White Rhino

“Today, poaching for their horn is the main threat. The white rhino is particularly vulnerable to poaching because it is relatively unaggressive.” 

A single bullet was all it took. Now I am lying in a pool of my own blood, dying. I was looking up at the sky, wondering if it was going to rain, when I felt a strange piercing in my chest, like the sharp poke of a twig. I fell to the ground and instinctively tried to get up, but I was overcome with dizziness. I wanted to run, but could not lift my head. I could no longer feel my feet. Only my tail twitched, and then stopped. I could no longer see the bushes in front of me. Tunnel vision blocked them out to join an eternal darkness.

So I am silently dying. My body is a motionless boulder petrified in time and space. I did not know how easy it was to die. I did not expect my life to be this short, still so full of uncertainty and yearning.

An image of my mother drifts into my mind’s eye. As soon as I could walk, she began her lessons in survival. When I was still young and weak, I struggled to keep up with her. I tired easily and tried to rest, but she would gently push her horn underneath me and raise me up. I would look up at her with tears in my eyes, but she lumbered on as though she hadn’t noticed.

She was shot while drinking from the river. I saw her fall, and did not understand. She was on the ground, her body shaking uncontrollably. I saw on her chest the small red spot, like a poppy flower. I did not know what to do. Her eyes were wide open, but not seeing. She wasn’t breathing, and soon her body was motionless. That’s when I ran – ran as fast I could. I hid in the nearby bushes. I saw a human walking towards her, carrying a rifle and an axe and looking carefully left and right like a thief looking to rob a house. He stood near her and kicked her limp body a few times before taking hold of the tip of her horn with one hand. With the other hand, he hacked with the axe until her horn came loose. As soon as he had what he wanted, he swiftly departed.

I was stunned, terrified! Where could I go? What fate was awaiting me? Where could I hide? I didn’t know anything without my mother there to guide me. Who would nudge my rough skin and whisper in my ear, “Tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, and forever, I will always be with you so we can watch the sun set over our favorite pond and listen to the frogs croaking”? Who would take care of me, heartbroken with tears in my eyes? The sun would burn me, the rain would soak me, the cold wind would make me shiver.

I never stopped thinking about you, Mom. After that day, I would sometimes wake up suddenly to see a dark shadow emerge from the bushes. I couldn’t make out its form or face, and it made no sound. I would lift my head, carefully smelling the air – and I smelled your scent, Mom! I tried to call out to you, to scream for joy: “Here! It’s me, standing in front of you! It’s your child…and I need you. Without you I am lost in this world.” But then the shadow would disappear, as though it hadn’t been there at all.

It is a clear evening during the rainy season, and the crickets are chirping. Here I am, lying in a pool of my own blood and saying goodbye to the sun setting on Imbebre’s branches. I will die soon. My horn will be chopped off and taken away from this land. My body will become soil, and my soul…I don’t know. What is waiting for me? The bullet that is lodged in my body like a nail in rotting wood is the gleaming mark of nothingness. 

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