The Tao of Coyote by Pete Warner

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SUMMARY: An entry for the January 2006 Flash Fiction contest (theme: flashback)

In a thousand sanguinary dreams, he'd lived this moment.

Ears twitching in the cold desert nights, synapses flaring in the dark. Cascading images of his sharp canines tearing into the heart meat and those hot, nutritious juices flowing down his chin and staining his fur.

Now, squatting in the shade of a cactus tree, he tastes reality on his slavering tongue. It tastes how rapture should taste. An unfettered, feral soul unfurls in his eyes. It is majestic and imperial, a king presiding over the ultimate victory feast. Throat contracting and expanding like a birth squeeze, he swallows the mangled heart and indeed, something new is born there. Something like liberty.

***

Oh yes, he thought, as he tore open the cardboard. Yes indeed, just look at the size of the thing. This baby will fly and I'll fly with it. Swoop down like a bird of prey, like death from above, and snatch that smug bastard from the ground. He'd heard God was in the details, and he trusted God knew what it was doing. There were plans and diagrams in the box with the rocket. The great God Acme always provided.

A lack of opposable thumbs hadn't stopped him opening the box, and it wouldn't stop him igniting the fuse when the time came. He could not fail. Assuming of course, there were no low bridges or tunnels to thump into head-long. That had happened before many times, but he had no reason to believe it would happen again. No reason whatsoever.

***

He drags lengths of gut from his conquest, festoons the kill site with purple ribbons. Today he's both a carnivore king and a carnival queen. He feels frivolous, and why not? Imagine years of evisceration and incineration. Being sliced and diced and battered and shattered. He's been crushed by weights before. By traps, by boulders, by freight trains. By expectation. By defeat. A thousand times. A thousand times a thousand times. Living through that, it was a wonder he was even close to sane.

A desperate and febrile hunger had driven him all this time. But the hunger had merely been a symptom of the ineluctable demand upon him. He'd been trapped in an eternity of repeating his own mistakes. The most vicious of circles, because it was not a circle at all, but a spiral, getting wider and wider, spiralling outwards forever.

***

It had taken incomprehensible efforts, but he'd somehow managed to suspend the giant weight from the overhang of the outcropping, above a neat and orderly pile of bird seed. It must weigh a tonne, he thought. It must, because it helpfully said so on the side.

He heard it in the distance, getting nearer. It was coming! His heart thrashed like a trapped bird. Oh such an ironic metaphor. It was coming. And this time, he surely could not fail. The plans were drawn meticulously, every outcome accounted for, all variables known. He thought not of the ruins of his countless other schemes just like this one. And it's easy to forget when you don't have any scars to help you remember. Not on the outside, anyway.

Later, from beneath the massive weight, he heard the Runner's mocking laugh as it tore into the distance.

"Meep meep."

***

He strips thigh meat from bone, chews, and for the first time in his existence, has no idea what will happen tomorrow.

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