The Lion's Deal

The Lion's Deal

A lion was captured in the wild and forced into slavery. He made a deal with his captor that if he won 100 battles in the arena, that he would be set free. Today is his final fight for freedom


Literary fiction


MELISSA HAM (United States)

I lay among the bones of my cage, feigning sleep, as I knew what was to come when the sun was to climb above the horizon the next morning.

The sound of echoed foot steps came patrolling down the empty, dampened hall. Accompanying it was the tapping of a stick against metal bars. The sound of clinking metal escalated in volume before the founder of said noises halted just outside my cage. He banged his stick back and forth against two of the bars of my domain, sending an irritated shock down my spine. That sound was the equivalent of claws on cement. The very idea of it provoked a fiery rage within my belly that prompted me to lash out. I subdued it.

“We have another snack waiting for you just outside, Lion.” he taunted with an evil grimace.

“I am not interested in eating humans,” I retorted, for the consumption of human flesh always left a foul taste in my mouth.

“You’re fooling yourself. A Lion that has killed ninety-nine men obviously craves human flesh. Just one more kill and you’ll be free,” he said, referring back to the deal we had made when I was first brought to this hell hole. “Why not enjoy your last kill? Unless you believe that this one will surely take your head,” He smiled at the thought.

I stood up and let a ferociously hot gust of air fly from my lungs as my powerful roar greeted him with rage, “Get me out of this cage,” I growled and watched as his facial features lit up with surprise. He swallowed his fear and covered it with pride as he carefully unlocked my cage and escorted me towards the arena. As I walked; the cold cement beneath my behemoth paws; I could hear the crowd getting louder and louder. Escalating from a muffled, intangible noise, towards a vibrant and hearty cheer that rang strongly in my ears. Everything in the human world was loud and obnoxious; making me want to claw out the very organ that allowed me to hear it.

The metal gates rose, the metallic sound of the bars being cranked upwards filling my ears as I stepped out into the blinding light of the wasteland that the humans called a Coliseum. Humans shouted and roared in the stands as they cheered for a gladiator that approached from an identical entrance on the other side. Their cheers were for him, hoping that the battle axe in his hand would remove my head and end my killing streak upon this place. Humans always favored their own kin, as most creatures would. However, humans are ignorant and selfish. Never would they ever consider another creature's perspective over a situation. Once I kill this man, I will gain my well deserved freedom. I will be able to return to the place from whence I came, the place that I belonged.

The gladiator raised his battle axe and came charging at me, yelling out a deep-throated battle cry as he did so. I opened my jaws as wide as they were capable and targeted their descent upon the man’s shoulder. My powerful teeth burrowed deep within his flesh, twisting and turning to dig as deep as they could. My paw simultaneously pushed back his weaponized hand, throwing it back against the burning ground. He let out a blood curdling scream that could silence even the most distraught of infants as my powerful jaws ripped every muscle, vein, and bone that inhabited his arm; pulling it apart from his shoulder. I threw the arm away, heaved a heavy breath, and turned back to the door I had entered from. The man would bleed out before anyone would bother to help him. It didn’t matter to me. I had won. I would get my freedom.

“We had a deal,” I spoke as I stepped before the guard that had imprisoned me.

“You expect me to simply let you free after all that!?” he laughed, clearly amused by what I had said. “You’ve killed one hundred men! Who’s to say you won’t kill one hundred more? A vicious beast such as yourself doesn’t deserve to walk freely among the rest of us.”

Within me, a fire crackled for a mere second before bursting into a giant flame capable of burning down any forest. I knew I had been tricked. He had never intended to let me go from the beginning. He was just toying with me. Making me his one little circus show. I wouldn’t settle for that. I trampled past him, an indignant roar escaping my throat as I crashed into the back door and broke it down with my mighty shoulders. A rush of freshly dewed air rose up through my nostrils, instantly calming me. It was the first time I had smelled fresh air in years. I curled my paws on the soft grass beneath them, feeling every blade between my toes. I could feel a gentle breeze blow past me and I watched as a father bird flew back to his family, chirping in excitement. I was finally back to the place I was meant to be. Being in a cold, damp cell that reeked of urine and mold was no place for a lion. I belonged in the wild. I deserved to be free, and now, I finally was.

A foreign object then pierced through the back of my head, breaking through my skull and pushing through my flesh to come out through my eye. I stumbled and felt my massive weight crash into the ground. A warm liquid started to flow effortlessly through my fur as it made it’s way into the grass maze beneath me. The world around me was spinning and blurring away into nothingness. Shapes and colors blended together, making it impossible to make sense of anything. I heard someone shuffling through the grass before coming to a halt beside me. I could determine by his voice that he was the guard that had imprisoned me. It vaguely looked like he was holding something in his hand.

“The only ones who are free,” he spoke in a confident voice, “are those who can take away freedom.”

Competition: June 2015 Pen Factor, Assigned reviews incomplete



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