PLAYING WITH LIONS • by James Machell

I let the children play with the lions because I decided that it was part of their education to examine life from another planet. This was after I ordered a box of domestic cats but many of my students, the boys in particular, didn’t know their own strength and crushed the poor animals. The lions were no good either because these boys were in their destructive stage of youth and the devious ones took revenge when their fingers were bitten.

Finally, I ordered a human, which didn’t come cheap because they breed so slowly. All the children laughed when I explained that these tiny creatures were kings of a faraway world. They only became interested when I mentioned how humans had fingers and a voice box, just like us, and that they might not have been conquered if their spaceships weren’t so much smaller than ours.

The boys and girls were determined to teach it some of our language and I was flattered when they named the human Yaarn after me, their favourite teacher. They seemed to adore the human who could be taught to perform tricks within minutes — much less stubborn than cows or pigs. After a few months, a cage seemed unnecessary, and I was impressed when even the boys handled the human like their little friend.

Soon Yaarn was able to speak whole sentences in Lorovian, though it was only repeating the children. This skill made it impossible to replace when the human attempted to escape the classroom, one night when the lights were off, by making a huge leap between the desk and the windowsill. Some of the children were crying when we buried it in the garden, and despite all the death, I consider the lesson a success because now they handle the lions as delicately as flowers.

James Machell is a science fiction and fantasy writer based in Goyang, South Korea, with an MSc in Creative Writing from the University of Edinburgh. He lives near the border with North Korea so has been watching the news with his fingers crossed. Find him on Twitter @JamesRJMachell.

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