The Human Zoo
The Intergalactic cruiser touched down on Planet Earth just after the sun reached its peak on January 23, 2610. The spaceship was entirely organic, constructed from an iridescent material that didn’t exist on any other planet in the Earth Solar System. It shuddered amongst the tall grasses of the open African plane, with nothing more than a quiet hiss to rustle the grass.
There were fifty of the most elite Zoracian scientists on board the ship. Each one had left behind their families and friends for a duration of unknown time in the hopes of reaching the newly opened Human exhibit at the Earth Research Zoo and studying it.
Their excitement was palpable as each one, having awoken from years of slumber, took in the opening to the zoo, where they were met with a stony eyed Zoracian woman greeted them. She had a similar face to that of the Humans, save for the monstrous height, additional limbs, and having enormous, glowing, amber eyes.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Earth,” she announced. “My name is Zalithia and today we are going to embark on a journey through time. As one, we will encapsulate the wrongdoings of a species that was once expected to thrive.” The scientists nodded their heads.
“Please sign the attendance register and grab your information packages. We will begin shortly.” With that, she turned on her heels and walked inside the nearby office, leaving the scientists to sign in.
When Zalithia returned, she promptly briefed the scientists on the safety procedures. She also explained more about the Earth’s atmosphere.
“The reason Earth has such deadly heat is because a catastrophic climb in carbon dioxide over the last few centuries has been collecting in the atmosphere and absorbing solar radiation. Many years ago, the radiation would have escaped into space, but the pollutants created by Humans built up over time and became trapped, causing the Earth to get increasingly hotter.” She explained that this, along with radiation poisoning, were what caused most species to die.
“Now, let’s begin.” Zalithia clapped her hands together and feigned a smile at the guests who were eagerly grasping at their virtual notepads, recording, and photo devices.
“As most of you are aware, the purpose of the Human Exhibit, is education. In the last millennia, Planet Earth has become a battlefield between Humans and their world. This zoo is the last hope to protect the Human species from destroying themselves into extinction. By providing food from other planets, shelter from the sun, and education, we hope to one day allow humans to live freely on their planet again.” Zalithia explained.
She led the passengers down a dimly lit hallway to a large floor to ceiling glass window. The window looked out on an enormous garden. There were bonsai trees lining the blooming flowerbeds, a pond the size of a lake filled with dazzlingly flowering lily pads, and a bright red bridge that intersected the middle to allow the perfect vantage point for watching the Koi swim gracefully in the water. Large trees were a riot of colour across the expanse of the gardens and created shadows that danced in the artificial sunlight. In the distance, fields of wheat and rice could be spotted, along with tiny Humans who were elegantly fitted with pointy straw hats. This exhibit was Zalithias favourite because of the magnificent environment it exposed.
“Ladies and gentlemen, here we can see the Traditional Asian Exhibit. The expanse of Asia covered a large majority of the world, with over 65% of the world’s total population. They were an industrious, hardworking, and strenuous people. With this exhibit, we want to stress the importance of population control. The quickly growing continent of Asia aided in the overpopulation of Earth’s surface which eventually led to the deadly plague of 2295.” Zalithia stood aside to allow the scientists time to study the exhibit.
“We want to allow the survivors of Earth to inspire wonder in other species. We want them to help illuminate the tangled and fragile web that combines animals to their planets. Oh- here come some Humans now!” Zalithia pointed to the left where a group of men were carting a wheelbarrow filled with grain. Getting to see the humans up close was by far one of the most interesting things she had done in the last hundred years. She wished there was an opportunity to interact with them and to hear about their lives, but, the Humans feared and despised the Zoracian. She often wondered why.
The scientists murmured as they wrote notes and snapped photographs.
After gathering enough data, Zalithia ushered the scientists into an adjourning room filled with photographs and paintings. The first image in the gallery held a family in a living room where a large tree stood by a crackling fire. A tall Human male wobbled on a ladder to hang a tiny figurine atop the tree, while a female held a small toddler and a glass of red wine. Two older children, covered entirely in glittering tinsel and fairy lights, stood grinning next to the ladder. The scene indicated love, a Human emotion that eventually assisted their downfall. Zalithia often pondered the idea of love when she viewed this image. What did it feel like? Her people taught her to believe that love was the reason so many wars were fought on Earth, but what was it like to fight to the death over something you love? There was something in the way the painting captured the smiles and happiness that made Zalithia jealous. Her strict society depended solely on education and knowledge advancements. But what if there was also love?
The next exhibit was a small viewing platform with several windows that were illuminated by bright yellow lights. Inside each room was a single bed, one male, and one female Human.
“Here is one of our breeding areas. Each year we selectively choose the best male and female candidates to mate in order to reproduce. Once we know the female has fallen pregnant, the pair are released. The females are sent to the birthing centre and the males back into their exhibits.” In one room, grunts and moans could be heard; in the next, indiscrete chatter. One of the rooms held a tiny, fair-haired female who was pacing the wall back and forwards. Her fear was palpable; her tears streaming fluently down her rosy cheeks. The male sat on the mattress with his head in his hands. The scientists watched the naked girl wander her tiny room, entirely impassive to the trauma behind the glass.
“This is what the Humans call emotion,” explained Zalithia.
“It is believed that the Human female is terrified of the male as this is her first mating. The male is frustrated because he does not wish to be mating again this season. Humans see this as a loss of free will, meaning that they do not get to make their own choices. A catastrophic feature, thankfully, we do not ever have to worry about.” The scientists were unable to comprehend why a species would wish to make their own decisions. For Zoracians, life was all about order and structure and being told what to do and when to do it. If the leaders chose you to reproduce, you would simply do it and move on. No questions asked. But Zalithia regularly wondered, what if she had the opportunity to choose?
“Humanists believe that the act of free will is what led to so much corruption between their leaders and people. For there to be free will, it meant people would make choices that were not always for the greater good. We want to ensure population control here at the Human Zoo. By implementing a toxin into the water supply, Humans are unable to reproduce unless they are chosen for the mating season. This way, we can oversee the correct procedures for each birthing and guarantee we are maintaining a steady number of deaths and births throughout the year.”
“Can they see us?” questioned a scientist.
“No they cannot,” replied Zalithia. “The glass is one way. The Humans think they are in complete privacy. Their nature to breeding requires a more intimate approach than we Zoracian. They prefer to do so with ones they feel strong bonds, rather than for the purpose of reproducing strong and intelligent offspring.” This stirred a murmur in the crowd.
“You mean, for pleasure?” asked a large male.
“Yes, we are not entirely sure of the reason, but unlike us, Humans get a lot of enjoyment out of their reproductive actions.” Zalithia shrugged.
“Very interesting,” murmured several of the scientists. Zalithia agreed with the statement. It was very interesting that Humans used reproduction for pleasure. She often questioned what it would be like to feel those things with another being. Living on Earth for so long was definitely getting to her. Shaking her head, she turned to the scientists and continued the tour toward an enclosure that read ‘Arctic.’
“Now, as some of you will know, Humans developed great civilisations on planet Earth. These civilisations spawned all over the planet and were characterised by cities that separated inhabitants from the nonhumans and wilderness. For 95% of their recent existence, contact between the wilderness and civilisation ceased, creating barriers that were integral for survival. We intend to cross the distance between these barriers and understand why Humans neglected the Earth so much.” The exhibit that followed highlighted the harsh environments of arctic weathers. With tiny huts sheltering the Humans from an icy maelstrom, the scientists did not get a great view on humanity, only an insight into the struggles of survival on the freezing spectrum of the planet.
The following exhibits showed the scientists several of the different species amongst the race. One highlighted the Australian red desert, with brown skinned Humans sitting around a fire singing songs and cheerfully playing music. Another enclosure educated the scientists on childhood and the importance of teaching a child to learn the basics of humanity: eating, talking and going to the toilet. This room was Zalithias favourite as it was where she worked most often. She had always enjoyed working with the education team back home, so when she was asked to monitor the birthing and teaching of children, she was very grateful for the opportunity. A lot more than she was when they asked her to lead scientists through the Zoo.
“Humans are a rather unintelligible species, with a rather backward opinion on life,” she said. “They have barely scraped the barrel on understanding their cosmos and their physics falls way behind ours. Fortunately for them, we have come to aid them in their survival and teach them how to grow their young into intelligent and prosperous beings so they will not make the mistakes they did before.” The scientists agreed.
Another exhibit showed an open field where straw huts were formed in small circular rings as far as the eye could see. Conversations here buzzed. Zalithia explained that this was a prime example of the word ‘society.’ Societies were built on structure and rules through their interior engineering. The way the Humans cheerfully interacted with one another, whilst doing jobs such as carrying in food from the farms and water from the wells, made them look happy.
The final exhibit, not so much.
As Zalithia took the scientists down a dark hallway to the last exhibit of the day, her exterior changed. No longer was her friendly Zoracian persona. Just because it was her duty to entertain the scientists and showcase humans in all their spheres did not mean she wanted to delve into the faults in their extremities. What her kind were doing with the Humans made her bones raw with a feeling she had never experienced before- resentment.
“It is our belief here at the Human Zoo that interplanetary passengers are to be shown all aspects of humanity. What you see here is a prime example of the malfunctions in their development. Humans categorised it into seven steps: The Seven Deadly Sins.” Zalithia opened the door to allow the passengers to file in one by one.
What they were greeted with was a dimly lit room with seven tiny cells separated by thick iron bars. Each cell was illuminated by a white light and filled with a chair that held a male in chains.
In a whispered voice, Zalithia spoke:
“Here we are witness to seven criminals amongst our captives at The Earth Research Zoo. Each of these seven criminals have exploited our generosity by sinning one or several of the sins. These are crimes that are truly unforgivable.” The scientists scrambled to jot down notes. There was no crime in their society. Everyone lived in equal harmony, with one goal to serve their planet and develop their understanding of the world.
In the first room sat a man whose body was slumped against a chair. His limbs lay flaccid against his body and his head hung back in an unnatural angle. The man’s sin was sloth which was described as a habitual aversion to exertion through inactivity and lack of concern to assist others. Humans often referred to this as laziness and it was a terrible trait that created many health problems. As the scientists watched, two large workers dressed entirely in white suits, entered the room. They walked toward the slumped man and placed a needle inside his arm. One of the workers held the man into the chair as he stirred, whilst the other injected the substance into the prisoners veins. In a matter of seconds, he was dead. With her lips pursed, Zalithia explained:
“We believe it is important to punish those who commit crimes. In order to maintain a peaceful environment, there has to be consequences for bad actions.” She internally cringed at the word we.
In the second room lay a ginormous human male whose body was shaped in large rolls.
“Here we can see a man whose greed and gluttony for food forced others to starve. The insatiable longing for food and overindulgence for several years led to him being an unhealthy and dangerous male. For that, he will be executed.” The same scene played out before the scientists. Two workers entered the room and the scientists watched as they put the man to death. Zalithia closed her eyes as they injected the fluid.
“We believe that greed and gluttony are two of the most harmful sins on planet Earth. They lead to people being severely marginalised. This means that whilst some people were bathing in their riches, others were suffering.” The scientists whispered among themselves, unable to imagine living in a world where equality and monotony did not rule.
In the third room sat a man whose wide eyes were bloodshot. Sweat rippled off his skin which was convulsing in violent shakes. As the group approached, the man started screaming. Loud, hoarse, howls that erupted from him like thunder exploding from the sky.
“This is what they call wrath. Wrath, anger and frustration often lead to violent actions. This man was caught attempting to harm our scientists on several occasions. As his behaviour has not improved, he will be dealt with.” Zalithia flinched as his screams continued. This time, four workers entered the cell. The violent man lunged for the one closest to the door, landing a solid head butt to the shoulder. As he did, the second worker pulled a large rod from his waist and tazered the man until he seized so violently he began to froth from the mouth. Then, silence.
The final four rooms showcased similar scenes. Zalithia explained the faults in pride, envy, lust and greed and how each of these eventually led to Humans destroying themselves. After her explanations, workers appeared and put the men to death. Two of the humans never moved a muscle, whilst the other two wept and cried in fear. The result was the same.
After the scientists finished compiling their notes on the seven deadly sins exhibit, Zalithia led them back to the main entrance.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this concludes our tour of the Human Exhibit at the Earth Research Zoo. As you are all aware, only through education will intergalactic planets learn from the mistakes of Humans and prevent themselves from falling into the same catastrophic outcomes. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.” Zalithia swallowed back the bile rising from the last exhibit. The first few times she had led a tour through the zoo, she barely blinked an eye. As time went on, something inside her was shifting. Was it empathy for the Humans? She wasn’t sure what it was, but it wasn’t good.
Then, almost as fast as they came, the fifty Zoracian scientists boarded their ginormous ship. Zalithia waved at them from the loading dock. With brains filled with new knowledge on the Human species, the spaceship silently slipped away. Zalithia stood watching until long after they were nothing but a speck amongst the expanse of the galaxy that was flickering and glittering with shining stars.