The lion is the king of the jungle and with this comes a certain lifestyle—a life full of sauntering around, taking naps, and periodically mauling poachers when a few get in the way. But as wondrous as this life may be, as delicious as the still-warm flesh of a freshly-vanquished gazelle may taste between his mighty jaws, some lions long for more.
That is the fate of one lion at the Taigan Safari Park in Vilnohirsk, Crimea, who seems no longer satisfied by these common delights.
His pride bores him. The thrill of the chase, now, is a thrill no longer. That clean rush of excitement he felt as a cub after taking down his first boar is a faint and distant memory, dulled from repeated exposure, a copy of a copy of a copy. His life, he thinks, is as flat and dry as the plains that stretch off into the horizon before him. He feels nothing, now.
But then, lo! There, as if out of a mirage, emerges some kind of strange newness. His animal brain struggles to comprehend its form. A bus full of tourists. And looking at this metal, hollow machine piloted by a weak, hairless creature, the lion knows. In that instant he realizes he has always known, always felt this distinct longing but never giving it a name until now.
He must drive that bus.
The lion climbs into the driver's seat. The driver graciously relinquishes control. But something is wrong! The lion's thumbless paws can't grab the wheel. His long and muscular body, perfectly suited for hunting and killing, is out-of-place and awkward in the upright car seat. He can't reach the pedals. The wave of depression hits him all at once, colder than the water in any watering hole.
So he climbs into the back with the other tourists, hoping they can assist him, hoping they can lend a hand, but they do nothing. They just sit, quietly, a few pulling out phones and snapping photos as he seems to beg them, implore them, to help him drive this bus. He is the king of the jungle, by God, and he wills it! But he is ignored. He knows, then, his dream is dead.
So he slinks away, dejected and humbled, a hollowed-out husk of his former self. He will devour countless wildebeests and win countless fights and his pride will watch him with a unique mix of fear and reverence, but it will mean nothing. Because every night when he closes his eyes, all he will see is that bus again—a bus he will never be able to drive, a wheel he will never be able to take between his claws. He knows he will never feel the wind flowing through his mane as the road rises up to meet him.
He is the king of the jungle no longer. He is the king of nothing now.
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