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Acts of God

Last Rites
I’m with him now. Not an image of him, like those Discovery Channel
nightmares I used to have. I mean, I’m right here with the stinking
snorting flesh and blood beast himself, and I know exactly what’s
coming. So does he. His ears prick up, his nose tastes the air and as he
bellows his warning and turns to escape the charging females, a surge
of adrenalin rushes to his powerful legs; but it’s too late. One swipe from
a single massive paw slaps his hind legs out from under him and I
realize at once that he’s a goner. So does he. With one pair of jaws
tearing at his groin and another closing tightly around his throat, a highly
specialized gland at the base of the medulla is activated for the first and
only time in his brief existence. The effect is dramatic and instantaneous.
His respiratory, nervous and circulatory systems come to a virtual
standstill and all voluntary movement ceases as narcosis quickly blurs
both the panic and the pain. Face to face now, looking deep into those
huge black eyes, I can still see him in there; but only barely. And only for
a moment.
What happens to him in this moment, I wonder? Where is he? Can there
be sensation without senses? With his instinctive drives for survival,
mating and repelling predators no longer present, is there now room for
something else to rise to the surface? In this final moment before
becoming something less than zebra, does he somehow become
something more?
These questions are answered for me in the next moment as my
eardrums burst and the fluid covering the surface of my corneas boils
away. Not answered, exactly; they’re just not questions anymore. Like,
why is there no air in my lungs and where did my skin go. The pain that
I’m experiencing is beyond comprehension. I know it is, and yet I
understand it like I have never understood anything in my entire life. I
can see all sides of it as if the pain were an entity in itself; an animal,
separate and apart. And it comes as no surprise at all that it doesn’t hurt.
I understand this too. I’m not thinking about it; I just know. In fact, I’m not
thinking at all. It’s just there for me; all at once. Everything.
What does surprise me, and probably will for a great deal of what passes
for time here, is how wrong I had been about Everything.