Skye Wu ’19
“Every lion in the valley has to jump across the ravine once in their lifetime. Every one of them. Not everyone can make it, some lions die here, falling into the flow in the valley. Even so, we take the risk, because this is what we have to do as lions,” said Aaron with pride.
Lily could not understand what Aaron was saying. She kept staring at his mane. Bright orange glowing in the breeze. Why don’t I have something like that? She thought.
Lily was raised by a hunter. When she was a baby, the hunter had shot her mom and brought her home with him. Lily did not understand death then. All she could remember was that her mom’s chest stopped moving up and down, and some liquid that was warm and sticky started crawling down her forehead. Lily stuck out her tongue and caught that liquid. It tasted like the sunset, she thought.
She had been living with the hunter for almost two years, so she never knew about the wilderness. Finally, the hunter brought her out into the woods for the first time. When Lily saw a deer hidden behind a tree, she felt something deep down in her body awaken. A stream of blood rushed to her brain, the salivary secretion in her mouth sped up. This was a feeling Lily had never experienced before. She loved it.
She started chasing the deer as fast as lightning.
When she caught it , she jumped up and tore the deer’s throat. The blood burst out and splashed onto Lily’s face. The taste of the blood reminded her of her mother, but it was somehow different–it lit the flames in her eyes. Lily felt that she was not her learned self anymore.
She stalked out of the woods, and a ravine appeared in front of her. A creature that looked just like her was standing on the edge of the cliff. Suddenly, he jumped over to the other side leaving a beautiful curve in the air, just like a ball of flame.
This is how she met him.
Since then, Lily could not take her mind off Aaron. Whenever the hunter lets her out into the woods, she always hides herself in the bushes next to the ravine and peeks at it, expecting to see the beautiful mane shining under the sun.
One day, she finally met Aaron at the ravine. “You are beautiful,” Aaron looked at Lily. She could feel Aaron’s eyes falling on her softly. “Would you like to take a walk with me?” asked Aaron. Lily nodded her head and replied him with a smile.
They were walking through the woods until the sky began to darken. The smell from Aaron’s body made Lily excited, but somehow calmed her down as well. She could not help moving her body closer to him, expecting to rub her skin onto his by accident. Feeling the heat from his body, she felt that she started to burn like a sun. She realized that Aaron has become someone special in her life eternally.
They started going on secret dates more and more often, even the hunter’s hound, Parker, noticed the smiles on Lily’s face that she could not hide every time she came back from the woods.
“Parker, I met someone” Lily whispered to him one day after dinner “I think I’m in love”. Parker smiled, “oh my little girl, do you even know what love is?”
“I like him more than I like my steak. It’s love, isn’t it?” Lily blinked.
After knowing Aaron, Lily started living a new life. She felt peaceful and safe with the body heat from another creature who looked just like her, and enjoyed Aaron’s warm tongue brushed upon her forehead with her eyes closed.
On a silent windless night, Lily snuck out of her house to meet Aaron. They ran through the open woodland, and saw the lights from the human village far away that resembled thousands of warm orange eyes blinking in the darkness. They laid down on the grass with their bodies touching each other’s. Under the deep, cloudless sky, two became one.
They leaned upon each other for a long time without saying anything. Aaron kissed her forehead, and Lily ran back home trying to make it before sunrise.
In several days after that night, Lily felt something different. A new life was forming in her belly. Lily was not a girl anymore.
The hunter was so shocked. Finally, he looked at Lily with the tenderness of a father’s eyes, he smiled with tears saying that her baby would be as pretty as she was. Parker also guaranteed that he would take extra care of this mother-to-be.
Aaron sniffed Lily’s belly softly again and again with all the love he could offer. The couple snuggled in the scrubs together picturing their future of brightness and freedom on the woodland.
On a hot sunny morning, Lily went to their meeting spot with her significantly swelling belly, but she did not see him. She waited for a long time, but she never saw the gloss of Aaron’s mane.
She went back home with disappointment and apprehension. She refused to eat anything until Parker forced her to drink some milk, for the baby.
The next day, Parker told Lily that there was a circus performance in the village that night, and there was a featured lion show. The liveliness in Lily’s eyes suddenly disappeared, and she roared with angry tears in her eyes, for she believed that the humans in the village had taken Aaron away from her.
She begged the hunter to take her to the show. He hesitated for so long worrying about her safety, but finally said yes after Lily promised to stay under his seat quietly throughout the show.
Lily snuck into the tent quietly from the back without drawing any attention. Under the hunter’s seat, she could not even breathe heavily.
The lion show opened in the dazzling light focusing at the center of the tent. A young girl in a flowery yellow dress showed up with her hands on the back. A lion followed her walking out of the curtain. The audience burst into a round of thunderous applause.
The lion’s mane was giving out the familiar orange shine under the lights.
Oh Aaron! My Aaron! Lily yelled desperately in her heart. Without making any sound, she swallowed the tears sliding down her cheeks.
At the center of the stage, Aaron stopped moving forward. He sat down in front of the girl as a pet dog. While he was staring at the girl, Lily found the same sparkle in his eyes that he used to have when he looked at Lily.
After a charming smile, the girl waved the whip in her hand, which was originally hidden behind her back. With a terrifying sound, the whip fell upon Aaron’s back leaving a bloody mark upon his hide. Aaron roared, a horrific roar laced with fear. He lowered his head trying to hold back the tears from falling out of his eyes.
Just as the second whip falling upon Aaron, there was a shadow flashing from the audience toward to stage. When Lily landed, she felt a piercing pain in her belly. She could barely move because of the pain. Her love and hatred fused together and started burning like a fire within her. Oh my baby! She thought.
I’m sorry, my baby. Please forgive me. Lily could not even squeeze one single tear from her dried eyes anymore.
With a horrifying scream, the girl was brought down by Aaron’s front claws. The whip with his flesh on it fell off the stage.
People in the tent started panicking; they were yelling, pushing and stepping onto each other, trying to get out of the tent as soon as possible.
Aaron opened his mouth next to the girl’s neck. Lily looked at him weakly from the ground. She saw that the flames in his eyes were back.
Bang! All of a sudden, a gunshot rang out. Aaron collapsed in his blood.
Among the crowd, the hunter was holding a gun with smoke coming out of the barrel. He looked helpless and lost. “Forgive me, Lily” he murmured.
The light in Lily’s eyes darkened. I don’t hate him, I guess. She looked at Aaron who already stopped breathing. Then she turned around and saw the hunter. I don’t hate him, either. She sighed quietly.
She already forgot the pain in her belly. Everything started dimming down. She could hardly hear the terrified screams from the crowds, or feel the lights projecting on her. The last thing she remembered was that the hunter and Parker rushing to her….
“Every lion in the valley has to jump across the ravine once in their lifetime. Every one of them. Not everyone can make it, some lions die here, falling into the flow in the valley. Even so, we take the risk, because this is what we have to do as lions.”
Lily never jumped over the ravine in her entire life.
She had already done her jump that night in the tent of the circus.