Evening is falling softly like winter leaves onto the dun landscape. A duiker antelope picks her delicate way across the garden. I use the term 'garden' very loosely here to describe the immediate area around the house. Our lawn has long been excavated by warthogs in last years drought and anything vaguely flower bearing and exotic has been consumed by the ever watchful monkeys.
The light fades to sepia – a stage before the monochrome of starlight. The light from the TV gains strength in ambient darkness and flickers across our faces. My eye catches a movement outside. Against the corner of the house something moved grabbing my attention. I stare hard out through the big windows that fill the end wall.
A dun shape – quite big – broken by bare trees. Lion! Within touching distance of the glass. She stares back at me. The tv is flickering brightly all over my skin and the volume suddenly seems unbearable. Noise for Noise's sake. Shhhhh. I feel floodlit while she rests in camouflaged shades of shadow and vestigial light.
Another lion comes up behind her, and she moves slowly across our view into the 'garden'; a young male lion joins them. Each pauses to stare at us through the glass for long seconds before moving on. The first female finds a place to sit and observe on the edge of the grass. The young male investigates a garden tap. Please don't bite it we implore speechlessly.
The surrounding energy levels are fizzing and crackling with tension. The tension of their finely honed bodies and our undiluted attention. Predator easing past prey. Two cubs bound in from the periphery; sub adult size - they leap and play. Lion shapes barely discernable now against the grey rocks and sands. Tips of ears, tails, mouths and eyes still dark enough to contrast.
Then… a big male lion eases past the corner of the house. He stops, nostrils raised. He stares at each of us in turn. Breath becomes shallow – or maybe I wasn't breathing? There is a pane of glass between us. I remember learning that glass isn't solid but is really a mass of moving atoms. Right now it feels like water. We stare back while he decides what to do. The annoying TV light continues to flicker alien messages that ricochet around us. The remote lies beyond reach.
Aeons later, he turns… away from us…. and joins the rest of the pride at the edge of the grass. Their shapes now move like phantoms. We try to keep track. Is the back door closed? The guinea fowl are silent in their hock – most unusual. Surely those cubs would find them impossible to resist. Some strange noises emanate from the garage. They are all around the house now. Calling to each other. Watching us.
Darkness has fallen and they are beyond our primate vision. The windows are black – impenetrable. What you cant see will not keep you awake ok? Tension disappates. The lions have gone walking – hunting – off into the reserve.