A panther stalked through a clearing, surveying its surroundings. It glanced at the sky as it sauntered forward. What joys a bird must experience. The beauty must dazzle it.
Ahead, lightning speared a tree. Branches and embers blasted to the ground as fires glowed around the trunk. Millions of tiny people—hued in a variety of colors—darted around, punching the air, consuming nearby oxygen.
The fires ran and spread and multiplied. Now trillions of tiny people punched the air and devoured everything they targeted. But they stopped when they noticed the panther.
—Halt, a fire said. —This creature doesn’t understand the pain it’s about to endure.
The other fires nodded in agreement, and they twisted and curled, their phalanxes shifted and re-formed. They opened a corridor through which the panther passed.
No harm approached it as it roamed, lost in thought: the freedom of flight, wind, the sights one must see from up there. Sights it couldn’t imagine.
Smoke merged overhead and thickened as the panther wandered. Then it glanced around, saw the smoke flowing from fires, and lunged forward, tearing through the woods and back into the clearing.
The wind divined the panther’s gaze and spun around, blowing away the smoke and the fire.
Thunder chainsawed the silence. Rain poured as lightning struck the ground near the panther, who bolted to the left. The clouds, dissatisfied, shot another dagger at the clearing—and hit the panther in the center of its back.
Death greeted it as darkness enveloped it. Then thousands of curls of light broke through the darkness and wiggled around. The panther, emerged from the darkness, realized it didn’t possess form—it existed without mind or body.
Crowing, Death opened its mouth, and smoke drifted away. —Sometimes it’s better if the predator is prey. He chortled and craned his fingers skyward, and the panther assumed the form of a hawk.
It screamed and launched toward the heavens. As it flew, as it gazed down at the miniature world beneath, the hawk encountered the physical sensation of hollowing out. It soared, but the act didn’t possess meaning; it felt as natural as taking a shit.
Gazing up, in the form of the panther, it had fantasized about the sky and flight, and fantasy had married reality. The panther had expected euphoria, possibly even a revelation, and now it’s stuck with … this. And this is far from special.
As it seized it’s disappointment, the hawk coasted through the air, unaware of the shadow crawling over its feathers.
Daulton Dickey lives with his wife, kids, and pet human-lizard hybrid in a universe he created. He’s the author of Elegiac Machinations, Bastard Virtues, and Flesh Made World, Contact him at lostitfunhouse [at] gmail [dot] com