Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Jungle

With the jungle floor far below and the green canopy of leaves above, she sped along the high branches, effortlessly leaping from tree to tree, rushing to the danger that awaited her to the east.

The muscles of her strong limbs worked beneath her sun-soaked skin as she used the vines and hanging branches to carry herself across the tree tops along side her companions that had come to warn her of the distress on the far side of the jungle.

Twin chimpanzees moved deftly beside her; their unusual silence telling her of the urgency of the situation. Down on the ground, travelling as their shadow, a midnight-furred panther tracked its fellow travellers with unmatched skill.

All together, the four of them raced eastward toward the rushing of the river that splits the jungle in two; toward the darkness that lay on the other side.

Soon they reached the edge of the tree cover and came to an anxious stop, the panther pacing back and forth along the river bank while she and the twins stood high up on over-hanging branches, scanning the rapidly moving water for their young friend.

She held a hand over her eyes to shield them from the bright light of the sun that shinned in the sky overhead. Her amber hair and spotted cloth garments flapped in the moisture-filled breeze as she searched the waters for any sign of the cub.

Excited screeches beside her caused her to look over and find the twins pointing and jumping wildly down at the river bank to her right; the far river bank.

Down on the muddy shore of the wide river, a small orange and black figure pulled itself out of the speeding waters and scrambled up the bank to collapse with exhaustion on the dirt ground at the foot of the towering trees of the other side.

For a moment she was relieved the tiger cub was safely out of the river, but the loud roar of the panther brought her attention to the shadowy figures moving through the darkness of the trees toward the resting young cub.

Without hesitation, she jumped to the next branch, grabbed hold of a strong vine that wrapped itself around the tree from the jungle floor, and, with a dashing leap, she vaulted herself sidelong through the air above the river.

The tension of her weight and trajectory of her swing caused the vine to unravel itself from the top of the tree, giving her enough length to just reach half way across the water. At the apex of her swing, with a loud grunt, she let go and let herself fly freely down toward the other side of the river.

With acrobatic agility, she rolled herself into a tumble as she landed somersaulting onto the muddy riverbank, covering herself from head to toe in the dark muck.

Not stopping a beat, she rolled to her feet and raced toward where the unconscious tiger cub lay. Running parallel to her, amongst the dark shadows of the trees, the threatening figures uttered terrifying shrieks as they neared their prey.

Pounding her bare feet on the hard-packed ground, she quickened her paced but could feel the other creatures' speed up as well, with only a few lengths between her and the cub she could see that the loud screams had woken the tiger out of its daze and his dark eyes were bulging with terror.

One last push of effort and she dove out for the cub and snatched him by the scruff, tumbling into a ball; the swiping of razor-sharp claws narrowly missing the exposed skin of her back and legs as she rolled down the river bank.

Not daring to look back she came out of her tucked roll and dove directly into the rushing river, holding the cub by its scruff in her mouth as a tigress would. Paddling hard and fierce, she slowly work her way across the river, the wild screams of the creatures on the east bank muffled under the splashing water.

With barely enough strength to move her arms she felt herself being pulled along the current toward the all-engulfing falls that raged over the colossal drop to the craggy rocks below.

Opening her mouth, she let the cub slide into her arms as she began to sink under the rushing water.

Suddenly, a sharp pain shot through her shoulder and she felt herself being lifted out of the water and dragged roughly to shore.

The panther pulled her with his massive jaw clamped onto her shoulder until she was fully out of the river and then her let go, leaving puncture wounds that bled freely; though they would heal more quickly than any injury she would have sustained being dashed upon the rocks at the bottom of the falls had he not intervened.

Coughing out water, she sat up and lifted the young tiger up to glare at him in the eyes as he looked sheepishly back.

Across the river the screeching creatures slinked back into the shadows of the trees, their sickeningly yellow eyes glowering at their lost meal, while the group of friends stared silently back as they gathered on west river bank.

Looking back at the young cub she growled her own threatening disapproval and the little tiger flinched as she only ruffled his soaked furry head with her hand.

The little prince of the jungle would be getting enough punishment from their majesties when she got him home as it was. Perhaps, she thought, we can take our time getting back.

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