“What the — ?” James woke up in surprise to find himself in a cage with his hands and feet cuffed. The excessive heat and noise, combined with the restrictive space of the cage (he was allowed barely any leg room), made him dizzy. Where were his clothes? It took a few moments to realize that he was in an auction house, and people were bidding on him! 

Well, not really. James frowned deeply when his eyes focused on the figures in front of him. These were animals! Yes, filthy, savage birds and beasts! They were dressed in an anthropomorphic manner—totally ridiculous. They were wearing human clothes and walking on their hind legs! Ugh.

James’s instinctual dislike turned into hostility immediately as he was reminded of a book in eighth grade: Animal Farm. The corpulent and complacent pigs left him what was far from a positive impression. And now these creatures, known for their torpor and good-for-nothingness, were selling him, a noble human, like merchandise? 

Despite the fact that he was bound in chains and trapped in a cage, naked under the appraising stares of a bunch of debonair animals, James held his head high and tried not to quiver when his eyes met those of the auctioneer standing next to him. 

What the hell does this zoo animal want? James thought as he examined the lion holding an auction mallet. There stood the beast wearing a monocle, his formal attire in stark contrast with James’ nudity. The lion’s manes were sleek and shone under the limelight. His navy suit was spotless, and there was not a single crease or stray tuft of fur on it. There was even a silk handkerchief carefully tucked in his front pocket. Why in the world is a beast trying to imitate a civilized creature?

Noticing James’ unfriendly stare, the lion returned him a smile. Yet, the smile was full of disdain and menace. The lion flashed his teeth, and James averted his sight in fear. 

James hastily glanced around the room and saw a crowd of at least seventy animals. There were not only wild beasts but also farm animals. There were German Shepherds standing alongside leopards, all wearing police outfits and with pistols holstered on their belts. Rabbits and hens were able to get quite a view of the stage with the help of elephants and giraffes, on whose heads the smaller animals were perched, as though in box seats. James wrinkled his nose in disgust when he recalled the smell of his sister’s rabbits. Gross! Why are there so many bugs?!!

So what do they want? Why can’t they just shut up! James fidgeted anxiously and was even more irritated when his bound hands could not reach his itching scalp. These lowly animals are supposed to be for us, so that we humans can dominate and use them! Why aren’t they letting me go?

“Silence!” The lion roared. His voice boomed in the room and covered all the other noises. Eyes of different shapes, colors, and sizes were staring attentively at James. The lion, satisfied with the effect, began the auction. “We hereby present: White Caucasian with light brown mane, male, born twenty-three years ago in winter. Has a spot on the left knee and several scars on the back. Otherwise intact, in good condition. Slim build. Suitable for carrying heavy goods, adoption as a pet, or subject for lab experiments. Bidding starts at 10 dollars.”

Ten animal dollars? Hey, I am an intelligent human being! How is that — 

An indignant sentiment rose within James, overshadowing even his surprise at animals speaking human language. Untimely thoughts exploded in his mind—not how to escape, nor what if anything he had done to deserve this. Instead, as he placed his hands on the vertical bars of his cage again, rattling them and yanking on them instinctively, his shoulders sagged with his own impotence. How dare these disgusting — 

“Ha! Another blue-eyed one. Not so rare at all!” jeered the zebra in the first row. She was wearing a fuchsia coat, and though James could not tell the texture or fabric, he knew it was some sort of light material. The zebra had heavy mascara and green lipstick on. In her hand–no, hoof–was a Chinese fan with a floral pattern. What kind of fashion statement is this? 

“My dear cousin, what do these humans do, anyway?” the horse next to her asked with a frown. She had smooth black fur that resembled satin and wore an ebony bowler. The hat made her face look even longer—not flattering. Why did she sport a pink ribbon on her mane, though? It didn’t even match her outfit! James jeered despite his unfortunate situation. 

“They are basically useless! God only knows how they are not yet extinct!” The zebra responded as she eyed James superciliously. “They have no fur or claws, can’t travel long distances or carry weights! I heard that their ponies stay with the mares and stallions until they turn 18, at least. Are they even worth 10 dollars each?”

James’ still upturned mouth froze at its corners, and he was dumbstruck. There was absolutely nothing he could argue against these “circus animals”. They were right. There was no way he could carry 400 pounds on his back like the horses or the oxen. He only hoped that he did not end up on the plate of an “herbivore,” like granny’s pig on his plate many Christmas ago. He imagined himself slathered with a layer of honey before being roasted, an apple in his mouth, and shuddered. 

“Well, I can do something!” He voiced his opposition out loud, and soon realized that it was an abysmal decision. The room exploded with squeaks, cracks, buzzes, roars—a cacophony of each and every named and unnamed sound. 

“What can you do? Can you gallop across cliffs and climb upon the promontory mountains?” The antelope in brown miniskirt challenged. 

“Exactly! Can you win fights against all of your kind and become the alpha of the pack?” The wolf wearing a windbreaker howled. 

“Can you survive in the dessert and find your way to the oasis in the sandstorm?” The camel looked down at James in unfeigned contempt. 

“I… I know how to lead you!” James’ face was burning with embarrassment, but he hollered in vain to convince his adversaries. The room was even more chaotic with noises. 

“You are definitely not worth 10 dollars!”

“Ain’t nobody got money for ya! You useless, arrogant fool!”

“If I bought you, I can’t use you for anything but for a human-skinned handbag!”

James did not need a reminder that he should have kept his mouth shut. He furrowed his brows so tightly that the creases on his forehead could almost be tied into a knot. Before he could utter another word, the animals started another fusillade of critiques. 

“You will be the clumsiest servant ever! You don’t even know where in the hive to put the honey!” 

“You lazy humans pilfer the result of our hard work–and our offsprings!” 

“Right. Where are my baby eggs? Why are they gone at 6a.m. sharp every morning?”

“I mean, you would make a good lab sample…” A squeaky voice interjected. Its high, sharp tone was distinct among all the others. 

Oh no, James groaned internally. This is definitely not a good topic to talk about. He remembered the frog he had to dissect in freshman year biology.  He had had to force himself not to puke then, but the revulsion he was choking on now was even worse. The animals, however, were oblivious to his facial expressions or reactions and started to muse on other possibilities. 

“Oh yes, I mice try to grow mouse ears on you. They mouse fit …” 

“We hamsters can run electricity through your body while you run on a treadmill… we will see your physical reactions when not being warned at all…”

“We rabbits need further research on the human reproductive system… don’t worry, we will do nothing but observe while you procreate with your kind in a glass room… To what extent is the Fibonacci sequence reliable?”

“Baaaad idea! Clone eleven duplicates of him and make them fight each other. See who will win this naaasty brawl…”

“Well, these meek creatures can be used for biochemical testing or nuclear experiments… Ever wondered about how brains work?” 

Before James could work out an escape route in his head, he saw the animals in the audience passing around a giant book, each one of them peering into it with an avaricious look. The book seemed ancient from the yellowy pages. For the first few seconds, James was unable to see what the title was. When he did, however, he blinked. Then he blinked again. 

Traditional Human Recipes (With NEW MEATLOAF RECIPE!). 

James fainted. The last words he heard was “Burn this human. Roast him.”

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