In the seemingly endless span of existence since life peeked its sneering head into our universe, things have happened. Great things, with great battles and feuds, so legendary that they will always exist in the cultural memory of those who witness them. And so, too, it is with those thoughtless and impulsive beasts, who by their very nature seek out each other’s end in magnificent fashion, unyielding and unheeding of danger’s warnings. These noble beasts prove the grace and necessity of the hunt in a way that man can hardly grasp, our futile attempts to shake our animal nature blinding us to the essence of what drives us. We thrive in the knowledge of nature’s perseverance, yet shudder to think that we too had at some point hunted and killed, taken everything we had from nature. But, now, we believe and tell ourselves wholeheartedly, we have no need for that part of our nature that revels in the throbbing of the heart that talon and tooth and claw and flesh battering each other produces. We have become boring.
But something in us still aches to hear of massive bodies throbbing against the waves and limbs straining forward in chase, for once we, too, were like them.
And so it was with the whale, chased nearly to exhaustion by the unyielding predator, stalked like he had stalked. Those fleshy seal bodies that he had partaken of had nourished him and it was only natural, instinctual, that he fed his hunger. But, now, he was the hunted and never had he considered this feeling, this fear that loomed as he sought to escape that beast that would take his life to nourish itself.
And, behind him in the distance, the predator swam on, his eyes like hell. His jaws bared fangs and, with a guttural howl, his powerful limbs dragged him on.
The chase went on for days and hours. The whale could not recall when it had last slept. It now floated, its mind reeling in derangement from sheer exhaustion. If the beast did not soon overtake it, he would surely collapse from sleeplessness and sink into the depths. At least that would allow his pursuer no chance to feast on him. It was merely a small consolation, but any victory was better than none at all, and his persecutor was nearly at his great tail, ripping and clawing.
The great yellow cat behind him was tiring as well. His thin muscular legs were not built for tasks that required endurance of this kind, but a subtle madness drove him to this chase and it would see it through. Even as his spotted limbs ached and burned with a fury that would drag him under and fill his heaving lungs with water, he carried on. This was madness. Not anger, or vengeance, or even hunger. Sheer madness.
The whale had passed many beaches, it had passed ships unharmed, it had swam through harbors, but never had he imagined that the jaws of death would leap into the water and powerfully drive itself toward him with amazing strength.
In all his days, he had never prepared himself for this.
And, now, as he finally tired to the point that his great flippers twitched limply at his sides, the beast bore down on him.
Its hungry eyes glowed through the brine and it rose from the water, fur sagging with moisture, teeth bared and hissing its war cry. It was soulless and driven, mad and beyond that which is predatory.
The whale waited for death to come swiftly. “If there are guiding spirits,” he thought, “let this be swift. Let me join my brethren. Let me join my ancestors…”
And as quickly as he had though, the leopard was on him, riding him, howling and sinking in his claws. And just as quickly as he was on him, he was gone, as the ocean swelled and waves ripped them apart and the wind drowned out the leopard’s protesting howls and both were carried away by the rough, uncaring sea.
The whale floated more hours, more days, sleeping and awake, sometimes both at once. It had no strength, but was alive.
The sun reached out its hot fingers to make the whale move and roll to maintain some comfortability. As he moved, he found his strength slowly returning.
With renewed vigor, the whale set off for parts more familiar to him. It was then that he heard the paddling behind him.
Tired, but grim, the leopard still lurked, death in its exhausted eyes. It paddled on, not so intent this time on the whale’s death, but unable to let go.
The whale slowed its pace and turned to face its nemesis.
They stared each other down for a seeming eternity. They saw the weathered, hardened and tired looks in each other’s eyes. The dripping fur, the swollen raw muscles, the smooth aching blubber.
They stared at each other and, like gentlemen, turned and swam away.