I roared louder, cages clattering around me and pets whimpering in fear. I felt bad for scaring them but I wanted some water, if the keepers had just put a bowl of it in the cage in the first place then I wouldn’t have to take them away from their work.
Finally, one of the workers stopped what he was doing and approached my cage cautiously. “What are you roaring for?” he grumbled, his voice a little shaky and he wouldn’t get too close to the grated metal of the cage door.
With a paw I tapped the concrete by the cage door where a water bowl should be, an annoyed snort leaving my nose when he looked back at me dumbly.
I shifted and glared at the keeper, stupid human, Juan always knew that meant I wanted water, I probably should have asked him before he left but he hadn’t really given me a chance.
“Water.” I huffed out, not feeling generous enough to add please to my request, the stress from the auction leaving me quite short-tempered.
He scampered off at speed and I grunted quietly, he better be going to get me some water or I’d break out of this tin-foil cage and do it myself.
It did amuse me somewhat that they thought the thin metal grating that made up the cage would hold me, a few headbutts to the door would dent it, and a few more would make it utterly useless. My cage was made of thick metal bars, I’d really struggle to do any damage to that, but this temporary cage? It was practically insulting. Just because I’d never bothered to make my escape didn’t mean I was incapable of it, I just hadn’t had a good enough reason to want out.
He came back a few minutes later with a metal bowl, water sloshing inside of it. He quickly opened the cage and put the water bowl down, spilling a little bit of it in his haste as he whipped his arm back like he thought I’d bite it off or something. He locked it again and quickly hurried off.
I huffed at the small puddle of water around the bowl, shaking one of my back paws to express my annoyance. Juan never spilt my water.
I shifted back as I was more used to drinking in my jaguar form and it was a bowl of water after all. My tongue lapped at the cool liquid and it wetted my dry throat nicely. I drank my fill until I was satisfied, curling back up against the back of the cage and resting my heavy head on my front paws with a sigh, slowly dozing off again to pass the time.
I drifted in and out of sleep for what felt like hours, the distant shouts of the boss and the bang of the hammer echoing distantly down the hallway. I’d be surprised if he had any stock left after tonight, the auction had been going on forever.
I was bored, watching the keepers go back and forth with shifters had got boring ages ago. Stuck in this small cage with no sweet-smelling straw as a barrier in between the cold and unforgiving concrete had made me grumpy.
When a keeper finally approached the cage he wasn’t alone, the keepers were carrying a large metal box about the same if not a little smaller than the cage I was in now. They slid off a piece of metal at the front, creating an opening. They unlocked my cage and pushed the box flush, so both of the openings were aligned. “In you go Luci.” they encouraged, looking down at me hopefully, like words would be enough to get me to go from an unpleasant cage to whatever that was.
I stared at the metal box with a scrutinizing gaze, noting the small breathing holes on either side. I knew it would be claustrophobic and dark with the metal front slid back into place, the floor of the box upsettingly bare.
A low rumbled growl showed my displeasure for such an action, didn’t they have anything more significant? And was straw so expensive they couldn’t spare any for my journey? I gather the metal box was what I’d be transported into my master's home, I had no idea how far away it was, but spending even a short amount of time in that metal box didn’t appeal to me at all.
The keepers sighed heavily when I showed no signs of moving to the metal box, one of them leaving for a moment, coming back with a very familiar metal bucket with a pair of large tongs sticking out the top. If not for the many time I’d seen the bucket, the smell would have told me what it contained. I licked my lips at the smell of meat, I’d missed my dinner because of the auction and was quite famished, but hungry enough to go in the metal box?
Good try, but not good enough.
The keeper tossed a lump of red meat into the metal box, it landing with a dull thump right near the back.
I snorted and lowered my head, tucking it into the circle of my body and pressing my forehead to my stomach dismissively.
I heard the crackle of electricity and my head shot up, lunging at the keeper who held the stinging stick, snarling and baring my teeth in warning.
Don’t you dare point that thing at me!
He fell onto his back in his haste to get away, the stinging stick clattering on the floor not far away from the cage. I growled and batted my bowl of water in its direction, watching with satisfaction as the water splashed over it, roaring at the keepers, daring them to try it again.
I’d learnt that water and electricity didn’t go well together, a few years ago the ceiling kept dripping water and some of it had gotten into one of the painfully bright lights and it had sparked before going dark.
They all took a step back from the now damp stinging stick, solidifying that water did indeed affect electricity and therefore the stinging stick.
I hated stinging sticks, I had a toxic history with that electrically charged stick. It hurt, it made my heart pound and my body shake, once or twice I’d also released myself, dirtying my fur, which resulted in a hose spraying cold water at me. An old keeper had favoured the device, Rico. Vet Marshal had to treat burns because of it when Rico was my keeper, he’d hold it against my skin till my eyes swam and I lost control of my body. I’d attacked him for it as soon as I saw an opening one day, the punishment was severe, but I would say it was worth it, I never saw Rico again.
The keepers trying to get me in the metal box weren’t one’s I was familiar with, which made sense since my normal keepers weren’t stupid enough to even let me see a stinging stick, let alone use it.
“We’re going to have to get Vet Marshal to tranquillize him aren’t we?” one asked the rest of the group.
“Marshal can’t.” another shook his head. “He’s already been sedated earlier today.”
“What about the keeper who took him on stage?” another suggested.
“Juan? His shift ended hours ago.”
They all groaned and looked my way, no doubt trying to figure out a way to get me in the box. I myself couldn’t think of anything worth getting in the contraption, they had no hope.
The boss soon walked past, frowning at the keeper's lack of process and how they were just standing around the cage scratching their heads.
“He should already be in transit, stop fart-arsing about and get him in the crate!” he barked at the group.
“He won’t.” one defended, gesturing to me and the boss glared at me.
“I managed to sell you for a good price Luci, think yourself lucky that you don’t have to fight for a Lanista, if they’d even want such an unruly shifter. I didn’t have to give you a chance at the auction, I could have just shot you in the back of the head and be done with it.” he spat, his dark eyes cruel and callous.
My ears pinned to my skull and my tail lashed widely behind me, hair bristling and hackles rising, growling deeply in reply.
I didn’t ask for this, I didn’t ask for him to buy me, who tries to auction off a jaguar shifter as a pet anyway? It’s even more ludicrous than it sounds. I honestly don’t know how he convinced the buyers, I’d been good on stage because I promised Vet Marshal, I didn’t promise to behave after though.
Someone had paid a lot of money for me, so I know I wasn’t in any danger. They couldn’t visibly hurt me either, it was reassuring, leaving me bolder than usual.
I shifted and glared daggers at him. “Don’t try and make this about me, I’m just stock to you, a way to make money, plain and simple. A week's worth of food wouldn’t get me in that death trap, find something better.” I hissed venomously.
His eyes widened in surprise and he let out a shocked laugh. “Where in the hell did that come from?!”
I just grunted, just because I didn’t speak didn’t mean I couldn’t. I’d spent so many ears listening to the keeper's talk, why was he so surprised I’d picked it up? It wasn’t like there was anything else to do.
“For so long I thought you were simple, it’s why I didn’t bother assigning you a trainer, that and I’d thought you’d maul them like you did Rico,” I growled at even the mention of my old main keeper. “Oh hush.” he snapped. “Now I know you understand me, I’ll tell you this once… get in the fucking crate!” he yelled and jabbed his finger at the metal box.
I shifted and roared back, slamming against the front corner of the cage closest to the boss, metal screeching as it bent, the joints keeping it together snapping and I rammed into it once more, the metal crumpled and deformed at the edges, leaving an opening big enough for me to slip through.
I stared up at the boss as I minced closer, body low, eyes watching his every move, my large paws placed meticulously and silently on the concrete.
“Luci,” he warned, but his voice trembled and cracked. He slowly took a step back, holding up his hands and I relished the scent of fear wafting off of him.
My chest rumbled with strident growls, my teeth bared and I snapped at the air, making him jump and whimper.
“Luci!” Vet Marshal’s voice shouted out chidingly, I glanced in the direction of his voice, seeing him jog down the hallway, slightly breathless as he came to a stop not far from me.
“You’ve got a chance at a better life, Luci, why are you jeopardising that?”
I shook myself off with a snort, I’m not, I’m just saying goodbye, and the accommodations are unacceptable, even for this place.
“He refuses to get in the crate.” one of the keepers chimed in helpfully.
Vet Marshal glanced at the box and shook his head. “No fucking wonder, get him a wooden one with slats, the biggest one we’ve got and line the bottom with straw. Put a bowl of water in there as well,” he ordered exasperatedly.
“For fucks sake.” he rubbed his forehead harshly with his fingers and groaned. “It’s too late for this.”
No longer interested in the boss I approached Vet Marshal, snuffing in greeting. His pinched brows relaxed, his hand leaving his forehead so he could look down at me. “I wouldn’t get in that crate either Luci,” he told me in a soft and tired voice, offering a loose hand and I took a step closer, sniffing and nosing his palm before nuzzling my cheek against it with a quiet purr at his understanding.
The new crate soon arrived and I watched with approval as one of the keepers forked a decent pile of straw into it, another refilling the bowl I’d wopped and putting it inside.
I leaned into Vet Marshal’s hand as he cautiously scratched under my jaw, groaning in likeness and putting more weight on his hand, earning a soft chuckle.
“It’s time to go in the crate Luci, you don’t want to be late for your new owner.” he urged in his usual gentle tone. I demanded a little more scratching before reluctantly pulling away, padding over to the wooden box. It was bigger than the cage I’d broken, and the wood smelt nice and sweet, the straw only adding to the sweetness. It wasn’t my cage but it was much better than the other crate.
I glanced back at Vet Marshal, a soft chirp leaving me, saying goodbye before I climbed into the crate, walking in circles a few times and purring softly at the cushioning of the straw and sinking down with a huff.
Whilst the keepers worked on securing the front of the box I looked around the inside, long narrow gaps ran along the sides, letting in a comfortable amount of light and fresh air. It’s been a long time since I was able to smell something new, I drew in deep breaths, snorting them out, I guess this crate was acceptable.