Chain of Life

By Sabeline Malenfant

I had been walking for a while now. I wasn't sure exactly how long, the days had just blurred into a world of left, right, left, right. It wasn't as bad as it had been earlier; at least I wasn't carrying as much weight. My water bottles had been so heavy- water weighs a lot- but now they were much lighter. I was thirsty, and sat down on a rock to rest.

I looked around, not allowed to drink water before I counted the number of trees in the area. Seven, that I could see, but I recounted until I was positive. Most were dead. The one on the left seemed to be moving, trying to trick me with its nefarious ways.

But I had caught on, and always watched that one out of the corner of my eye.

I took off my shoes- the heat had warped the soles- and set my feet down on the burning ground. I didn't feel the pain. I stood up again, ready to keep moving.

I was avoiding some of the dead brush in the area when my foot caught on something. I tried to regain my balance, but the added momentum of my pack was too much. I fell right into the scratchy plant as tumbleweed went idly rolling by. I got up quickly- who knows what kinds of creatures call that home- and threw of my pack, angrily turning to what had tripped me. I started to curse at it, when I realized I had tripped over an armadillo.

With a cry, I scooped it up and began to stammer apologies. "I'm so sorry!" I said again and again, my meager tears not doing justice to the remorse I felt. I wished I had drunk more water so it could truly see how sorry I was. I cradled it to my chest, hugging it tightly and even kissing its head. Flies had gotten to it days ago, as had some sort of creature. Poor thing had been dead for days.

I set it down under a small plant, happy to do what I could and afford it some shade. I walked away, sniffling, looking back and making sure he was O.K. I tried to make sure I was more aware of my surroundings, so that I didn't hurt another armadillo.

I was on this quest, this search for enlightenment and freedom, because life sucked. Royally. I had stopped taking my meds because they made me feel, well, not myself. The doctors said if I didn't take them, they'd lock me up. So I left.

I had picked this area because it was so beautiful. Kill or be killed, at the whim of Mother Nature, living and dying on God's clock. It was the dry season now, and the animals had burrowed under the ground for a cooler area or died off. Kill or be killed, so perfect. The strongest survive; I had to hand it to Darwin.

And here I was, walking like a queen through this queendom of nature. I was still surviving, waiting for the rains to sweep the dead, dust, and decay from this land and bring back the beauty of the wet season. The trees would spring back to life, the plants would be greener, moss and grass would cover the rocks and ground.

For whatever reason, I felt eyes on me and looked up. In the distance, there was an animal, I wasn't sure what exactly. I puffed out my chest, raised my arms, and gave a fierce cry. I'm bigger than you, louder than you, and stronger than you. I am Queen now.

The animal seemed unconcerned, and turned away and sauntered off, surely to laugh with their family at me. I was enraged, I was incensed, I screamed and growled and threw rocks at it. None of them reached it, but I knew it would be struck down for its mockery.

I walked faster now, my rage pent up and frustration making me tense. Every little thing made me angry, and I kicked a rock just to make it hurt. My foot started to bleed, which gave me a measure of satisfaction. I sat down, counted the trees, and opened my last water bottle. There was one last swallow left, which I drank.

I stood up, feeling full and much better. I walked, and walked, and walked. The walking would not stop until I found where I would begin to build my empire. One day had passed since I last had water, and I was beginning to get dizzy. Another day passed, and I had tried to catch an animal to drink its blood. I was averse to this, but survival of the fittest, Kill or be killed. I hadn't found one.

The third day arrived with no water. I pulled myself together and stared off into the distance. I saw a shape fuzzily on the horizon, and staggered toward it. I was sure now, it was some sort of palm tree. An Oasis.

I walked faster now, for an hour or two, getting closer and closer. Finally I was almost upon it, and collapsed. Before my eyes, my Oasis changed into dirt- nothing but dirt, death, and decay. Water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink. The skies were mocking me. They were cloudy and dark, and I knew the rainy season was soon. Very soon.

I just lay there, praying for rain. I held on, I'm not sure how long, and finally I knew I was not the strongest, I was the weak, I was the defeated, I was dying. I tried to figure out why I wasn't the best- I was smartest, I was the one with a prehensile thumb, I was the most advanced. And yet these creatures, these wild animals, had done what I could not. Survived. I gave up. I was beaten; I had no reason to live. I even felt the blisters on my feet begin to weep. I had no tears to donate to the soil- it was going to get my body anyways. Rain was all I needed- a bit of water to survive.

I allowed myself to slip into death, staring at the hot sun, eyes glazed over and miserable. Finally, I lay there, my heart unmoving and mind dead. An animal emerged tentatively and moved toward my dead body. The chain of life. I die, another lives. The skies opened up, and it began to rain. Mother Nature wept for me that day.