Written 2/1/2010 for a class assignment
The forest was alive with many sounds. Birds cawed in the treetops, and Pena could hear the splashing of the elder crocodiles bathing in the nearby Amazon River. She was not interested in any of this. All that captured her attention was the delicious aroma of the howler monkey she was tracking.
Lower and lower she went, the ground now almost touching her belly. Pena pricked her ears, and, after a moment’s hesitation to make sure her lame paw was in just the right position, she pounced. Flying through the air silently, her quarry didn’t know to run away until Pena fell flat on it. She bit the life line of the howler monkey, and started to relax when she felt it slump against her chest. As she ran home, she tried to imagine life without a lame paw, and Pena couldn’t. She had adapted to the things she could and couldn’t do, and was much stronger than any one of the other leopards who had lived through 9 harsh winters. As Pena settled into her warm spot by the den to eat, she saw a flash of pelt, yellow with black spots, like hers.
“Brother, I know you are there.” She called out, sure that at the sound of her voice, she would flush him out like a bird in the trees. But, the great cat didn’t stop, and now the pelt didn’t look like the same pelt as before. Pena dismissed it, unhappy that a ludicrous thought had interrupted her meal. She fixed her green eyes on the food, and started to strip the meat from it.
Before she was done, her brother burst into the little clearing, yelling his snout off.
“Pena, Pena! You’ll never believe it” He yelled
“And what shall I not believe?” Pena growled; mad now, because two things had distracted her from lunch.
“We’re moving!” He said, poking at the lame paw she was licking, to get her attention.
“Great” She said, not really sounding thrilled.
Pena couldn’t believe it. Moving! Her family wouldn’t let her come, especially her father. All he had done her whole life was ridicule Pena for her lame paw.
“We’re going tomorrow! Can’t you believe it!!?”
Tomorrow, even better Pena thought. She moved towards the den, getting ready to pack up all her belongings. A few hours later, she curled up to go to sleep.
Moments later it seemed to Pena, but it was actually a whole day later when she woke up. Franticly she searched, calling out names in order to find her family, but to no avail.
She decided to follow them, although she was a day late in tracking them. She left everything behind, feeling that it wouldn’t help, and set out on her journey.
A few hours later she came across a pool and started to drink it, savoring the flavor, because hunting had been scarce that day. When Pena heard rustling, she never gave a thought to it. Never gave a thought to it until the rustling turned into a black leopard with dangerous purple eyes flying at her. Pena snarled, leaping up to meet the attack, determined to tear the intruder to shreds. The other leopard though, gave an extra leap to go over Pena, and Pena, recognizing the battle move, dropped and rolled to the side. Snarling all the while, the other leopard charged again, with seemingly infinite amounts of energy to attack her. Suddenly, when Pena bared her teeth and started to counter-attack the black leopard, she dropped. Pena rushed over, and saw that the other leopard had a huge gash in her side.
“What’s your name?” Pena asked
“Lilah” she choked out.
“I’ll take care of you.” Pena said, feeling sorry for Lilah.
She drank water in from the pool, and walked back over to Lilah, and spit it over the wound. The blood washed off, as well as the water.
We have to move on, Pena thought. We can’t stay here. She started to hunt, because Lilah was back at the pool, moaning about her wound, and she needed to be fed if she was to fight off infection.
“We can’t stay here.” Pena told Lilah when she got back from hunting. “I have to go find my family. They’re gone, and I have to find them.”
“Sure.” Lilah said casually, as if she could walk a thousand miles, and not even get hurt. “I’ll go along with you. I might have a short temper, as you saw, but I can protect you, and you need me. Trust me on this one.”
“Ok, but after your wound heals, you have to help me hunt. It’s not easy to feed your stomach.”
“That’s fine with me, but are moving before my wound heals, or after?”
“Definitely after, about a day or two more.” Pena said. “Let’s get going then.”
They walked across thirty miles of rugged terrain, Lilah battling vines, and Pena forcing her way through the thick foliage and underbrush. Thirty miles was as far as they went that day. Pena found a clearing, and scented her families waste deposited nearby.
“They were here.” Pena choked out. “I missed them by just a few days.” She felt as if she would never find them.
“How about I go hunt tonight and you curl up and take a snooze.” Lilah said comfortingly.
When Lilah heard snoring, she headed off to hunt. She took it slow, catching a couple of different species of monkeys, and put them back by where Pena was sleeping. As she went to go catch something larger, she walked right into a trap. “PENA! PENA!” she yowled. Why didn’t she come?
Back at the clearing, Pena jolted awake. Racing toward the yowling sounds, she thought that Lilah must have tried to abandon her, getting caught or trapped in something gruesome.
“Lilah, are you there?”
“PENA! PENA! PENA!”
“I’m here, Lilah, I’m here.
“Get me out, I’m stuck!!!”
“Gee, I wonder how.”
“No time for sarcasm now Pena, JUST SAVE ME!!
“Okay, okay, I’m looking for something to help me break the cage!!”
Pena scrambled, and finally thought of something. She ran, and head butted the lock. She did it again and again, desperate now to save her, knowing that she wasn’t going to let anyone ever leave her again, abandoning her like an orphan.
Finally the lock broke, and Pena and Lilah raced off to the trail they were following with the scent of Pena’s family. They only stopped when something froze their blood dead cold.
Pena’s brother lay on the trail, dead as a piece of prey. His throat still bleed, and Pena thought he was still alive, just faintly, just enough for him to tell her who practically killed him, so she could take revenge when he died.
No such luck. He was dead, and never going to come back. She started to drag him away, and Lilah didn’t stop her. Lilah knew that Pena had to bury him- so she could take her revenge- and strike the person that had killed him down.
When the sun was just rising, Pena buried him in the midst of vines, yowling softly all the while. After Lilah pushed in the rest of the dirt, they yowled together and woke up the forest.
They followed the trail of her parents, and Pena started to worry for her mom. Her father had tried to kill her sometimes in her life, and now her brother was dead, and her father’s scent was all over her brother’s neck where he had died. So it was only natural that Pena would worry for her mother. How Pena’s father had become her father when he was a murderer, Pena didn’t know. All she knew was that she had to stop him from killing her mother. That was the only thing on her mind when she was following the trail. Until, of course, Pena and Lilah found Pena’s family, minus her brother.
Her mother jumped up, and purred as a greeting. Pena’s father stayed on the ground as if he was stuck there. Pena wished he was, but, after he finished eating the meat, he got up to exchange formalities. He purred, brushed pelts with Pena, and flicked Lilah nose disdainfully. Lilah started towards him but Pena stopped her.
Pena started in with an accusation. “You killed him didn’t you, father. You killed my only brother, and moms carrying line. Why, why, why would you do that?”
“Because isn’t an answer dad, you killed him. If I took your throat, and ripped it to shreds, I would have a reason!”
“Because he wasn’t the son I wanted, he was immature and I wasn’t going to wait it out for a few more years for that to change.”
“So you KILLED him, my only son, and you KILLED him!” Pena’s mom broke into the conversation. “You disgrace! I waited for 5 years for Pena to be mature, and I tolerated her until then. Why couldn’t just wait that long? Why couldn’t you?”
“You already had a helper, and mine failed on me. Pena’s brother died in vain, begging me to not kill him, to keep him alive ‘till he saw Pena again. I tore his throat out, so he couldn’t plead with me again.”
Pena’s mother broke down, all the while muttering curses and shouting at the sky ‘I will avenge you, my son’
Lilah stood up and said, stupidly, “I’ll fight you, to avenge the death of your son. You can’t fight your wife, and Pena is not your size.”
Pena’s father didn’t have to say he accepted, he just let the body movements do it for him. He crouched low, and then sprang. Lilah raked her claws deep against his side when he flew past, gouging a good would-be scar. As Lilah prepared to battle, Pena’s father struck again, this time catching her off guard. Lilah tried to go into survival mode, but all the things that were left to her now was her sense of protection, her anger to fuel her, and knowing that whatever happened, she would survive. She would survive because she, Lilah, was a fighter, and she would fight to the death. Lilah yowled a battle call, and sprang at Pena’s father, pushing him into the bushes, trying to scratch his face off. As he pushed Lilah off him, he flung her across the clearing. Lilah hit a tree, and was still. She slumped to the ground, and no cat could hear the tiny breath that moved her life along. Enraged beyond belief, Pena sprung and boxed her father’s ears. No luck came out of that. He just picked her up and threw her across the clearing like he had done with Lilah.
“You’re a disgrace.” Pena’s mom said slowly. “Don’t ever try to find me again, you killer. I wish you were dead.”
Pena’s mothers steely voice made Pena’s blood go cold. She knew that her mother wasn’t talking to her, but the voice still chilled her.
“Come on mom; let’s take Lilah somewhere far away from here, far away from the monster.” Pena put a lot of venom in her words.
They dragged Lilah away, and set up a permanent den about 2984 miles from where Pena had found her parents. Lilah was breathing more loudly now, and Pena and her mother were taking care of all the scrapes and scratches. A few days later, she was better again.