Never Smile

The wildebeest stand by the waters’ edge, filling their parched throats with the river’s cool, refreshing water. They have no reason to be afraid; they don’t see or smell any predators nearby. No, all they see is just some tall grass and half-submerged logs floating down the river.

And me.

Of course, they don’t think they see me; to them, I’m just another log making my way downstream. Too bad for them I’m something far more sinister and dangerous than a simple piece of wood. Such simpletons, these wildebeest are, little more than walking sacks of meat. Nice, fat, juicy sacks of meat, just waiting to be feasted upon.

I’ve been drifting closer and closer to the heard for minutes now, though the painfully slow current makes it seem like an eternity. Fortunately, the wildebeest seem to be especially parched, and there are still many, many more of the beasts waiting to take a drink. There’s no hurry, though the pangs in my stomach make me wish the river was flowing faster.

I close to twenty lengths to the shore. The wildebeest still have no idea that I’m even in the same river that they’re drinking from, much less that I’ll soon be right on top of them. I’ve been scanning the herd, deciding which of the wildebeest will have the unlucky pleasure of becoming my lunch. I think I’ve spotted the perfect candidate; a rather large specimen still waiting for its turn to drink. This one obviously is lacking in brains, even for a wildebeest; it’s been passed by at least three of his fellow herd-mates while waiting ever-so-patiently for its turn. Even if the stupid thing does detect me, it will be far too late. Perfect; if this pathetic animal ever gets enough brain cells working together to get itself down to the river, it will be the one I snatch.

I close the distance to ten lengths. My quarry finally realizes it’s been passed over and makes several whines and grunts in protest. The rest of the herd ignores it, waiting for it to just take its turn already. Finally realizing that its complaints won’t get it anywhere, the stupid thing shakily walks over to the riverbank and begins to drink. Perfect.

I slowly move my tail back and forth, moving to within five lengths of my prey. Then I go dead still, letting the current push me the rest of the way to the bank while I tense my entire body in anticipation of the coming strike.

Some of the herd begins to sense that something is not right, and they begin to nervously back away from the river. My quarry ignores them, either too thirsty to leave or just too stupid to sense the danger; I’ll bet on the latter. The herd begins to moan nervous warnings, but the simpleton ignores them. My eyes are locked onto it, not wavering for so much as an instant. I draw closer and closer to him, seconds away from the kill.

At the last second, it senses that something is wrong. But by then it is far too late. I’m right next to him.

I explode out of the water. It shrieks in terror and tries desperately to get away, but my jaws clamp down around its throat like a vise. My heavy body throws it off balance, brining him to the ground. I hear the sound of leg bones snapping. It struggles wildly against me, too scared or too stupid to realize that death is inevitable. I’m not in the mood for games and violently jerk my body around into the death roll. I feel its neck snap like a dry twig. Immediately, it stops resisting, and I drag it under the water to finish the job.

By now, the rest of the herd has fled, stampeding away in terror. Doesn’t matter to me, I got what I came for. This meal will quickly be consumed, and just as easily forgotten, but there will be another herd. There always is, and with it will come another meal. One always does.

This was written about a year ago for my Advanced Writing: Short Fiction course. Got a B+.

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