Solitude

by Jonathan Wallace, age 13
Solitude

“I am different than the others. It is just the way I am. I’m used to the insults, the bullies, and the segregation. But, there is one thing keeping me going: the fact that I am unique. My name is Tor, and I am a lion. With wings.”

        

Part One: My Secret

 

Chapter One

I am different than the others. It is just the way I am. I’m used to the insults, the bullies, and the segregation. But, there is one thing keeping me going: the fact that I am unique. My name is Tor, and I am a lion. With wings. I know, I know. It’s weird, but I was just born that way. Even though I cannot fly yet, my wings are very helpful.

They help with keeping my temperature in check, fending off enemies, and jumping higher. In a way, I am grateful for my wings, but part of me just wants to be… normal.

***

“He did not!” she says. I laugh first, and then all the others join me. Cerla is our comedian. She knows how and when to tell jokes. I have a small gang of five friends: Cerla, Tou, Yero, Talika, and me. They are the only ones who admire my wings, although they don’t have any. I really do not want to lose them. I feel the wind blowing in my shallow mane as we make our way home.

“Oh, yes he did,” says Talika. “He just walked up to him, smacked him in the face, claws unsheathed, and before you know it, he gets reported to Taren.”

We all drop our jaws involuntarily. Talika and Cerla bring us daily news. We are used to surprises, so we always expect something new. They’ve always been the first ones to know everything that occurs within the pride. We walk in unison on the dusty, red sanded trail leading to our pride. It is early evening, and we should have dinner ready for us in a few hours. When we arrive, we are greeted by a loud roar from my father, the leader of our pride.

He trots over to us and growls, “You are late, my son.”

“Late for what?” I say, sounding childish.

“You are late for… your mother’s… funeral.”

His words sting me, and my soul collapses to the ground. I shut my eyes and let the tears flow silently. She is gone. Lost forever. It becomes hard to breathe as I walk to her den. I spend the rest of the day there. At daybreak, I am the only one awake. I still feel sad about my mother. But now, on top of that, I feel angry about something. I decide to go hunting and spot a herd of zebras down by the river. I trot toward them until I get into earshot. I stay as low as possible in the tall grass. I slowly crawl through the grass. I keep my wings hidden so that I do not reveal my location to my prey. But my wings are too large, and I startle the herd. I growl at myself, and I feel embarrassed. I return to the pride. I lie in my den for hours before I decide that it is time. Time to fly.

I find a nice, flat area and spread my wings. They are longer and larger than my body, nose to tail tip. I flap them in synchrony, and I lift off the ground. Judging by my results, I will be able to fly. I flap them more times, and I hover off the ground. I am naturally able to move around. I begin to increase my altitude.

“Uhh… Tor? What are you doing up there?” The voice belongs to Talika.

“Uh — I can explain,” I say.

“No explanation needed,” she says, softly.

Her grace distracts me, and I fall out of the sky and land on my back. “Ow,” I say, blandly.

She walks over to me. “You okay?” she asks, genuinely.

“Yeah, I think so,” I reply. I get up and shake off the dirt. “How did you know I was out here?” I ask her.

“I — felt it,” she says. Her fur blows in the breeze. No, wind. It grows stronger. And stronger.

“Oh no,” I say. “Not this again.”

***

“Tor, my son, Talika, thank you for reporting this. Both of you head for the shelter. I will take it from here.”

We immediately follow my father’s instructions. We sprint across our territory to the shelter. I look behind us and see a large storm cloud and a funnel descending toward the ground. We finally reach the shelter. Once inside, we cuddle up next to each other.

“Do you think this one could be the worst one so far?” Talika asks, with genuine fear.

“Possibly,” I reply.

The column of death still rages on. I am even more afraid now, and I can feel Talika shaking. She closes her eyes. I consider doing the same, but I choose not to. I hear a terrifying noise. Two trees have fallen in front of the shelter’s entrance. How convenient, I think. I can still hear howling winds above us. I can feel my heart sinking as I remember how my mother died. About a quarter season ago, a weaker storm hit us. A warning went out, but my mother and a few other lionesses were out hunting. They heard the tornado and came running back to assist us. But, they arrived too late. They were at least a mile away when they noticed the storm. They had arrived just when the storm hit. The other lionesses escaped danger with minor injuries, but my mother… got… impaled by a piece of sharp rock. We managed to keep her alive for a while, but the wound soon got infected, and even though we had adequate resources to save her, she had told my father these exact words, “Stop. Stop wasting your resources on me. I won’t get much better than I already am. Just let go. Let go.” That was two days ago.

***

So much damage has been done. Everywhere we look, there are toppled trees and torn up land, but what is most horrifying to us are the dead lions and lionesses everywhere. We trot around our territory, and we find something terrifying.

“Oh no. Please no. Father. Wake up. WAKE UP!!!

My father had been impaled, just like my mother, only he won’t walk away from this one. I realize my wailing is useless, and I pull myself together. I look beside me and see Talika. Staring. At my father’s body. No. There is a lioness behind him. Talika’s mother. I watch her as she sheds a single tear and walks away slowly. I cough, noticing all the dust around. But, another frightening thing strikes me. We are the only ones left. Our friends, our family, it’s all gone now. I summon all the power in my voice and let out a single roar. It lasts about half a minute, and I take a breath and roar again. This time, Talika joins me. We only have each other now. Only each other.

 

Chapter Two

“We’ll be fine, Talika,” I say, trying and failing to see any bright side to this.

We are in my old den, as it was the least damaged one. Talika has been crying for a while now. I have been providing her with food, what little water is around, and another thing. Love. I am thinking about confessing my feelings to her, but this is definitely not the right time. I have had a small (that’s a lie) crush on her for the past three cycles. I have been very confused about why I had these feelings. At first, I just wanted us to be friends. Anyway…

“How can you be sure about that, Tor?” she says.

“I’m not.” And I mean it. I don’t know what will happen to us.

“Tor, you’re always so honest,” she whispers to me. “And kind. And brave.” I must admit, I was not expecting her to say that. “I love you, Tor.” Now, I’m really confused.

“I… I… ” I consider all things I could say. I could confess right now or wait for a better moment. I make my decision immediately. “That gives my something to think about,” I say.

***

We’ve been staying in this place for twelve cycles. We’ve been feeding off the dead carcass of a buffalo, which has kept and is keeping us fed. I have also been having peculiar outbursts of anger. I try to keep them to myself, but sometimes I can’t contain it, and I leave the den for a destructive walk. Seriously, you should see the paths of destruction I make on these walks; I have very few paths to walk along and destroy now. Anyway, now I’ve voluntarily taken on the role of scouting for a better place to stay. We cannot venture out in the open very often; there are creatures that could easily have us for dinner. I look around the barren landscape, still scattered with lion remains. I shudder at the sight and decide to focus elsewhere. I venture further away from our “den” and find nothing. I sprint back to the den, everything around me becoming a blur of nature. I eventually reach it and shake my head at Talika. Her response surprises me, “That’s fine!”

***

Everything seems to be spinning now. I feel dizzy all the time, but Talika doesn’t, which I find strange. I don’t tell her, but I have had sleepless nights since the day of destruction. I keep waking up at night and roaring at the heavens, cursing at them for causing us so much pain.

***

I feel so alone. I have the power of flight… sort of… but I am hesitant to use it.

***

We have stayed in the same place for — well — I kind of lost track of how long, but I know that it is time to get moving. We eventually have to escape this dark, moist, cold place. I have had plenty of time to practice basic flying, though.

 

Part Two: Flight

 

Chapter Three

“Okay, okay. Don’t worry. I’ve got this!” I yell down to her. “I can do this!” As soon as I jinx it, a flock of vultures head my way, and I freeze in place as the images become larger and larger. “Oh, sh — ” I say, or start to say, as they come crashing into me. I fall to the ground and finish what I was going to say. “… it,” I finish unnecessarily. I see her triumphant face lingering over me.

“You were saying?” she says, before helping me up.

Our relationship became somewhat competitive since we started, well, you know. I feel like a huge burden that I have been carrying for a long time has finally been lifted. The burden being our feelings for each other. I shake the dust and dirt from my pelt as soon as I rise.

We decided that we would become nomadic for a while, moving from place to place. Sometimes we see vast open plains with scarcely any trees, and sometimes we see plant life everywhere. I don’t even think we’ve been to the same place twice.

 

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