Sacha had gotten “Real Humans” for her birthday – three of them! She wasn't sure, but from the instruction manual, it looked like there were two males and a female sealed inside the freezer pack. She had not been allowed to get them out until after her friends left, which was terribly unfair, so she had hurried the party along and rudely shoved her guests out the door as soon as they’d finished their cake. They’d get over it. She had Real Humans!
She had had her green button nose pressed up against the glass of the new terrarium in her room until late in the evening when her thirdmother told her to go to bed for the third time. Mother Tess was usually good for two times before she got upset and called Father, so Sacha was already pushing her luck. She grudgingly pulled her suckers and nose from the glass and crawled into her sleep pod, frowning and grumbling all the while.
“Extra clever!” the box had advertised. She had given them a little pond full of water, a bunch of sticks, some bits of cloth, and a dish full of human snacks. And yet, nothing clever at all had happened! After they had warmed up from the freezer pack, they just sat there all huddled together by their food dish, not even eating. The manual said it might take a few hours for them to become acclimated, but she wanted to see them do something clever now! Her friend Allen had two Real Humans in a big bowl in the family room. His had built themselves a shelter and started a fire within the first day. Sacha had one more than Allen, so she was expecting great results. So, with a mix of irritation and excitement about what the morning might hold, she drifted off to sleep.
Two months passed as she slept. Two months of dreaming, waiting for the end of the long night. When the first red light of the rising suns peeked into her bedroom, Sacha was up on her feet and scurrying to the terrarium. She was stiff from the hibernation, but too excited to let that slow her down. Had they built a shelter? Made a fire? Would they have little baby Humans? She was all eyes and suckers, practically leaping to press her face to the glass.
To her horror, the terrarium was empty! The sticks had been lashed together with bits of cloth to form a ladder up the side of the wall and the Humans were gone! Ashamed, she stole a glance at the top her book shelf where the terrarium covering sat, unused. She had meant to put it on, but had been too busy arranging sticks. She could just scream! She had to find them before her parents did. They told her she had to be responsible and she had already failed!
A quick scan of the terrarium cabinet and the nearby floor turned up nothing. If her parents found the Humans first, they’d be taken back to the pet store for sure! Sacha hurried to her bedroom door and immediately found herself falling to the ground, tripping over something. Before she knew it, two of the runaway Humans jumped onto her back and lashed her left hands to her tail. She screamed for her Firstmother and then for her father, but no one came. The female human appeared before her eyes, standing up taller Sacha herself as she lay helpless on the floor.
“Scream all you want,” the Human said, stunning Sacha into silence with the mere fact that it could speak. “We’ve already tied up the others. Nobody’s coming to save you.”
Something pinched her right wrist and pulled it back. From the eye in the back of her head, she could just make out her own jump rope. The two males climbed across her back, dragging a blanket. The last thing she saw before they gagged and blindfolded her was the discarded toy box. The bold yellow letters on the side stood as a mockery now. “Real Humans: Extra Clever.”