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I'm standing alone in a metal cage. All I can see outside the cage is darkness. I'm buck naked except for a loincloth. I don't remember how I got here. I don't remember much of my life before I got here, either. For all I know, I've been here forever.

The cage door opens somehow. I don't see anyone outside. A panther appears and crawls into the cage with me. The door slams shut. I'm trapped in here with a wild, bloodthirsty animal.

The thing sits down and stares at me. There's no malice in its eyes, just curiosity. But I know that the second I look away from it, it's going to kill me.

I stare back at it. Let's have a face-off then, panther. Let's see who has the stronger will.

The panther stares at me. It licks its lips. It blinks. But it doesn't stop looking at me.

I look back. I wonder how long I can keep this up. Even if I look away for just a second-

The panther snarls at me. I think about trying to hurt it, but that would be useless. All I have are my nails. I can't claw it to death, I can't strangle it, I can't do anything to kill it. I'm helpless. All I can do is delay my inevitable death.

So I keep staring at it.

It stares back with alarming tenacity. It has time. As soon as I look away, it'll eat me and satisfy itself for a few days. Then it'll have to hunt again. What does it eat? Wild animals? Is it finding its way into other cages like mine?

I don't know.

I keep staring at it.

I stare and I stare, and I can't stop. My eyes are drying out and my knees are getting weak. It stares back at me. It still seems more curious than malicious, as if it knows I'm no threat. Just a big juicy steak for it to chew on. I'm already dead and I know it.

And yet I keep staring at it.

It yawns and glances aside for a second. Maybe there's hope here. Maybe it'll get bored and leave. Maybe I can kill it somehow. Gouge out its eyes, or-

No, no, who am I kidding? There's no point. There's just. No. Point. I can't hurt this thing. It's stronger than I could ever hope to be. The only reason why it hasn't killed me yet is because I amuse it.

I keep staring at it.

I feel hours drag by. I can't keep this up much longer. My knees are even weaker and I can barely keep my eyes open. I'm hungry and thirsty. I can't remember the last time I ate or drank. It's as if I've always been in this cage with this panther.

It can tell I'm exhausted. It's lying down on its stomach, still looking at me with those hauntingly beautiful eyes. Soon it will end my pitiful existence. I had no hope to survive from the start.

But I made it this far.

Doesn't that count for something?

My eyes close and my chin lolls to my chest. The panther coughs. A second later, its jaws wrap around my throat like a loving embrace. That is all.