In any city of any country, go to any rescue centre where various unwanted animals are held to be healed and re-homed. Approach staff at the front desk and ask for the Holder of Menagerie. The staff should attempt to react quite calmly, asking if you are aware of the responsibilities, the high costs and the effort involved. Heed these words and tell them that you are aware. Follow as you are lead through a plain door into some narrow passageway lined with large cages containing slender and bedraggled hounds of every breed, lonesome and dejected specimens. They may shy away or give a whimper as you pass. Just ignore them.
As you proceed, the ancient place will appear increasingly neglected- heavy cobwebs, peeling paint and cracked tiles under the ever-dying lights. See thin, bloody slurry seeping from each rusted cage to pool and streak on the uneven ground. Along with this, the caged hounds there will seem to be increasingly broken and maddened, chewing on scabs of their own balding, blistered skin before bringing up black bile with their every hollow howl. Some struggle to stand and collapse in agony over and over again, though with no hope to show in their dried out eyes. Know no empathy, pass them by. Soon you will squint in through the darkness to see beasts barely recognisable as canine- fetid flesh dripping from the sharply jutting bone shards, half-exposed hearts beating weakly. Every muscle twitches, stale spirit lingers. Inhale and taste the pungent miasma of fresh decay. Accept change. Savour it like you belong there, beast.
The member of staff will slink away unseen through deep shadow. Go alone, onward into the yawning black expanse. Hear it fill with sounds such as the softly gurgling glugs of a hundred slit throats, or panicked things drowning in hot mud which spits and bubbles with a slight sizzle. Pay such disquieting noises no regard, assuming you are able. Endure and press on. Before long, in relative terms, you will blindly stumble into some solid barrier; a door at the corridor's end. You must open the door and pass through. Hear it click shut behind you and know that there is no way back.
Find yourself in the cramped confines of some small room; a cage or cell with a wall of iron bars on its far side. Beyond the bars you will see some cavernous chamber of similar cells, far away and stacked to heights beyond sight. There are many, some are empty and others hold similar people. These are the Seekers to have come before, agelessly waiting in this place where time bears little traction. They are the ones with whom you must compete for attention when finally the Holder arrives, when he comes to make his selection.
Whenever you uneasily sleep, some silent carer will provide you with the most basic of provisions for living. Consider this a gift and certainly do not bemoan it aloud, or you might find each following dose of the strange, grey meaty jelly to arrive mouldered and your small water bowl to be bitterly contaminated, rife with some arcane phage. Behave well and wait it out. Preserve your mind's sanctity and even invest a little of your limited water in hygiene, for when you hear the heavily echoing footsteps approach then you must be at your very best. Show stoic resolve; be ever ready through the countless years to follow, though the boredom may numb you as the tight confines cramp and begin to cripple.
When one gigantic eye looks in on you, bloodshot and unblinking, do not recoil. Stand to attention or drop to your knees. Scry for any inner glimpse of its sickening motive and strive to appeal. Strut and sing the sweetest gobbledygook, coo and fawn sycophantically or roll over and piss on yourself in a desperate act of utter submission. Humiliate yourself without mercy and be willing to amuse the Holder of Menagerie in any way you are able, for after pausing to peer time and time again into each of the many cages, he will choose. He will point one massively spindly finger thrice, and in one low glut of guttural language, he will name his three new playthings. Hope beyond hope that you are among them. Be taken or remain there to fester.
Should you be one of the three Seekers selected, you will be taken. After a short journey in a small, dark vessel you will find yourself tumbling into some remarkable place of gleaming gold and carved obsidian, cold as void and ornately esoteric in decoration. The room is truly huge, walls etched with epic and enigmatic scenes from some other realm's history. See the magnificent beams and baffles spanning up to a domed ceiling far in the distance. The brightly burning torches are the size of ancient trees, yet they afford you no warmth. Before you there will be a dark throne fit for some monstrous god's embodiment or a rebel titan. Upon it, the Holder of Menagerie, towering high with his dull iron crown, and draped head to foot in shrouding swathes of mouldy sackcloth. His single eye will be set upon you, his other, just a socket, windows emptiness within. Know him well. Know those around you, his other pets.
Antennae swivel and beady eyes dart to you. Short snouts sniff quickly and long whiskers twitch.
There will be many bizarrely beautiful beasts, resplendent in diversity and each the finest examples of their kind. See the elegantly parabolic beaks of gleaming bone, cruel teeth behind thin blue lips, sharpened tusks, wicked barbs and probing feelers. Feel the slender fingers and flailing tendrils explore you. Take your place amidst the things of slime and scales, the feathers and the perfect skin: your new family.
They will resent your presence or consider you as lowly. Whenever the eye of the Holder is turned away, they will each pick on you to exert their superiority as others mock. Bear this and take time to climb their elaborate hierarchy; bully the weak and be seen to grow stronger. Manipulate others or use crude force, though never let the Holder see such acts. Fight for your place, fight for your food and meet kindness with distrust. Save your best malice for the Seekers amongst them.
The creature to which all others defer will be considered His favourite. Know it by the collar of thorns which it wears with great pride. Rise yourself to the top, take its place. Take its collar and feel the Holder's special affection. Perform for him and obey without delay, though he knows no compassion and your tasks will be harsh.
Be ever vigilant in seeking any opportunity to make escape. The bright white skylight is slightly ajar, a mile high, the climb barely possible. The gate is twice locked, vast and heavy, rarely opened. The other pets are watchful and will inform on you to curry favour. Hear shrill squeals and venomous hisses, low grunts and deep bleating to precede your punishment- a punishment by the Holder's grand hand and tumour-spiked mind.
Should you make your escape and survive it, flee through strange places and do not be found. When The Holder of Menagerie notices his favourite plaything gone, he will feel most betrayed and may give chase in fury. Keep the collar of thorns with you, though do not wear it. Be free on your path past great dangers. See the distant watchers and hide yourself. Speak with the twisted purveyors of lies and the heralds of disinformation.
Should you ever gain means to return to your realm, relearn the social conventions of mankind and re-establish your place there, things shouldn't be too different. Keep your prize away from jealous eyes, for they would want it despite you.
The collar of thorns: The Object numbered [xxx] of [xxxx]. Just one of many: know your place and change it.
Credited to Anonymous