The sun, the engine of all weather, assaulted the herd mercilessly. Their tongues lolled. Their brains cooked in their cases. The mucus in their nostrils and sinuses dried. Only a few caught the scent of moist pastures wafting on an errant breeze from the east. These few lifted their heads in that direction and hesitated, but the lead male missed it, and they continued the march.
One male, a bachelor of just two years, skirting the edge of the herd caught the scent and looked in its direction. The heat, rising from the hard ground in waves, obscured everything beyond a few dozen yards. Not even the hyenas patrolling the flanks of the herd were visible. A cow following close behind bumped into the bull and shook its head in annoyance. The bull showed no sign of noticing.
He took a few hesitant steps in the direction of the scent and sniffed again. Another wisp of the smell of green caused a trickle of saliva to flow into his open mouth and fall to the ground. It almost evaporated before reaching the earth.
A towering dust devil spun across the barren plain and intersected with the herd. The animals behind hesitated while the ones ahead plodded forward, and a path opened in their ranks allowing the miniature tornado to pass. The young male looked back over its shoulder and witnessed the event without interest. It was waiting to see if any other wildebeests were turning towards the scent it had detected. None were.
The young bull turned its attention back to the east and raised its nose high to test the air once more. The scent wasn't there. Its spore had been lost in the passing dust devil. The animal dropped its head. The saliva stopped. Hope, if such a concept was within its ken, was forgotten. Then as it turned to rejoin the path of the herd, a fresh breath of air scented with green grass caught its attention again. Once more the wildebeest turned to the east and raised its nose high. The smell of life-giving grass gave it strength to call again, louder this time. A scattering of its companions swung their heads. A few raised their noses, caught the scent, and echoed the call.
The leader was too far ahead to hear the message and plodded on. However, some innate sense inspired it to look back over its shoulder. Although it sensed the disturbance in the herd, it didn't have the strength to disobey the instinct that called it forward towards the traditional feeding grounds. Besides, it could depend upon its lieutenants, the other bulls to keep the herd following. It did not know that one of those lieutenants and a few rebellious cows were balking at its lead.
The young bull mistook the insurgents as the rest of the herd and began leading them to the east. Some inbred intelligence told it that the leader would soon arrive to assume command. It would push him rudely aside and take credit for finding the unseen sanctuary. But the leader didn't arrive. Still, the young bull led on, its small breakaway herd following.
They soon crossed the path of the predators that patrolled the flank of the herd. Chance let them pass between two of the carnivores. In the blistering heat, the senses of the lead one missed the wildebeests crossing its back trail. The following one saw them as vague images in a shimmering landscape. Had it been hungry, it would have rushed forward to investigate and alert the pack. As it was, the pack had recently feasted on wildebeest and it ignored them as though they were merely phantoms. It remained on post following the main body of the herd.
The young bull didn't look back for the herd until evening when the sun abated and the mirages began to lift. It paused atop a small rise in the ground. Ahead lay a lush pasture with a river meandering lazily through it. Behind lay the herd in the distance, still plodding northward.
The cows following stopped just below the rise. They had no knowledge of the pasture other than the scent that became stronger with every pace. Following the gaze of their new leader, they too saw the herd struggling towards the horizon with its train of predators on both sides and close behind.
A conflict arose in the wildebeests. Each was pulled in two directions. The instinct to herd pulled them to the north. The scent of life pulled them to the east.
The young bull shook its head and passed over the rise. The others followed. A new herd was born.