Daniel collapsed to the straw-strewn floor, and rolled onto his back. The first breath pulled into his wracked and self engraved chest a fistful of scorching air, the second contracted the meat beneath his spidery broken veins with the acridity of feline piss, a heavy, jungle scent, all sharpened with ammonia and basic human instinct. Collective inherited memories scrambled to the forefront of his addled mind, screaming reflexes into his legs to get up, and run. ’Big cat, here!’ they seemed to say. ’Get away!’, they shouted, a million tiny voices, a hormonal klaxon kicking him behind the knees. Olfactory terror was known for producing visions, the flood of adrenaline was a potent trigger of revelation. Everyone knew that, and here he was; Daniel in the lion’s den, throwing himself down hard. A bruise was blossoming under his clavicle. ‘This is good’, he thought to himself.
Still, he did not hear The Voice.
The lion was a ragged old thing, submissive, tired, all swollen ankles and eyes crusted with lethargy and conjunctivitus. It wasn’t cheap, even for the fifteen minutes of squalid genuflection it was hired for. With one pleaful look at the whip-marked, pocked old cat, it became clear that this method wasn’t working, either, and Daniel walked wearily to the rope ladder which hung down into the pit. He cosidered getting a stagehand to throw him in once more, but lowered his eyes and climbed past Busburosa, the obese circus master with his cloud of tobacco smoke and lazy lechery. Daniel didn’t even raise his head, as he walked towards the door. He didn’t notice the boys who watched him from the sawdust, their hair littered with petals and plastered onto shining faces with bright, clear water. But then, he wouldn’t have. He was seeking the presence of a god, he was grasping for a gift.