The child sprinted past the desert trees, gnarled and twisted by the wind, her tiny feet scattering the burnished sand and spraying showers of gold into the air. The scaly stripes of a rattle snake pulsed in the ground. Fuzzy balls of prairie creatures dove into the safety of their little caves. Lizards scurried up boulders baked and polished by the sun. A red tailed hawk flew overhead, its jarring screech shattering the humming stillness.
She saw nothing, heard nothing. Eyebrows drawn together, nose crinkled, jaw clenched, tongue poking out of the corner of her lips, she was furiously concentrated on one thing only. Evading her pursuer. His flaxen mane painted the wind as he loped after her, his tawny body streaking the desert landscape. And his shocking silver eyes followed the girl, tracking her every movement, a half smile hovering on his regal face.
It felt like a game. She should have been scared to death, but she wasn’t. Her goal was to win. To defeat her pursuer. She put all her tiny might into it as if she was taking on the whole world. And when she realized she could not outrun him on foot, she kicked down hard on the ground and rose up into the air. Higher, higher. He could not catch her up there. She turned and looked down at him. He sat on the sand, and gazed up at her, smiling. You win, that smile said. This time.
A coolness washed over her, dispelling the warmth of the desert. A sweet, comforting smell infused her nostrils. She stretched, then sat up in her crib and looked up at her mother standing over her, wondering where the lion went. Lifting up the edge of her pillow, she looked under it. But there was no lion under there. Where did it go? She looked up at her mother, confused. Her mother reached down, wrapped her child in love and lifted her up. As they walked out of the room, she glanced back one final time at the crib, then turned away. But as she fed, bathed, and played, the lion hovered in the back of her mind. And waited to resume their game.