The ducklings, hatched a mere few days ago happily swam with their mother who was just as happily showing her newly hatched children the pond.
Not far away, danger lurked as it always did. He was always around, and always ready for a snack that wandered to far. Of course, the great blue heron came around much more during this time due to easy little snacks or ducklings as they were called.. how he loved them all dearly, especially when they were in his stomach.
Fluffing his feathers, he watched, almost like a statue besides his breathing and an occasional eye blink.
The ducklings were warned but remained naive like always. They'd learn their lesson by witnessing or being witnessed. It matters little to him if he's cutting such lives short, their fault really being so small and delicious, and almost asking and begging him to swallow them all up. Of course, the mothers of their children tried to save them, all fail of course.. and he allows them to at least keep a few, so the cycle will continue.
He eyed them swimming around without a care in the world, thinking they were immune to all their mother tries to warn them. They either failed to see the heron or mistook him for some sticks or something. Either way he saw his chance..
Leaning slowly, long neck lowering even slower towards his food, almost like a snake.. he shoots his beak forward, lightning quick. Panic and splashes came from the duckling around.. he cared less for now sense he felt the wiggling and sounds of a little duckling who was screaming both for his mother and in protest.
"Let my baby go, monster!" She would swim around him and he wanted to laugh at how foolish she was. Must be a new mother or a new comer in general. She quacked out her threats but of course they went unheard like always as he lifted the wiggling baby out of her reach, beak grasped tightly around her baby's neck, tightening in threat.. he had the upper wing and she soon gave up like all the rest did, after all, it's one loss and she had other babies to take care of.. in a way he was helping the mothers take better care.
The duckling cried as he tilted his head back, experience helping him not kill the baby duck as he carefully positioned it so he can swallow it down, the toughest task and he wouldn't deny that he lost a snack a few times due to one mistake. Careful but still quickly he shook the duckling who kept wiggling to get free.. it's cute behind reaching the inside of his mouth and unknown to the snack that it was doomed..
A mighty gulp forced the duckling half way down, the wiggling and kicks of little webbed feet almost made him sing with delight, eyes catching the horrified look of it's former mother and the babies who still didn't seem to grasp what was going to become of their hatchmate.
He swallowed again and closed his beak, sealing the little duckling inside his throat that bulged and wiggled. He found little reason to play with this one and lowered his beak again, drinking in some water that caused a little chirp of protest but the little bird travelled down quicker into his empty stomach and awaited to be digested into energy, for now the little kicks and struggle continued, though now unseen under his feathers but felt all the same. Live prey always was the best and filled him easier.
The next duckling would be just as easy, it was as if they forgot what they just witnessed, again he was convinced that they wanted to be his food. And he obliged. His beak stabbing into the water once more and taking the duckling into his beak.. dunking it under water for a moment to soak it's body, this time the mother duck watched with grief but acceptance, all the while somehow hoping the heron would find it somewhere in his heart to spare her hatchling.
He never did. Instead he enjoyed his near drowned snack, swallowing carefully like last time but instead of drinking water to wash down the meal, he allowed the little duckling to remain in his throat, standing there as it desperately tried to get out.
Little webbed feet and undeveloped wings trying to get a grip on the slippy throat, giving it hope, while providing the heron a nice feeling and the pond a nice show. Unknown to the duckling that struggling was sending it further from hope and closer too it's final destination.
The slow descent was painful for the others to watch, but to the heron, it was always the best feelings he ever will have in his life. Feeling the snack unintentionally helping itself slide down inch by inch made him want to nearly laugh at how it thought it had a chance..
Little bulge kicked, showing any that still watched where it's location was and it would be further down from where it originally was.. slowly the bulge's struggles weaken until the heron opened his beak to let in air and made sure to provide false hope in the form of light from the outside, struggles resumed until the bulge disappeared from his throat and into his awaiting stomach. Hopes of escape would have been broken by a fish or something but not the ducklings or any other young snack that travels into his stomach, never them. For they always hope with their final breath that they will get out alive..
They never do and never will.