I never wondered if household pets had it better than those animals kept in the zoo. It’s not something one would think about, until they are either one of those things. And when would a reasonable, upright-standing human being ever have the occasion?
When I woke up that day, everything was darkness. Metallic wafts of some harsh kind of solvent wandered into my nose. I fumbled my way through the pitch black, eventually touching what I could only guess were a few leaves of iceberg lettuce. I had a thin suspicion that I was still alive, as I had a hard time imagining that either pole of the afterlife smelled or tasted like this.
That suspicion ebbed for a moment as—after a bountiful feast of lettuce things during that first day—the air grew thin. I felt woozy. I don’t think my eyes started to get heavy, but then again, the sight was the same whether my lids were open or closed. I could feel myself floating away. If this was the end, I’d want to say it was an odd one, but I didn’t have anything with which to compare.
And then, there was light. Sudden; jarring. Three bright, shining holes appeared above me, and I could breathe again.
Days passed like this. Three rays of light, and enough lettuce to feed a king, assuming a king would ever want to eat lettuce. I was contained in some kind of metal box measuring ten meters in any direction. The holes of light were in the ceiling of one corner, the supply of lettuce was stacked in another. Yet a third corner had a tank of water that would soon be bone dry. The fourth corner I used for any… other needs that might arise. I tried not to think about the fourth corner unless I really needed it.
On the third day, the ceiling above me parted and split open. A rush of fresh air and blinding light filled the box, illuminating all four corners of my living arrangements, much to my consternation.
Giant claws pierced the light and grabbed me. The inner ridges of the claws were not sharp, but that made them no less terrifying. I squirmed, but in retrospect I had no hope that it would do any good. My eyes adjusted to the new world and I met my new masters. Spindly, insectoid, and green. Two of them were in were in front of me; one bigger and one smaller. The smaller one—who had plucked me from the box—considered with an array of segmented eyes. The harsh contours of its face betrayed no expression.
“What is happening to me?!” I called out to the creatures. In response, a sound like the largest booming trumpet ever forged echoed back to me. The smaller one rubbed its claw around my face. I squirmed again, tried to scream, and the trumpet is all I got for my trouble.
Years passed like that. The food got a little better, pellets the size of my fist that tasted like a distant memory I had of meat. I came to rely on it, and the long stretches where I wasn’t fed were filled with anxiety that could only be salved by my master’s return and a fresh supply of food. I came to rely on them and even—in my weakest moments—came to feel something like affection for them.
It made me only hate them more.
Better food was out there, too. Somehow, my captors had gotten a hold of a number of items that were indistinguishable—at least, to me—from a New York-style pizza. To get even a whiff of such treasures, I had to perform all sorts of demeaning tricks. Mostly, those tricks consisted of sitting in a human-sized chair they pointed to. Apparently, these creatures from another world were not the most discerning audience in the cosmos.
I wouldn’t do it. I was a human being, damn it! The most evolved form of life on my planet. I would not be reduced to a pet for these things. They were the animals!
But here I am, sitting in their damn chair like a good human, and I’ll be getting some of that pizza here in only a moment.
I still sometimes wonder if the zoo animals or the domesticated have it better. Zoo animals are cared for more carefully. They sometimes get companionship in the form of other animals.
And yet, this new life of mine has its charms. They seem to like me an awful lot. Maybe I’ve just gotten used to them.
At this rate, I’ll probably never know which one has it better.