Failures of the Fallen
Whitefoot moved through the forest, an owl chasing after her. “Be away! Be away! Predator! For I am not your prey!”
The owl did not respond to the rabbit’s pleas. Still she ran on. The snow beneath her bunny feet thumped lightly, as her strengtht to push up and off each heavy snow pile was tested by the silent swoop of the pursuing bird. The owl flapped it’s massive wingspan and gained like a gun suppressor hushes a bullet. Whitefoot pressed on quicker now, as the freezing cold lit up his synapses to press forward.
“No! Not like this, wise predator! I beg! I beseech you show mercy! My young-lings will perish without my milk to feed! My mate will die of lonliness and loss of us all! Find another meal! A timid mouse! A blind old vole! Anything that is but inches below! I must make it home! Have you no mercy?” Whitefoot tried not to scream, knowing her breath. She was anting, and perishing, but her instincts told her she wasn’t done just yet...she had more to go before surrendering any supplements to her murderous stalker.
“For sympathy I feel for you dear rabbit. I comprehend your situation, as it is dire. The frozen times bring the harshest conditions to us all! So I ask...would you grieve the loss of my young who so starve without sustenance as I should grieve yours without mother’s milk? This game of predator and prey is a cruel one, rabbit! For every gain, there must be a loss! My brood shall die for your litter to live? Should I beg you mercy to surrender your life so my young shall have a chance to survive? Let this play out as it should, rabbit! For if you live to see a new day, and my brood perish the night, be damned that your breath shall be earned!”
The owl swooped, and narrowly grabbed Whitefoot, who had regained some congition from the deep raspy voice of the mother owl. She knew that this was a life-or-death struggle for either now...for the winter was unberably harsh this year, and even she would never have ventures so far from the burrow, as only to find a bit of grass to replenish her milk. She only lived to keep her litter alive until first thaw. Now she saw that there would be no mercy, that if she is to see her litter again, her heart may just have to give out to reach the burrow.
“Then let this game of chase conclude! For I shall be a fair sport and say I have still some left, but not much, and your aim grows weak from nights without meals. Let’s truly see then whose generation lives on! Godspeed owl, and happy hunting.”
“A respectable admission. I bid you luck as well, and no I take no pleasure in clamping my claws in you...I only can promise that the end shall come quick. Good flee, and may the wind favor your direction!”
So the chase continued in the dead of night. Whitefoot and the owl on target gained and lost, gained and lost. Whitefoot used tactics passed down in her family’s genes. She zigged-zagged, and changed patterns as she neared her burrow. The burrow was hidden well, but she could already smell her litter’s scent. Her mate’s familiar musk was about the den to ward off smaller predators, she felt the gap closing. She was going to make it!
The claw clamped down, snapping Whitefoot’s neck, but not even a meter’s length from her burrow. The owl ravenously clawed and cut the fur from the rabbit, eating as much as she could, overstuffing herself on the meat, and organs. The bloody carcass was but a shred of fur, and an eyeless head. Death had been as swift as possible, for Whitefoot likely thought she had made it home in a dream, a terrible dream of a chase that was ancient to the world, and even deader winters than this...and ice covered all.
The owl, replenished, shed but one tear for the rabbit. The cruel game of survival pushes the beast to do what is necessary...yet looking down the burrow where a litter would die without a mother to raise them...she knew it was a terrible fate, one her brood would have almost faced, not for her pattern recognition. She flew back to her owlets, and fed them until all bellies were stuffed, and the squawking died down to fluffy babies asleep in the nest. When the commotion had died down, and all were asleep, the mother owl stared out at a glowing horizon, a slight pain in her chest knowing today might be the last for the litter. She wept in that moment as the son pierced her binocular vision, and sleep overcame her. She thanked her prey for saving her owlets, and wish she could do the same for the litter...alas the nature of being, and the roles of predator and prey are not equal, and Nature is a cruel punisher to the failures of the fallen.