by Ryan McGinnis
The sun was slipping again. Slowly at first, so slowly that the only way to prove its movement was to affix to firmly to a tree branch, a rock, or perhaps a habitually apathetic elephant and watch it slowly creep down on its way to the Earth. Of course, staring at the sun was an assuredly Bad Idea; yet another instinctive bit of knowledge passed down through generations of blind ancestors. The sun, being a wise and eternally sly creature, quickly grew used to this concept and used it whenever possible to steal an inch or two from the horizon. Usually nobody noticed, mostly nobody cared - at least, not until the sun had finished it's assault on Earth. It was then that the land grew cold and dark, then that the air echoed sounds of phantom hyenas and immaterial lions, -then that the world of prey opened it's eyes and cared.
But it was not then, yet, and the animals of the savanna went about their daily nothings while the sun carved its fiery arc into the sky, who was busy silently appreciating the intimate nature the wind had with the Earth. The wind's relationship with the Earth was intimate, though it hardly considered it so. It was so used to threading its tentacles through branch, wind, and fur alike that it rather considered them to be a part of its own being. It spent most of its daytime eternities stirring jealousy, staring with dreamlike attentiveness at the brilliance of the sun. "Oh, how wonderful it must be to be seen…"
On the grass, a large shadow was desperately clinging to an acacia tree. It felt quite lucky to have hold on such a sturdy tree; the sun's persistent forces had already stretched it to 5 times its preferred length. The shadow disinterestedly looked around at the world, surrounding, and smiled knowingly at its brethren. Pity poor them for having only small rocks and tall grass to cling to.
High upon the tree squat an aged baboon. The tree had long grown wary of him, but had no specific disposition against the wrinkled old creature whom had hollowed out his home in it's trunk. No more disposition than any victim would have towards any given murderer or thief. In reality the tree felt vengeance towards nearly all moving creatures, for none (it seemed) held any sense of appreciation for the wonderful gift of mobility. Often the tree prayed for the wind to give it just the slightest bit of assistance in hurling the skittering baboon to a loud, crunching doom in the waves of green rolling far below, but the wind seemed more interested in mocking the tree and blowing cold shudders through its branches late at night. The tree hated the baboon, and even more the wind. In fact… yes, it truly despised the wind, far more than the birds or the shadows or the giant longnecked leafmonsters. But, being a tree, what was it to do? Playfully, the wind chuckled and nudged the tree hard enough to throw it into a slight sway; a subtle reminder that perhaps it had whined enough for one day.
Rafiki, the name the baboon had given himself when he was old enough to realize his predicament, also could not help but chuckle. He smiled and continued watching the shadows slowly lengthen throughout pridelands. Soon the darkness would come, and he wished to enjoy the last few moments of light. A day's worth of work, love, and rest surely indebted such a small thing to him. Surely.
He scanned the horizon and sighed. So little time to rest, any more. His eyes shut and his sprit dived, shifting deep into the east. When was then, then that he was so young? The rains had come nearly 70 times since… since then. Then was when, when he could still feel the warmth of his mother pressed against his side, without the ache of a heart locked in the ice of loneliness. Then, when the world was large and bright and warm, every branch a new adventure, every hole a cavern into the center of the earth. Then was when. Even later then - 60 seasons, when he made his long walk to the west and learned to respect the vast see of green. After the fire. And then…
Then he first caught visage of the giant fist of rock, one claw beckoning forth, the other rending the sky. The owner of that fist had so seemed at first to be a frightening sight, regally beautiful but monstrously large. He was wounded, his leg bent at an angle that sent shudders down Rafiki young spine. He so much wanted to help the Old Lion, but what was a young mandrill to do? Who knows why Rafiki latched onto the him; perhaps out of desperation, perhaps out of helplessness… perhaps, just perhaps.
He had stayed, the Old Lion had not.
The sun had broken free of the sky and ignited the Earth. Rafiki slowly traced the horizon with his soul, searching for some fleeting profoundness that he'd missed before. His eyes found nothing.
Then there was Simba. Simba. Simba had fleshed out life, had made Rafiki experience the kinds of extremes that give living its perspective, its aim. For Simba, Rafiki wagered everything. His love, his life, his pride. He'd left his things behind, thrown his head back, shut his eyes and flew naked through night. In the end his faith had paid off, a cosmic justice that even he had realized was rare for this world.
He had lived an eternity under Simba's rule; the more he thought about it, the more he believed it. He was there when he returned, there when his cubs were born. There when they died, and there when they were born again. Mostly, it wasn't just being there that meant life to him. He felt there. No more nights filled with the shivering dreams, all asking "Where?" He felt there, and not even his soul would argue with him.
Simba was gone now. Innocent little cubs would ask him where; to which he would always smile, point to the stars and whisper "There".
It had taken more of him than he thought possible to turn his head away from where Simba once was. To try to look forward again, admiring life as she came rather than running through her backwards. Even then he'd never stopped glancing back at the distant echoes that cried out his name, often in the reflection of his own despair.
The sun was sliding somewheres west, slowly spreading red as the light became more committed to the Earth. Now a half circle, now a slice of mango, but a glowing sliver… and now, now gone.
In his mind, the electrical storm was growing more and more disconjointed. Neurons fired and traced patterns of miniscule energies through predefined paths, triggering chemical responses that fired more neurons. Over and over, faster and faster, with increasing intensity, patterns of immeasurable beauty darted about while chaos took reign over the dying kingdom. Soon they would grow tired of their beauty and cease… soon..
He sighed. The wind let out another chuckle and quietly brushed the old baboon's hair while the tree's shadow slowly blended with the rest of the world. Rafiki closed his eyes, his gaze remaining fixed to the west. A smile slowly spread across his wrinkled face, and the first evening star poked its head through the curtain. The wind gently shoved him as he slumped sideways, his weight tumbling the body from the branch. Now floating, now flying, sail through the air and
he lands in the grass.
The tree stared down at him for a long, long time… and quietly cried to the wind.
Author: Ryan McGinnis
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