Protected Species

The bear stood eight feet high, taller in death than it was in life. It loomed over them, roaring on two legs, arms outstretched, mouth gaping. It’s teeth and claws were both longer than they had been in Alaska. It’s eyes weren’t black anymore, they shone blue with savage red corners. It’s wounds had been disguised with sewing and makeup. As bad as it had once smelt, at least it had stank of life, not mothballs.

Because it wasn’t real. It was as fake as the lie that would be told about it’s killing.

The beast was housed inside a gilded birdcage that stood in the centre of the Great Hall, a vast ballroom that would have been the pride of Foxglove in bygone days. Like all of the Foxglove rooms Jack had seen it was dusty, shuttered, devoid of life and love, it’s chandeliers unlit. The house had long lost it’s prestige.

Leo ushered them in, his excitement growing as a child would on Christmas morning, but his enthusiasm wasn’t contagious. Jack was a bemused servant, Blake idly played with her phone, Toby smarmily nodded and smiled his crocodile grin, Ralph just wanted to lie down.

IT WAS THE CREATION OF ARTIFICE

Jack understood why it didn’t impress as Leo imagined, he knew how the faux animal had been created. When Jack had finally dropped the rancid carcass off, the taxidermist offered him a cup of tea before packing him off into the night. The man enthused profusely about the extensive process he would undertake on the animal, and the more he talked the more pointless it sounded to Jack.

It was the creation of artifice. The bear would be gutted, it’s muscles, innards and last remnants of flesh discarded. Only the hide would be used, stretched over a wire frame, with fake claws, teeth, tongue and eyes added to support the hoax. The taxidermist was a craftsman, skilled and obsessive enough to believe he was an artist. What a waste of life, thought Jack, and it sickened him to have aided the once noble creature’s demise for such a purposeless end, as a vanity project for a spoilt brat.

Rosie and Thomas, I did it for you. I’m here for you. Jack had to remember that when he heard Leo’s attempt at a showman’s spiel.

“It was pursuing a lone walker on the plains, when we picked up it’s trail. It’s carnivorous intent was clear, and the rambler was lucky we were there. A single shot saved the silly wanderer’s life, and the beast was felled seconds before it ripped the grateful man in two. We later found the remains of other missing travellers in it’s belly. A truly fearsome man-eater that would gorge no more.” They clapped, and he beamed in their sham applause.

It was just a big fat lie, and like all lies and liars, the louder they shouted, the more their audience just gave in and accepted it.

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