by Anya Martin
Back in 2006, I did an almost coast-to-coast trip in the US when I went from Anaheim (after LACon IV) to Atlanta (for Dragon*Con), rental car loaded with tons of Interzone copies (and various TTAPress releases). In Atlanta, and at Dragon*Con, Anya Martin — whom I’d already met both at Interaction and LACon IV — and her husband Phil showed me around. They were fantastic hosts.
I also vividly remember Phil complaining — well, it wasn’t complaining, more like ruefully wondering — why Anya wasn’t writing fiction anymore (as a journalist she was and is writing plenty of non-fiction). After I returned from the madness that is Dragon*Con (and I spent a few days winding down with Anya and Phil), I tried to entice Anya into writing via a few emails, but — seemingly — to little or no effect. Until this summer, as she sent me “The Courage of the Lion Tamer” about ten seconds before the Shine deadline closed, noting in her email that she had actually used this as a way to force her to finish a short story and actually send it out.
I quite like “The Courage of the Lion Tamer”, but when I was making my final selections for the Shine anthology I chose two stories also set in Africa that I thought worked and fitted the sensibility of Shine just a bit better. Nevertheless, I’m very happy to publish “The Courage of the Lion Tamer” here at DayBreak Magazine, and I certainly hope that she will keep (and have some info that she is) writing more fiction.
For now, enjoy this reminiscence of a near future that, on the one hand it needs to be rewilded, but on the other hand might need to keep in touch with the latest developments at large, as well.
(Note: and the day before I’m putting up this story I find out — via ecoworldly — that a small part of it is already happening: Living with Lions: Lion Guardians. To avoid a minor spoiler, it’s probably better to check these links after reading Anya’s story.)
“Fear an ignorant man more than a lion.”
I could hear Simba grumbling behind his bars—at least it sounded like grumbling—a raw guttural noise that he often makes not dissimilar to the tones uttered by a dog I once had when he was trying to get comfortable and rubbing his back against a wall. One of the three lionesses also made a faint growl, and another echoed her. Probably Simba was rearranging himself or maybe just a particularly loud snore and the others responding. But it was my job to ensure they were all right at all times, so I rolled out of my cot and into my sandals, splashed water on my face from the faucet, grabbed a dressing gown and flashlight, and slipped out of the tent.
As I stumbled in the direction of the cages, a red-tailed monkey dashed across my path, and shining the flashlight up on another of the tents in the camp, I spied the white jowls and ruffs of two more running across its roof. Maybe the lions’ noises were just triggered by their movement. I rounded the tent’s corner, and as the cages came into view, though, I saw the cause of the disturbance—the grayish-brown outline of a warthog standing about 10 feet from the lions, and Simba on his feet, glancing at it, pacing, a mix of fascination and—I hoped—hunger in his eyes. The lionesses also had their eyes locked. They would need those natural instincts to kick in soon if they were going to survive.
Warthogs wandered the camp freely, and one of them even laid down almost literally at my feet yesterday. Were it not for its tusks, I almost dared reach down and pet it. Would have thought the lions would make the little guy, from snout to tail about four foot long, nervous, but I guess he could sense the bars that separated him from being a late night snack. Kind of like the housecat that stares down a dog that’s going crazy to chase it but is confined to a leash. Continue reading