Predators Take Turns Sampling and Digesting a Prey Animal's Existence
The lead lioness gripped her prey tightly by the throat. It was a small impala - not much for her large pride. They'd be on the hunt again soon, but it would afford each of them a small snack to slake their hunger.
"Please..." gasped the creature hoarsely.
"I will not spare you," growled the lioness.
"No... Not that..." the herbivore panted. Curious, the lioness relaxed her jaw slightly - just enough to get a proper answer from her prey.
"Please. When you eat me - imagine it; my life. Ask yourselves... if you can taste the difference between me - from the north - and my brethren here in the south. Can you tell I fed well on sweeter grasses there? Drank clearer water there? What can you tell of my life from my consumption? I do not want you to spare me - I want you to contemplate what my existence was to you. To me. To my herd. To the cycle of life."
"You assume much, thinking anyone would question the worth of their prey beyond the days of life they offer the predator!" jeered one of the younger lions. A young male, but not one the lead lioness had reared.
"Shush, young one!" growled his mother with annoyance. "Have I taught you so little about basic respect for life?"
The lead lioness considered all this for a moment, her jaws still loosely clamped over the impala's neck. The prey was nearly gone; a few minutes more and he would be a snack.
He really was little more than a few mouthfuls for the pride. The young lion spoke true that, beyond how long their prey's death would stave off their own, many predators would not consider the life of their prey beyond that.
And yet, that was this impala's last request.
"I will honor your request, impala of the north. Rest well, and know your death brings us life," the lead lioness breathed through her teeth.
The herbivore passed soon after, and, with more ceremony than was typically granted, the pride took their time and consideration in eating the creature.
"I think he did taste sweeter than the impala from down south," admitted one lioness. Others nodded in agreement.
"He will give us all a little more energy for tonight's hunt. We're going to need it. We haven't brought anything large enough to fill all our bellies in weeks."
As they wandered off, each developed their own thoughts on the impala and his request. Once, predators everywhere saw to such practice and praised their prey for their sacrifice. But somewhere along the way, the practice had fallen away.
Once the lions had left, a crocodile lying in the river took hold of the corpse. The lions had been unable to clean the carcass fully, and the crocodile clamped onto it and spun, twisting the impala's flesh. It eventually tore the lower half away before raising her head to swallow the mouthful in one, long gulp.
"Thank you, impala of the north," the crocodile said thankfully as she sunk back into the river. "Your death will help see me to the upcoming migration. I leave the rest for more unfortunate scavengers. Your herd truly lost one of the leanest - and quickest - among them."
Days passed before another creature stumbled upon the front half of the carcass. A clan of hyenas tore the remains apart, scattering the bones. Many of these, they took and crunched through; hyenas are well know as bone-crushers. By now, word of the impala's request had circled through the area, and the hyenas discussed the creature.
"A small impala, but sweet and strong," one stated, licking her jaws clear of the meaty remnants.
"The marrow of its bones will see us through to our next meal," agreed another. They shook the carcass once more, scattering the loosened bones.
Last to come across the impala's scattered remains were the African wild dogs. A large pack came across the bones and eagerly each took one, thanking the impala for its sacrifice that would see them through to their next meal as well.
"Sweet, like others from the north," announced one.
"A boon in lean times," another stated.
"Bones!" cried a pup eagerly. He sharpened his teeth on one of the impala's forelegs. His sister looked remorsefully at her bone - one of the impala's shoulder blades.
"What's wrong?" asked their mother, who nuzzled her female pup for comfort.
"Everyone talks about what the impala gave them. But no one has said what we took from the impala and his herd," replied her pup. "It seems so sad, momma."
"I know, little one. But that is what it means to be a carnivore; we eat herbivores so that we may live. It is good that you have respect for the fallen, though. You will not take a death lightly, or in vain."
About the Creator
A fun spin on her last name, Baker enjoys creating "Baker's Dozen" lists for various topics, several of which have earned Top Story honors on Vocal.media! However, she also writes candidly about her mental health and a LOT of fiction.
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