Amazing Kids! Magazine

Vanishing Shadows

By Madeline Hire, Coshocton, OH, grade 12

 

I had no idea why they were standing there. I flicked my tail silently behind me. I had never seen the two-legged creatures up close before. They had never ventured this far into the jungle. The jungle belongs to us. It is our home. We belong amongst the trees and mists and shadows. We belong in the dark seclusion of the forests. The two-legged ones were in our territory now.

I pricked my ears as the two-legged ones let out their mumbled gibberish in loud tones down below me. I willed them to be silent. The others wouldn’t stay as quiet as I if they discovered that two-legged creatures had invaded the Jaguar’s territory. The others would never let the creatures go without a fight, especially after the creatures destroyed their home.

I narrowed my eyes into two slits of pure amber and followed the creatures with my gaze. There were five of them, covered in strange material of obnoxious colors. One particular pair, a male and a female, squalled at each other constantly. The sound made my ears ring. My black tail quivered in annoyance and brushed the branch next to me. I flinched at the soft noise, but the two-legged ones did not hear me. For once, I was thankful for their excessive jabbering.

I inhaled softly, letting the scents of the air waft over my tongue. The creatures smelled of fire and oil and rubber. I screwed up my black nose in revulsion. I never understand how animals can live amongst such filth and stench. But, that is their choice. The two-legged ones choose to live amongst fire and ash and oil. We choose to stay close to the roots of our land, amongst the sweet-smelling trees and rich soil. We avoid contact with the world of the two-legged ones. We respect the boundaries they set as best as we can. Yet, as time goes on, it becomes more and more difficult to lurk in the shadows of our beloved trees.

Thanks to the two-legged creatures, the shadows are vanishing.

“JAA-bar-III!” I laid my ears back as I jerked my head up at the sound, a growl rising in my throat. Remembering the two-legged ones, I stifled it. “Jabari!” A bright blue and golden macaw spiraled downwards towards my head. Irritated, I lashed out at it with one massive paw as it came to perch on the branch above my head. The macaw tilted its head and glared at me with one beady eye. “Jabari—what are these two-legged ones doing in Jaguar Land?”

I was tempted to ignore him. “Silence, Mwenya.” The macaw ruffled his feathers when I rumbled his name. He opened his beak to question me, and I bared my fangs in warning. The bird fluttered a safe distance away, eyeing me coldly.

“What?” Mwenya cawed quietly in his mocking tone. “Is the great Jabari, leader of the creatures of the Jaguar Land going soft? Losing his nerve?” My tail lashed in annoyance.

“Mwenya,” I purred under my breath. “If it were not for the Unity, I would eat you now.” Mwenya bobbed his feathered head.

It was true. The two-legged ones’ destructive habits had caused us to resort to seeking aid in each other. The jaguar’s sought out the lemurs, the lemurs sought out the pythons, the pythons sought out the birds, the birds sought out the tigers. And they all had chosen for me to lead them all. Once again, it came back to the two-legged ones.

“What is it you want?” I asked.

Mwenya hopped toward me. “The lemurs know that the two-legged ones are in the Jaguar Land. The tigers are prepared to fight. The apes are readying their army.” The bird fluttered close to my head and perched next to my ear. “There are only five of them! Jabari…” The bird looked at me with a tilted head. “Shall we unite as animals of the wilds to drive these creatures away?”

I paused. It was a reasonable plan. The two-legged ones had destroyed the Ape Land with fire; they had cut down the beautiful trees in the Python Land with metal beasts. And they had killed hundreds of innocent animals in doing so. The two-legged ones killed hundreds of us. We, as animals, kill each other sometimes, but it is never out of cruelty. We use everything that we destroy. The two-legged ones do not. They have killed hundreds of us.

I glanced down at the bickering group of creatures below us. I narrowed my eyes at their strange, flat faces, their hairless bodies, their form-fitting coverings, and the strange patches of fur on the very tops of their heads.

By the laws of nature, we deserved to fight back.

“No.”

I saw Mwenya ruffle his feathers in disbelief. “No?”

I sighed and sat up straighter. “If we attack and kill, then we are no better than them,” I flexed my paws and dug my claws into the bark of the tree as I looked at the creatures down below me.

“But, Jabari, they kill hundreds of us…” Mwenya paused.

I looked to the little bird. “Yes, Mwenya, they kill hundreds. But we must endure their reign as we always have. Disappear into the shadows as we always have. There is no need to use tooth and claw on these creatures yet.”

Mwenya looked down.

Finally he spoke again. “What happens, Jabari, when there are no more shadows for us to hide in?”

I looked down at the arguing group of two-legged ones. My whiskers twitched and my tail flicked. “Let us hope the two-legged ones will be prepared for that day, for that will be the day when they must share their home with us.”

Mwenya looked at the two-legged ones. “Why do they do it? Why do they destroy our home and kill our kin?” Mwenya looked at me, his beak parted in the innocence of his question. I looked at the creatures as they stood below me.

I turned to the brave little macaw perched by my ear. “They are humans.” I growled. “It is what they do.”

Mwenya looked at me for a moment before fluttering away. I watched the flash of blue and yellow before he disappeared into the lovely sapphire sky.

I sat up and stretched my back in a long, curving arch. I looked back at the two-legged humans through the trees down below. They had not moved. They had not stopped arguing. I shook my head hopelessly and padded silently away into the comforting shadows.

I still had no idea why they were standing there.