Word spread swiftly, like wildfire scorching up dry summer grass. The first whispers reported became telephone calls, and then the new technologies kicked into gear. The words gained their own life, fed by rumour and the frenzy of greed and power.
Facebook: “PM me, I’ve got news”
SMS: “It’s happening, get here now”
BBM: “Did you hear? Finally!”
Twitter: “OMG. Can’t say more! Gotta Go”
Word spread faster than sound as data packets flashed off satellites, whisking to their destinations. The vultures leapt on each set of words. Could it be true? Their salvation after so many years of waiting for their rightful inheritance?
The vultures, four siblings, had watched from afar, waiting impatiently for the old lady to finally decease. They thought their blood sufficient for them to claim their birthright. Each considered their own claim to be greater than any other. They represented the worst of avarice, sloth and gluttony. They spent their time clawing and scrabbling at the walls of the empire built by their forefathers, instead of working the machinery from within. They wanted power and wealth without the work.
None of the four had facing the old lady over the years. No one had the balls. They didn’t spend time with the old bird in life; such was her ferocity and her iron grip on the family. They feared being flung from the nest for minor transgressions. Only one – Sarah, the fifth child and the youngest – kept contact with her mother. The others didn’t call, didn’t speak up; they were too cowardly and self-centred to consider anything but their own self-preservation. But with their Matriarch apparently close to death, they wanted to be there to pluck the choicest morsels from the estate of the still warm corpse. Scavengers one and all.
The four hang-necked birds had sat in the desert sun, waiting for the strong to become weak so they could feed without any effort on their part. They had stayed close but not-too-close. Now, there was a frenzy as each raced to be first to the feast. They each arrived with the dawn, scattering gravel and sending lizards scurrying into the shrub. In they dashed, frantic now they smelled blood, each desperate to be first to the scene. They burst through the house like floodwaters released through a sluice, desperately searching for their promised treasures like a lifeline thrown to a drowning man.
Room after room was searched, but each yielded the same result – dust sheets and old, forgotten furniture. The vultures stalked up the stairs to the old lady’s bedroom. Finding the door locked, the eldest son planted a foot firmly and kicked at the latch. The old wood split and the door burst open. The four vultures burst in, and stopped dead in their tracks.
Four figures hung from the ceiling, the effigies slowly swaying after the rush of air into the room. As the dummies turned, the vultures gasped in horror. These were effigies of themselves. Each figure had a sheet of paper pinned to its front. Gingerly, the eldest son plucked the sheet from his likeness:
“You are dead to me. You are worthless, scheming and weak. You will suffer for your sins of avarice, sloth, envy and pride. My estate is secure and safe from each of you, as am I. As is your sister, the only one amongst you to serve me in life without question or complaint.
I am watching. I have always been watching. The hunter is first to the feast. Scavengers get what’s left – if anything. Now leave, and never return.”
The downside of one relying on the hard work for sustenance is that the leaders will eat first. There’s the strong possibility that there may leave nothing for the lowly scavengers in life.
Unfortunately we use animal references in vain to label the basest of human instincts. Real vultures play a vitally important part in the circle of life. Human vultures, on the other hand, do not.