The Animals’ Voices

Author’s note: Me thinks this story is quite a success! Tell me what you feel! (:

A scuttle of mice, causing barely a whisper over the green grass. A hedgehog trundles after the little rodents, flattening small patches of ground beneath its feet. Next, a gaggle of geese emerge from the river, gaggling loudly and plodding with wild abandonment upon the muddy ground, their webbed feet leaving splayed prints in the mud. Following swiftly after, a herd of deer peek shyly out from the shelter of the trees, before stepping out timidly to join the procession. A herd of horses gallop gallantly past the deer, their manes tossing proudly in the wind. Tall, towering giraffes stalk out from amongst the trees, dwarfing the magnificent horses. A pride of lions step forward proudly, roaring their worth throughout the forest, the lionesses nosing their cubs forward, not wanting them to get trampled by the crowd. Wolves arrive in packs, their grey bodies looking fierce and streamlined. They trot smoothly after the crowd, and presently, they all arrive at an enormous clearing.

A raised, flat surface of rock juts into the clearing, serving as a platform to address the crowd. The lions leap onto the stage, tawny tails twitching in anticipation. The lionesses settle at the bottom of the platform, gathering their cubs closer to them protectively, hissing threateningly at anyone who dares come too close.

When everyone is present, their various noises creating a ruckus that can be heard for miles, one lion stands on the platform, roaring into the din. You can tell that this lion is the King of all the animals, the one and only one that all animals listen to. His mane is of the darkest brown, his body rippling with barely- suppressed power. His tufted tail sweeps commandingly from side to side, demanding everyone’s attention and respect. This lion is not used to being questioned, nor does he accept questions, for that matter. The crowd immediately quietens down.

‘Friends, animals, those of forest ilk, lend me your ears!’ The King of the forest speaks, quoting a line from a book he had picked up from a wandering human in the forest, a few years ago. That is, after he had licked every bone clean and found the book lying abandoned on the forest floor. What was the title again? Jewelled Scissors? Something like that. Ever since then, he has been using this famous line to start his oral presentation.

A few mice take his words too literally, and they gladly nibble off one another’s ears, squeaking in pain all the while. They place their ears in front of the King as an offering, bowing in respect.

‘Mmm, how noble.’ The King’s mate muses, her yellow eyes glittering with something that cause the mice’s fur to stand on end. Before the still- squeaking mice can flick a tail, she has pounced on them, snapping them up lightning- fast. She offers her cubs a few mice, and as the cubs roll around, fighting for survival, the squeaking immediately stops. ‘What a waste.’ The lioness comments languidly, laying her head down on her paws, after licking up the last of the mice.

‘They could have made loyal soldiers.’ The King stares regretfully at the spot where the mice’s ears are, before he flicks a red tongue out and licks the spot clean. ‘But they are too small. They are likely to be a liability.’ The lioness flicks her ears in agreement.

The watching, silent animals seem quite unaffected, as if this is a normal occurrence. They know that if the King were to ask any of them to sit on his dinner plate, they will come to him without hesitation.

‘Apologies for the slight distraction. I have an announcement to make.’ The King announces.

Immediately, a band of trumpeter swans raise their necks to the sky, trumpeting a fanfare for the King. All the animals clap their—hands? No?—and cheer, cat calls (from the cats) and wolf whistles (from the wolves) sounding from the crowd. Another roar from one of the King’s council suffices to settle the animals.

‘My loyal servants, I bring grave news. Humans, those infernal, insidious, conceited, incorrigible desecrators—’ The King pauses to let the effect of those words sink in, or perhaps he has ran out of adjectives, before continuing. A pelican, the scribe who takes down the minutes of discussion, scribbles frantically with a quill borrowed from his friend, the porcupine, on a flat piece of seaweed.

‘Yes, those people—’ The King spits it out like a swear word, ‘— have come to raze our home down! By the dawn of tomorrow, our home will be in flames, our nests, liars, dens, and what else will all be but a mere memory!’ The King roars in anger.

There is an immediate effect—the crowd bursts into animated discussions and protests. A cluster of hens squawk in panic, the gaggle of geese hem and haw in doubt, not wanting to arrive at the conclusion that their homes will turn into ashes, though it didn’t once cross their minds that they live in the water. A mother duck keels to the ground in a dead faint, flattening her ducklings in the process. The drake pecks at her feathered wing, trying frantically to wake her up, while attempting to free the ducklings out from under their immobile mother. The pack of wolves howl in dismay, and the foxes hiss in anger, at the injustice done to their homes. The deer snuffle sadly at the grass, their ears pressed flat to their heads, their large doe eyes glittering with unshed tears. The giraffes nibble absent- mindedly at the leaves on the tree, too tall above everyone else to be included in the discussion. A few wild boars snort with dissent, their wiry hairs bristling with indignation.

A couple of hyenas shriek with laughter. ‘Let those humans try, we will scratch out their eyes.’

‘If they dare burn down our lairs, we will face them down with our ire.’ Another hyena screeches with bloodlust. None of them realises that their homes will not be burnt down, owing to the fact that they live in stone caves.

A crocodile, sitting at the edge of the clearing, sheds a few tears, though he knows his home will not be affected.

A family of sparrows titter with anger, before falling in a faint out of their nests. They hit the ground with a faint thump and break their necks, though it goes unnoticed in the chaos around them. A vulture, who has been watching the sparrow’s movements closely, swoops down from an adjoining tree and picks the sparrows clean. The vulture is the only one who is not showing any form of distress at their inevitable doom.

‘Why aren’t you upset?’ A goose warbles at the vulture.

*** More coming real soon! So what do you think the vulture will reply? How will the animals defend their homes? Do leave some comments! (:***

The vulture looks up from his meal, feathers still poking out from its curved, cruel beak.

‘Because, you silly goose, it benefits me. Let them come, I say. Those humans, despicable as they seem, will bring me food.’ The vulture’s voice is husky with anticipation for his imminent feast.

The goose looks doubtful for a second, before edging away from the still- eating vulture.

The King of the forest roars to command attention, and the hubbub dies immediately, till they can hear a quill drop on the forest floor.

‘Be still, my friends, for all is not lost yet! Our night- vision spies, the owls, have fortunately brought us this information to forewarn us! Action must be taken immediately!’ The King announces loudly, his majestic voice ringing throughout the entire clearing, though it could be because of the conch shell a frightened seagull is holding at the front of the lion’s mouth.

The owls blink sleepily in the sunlight, hearing themselves mentioned, although they have not a clue on what has transpired in this meeting, owing considerably to the fact that they are as blind as bats in the afternoon sun. Speaking of bats, those bird- like mammals are hanging upside down behind the owls, the rustling of their leathery wings the only sound that gives them away.

‘We must ambush the humans, before they even set foot in our forest! Come! We must get organised into troops, such that we can sneak up on them in the night, burn them down with their own torches!’ The King is all hyped up, and his enthusiasm seeps into the crowd, such that he has them on their feet in a matter of seconds, stamping down on the grass and uttering war cries.

‘Do you think roast meat will be better than raw meat?’ One lioness mumbles, opening her jaws to yawn.

‘We’ll see. Though, I think I prefer mine medium rare.’ A lion replies, his full length stretched out on the ground. He licks his maws, paws clicking sharply on the rock as he taps out a rock- and- roll beat.

In no time, the animals are organised into groups, with bulls and rhinoceroses lined up in the front ranks, their tough hides no doubt providing an impenetrable armour for the battalion. The lions form the rear of the army, as they value their lives more than their lowly servants.

As the dawn of dusk approaches, the clearing falls into a tense silence, which stretches like a taut rubber band, about to be broken. The animals stand in formation—all except the vulture. He sits on a branch high up in the canopy, his eyes beady and observant, his hooked beak clicking expectantly at the prospect of a meal, a feast for the lifetime.

At last, the moon rises, and anticipation rises with it. The animals become slightly restless, shifting about in their positions. The chickens cluck their tongues expectantly, the bats rustle their wings and open their luminous eyes, the owls rotate their heads in half a circle every few seconds or so, and a couple of cheetahs start a game of poker.

‘You cheated again.’ One cheetah snarls to the other. The cheetah who had cheated bares his teeth at his opponent, before tossing his cards irritably on the makeshift table—the big bear’s tummy.

‘I was going to win, anyway.’ The cheater comments dispassionately.

‘A leopard never changes its spots.’ The other cheater snapped.

‘You were saying?’ The leopard stalks out from behind a tree, his yellow eyes glowing with ire, his fangs bared. His voice is a low, raspy growl, and at the moment, sounded very, very annoyed.

‘Ah, nothing of your concern, Mr Leopard.’ One of the cheetahs speaks placatingly, his fur standing on end.

‘A lot of animals like to use that idiom.’ The leopard grumbles to himself, before slinking back to his position.

The cheetah shoots his companion a glare, before they gather their cards and pat the bear’s tummy as a sort of ‘thank- you’ for the use. They toss their cards, made up of dead fish with numbers engraved into their bodies, into the bear’s mouth. The bear gives a gurgle of satisfaction, chewing on his meal contentedly.

The King himself is seated on his platform, his tawny eyes half- lidded. The only movement that betrays his anticipation is the sweep of his tufted tail, back and fro upon the rock. His mate is next to him, curled up around her cubs, seemingly asleep. Only the frequent flick of her ears tells otherwise.

A hoot of warning sounds into the night. ‘The humans approach.’ A high, reedy voice announces into the clearing. It is one of the elite night- vision spies—a youthful owl. He settles back into his branch with a dignified ruffle of his wings.

Everyone in the clearing rustles to life, standing in position.

‘Onward march.’ The King growls.

*** To be continued… Did you find the vulture creepy? (: Do you think there will be many casualties? Who will win?***
As one, the animals proceed to the edge of the forest. As they near their destination, the flicker of torches and the gruff voices of men can be heard. From what the animals can gather, the men plan to set fire to the trees, to clear ground to build more of what they call ‘machines’.
‘Charge!’ The King roars. ‘For our home! For our forest! For our rights! For our pride!The animals charge forward with battle cries, the rhinoceroses roaring their worth, the wolves letting lose ear- splitting howls, the remaining mice with ears squeaking with all their might at those deplorable humans, the reason why they are at loggerheads in the first place.Far, far overhead, the vulture swoops down lower and lower, his eyes holding a deep animalistic yearning. The bird of prey starts its descent.

The battle lasts till dawn the next day. All is still; the only movement is the columns of smoke curling into the air. The vulture is still circling in the sky, now lower than before. From his view, there are more animals dead than humans.

The more the merrier. The vulture thinks gleefully, before he lands with an excited thump.

He eyes a dead rhinoceros, its sides laid open with a wide gash. The vulture begins its feast.

Inside, deeper in the partially destroyed forest, the remaining animals gather as if in a congregation. Everyone’s face is mournful, their eyes downcast, glistening with tears, even the crocodile’s.

A few wolves start up a funeral song, their voices a desolate howl in the forest. A trio of blind mice (mercifully, with their ears still attached) stand in formation and strike up a melancholic chord, their high voices squeaking in harmony. Even a group of hares join the song, their noses twitching, whiskers moving awry, to a song only they can hear. They are followed by the rest of the animals, and all their voices create a cacophony of songs that echo throughout their devastated home. Although they all have different voices, the discordant melody has never sounded so harmonious before.

Meanwhile, the vulture gorges himself on his meal, his eyes glinting with a satisfied light. He lifts his head as he hears the mournful song drift towards him, before his mouth curves into a crude imitation of a smile. He dips his crimson beak back into the carcass to continue his meal.

The mourning lasts till the next day, and as a new dawn peaks over the tree tops, painting everything in a golden hue, the animals cease their song, till all is silent, and all is still.

The silence, a suffocating blanket, envelopes the entire clearing. No animal knows the next step, the next plan to move forward into the future.

Until… An elephant takes up a broken log with its trunk, tossing it to the side of the clearing.

Then, all the animals burst into activity, moving and clearing bits of debris. Even the lions and their mates begin to contribute their share.

In the animals’ hearts, they wish that one day, the destruction that was wrought overnight will be reversed, and their clear, burbling streams will wash away the mud- stained, mosquito- infested pools, and the foliage around them will turn lush and green, not a decayed brown.

As the animals labour over days, over months, and over years, they see that their little actions start to bring about changes.

But will they ever achieve the former state of their home? Well, one can always hope.

***

Author’s note: Well, that’s the end of ‘The Animals’ Voices’. I know the ending is kind of abrupt, and I’m working on it… So, is this your type of story? (: Meanwhile, you should check out the heads- up I’ve posted under ‘Novels’. The long stories are coming soon! 😀

 

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