Takedown

takedown

I have been hungry for days.

But no matter: in my blood I know that the best things come when one is most patient. It is only a matter of time when I earn my feast. I have been studying their movements, their routines, the muddy paths that they use to feed and drink. Nothing out of the ordinary. And surely, nothing that I can’t handle. Everything feels so natural and easy after a time.

As the moon rises, I keep an eye on them as they stir in their uneasy sleep. They know. They’ve seen me. The natural laws of the land allow us to cross the same vast grounds used by those who have come before us.

Coexistence is a bittersweet proposition, one that I drive hard to my advantage when my hunger causes my haunches to crouch close to the earth, so that I may pursue with relentless speed.

Speed. My ally and worst enemy. My body is on fire as I run. I lose speed after a lengthy chase. This is why I must be precise. It is a matter of life and death in my slice of the wilderness.

The moon is brighter than it’s ever been. This is the right time.

I have picked out two from the throng. A youngster with weak constitution. An old male, blind – by the way he moves uncertainly, often in small circles.

My muscles power through the marshland. I feel heat rising from my heart. I pant hard. I only have a few opportunities before I am worn down, even without a fight. My spots prevent them from seeing me as I prowl, hidden by wild grasses and knotty barks of old trees.

I spring at the youngster as he touched his lips to the surface of the cool water. He vocalizes panic to the members of the herd. I clamp down and pull him to the ground. He is heavy! But not too heavy for me. I grip the side of his neck, punching through the tough hide. His blood is warm, new and invigorating.

My objective is to crush his neck. Fast and clean, the way my kind does it.
A large female tries to ram me off the youngster. She makes contact.

The force sends shockwaves through my spine. I hold on, using my claws to stabilize myself. I clamber upon the side of my quarry who is only slightly bigger than me. My tail swings from side to side, countering the erratic escape of the juvenile wildebeest.

I win.

I lick my chops, now red with his blood. My sons and daughters approach tentatively from the shadows, panting hard in this harsh African night. I sit calmly by the hunk of meat, after I’ve had my fill. I get to eat first. The wives and young ones can now have the rest. We leave the bones, hooves and some entrails for a pair of old vultures who have been watching us inquisitively for some time now.

It is a good night to be a hunter.

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