“A baby? You don’t say…”
The voice sent shivers down my back. The voice belonged to a leopard, and not just any leopard… “Kato!” My father snorted and jumped in front of the “baby” and me.
Kato, the one-eyed leopard, crept up to my dad slowly, “How nice of you to save this ‘poor creature’ from the storm,” he smirked sarcastically, “it’s too bad you’ll have to let it go once it turns it back on you!” Kato leaped towards me, but my father stopped him and pinned him down on the mud. Kato snarled and took a few steps away as my father shouted, “That ‘poor creature’ will NOT turn against us, even against you! He just needs someone to look after. He fell from the sky, with no family…!”
“YEAH!” I shouted. I stood beside my father with a determination on my face. “In fact, I’ll be his loyal sister! I’ll teach him how to walk, talk, and live among all of us!” Jata and Nuhini stood next to me, “And so shall we,” they added. My father turned to me and smiled proudly, but that didn’t abide to Kato. He just chuckled and replied, “Very well. But, don’t forget what happened the last time a human crossed paths with us!” My father hung his head slowly, as if he knew what happened.
Kato turned around and ran out of our sights. The baby cried again, only this time, it was shivering. My father turned around and figures out, “It needs warmth,” and he saw me shivering as well, “and you too.” I wanted to deny it, but it was true. The hard rain and all that time climbing had worn me out. Jata wrapped the baby in the fuzzy bark, which my father told me was a “blanket”, and he grabbed it tight in his teeth. “We need to bring it to the family,” he muffled.
We galloped quickly back home, with Jata almost falling off of my back again. All the animals gathered around as we arrived. While my father rushed off with the baby on top of a tall hill, I rushed out to meet my friends, whom include: Nia, the daughter of Nuhini; Tafari, my best zebra boy friend; and Zola, a shy but friendly elephant.
Nia, being the happy-go-lucky and rambunctious giraffe she is, jumps out at me and I smiled when she lifted her front hoof, signaling for our “secret greeting”. We head-bumped by the muzzle, bumped our heads on each other’s left and right sides respectively, and we flailed our tails at each other, entwined them, and slap at the end. “Where have you been? I’ve been wondering if you would turn up after the storm.”
“I’m sorry to run off like that, Nia. Something out there got me curious and I did find something very… interesting. And loud.”
Zola approached to me with her trunk curled up, she asked frantically, “Are you hurt? Did the lightning get you? What was that black cloud stream and where did it come from? Were you--” “Breathe, Zola,” said Tafari.
He swayed his head over to mine and we leaned each other’s muzzles. “Glad to see you’re safe, my friend.” “You too,” I almost blushed. Tafari and I have been friends ever since I was a little little foal. He has been loyal to me ever since I first took a first step. In fact, he helped me stand up by lifting his small muzzle next to mine and I have been standing proud since. But, it’s been, around seven moons since that time, and we are still young… I fear that we may never see each other again after my sixteenth moon… However, those thoughts were put aside as Tafari asked me, “So, what DID you find over there, Zarina?”
However, my response was cut off when my father neighed to me as if he wants me to come along with him. “Follow me, Zarina, we must inform the king and queen about the baby.” I gulped silently and nervously. The monarchs of our land, or our colony, have been known to be fearsome by many, especially with the king. His loud roar would outrun even the loudest thunderstorm. However, the queen has been known to tougher than the king, but also the kindest. While the king is kind to us, the queen has given us the most kindness and generosity than any other lioness we have met.
I turned to my friends, “The king and queen needs to speak with me,” I said, nervously. Their faces got stuck with a small aghast look on their face. Their jaws almost dropped all the way down until Zola wrapped her trunk around my neck, “We wish you luck, Zarina.” The rest of my friends nodded in agreement with Zola. I nodded as well, then, I turn around and headed to my father. He turned around and I followed him up the hill.
With each steep step, I grew nervous as I ran away from my family and went out to find a small, fleshy “baby”. My father reached to the top first, as I slowly followed behind. I can see the cave where the monarchs live and sleep. It was small, probably big enough for me to fit, but my father can’t. My father kneeled her front hooves a few feet in front of the cave entrance. I did the same. The baby is laid front of us, sleeping in its warm “blanket”. My legs shook, as if I was about to be eaten in front of my dad. Then, a loud roar bursted out of the cave… “Rise!”
My quivering legs stood up right, a little yelp escaped my muzzle. My father rose up as well, rubbing his muzzle against my neck for protection and courage. I answered with a small nod and I glared at the cave’s entrance. Soon, the cave echoed with loud paw steps that could measure up the most ferocious animal of the jungle: the lion.
He raised his head out of the cave with a serious sneer in his eyes. His mane was long and glowed golden under the sun. He opened his mouth, revealing his long, sharp fangs that could rip off anyone’s legs in a matter of seconds. Shortly after his yawn, he crept closer and closer to me. His predator eyes glared straight at mine, however still shaken in my hooves, I stood firm.
He approached to my father, “Stand aside if you please. I would like a word with your daughter.” My father snorted softly, and turned aside towards me. The king crept even more closely as he circles around me and the “baby”. He growled slyly, as his paws pounded silently on the golden grass beneath them. He stopped right in front of me, just a few grass stalks away from where I stood. He glared into my eyes, forcing me to smile nervously. “Your majesty, please. I can’t just let —” “SILENCE!!” He roared into my face, causing the baby to cry again. He growled even more when he leaned closer to it. He took a few sniffs at it, but the baby cried so loud that I think it tried to “attack” the king… In fact, the baby slaps his majesty’s nose, he roared in pain and anger.
“This is why you ran off into the storm? To find a human bent on conquering us all?!”
I whimpered softly, my legs quivered at each roar.
“How can you sacrifice your own life to find this piece of vultures’ carcass on our home? Humans are nothing but savages, wanting to win at everything, including their life!”
“But, what if it doesn’t?!” my father yelled at him, “My daughter doesn’t know anything about humans or this baby and he doesn’t know anything about all of us. Not everyone in this world are born as the smartest of the herd, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be taught. After all, we are all babies once in our lives, including you, Your Majesty.”
His Majesty growled in ignorance, until another voice approaches him, “He is right, dear.”
The voice belonged to his wife, the gentle queen of the Plains. She emerged from the caves with a swollen belly. I don’t know why she looked fat, but she was the most beautiful lion in all of the land. Not to mention, she is sort of the king’s mentor in my eyes. Meaning, she has been keeping a close eye on everything that is going on in the land. Along with her loyal subjects: all of us.
She nudged her husband lovingly, “And, besides… I think this zebra right in front us is very lucky to rescue a poor human without anyone to protect it… Such a shame for the poor thing though… Hush, darling…” She approaches the baby slowly, still crying. She nudges her muzzle slowly and gives a soft purr. The baby’s crying dimmed down as the queen’s purrs reached its tiny paws.
Then, the most amazing sight I’ve ever seen occurred: the queen gave a small lick on the baby’s face. After that, the baby wasn’t crying in pain or sadness, it was a different emotion. It was of happiness. I smiled in relief to see the queen lives up to her name, as well as seeing her playing with a new being in our home… Wait, I almost forgot!
I tried to speak, “Excuse me, Your Highness,” The queen’s ears perked and raised her head, “Yes, what is it, dear?”
I walked slowly to the queen, “Your Highness,” I addressed our queen, “I would like this… baby… to live among my family. To live among us all. As my brother.” The queen’s eyes blinked and smiled, knowing that she listened to every word I said. She looked at the baby, then back to me.
“But, my dear… You and him are not the same kin.” She replied in a firm, but gentle tone, “Why would you want to adopt an infant human into your family?” At first, I couldn’t think of anything… My mind went blank. “Oh, no!” I thought, “Now what can I do…?”
The lioness motioned her head towards her husband, “Dear, do you suppose-- ” She stopped as she noticed that her husband is licking his feet, not listening to her. She growled to get his full attention, “Focus, you lazy buns!” “Excuse me, dear, but the good king needs to look good for his audience.” The lioness sighed, “Yes, dear. Now, do you suppose we should listen to this zebra as to why she wants this infant as a brother?” The lion stood up again, “Of course!” He turned his head to me, “Come closer, let the entire Plains hear why you think we should spare the child’s life, and allow his into a part of ours.”
“Wait, Your Majesties!” butted in, “She is just a child, she doesn’t know how to care for an infant, let alone a human baby…!”
“Patience, Jata. Let her speak. I believe she knows.
I nodded after hearing dad’s words. My other friends stood in front of me, all looking at me like they are asking, “Are you sure, Zarina?”
I nodded simply as an answer, “…Yes, I am.”
“Well then, good luck.”
Then, I nodded to dad, then I turned around, standing on top of a small boulder, facing everyone around me: every animal in our kingdom.
“I ask you to hear my words, everyone…!” I closed my eyes, thinking of the right words to say…
I opened them with sincerity, “If there is one thing I remember the first time I stood on these plains is that everyone is like one big family. Not just me, my dad, and all the other zebras in mine, but all of us as one big giant family. Now, when I first heard of this, I didn’t know what that meant, but, I quickly figured out that everyone has one thing: a heart.”
I heard murmurs across the blades of grass in rumor and confusion, “Hear me out!” I shouted, “We may have different furs, different hooves, or different ways of communicating, but we ALL express emotion: joy, sadness, anger, and even fear. Yes, I am afraid if that’s what you all are thinking, but I am also happy and sad, all because of that piece of skin that is right in front of us! Right now, it doesn’t know what emotion is or what it means to live a full life, but we can help him survive, or he may suffer in the harshest of weather out in the furthest recesses of these lands. We never know, not unless we allow this creature as a new member. As you’ve seen the queen quickly clam this baby down in an instant, it felt loved. That’s what I want to give to this infant: love. Don’t you want to share that same kind of love before you had yours for the first time? If so, who can you can share it with? Well, I stand right here, right now, that we have the love this poor baby needs, like everyone else around you and me. Life is love, and love is life!”
As I finished my speech, the clouds move away to reveal a streak of sun piercing through, shining down on me. I raised my front legs in anticipation, and everyone cheered, hooted, growled, or grunted as I galloped into the air. Soon, the streak of sunlight spread out and shined its light, reaching the baby first, then everyone around us.
It felt like a miracle had happened…
I breathed in and out slowly, the wind flowing my mane… It all felt so good. I turned around to see my father, who simply smiled with a proud look on his face.
However, I was afraid to see the king and queen, for I feared that my speech was nothing too special nor understandable. I couldn’t turn my head towards them, fearing that I have gone a little overboard.
And then, the cheering was silenced by the roar of the king. The queen stood tall right next to me,
“Zebra, it is true that we are not the same by our skin, but what is true about all of us, is that we are a part of something bigger,” she replied in a serious tone, “that is true. However, a love like yours could not be taught in a day.” “I understand,” I replied sadly, figuring that the baby will be lunch to the king…
A small silence spread throughout the field…
“That’s why we, the king and I entrust you to do your best to raise the child as your own!” The queen answered with a bright smile. “Really?!” My tail wagging with happiness. “Yes, and it’s not just you who will teach the boy to love, everyone and beyond here has earned the right to teach this young creature how to be, what I believe, a true miracle to fall upon our home.”
Everyone cheered and roared with glee again, only they gathered around me and the baby, which soon opened its eyes. They wonder aimlessly around every creature that’s going to be his teacher. Something about those eyes helped me see that the creature, I mean, boy, is ready to be a part of the family.
“So, what shall we call the baby?” One creature stood out, but no one gave a response… Everyone is confused on what name should be given to the baby… So, I came up with, “How about ‘Boy’?” Everyone turned their heads towards me, while I gave an innocent face once I gave that idea… Another small silence occurred…
“Not a bad idea for a name, my dear.” My father said, “I think he looks happy and joyful to see his family…Hmm…I think we shall name him ‘Ayo’: the boy full of joy.” “Aw… thanks dad.” I smiled sheepishly. Then, everyone smiled with gratitude as they look upon their new son.
His story is just beginning…