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I climb, I eat, I sleep, I am safe. Safe from starvation, safe from danger, safe from any harm. All this safety at the expense of my freedom. Here I am! Come look! Come look! I am climbing a tree! I am eating bamboo! I am falling asleep! Constant display. Penetrating eyes await excitement. A small child bangs on the glass, wanting me to come closer. I walk to another corner of my glass wall, scared and tired. But more eyes watch me. They all talk. Talking, talking, talking. The people are always doing something, never still, never silent, never clam.

I knew freedom. I was young and had just left my mother to try living and providing for myself. I am a good climber, though now I am most likely worse that I was. I climb the same trees day after day. No variety. No matter. My days in the forest were peaceful, quiet, still. Until the people came. They came for me, yelling, sneering, awful sounds. Trees! Climb a tree! I reached for the closest tree and scurried up as fast as I could. A gunshot sounded behind me. In a panic, I burst through branches, frantically climbing higher and higher. The people shot at me, finally hitting my leg. The bullet pierced my skin, and I instinctively let go. Fear rushed through me as I saw the evil people smiling as I fell to the ground. The world fell silent. My vision was gone.

When I regained consciousness, more humans surrounded me. Fear pulsed through my bloodstream. It was these creatures again! Help! Help! I attempted moving, but my body hurt all over. A sharp pain cracked through my leg. My head pounded. “She’s awake!” one human said. I saw a thin human turn around. Her long black hair was tied into a sleek ponytail. “Good.” she said, reaching for my head. I grunted, afraid. “Shhh, you’re safe.” she said, soothingly. “Ma’am, the poachers were caught. Is the panda going to be okay?” another human said, striding into the room. “I believe so, but her leg is badly wounded. She will not be returning to the wild for some time. For now, we will send her to the zoo.” “Of course, ma’am.” The woman turned back to me. “She is so beautiful. Héxié. What a splendid name for you.” I felt for a moment that humans could be good, but then, no. They hurt me. The woman sighed. “She’ll be ready in a few days.”

I was cleaned up and set away. The woman who calls me Héxié still comes to see me sometimes. She said she would let me free someday but saying is so much different than doing. So here I am, meandering around the cage my life has been thrown into.

After about two years of this cage, an idea sprung to mind. Escape. Escape to freedom. That was all I could see, a chance for freedom. Safety, well, I was not thinking much of that. Only what could go right, only the freedom. Watching the humans trot around, I noticed a pattern. When the sun falls, the human number decreases. When the sun rises, human number increases. This excited me. I knew the time of my escape, but not the how. That was the question. How would I escape? How would I find my forest again? How would I ensure my freedom? Oh, it will all work out, I thought. Freedom was close, I could feel it. All I had to do was find a way. And I did. I found a way.

I spent days gathering branches and spare bamboo. I was planning my escape. My brilliant plan. Did I think of failure? No! Of course not! My escape was flawless! A day before the time of my escape, I climbed to the tallest point of a thin tree, bending it over. I did this over and over again. Did the people wonder what I was doing? Maybe. But I did not think of that. By nightfall, the small tree had been completely bent over, leaning against the glass wall. The tree was supported by the branches and bamboo I had been collecting. I waited eagerly for full darkness to arrive. So close! So close! When the world was quiet and dark, I began to climb. Climb, higher and higher to reach the glass wall. Finally, my claws grasped the slippery wall. I used my strength to pull myself over the wall. But, wait, how was I to get down? Panic surged through me. What do I do?! I thought, memories of my first fall flooding back. I grunted and roared, knowing I could not hold on for much longer. I fell. The fall was not nearly as bad as that fateful fall in the forest, but it still hurt. I heard footsteps advancing towards me. “The panda! It was the panda!” Bright lights were shown in my eyes to prove the discovery. “What do we do?” A human with a dark voice said, not wanting to step towards me without the glass wall between us. “Call someone!” said the other human. “Get a zoo keeper!”

I was soon taken back to my enclosure. I had no wounds, unlike my first fall. The optimism I had built up was hurt that day. There was no hope anymore. Just the darkness, just the wrong, just the bad. My failed attempt to gain freedom had hurt me. The woman who calls me Héxié came. She seemed sad. I do not know why. Maybe she was disappointed in me. Maybe she was disappointed in the people for not releasing me. Maybe I shall never know.

After that day, I felt defeated and buried from hope. Until one day. One magnificent day. It was a normal day, at least the beginning was. The people going, the people coming. The people laughing, the people crying. The people happy, the people sad. The people excited, the people bored. That was the day. Full of people and noise. I was pacing back and forth on this day, watching people watch me. In the thick crowd, I saw a girl. She saw me. Her face was sad, and happy. I walked over to a clear piece of wall. The girl following, but the crowd not. I put my head against the glass. She did the same. The girl looked at me and saw dark and light. I saw the same in her. Good and bad. Balance. The crowd filled in around her, amazed at how close I had come. I slowly walked away and looked back to see the girl smiling. The smile was sad. But it was still a smile. I can see now. I see the dark from the light, but also balance. I have the strength and the courage to see this balance. And you do too.


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Image of Ed Loeber
Ed Loeber · ago
A well told tale.
Image of Joe Hall
Joe Hall · ago
I love this story. Has a very powerful meaning.

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