The following article highlights the life of captive animals in circuses. I recently wrote this fiction piece for a writing competition and thought it may impact some of my readers, hopefully enlightening them to the life that circus animals acts still endure in many countries. I will be following this writing piece up with a more factual blog post about the lives of circus acts shortly. Hope you enjoy!
Light did not illuminate her cage. Her eyes had long adjusted to the darkness that surrounded her incessantly. The shrieks and yelps of the other animals replaced her contentment with perpetual torture. Her tongue lolled on the ground as she lay broken in captivity; malnutrition absorbed her control.
Depression and isolation only gave way to terror as the torturer from her nightmares stepped surely into her reality, his whip held high, flicking and swaying with every footstep he took.
She cowered into the corner, fearing submission yet again. The ruthless ringleader bent down, unlocked her cage and gripped her hard by the tail, pulling her towards him like a lifeless carcass, a carcass that she herself should have dragged as prey in another life, her rightful life.
He marched proudly as she trailed behind, lost in a midst of anxiety. His merciless whip trilled on every cage he passed; animals trembled from behind the bars. Other workers carried chains, attaching them to the animals, preparing them for the show.
The gates opened around her, replacing the darkness with a cacophony of noise and bright lights, that narrowed her eyes.
Mesmerised by his sudden appearance, the crowd muffled to a hush as he turned to face them. With a sudden flash of his pointed finger he began to holler commands. From one hoop to another she bounded. As the clown in the circus act, she leapt onto boxes and circled the dancing bear before reluctantly slowing to a halt, to face the dreaded blazing circle of fire.
His callous commands continued unabated and his whip slicked through the air. Hesitantly she leapt for her life through the daunting ring of fire as he glared – stone-faced.
Abruptly, she landed… senseless for a moment. Agony seared through the pink, charred stump where her tail once sheepishly hung.The crowd roared, thoroughly amused, as she grovelled from the flames whimpering from affliction.
Disgraced with her misperformance, he whipped her with all his force, until her stripes were no longer visible, due to the distortion of blood and ragged flesh, before savagely throwing her into a cage within the ring, a limp puppet, unable to move even a whisker.
A torment of hours passed until he returned accompanied by the other circus employees, who eagerly surrounded the cage for a glimpse of her maimed body. They mocked and scrutinised until their nauseating fascination was quenched and they collectively left to continue with their animal patrol, leaving only darkness and the distant cries of animals for company.
She awoke. The air around her smelt of the all too familiar human musk. Her body pounded with pain. Agony seared within her. It was a few seconds until the whiff of stale meat reached her; senses weren’t as sharp when held captive. She slinked to the pile of grotty looking offcuts and without hesitation refilled her stomach.
Once she had licked the floor clean, her ears pricked to the sound of footsteps. He neared closer to her, with only bars separating him from becoming her potential elevenses. Taking off his top hat he smoothed his greasy hair, he unlocked her cage and grabbed her tail in a rapid movement. Excruciating pain penetrated her entire body. Anger shot through her veins. He smirked, his mouth curling into a gruesome grin. Decayed were his teeth, forming dangers that peaked from his gums. His skin was blotchy and withered from age and his hands were stained and calloused due to the constant torture he inflicted.
A deep groan escaped her throat; turning sharply, she bit his hand, clenching it until her teeth slid through his flesh and met again. His brow frowned deeply as he let out a tremendous scream. Tears filled his eyes as he quaked in the corner of her cage, trembling with sheer trepidation.
The tigress’s mouth watered at the sight of him lying so vulnerable, but with all her remaining strength she bolted through the open cage door to enter the maze of caged, distraught animals.
She slunk in utter terror. The workers voices hollered through the room. Nearing closer she felt the urge to whimper back to her cage to prevent further punishment. Fright was all that controlled her as she slinked behind a stack of boxes – the workers directly opposite.
Suddenly, her nose filled with a foreign sensation and her fur ruffled in the fresh air that immersed her in security. The tents opening flapped in the breeze. She stopped. Stood in awe. Sunlight pierced through the aperture where she stood, dappling her paws and cascading down her chest. There the door stood. Her exit from torture. Freedom stood only paw’s away.
Yells of the workers pricked her ears. All her hope became disfigured. Adrenaline exploded through her muscles, fresh air filled her lungs and she leaped from the tent.
Immediately, she became dedulged. The clamour of the outside world rang her ears and her eyes squinted against the brightness that surrounded her in a painful glare.
Hundreds of people scuttled the area, screeching over the sound of cars that roared passed the market stalls and city buildings. She ran through the people, paths being made for her as she went and dodging vehicles that whizzed in a blur.
Determination fueled her every move; she was so close.
The streets filled with intimidating crowds diluted into a sea of alley ways. Hesitant, she paused….The circus workers had encircled her, blocking her escape. Chains and bats were firmly grasped in their hands. They began to enclose around her, the gaps between then narrowing with each step they took. Children pushed their way to the front of the inundating crowd to peer at the unique event, their eyes cruel. She snarled and bared her yellowed teeth, the crowd gasped in reply.
One reached out; too close.
She pounced on his arm, her paws batted his face and pinned him the floor. She crunched into the bone, raised her head and revealed a harrowing wound. He wailed in pain and fear as the other workers rushed to join him, cursing and throwing their bats to scare her away.
No exit was blocked.
No freedom was further prevented.
One look back into the eyes of her captives and she slinked through the darkness of the alley. As she reached the end of the alley a view was formed. Green mountains outcropped from the buildings and trees formed a natural barrier. Birds sang into the clean crisp air as she peered into the natural world, the place she belonged and she no longer hesitated to join it.
She sprinted through the thick forest, never feeling so alive. Her paws sunk into the warm soil the leaves swaying delicately in the breeze. Her nose tingled with the fresh air that surrounded her. Air free from human musk or city pollution. Air in which birds glided and soft sun rays fell to the ground. Her muscles burnt welcomingly as she ran, hoping to never stop.
New instinctual sensations engulfed her. The desperation to hunt overwhelmed her. She could smell for acres and hear the smallest of sounds. Her body and senses were one, a family once again reunited, forming a stronger bond. She now inhabited a vast space of beauty home to millions of creatures, all equal, all important and all free. Peace filled her heart. No bars limited her, no fear weighed her down. She was free, and she adored it.
Written by Matilda Dunlop