Kirta's father was a senior official in the Party. She never knew exactly what he did, but she knew that, and as she grew up, she learned what it meant. It meant that from the moment she started school, the classes she went to had three or four children in them, and the teachers were alert and careful and taught well. It meant that she learned art and music and languages as well as the required subjects. It meant that for her pre-university year, she could study government and politics, which were restricted subjects at the vast battery schools the driver took them past in the mornings, where twenty thousand students streamed in through the gates every day. It meant a lake house in the summer and island beaches in the winter. It meant that her friends were the children of other officials, governors and ambassadors.
And it meant risks. They never mentioned the risks, never talked about them, but Kirta knew they were there. If the reigning ideology shifted, or something went wrong in her father's department. . . well, Kirta had had to attend public executins, along with her family--it showed that they were enthusiastic supporters of the government, that they wanted to see saboteurs and foreign agents given what they deserved for trying to interfere. Saboteurs, foreign agents, and their families, lined up and shot before the football games could start.
When the driver took her past the tree-lined boulevard that led to her pre-university campus, Kirta froze in the back seat, and turned to look at the guard next to her. He wasn't one of her usual guards, and he didn't have any expression at all. Maybe there'd been some sort of attack, and they were taking her to a safe zone? But the district didn't look like anything safe at all. Factories and tenement blocks. The driver parked in front of a building that Kirta didn't recognize, a massive concrete thing with machine gun nests at the corners and barricades between it and the street
"This way, please," said the guard, and Kirta followed. He was massive and armed, and sometimes the families lined up for execution were bruised and bloody, but sometimes they weren't. If it was going to happen, Kirta would rather not be beaten first. And maybe it was something less? They'd hold her and threaten her father through her, and release her when he did what they wanted?
She went through the steel gates of the facility, wincing as they clanged shut behind her. Up past soldiers, and more soldiers, into a room with a tile floor and white painted walls. There was a doctor's table on the side of the room, and a scale, and a desk on the other side. Kirta had earned a medal for academic excellence the previous year, and she wore it on her sash. She stood there, shivering in the cool of the room. Trigonometry and rhetoric weren't going to help her now. Two soldiers in uniform stood guarding the door, craggy, blank faced. Kirta didn't even try talking to them. She just waited, until a man with a white coat came in through that door.
"Kirta An-Cassin?" he said. "Remove your clothing, please."
"Please," she said. "Can you tell me--"
One of the soldiers stepped away from the door and punched Kirta in the stomach. Hard, and she wasn't ready for it. She collapsed to the floor, curling up, trying to breathe, unable to breathe. She'd known that they might, but it was so sudden, and she hadn't really even had a chance to comply. She'd just tried to ask--
"Kirta An-Cassin," said the man in the coat. "Remove your clothing, please."
Kirta was blinded by the tears in her eyes, and she couldn't breathe, and her fingers were working on the buttons of her shirt, frantic. A soldier had hit her. That meant that they were willing to risk harm to her. She didn't know what was going to happen to her, not really. The only thing she'd seen had been those executions in the football stadiums, but that wasn't the only thing the government would do. They'd arrest people to put pressure on family members--it could be that it was going to be the football field and the rifles, but it might not be. She might be back home before dinner, or she might be buried in an unmarked grave. For there to be a chance of the first, she had to do what they said, to avoid the second.
By the time she got the first few buttons of her shirt undone, she could breathe again. First a heaving gasp that hurt almost as much as not breathing had, then again, less painful. She'd never really thought about how grateful she was to be allowed to breathe. She'd do what they said as best as she could, and hope that it was all a mistake, hope that it was all going to go away. Because if she didn't do what they said, there was a really good chance it would all go away.
"Shoes and socks as well, please," said the man. "Thank you."
When Kirta was naked, one of the soldiers--the one who hadn't hit her--put her clothing into a heavy envelope, her shoes into a cloth bag. Then she had to sign the envelope and the tag on the bag. That was. . . hopeful? That maybe they would give them back to her soon? Only that was also the sort of thing the government did. Made sure that everything was done according to regulations, even if there wasn't any reason for it. There were rumors that the people who were executed had to be approved for time off of work before they could be shot, and Kirta believed it.
She stood there, one arm across her breasts, another down over her crotch as the man in the coat filled out names and dates and so on on the tags she'd signed. She didn't have any illusions about being allowed to maintain any privacy for much longer, but it was cold in the room, and she was naked, and the way the three of them looked at her . . . she kept her arms where they were, until they told her to move them.
First she was weighed and measured and that was written down. Tall for her age. Probably wouldn't get much taller--her mother and her sister had both stopped growing at nineteen, and Kirta's birthday was in another month if they didn't shoot her. No comments about that. No comments about anything. Just sit here, stand there, open, hold this there. It was as thorough as any check-up she had ever gotten at the doctor's. More thorough. He checked her height and her weight and her reflexes and temperature--the thermometer hadn't been lubricated before it was jammed into her ass, and that hurt almost as much as when he had pulled her legs apart and pushed the massive, freezing cold speculum inside of her.
"Fine," said the man in the coat when he was done. "This one is healthy enough for it." What it was, and what they'd have done if she wasn't healthy enough weren't questions that Kirta would've asked even if she thought they'd answer her. She didn't want to know. There was a folder on his desk. He signed a few pages, and gave it to one of the soldiers. The other one gripped Kirta by her upper arm, and then the two of them steered her out into the corridor. She took one last look behind her, at the envelope with her clothing in it, and the bag with her shoes. Those were sealed, she had signed for them, they would be returned when it was done. It was going to be okay.
She didn't want to leave her clothing behind, but she knew better than to try to struggle against that hand on her upper arm. She left, into the hallways of the facility, wearing nothing at all.
Whatever the place was, it was big. The harsh smell of industrial cleaners was everywhere, long fluorescent lights overhead, and men in uniform as well as men in plainclothes walking through the corridors with purpose. Kirta couldn't cover herself, not at the pace she was being pulled along, but it seemed that a naked and frightened girl being hurried along by a pair of soldiers wasn't an unusual sight. Some of the men leered at her as she passed, but there wasn't any surprise or sympathy.
The soldiers led her out to a truck. One of the unmarked military trucks that the police sometimes used. No window, and a long bench inside with a bar underneath. The cuffed her hands behind her back and her leg to the bar, and then the put the folder on a length of twine around her neck so that it slapped against her breasts with every bump on the road.
Leaving the folder so close to her but keeping her restrained so that she couldn't read it was cruel, but they weren't really trying to be cruel to her. It was just that they wanted the folder with her, and they wanted her hands behind her back. What had happened, what was coming--none of it was about her. It was about her father, about her father's enemies in the Party. What was coming wasn't going to be good. It might leave her maimed or dead. But it wasn't going to be about her.
It was cold, though. Kirta had been shivering since the driver hadn't taken her to school, and she couldn't stop, in the back of that police van. She was still shivering when they took her out of the truck, out through a parking lot that was bright in the sunlight.
It smelled strange and rank, and Kirta heard a babble of voices from behind the trees that fenced in the lot. A prison? But no--there wasn't any regimentation in the rise and fall of the voices. No shouts of guards, no murmurs of prisoners. She tried not to acknowledge the thick fear in the back of her thoughts. It could've been the crowd outside a stadium. But the smell was wrong, and stadiums were too tall for her not to see them because of some trees.
The guards at the door were surprised to see a naked woman there. But they knew what soldiers meant, and they saluted stiffly as a solider unlooped the twine from around Kirta's neck and passed the folder to them. One of them took it inside at a trot. The other one stood there and stared at her.
The soldier's hand was hard and hot on Kirta's upper arm, and she shifted her weight, trying not to look at any of them, trying not to be there, trying to be back at school, where the literature and rhetoric lectures would have finished, and the waiters would be laying out lunch.
It didn't take too long before someone came out. Middle aged man, wearing a suit. "This is the one?"
The soldier shrugged with a pointed glance at the folder. The man humpfed, looked through it. "She's eighteen?"
"She's old enough," said the soldier. It was the first time Kirta had heard him speak. His voice was lighter than she had expected it to be, more cultured. He might have been someone she met at a party, might have been a student who she met next year at university.
The man looked Kirta up and down. Kirta blushed, and turned away.
"I can see that," he said. "But we were told we'd be starting with someone older."
"Is there a problem?" asked the soldier. "Director won't be happy, but if this one won't work, we could--"
"She'll be fine," said the man. He put a chain collar around Kirta's neck, one with inward pointing spikes all along its length. He gave it a sudden jerk and it tightened. "You are not to stand."
Kirta looked at him, uncertain. Not to . . .
"Crawl," he said. Another, harder pull on the chain. The spikes drove into her skin, and the chain tightened further, making it hard to breathe. Hesitantly, Kirta dropped to her hands and knees on the heated asphalt of the parking lot.
"Good," said the man. "If you stand, you will be punished. If you speak, you will be punished. If you act inappropriately, you will be punished. Nod if you understand."
Kirta didn't understand, not entirely. But she couldn't say so--she wasn't supposed to talk. It was easier to nod, and let her head hang down.
"Good," said the man. The chain had loosened enough that Kirta could breathe, but the spikes were still there, poking at the sensitive skin at her neck.
"We're supposed to confirm that she's in place," said one of the soldiers.
"Of course," said the man. "The habitat has been ready for more than a month. If you'll follow?"
A tug at the chain, but instead of leading her into the building, the man started walking toward the gate to the parking lot, and Kirta had to scramble to keep up. When he unlocked the door of the employee lot, the sounds and the smells all came into place, and it made a horrifying kind of sense. They were in the municipal zoo, and he was tugging her out from behind the zoo building into the paths that led between the exhibits. Kirta wasn't ready for that. She couldn't have been. But when she lagged behind, the points of that chain bit into her neck, and there were the two soldiers behind them, clips in their rifles.
She followed him because she couldn't do anything else, crawling along where vendors were selling buns and balloons and popcorn, and children yelled and ran, and parents plodded solidly behind. Kirta had to, but she couldn't. She stopped for a second, pulled back in an instinctive attempt to get out, to get back to that truck, to make everything go back to how it was.
It was the closest she would get to going back home, but there wasn't any way that she could make it happen. The chain around her neck tightened when she pulled against it. The man yanked, pulling her back, pulling it so tight that spots swirled behind her eyes and the spikes drove into her neck almost hard enough to draw blood.
"Heel!" he barked, and Kirta did. She was blushing, and not just because she was being led naked through the zoo. She was blushing because she'd tried to run, she was blushing because she wasn't trying to run. Neither of those who were she thought she was. But then, she'd never thought that something like this would happen to her. Kirta had known that the government did things like this, and worse. But she'd thought that if it happened to her, there'd be a way out, or. . . .
There wasn't a way out. As she crawled, the rocks in the concrete bit into her knees and her hands, and even though she tried to see nothing besides man's pants, she still saw people's faces, children staring and parents pulling them away. She heard comments, people's cameras, laughter. If it weren't for those soldiers, maybe someone would've helped. But everyone knew what those soldiers meant, and nobody would intervene.
Even if the soldiers weren't there, there were plenty of people who wouldn't have intervened. Some of those comments. . . .
They led her past apes and crocodiles and brightly-colored birds which shrieked and cawed as they led her past their cage. To an empty cage with hay scattered on the floor, a trough of water and a trough of dried kibble bolted to the bars at the side. The man unlocked the cage and pulled Kirta in. Then he loosened the chain, pulling it off her neck. She tried to accept it, tried to stay, but the soldiers hadn't come in with them, and the man was heading out through the door of the cage.
Maybe if the cage hadn't been one of the heavy ones that they used to use for lions and tigers. But those bars were so thick and heavy. As the crowds outside the cage watched, Kirta ran toward the door, toward the man who was still standing there. "Please," she said, looking at him. He had to have children, or he could-- "Please, I don't--"
He reached back and slapped her across the face so hard that he knocked her down onto the straw of the enclosure. "You do not speak, and you do not stand," he said. "If you behave for the remainder of the day, your punishment for this will be less."
She moved toward the door of the cage, and he lifted his hand again. She cowered back, and he gave her an approving nod. Then he stepped out of the cage, back towards the soldiers, locking the door behind him.
One of the soldiers spoke up. "Where are the--"
"Once she is acclimated to her new habitat," said the man, "we will introduce other animals to the exhibit."
"How long?" asked the soldier.
"This is all in the report that I've given to the director."
The soldier said nothing.
"Three days, perhaps? Or four. It depends on her."
"He wants this ready," said the soldier. "Three days."
The man sighed. "There may be some damage to the specimen."
The soldier shrugged again. "She can be replaced. But the director wants to demonstrate this soon. Three days."
"If she's. . ." the director looked like he had more to say, but he didn't say it. "Three days."
That was the way things worked. A director said something, and you did it, whether or not it made sense, whether or not killing her and starting over would slow things down. When Kirta was a senior official, she'd run things more sensibly. Only now she was naked in a cage, and that might be as good as things were ever going to get for her.
She'd only cried when she'd been hurt, and she was proud of that, sort of. But now she was crying, and not because of any physical pain. She turned away so that the man and the soldiers wouldn't see it, but the cage was a round one, free-standing. There wasn't anywhere she could turn where people couldn't see her. There wasn't anywhere she could hide, not from anything. There was an enclosure with elephants and ostriches off to one side, and just across from her, there were gazelles, who had stopped to look at her with their big, liquid eyes. Kirta was able to meet those eyes, anyway. They didn't understand.
Everyone else did. There were signs up on the outside of the cage. Of course, there wasn't anything set up where she could read it, but there were enough of the sort of people at the zoo who liked reading things aloud to the people that they were with that Kirta heard what they said a dozen times over. "An enemy of the people, in her proper state."
Some of the visitors at the zoo looked away from Kirta the same way she was trying look away from everybody. They hurried their children along. They didn't make a fuss about it--nobody wanted to publicly disagree with something that the state had done--but they didn't like it.
Most of the people there, though, thought it was good fun. They had no idea what she'd done to label her an enemy of the people, but the label was enough. They knew that there were people out there who were responsible for why their lives weren't better than they were, and here was one of them, suffering for how their family wasn't as happy as it ought to be, how they weren't as wealthy as they deserved to be.
Kirta was there to give a show for the people who were happy to see an enemy of the people punished, and to remind everyone else that they didn't want to be enemies of the people. Kirta had studied enough politics in her pre-university courses to know the benefits of what they were doing, but that didn't matter much. She crouched on her hands and knees, and listened to the people lingering at the cage to offer their theories.
It seemed that she was probably a slacker from an armaments factory. Or the mistress of a Party official, whose wife had found out. Or a foreign spy. Or a black marketer, or someone who set factory targets too high for the workers to earn bonuses. Also, it seemed that she had a pretty mouth, but her ass was too wide, and her breasts weren't big enough.
What she was was hungry and thirsty and scared, and there wasn't anything for her to do. She could lie down on the straw or crawl around her cage. She drank a little of the water, but even though she was hungry, she didn't eat any of the food that had been left in the trough. It smelled harsh and strange, a bit like meat, but not really.
She was thirsty, but maybe drinking the water had been a mistake. She had been so frightened, too, and there wasn't a lavatory in the cage or anything like that. She could wait until the zoo closed? Only she couldn't--that was in hours and hours. Finally, she let the stream of piss loose, blushing furiously as it splashed on the concrete and hay underneath her.
"That lady is making pee-pee!" said a girl, who was sitting on her father's shoulders.
"She was a bad girl," said the woman next to them. "So they put her in a cage. Bad girls like that have to make where everyone can see them."
"Oh," said the girl. "She looks funny."
"Oh, I don't know," said her father.
"Mas," said the woman, warningly.
"She looks something," said the father. "It's just that funny isn't word I'd pick."
Funny wasn't the word. It really wasn't. Kirta had pissed in the middle of the cage because she'd wanted to be as far away from everyone as she could. But now that meant that the middle of her cage smelled like piss. The food and water troughs were a few inches off the floor, and there wasn't really enough room there to hide, but she pressed in there, against the bars, and curled up, her eyes firmly shut. She couldn't stop people from seeing her, but she didn't have to see them, anyway.
Eventually, after what seemed like forever, the crowds thinned and left, and the zoo was closed for the night.
A zookeeper came by, unlocked the cage, and put that chain collar around her neck.
He had a friendly look, and for a moment, Kirta was tempted to pour her heart out to him. Just to talk to someone who looked sympathetic, maybe pass a message along? They could do other things with her to put pressure on her father, and she could help. But she wasn't supposed to talk, and she was already going to be punished. No reason to get the zookeeper in trouble too. At least he wasn't moving so fast that Kirta couldn't keep up. She followed docilely behind, hoping that they were going to give her something to eat, once he got her back to one of the zoo buildings.
They didn't. They took her to a basement, and they bolted her down to the floor--a heavy collar around her neck, fastened flush against the concrete floor, cuffs for her hands fastened the same way. Once she was in place, someone she couldn't see glued things to her thighs, and then the man who'd put her in the cage came out and turned on the video screen at the front of the room. Kirta looked up, one cheek against the floor, watching her pleading to him, watching him hit her and knock her down.
"You were told that you were not to stand, not to speak, and not to behave inappropriately. Here, you spoke and you stood."
Then he flipped a switch, and Kirta started screaming. Those pads they'd glued to her thighs were shocking her, and it hurt so much, it was like they were ripping her legs off, she couldn't get away, she couldn't move much--the way they'd chained her down, her legs could twist against each other, but couldn't do anything, and her hands could only clench ineffectively in those cuffs.
The pain shut off suddenly, and Kirta wept there, on the floor.
The video started again, and she was drinking from the trough. "You were told not to behave inappropriately," said the man. "You used your hands to drink. You are not to use your hands." Another wave of pain. Kirta shouted and screamed. If she could've formed words, she would've, but it was too much for that. She shook in her chains, twisting, pulling against them. The pain cut off, and she lay gasping.
Another clip of video. This time, she was pissing. "You do not squat to piss. You raise one of your rear legs."
Kirta was mouthing pleas. She hadn't understood what they wanted, she'd do what he wanted, she'd be good, she just--the pain lifted her up and smashed her down against the concrete floor. When it was gone, she spat out blood from where she'd bitten her cheek.
The next video was of her pleading and getting knocked down. This time, she started screaming before the pain hit. It didn't change anything. He repeated his message placidly, then turned on the shock. Again. And again, and again. He didn't stop until she was done screaming, until the shocks just went through her, and she didn't even move as they tore her apart. Then he left, and the zookeeper with the friendly face came and unhooked her, and led her away. She couldn't even crawl. He sighed, and picked her up, carrying her like a child. She fell asleep in his arms.
When Kirta woke up, there was a moment where she was confused, where she thought she was going to be late, and had to--but then she remembered. She was naked, and she was in a tiny cage, barely big enough for her to crouch in.
There were bear cubs mewling in two of the cages next to her, a blue-striped ape screeching across the room. People in the zoo uniforms came in, and gave bottles to the bear cubs, and another came and dosed the ape with something that it didn't like much. Then the one who had taken her from her cage came and got Kirta out of her cage, and led her out to the yard behind the building. Gently, he pushed her head down into the dirt, and then lifted up her hips with his booted foot.
Kirta did what he wanted, she would do whatever he wanted. "Stay," he said. She stayed, and then she jumped as he hit her with a sudden blast of cold water from a hose. She whimpered and twisted, trying to stay where he'd put her. It had taken her too long to figure out what they wanted, but now she knew. It was just. . . there was another blast of water, and she writhed away from it, even though he'd told her not to. It was so cold!
"There, there," he said, chuckling. "You have to look best for your public. Nice and clean. That's a girl."
After the hose, there was a bath brush with horrible stiff bristles, and soap smelling strongly of pine. And then another long spray with the hose, which left her gasping and twisting. "Nails seem fine," he said, picking up her feet and her hands in turn, and considering them. "Hair needs a bit of a trim."
Kirta's hair was fine. She'd just gotten it done three days ago, and it was long and flowing and she loved it. She moved her head the way he wanted, stayed as still as she could. Her eyes did close as the shears snicked, and she couldn't help but cry a little, looking at the little tufts of hair on the dirt around her. It wasn't a victory, but it didn't matter.
"No appetite yesterday, eh?" he said. "Well, hopefully that'll improve. Feeding tube is always a mess. Okay--better get you home."
Home was the cage. She went there, following along behind the zookeeper, as the rest of the staff went and swept the paths, fed the birds, and so on. There hadn't been any food where they'd taken her, but the trough full of dried food was full. She ate a few mouthfuls, retching at the taste, trying to eat before the crowds started gathering around her cage. A few mouthfuls, and later, a few more mouthfuls. She was hungry, and there wasn't anything else she could do in that cage, and she believed the zookeeper about the feeding tube being something she wanted to avoid.
The crowds passed by, but some people--mostly men--stood at the railing that surrounded her cage, and watched her for hours.
The zookeeper had hosed her down pretty thoroughly, but it wasn't long before Kirta felt filthy. It got worse when her gut started cramping. There wasn't any way that she could hold it until the zoo closed, either. She carefully cocked her rear leg and pissed. It was fine at first, but it splashed on her, and when she was almost done, it dribbled a little down her thigh.
Not much else happened that day. Around noon, one of the staff came in and topped off the water and the dry food, not that she would ever eat or drink that much. If she could've slept, she would've. She couldn't, even though she curled up in the middle of the cage, she couldn't. She could hear them talking about her, feel them looking at her. It was worse when she moved, but she couldn't stay still for that long, and she wasn't allowed to stand.
At least she hadn't done anything wrong, so she wasn't punished. After the zoo closed, the zookeeper came and put her in the little cage. It was a long time before she fell asleep, and while she did her best not to think about anything, from time to time she started crying. It was the people watching her, and it was the cage, and it was the way her breasts felt swaying underneath her, as she crawled around to the hoots and laughter of the crowd. It all made perfect sense as something that the central committee would do to put pressure on her father, to demonstrate their authority and so on. But that didn't make it better.
The next morning, the water from maybe wasn't as cold as it had been? And the zookeeper's touch was gentle as he checked to see if her nails needed to be trimmed, and it was good to be clean.
That day was going to be her third day there, and Kirta hadn't forgotten what the soldiers had said about other animals in the habitat. Although, maybe they meant the third whole day? The cage was empty when the zookeeper brought her there, so she let herself hope, for just a little. Then the zookeeper with the friendly face came back, and he had four dogs with him, and he let them into the cage.
They weren't purebred dogs or anything like that. Just dogs. Four of them. All of them big dogs, with massive shoulders and jaws, all of them bounding with energy. They were also all immediately curious about her, sniffing her repeatedly, barking at her, and chasing her when she startled at their barking.
Kirta hadn't ever really liked dogs. And that was at the best of times, when there was someone holding their leashes and assuring her that they were friendly. Nobody was holding these dogs on leashes. A couple of them might have been friendly--the shaggy reddish one that Kirta thought of as Snowshoe, because of his massive paws, and Sleepy, the long-limbed one that sprawled out in front of the food. But the other two, Lop-ear and Loud, weren't very friendly at all. They kept growling at her, barking until she tried to crawl away, and then they'd run into her and knock her down.
It was terrifying and it was loud and there wasn't anything she could do. And then, when she looked up, her father was out there in the crowd. There were three guards around him, their usual guards, and there was another man in a suit next to him, someone who had visited them at home and at at the lake house. One of her father's superiors, someone who'd never been introduced.
Her father didn't look well. He was pale, and there were bags under her eyes, and he looked so sad when he looked at her. It was something he'd done wrong. Not wrong enough to justify a firing squad at a stadium, but he'd made a mistake, or something had gone wrong under his watch. His boss elbowed her father in his ribs and laughed, and her father tried to laugh in reply, but he couldn't manage it. Then the guards whisked the two of them away, and Kirta was left with the dogs, and with the crowds watching them.
If it was something that he'd done wrong, if they were rubbing his nose in it like that, maybe he could fix it, maybe he could make things better somehow? Maybe. . . maybe. Maybe not.
There hadn't been as big a crowd on the third day as there had been on the previous two. The novelty of a naked girl in a cage had started to wear off. There had still been a crowd--there were people on their way to the elephants or to the crocodiles, and there were the men who would spend hours standing outside the bars to her cage--but there were fewer of them.
It seemed that adding other animals to the habitat had made in interesting again. The people around watched the dogs shoving at Kirta, nipping at her, and then running away, sniffing at her when she pissed, where she'd pissed. And they watched one of the dogs bite her.
She still didn't like the dry food--it was awful, and it smelled awful, but that was all that they were giving her, and the zookeeper who bathed her had warned her about the feeding tube. So she started eating, and one of them started growling at her--the one with the lopped ear. But Lop was a growly dog in general. She shrank back, but kept eating, and then it bit her, on her shoulder, hard enough to draw blood. Kirta yelled, and smacked him, and he backed away, still growling. She looked to the crowd, hoping that someone would tell someone, and they'd get her out, but nobody did. They were watching, like you did at zoos, when one of the animals did something interesting.
There was blood running down her shoulder. Kirta almost stood up, almost started pleading with the crowd outside her cage to do something to tell someone, to remember that she was a person and they were watching a person suffer. She didn't, because they knew that. They saw people suffering when they watched football, whether or not there were executions beforehand, and that's why they went to football games. Standing up and talking would mean the electric pads and the videos, so she didn't. Just found some hay that looked clean and held it against the bite until it stopped bleeding, as the people outside the cage talked about how that served her right for passing out underground newspapers, or poaching, or whatever it was they thought deserved that kind of treatment.
When the zookeeper came to take her out of the cage at night, he left the dogs behind, tousling their heads as they leapt up around him, scratching under their chins. Kirta's shoulder was caked in dry blood, and it hurt when she put her weight on it. But he just led her back to the zoo building, going as slow as she needed to. She went along as best she could, though her knees had gotten bruised and some point, and seemed like they were going to be bruised forever.
When he brought her back to the room with the video screen, Kirta pulled away, struggled. She knew that she shouldn't, and she knew that she was going to suffer for it, but she couldn't. She couldn't go into that room.
She did, though. He knew what he was doing, pinning her arms against her body and then dragging her in, chaining her to the floor, the way that she'd been chained before.
Kirta was whimpering when the man in the suit came in, and started crying as soon as the video started playing. "You hit with your hand," he said. "You have been told that you do not use your hands." And then wave after wave of pain. "You used your hands to put straw on your wound. You do not use your hands." "You attempted to stand, rather than go where you were told. You do not stand." With so much pain after each one that Kirta started to think that the chains weren't there to keep her from escaping, they were there to keep her from tearing herself apart, because she hurt too much.
On, and on, until she had no strength left. Then back to her little cage, where the zookeeper tsked and cleaned the bite with a cotton swab dipped in something that hurt almost as much as the bite had.
The next morning, after he cleaned her off--this time, he clipped her toenails as well--he tied the lead of her collar to the fence, and brought out a small toy dog.
Kirta cocked her head, looked up at him. "Didn't go that well, did it?" he said. "Your new friends? Well, that happens when you're not brought up in a pack. It's not your fault; there's a lot you have to learn."
He took the stuffed dog and put it down on the ground on its back. "That's showing the belly. You have to do that, if you think they're looking for a fight, or they'll fight you. And their teeth are sharper than yours, so you'll lose fights. This way, they might do a play bite, or a dominance bite, but nothing hard enough to be serious. Show belly, girl!"
Kirta looked at him, on the verge of tears. Then she lay down on her back, on the dirt of the yard.
"Almost!" he said. "That's a girl. But curl your front legs back, like the little dog."
Front. . . right. Kirta pulled her arms back, like the stuffed dog. Before there'd been other animals in the habitat, crawling and raising a leg to piss and all that had been playacting, and nothing more than that. But there were four very large dogs that were going to be in the same cage as her. She couldn't act like a person. If she did, they'd torture her. And if she didn't act enough like a dog, those other dogs were going to kill her. Which would be a message to her father, and to others in her father's position, and it would be a show for the people who had come to see the new exhibit at the zoo. So when the zookeeper showed her things, and had her copy the stuffed dog, she did the best she could.
She was a quick study. That had almost gotten her top ranking as an incoming university freshmen. Hopefully, it would be enough to keep the dogs in her cage from mauling her. She learned to avoid eye contact, and that she had to lick the muzzles of the other dogs--Kirta had to lick the toy's muzzle to show she understood, and what postures she had to take when the other dogs growled, or showed threats. He explained things gently, but he was firm about making sure that Kirta did exactly as she was told.
She had been studying politics and mathematics, not how to arch her back when she wanted to play--not that she was likely to want to play, but she learned what she was taught--so she made mistakes, here and there. He corrected them. And when he told her how to lie down and piss herself when one of the dogs was being too aggressive to her, Kirta did it, the urine puddling under her belly. It was. . . well, it was something that she needed to know, anyway. And when she was done, he gave her a long friendly rub on the top of her head. Which was the only friendly contact she'd had with anyone since her mother had kissed her goodbye like she always had, so it meant more than it should've.
After that, he went on to other things she had to know. Play bows, and how she had to stay perfectly still if one of them started rubbing up against her, or pawing at her. That, he explained would help her make friends with them. Then he washed her clean again, and this time, his hand lingered on her crotch.
Kirta moved a little at his touch. It was just that rub on her head had meant more than it should've. And it was something human. Kirta knew what he meant about the dogs making friends with her, and she didn't want to have to face that, not at all. This wasn't that.
She'd held off, even when she'd been dating Lerem for three months. She hadn't let him get as far as that zookeeper had, and she didn't know the zookeeper's name. She'd been a little scared, and a little prissy, and maybe it had been a mistake. But the zookeeper didn't take it any further than that. Just gave her a little pat and pulled his hand away, chuckling. "You're a good girl," he said. "Pity about. . . well, we're going to have to start trimming you there, once they're used to it. Makes for a better show. But hair holds scent, so . . . anyway. Time to go back home, girl."
It had taken him a little longer than usual that morning, so they had to hurry to get her to the cage before the zoo opened. It would've been so much easier if they had just let her stand, or even if they had let her crawl on her hands and feet, rather than on her hands and knees. But rules were rules, and since Kirta didn't want to get punished, she crawled behind him, as fast as she could. The dogs were happy to see him. And they were happy to see her.
They'd left a few toys in the cage. A length of rope, knotted at both ends. Some of the red rubber balls that they used for loops. But there weren't a lot of toys, and there were four dogs in that cage. They played with them--pouncing on them or wrestling with each other over them, and just carrying them from one place or another. Lop would try to steal the toys from any of the other dogs who had them, except for Sleepy, who'd claimed a rubber bone that squeaked when he chewed on it.
But it didn't take too long before they were chasing her around again.
She did what the zookeeper had told her, and it more or less seemed to work. Lop was a lot less growly to her after she licked his muzzle and rolled onto her back when he came after her. Less growly, and more friendly, in the way that the zookeeper had described. Play bows, and rubbing against her, his side against hers.
Some of the families going past just stopped to see what was happening, or stood for a few minutes, unreadable expressions on their faces. But the men who stayed there watching her--the men, and a few women, that day--and at least one or two of them seemed to know what all that meant. Kirta could see them adjusting their trousers as Lop started sniffing at her ass and crotch from behind.
It was worse when Kirta tried to crawl away. When she was in one place, he'd leave her ass alone, and move to look at her face, to sort of climb up on her with his front legs. But when she went away, he followed, and there was a lick there, between the sniffs, which was wet and uncomfortable.
Snowshoe had picked up the knotted rope, so Kirta lunged out, and grabbed hold of the other end with her teeth. He pulled away, and she did her best to hold on.
Compared to a mastiff that outweighed her substantially, her best wasn't very good. One twist, two, and she lost the rope, her head ringing a little. But that made Lop notice that Snowshoe had a toy, and he had to fight him for it.
He didn't stay distracted. After Kirta had grabbed a few bites of the dried food, he was back after her. Sniffing, and pawing, and after the guy who came in around noon cleaned things up and refilled the food and that, he tried climbing up on top of her. Twice.
He was heavy, and heavily furred. It was like someone had dropped a lead rug on her back. A lead rug with something troublingly hard pushing against her thigh. Both times, Kirta slipped out from under him, and he went back to sniffing and pawing. And then, finally, the announcements that the zoo was about to close, that the zoo was closing, and that everyone who was still in the zoo was trespassing on government-owned property. It took that last announcement for the last few men who'd been standing and watching her all day to leave, but Lop didn't stop harassing her until the zookeeper came and took her away.
It was to the basement, not to her little cage in the veterinarian's wing. This time, Kirta didn't stand up to try to run away, but she didn't go in, either, not until he was pulling so hard on the chain that she couldn't breathe, and her hands and knees were sliding on the floor that was too slick to give her traction. She hadn't talked, and she hadn't used her hands or anything.
They spread her out and chained her up, and Kirta was already twitching and jerking and weeping before they shocked her at all. She could vaguely remember being proud of not crying until they hurt her. She could vaguely remember being proud of lots of things; it hadn't been long ago, but it all seemed unreal. She wasn't proud of anything, and she knew that it was going to hurt, it was going to hurt so very much, and she didn't want it to hurt.
A video of Lop climbing up on her, and her slipping out from under him.
"You were told to remain still when you were mounted," said the man, and the pain came, overwhelming, inescapable. And again, and more pain, and again, and again and again, until her throat was raw from screaming, and she knew every detail of those videos, the way her hands had looked when she had been carrying Lop's weight, the way his tail had wagged.
When they were done, and she was curled up in pain, the zookeeper came and took her back to the little cage in the veterinary office, where the bear cubs twitched and whined in their sleep, and where Kirta probably did the same. She dreamed of Lop and of the bear cubs, and the people watching and talking about her as she was eaten by a bear.
The next morning, after the zookeeper cleaned her and brushed her teeth and trimmed her nails, he had her get on a scale, and clicked his tongue at what he saw. "There's always a little stress with adjustments," he said. "Still, not doing too badly, girl. We'll see if we can get you some treats, if you do well today."
Kirta did want treats, but she really didn't want to do well that day.
He saw that, and laughed. "Or you can go back to the basement again." He shrugged, but then he looked more serious. "It's going to happen sooner or later. Sooner it is, the less it'll hurt."
Kirta started crying. It wasn't even that he was wrong. She wept silently, shaking. "There, there," he said. Then he pushed her head down to the dirt of the yard, gently, and lifted up her hips. "And this'll help you make friends," he added, and started rubbing something onto her crotch.
The tears hadn't stopped, but Kirta also couldn't help wriggling at his touch. His fingers were warm, and the oil or whatever felt good, when he massaged it on her pussy. He was thorough, making sure that she was coated, from her asshole up to where her pubic hair ended. When he was done, Kirta wasn't crying, and she was breathing hard. If she had tried to fight him off, it wouldn't have worked and they would've shocked her for it, so it she couldn't have done anything but take it anyway. That was all.
"Good girl!" he said. "That's the right attitude. Now, let's go see if your friends back home can help you out with that."
Her friends. Back home.
There was a noticeable smell from whatever that oil was, something heavy and deep, not too different from the way the zoo had smelled when she'd first gotten there and hadn't been used to it. Like the zoo smelled, only more so. Also, the oil felt strange as she crawled, her thighs slick, her pussy still feeling the zookeeper's touch, still feeling the pressure and slickness of her thighs as she crawled.
This time, the dogs were happier to see her than they were about seeing the zookeeper. Whether or not the oil was going to help her make friends, it was definitely getting her more attention than she wanted. And even though she knew that she wasn't supposed to, and even though she knew that they were going to shock her for it, when Lop climbed up on her, she still sidled out from under her.
Only it wasn't just Lop who was trying to climb on her. It was all four of them. Over and over. In the end, it wasn't so much that she decided to face it because it was bound to happen sooner or later. Or anything like that. In the end, Kirta stayed still because she was too tired to keep trying to get loose. When they were done, maybe they'd leave her alone for a bit?
It was Lop, first. He put his weight on her, like he had been, and this time, Kirta didn't twist away. She stayed still, on her hands and knees, and he climbed further up, his hind legs scrabbling in the hay near her knees, his front legs at her sides, over her chest, his head on her shoulder.
She was still slick from the oil that the zookeeper had worked into her. She closed her eyes as the hot weight of Lop's cock pushed against her thigh. It shoved against her, into her thigh, and Kirta winced, tried to adjust her position.
There was a cheer from the crowd, who probably thought that the dog had started fucking her. He hadn't, but he would, and Kirta closed her eyes tight, and turned away, hiding herself as best she could, in a cage out in the middle of the zoo, with a dog stabbing into her thighs and her belly with his cock. Her thighs, and her belly, and into her.
Kirta's eyes popped open at that, and the breath wooshed out of her. It hurt, and it didn't fit, and it hurt, and--and it fit, because Lop was pushing in hard and fast. There was the flash and click of a camera, more shouts and cheers from the crowd.
It was too big, and it was pushing too hard, and Kirta knew that she was supposed to stay still. She bit her lip as Lop thrust into her, over and over. His chest was on her back, and she could feel his heartbeat, hear his growling. She had to stay in place, but she couldn't, and she was going to be punished, but she shifted, moved forward, the way she had before when he'd tried mounting her and she'd gotten out from underneath him. Only this time, he didn't fall off to start rubbing against her again. He was locked into her, somehow. She shifted, and he moved with her, taking that step forward. And with the change in the angle, he got deeper into her. It was like something was punching her inside. But it was also. . . Kirta whimpered a little under Lop's weight.
She'd almost forgotten how strange it was to have to crawl all the time, how different her breasts felt, hanging down and loose like that, rather than being kept up in a bra. She was conscious of them then, and she remembered the zookeeper's friendly smile, the strength and warmth of his hard, calloused hand. It was. No. Not there, not like that.
Snowshoe came over, cocked his head to the side, looking at her. She licked his muzzle, like the zookeeper had taught her. He whuffed, and then slumped down in front of her.
Lop's speed picked up, and he drove even deeper into her, over and over. Kirta was gasping at every thrust, feeling a strange heat in her lower belly. What was in that oil they had spread on her? It wasn't easy to think.
Lop's weight shifted on top of her. He was big, and she was so filled with him. It was hard and hot, and it was moving fast. Also she was in a cage, and there were tourists with a minder, taking pictures. The men who would watch her for hours were watching her, stiff inside their trousers. And Lop was swollen inside of her, filling her, moving inside of her. The heat in her lower belly spread, intensified. No. She wasn't going to. Not in a cage, not with everyone watching.
There was something leaking out between her thighs. She could feel it running all the way down to the hay on the floor of her cage. Had he . . . was that. . . but Lop wasn't finished. He definitely wasn't finished. He kept pushing into her, fast, hard, over and over. Something in Kirta broke, and opened up in response to that pressure, and then Lop pushed even further in, all the way in.
No. Not there, not like that. Only yes, there, like that. Kirta was spasmed, her eyes rolling back in her head as he pumped into her. Now he was finishing. She could feel him swelling inside her with every pump, and she could feel the force of it, feel the heat of his come inside of her. Her face was pressed against the hay, and she shivered uncontrollably, no longer fighting the waves of pleasure that swept through her.
He was done, and there was something leaking out from inside of her, but he didn't pull out. He still filled her, and he stayed on top of her, for what seemed like forever. Then, when he finally did shrink down, he came out all at once with a loud noise and a rush of fluid from between her legs. Blood, and milky white, watery semen. Kirta looked at it blearily, still shaky, trying to make sense of what had happened to her.
And then Loud climbed up on her back, as she was looking at the puddle that Lop had left behind. Kirta froze, not having the strength for it, but not wanting to face additional punishment, not after she'd already endured it once. Loud wasn't as big as Lop, and his fur wasn't as long. Kirta was still sweaty from having been under Lop all that time, and his short, stiff fur felt good against her back. And his cock was prodding against her, not quite settling into place--it was bigger, maybe ,than Lop's had been, and Loud was growling a little in frustration.
If she'd been allowed to use her hands, she would've tried to stop it. Because it had felt good at the end, but at the same time, there were those tourists and families and the clicks of the camera and it was a dog, they were going to all watch her get fucked by a second dog while the first one's come and her blood still slicked her thighs. She couldn't help things along, and she couldn't stop them, so she waited there on her hands and knees until Loud pushed in and started thrusting, hard and fast.
It felt like it was tearing her open inside, and she could hear people talking about how much she loved it, how much she deserved it, how they had to keep out of trouble at school if they didn't want to wind up like that girl in the cage, who had copied her homework and cheated on her exams, and who was being punished for it.
It would've been easier if she was being punished for something that she had actually done. She wasn't being punished for anything, really. She was just being used as a tool for a purpose that nobody had bothered explaining to her. And it hurt, and it felt good, and it hurt that it felt good.
Kirta had heard that when boys finished, there were only a few spoonfuls of come. Given how people exaggerated about that sort of thing, it probably wasn't even that. Dogs were different. There was so much of it that when Loud finished she could feel it filling her up, spraying out from around his cock, down her legs. And while Lop had stayed on her back after he was done, until the swelling had loosened enough for him to pull out of her, Loud climbed down, and pulled her after her, his cock like a hook in her pussy, dragging her backward as he went to drink and eat.
The people outside the cage thought that was hilarious. And they also thought it was pretty funny the way Snowshoe's fur covered her after Loud's cock finally loosened enough to pop out of her and release another flood of come out onto the floor.
The zookeeper who cleaned the cage at noon came in while Snowshoe was fucking her. He didn't do anything about it. Just gave Snowshoe a rough tousle on his head, which Kirta could feel all across her body, then cleaned up the cage and refilled the food and the water as Snowshoe plowed relentlessly into her.
Snowshoe lasted longer than Lop or Loud, just hammering in on her, over and over, until she was convulsing around him, screaming hoarsely. And when he was done, Kirta collapsed down to the floor of the cage, breathing hard, not even strong enough to get back up onto her hands and knees. She didn't sleep exactly, but she sort of passed out, not responding at all when Lop and Sleepy and Snowshoe nosed at her. And while they didn't leave her alone, they didn't climb up on top of her again. Kirta could see how disappointed some of the people watching her were at that, when they were chased out of the zoo by the evening trespassing notice.
When the zookeeper came in the evening, Kirta was ready to go, even though she'd spent the morning sliding out from underneath the dogs who were climbing over her. But instead of taking her out, he just checked her pulse and temperature, and tousled her hair. "Good job, girl. It looks like you're all starting to fit in together."
Fit. In. Was that a pun, or--
He smiled at her, scritched her under her chin. "So you don't have to sleep all cooped up anymore. We'll get you cleaned up a little tomorrow morning, and put a little more of your perfume on."
Kirta gave a long, hopeless moan. She didn't want . . . that didn't matter. But she'd been expecting. She'd hoped.
"I know," he said. "I know. But the sooner you stop thinking like that, the better. Or it'll be more trips out to the basement, and if one of those goes wrong, it'd have to be someone else here. Wouldn't want to put anyone else through that, eh? So, back at it tomorrow, and if you want to avoid the basement, try to sound less like what you're not, girl."
Another, lower moan, that was a little closer to a howl. They hadn't demanded that of her before, but it didn't exactly come as a surprise. "That's it!" he said. "Good girl. Zoo director was very happy with your performance today, but you don't want to have to visit with him again, do you? That's it. Be friendly, and don't make the wrong noises, and everything will be fine."
Everything would be fine. Sure. The door clanged shut behind the zookeeper, and then Sleepy came up behind her, sniffing at her thighs where the others had poured themselves out, cup after cup of semen. Kirta ached, and Sleepy was the biggest of the four. But she found herself climbing back up to her hands and knees, and staying still as Sleepy positioned himself over her.
This was where she was, and this was what she did, and even though there wasn't anyone watching, she would do it. They'd make her do it whether or not she wanted to, and this way would be easier. And . . . well. It wasn't her fault. She knew that, as Sleepy started jabbing at her, and she opened up inside for him.
None of it was her fault, and it was where she was. When Kirta clenched and climaxed around Sleepy's stiff warmth, she knew both of those things. And while her screams didn't sound anything like a dog's, not really, they didn't sound exactly like her, either.