THERE WAS ONCE A BOY WHO OUTRAN LIONS. He said he knew lions. He said he understood what made them tick.
The boy would provoke the lions in the open plains, grab their attention from a distance, wait until they started to pursue and then break into a sprint. The lions would cut the distance quickly and get so close that they would slobber on his heels, but the boy would always get away.
People didn’t understand him. They worried for him, envied his courage and cursed his arrogance. Some would approach him in awe and some would inquire as to his method of escape. He would say a lion slept in his house at night and in his dreams he lived in the jungle and fought beasts of every design. He would say that in his dreams he fought giants and goblins, wolves and dark spirits, packs of grizzly bears and clouds of fire that floated through the air.
The boy grew older and kept outrunning the lions. Everyone around him just accepted this odd nuance in behavior. No one spoke about it anymore. No one asked him how he did it. No one was impressed. Some began to worry.
It was at this time that the boy began to change. He no longer loved to outrun the lions, although he would continue to perform the act. He looked angry and mean, tortured and toxic, creeping across the plains with dark eyes. Some began to say that if you stared closely upon his face as he ran, you could see a laugh turn into a cry and return in a flash.
He began to feel as though he was chasing something. Something he couldn’t even see. Something he would never get to. But, each day, as if he were internally programmed, he returned to the plains and outran the lions. Each day the lions caught up to him quickly, and slobbered on his heels before he got away.
One day, he felt nothing on his heels, though. The next day, he felt nothing once again. The third day he peaked over his shoulder at the moment he thought the lion would be closest and nothing was there. He stopped on a dime, spun around, noticed one man who’d been watching him—a man who had watched him many times before—and then froze for a second.
He walked over to the creek and looked at his flowing reflection. On his face had grown whiskers of hair, his glare had grown wild, his cheek bones clenched. He had become the lion.
As he returned home, he began to remember, in bits and pieces, all of the things he had once wanted to do before he got lost chasing after himself.