Day 199: The Night Zoo

The Night Zoo
Matt Zurbo


One dusk little Chivon got lost.
(Little girl in a field, watching a huge crescent moon rise.)
She knew where she was going, then, oops. It was getting dark.

The silence was the worst.
(Chivon, eyes wide, in the still dark.)

Then, “Ssh…” a voice whispered.
(Chivon, lit by moonlight, startled, as man with long jacket and owl-like head puts finger to beak with one hand, while pointing to a candlelit sign that says: ‘20c’ with the other.)

“Wah!” cried Chivon. “ A ticket…?”
“Ssh,” the voice insisted. “Please.”
(Fingers on one of Chivon’s hands holding out a 20c piece. The other hand palm out, catching an Admit One ticket.)

“No, no,” the guide quietly hissed. “You’ll never see anything like this…!”
(Chivon pushing through branches and bushes, CRUNCH, SNAP, RUSTLE, THWACK, DONK! Guide walking calmly beside her with candle.)

“Here,” he whispered.
“Now, be still.”
(Guide handing her the candle.)

“But there’s nothing there!” Chivon told him.
“Ssh…!” the guide hissed.
(Both of them barely lit by candle, standing in big, silent dark.)

So Chivon was still, and listened.
(Closer image of Chivon, on her own, neck out, head titled, listening.)

In the distance she could hear a barn owl. Whoo, whoo.
“It sounds lonely,” she whispered.

“Ssh. Listen more…” the guide whispered back.
When she tried real hard, Chivon could hear another owl, way, way off.

Then another.
Each hoot traveling up still gullies, across bogs…
It’s as if they’re talking to each other… she thought.
(Three owls. One on branch, watching. One flying. One descending, claws out, attacking something.)

Then there was a rustle!
(Chivon startled, scared.)

Two small mice came out of holes in the ground… and played.
“Well, I never…” Chivon whispered.

Which made the owls fly away.
And the mice hide again.

“Ssh!” the guide hissed.
And everything was silent again.

Sure enough, when Chivon waited, there was the looping squeal of a sugar glider,

the screech of fruit bats,

in the distance, she heard the thump, thump, thump of wallabies and pademelons.

Chivon didn’t move, listened more.
And before long the place was thriving with life.
(Double page spread of Chivon and guide poking out from behind tree on river bank lit by moonlight, watching: tree frogs, spotted quoll, platypus, red bellied black snake, echidna, cassowary, ring tailed possum, trout jumping out of water, crickets, etc…)

It was incredible! Each gully head was a small city. Every one of hundreds of holes, a home.
(More small marsupials running into and out of holes in ground, eating snails, etc. wombat grazing above them.)

So many creatures, small and scared.
(Chivon crawling, with candle, after bilbies.)

So many just plain cool!
(Chivon, sitting against tree, arm around wombat.)

Or dangerous.
(Crocodile, mouth fully open, extending from still water, about to eat bat.)

Or creepy!
(Chivon curled and frightened as surrounded by yabbies.)

“Now, look at this…” the guide whispered. ‘Ffst…”
(Guide blowing out Chivon’s candle.)

There were glow worms, phosphorous moths, fireflies, stars….
“Ohh…” Chivon gasped.
(Chivon in middle of other animals, all dully lit by a galaxy of glow worms, and glowing moths, with the Milky Way above.)

“What is this pace…?” Chivon breathed.
“Haven’t you figured it out, yet?” the guide whispered. “A night zoo.”
(Chivon and guide both looking up in wonder. Shadows of bats in the air, framed by stars and moon.)

Then, suddenly…
(Everything except startled Chivon and guide ran and hid again.)
There were intruders.

(A fox and a cat with a collar with the word ‘Fluffy’ on it.)

There was death.
(Fox running with bilby in mouth.)

“Wait! Who are you?” Chivon called.
“I’m a bunyip!” the guide whispered. “Ssh.”
(Guide leaping to the left, for first time, its jacket opens, we see it is made up of bits of night animals. It is grabbing a few small animal cages as it goes. Leaving a few more bedside Chivon. As it is doing so, the cat is sneaking in in the other side, where there is an owl nest full of chicks…)

(Chivon, eyes closed, swinging cage, towards startled cat.)

“I want to take a photo,” Chivon whispered.
“No flashes,” the bunyip hissed. “Ssh.”
(Chivon and bunyip holding cages on ropes, dangling over a branch, one with fox, the other with cat. Nocturnal animals peering from hiding places behind them.)

Eventually, Chivon fell asleep.
(Chivon sleeping on back of three koalas, who are walking her over logs through the bush.)

But now knew, even while dreaming, the night silence was really a zoo of noise.
(Koalas carrying her through empty, midnight, suburban street.)

Full of life…!
(Frog, with moon behind it, leaping. We can see its underside.)

And she would be welcome back any time!
(Koalas positioning themselves so that Chivon, still sleeping, is sliding off their backs, onto front door welcome mat.)

If she was quiet enough.
(Chivon’s house under the Milky Way.)


The End

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