It was Indian summer in the Peruvian highlands in late October when the weather is dry and rain is scarce. Warm in the afternoons and quite cold (near freezing) nights was the normal pattern in the area. The rainy season was coming and she was lying in the grass with her two twins whom she had given birth to a week ago after carrying them for about one hundred ninety five days or six and a half months. They were quietly eating, sucking on her nipples, and often changing from one to another blindly. She looked at them again; they were brown with white spots, white ears on the inside, white bellies, skinny feet, eyes black like charcoal, the same as their noses. They were simply beautiful she thought and they were hers. She had once considered aborting because she thought the environment wouldn’t support her due to the inclement weather and low food source at the time she was carrying. But everything turned out to be perfect. When she was carrying them, she discovered that she could eat almost anything instead of losing them. She found sustenance in all types of plants, including shoots, leaves, cacti, and grasses. She also ate acorns, as well as mushrooms and poison ivy. She had even reached a point that she was desperate enough not pass up on nesting songbirds, field mice, and birds trapped in intricate misty nets spun by two legged creatures. It was disgusting, but she found that her mother instinct told her differently.
She looked in the distance and perked her ears watching her herd eating grass. Her little fawns were scared, shivering from time to time, and for another three weeks would be timidly hiding, just as she had done when she was little.
~ 2 ~
He turned his head upwards and looked at his mom. Are we in danger, he was thinking, looking straight into her eyes, do we have to run again? She looked around again, seeing no white tails in the distance. It meant they were safe for now. He stood up shaking a little on his feet, walked around at first to be familiar with the ground and then he ran… He was kicking air with his back feet standing on his front sometimes snatching grass with his mouth. His sister caught up to him later when he was all involved with running and jumping around. They ran together for a while looking at each other trying to compete. He would lose his footing sometimes, his back feet awkwardly becoming tangled. He stopped, not noticing a pair of prowling eyes in the distance looking at him and his sister.
Mother made a sound and he and his sister were beside her in a split second. Something wasn’t right and they had to move. They walked at first, becoming more comfortable with their gaits, and then they trotted. He and his sister were in front of their mother as the whole herd of deer moved fast in unison. They sensed, and they moved, that was their instinct. After a while they stopped by the waterfall. The noise by the river was unbearable to their young ears, sounding destructive and thunderous as the agitated water rushed against rocks and logs, but they had to drink. She jumped on one of the boulders slightly sticking out from water to get comfortable with the area and scope the surroundings. A few of her herd mates were within around her, jumping from boulder to boulder. The twins were standing on the ground by the river, not moving as they watched their mother. She jumped to another boulder, stopping for a moment. She turned around and looked at her fawns standing in a distance and jumped towards them aiming for the next rock in front of her.
~ 3 ~
The rock she landed on was heavily covered in water and slippery moss. She couldn’t hold her back feet straight and felt them tangle as she slipped, then momentarily caught a grip before succumbing to the fall as her front feet gave out and she collapsed hitting her head hard on a rock in front of her. Her jaw bone cracked with a distinct sound and protruded her head from the inside. The twins watched startled as she went down. She tried to get up in agony, watching her young looking at her. She felt the life draining out of her and she realized that they would be on their own from now on. She tried to make a last sound, the same sound that she used to alert them to any danger but she couldn’t open her mouth. Blood was pouring out from her mouth nose and the wound in the broken jaw not letting her even breath. She finally let herself go with the flow of the thunderous and roaring water whose force was so strong that in a second it was an empty space except for the water, just like had been before they had come to that place. The other deer that were on the boulders rushed back and stayed on the ground for a moment before continuing to walk to their next destination. The twins were among them, walking with their heads down not fully understanding what had really happened, but having a sense that they had no option but to continue with the herd. They looked back towards water from time to time, stopping and looking again and again.
~ 4 ~
She was pregnant at that time, when she first caught sight of the twins from a distance. Now, she was giving birth. She was laying on her left side, pushing and breathing fast and deep. Her tail was straight, back feet touching her stomach, front legs stretched in front of her. She looked at the place that hurt her and saw a little ball coming out. She licked her rear paw on her right foot, bringing it close to her face, pushing again and again. She was a black (melanistic) jaguar, very rare among her breed. From far away, she looked black as charcoal, but from a closer distance her body looked like black and tan or dark brown. Half of her body from the head to the middle was black, spots hardly visible, and the rest of her body was amber brown covered in black pigmentations. She was her family reject and lived on her own since she was a little cub. Jaguars reject their cubs if they feel that they are different or insignificant. She wouldn’t have survived unless she could prove herself self sufficient, and she did. Here she was, with her rear left leg up in the air on her neck, licking the cub she had just given birth to. She licked and licked her, her beautiful creature, thinking how she would feed her later after her milk would be gone.
The scent of deer was familiar even after a week. The jaguar cub was now bigger and in one quick motion she got up and went with her mother in the lead. They found another den closer to the place where she was watching a herd.
~ 5 ~
The twin fawns looked different now, more mature. One of the herd females had taken them under her wing, looking after them and protecting them. Every time he went to sleep, his mother’s accident replayed in his head. They were moving a lot now, closer to the valley. It was more dangerous for deer in the open, but the food source was much more desirable. They had to be more alert while eating and a few times a day as well as by night fall they were going back into the forest to relax and sleep. Several adults from their herd were constantly on the lookout replaced every so often by another few, fresh group of adults so that the other could feed. In case of any danger, they would quickly disappear into the forest, the youngest in the tight circle of adults.
~ 6 ~
She had been watching the herd for several days now, observing and studying them. From time to time she would make a noise subtle enough to alert prey but nowhere near the full and powerful roar she was capable of. She wanted to see in which direction the herd would run. She would do that remembering all the directions the herd would take so that when the time would finally come, she would be waiting for them. Most of all, she was searching for the weakest one and if by any chance the first plan didn’t work she would charge and get her pray another way. She would sit up in the tree stalking the herd of deer for hours, not leaving any details to chance, waiting for natural sounds coming from the valley or forest. She was almost invisible in places she picked; she was proficient now even more after three years of being by herself. She had to survive and her little one too. She went through rejection and expulsion. She was hardened and capable, the epitome of survival of the fittest. Now she was in the trees on her watch studying the herd of deer in the valley. She growled with a different sound coming from her lungs and distracted the deer again. She saw one of them slipped and fell on dew covered grass, turning at least two times over, making an awful sound. She registered that incident of vulnerability in her mind and went down the tree heading home. Time was set and if they would come back tomorrow as they had done before, she would be there waiting.
~ 7 ~
He heard the sound, which was so different from the other sounds, and compared it in his head. It took a second to realize that something was wrong and out of place. The whole herd perked their ears, especially the deer that were the watchers, and took off running to the woods in front of them. He was behind his sister when she slipped on moisture covered grass. He wanted to help her and prevent her from falling but it happened so fast that it seemed like it was unavoidable. She slipped and fell on the ground, back feet going under her body in a tangled mess. She turned around on slippery grass and tried to get up but lost her balance again and slipped and fell again, this time her front feet sliding apart and her left front foot catching a slight bump in the ground; she twisted her leg and made a terrible sound. He was besides her, standing, watching, not knowing what to do. At last he came up to her and pushed her with his nose against her bally. She responded, dizzy at first and in few minutes she was on her feet walking to the forest they came from, limping. He saw his herd rushing into the forest not even paying slight attention to them. They walked back together side by side up to the place they were all staying and were greeted with looks from time to time. The whole herd didn’t come out from the forest that day and stayed in for safety, attempting to change their behavior or pattern for predators that were watching them. And they knew that somebody was watching them.
~ 8 ~
Morning came quickly for her. She got up and went for her morning ritual, but today it had to be different. She came to the same tree and went up as she usually did, here; she would be waiting for the herd to come. It didn’t take long; they were coming out from the forest in a group as they always did. She noticed a limping, sick body moving beside a strong one and based her plan on that. She would approach them with significant speed and go after the sick one. She lay down on the branch of the tree she was on and watched carefully in the distance, preparing herself for the hunt.
He came out beside his sister, supporting her as much as possible. She was limping terribly but they had to eat and tonight they were supposed to change their location once again. Her walk was terrible and one of her legs was swollen, but she was trying her best. They stopped and listened; now they did that more often. The valley was eerily quiet this morning and he sensed something was wrong. He looked around and saw it, a black dot moving fast towards them.
She came down from the tree and moved slowly at first, very slowly, not to make any significant sounds. Her mouth was opening and closing silently, whiskers moving up and down, head close to the ground as well as back and front feet- she was ready. She got close to the end of forest line and a second later she charged with incredible speed, her tail behind her moving like a propeller. She looked weightless the way she moved.
The whole herd went running in different directions. He was still besides his sister looking back, seeing the black terror gaining on them with tremendous speed. His sister looked at him and started to separate from him, but he stayed with her anyway. She was limping terribly now, her eyes were wide open and he saw that look on her face that he had seen once before, when his mother had hit the rock with her head, not knowing what was going on before the strong current of the river took her.
The black dot was close now, and he realized that his sister was in danger. They were trying to change direction in which they ran as much as possible, but his sister was so weak that he thought he needed to do something for her. He slow down and went behind his sister’s back trying to protect her not realizing what was coming next.
~ 9 ~
She was moving fast now, seeing her prey and knowing that for the next week she and her little one would be comfortable in terms of food. It was now two of them in front of her, and she could clearly see them, one sick and another one strong. She couldn’t place why the strong one stood by the weak one. She jumped up and forward, looking ahead of her when she saw the healthy one changing direction and moving backwards behind the sick one. At this point she didn’t care what it was and she landed with tremendous force on top of his back. She pushed “It” down hard, crawling up on his back, while “It” was wiggling and trying to jump in order to push her away. She moved fast to the front of the body and sank her teeth deep into the neck. They both turned around on the ground and at one point “It” was on top of her, pushing her down with its weight, but it wasn’t significant any longer. She felt “It” was giving in now, life coming out from its body, getting heavier and heavier. She moved from under “It” and pushed it on a side not disconnecting with her teeth from its neck, sinking more deeply now. She moved her head with terrible force from side to side until she felt worm liquid entering her mouth, gushing in, squirting from time to time. She drank and enjoyed it, the wonderful feeling of winning or being on top overtaking every inch of body lying under her. She growled and looked around, she put her head down taking another winning bite from “It’s” neck. At last she took her pray by the neck and started to move towards the forest.
~ 10 ~
He was trying his best not to look behind him, when something very heavy hit him on his back, pinning him to the ground. He felt claws sinking into his body and something crawling up to the front, towards his head. He wiggled as he was pushed hard going down, turning and landing on his back trying to shake “It” and separate “It” from him, but his tries was unsuccessful. He was on top of “It” at one point. He felt excruciating pain at first and then began to feel the life coming out so fast from his body. He felt cold and weary now, being pushed on the side, but there were no pain any longer. He saw his sister rushing towards the forest, limping, looking back at him from time to time. He tried to make a sound, but there was none, just bloody bobbles coming out from his mouth. “It” was on top of him, draining him, sucking him out, and taking his life, pushing him down to the ground with its feet. Moment later he felt dragged, hitting bumps on the ground and feeling grass embracing him by touching his body, leaving bloody trail on the ground. And then it ended, his eyes turning to a lifeless black buttons looking at nothing in particular, feet and whole body still and no longer shaking, only brains worked for another second. He was cold now, as cold as the morning air that had engulfed him. The darkness of death took him over.
Slava P ©