I crawled forward. Nose to the ground, trying not to inhale so much dust that I cough and die in seconds.
This was the only approach, and this was the only day. The last day of my trip to the far lands, the wild continent, and my last chance at this beast.
I was being foolish, but what else could I be? This was the circumstance, and there was no promise of the future. There was only now, precious now!
Alone was this approach, the only rock for hundreds of meters, the only angle from which it would not see me getting close enough to take Him.
I damned my hunting guide when he refused this approach. Now, he was nowhere to be seen. He called me a fool for my approach, and perhaps I was, but the wind was in my favor, and the wind waits for no man. Nor does the King I sought..
The rifle, so carefully handled before now dragged slowly beside me, I held the muzzle up so no dirt or debris would find its way into the gigantic bore.
A lesser man would have abandoned this Two Bore single barrel rifle for a double barrel to increase his chances of survival hunting the largest game in the world. But I was no lesser man. And I would take this game with no other rifle.
I made it to my position.
I rose to my knees as quietly as I could, my scent could seem far, but one sound would have Him on me in a flash. I aimed the massive rifle at the corner of the rock, and ever so slowly moved from behind the rock to see my quarry.
The golden beast was impossibly close.
No sooner had I seen him that I could feel the wind shift. The lion’s massive mane raised as it sniffed the new air. Betraying air carrying my scent.
Would I hit my mark? I could hear whispers of doubt and confusion around me.
My heart jumped as it started toward me, investigating, but not yet aware of how near his death or dinner lay.
Doubt and fear crept into my heart and threatened my resolve as the front of the rifle shook. I steadied myself. There was no the time for pusillanimity.
The lion’s golden eyes flash awareness, pupils dilating like lightning. It charges, transforming into a blur of muscle and teeth.
This is the time, the only time, the only moment I have to kill or to die.
I press my finger against the steel of the trigger, steel worn smooth by the fingertips of my ancestors drawing across it thousands of times for hundreds of years.
Some part, deep inside me snaps, a breach reveals the buried truth within me; I’m no man. I’m a small child holding a machine of steel and wood, taller than I. Caught in my trespass. My grandfather stomps across the hardwood of his study, golden eyes wild with anger, and pulls the enormous rifle from my small hands as if it were weightless.
As he looms over me his face softens almost imperceptibly. As if he had seen this before. Been here before. “This rifle, my grandfather’s rifle, is for men. Not boys.”
This part of me, this boy, dropped his Grandfather’s Grandfather’s rifle and ran. This boy made it one and one quarter steps before the lion was upon him. It pinned him and tore his throat out in one magnificent motion. An unbroken flow of blood arcing beautifully into the sky. Time slowed, until each quiver of each globule of blood could be discerned, facets flashing the light of the setting sun. The boy could see every moment he died, time slowing to eternity.
I don’t know how long it was until the smoke reached my nostrils, breaking my trance.
The King lay before me, almost touching me. I had done it.
Screams of women, children. I had saved them. Unaware of their danger.
I had done it, and I would never be the same. Who was I now?
Who was I now that The King lay before me, and The Child lay behind me, and I now stand shoulder to shoulder with my Grandfather, and my Grandfather’s Grandfather?
This question would not be answered today, but today I knew who would forever lay in this place. Blood and body painted across the sand and concrete. The Boy I once was; dead, forever here, in the lion enclosure at the san diego zoo.