The smell of rotting flesh was pungent on this vista, pungent enough to attract the attention of one lonely vulture looking for a not-so-fresh meal. Flying high in the clear blue sky, it spied the lower half of a human, baking in the desert sun between rock formations. It smelled about three days old, give or take a day, and had already bloated to a near bursting point – the perfect time to dig in.
Banking left on the hot, dry wind, the great bird slowly began its lazy descent, keeping a wary eye for any other scavengers that may try and claim its prize. It could smell coyote close by, several of them in fact, and it hardly wanted to be caught on the ground with the nasty little things. Flapping its wings to cease its circling, the vulture flapped down the rest of the way, landing on a ledge just a few feet from the rotting meat.
With a gimlet eye, it looked back and forth, judging if there was any danger of landing in the sand and tearing into the exposed legs. The vulture stopped to consider where the rest of the human was… but it quickly brushed that aside. No doubt a victim to a serpent and coyotes, or death by thirst. Perhaps something larger?
Who knew, and frankly, who cared?
Clacking its beak together nervously, the vulture studied the legs for a moment, to assess the condition they were in. Already the desert had drained them of their moisture, leaving behind a dried out husk of crispy meat and dry bones. Not that the vulture would complain, but a juicy meal would have been appreciated… it’s a shame that the bird hadn’t smelled the morsel sooner.
Flapping awkwardly, the vulture studied the surroundings; rocky outcropping all around, forming a tight maze perhaps four feet wide… not nearly wide enough for the bird to take off in if it needed to. It would have to waddle out to the clearing some twenty feet away before taking off once more, leaving it in a dangerous position. If another predator came along, the vulture would be caught helpless. But the rumbling in its not-so-plump guts told the scavenger that it needed food, and soon.
Throwing caution to the wind, the bird flapped down into the crevice, landing with its wings pressed tightly against its sides. Waddling forward, the vulture sniffed the body once before grabbing onto a haunch of leg meat, shaking it back and forth as it tore it from the body.
It tasted good! So ripe and moist, not at all what the vulture had expected. The legs bled as if the kill was mere hours old instead of days. Tearing off another strip to slide down its throat, the giant bird slowly began to consume the legs of some poor person.
The vulture moved when suddenly, the sand beneath its talons shifted. Hopping up on the legs, it turned to regard the sand as it changed and shifted, revealing something darker underneath. As the sand fell from the hidden aspect, a new wave of death and decay struck the vulture, which was now confused as it tore another strip from the leg.
Or at least, tried to, as a hand grasped the top of its head.
A low groan echoed off of the rocks as the vulture thrashed against the grasping paws of whatever had dug itself up from the sand, squawking indignantly as it felt dirty nails scrape its featherless skin. It let out a shriek as it felt the small jaws of a predator sink into its collarbone, hard enough to make blood spurt from the wound. The creature tore away a strip of the vulture even as the great bird thrashed until one great slap of its wings dislodged the groaning creature.
Stepping backwards over the legs, it cast a baleful gaze at the human that had emerged from the sand, which was now chewing on the bloody morsel it had pulled from the vulture. No longer was this a safe meal to be had, as the crawling human edged closer on its own forearms to get another chance at digging into the bird.
The vulture backed up, continuously backing up in its waddling gait until it felt the rocks fall to the wayside, to where it could spread its wings. The entire time the human, merely the chest, arms and head, chased after it, lashing out to try and get a grip on the vulture with its grubby claws.
Taking flight (just narrowly missing a swipe from the menacing human with bloody teeth) the bird flew up and circled above the site of where it’d gotten three bites to eat. The upper torso of the human was waving up at the vulture as it allowed the warm desert currents to lift it higher and higher. Once it reached a certain distance, the human turned on its spot, not unlike a tortoise, and crawled back to the dismembered legs, crawling to drop into a shallow pit of sand that it began to cover itself up with, masking its presence. The vulture could see the blood dripping from its wound and the fresh smattering of blood from the bite on the pristine sand near the legs. While it wouldn’t be so foolish to go near that again, it knew other animals wouldn’t be able to resist freshly spilled blood.
Flapping to maintain its altitude, the vulture winced as the bite to the collarbone throbbed. Hopefully, the wound wouldn’t become infected… hard to chew off an infected wound on your torso. Still, the vulture thought, it wasn’t a total loss. Its belly was hardly empty anymore, with three long strips of muscle being digested in its gullet. While the meat left a sour aftertaste, it served its purpose just fine of staving off hunger for another day or so.
Hopefully, the vulture’s next find wouldn’t be guarded by a rotting man like this one had.