Once upon a time, there was a gentle giraffe.
Every day she stood at the foot of a tree. The savannah sun burned her nose and the tips of her ears. She stood there in the very same spot, waiting for her sun to drop out of the sky. The tree provided neither shade nor food. Her long neck arched downward and her fragile legs traced repeated circles in the dust beneath her dainty hooves. Her sighs shook the heavy air of her yellow world. Her sun refused to help. He shone too brightly.
She wilted and moaned but couldn’t find the strength to hide. He was hers, that was all she understood. She sang to him, low and soft, a pleading call that started low in her empty belly. She needed to go to a pool for water, she needed to find something green to eat—but she had taken root beside this dying tree. She knew that life was also ebbing from her skinny frame. She had heard once that a soul existed in the chest. She wondered if it would exist when the chest no longer did. Or maybe the soul was a lie, and had been invented by those lacking knowledge, those who were scared.
Her tongue worked chapped lips. The rest of her herd had finally deserted her. They would no longer carry one so weak. They had nursed the swollen purple marks on her coat, her bloodshot heavily-lidded eyes, but her fathomless need had exhausted their care. They stalked away with lowered lashes and sad, side-sweeping tails. They told her to find a new god. They were moving on and she should follow.
But this sad savannah was her home. She knew every crevice, every stone that had drawn blood.
“Will you talk to me tonight, my sun? Why do you abandon me to the lonely dark? The night is black in your absence. Won’t you show me your face tonight and whisper something that hides the black?”
He didn’t answer. Her long neck fell another inch towards the earth. Her eyes no longer glowed, they no longer reflected the world. She was breathing only until she had used up her allocation of breaths. Her foal had died inside her. Perhaps he had known his mother was too sad to shine a light. She had asked her sun for help, but instead of drying her tears, he had scorched her and then disappeared while she trembled through the nights.
The moon was her companion. Her cool light had touched the giraffe as she stood alone. But the gentle giraffe ignored her peace. She closed eyes to keep her tears alive.
The air changed.
Her ever-sensitive nose twitched and her tail flicked with primordial fear. The beast was there, quiet, with lip-curled, delicate intent. Her chest clenched. The decision had to be taken. She had pictured this many times.
The beast smelled of heat. Was it him? Had he heard her song. Had he come? Closer. Close.
“Come to me,” she said on a breath. “I’m here. I’m yours.”
The mane rustled. The teeth bared. The sun shone heavy and hard and without remorse. He watched. The claws tucked into flesh.
Gentle giraffe allowed herself to break.
© 2018 Aislinn Ash Sands
Aislinn was raised in an Irish field surrounded by black and white cows, and big red tractors. She has a long face and wide grin. Writes.