He is crouching on the grass behind a bush, out of wind. Only a few feet away he hears the growling of a tiger. He holds his breath until his lungs almost burst, cautiously letting the air seep out of his lungs.
The tiger lingers, but then seems to stroll away.
It doesn’t matter what we call this being. He is half-man, half-beast. He speaks in a language of mixed grunts and gestures. His eye ridges are prominent. His teeth are crooked like planks of wood jammed into the Earth. He looks like people we know, people that we’ve seen.
The coast now clear, he lifts his broad nose into the air to detect the scent of the tiger. Tigers are known to lay in wait, hiding from a distance so they can pounce on their unsuspecting victims, clawing the face, plunging their fangs into the neck and burrowing into the meat. Once the neck is penetrated, the body goes limp. The tiger knows that the moment the breath escapes the body, the flesh becomes tender and sweet.
The half-man remains still. He waits.
From this position he can see the light of the sun. He doesn’t know what the sun is but it’s there every day, warming him. The sun feels good. He knows that when the sun is up he can see better and he is less likely to step into the path of a predator. He squints looking up at the sun. The yellow colors wash over his face, caressing him. The sun doesn’t talk to him. Its hands touch him, its fingers massage his face. When the sun beats down on the grass it’s like it is laughing or dancing. His thinking about the sun is like what we think about at night when we can’t sleep. You mull over images and ideas in your mind until they run into each other. You have wild disconnected dream sequences that link thoughts which have occurred throughout the day, but all of your thoughts are looped. They all lead to nowhere, a merry-go-round of imaginings. The half-man envisages a story: sitting by a river feeling the sun on his face, eating a gopher that he’s hunted. The sun, the yellow, warmth, tiger, bush, sun, sky, yellow, the taste of meat. The yellow heat of the sun, the warmth. The sun’s caress.
His thoughts drift away after a few moments. He lowers his head and closes his eyes. He dozes for a bit, waiting until the sun sets.
The sky is dark now. The moon, the sun’s sister, comes out at night, staring over the land, casting a silver shadow.
It is safe to leave now.
He gets up quickly and runs. The night feels good. He dashes in the gray glow of the moon. You could not see your way in the darkness as he does. There are no signposts or directions. He just knows where he’s going. It can’t be described.
He’ll have to stop soon. He has to eat. Running for another few miles, he finds a creek, knowing that where there’s water, there’s food.
He brushes through the shrubbery, looking for something edible, a bug, a flower, or berries. He sees a brightly colored blue pansy. Pulling it out of the ground, he sniffs it, pleased by its perfumed fragrance. He expertly removes the pistils and stamens, throwing them to the ground and stuffs the delicious petals into his mouth with his index finger. He then snatches up a worm that slinks along a leaf, stuffing it into his mouth. The worm tastes warm and wet. He eats berries from the bush and some leaves as well.
He then ambles down the little knoll to the creek. Looking right and left, he ladles cool water into his palm, quietly slurping it into his mouth. Squatting down in the grass, he shits and pees. It feels good.
He finds a place to sleep for an hour to replenish his energy. He clears a space, moving brushwood and small rocks out of the way. He lies down. At first he is jittery, anxiously poking his head up, searching his surroundings. Then he hears the rustling of twigs on the ground. What is it? He waits. His eyes pierce the darkness, needing only the faint light of the shiny moon to see. He doesn’t pick up an animal scent. He is still for a while. He determines there is nothing to be concerned about.
Then he puts his head down again, now lulled by the symphony of crickets. A coolness washes over his face. The night seeps into his skin. He drinks in the soft darkness. A gentle rain makes the air fresh and light.
He remembers earlier in the day how he bathed, like a lustful faun, in the warmth of the fair sun.
He soon falls asleep.
editor’s note: We all look for a place for our head. From the time we fell out of the trees, to those who sleep under the bridges we build, rest is the other half of life. ~ tyler malone
photo credit: “A Place for Predators to Pray” by Tyler Malone