Years ago, the planet warmed and the animals were chased out of their homes by a reckless race, the prodigal species: humans. They had a proclivity for greed, consumption and pop culture; the government prevaricated its patrons to believe that all their wants were needs and soon the forests disappeared, the clouds turned grey and thick, and the ponds became a viscous sludge. And so, the critters that survived The Change fled northward. Because of the limited space available, most of the animals became ruthless, trying to claim as much of the land as possible. The gangs of New York had mirrored themselves in the ecosystems. There was a group celebrating what they called probity, though their moral fiber was questionable; these were the apes. Among others there were the Behemoths, the Aves, the Vermin and the Sliths. Those that were against the segregation were isolated from the community; some became hermits, some perished and others were picked up by traveling bands of animals, like Mo’s. They traveled along the edge of civilization where they could get the most business and hoped they wouldn’t get picked up by a vicious gang or put out by the Fish and Wildlife Service for being in the way. They put on shows for humans and got paid in food and other things they needed. Most people had never seen any animals their whole lives, so the animals didn’t have to work hard to please them. But Mo insisted that the show had to be bigger, better and more “unique” every time they performed.
The otter, better known as Opus, had heeded Mo’s requests; he had put on the pink spandex suit even though the sparkles ruined his rugged persona and he had swung on the trapeze a few times, but this last request was too much. Mo had asked Opus to sing a song and that was the last straw; Opus would never put himself through such an imbroglio. As Opus struggled high above the main stage, Loquacia, the Lory, was prattling on and on to Phoenix, a pheasant, about how her ex-boyfriend had just nested up with a girl and she had already laid four eggs. “What a whore,” she squawked. Loquacia was a fighter; she was raised in a family of eight and was inchoate much longer than her brothers and sisters, thus making her the fireball she was today. Phoenix and Loquacia made for an odd pair; Phoenix practiced hedonism and focused on soothing the self through meditation and herbal remedies, while Loquacia settled her soul by gossiping and pecking things until they bled. Also traveling with them was Stewart (a mild mannered snake that narrowly escaped a nasty fate when he left the Sliths), Beruca (a Beta fish and the chef of the lot), Helena (a hare with a knack for pick-pocketing), Kevin (a very sleepy Koala with a drinking problem), and Praline (a cynical praying mantis who happened to be a lovely violin player).
Mo finished rehearsal early and they gathered for a family meal. Though they had originally come from different cultures and parts of the world, they were family now; they were all they had left in the world. They carried on and made conversation into the late hours of the night and eventually headed for bed. They slept soundly, dreaming of blissful idylls and when the world was unscathed. As they rested, a yellow haze filled their rooms. The Fish and Wildlife Service had found their tent site and closed shop; there was no room for them anymore. They were developing, you see, they needed the housing complexes built by morning and couldn’t wait to wake them up, couldn’t wait to move them out, couldn’t wait for Opus’ last act.