Here is a edited/ shortened version of “Forgotten,” a short essay about the lion kill my family and I witnessed while on safari in Africa. It was recently published in the RCAH Literary Archive at MSU.
A shiver ran down my spine as the night air began to unveil itself. Tired, and suffering from minor dehydration and a diesel fume head ache, I began to layer on the same long underwear, sweat shirt, fleece, windbreaker, hat and gloves that I had been wearing for the past dozen days.
We cruised around the desolate African terrain for about an hour. I slunk down into my seat, trying to rest my head and escape the slight sting of windburn on my checks. The sway of the jeep lulled me into a state of relaxation and daydreaming about what I was missing at home. I was shortly interrupted by a unique African voice,” Were going to take a chance and go off the road.” An indistinct mumble of agreement echoed throughout the jeep.
We pulled into a small clearing. “Johanna, Johanna look!” my mom whispered as she pointed to the other side of our vehicle. Two flaxen female lions were lounging next to one another less than twenty feet from us. They acknowledged our jeeps looming presence. Their ears perking forward, while their golden eyes, hidden under heavy lids, rolled in our direction.
We watched them for several minutes, reveling in their sinewy bodies and slinking movements as they surveyed the area.
Out of nowhere, we heard commotion in grasses next to us. A herd of frail impala rushed out of the bushes. Our driver pulled us around the dense shrubbery and within seconds we saw what had startled them. Hunched in the tall grass was a third lion, slightly larger then the other two, smothering a small impala with her powerful body, her massive jaw clenched around its slender neck, in an attempt to asphyxiate her prey. The others quickly joined her. Together, they began ripping into the impala’s abdomen, white teeth flashing as they began to gorge themselves. In no time, intestines and organs were exposed and quickly devoured.
The only noises were the tearing flesh and popping of bones mixed with the shuttering of all our cameras. Every few minutes the impala would thrash, raise its head and cry out in a feeble attempt to escape. The lions ignored these wails as they continued to tear its body to shreds with their bloody jowls. No one spoke, as if in shock of what we were witnessing. Every once and a while, their large yellow eyes would glare us at us, questioning our presence and wondering if we were waiting for their leftover’s. These eyes sent shivers down my spine. I could feel goose bumps forming on my forearms. Suddenly, a disgusting smell hit stung my nose. My eyes began to water as I pulled my fleece up over my face in a useless attempt to avoid the stench. “ They have ripped open the bowels,” our guide whispered with a slight grin. If death had a smell, this was it. For several minutes they continued to devour the impala, tussling over who would get the heartiest parts. Limb by limb, the impala began to disappear right before out eyes and as soon as it began, it was over.
Within thirteen timeless minutes, the impala was gone. All that was left were bones, tufts of silken fur, and a bright, crimson stain smeared over the matted grasses.
Just like that, in a matter of minutes, it was as if the impala never existed. Forgotten by all, except for our memory cards and hard drives.