I was going to write about scorpions. But who in her right mind would want to read about a liar that is too damaged to understand that inner poison always ends up killing its carrier? Besides, scorpions don’t roar. And this tale must unleash thunder-thoughts that promise rainbows. So I’ll tell you about a wildcat who lost her claws…
Tara was the most cunning huntress in her pride. Sharp clawed, strong backed and charged with agility that always got her jaws around a throat before the prey could gurgle a bloody yelp. But today she was only scouting.
She crouched low, almost flat against formerly rich soil that had been turned into wasteland by the selfishness and stupidity of two-legged beasts. In the past, her pride had laws that forbade the hunting of the two-legged that wore stolen skins. But food had gone scarce, and everyone had to do unspeakable things to keep cubs from starvation.
The musky scent of fear and wool reached Tara’s nose before the bleating hit her ears. She couldn’t believe her eyes or her luck. She would not have to return to the pride with reports of the location of two-legged youngs. She had grown not to mind bloodying her muzzle in meat that threatened her and her sisters with sticks that spat burning stones. But the youngs…. They just whined and howled and… It wasn’t the natural order of things… She found shame and sorrow in their pain.
Tara focused on the sheep, tensed her hind legs and pounced. Her back and the top of her head were smacked down by a heavy web that pushed her hard against dirt. She roared and tried to slice at the snare, but it just tangled and squeezed her ribs. She continued to fight and growl until a stone stung the side of her neck. Her legs wobbled and the world went blurry. She whined and tasted dust before her eyes closed.
Her old pride mistress was calling her name, but there was no one to see; just a terrible light.
“This isn’t the end of your hunt, Tara.” The old pride mistress’ words were living wind on Tara’s face. “This is only another spent life. You can go back now. Or—”
“Your voice, Mistress,” Tara spoke through a muzzle she couldn’t feel. “It’s—”
“Different,” her old pride mistress said. “Survival—true survival—sometimes requires sacrifice and change.”
“We are dying out, Mistress. The land…” Tara thought of the shortage of food and water, of the cubs that weren’t more than pelt and bone, of the growling of their guts… She hoped her tone told the mistress what her words no longer dared to say. Everyone said that the old pride mistress let herself go, so that the cubs had something to eat. “If I could change and be… like you… I would… I want to do it for them, Mistress.”
“So mote it be, wild Tara.”
Tara awakened. And she stretched. She flexed her legs and tried to move her head from left to right, but… The sun was high in the sky and her face refused to turn away from its heat. She wiggled her paws and… She tasted something rich and delicious. With her paws. Tara was trying to make sense of paws that could taste when she felt a ripping pain that left her blind.
After following the ups and downs of the sun for many dawns and dusks, Tara’s head was beginning to feel puffy. She liked that sensation, so light and moving and freeing.
“Mommy look, a dandelion!”
The sound of a two-legged young left Tara’s body rigid. Soon the screaming and the stench of fear and the shame would overwhelm her senses.
“It’s so pretty. Can I make a wish, Mommy? Can I please?”
“Sure,” the two-legged mommy said. “Just don’t rip the poor thing out of the ground. Get on your knees to make your wish.”
The two-legged young wrapped a warm paw around Tara’s body, before saying, “I wish all the big kitties grow fat and happy and that my Mommy finds the bad man who shot their mommy and that my Mommy can put the bad man in a cage forever. I wish, I wish, I wish.”
With eyes closed and heart open, the child blew her belief-full breath into Tara. Every seed of the flower that was once a lioness soared into the wind roaring: so mote it be.
And there was not a scorpion in sight.
the wee notes…
– First published in 2014, as my answer to a challenge from Herotomost (who believes in the magic of “In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb…” and hates scorpions).
– Linked to Sanaa’s Prompt Nights, “Darkness exists so that we may see the Light shine”.
a wee reminder…
– I shall begin posting the pre-Witches in Fiction 2016: Spelling Healing into a Rotting World giveaways in a few days. But the party doesn’t start until October 21st. Have you joined yet?
“Dandelion Art”, by Falko Follert