The maw of a jaguar is satisfied by the accuracy of the nose above and the claws below it – always.
That statement, proud and stiff, echoed in his ears and hammered loudly in his mind – an insistent drum from a long and unbroken line of paternity. The statement had a voice, in fact, a looming, fearsome voice, and it had never before been silenced. It spoke loudly, boasting of the realities of countless daunting hunts, from the pangs of hunger and pains of lost catches nearly won to the mad joy of prized assassinations and how his ancestors had those moments tattooed on their flanks in scars. It screamed wildly, chanting of the prowl, the chase, and the kill… of the supposedly refreshing taste of fresh flesh, blood, and bone.
Yet, he had questions.
Perhaps the maw of a jaguar is satisfied by the accuracy of the nose above and the claws below it, but is there nothing more to my life than that? His mind had tortured itself with that question over and over for some time now, rolling the query around in it like a tongue rolling a caramel about in a mouth, and, though he attempted to explain it away, it persisted, baffling him. Now, it returned to him, even as he stalked forward, practically tearing tree limbs limp with drenched leaves out of his way.
The common assumption drumming through time and ancestry to him claimed that the satisfaction of his maw meant the satisfaction of a jaguar’s entire being. Yet, if that were true, though he rose above all his year-lings, standing undisputed as the most proficient killer of them all and almost never going hungry, why was it that he often – he sensed this even now – felt so dreadfully empty? In fact, though the concept announced itself as entirely alien to his kind, he dared whisper, if only to himself, that there must be something worth pursuing that could not be articulated through the rhythms of a prey-seeking hunt or the senses of his maw.
Still, he had questions.
Could this concept honestly be so foreign or unheard of? After all, though it would not fill his maw or feed his stomach, he was sure he would have to hunt it or them, and what if – imagine it – what he found himself beginning to long for was indeed another life form, just like his prey were, yet quite unlike prey in being just as powerful as him, in being… on his level?
He caught himself reaching forward in his thoughts to ideas even more incredulous than that and mused further: What if this being needs me, just as much as I need them? He laughed, his thoughts shifting to brooding over his physique, which, though praised by some, mostly elicited hard, thick jealousy and castrating glances. The veins running through his canon-like arms, for example, cascaded around his biceps and triceps like a nearly burst net, straining to contain an enormous catch, and he found it insufficient to say that his always taunt abdomen was overly chiseled. He had always considered everything about himself as much, and his physical appearance, as well as the physical strength, endurance, and speed it afforded him, was certainly no exception, and he always felt unnecessarily different – a freak, even among his own kind. His laughter simmered and abruptly cooled, and he slipped onward on his random journey, away from his jamboree and away from their judgments. What if the tortured, blurred nightmares I have been having and ignoring are of this being – this entity I need and seek? What if the fulfillment I desires rests in saving them?
He skidded to an abrupt halt at that outrageous question, yet, the more he scandalized it, the more it appealed to him as plausible, and the more the blacks, whites, golds, and reds of his haunting dreams cleared in his mind’s eye, showing him a dank, disturbed coffin of a dungeon so constrained it would make the calmest being claustrophobic. For now, all he could detect of the being inside was a silhouette, but is was enough, and, if the being was real, his dreams were no dreams: They were a desperate communication, a cry for help.
I am coming, he thought, almost saying the words aloud. I promise.
This time, the appetite of a jaguar would not satisfied by the accuracy of the nose above and the claws below it alone, at least not for him. He would be only be satisfied when he knew who the being in his dreams was and what madness surrounded them. He would only be satisfied when his unseemly body not longer seemed mutant and actually became necessary, for the salvation of another and in the fulfillment of his nagging curiosity. Above all, he would persist until he won or broke.
His name was not Salvadore Deamani Blue for nothing.