Circle of Life

Under a punishing sun in the midst of Kenya’s vast grasslands, a zebra’s luck is running out. It has attracted the attention of three starving hyenas. The zebra is ahead of its spotted pursuers but the predators are gaining on their striped prey.

Out of the thirty zebras drinking and bathing at the water hole, this one drew the short end of the straw. It ran left when the other zebras went right. The wrong choice.

Were it not for the cut on its left thigh, this zebra could have escaped its drooling hunters by now. At top speeds, zebras leave hyenas in the dust. These hyenas are running faster than hyenas ought to. These starving pups are desperate for a meal. This zebra cannot be allowed to escape like the others.

But it seems that may happen. The zebra is beginning to pull away. The hungry hyenas are starting to tire. Days of hunting without a kill has weakened them. Their legs give way beneath them. Fortune is on the zebra’s side for today.

The hyenas growl and whimper at one another as yet another zebra gets away. The two bigger hyenas eye down their younger brother. The small one bares its yellow teeth and barks. It scurries away with its tail beneath its legs. Its elder brothers keep close.

As the calls of the hyenas grow silent, the zebra slows. The endorphins fueling its strength run out. The zebra moves aimlessly until it finds shade underneath a tree. The cool spot under the branches and leaves of the Acacia tree is a rare place of comfort in the Kenyan grasslands. The zebra lies down, exhausted.

Its comfort ends when the whooping calls of the hyenas return. The calls are louder and more frantic. A clan of twenty hyenas is converging on the zebra.

The hyenas fight with one another, snapping and cackling. One hyena bites the ear of its brother. They each want to be the first one to satisfy their hunger.

The hyenas are like a swarm of hornets. They’re biting, ripping at the zebra before it can make a sound. To the human eye, the zebra appears to be calm and at peace as though it has accepted its fate. But death for this zebra is as agonizing and painful as death can be.

The calm that human observers claim to see is the zebra’s body going into shock. The zebra feels each rip and tear of its flesh and bone as the hyenas wrench it open and pull out its organs. Its senses dull as the blood seeps out of it. Its vision will blur and its hearing will lessen, but its pain receptors stay intact until its last heartbeat. If the zebra is fortunate, it may die a quick death. An overeager hyena could bite down on its heart and ends its misery.

The sight of hyenas feasting on zebras is distressing for human on-lookers, but this is what becomes of animals on the losing end of the circle of life.

 

The Eagle’s Wife

The arrow pierced his proud heart, the same heart that taught me how to love. The sound of that arrow whistling past me echoes in my dreams. I watched on in awe as his majestic body collided with the unforgiving ground. He didn’t die from the fall unfortunately. He bled out slowly gasping for air. He saw me on the branch I was resting on. We shared a long stare as his heart gave out its final beats. He knew I couldn’t help him. He wouldn’t blame me for his death. I still couldn’t help but feel guilty as his life flowed out of his body and on to the grass. Before the shot, I heard the branches shake. There are only two things that can shake a branch like that; bears and humans.

No bear can shoot an arrow. Arrows are a human creation. Humans are unnatural. Humans are the only creatures on the planet that do not kill with their bare hands or claws. They also do not kill to eat.  They do not belong in this forest.

I watched as the archer approached my fallen lover. The fiend had a devilish smile on his face. He came closer to my husband’s carcass and examined it. He would have orphaned my children just for a chance to impress his human friends. This archer like most humans did not hunt for food. I’d seen his kind before.

An orange glow awoke me from my sleep many nights ago. I flew near this strange glow and saw a group of humans sitting around it. It was a fire. I watched as the flames of a fire whisked from side to side in the light wind. An archer opened his bag and showed the corpse of a young eagle to a group of other human. They all laughed and danced before the rest emptied their bags. The meat was not eaten by him or his friends. They mutilated the bodies of those they had killed. They wore the carcasses as clothing. The archer attached the eagle’s feathers to his arrows. Son and daughters’ bodies were being paraded around as a joke. That’s what death is to these creatures.   Humans hunt because it makes them laugh. I can’t condone this. I kill because I need to eat, not because I enjoy it. That is the way of life.  Humans are perverting it.

I turned away when the archer skinned my husband. I could hear the swipes of his knife. Each swipe felt like he was cutting into me. When the swipes stopped, I turned to look again. The archer threw the mangled body in a bag, tossed it over his shoulder and walked away with a father, a teacher, and my lover. I’m not sure how long I stared at the blood on the ground. I hoped that in some way it wasn’t real. His beautiful wings would embrace me again tonight like they had before. He’d bring back a hare in his sharp elegant beak for our children. He’s gone now. He’s not even a meal to feed someone. He’s just a casualty of humanity’s perversion of life.

There would be no consequence for the archer. He would return home and laugh with the rest of his friends. Nothing would stop him from repeating this unnatural, brutal, and perverted act. The archer would be back to do this again. Next time, it could be my children that he would kill for no reason, but his own deluded joy. It was here that my pride finally rose up from the bottom of my heart. My wings soared me up from the branch I laid on. The archer heard me rise. He turned his head. His eyes widened in fear.  My talons were the last thing he ever saw. I ripped at his eyes. He screamed and grabbed his eyes. It was too late for him to do anything. The damage was done. He yelled for help. He swung his knife wildly at air. It was quite a funny sight to see.  My pride died down. I was satisfied as the archer tripped, and stumbled through the forest. We both had lost something irreplaceable now. His eyesight can never return just like my lover.