The echoing rumble in the hollow of my gut reminds me that I haven’t eaten since yesterday. After spending a night in a tree, my muscles ache with the buildup of lactic acid. I cautiously slide down and stretch. I sniff the air, searching for any pungency that would indicate they are near. Every flutter of the breeze makes me twitch. I pad softly through the underbrush, and pause to listen every few steps. Food is a necessity, but the risk of being heard or seen slows my pace.
As the morning sun penetrates through the canopy overhead, the dew disappears in a mist. I stop to lick some leaves before the precious water vaporizes completely. The birds are fully awake now and their calls provide a measure of protection. They are my partners in crime without realizing it. They will sing their warning calls and then go silent if they spot an intruder.
I remember my last meal and saliva fills my mouth in anticipation. Is it my imagination, or do I smell something? I freeze and test the wind, opening my mouth and breathing in to catch the scent on my tongue. Yes! It is food, and not too far away. Another ten yards and I spot it.
They left it; but not in an accessible place. They did everything they could to prevent me from getting it. It’s fastened to the branch of a tree, high off the forest floor, maybe eight times my height. It hangs from a long narrow twine that won’t support my weight.
I shinny up the tree. I’m good at this part. I carefully push out onto the branch it hangs from, but it’s just out of my reach. I retreat to the trunk. I lower myself to the same level as the food. I wrap my legs around the trunk and lean as far as I can. It’s still far out of my reach. All the exertion has sapped my energy. I’m weakening. I can’t afford another miss. I cling to the bark breathing heavily.
Last try. I dig my feet into the trunk with everything I have. I lean, stretching, levering all of my weight into thin air. Then, I lunge further than I thought possible. Got it! Another meal, another day of life. They’ll never stop me.