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Courage Child

Warm, so warm.
I repositioned myself, not for the first time that day, so that my head was rolling between my hands, my tongue hanging out of my mouth like a dull purple flopping fish, desperately searching for water. My stomach did olympic back flips and I retched, nearly emptying the contents of it as the bright orange lifeboat rocked once again, hitting a particularly large wave this time. Finally, when I thought myself well enough, I dared to raise my head, and, despite the protests of my digestive track, take another look at the boy.
He was short and brown with long, spindly arms and legs that desperately gripped the oar he was perched atop, reminding me of my own sons. Oh, how my heart yearned to see them, with their short, fuzzy copper hair and playful calls and stumbling steps across the grounds. But somehow I knew when last I saw them with the turbulent waters flooding the ship was to be my final. Now, the small, timid boy partially filled the gaping hole in my heart that had appeared after the loss of my sons, and, surreptitiously glancing at him once more, I spied the distant and melancholy look on his visage.
Forcing a smile on my face, I made to move towards him; however, the hideous hyena materialized suddenly before me, his deep black and gray splotched face flecked with blood, bearing a maniacal look. Scanning my surroundings, I quickly found that the source of the blood was none other than the zebra himself, his once injured leg now torn off, magnificent black and white coat splattered with crimson blood. I looked back at where the vicious hyena was, preparing to dole out justice to him for all of the atrocities he had performed, but instead found the boy inching towards the inside of the boat, a look of fear plain on his face. Storm clouds gathered above, forming a dark gray line on the once clear blue brow of the sky.
Directly behind me, I heard the distinct wheezy laugh of the hyena and spun around to find him staring into the distance, his gaze set on the boy, a savage look in his eyes. For one horrifying moment, the impossible occurred to me: the hyena would devour the boy. Instead, he turned once again to the zebra whose splendid coat now glistened with gore and sweat and I let out a whoosh of pent up breath I had not realized I was holding. The zebra, seeing the hyena approaching him, gave a weak, protesting whinny, yet the hyena coldly pressed on, nearing the zebra until he stood at his side and leaned in to begin his feast.
The sadistic beast devoured the pitiful zebra, making sure to torment the poor creature by eating his organs even while the zebra was still alive and able to view the nightmarish scene unfolding before him. Watching the hyena's cruelty and listening to the poor zebra yell out in protest and agony was too much for me, and I found myself squaring my shoulders and pulling myself up into a dangerous posture. I stretched my mouth open to its widest and gave a booming roar that echoed across the lifeboat and the wide sea, whose waters now churned with sleek gray sharks circling the boat. For a second, even I was stunned by my performance, but then, I regained my composure and stared at the hyena, whose face was frozen into an expression of respect and amazement. He looked back at me and roared into my face, blasting me with his foul breath. And so, we roared. Back and forth, back and forth, until finally, when both our throats were parched and scraped, our breaths short and raspy, I retreated, but not before hissing at him and further striking fear into his wretched heart.
I went back to the safety of the tarpaulin and hid beneath it. The sun was beginning to dip below the horizon and with its descent, the boy's attitude became progressively worse. Finally, when the sun had disappeared completely, the boy sat on the edge of the lifeboat weeping, his little brown body heaving in sobs. A sudden urge to go and comfort him came over me, but I dismissed it, knowing that in a time like this, he needed to internally overcome these obstacles, not with the aid of others. So, yawning and laying down, I went to sleep.
The next day when I awoke, I looked to where the zebra lay and found him dead, lifeless eyes staring up at the sky. Pure anger boiled up within me and reached perilous levels and so I ran to where the hyena was, hissing and smacking my lips as I hobbled along. In response, the hyena began to make challenges of its own. Infuriated by his boldness, I took a step forward and brought my fist down on its grotesque head. And so began my final fight. I pounded the hyena once more on his head, and he in return snapped his jaws at me, yellow triangular teeth flashing. After a long battle well fought, my energy slowly dwindled away and I faltered but once. The hyena, surprisingly nimble for one of his awkward structure, promptly took advantage of this, first clamping his jaws on my wrist, and finally on my throat.
With the light slowly fading from my world, I glanced one final time at the prone form of the boy. His face was frozen in an expression of mourning, and I yearned to go and comfort him. But alas, my time left was dwindling away and as a result, I could no longer aid the boy. Beyond him lay the bright orange sun, and reluctantly I bade it farewell. Distantly I heard the child whimpering and I drew a final, raspy breath to whisper, “Courage child.” In a crowning struggle I squirmed in an attempt to free myself, but the hyena's razor sharp fangs, propelled by his powerful jaws, sunk ever deeper into my windpipe, forever obliterating it. Within my throat a fire burned and pain coursed through me. Mercifully, relief arrived only a few moments after, and darkness, such nothingness the likes of which I had never known before consumed me, with only three words reverberating in the recesses of my mind as the light was slowly ebbed from my universe, Courage Child, Courage.

-This is an adaptation of a scene in the novel, Life of Pi by Yann Martel



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