Nathan Hearn, Grade 10
Through blurry eyes, she took in her surroundings. Not yet dawn, shadows obscured the world, reality and fantasy blending like in a dream. She peered around cautiously with the air of one who is eternally on the lookout for danger, restlessly taking in everything at once. A chill breeze brought with it the faint scents of autumn, but dispersed just as suddenly as it arrived, leaving nothing but a memory. There was no danger. Yet.
Seemingly satisfied, she gazed down at her young. They were precious to her, and she would do anything to ensure their survival. Asleep, a benign air of innocence and peace settled over them. It could be seen in their faces as they explored unknown realms in their contented dreams. So fragile, she thought. So naïve.
They did not yet know the harshness of the world. They did not yet realise the violence that their own mother was capable of, a violence that lived inside them, but still slumbered in their childhood. It was a violence, however, that was born out of a necessity for survival.
Pushing such morbidities out of her mind, she took one final look at them before disappearing into the rising sun. She walked with an elegance, flowing hair shimmering in the early light. As she travelled, the day grew brighter, and the onset of autumn was increasingly apparent. The warmth and richness of fiery canopies created a kaleidoscope of colours, while the sun brought with it a blessed warmth that pierced through the early morning cold.
Yet inside, even as she admired these wondrous senses, a tumultuous craving was rising. As she reached a lea of long grass, doubt cut through her like a knife. The violence inside her craved for a release, but she was struck by the brutality of what she had to do. The taste, she shuddered. Still uncertain, an image of her young arose unbidden to her mind, and her resolve hardened. I must, she thought. For them.
Confident now, she entered the field. The predator inside her was taking over, all of her senses alert. Her eyes darted quickly, searching; she quivered with anticipation. She stalked around for a time, searching, before suddenly her quarry came into view.
He was running in fits and jerks, jumping from shelter to shelter of tangled, dense weeds. He knew something was wrong, but couldn’t identify it; yet all the same an all-consuming panic was rising in him. He looked around at her, but she jumped down out of view.
Her mind was ablaze with excitement. She shivered, and advanced steadily. The thrill of the chase ruled her. There was no turning back. She started running. She hungered for his flesh. He turned and looked, but too late. She pounced, and delighted in the fear in his eyes.
The lioness looked up, the gazelle finally in its jaws. It turned, and cautiously began padding back to its brood.