Let me tell you about my life:
I cannot remember how old I was when I was taken from my mother, but I remember that my world was broken very soon after I was born to her. Humans took me away from her sweet milk, her warm comfortable belly, soft with mommy-fur. Humans grabbed me from her embrace and the comfort of her deep purring grunts that soothed my fears. Humans took us and put us in a cage, not far from where my mother paced the perimeter, wearing a path all along the border, constantly calling for us, and trying to claw at the fence to get to us. She could see us, hear us, but she was caged in a 12 foot high meshed wire fence that damaged her nails and chipped her teeth when she tried to bite though it to get to us. It almost drove her insane with grief. Sometimes the humans would kindly come and gently whip her though the fence to keep her quiet, but it would only keep her away for a few minutes.
After a few days of crying for my mother, I started thinking that maybe humans were my friends. After all, we were constantly cuddled and bottle-fed with milk, and we were only left alone in our tiny cage at night. I think the humans went out to hunt then, because they left us alone for up to 12 hours each night. There was no water or grass in our pen, but I suppose we were difficult to keep clean. Initially we were lost and confused but at least we could snuggle close to each other for comfort. At least we weren't alone.
The humans who cuddled us were always happy, and sometimes so happy that they hugged us too hard, so our tiny bodies became sore. But then we could recover overnight, which was good. When we started to smell like lions, they bathed us in water, with funny-smelling bubbles. We were rubbed dry, and although our fur looked soft and shiny then, our skins were itchy and sometimes started pealing, and the fur fell out in places. Initially our eyes were itchy from the lights coming from their cameras, like when you look up at the sun through a cover of leaves, and suddenly it opens up and the light burns your eyes. Sometimes our eyes would start watering, and then we would be kept away from the humans and our friends for a while because we were not pretty to look at anymore. Once I remember that my cousin started looking really patchy and he didn't want to sleep near us. The humans came to take him away. I'm sure they took him to help him, but it had been a few weeks and he hadn't been back. I really missed him. I still do.
After a few weeks there was a new kind of hunger in our bellies. We did not know at that stage, that it was for meat. But the humans kept feeding us milk, so we drank and drank, until our bellies felt like it would burst. It was better, but the hunger stayed. The first time we tasted chicken, it started with a game. Our friends, the humans, were throwing toys around for us to chase and catch. Most of the time we were too tired to play, but when we smelt a different smell, it must have triggered a deep memory for us, and suddenly we realized that it was food. Meat. The frozen chickens that we ended up chasing proved to be highly entertaining to the humans, although it sometimes hurt our bellies. Somehow, it felt like it should be warm, and that blood should be coming out of the chickens when we caught it. We always remained hungry in some weird way.
My mother's main job was to make babies for the humans to love. She was kept in an enclosure where occasionally a male (sometimes it would be my father) would be allowed when she was ready to mate. When she had babies they were taken away from her very quickly so that the humans could love them. I think they were better at loving lions, than lions are, otherwise they would never have removed the babies all the time. Maybe she was a bad mother.
Late one night we were woken up with the sound of a truck, and humans making a big noise. The pointed sticks at my mother and her other family, and it made a loud bang, but it didn't wake my mother up – it made her sleep. She was loaded in a wooden box onto a truck together with a few other lions. I remember calling to her to try and wake her up, but she was enjoying the sleep too much. I later heard that she was now too old to make babies like us to be loved by humans, and she had been taken to a farm where she would be happy, but I never believed that. She wasn't even happy here – as close to us as she could be – so why would she be happy anywhere else?
Our days consisted of endlessly making humans smile and laugh with delight. They loved it when we sucked on their fingers, but if we accidently drew blood when biting too hard, we were punished by being kept away from our friends, and not being fed. We soon learnt to chew very gently on the humans' fingers. We got used to the constant handling and flashing in our faces and being picked up by our front paws to show our soft bellies. We only ever played very early in the morning, a bit later and it became a chore, and we were too tired from making all the humans happy.
And then one day, our lives changed again – we were now 'too big' to be loved by humans, but we could walk with them. This made them happy in another way. Our caretaker always had a big stick with which to keep us in line if we became too cheeky. Sometimes he would poke it straight into the soft skin under our paws when we swiped at him in frustration, and he even poked us in the mouth sometimes. We must have been very cheeky to deserve that, and we know that he was only doing it for our own good. So that the humans could keep on loving us.
At this stage, we were on meat. We stayed in a bigger camp when we graduated to walking with humans, and our caretakers would come in and throw meat off the back of the truck to us. We missed the fun of stalking and running after prey, although we didn't know it at the time.
When I was too big to be walked, so that it was unsafe for humans, I was put into an enclosure on my own for the first time. I missed my friends, but they were in another camp where lots of cars would drive through and stop to take pictures. The humans must have loved them more, because they didn't come to play with me anymore. One day, when I really wanted a friend, a strange male lion was let into my camp. I was very happy, because I had a friend now. He stayed with me for about three months, and I felt something was different in my body. Just after that, I suddenly had babies! Oh, the joy of new life... I loved them more than my own life, and would absolutely kill anyone who dared come close. Even their daddy sometimes got the sharp end from me! When my four babies were nursing and then sleeping against my soft mommy-fur on my belly, I was the happiest lion in the whole world! The humans were very happy too – smiling and taking lots of pictures!
But a few days later, the humans came and took my babies away. I could not remember how old they were when they were taken from me, but I remember that my world was broken very soon after they were born. Humans took them away from my sweet milk, my warm comfortable belly, soft with mommy-fur. Humans grabbed them from my embrace and the comfort of my deep purring grunts that soothed their fears. Humans took them and put them in a cage, not far from where I paced the perimeter, wearing a path all along the border, constantly calling for them, and trying to claw at the fence to get to them. I could see then, hear them, but I was caged in a 12 foot high meshed wire fence that damaged my nails and chipped my teeth when I tried to bite though it to get to them. It almost drove me insane with grief. Sometimes the humans would kindly come and gently whip me though the fence to keep me quiet, but it would only keep me away for a few minutes.
A few days later I was put into a camp with my original family, my brothers and sisters, and the cars started driving through. It made humans very happy to take pictures of us, and to try to get us to move by making noises. Sometimes they would hang out of the cars to get a better photograph, sometimes they would honk the car horn to get us to look at them. It was very irritating, as I just wanted to sleep and mourn for my missing children.
We were fed from the back of a truck, but our prey was already dead. The humans in cars loved that most of all. Very strange, watching us eat like that.
I never could understand, but suddenly my life turned into a never-ending cycle of being pestered by humans, put into a cage, mating with a strange male lion, having babies, having my heart ripped out every time they took them away, losing family members in the night as they got taken to strange places.
A few months ago, a friend of mine did a thing that made the humans very scared. Somehow she managed to open the back door of a car. The humans were screaming and shut it again, quickly. And then pressed a little button so she couldn't get it open again. They were scared, and their screams sounded like an ancient call to chase something.
Another friend did a very bad thing by jumping through the window of a car and biting the human who was slapping at his face and punching him. I could understand that perfectly because it's very frustrating that we don't have any space to run free. We were all punished by being left hungry for a few days after that, even those of us who thought that our brother did a bad thing. The humans who loved us also started beating us with sticks and things that shocked us. I suppose they were only trying to teach us to respect them. Our brother got taken away in the night, but somehow I don't think he is alive anymore.
I have heard some of the human visitors ask about what happens to us when we are too old to love. The staff told them that we get moved to a big farm where we can catch our own live food and run free; but I heard from a new lion brought in to mate with me, that there were very bad things going on at the place he came from, some lions were even made dead by some human visitors. But I guess they loved them too, because my new friend said that they took the bodies home to put in their homes where they can love them forever.
Somehow this incident made the Park even more famous, and the pressure and unhappiness and restlessness mounted, as the number of tourists in the park increased.
We were many, many lions in a small enclosure, and we had nowhere to run like the wind, to release that fierce fire of purely being a proud strong lion that still stirred deep within us.
The constant heartache and misunderstanding, and being cooped up like the chickens they used to give us when we were little, before they made them dead and cold – it started a deep sadness in all of us. The sadness grew into unhappiness, which grew into frustration, and grew into rage. It was burning white hot in us, but we were all scared of the humans who loved us.
My latest babies were taken from me a few weeks ago. Two of them were taken away so far from me that I couldn't see or hear them. The other two babies were grabbed by a young girl, while one of the other humans hit me with a stick to stay back. I was put into the big cage where all the cars drive by as soon as my babies were gone. I paced the fence, I cried and roared, I called for them and wouldn't eat. The cars with the human tourists came and nudged us, made funny noises, flashed their lights and pointed their cameras right into our faces. Endlessly.
One afternoon I saw a white car, which looked like the one that took my babies, and the glass window was open because I could smell the human inside. She smelled like the girl who took my babies. She kept on coming closer and closer, looking straight at me, challenging me. The camera lens grew longer and longer, and the flash brighter and brighter. I wanted to ask her where my babies were, but suddenly a white hot rage erupted inside my chest, and I wanted to make her heart as sore as mine. I lunged into the car and bit her on her shoulder – then I pulled back. The human in the car with her punched and slapped at my face and I swiped at him with my paw. Blood was everywhere, warm and sweet – but - my babies were not in the car, and the woman was not the same one that took my babies. It all happened so fast. Suddenly I was being hit and chased and beaten to get away from the car.
I made the woman dead.
I didn't mean to.
It all became too much for my wild, sad, captive lion's heart.
I was put in a cage on my own.
I heard that I was going to be taken to the farm to be free.
But I think they are going to make me dead there.
At least if it is someone with enough money, they will take my body home to love it.
I have no excuse, except that:
I was being a lion.
Sekhmet, the Killer Lioness Copyright: CJ Carrington 2015