a fantastic story.Great job keep it up.Keep writing. Would you mind to read my story “The dragon warrior part 2?”

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05:13 Sep 25, 2020

Hey, Waverley would you be kind to watch the first video it's on Harry potter. https://youtu.be/KxfnREWgN14 Sorry for asking your time, This my first time to edit video

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Waverley Stark
06:21 Sep 25, 2020

I'd be happy to watch the video, but you should know that the comments section is for giving feedback on stories and saying what you liked. It's not so you can ask for feedback on your own project, especially if it's not a story.

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06:32 Sep 25, 2020

Sorry, I would surely not prompt anything in the feedback section, by the way, thanks!

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Bianka Nova
13:32 Sep 14, 2020

Great story! I can't believe I was cheering for a snake! 😅

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Emma Mohammad
11:30 Dec 05, 2020

Hi Waverly, I've been meaning to ask as I didn't know how else to contact judges. I've submitted 3 stories so far, u receive 10 points simply from being approved but I still have 0. Do you know of any reasons to why they may not be approved? U can read my stories as I assure u they don't contain any harmful, graphic or intense language.

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Waverley Stark
13:27 Dec 05, 2020

Hi there Emma! I'm sorry about your stories. I don't know why they wouldn't be approved, if they're clean as you say they are, then things should be fine. We have a judges chat on Slack and I'll ask around for you. Also, you might want to consider your bio. Have you stated that you're under eighteen on your bio? The rules of the contest state you have to be over eighteen to enter, and a lot of judges have stopped approving teen writers. Happy writing! :)

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Emma Mohammad
00:42 Dec 06, 2020

I don't think I fit any of the concerns but I will look through my work to be sure, thank you

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Emma Mohammad
06:06 Dec 08, 2020

I think my first story did get accepted, but is there any way the ones before could too?

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Sophia Thorne
16:00 Nov 22, 2020

Oh My God. This story was incredible, and I found myself looking for the next page when I finished reading it. The personnification of the animals was so well done that I found myself thinking like a snake. I caught a few mistakes but they are easily overlooked: " ‘I don’t know,” the voice said nervously. " ~ should be "I don't know," " “How long have you been here?” “While,” said the voice. " ~ shouldn't it say "A while" ? Anyways, keep writing, you're doing great!

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Dorian Gray 📖
20:46 Nov 12, 2020

This was a great story, especially in the sense that it exposed animal cruelty for what it is: cruelty. I think this was really good for a snippet, but if you were to extend it, I would try and make us empathize with Miguel, because even if he is a snake, he's the main character. Also, do you think you can solve the puzzle of what book my name is? No one else can.

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Julia Boddie
21:10 Oct 13, 2020

This was a very interesting read. Things I liked: The description of all the animals, the description of the life they lived, the ending, the interesting point of view, the characters, and the idea in general. It was a very creative idea. It was interesting how it began. When I first started reading it, I never expected the fight.

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Hriday Saboo
07:42 Sep 14, 2020

Hey a brilliant zoo I hope it was in real Would you mind reading my stories and just giving them a like

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Waverley Stark
11:09 Sep 29, 2020

Hey Hriday. I appreciate the comment, and I would have been happy to read your story, but I recently stopped reading stories every time someone asks me to. If I get a nice, genuine comment on my story, I will immediately do the same for one of yours. But if I get a half-assed 'Nice story read mine' I will not be reciprocating. Please keep in mind this is not personal. Happy writing!

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Hriday Saboo
13:11 Sep 29, 2020

Thanks and no problem

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A. S.
03:17 Dec 02, 2020

This was a super interesting perspective. I loved being able to see what was happening through a snake's eyes and Miguel was a very interesting character. Reading about what was happening to these animals (however fake I hope they are) made me feel sick, so great job! I honestly want to hear more about what happens to Miguel after his escape! Would you be willing to read through one of my new stories? I really enjoyed yours and would love to hear your thoughts.

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Megan Sutherland
21:09 Nov 26, 2020

Oh, my gosh. Wow. Before I start, let me just I say I was curious because I've seen you mentioned in people's bios and I wanted to come see what all the fuss was about. Let me say, I am impressed! Your descriptions are beautiful. I honestly felt so bad for all of the animals because it seems they aren't treated very well at the zoo where they live. I personally am I huge animal lover, and I hate thinking about how they could be treated cruelly. I feel like Miguel had every good reason to bite Louie. If I were him, I probably would do the s...

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Waverley Stark
08:52 Nov 27, 2020

Hi there Megan. Thank you so much for your lovely comment! Yeah, that's been common feedback; confusion over what animal he is. Don't worry, you're in the right! I've edited the original story on my drive. And sure, of course I'd like to get to know you better. Lemme go comment on one of your stories... :)

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Megan Sutherland
14:03 Nov 27, 2020

Thanks, Waverley! Whew. I'm glad I'm not just crazy. :D

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I.B. Dunn
20:30 Nov 20, 2020

Holy moly, I have no idea how you can write something so amazing where the main character is a snake. I have a fear of snakes and even the smallest of garter snakes can send me running for the hills. Then you introduced me to Miguel. You gave me a different perspective. You made me believe he had deep thoughts and could speak to other animals. I love to write but I can't write like this and I am immensely impressed. The only thing that makes me sad is that you wrote this in September. When you have a gift like yours you should write o...

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Tom .
03:34 Nov 20, 2020

I have read a few animal POV stories this week. But this was my first snake. I liked the research into the different animal types. I also enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would and by the time the fight was about to start I was gripped. It was not immediately obvious that Miguel was a snake and it took me a while to figure that. I might have just been slow on the uptake. Also it would take a bit of thought but it would be interesting to hear Miguel think like a snake. I clearly don't mean adding lots of sss. But as a reptile. I reall...

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Amany Sayed
23:01 Nov 17, 2020

I was honestly sad to see this story come to an end! It was really enjoyable, and I found myself caught up with the action, biting my lip to see what would happen next. The descriptions were great, and I also really liked the names! I have a substitute teacher names MRS. Warren, so I found that funny that you had a Mr. Warren in here. I love how in the first couple of sentences, you don't realize it's an animal, but reading more you kinda get that "Oooooh" moment. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed it! My only critique is missing your stories, th...

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Angelina Tran
18:30 Nov 13, 2020

This plot was super interesting to me! I’ve never read a story like this one so the creativity level is HIGH. It was slightly confusing in the beginning, I wasn’t sure what the main character was. But details came and I got into the story :) I felt there was slightly too much italics but that’s just me! Nonetheless, this was a great read :)

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22:07 Nov 12, 2020

I really liked this story; the descriptions were well-written, the depth of character was laced through the story and the idea of the not-quite-legal dog fights at the end was a great addition. Some things that I think could be adjusted were a few wordy sentences that were a bit difficult to understand and just a few word choices to enhance the story a bit more (like replacing some simple/repeated adjectives). The wordy sentence I was referring to was [Mr. Warren, the zoo head and a creature...] but that could just be my brain not workin...

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