The gazelle fled for dear life, but with the terrain ahead flat and barren, the future looked bleak. Miraculously it survived this long, keeping just enough distance between it and the jaws behind to avoid a painful fate. But the lioness in pursuit didn’t let up.
Above, a flock of vultures circled as though they could already taste the feast that awaited them. There were too many to share a single corpse, but they stuck together regardless, knowing that the empty landscape below was similarly unfavorable towards them, even if their luck hadn’t quite reached the low levels of the gazelle’s.
Some of the vultures attacked each other, defying what little knowledge I had of their predatory patterns. Two birds would get mangled up in one another, spewing feathers about yet somehow still maintaining flight, until they managed to detach and continue with the flock, now with more space between them.
Back on the ground, the lioness was losing heart. The gazelle began to pull away, slowly and gradually, but quickly enough where the unobstructed wild land was starting to work in its favor. Eventually the lioness stopped running entirely, opting instead to observe from afar. The animal ahead may still become her family’s dinner, but it had bought itself some time.
I scratched my head, confused how the gazelle was able to create so wide a gap. I had watched them for half an hour, certain at the beginning that its retreat was hopeless. I wasn’t disappointed to see it live, but the vultures ahead were. Some broke away, while others kept their position over the lioness, banking on the possibility that she was hungry enough to drop dead at any moment.
None of them heard it coming. The winged creation speeding towards the vultures wasn’t a predator, but it was just as dangerous. There was time to escape, but at my distance, all I could do was watch as the jetliner bore into the flock, cracking open the sky and tearing a line through the birds with unnatural force. Then it sped away as quickly as it came.
The remaining flock continued on, not pausing for a moment to mourn their fallen brethren. Heartless birds, they were. While I didn’t want the lioness to catch the gazelle, I still wished a long life for her, long enough to see the birds above starve out of spite.
The scene remained largely unchanged for the remainder of the hour. I watched absent-mindedly, counting the number of birds left severed in the airplane’s wake. Eventually my thoughts left the area entirely.
I thought back to Kareen and the way she left the house this morning. We hadn’t fought or anything, but still, she looked melancholy. I hadn’t been able to get the cloudiness of her eyes out of my mind all day. They were gray, as though they would burst with precipitation at any moment.
I texted her shortly after she left, but her responses didn’t leave me with any hints. Her words seemed fine, but I saw firsthand that her face was anything but. Or had I imagined that? Maybe she was okay, and I was letting a great deal of nothing damper what would otherwise be a pretty decent day.
Perhaps. But I would still pick up something for her before making the journey back home. I cared about her, and I probably didn’t tell her as much as I should (sadly, I still don’t).
Before I could come up with a gift, the sight above snapped my mind back into focus. I couldn’t believe my eyes. An octopus was making its way towards the lioness, and it wasn’t wasting time. The menace approached with six legs on the ground and two raised high, poised to strike. One of them gripped the lioness first, and in an instant, they turned into a tangled mass.
The lioness struggled to free herself, but no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t break from this threat that she had never encountered before, one she shouldn’t be faced with now, and one she could reasonably never have encountered in the future. Nothing on earth could have predicted such a fate for her. I wanted to look away as the octopus sucked the life out of her eyes, but I couldn’t. I felt compelled to watch, my mouth agape.
The vultures above broke away. I couldn’t tell if they were afraid of the animal that they had never seen before or if they figured it wouldn’t leave enough of the lioness behind to be worth their while. Regardless, the flock splintered off into separate directions. One half hovered in the direction of the gazelle, perhaps to see if some other predator had brought about its demise.
The birds were right. When the octopus started to pull away, there was no sign of the lioness. It was as though the blood-thirsty octopus couldn’t believe how delicious her flesh tasted and, in its mad frenzy, sucked up every morsel. Then it ran off, six tentacles on the ground, two again raised towards the sky above, as it too ran off in the direction of the gazelle.
If the animal would eventually catch its prey, I do not know. I had seen enough. Shaking my head, I brought my eyes back to the ground and pushed myself up. Enough was enough. According to my watch, I had spent nearly one and a half hours staring up at the clouds. I needed to head back right away if I wanted to stop by the store in time to pick up something for Kareen.
As I started to leave, I looked up at the sky one last time, then pulled out my keys and pressed the button to unlock my car door. With the sound of the beep, my mind was already a dozen miles away.