Striped Shadows part 1
A great roar tore through the thick impenetrable jungle-flora disturbing the migratory birds in their perches. The panicked reply of the other animals followed. Monkeys howled atop the canopy, cuckoos and other exotic birds chirped their lungs out and even the jaguar gave a lazy growl. The unfamiliar would dismiss the mixed cries and shrieks as noise but in truth it signaled the start of the great hunt. The cacophony of the jungle’s occupants also disoriented and confused those creatures who relied on their auditory senses, adding more chaos to the madness.
The stifling humidity of the jungle didn’t dither the huntress as she continued to stalk the beast in the maze of vegetation. She leaped from branch to branch and finally down the ground. The heat of the noon sun added to the difficulty of her mission. A mission fueled by the primal anger in her core. She reined it, focusing it to one single point. The anger heightened all of her senses. It made her every muscle tensed and ready to pounce at her prey.
The huntress paused and looked around. Vines hung like dead serpents in the canopy above while thorns littered the ground below. Beams of light pierced the canopy like silver spears giving more than enough light to guide her pursuit. It was all she needed.
She typically hunted gaurs, nilgais, and sambars but this time she hunted a predator like her. A very shrewd and experienced beast, she thought. Death was eminent and danger was just around the corner. So, every action she’ll take must be calculated and precise. She sighed and resumed her precarious mission.
Her naked body contorted and snaked through the greenery, soundlessly. She halted over a fallen tree covered in green moss. She leaned closer to the rotten wood to examine it. A ghost of a smile formed in her lips. She crouched closer to the clawed foot print in the moss. Still fresh, maybe a day old, she thought. She raised her head high, only a faint smell lingered in the air. The prey was closer than she’d imagined. She followed the odor towards a dark twisting trail, vigilant for a possible trap.
The huntress used its innate speed and agility as her journey took her in the unexplored part of the jungle. An adept swimmer she crossed a deep and narrow pond crowded with white and red lilies. Every step she took made her heart pound in excitement. The first step of her plan was closing the distance between her and the beast.
She shivered as she emerged on the other side of the pond. Water dripping down her back like small rivulets. The huntress slowed down as she set foot on the pebbled surface. She craned her head and sniffed the air. This time the odor was a lot stronger. The faint coppery smell of blood and the beast’s urine stink lingered in the jumbled roots of an ancient acacia tree. The beast had its fill, she thought. The smell gave the details she was looking for. The huntress bolted back to the trail and continued on.
A she expertly avoided the labyrinthine foliage marring her way she thought of the things that happened to her. It will never be the same again.
Three starless nights ago she had been playing with her first born when a great burning orb pierced the black night leaving behind yellow contrails in the starless sky like claw marks on a granite slab. Bright blinding light followed as the orb crashed itself in the deepest part of the jungle. She already sensed the danger it brought but ignored it.
It was the first error she made. And it would be her greatest regret.Soon after that night animals began dying, torn to pieces by taloned paws and left to rot in the forest floor.
The forest became an open charnel house as carrion began to mount. Its assiduous butcher seemed to be in a murder frenzy. Jungle folks whose tribes adapted and made use of everything around them grew alarmed as they discovered the mysterious and merciless killings. Some suggested that a rogue creature stalked the shadows. While others who considered themselves more sensible concluded that the gruesome events were the omens their pagan gods sent them. The Spirits of the forest needed appeasement, they thought. So they proffered sacrifices to halt the massacres only to be disappointed of its savage continuance.
But the huntress’ proud ancestry didn’t cowed her. For she knew what it’ll take to protect her youngling and what she’ll do to those who will be foolish enough to cross her path. It was the second grave error she made and it’ll have the biggest toll of all.
The beast came and it came shrouded by the dark night. Its sound muffled by the light flitting rain and the rumbling thunder. While she and her firstborn were in deep slumber it arrived like a specter from a long lost time. When dawn came she awoke and terror struck her nerves.
Her firstborn. The love of her life. The heir of her little kingdom was missing in their den. No longer in her protective arms. No longer safe from the dangers of the jungle. She panicked and searched for it. Turning every stone, but to no avail. Where could it be?, she asked herself. She almost gave up when she heard the faint whimper in the bushes half a league away from their lair.
She approached it, wary of the creature that waited for her in the gloom. She brushed away the vegetation from whence the sound originated only to find what she was looking for torn to pieces and dying. The sight was both appalling and horrid. She dropped down to her firstborn’s side helpless, a bead of tear fell from her eye. She scooped the remains as it croaked its last breath of life. Time stopped and the bustling jungle paused in silence. She felt her heart sank in the cold depths of her anguish. The unfamiliar pain strangled her will to live. It was worse than the wounds whose scars she proudly wears. It was the agony of losing a love one. It was Death’s whisper itself.
The huntress roared with ferocity, tears streaming down her face. And the jungle expressed its sympathy in its own silent way. Anger swelled up from her chest, filling the emptiness of her heart with molten hate. What creature could’ve done this to her young? Who would do such a ghastly thing to her precious firstborn. The answers to her questions came in the form of padded paw prints leading away to the deep jungle…