Wheat of Lions
A SHORT STORY
St. Ignatius of Antioch. Rome, c. 107
The lions were restless. Restless and hungry. They paced ceaselessly around their enclosure, their great heads swinging from side to side, their massive paws raising puffs of dust with each step, and their tails lashing like whips wielded by frantically racing charioteers charging toward the finish line at the Circus Maximus.
The lions’ ravenous appetites I could understand — they hadn’t been fed in days. But their restlessness? Could they anticipate, with some kind of animal sense, the feast that awaited them?
They were a study in barely restrained ferocity, and had it not been for the stout iron bars that separated me from them, I would have been far more nervous than I was. And yet it wasn’t the pacing lions that disturbed me the most.
Rather, it was a mature lioness who watched me from just inside the bars, standing so still she could have been an impossibly life-like statue. Her eerie motionlessness made my skin crawl.
My eyes were unwillingly drawn to meet the unblinking stare of her yellow orbs. She moved at last, sidling closer as if all she wanted was to rub her tawny coat against me and purr. She’d seemed friendly every time I had come, even over the past few days when I hadn’t brought food. But I wasn’t deceived. The reason I was in charge of the beasts was because she’d ripped the arm off my unwary predecessor. He’d bled to death right where my feet were now planted.
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