The Violet Ball
Just where the violet ball came from, nobody knew. It sat there, between the paws of one of the two Bengal Tigers, both of whom looked more white than orange-and-black. Hunter and I worked on the daystaff at the Bringmin Zoo. He grazed my elbow with his own and pointed to the cages where a small crowd had begun to gather.
“Do they know, you think?” he said.
“Doesn’t everyone?” I pinched my lips. “I mean, they must. This is 2020. Most animals have been wiped out. Only holographic images remain.”
A little girl pointed at the animals, tears in her eyes. “Why isn’t he moving it, Mama? Doesn’t he like to play?”
“Shh,” Hunter whispered to me, as if my teenage voice could cover the distance between us and the crowd. “They might suspect but this is supposed to be a happy place. A place of memories.”
“Sure.” I sighed. “That’s what most of life is, isn’t it?”
“What do you think it was like? Once upon a time? To see a real, breathing Bengal Tiger?” he said.
I didn’t answer.
At seventeen, barely a year older than me, Hunter grinned. “It’d be a jazz, no doubt. To feel their breath on your face, the danger that lurked from being so close to those claws and savage jaws—”
We stared at the big cats.
Hunter looked away first, his view stopping on one than another staging of wild animals around the zoo. “Yeah, it’d been something.”
I put a hand to his shoulder. The contact made us both a little nervous and I pulled back. He stopped my hand.
“Think people are next?” He asked. “That we’ll, too, become no more than echoes in time?”
I shrugged. “Hard to say. Birth rates are falling, people are dying out.” I swallowed. “Yeah, maybe.”
We stared at the tigers, seeing in them, a lost chance at greatness. A future assured for the human race. Wars, starvation, increased gouging of lands, it all added up to the same. Defeat. Hunter and I pulled closer.
“Let’s not go out with a whimper,” he said.
I leaned into his kiss.