I’d been building to this moment for months. Ever since Ben came up with the idea of going on safari to celebrate his 35th. I’d been working as a barrister for ten years and had just got silk. Now, I was required to kill an animal in the wild.
Been foxhunting as a boy of course. I defy anyone not to feel the hairs rise and the blood quicken when the hounds are running through a wood, baying in full cry. Did the hunt ball circuit and all that. Didn’t have much choice really, and of course there was always plenty of taffeta-wrapped tottie for the taking.
Always a bit squeamish when it came to the actual kill though. Enjoyed the chase but couldn’t quite nail it at the end. That bitch Melissa took great delight in letting everyone know about my failure to, as you say, deliver the goods. Even now the scent of Coty lipstick sends a shudder of repulsion through me.
Despite that I’d always believed the hunter’s DNA ran right though me, like letters in a stick of seaside rock. Ready to put into action if needed. Now, crouched behind a bush on the African plain, crunch time had come. I rammed the rifle hard into the crook of my shoulder and set the Thomson’s Gazelle in my sights. The herd grazed contentedly on the lush open field. The one I’d chosen stood alone, separate from the rest.
She raised her head and flicked her ears. Sweat trickled down the well of my back. The power was Godlike. I could decide whether she should live or die. Ben breathed steadily beside me.
‘Go on Tris, you can do it.’ He whispered.
I gripped the rifle tighter to stop me shaking. I’d laughed at the tales of buck fever I’d heard around the campfire. Hunters so overexcited they shook like Bushwillow trees.
The gazelle lowered her head and grazed again. I aimed at her heart. I wanted a quick kill. She fell to the ground. A spasm racked through her body and her legs quivered in a final death throe. Ben slapped me on the back.
‘Knew you had it in you, Trissers!’
A whoop went up behind me.The bile rose in my throat as I walked over to inspect my kill. The Dragoman bound the beast’s fore and hind legs and looped her over a pole to carry back to the truck.
On the potholed road back to camp, my nausea grew. The still-warm bodies piled on top of each other, blurred into one golden mass of fur. I recognised mine though. She had a distinctive eye marking. A black line tracing her eyelids as if she’d painted them with kohl. I imagined her perhaps that very morning, gazing across the savannah like a youthful Egyptian queen, her profile framed by the African sun.