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The Petrified People Zoo

Soft green jungle light filters through the frozen trees from the open sky above. It shimmers about the petrified prison in sweet opalescent harmonies. Bodies that were once human stand stiff and unfeeling in the sleepy green light. Vivid colors stand out on their petrified skin. The petrified people stand there forever in hardened reds and blues and oranges.

A slowly moving boat decked in gawking humans pushes its way through the jungle river. An undertaker jester auctioneer sells his wares to the empty people. “Welcome to the zoo of petrified people! All are amazingly preserved in vivid color, hard and clear and unmoving. For a low price you can cut off a slice and keep it as a souvenir! Look—here's a lovely eyeball that fell out just today! Blind, blue and beautiful, it can be yours for as low as fifty dollars! Do I hear a bid?”

The people push and wager, trying to outdo each other for useless unfeeling treasures that once were pieces of men's souls. The petrified people are being monetarily dissected, dollar sign by dollar sign.

It clanks to the ground in a crimson rush. “Amazing!” the undertaker jester auctioneer's voice booms, “This rare jewel is petrified on the outside only. The inside is still soft. This petrified heart is a truly rare and wondrous find! How much do I hear for it? Bidding starts at $500.”

“$10,000,” a whispered throaty call is not quite heard.

“Do I hear a $600? $600!”

“$10,000” is heard now but not believed.

“$650? Do I hear a $700 anybody?”

TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS!

Silence. The undertaker jester auctioneer swallows, and recovers. “Do I hear $10,000??? Going, going, going, SOLD to the man in the purple shirt!”

The boat slowly pushes onwards down the jungle river.

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The immaculately polished car slides off the street and into a perfectly paved driveway. The man in the purple shirt exits his vehicle and ascends the clean marble steps to his immaculate abode. He holds the heart gently in one hand as he disarms the silent silver security system. The smoothly oiled door slides mechanically open and he steps safely into his perfectly planned house.

The heart—this petrified purple perfection! It must be destroyed. But for now, the man in the purple shirt places the heart safely in a box, and moves smoothly onward to his bedchamber. He undresses and slides beneath the covers to sleep.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The air hangs there in icy blue silence. A man is asleep deep deep in dreamland. HIs sheets lay over him in cool windy layers.

Thump thump thump.

He awakens with a gasp. The heart is beside him! But no, that was just a dream. He is alone. He rolls over onto something cold lumpy hard driving chisels into his back—imperfect! NO! The man's life is perfectly planned. This must not be. This cannot be. But it is.

Red-orange rage!!! The heart will be destroyed tonight. The man grabs it and forces it into the red fiery furnace. It will burn, melt, liquefy, disintegrate, die! He thrusts the petrified organ into the red-orange glow and watches in hard hot and cold ecstasy as it is cremated. The flame cools…dies…embers. Amidst them a lump. No! He reaches for it to painfully sear his hands off in defiance of his imperfection. But it is cool, hard, and purple.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Petrified People Zoo is lonely and quiet now. Petrified birds sleep forever with petrified heads tucked under petrified wings. The undertaker jester auctioneer counts his money and beneath that counts the souls he's collected today. He smiles greenly. Great green greed simply seethes from his hollow hateful eyes. He watches his zoo from a distance, as the night's living creatures return to the jungle to die.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The heart resides in the freezer now. Water expands when frozen. The heart is liquid inside, obviously filled with water. The heart will sit in the freezer until it cracks open from the pressure within. The man returns to his unruffled bed. The heart will be destroyed by morning.

Thump thump thump.

He cannot sleep.

Thump thump thump.

The noise is coming from within his near-hollow chest cavity.

Thump thump thump.

The man sits up and dons fresh trousers and a clean purple shirt. No sense in wasting valuable time by trying to sleep. He straitens his bed to military standards and retreats to his study to fine-tune his schedule for the upcoming week. His computer screen glows an unfeeling greeting at him when he turns it on. He listens to the mechanical sound of the computer's CPU controlling the operation of the rest of the computer as it boots up.

Thump thump thump.

This is not part of the program.

Thump thump thump.

The screen blurs out of focus as he turns to find the source of the sound. The freezer! He sprints into the silent gray kitchen and snaps the light on, shedding a bright white light onto the scene. Silence. He carefully opens the freezer. The heart is there. He touches it. Warm. As if it hadn't been sitting there for two hours. He picks it up and feels a jolt within his own chest. Warm. He looks around him and almost sees the silver shuttered window. Almost opens the shining shutters to behold what beauty may lie outside. Warmth. Almost. Then his gaze drops to the petrified imperfection in his hands. This thing must not be!

He closes the freezer and shuts off the light, returning the kitchen to its proper state of order. He takes the hated heart to the storeroom, and pulls his polished toolbox from the shelf. He eyes the perfect rows of tools and selects a heavy hammer. The man in the purple shirt wraps the heart in a towel, and places the petrified purple organ on the floor. He grips his hammer with both hands, and slams it down with all his might.

Thump thump THWUNK!

A pain in his own chest, and a worse pain in his arm. The heart is harder than steel! He strikes it again and again, and the pain in his arm gets worse. He uncovers the solid petrified heart and holds it, stares at it. He lets the hammer fall to the floor, leaves the toolbox open and the towel wadded in a corner. He touches the heart again, and feels the warmth of a pair of hands within his own not-so-hollow chest.

A vision! His eyes stare through the heart, into a dark corner of a dark jungle, where a man without a heart stands frozen at attention, every square corner of his body petrified into perfect purple posture. The man looks closer. The statue without a heart is perfectly proportioned, two even eyes set just above a centered nose and square jaw. But wait, something mars the surface of that face. A single crystallized tear is caught midway down his left cheek. The man drops his gaze, and clutches the petrified heart to his chest. Now he knows what to do.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The undertaker jester auctioneer paces impatiently through his petrified jungle. There is still one piece missing, one petrified organ that has not yet been returned to him. The sun will rise within the hour, and bring with it a fresh crop of customers ready to placate themselves with pretty baubles form his zoo. The missing puzzle piece must be in place by then, or he has lost it forever. His pickets itch in anticipation of the organ's return.

Finally, he sees a man garbed in purple sneaking across the perimeter of his jungle fortress. The man carries a precious bundle close to his heart. The undertaker jester auctioneer sighs with pleasure, and settles to watch this final night drama from a distance.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The tall man with a tear in his eye looks different in person. The man in the purple shirt decides that he looks strangely familiar. Almost as familiar as his whitewashed bathroom walls and…mirror. The petrified soul in front of him looks like the man in the mirror!

Thump-thump thump-thump thump-thump!

The man's soft hands tremble as he holds the softening heart. Red and blue memories flash rapidly through his mind. Purple. The man lifts the heart and offers it to the petrified version of himself. A sacrifice.

Thump-thump-thump-thump-thump!

The man's breathing comes out in short gray puffs in the indigo morning air. From somewhere far to the East, the somber sunlight slowly approaches. As the man moves the heart nearer to its destination, he can feel a small gravity tug leading it into the heartless man's chest.

THUMP-THUMP-THUMP-THUMP!

A red-orange line of clouds on the eastern horizon warns the Petrified People Zoo of the sun's imminent arrival. The man in the purple shirt finally relinquishes the melted heart into the grip of the petrified man's icy chest. Smile. The man in the purple shirt and his mirror image slowly smile at each other.

THUMP-THUMP-THUUUUUUUUDddddd………

The man in the purple shirt is smiling a petrified smile, staring blankly into the eyes of his petrified twin. As the sun's first rays descend finally through the green filter of the petrified jungle leaves, a lazy boat full of monetary gawkers pushes its way down the jungle river towards them. A pair of crystalline tears descends from the left eye of either petrified purple man. As the sun melts away the nighttime frost, twin cracks appear in either chest, and the hearts harden outwardly to avoid the pain of falling. But the fall never comes.

Thump………………….. thump………………… thump.

 


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