To Walk Among Lions
Gabrielle walked slowly across the plain, her arms held out at her sides, palms brushing the tips of the grass. The pride watched her intently as she approached. She’d been dreaming of this moment for longer than she could remember. Since before she’d known they were extinct. Since before she’d decided to study biology, or zoology, before she’d become part of the restorative conservation movement. Her whole life, in fact, had led to this.
“Watch out, Gabby” Cheryl’s voice in her ear was nervous, shaky. It was understandable. These were vicious predators after all. But aside from a few ear twitches, they showed no signs of moving toward her. “Don’t worry Cheryl, I’ll let you know if I need extracting.”
She stopped now, and stood still in the grass, savouring the moment. After a lifetime on Mayday station, it was amazing just to stand on the Earth. She could see why the ancients had thought it was flat; to her eyes, attuned to a horizon that curved upwards, the straight line on all sides where the ground met the sky seemed impossible. And the air. The air tasted incredible. So many different odors and flavours, changing with every breath. And it moved! All by itself! A breeze tickled her face, then departed. After a life of nothing but aircon, it was a revelation.
This was what it was all about. Mayday station and it’s sisters had saved the human race, but this… this was home. This was where they belonged. This was what the ResCon movement was working toward. They’d cleared the radiation, seeded the ocean with a specially designed algae that had already cleaned most of the pollutants out of it. Reforested three continents. Now they were bringing back the most important thing: mammalian life. First herbivores, now carnivores.
If lions could live here again, so could they.
Gabrielle stood in her rebuilt Eden and felt at peace. The lions lay calmly in front of her, watching, and the connection she felt was nothing short of sublime.
And then the lion was upon her. She must have been stalking her from behind, creeping low to the ground, below the grass line. She landed heavily on Gabrielle’s back and for a moment she could feel the heat of the animal’s breathe on her neck.
And then she was back on Mayday station, lying flat on her face on the teleport pad. Cheryl was running toward her, screaming, but all Gabby could do was laugh, a mad cackle of pure, unbridled joy.