There were around fifteen people in the crater. They varied in age, race, and sex. There were a couple old men and women, three children, and others of various ages. All were naked. They squatted in the mud in the bottom of the crater, shuffling around every once and a while. Occasionally they talked amongst themselves, but never when the visitors were watching. Every hour, from eight to six, the keepers threw food into the crater, usually a hunk of meat, and the visitors all watched as the people in the crater fought over it. The visitors took lots of photos. This was one of the highest rated exhibits. People came every day, from all over the city, just for this exhibit. It was widely considered the crown jewel of the park.
Twice a day there was a special feeding, where the keepers let in live food. This special feeding required an exclusive pass, which was an upgrade for ten dollars more than the price of the initial ticket. Lots of people ended up paying for the upgrade, though, because the special feeding really was quite a spectacle. Usually they let in a sheep or goat, sometimes a cow. But two weeks ago they’d put a boa constrictor in the crater. It killed three of them before the crater dwellers were able to put it down. This feeding had drawn extraordinary ratings and reviews, but the management didn’t plan on using a boa again. It was too expensive to buy more people to fill the exhibit.
The people in the crater couldn’t get out. It was too deep. Still, they had to be watched at all times, by cameras and by guards with guns. Once, several years prior, when funds were low, the management hadn’t scheduled a feeding for a couple of days. The people in the crater had eaten one of their own. This, too, was expensive, and could not be allowed to happen again, though the footage from the incident had since become wildly popular on the Internet and social media.
The child leaned against the railing, one hand ensconced in the clutch of his mother’s, the other gripping a stick of cotton candy. His lips were blue from the cotton candy, and a thin line of snot drooled from one nostril.
“Mommy, when do they fight?”
“Five minutes sweetie.”
“One two three four five why aren’t they fighting?”
“That wasn’t five minutes honey. Do you want to go see something else instead?”
“No, I want to see them fight.”
As it began to draw nearer to the hour, a crowd of people formed around the edge of the crater. The mother had to hold her son in front of her and brace her arms on either side of the railing to avoid being jostled out of the way. The crowd murmured.
“It’s starting soon.”
“I haven’t been in months.”
“How much was that popcorn?”
“Did you bring any sunscreen?”
“I like that black boy. That big one, over in the corner.” A tinny, girl’s voice. “I wouldn’t mind getting in a cage with him.” Giggling. “Look at his arms!”
“His arms? Look at his dick!” More giggling.
The mother frowned. Such talk wasn’t appropriate at a family exhibit, but it was going over her son’s head anyway. He loved coming to see the feedings. Truth be told, she did too.
A buzzer sounded, announcing the feeding. The crowd pressed forward.
“Mommy hold me up! Mommy hold me up!”
The mother put her arms under her son’s shoulders, lifting him up on the railing. She made sure not to lean him too far over. One had to be careful not to lean too far. The crater was deep, but sometimes blood sprayed up. She had just bought her son that shirt for school. It wouldn’t do to get it stained.