The rocky hills of the Ozarks are filled with fossils. An ancient ocean used to flow abundant with life above these busty knolls. Sometimes at the tops of these small mountains, early in the morning, when the sun shines sideways from the East through the cedars and the oak trees, you can smell the stale damp of decay rising from the warmed Earth. The pungently preserved odor of corpses, prehistoric crustaceans and early photosynthetic plant life, long since deceased, still linger like the smell of an animal killed yesterday.
I am careful to tread lightly over these ancestors, not only out of respect, but also because my feet are bare and fleshy and Ozark rock rubble is far from smooth. I am trying my hardest not to make too much sound this morning. I am hunting out of desperate hunger.
Try as I may, the balls and the palms of my feet are still crunching on the sharp fossils, still shooting triangular pieces of shale left and right, outwards in front of me. My toes catch on a large sandstone rock rooted into the red mud and leafy decay of the forest floor. But my balance is stronger than a human’s, because I am animal. Yesterday I was animal, today I am animal, and tomorrow I will be animal.
“Ah” my mind exclaims triumphantly as I hear the low melancholy call of a Whippoorwill. She is close. She called out to see who was there, perhaps another one of her kind, but no bird replies. I hold my stance, plant my feet and feel the Earth’s vibrations and momentum as it spins towards the sun, turning the woods golden with morning light.
I decide to answer her, to tell her I am here. I whistle low, the call of a Whippoorwill, the songbird of the night. She knows I am part human. She is scared; she is no longer under the cover of nightfall. I feel her avian frame near me.
The explosive sound of feathers is in the air as she swoops out of a 100 year old Cedar to my right. I catch a glimpse of her black silhouette against the sunrise.
I lunge into the air, instinctually, belly first with wanting. For a few seconds I am falling upward with predatory strength to meet the fluttering night bird. After her I fly. I am inches from her tail as I stretch my arms towards her, letting my energies flow through my palms and fingertips. I grasp her tail… and begin to fall. As we descend to the rocky earth, I pull her closer to me, wrapping my arms around her wings and hugging her possessively to my chest. She made no sound when we hit the stony soil. She trusted me, and I her.
First, I snap her neck. Then, I run. Swiftly, leaping over ferns and boulders and fallen trees to safety. Where safety is, I am not sure, but I will find it, because I am small and I am fast.
Mountain lions are faster than I, I know this, and I know that they prefer to leap onto their prey from steep heights. The thought of heights make my palms sweat, the thought of mountain lions make me shiver, so I run harder. I’d be an easy meal with an appetizer to the yellow beasts.
My stomach growls as I spot a shallow cave ahead of me. As I run, I pull a sapling out of the ground with my bird-free hand and dive into the cave with the bird and the dying tree. I hide the bird behind me and proceed to whittle a spear out of the child tree, letting its sour sticky blood spill onto my hands, mixing with the Whippoorwill’s. Once I am done whittling, having made a weapon to protect myself from jealous carnivores, I can eat.
I do not cook the meat. My stomach has adapted to such a diet. I pull her dark feathers out and pile them together for safekeeping. I will keep her bones, too. I bite into her cold flesh and shudder. Two emotions provoked this shudder, one was the ecstasy of hunger, and the second was the thought of eating this bird raw six months ago… When I was a “civilized” woman. A part of me wants to vomit all over the bird and cry, but I know that if I vomited, nothing would come out of my starving frame.
I did not choose this life, it was chosen for me. I have adapted, evolved you might say. Others call it degeneration, but I know in my heart of hearts, that within the next fifteen years, every last human on this planet will be living as I am now. Like my delicious Whippoorwill, not everyone will live to see it.
This and more stories in the new Eco Columbia
By Samantha Christmann