She leaned on the torso of one of the lions, caressing its tawny fur, listening to the pulse of its heartbeat and allowing herself to admire the sunset that peeked through the curved entrance of the cove. She had seen many its kind, but the repetition never dulled its beauty. She drew in a breath as a soft breeze played into the room, carrying with it the lulling sense of relaxation that dusk only brings. Sweeping her eyes lazily around, she quietly admired the silent strength that resided with her, taking in the imposing sight of twenty grown male lions peacefully lounging.
They had come in, and never left. She barely remembered a life that wasn’t spent tending to her them, although she did not spy any of her kind doing the same. It didn’t matter though, for this was where she felt at home. They were good to her, these beasts, bringing her sizeable chunks of their kills, and standing guard every night when she went to cook the meat, lest the lionesses and wolves got any ideas. They followed her everywhere, and for this all the other beasts of the forest stayed out of her way. It was an imposing sight, seeing the tall, slim wisp of a woman surrounded by menacing looking male lions. They gathered around her during the cold season, keeping her warm from the harsh harmattan chills. They herded pregnant goats to her cove, so that she could feed off their milk. They lay down around when she indulged in her hubby of tree climbing, and she liked to think it was to protect her, in case she fell. They swatted flies of her during dusk, for she had no tail. In return, they sucked her dry.
A lion yawned; awakening her from her reverie. She stared at its long, sharp canines; at the quick twitching of its tail as it swatted annoying flies off its back. It has been two days since he ate, and she felt her heart sink at the thought, the weight of her responsibilities dragging it further down. Day after day, night after night, she had breast fed these lions. Her hand involuntarily went to her breast, mindlessly caressing the abused organ. They were insatiable. They did not eat anything else, and they did not understand it when she had slumped to the floor, a few months back, while feeding Ezra, no - they had simply nudged over her semi conscious body and continued sucking.
She sighed now at the memory, and quietly arose. The weakness never left, but she felt a little better today, and shuffling her frail feet, she decided to see if she could make it to the lake by the cave, to stare at her reflection and gauge how far worse she had become. Leaning against the walls, she dragged her limp body to the entrance. She got to the opening and...stopped. Slowly, the realization that she could get no further dawned on her, for the wall had ended; there was nothing else to lean upon. She stood still for a moment, shocked by her forgetfulness, her temporary stupidity. For how could she have walked all this way, heavily dependent on the wall, and not have seen that it ended only a few feet from her? Her eyes widened as a thought birthed in her head, like a sure, dark mist. Perhaps, her mind was dying too. The idea chilled her to the marrow, and she bravely leaned her head back to stop the tears from coming. A low growl stopped her, and she turned around to meet Ezra’s soulful eyes staring back. He got up, shook his whole nine feet body, from the mane to the flanks, and walked to her, silently offering his back. Gratefully, she sat down, and allowed herself to be carried to the lake.
The air was crisp, the refreshing cool breeze calming her frayed nerves. Resting on the banks, she peered expectantly down the clear waters to peruse her mirror image...and froze. The reflection that stared back at her was incredulous. Frowning, she touched her own face to make sure it was still hers. The face that stared back at her was still young, still heartstoppingly beautiful. The eyes glittered and danced, drunk from a mirth that she did not feel. Her lips; tauntingly red, as red as the blood that stained the meat she fed on, and her hair, her rich, long, dark hair, fell in ripples of shiny luster that rivaled even those of the leaping forest panthers.
How could this be?? She was weak. She was dying. She felt it in the way her bones refused to carry her anymore, she saw it in the strands of hair she left behind on the floor every time she woke up. She was distracted suddenly by a sharp jerk from Ezra, who had been lapping silently a few feet from her. He stood now, transfixed, alert, staring eerily into space. What was going on? Before she could think, all her further thoughts fled for their safety as Ezra released an earsplitting roar, which chased the birds from the nearby trees and brought the sleeping lions running out. She remained on the floor, heart beating in her chest. The lions formed a rough semicircle around her, low growls emitting from their throats. An intruder was on their terrain, and whatever it was, it was not welcome.