By Eddie D. Moore
Dian parked the Jeep and double checked the GPS. The animal he was looking for was close. He picked up the NRLH, Neural Receiving and Linking Helmet, and checked to ensure that it was synced to the app on his phone. Dian’s passion was wildlife, and he loved being able to feel what the animals felt. He hated the fact that the animals had to be captured and implanted with a neural transmitter for people to have this opportunity, but surely, more people would show the animals compassion knowing that they were feeling creatures.
Last year a similar helmet allowed him to feel what it was like for a mountain goat to climb and descend steep cliffs. They were sure-footed and confident, but they also held a healthy fear of falling. The trip was life changing, and Dian decided to spend this year’s entire two-week vacation at the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe.
He noticed as he strapped on the neural helmet that his heart was pounding with excitement, and he smiled to himself thinking about the wonderful experiences this vacation had already produced. In just the last two days, he had found out what it felt like for an elephant to pluck sweet grass from the ground. From a buffalo, he felt the sense of safety and community that came from traveling in a herd. He also knew the feeling of freedom that came from swinging limb to limb, high in the trees, from a monkey.
Dian released a huff of disappointment after strapping on the helmet and not getting a link. He believed the receiver on this NRLH needed to be replaced, and he wondered if it might be malfunctioning. The entire day would be lost if he returned to the park headquarters to swap the helmet, and he had signed papers agreeing not to leave the Jeep if he went out alone. He cursed himself for not swapping the receiver last night when he got back to his room, but he was too excited and it completely slipped his mind.
Deciding not to go far, Dian quietly slipped out of the Jeep and carefully closed the door behind him. A tree lush with green leaves offered him a place to hide, and the NRLH finally established a connection when he took a seat under it. He looked through his binoculars and found the animal he was looking for on top of a small hill soaking in the sunshine under a small, leafless tree. The lioness was beautiful, and her golden fur was carefully groomed.
Even though she was lying down, she held her head up and toward the sun with her eyes closed. Dian could feel through the link that she found the heat from the sun relaxing, and she was content. Another sensation came through the link, and he realized that the lioness was aware of his presence under the tree. To his surprise, she was amused that he rested in the shade and felt that he should come out and enjoy the sunshine.
After considering it a few minutes, Dian decided that the lioness was right, and he moved down the hill just a little closer and crouched in the deep grass. He turned his face toward the sun and the feeling of relaxing warmth was multiplied by two because he enjoyed the sun on his face just as much as the lioness.
He wanted to sit, but the ground at the bottom of the hill was damp. It seemed that every time he closed his eyes, another mosquito would land on him and disrupt the moment. He could sense that the lioness was puzzled that he would choose to sit in such an uncomfortable place, and he could not have agreed more.
Dian eased away from the damp ground and up the hill a few feet. When the wind shifted, a sense of fear came to him from the helmet. After a moment of near panic, he realized that the lioness was not afraid of him, but afraid for him. The rest of her pride were lying on the other side of the hill, and she knew that they might smell him if he stayed there.
Carefully he moved around the hill and up toward the lioness. He felt her fears relax, and he stopped much closer to her than he ever intended to come. Dain crouched for a minute, but he could not enjoy the link because he felt exposed so far from the Jeep. He decided to start working his way back to the Jeep. When he took one step backward, the lioness opened her eyes and looked straight at him.
Dian froze and felt as though his heart was going to beat its way through his rib cage. The sensations that came to him through the NRLH did not ease his fear at all. He now knew exactly what it felt like to have your prey helplessly within reach. He wondered why his sock was wet when he shifted his weight. Somewhere in the back of his mind he realized that the warmth he felt on his left leg was the result of losing control of his bladder.
Terrified, Dian stood staring the lioness in the eyes, and the sensations coming from the lioness was one of anticipation and almost felt like a command to run. What choice did he have? He turned and took two steps toward the Jeep then felt her claws bite deep into his back. Three hundred pounds of pure muscle drove him face first to the ground. He recognized the taste of dirt and blood a moment before the lioness locked her jaws on his neck.
He felt, through the NRLH, the joy of knowing your prey lay helpless under your weight while the life drains from its eyes. Things began to grow dark and he thought to himself; I’m sure glad I came closer. Wait, that’s not right…