by Graham B.
In Africa, sometimes grocery shopping entails risk.
| Wale approached the kill slowly, as if stalking it. There was no chance of the lions having missed his approach, but they gave little sign of having sensed his presence.
As he crept closer, Wale felt the sun directly overhead, the searing rays burning his scalp. Sweat was dripping from his temples and his nose, congealing with the choking dust. His path took him near some unidentified scat, and flies buzzed angrily at his passage, settling back down to their putrid meal when he had passed. The scat overwhelmed the smell of dust and made his nostrils twitch.
At twenty meters, one of the lions looked up and yawned a cavern of canines. Wale continued to move closer, and the other lions were now looking at him. One of the males sprang to his feet and shook himself. He snorted in Wale's direction. Wale fought down the surge of fear, pushing it into the lead ball that was his stomach, his hunger forgotten. He continued on, slowly drawing the knife from its sheath.
At fifteen meters the male gave a short woofing growl, almost like a bark. His kindred were all standing now, looking alternately at him and at each other. They snorted and shook themselves, dust billowing up in clouds. Wale could see dust caked around their nostrils, stained with wildebeest blood. He could see six sets of huge yellow teeth between black lips. Six sets of yellow eyes followed his every move as he came closer.
The first male roared, a guttural noise which reverberated within Wale's bones. Wale's heart tried to stop, but he pressed forward, not hurrying and not hesitating. A fly landed just below his left eye, and he suppressed the urge to flick it away. The lions had raised their hackles, their tails rapidly swishing from side to side. As Wale came within ten meters, two lions backed away, slinking into the savannah grass. Another lion joined them followed by another, and another. The first male was still standing over the prey, his eyes staring straight through Wale's face, arrogant and contemptuous. He roared, and this time Wale was close enough to smell the hot stench of decaying flesh, the heat of the giant cat’s breath almost overwhelming the heat of the sun.
Wale stopped five meters away, he and the male staring at each other across the carcass. Wale could hear the loud buzzing of insects from every direction and somewhere, a kite announced its presence with a warbling whistle. The sun continued to bake sweat and dust into clay. Then slowly and sullenly, the male slunk away and joined his mates in the grass. Wale slowly, silently let the wind out of his lungs. He bent over and began sawing at the flank of the wildebeest. The lions watched the outrage from their shelter, but did not move. Flies buzzed in clouds when he disturbed the carcass. It took five minutes for him to cut through the pelt and reach the meat. The exposed flesh brought even more flies. They gathered in throngs around the trickle of blood which dripped from the wound down to the earth. They landed on Wale's hands, now slick with blood. He kept cutting, the knife slippery in his hand. Finally, a large chunk of muscle came loose. The lions craned their heads to see what he had taken but still they remained in the grass.
Wale sheathed the knife, then taking his prize, slowly turned around and walked away. Behind him he heard a growl, but forced himself not to react or worse, to break into a run. He kept walking and before he reached the tree line, he heard the crunch of bones behind him. Risking a look back, he saw the lions back at their prey. The belligerent male was tearing meat out of the wound Wale had made with his knife. He turned and entered the green cool of the trees.