For the zookeepers at Hoson Central, it was a special day: not that the object of their celebration would be too much aware of it. For Rusty, the five hundred kilogram rhinoceros, it was already up to six years since his birth into the world: six years of being watched and admired by hordes of tourists and holidaymakers: small toddlers gazing, transfixed, through the somewhat stained windows, their mouths agape and their eyes alight in gentle delight and fascination. They were seeing the real thing, horn and all, which was rather different from the fluffy stuffed models of rhinoceroses that they had purchased or had seen in the gift shop: They were much larger, for one; or adults, looking somewhat awkward, standing tall over the children and using words of naivety and sweetness, which consisted of words such as “sweetums” and “dear”.
For those six years, Rusty had learned the way of the world: or, at least the enclosure: his world spanned the ten by fifteen rectangular paddock, which contained several patches of pale-green grass, on which he learned was excellent to lie on a scorching day. There were even offerings of food from those strange, upright-walking objects, who had sometimes wandered into the paddock to pat his skin, or to inspect him from every angle conceivable, of which he had gradually got accustomed to: it was rather terrifying at first: he did not know what they were going to do to him, as they quickly approached from a small opening in the glass panel: the food was satisfactory, yet somehow still meagre and insufficient: however, the beings seemed to have understood his wishes, for the food offered slowly grew in size: his mother had stated that this was because they knew that he was rapidly growing and developing: he needed now more nourishment than the last year.
There was even a small area of water, which reached up his legs, lapping and yet massaging the muscles. The water seemed to understand him, to encourage him, to relieve him of all the grime which had found a way to envelop his back. It was then that he discovered, after the first few moments in the water, that this was the singular moment which the beings behind the glass enjoyed the most: their mouths opened wide, and they motioned or beckoned their fellows to see. It was of slight annoyance to him, as he had wanted privacy, a moment to really become acquainted with himself.
The day dawned like any normal day: Rusty slowly opened his eyes to the array of colours which infused the new day: a bird was excitedly calling to its acquaintances from outside, and the sounds of traffic and the construction of a nearby building seemed to be more distant and soft: the ground underneath him was gentle and muddy, following the recent bout of rain that had washed and scourged the land. across from him, the distant calling of the bird could still be heard, and it was soon joined with the hoot of its fellows, the caw of its fellow species, and the very distant rumble of a plane. The clouds scraped thinly across the sky, all with a tinge of pink, or the deepest shade of purple.
Voices issued from the opposite side of the glass: a man and a woman were struggling with the handle. They had between them a large object, covered with a sheet. At last, the door slid open, and the two strode across the enclosure towards him. Strangely, all Rusty’s fear of the humans were dispelled. As the man placed the bundle of leaves, small trees and organic food onto the ground, the woman spoke: she knew that Rusty would not understand, but she had felt that it was right to do so:
“Make a wish.”