I got into an argument with my friend Wil on Facebook last week while I was supposed to be working overnight security at the zoo. It’s an easy job: nobody ever breaks in and the animals never break out. I literally get paid to spend my entire shift writing horror stories sometimes, and if I’m not doing that, I’m watching Netflix or porn on my phone. I wish what I was about to tell you was just more of my fiction. I wish it weren’t true.
The argument was stupid. The question was posed about which woman would win in a fight: Sarah Connor from Terminator or Ellen Riley from Alien. Obviously Wil chose the wrong one and I chose the correct.
Sarah Connor doesn’t stand a chance.
The crowning jewel of my argument was this: we learn in Terminator 3 that Sarah Connor died in the 90s. Wil says this particular film isn’t cannon, but he’s wrong. Schwarzenegger is in the movie. That makes it unquestionably part of the Terminator cannon and an indispensable part of the larger story even if you don’t like it.
He went on to claim that Ellen Ripley was killed by the Xenomorph at the end of the 3rd Alien movie, but that’s only half true…the baby Xeno was inside her and she lowered herself into molten iron. She killed herself to save the world.
It’s kind of funny how similar these movies are. They work on the same tropes. Woman faces monster. Monster tries to kill her. Woman runs away and makes a plan. Woman fights. Woman wins. They both have children they don’t get to raise: Ellen’s daughter dies between the first and second films before she’s ever found in cryosleep adrift in the vastness of space. Sarah is locked in a mental ward after the first movie because she thinks robots from the future are trying to kill her and John is being raised by foster parents. Ellen is clearly more badass though because Sarah dies from cancer in the 90s and while that’s tragic, Ellen literally sacrificed herself to save the world. If you remember at the end of T2, Schwarzenegger lowers himself into superheated metal to destroy himself and save humanity also… Ripley’s basically on a Terminator level there, you follow?
But that’s not the end for Ripley because there was a 4th movie and Sigourney Weaver was in it…so it’s part of the Alien cannon too! You can’t just ignore it because it doesn’t suit you, Wil!
If you haven’t seen the film, Ellen Ripley is brought back to life as a genetically altered clone 200 years after the events of the previous film…and now the Xenomorph is part of her. She has its DNA and her blood is made of acid. Acid! How could you ever think you’d win a fight with a woman who’s blood is acid!?
The 4th one is usually the one that people don’t like the most because the entire thing is like watching a crazy fever dream and Winona Ryder is in it and there’s a weird albino alien mutant that’s pretty much melting like it’s made of ice cream the entire time it’s on screen.
These movies came out 20 years ago, so shut up about spoilers. If you haven’t seen them, that’s on you. Not me.
The argument ended in an abrupt stalemate because Wil said that your clone isn’t ‘you.’ But I disagree. If a clone has all of your memories, it’s totally you. Isn’t it?
I think that’s what scares me the most about what’s been happening here at the zoo. It has been night here for days and I can’t leave.
I felt the impact first. The floor began to rumble beneath my feet and the walls around me shook. A plaque fell to the floor sending shards of glass to scatter like the loot from a diamond heist. My cup fell over, spilling water down the side of a computer terminal that sputtered electricity and quickly died. I wouldn’t have seen any of it if it weren’t for the zoo’s 50 cameras and the wall of monitors in the security office. There, in the center of the gorilla enclosure something glowed hot on the screen, so bright in the night-vision aspect of the camera lens it appeared white and then that camera flickered out.
I felt myself waiting, wondering if this was it. Was this the end of the world? My phone still worked and the security center still had power. The anxious questions proved too much and I found myself grabbing a flashlight and stepping outside to investigate without really realizing what I was doing.
When the zoo closes, the animals are corralled from their pens to separate sleeping areas. Visitors don’t usually know this — especially those trespassing after closing time in order to get a closer encounter. If you don’t believe that this happens often, there are hundreds stories you can Google. Search for the term: “Breaks into zoo” and they’ll come up. Most of the intruders are badly mauled. They probably deserve that because they’re stupid people, but our zoo doesn’t want to subject the animals to dangerous weather patterns overnight or endanger their reputations by murdering stupid people. Not only is it better for the animals this way, it makes it easier to catch someone breaking into the habitats because they wind up not really sure where to go. They end up in the enclosure, but the animals aren’t there anymore. It’s only happened here once to my knowledge, and before I worked here.
I approached the nondescript door and fumbled with my keys in the dark. Once inside, I headed down the corridor leading to the pen. The gorillas have their sleeping area in this hallway. After an event this jarring, I expected them to be riled up and causing a commotion. They were looking out into the hall. Harrison, the male had a glazed look in his eye, and he didn’t make eye contact with me or seem to follow the movement of the flashlight as I swept it across the room. On the other side of the hall, Vanna, the female seemed to be watching everything — as though she were looking through me. Neither of them made a sound as I approached the heavy door that led to the enclosure — I didn’t even hear the air move out from Harrison’s nostrils as they flared. His exhalations were long and quiet in the dark, but I could see as his massive chest rose and fall that he was still breathing.
The enclosure was dark and I might have thought that I imagined the entire thing, were it not for the steady stream of steam emanating from a crater at the center of the habitat. I approached it slowly in the dark and gasped. The meteor was small — about the size of a softball — yet it was a miraculous sight all the same. I stood there for a long while looking at it in awe as it radiated a spectrum of color so unimaginable that language could not do it justice. It was not glowing quite as brightly as when it fell, taking out the cameras. Instead it shimmered with dark reds that were not quite red and blue that was not quite blue. It seemed to be a different color from every angle that I moved my head. Yellow, green and orange. Pink and violet and then back to blue. It seemed to be a different color from moment to moment as I stood still.
When the steam stopped rising up from it, I waited for what was only a few moments longer, entranced, before reaching down to pick it up and found to my shock that it was so cold that I nearly dropped it. It was colder than ice. I began unbuttoning my shirt. The uniform was standard issue with the zoo’s logo printed across the breast and I typically had some sort of shirt on beneath it because the security station was always so cold. My skin prickled against the night wind as I stood exposed in my undershirt and used the uniform as a sling to lift the rock from the ground. I took it back to the security office and placed it on the desk. It was as though it was drawing me in, calling out to me, and I found myself aching at the idea of leaving it there in the lonely room, beneath the wall of monitors while I went to check on the other animals.
I noticed on my rounds that all of the animals were acting strangely. Some staring off. Some following me with their eyes. All were eerily silent in the darkness. The birds in the avian habitat stood quiet in the branches of the trees. The hyenas were noiseless too and the giraffes, who are not moved into a separate enclosure at night stood at the edge of the railing where visitors could pay to feed them. They were almost never here at night, choosing to move away from the walls after the park closes. Their eyes were dark and glazed and their black tongues hung lazily out from their mouths as though they stood in a stupor.
I had to call this in. Something was very wrong here.
I pulled out my phone and dialed my supervisor. It rang a few times before I reached his voicemail. I tried again and it rang only once as he declined the call.
I decided to walk to perimeter of the park and make sure everything was secure before heading back to the precious find that lay hidden and waiting for me in the office. As I approached the main gate, I felt my stomach fall once more. It was gone. It should have been directly in front of me, but it was just — gone. Where the 15 foot iron fence once stood, there was now a swirling dark mist undulating in shades of oppressive gray and black. I stood there for a long time, afraid to get too close. Finally, I reached out and touched the fog. It was viscous, as thick as honey, and colder than ice. I pulled my hand reflexively back in shock and headed quickly through the dark back to my station. I took a few pictures of it from a distance as I went.
I posted about the whole thing on Facebook. It got a few likes. A few of those laughing reactions. One friend even told me that my photoshop skills were improving. When I insisted that the photo was real, he sent that gif of the kid rolling his eyes. You know the one. The kid who mixed up picture day and pajama day. After pajama kid, another friend sent the image of Unimpressed Chloe. I gave up and turned my attention to the meteor.
It wasn’t until a few hours later that I realized something was still off outside. Every animal in every enclosure was still in the same position that they stood when I went to check on them. They were still staring off into space, only now I realized they weren’t staring blankly at nothing in the dark. They were each staring directly into the cameras that recorded them. They were staring out through the wall of screens. Staring directly into my soul. I gasped and took a step back.
That was the first night. Actually, I can’t say that because it’s inaccurate. I have been trapped here for days and the sun has never come up and the black fog at the gate has never dissipated. It’s been about six or seven days now. I know for sure because I’ve been checking the time on my phone. Thankfully I have a charger here.
I’ve called several other employees for help. I’ve called several friends. Most don’t answer when I call. The ones that have usually hang up on me or call me crazy when I tell them what’s going on here. They tell me that there’s nothing about the zoo on the news. I’m beginning to wonder if this is all some sort of trick. Am I some sort of exhibit too? I feel like another animal in another cage, and now there’s something even stranger going on out there in the dark.
I first began to notice that all of the females were slowly getting swollen. Growing. It’s impossible that they all could be pregnant. It’s impossible that they could all be coming to term this quickly.
The female giraffe was the first to begin to move again. She began strutting in circles around the enclosure. Limbs began to emerge from her womb as she flicked her tail. She didn’t seem to struggle or to mind as the limbs of her baby breached her and reached out into the open air. I felt ice water pumping through my veins. I went to the door of the security office and locked the dead bolt. The thing that came out of her was not a giraffe.
I watched as the head came next and the arms planted firmly against the walls of the giraffe’s vagina pressing outward. Pulling itself out like someone using their upper body to pull themselves out of a sewer grate. Pressing against the rear of the giraffe to extrapolate a torso. Legs. Shoes. A full security uniform. I watched as he began to climb the giraffe enclosure walls. I watched as he walked toward the security office, still covered in the slime of afterbirth.
I watched the others as they emerged fully formed from spaces where they shouldn’t have fit. I watched one hatch, a grown adult, unfolding himself outward from a parrot egg. Another climbed from the womb of a lemur. Another from a female rhinoceros. The panda. The fucking endangered panda gave birth to twins. They can’t even keep their own species going and she’s giving birth to two fully formed humanoids. Others climbed out from each of the female elephants too. This happened about 15 hours ago. I’m so tired and hungry and scared.
If a clone has your memories, it’s totally you isn’t it? If it looks like you and speaks English and can say your name — if it says it’s you — is it you?
I’ve never wanted to hurt anything. Not even a fly. I’m pretty meek actually and I’ve stayed out of fights for my entire life.
I began to realize why no one will believe me now and no one has come to help me in my plight. Along with perfect reproductions of my face and form, my uniform and shoes, they each had phones. My phone. These dopplegangers had clones of my phone. They were sending messages and making calls to my friends saying things like “just a prank” and “ok, you’re right. I’m pretty good at Photoshop.”
They even began deleting stories from my Reddit account. I first noticed “This Morning The Sky Was Filled With Prying Eyes” was gone. It had 2,000 votes. Gone. They deleted “The Fingers Tapped My Cortex” and “My Cat Kyle Wants To Work As An Accountant” too. What else are they stealing away from me? What else have they posted to my social medias? I gave up checking. It seemed so hopeless and there were too many of them to stop.
Then they began to text and call. My screen would light up and the incoming number was mine. I never answered.
They text me things like:
“Let us take your place.”
“We want to eat your face.”
“JK let’s be friends. Just let us come inside.”
What is going on outside in the zoo? Am I somehow someplace else? Somehow outside of the world? Another dimension? How can anyone see my Facebook activity? Their activity discrediting my claims and calls for help? How can anyone send me directly to voicemail? How can you be reading this? Am I even posting it? Has someone stolen this account and posted it for me? Could it be one of them? One of the many of me outside be posting it? Are we all posting this? Is the world still real outside of this zoo?
My head is spinning far and away to a very dark place and I can’t take my eyes from this meteor shimmering with the color out of space as I watch them in my periphery on the cameras pound their fists and make calls and texts, and all the while they kick and some even slam their face against the solid metal door, still standing firm against their onslaught as my thoughts become more debase and strange and obscure.
I think Wil might be right, but not about everything. A clone with your memories isn’t you. I would never scream “open this fucking door so we can kill you!” to myself. I don’t hurt myself. I like myself. Still, I think I want to just open it. It’s been over half a day now since I locked it. More than half a day since I saw myself climbing out from that giraffe’s ass. I think I just want this to be done.
I think a clone with your memories probably isn’t you because I’m in here watching all of them on the camera clawing at the door outside and it doesn’t seem like something I would do.
Right or not about the clones, if I die, will someone please tell Wil that I still think Ellen Ripley would kick Sarah Connor’s ass in a fight?