My first sensation is of pain – a searing, ruthless heat burning my whole body. I can’t make out where it comes from. I try to open my eyes. I can’t see anything clearly. The pain is not letting me focus. I drift back to unconsciousness.
I am aware of a slow movement. I seem to be lying down on some hard surface. Now I can make out where the pain is coming from. My limbs are caught in a sharp metal object. It is digging into my flesh. I can’t remember how I got here, though. I try to think back.
It had been more than a week since my last hunt. I was walking towards the water hole. A herd of deer was grazing near it. I scanned the herd to mark my prey. My eyes fell upon a doe. She was sitting to one side, away from the others. She seemed to be nursing a wounded limb. Suddenly she looked up, right into my eyes. I froze. She nodded imperceptibly. She was offering herself. I debated. This would be no fun. No chase, no rush. But she clearly wanted to die. That limb must hurt more than it seemed. I could even hunt another one if I wanted. I nodded back, and began walking towards her.
I was almost close enough to pounce when a sudden sharp pain ripped through my right forelimb. I was caught in a trap! I thrashed about trying to escape, but it had snapped shut, breaking my bone in half. My vision began to go hazy. Through the mist, I could make out the doe walking away nimbly. She stopped to turn and look at me. I blacked out.
The movement has stopped. I hear voices. I have heard these voices before. They bring back memories of my childhood, my mother; of her death. I don’t remember it clearly – I was very young then. I only remember her anguished growls of pain.
It dawns on me. I am going to die. Just like my mother had, like all my previous mates in the jungle. There were very few of us left in the forest anyway. And now, they are going to kill me too. For what? I don’t know. Maybe they will eat me. I think of the doe. I remember the look on her face when she turned. She looked triumphant, wicked, even. Had she known about the trap? I would never know now.
Now I am a prey, a victim. Is this how my prey felt before I killed them?
I hear a sound behind me. I am in too much pain to move. A man comes in and shines a bright light in my face. I cower in the sudden darkness and blink. He shouts out to the others. He lifts a big log of wood and swings it at my head. I roar as a new wave of pain floods my consciousness. The end is near, very near. The man bends down and looks into my eyes. I can see my reflection in his eyes. As I stare into his eyes, they change. Slowly, they become the eyes of the doe. Glinting. Darkness begins to engulf me. I try to fight against it, but I lose my will easily. I roar, a last feeble attempt. And I die.