I Am: The circle of life

Niyati Pancholi / Sputnik Photography
Tree leaves.

I am a sun. My surface is hot with searing flames. I cast my gaze in all directions, and it is a scorching stare, a fiery regard. I am a giver of life, yet I am devoid of it. Nothing can live upon or within me and I am alone. I cast my gaze ever outwards, an eternal effort to grant that which I can never have to all that I can see. My eye crashes upon a small orb of blue and green, filtering through its atmosphere upon the trunk of a tree and its many-

I am a leaf. A lush display of life, consuming the gentle caress of the morning light, combining it with the air I take in and the water I drink, fulfilling and nurturing myself. Mother tree brings me the water, the pores on my surface take in the air and the sun brings itself every morning, continuing my life. I shake and ruffle, a disturbance on my cover, a small thing, another green thing, also alive but moving, crawling upon me. Its mouth agape and intentions clear, it rips and tears, pieces of me vanishing into-

I am a caterpillar. Many legs, gripping and pulling, chewing the leaf and devouring its sugar, the sweet nectar of life for me. I am fat, plump, slow and delicious-looking. My feeding ground is the home of my main predator, so I seek shelter. Under a branch, I latch myself and spin my cocoon. I prepare to reduce my body to sludge and re-emerge later, crowned as a monarch. But something nudges and crawls along my chrysalis, my hiding home. Not a bird, something smaller, with legs and pincers, and they are many and they are grinding and ripping, cutting through my cocoon; I cannot move, cannot escape. I feel the pincers bite into my flesh and tear chunks out as they drag me to their-

I am an ant. Six legs and a blackened body, pincers and antennae. I hear, feel and smell my thousand brothers and the trails they leave behind. I feel no feelings and my thoughts are barely my own. I am an organic robot, fulfilling the will of my colony. I bring the food to the nest; this piece of half-dissolved flesh picked from the cocoon’s carcass and leave it for the hatchlings to eat. I venture back to the entrance, preparing to follow the scents to more food, more chunks of flesh, but suddenly, I am snared, pulled in, devoured in an instant-

I am a bear. My coat was black and now streaked with grey, my fur betraying my age and weakness to those around me. I am old and nearing my end. My once powerful body slumped, broken by time. I slurp up more ants from their nest, filling my frail body with the last strength I will find in this life. I returned to the lake. Within this lake, I sleep one final time. I am not alive to feel my body wilt and rot, to feel the insects-

I am a fly. My wings buzz and I am off, my belly filled with the waste of an elderly bear. I lay my eggs in the rotting flesh, in the feces in the corner of the cave and the edge of the lake. My young will live, eating the waste of other creatures and laying their eggs in feces. My eyes see so much of this lake; my young will cover it, inherit it and all the rot and decay around it. But I flew too close to the edge, and the tongue strikes out, strikes true, drags me and devours me-

I am a toad. Small and brown and spotted, my legs carry me back to my spawn puddle, my filled belly giving me the energy I sorely needed. I am fat with young, and it will be time soon to place their eggs in the spawn puddle. My tongue strikes out, snapping up another fly, more energy for my belly, and I know that before the sun rises again, I will have eggs to nurture, a brood to spawn. I hop towards my home, I can feel the time nearing and I need to be home, to be safe. I hop into the open and now I am the one that is snatched, my perforated form carried off, impaled on a black beak as hungry amber eyes regard me. I am barely in the branch before it throws its head back and I slide, slide down the throat into-

I am a crow. As I return to my nest, I let out a satisfied croak, cawing in delight over my filled belly. My children have long since left, and it will soon be the season for my mate to return so I may bear more eggs and hatchlings. My shining black feathers twitch as I regard my nest and look upon the trinkets and baubles I have gathered, many of them gifted by the noisy dwellers. Baubles are left out and charms are given, though I always keep the best for myself. Sometimes they leave me food, but today I am filled, so I hope for baubles. I leave my branch and fly several minutes through the air towards where I know they will be waiting, with shiny trinkets and kind sounding noises. As I approach, I see another flying high, a brown and tan feathered creature, a hunter of crows and a denier of charms. I swoop low as I near the grey ground, hoping to avoid the hunter’s attention but failing to notice what has escaped my attention as the large, metal, noisy thing I thought I could outrun crushes my side. They stop, scream and shout, but I am gone before I realize there is danger. The smallest resident begs her father, who takes me with a towel and places me in a hole in their garden, and I am remembered.

I am remembered.

I am remembered.

I am remembered for some time, my tomb interring me through the cold months. When spring comes and seeds are sown, some of these seeds reach out and find me with their roots, my body filling the soil with nutrients. And from my body grows a stalk, then a leaf, then a bloom, then a fruit. Just a tiny fruit, small and red and filled with seeds of its own, plucked once ripe and taken into a home. And in that home, I am taken and given and once given, I am-

I am something new. I am something incredible and wondrous. I am something I have never been before, something I will hopefully be for a very long time and something that I nor anything else could ever be again, for all its wondrousness is singular and unique. Nothing I am now will ever be anyone else ever again.

I am you.

This story was originally published in print Volume 23, Issue 7 on Thursday, March 7.

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