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Beneath The Baobab Tree
Africa ceases to exist under a cloudless sky. The sun shines bright before the land; there are endless summer days and never ending stretches of desert. The animals, big and small, roam the plains and chase after prey, living the little pieces of life they were given without a single significant worry. To be an animal living in Africa is perhaps one of the best forms of life there could be. I enjoy it deeply. It brings me happiness more than I can describe. But, however, there is a single problem with this life of mine. I am alone. I am wistfully and utterly alone.
I am sitting under the Baobab tree, my favorite tree in all of Africa. A giraffe walks past me. Her name is Zana.
“Zana!” I say. She turns her long neck and looks at me.
“What do you want, lion?” she says, an annoyance lingering in her voice. I wondered if I should tell her my name. I wanted desperately to start a conversation with someone.
“Uh, what are you doing on this fine day?”
“Just…strolling.” she responded. “Lion, I don’t prefer conversing with creatures such as you. For all I know, you could jump out from under that tree and eat me!” She gave an amused snicker and then turned on the heel of her long foot, continuing in the way she had been heading. A low growl passed from my lips. I couldn’t have counted how many times I had sat from under this tree, all alone, with no one to turn to. Tears formed in my eyes and fell to my thick mane of fur. I looked to the left and then to the right. All I could see for miles was fields of yellow grass. I turned to the left and began to walk.
I had been walking for what seemed like hours. The sun had begun to set and the animals slowly trudged away from the watering hole. I considered turning back, my four paws aching, until something caught my eye. A human boy stood in the distance holding a long spear pointing right in my direction. I let out a growl, warning the boy that I could easily kill. A confused look came across his face, and then it was as if he read my mind. He dropped the spear and spoke in a low, calm voice.
“It’s okay. I won’t hurt you.” He took two steps forward and I took a step back, hesitating. He continued to walk towards me, his steps following the same slow pattern. My four paws were glued to the ground.
“What should I do?” I thought, a mixture of fear and interest overcoming me. “The boy seems harmless, but then again, he is human.” I proceeded to turn around, too afraid of what was to come, but the boy’s hand was already inches from my fur. I froze. His hand moved closer and closer until, “Hey! Look at Ayinde!” I whipped my head around. A tribe of human’s, screaming what seemed to be the boy’s name, were coming towards me. I took off running, bushes and yellow grass whipping me in the face. I sprinted through the fields until loss of breath overcame me and I slowed to a stop. I could no longer hear the voices of the human’s or see the face of the curious boy.
“You look frightened.” said Fumbe, a very old elephant.
“No! Just, uh, sauntering about the land!” I knew that lions’ were supposed to be afraid of nothing. Fumbe shook his head in disbelief.
“I am wise, and old of age. I know when one is feeling fright. What are you afraid of, lion?”
“Human’s” I mumbled. “Human’s with spears, especially. I just don’t know what to think.”
“Ah, but lion, you are big and strong, capable of killing in any such situation. Do not be afraid.” I nodded my head, taking into account what the wise elephant had said to me. I wouldn’t be afraid anymore. At least, I would try.
That night, as the sun disappeared beneath the valley, I curled up under the Baobab tree and went to sleep.
The African sun was burning through my thick fur and onto my skin. I could hear a pack of zebra’s making their way to the watering hole. My eyes opened slowly and everything came into view. I suddenly flew to my feet. A boy, the same boy I had seen the previous day, was standing before me. He brought his hands up from his sides and moved them towards my face. I was frightened, but reminded myself of what Fumbe had said to me. The boy’s hand touched my mane. I did nothing and a wide smile came across the boy’s face.
“It’s okay.” He said softly. “I won’t hurt you. I only want to be friends.” My heart skipped a beat.
“A friend?” I thought in excitement. “Could I possibly have found someone to share my life with?” But as I considered this, I realized that a lion could never be friends with a human! Was it even possible? However, I quickly forgot my train of thought, for the boy had continued to talk.
“My name is Ayinde. I am from the tribe you came across yesterday. Do not worry, because I am much kinder than them.” I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t even know if I should say anything, because would the boy not hear only the sound of me growling, rather than words? But once again, as if the boy read my mind, he spoke again. “You can talk. I may be able to understand you. I am the only one in my village who has the ability to communicate with animals.” I hesitated to speak, but I knew I could no longer be afraid. I took one long, deep breath and spoke.
“Hello. I am Zamba.”
Life with Ayinde was perfect. We spent hours and hours together, adventuring into the deepest depths of Africa. I brought him to meet the wise elephant and showed him one of the grandest waterfalls in all of the land. But the best of times were spent under the Baobab tree. He told me stories of times with his tribe, and how if they knew he was with me terrible things could happen. “Then why risk it?” I asked the day he told me this.
“Because, Zamba. You are my best friend.” I felt happier than I had ever felt that day. My heart had filled with joy and my eyes beamed upon Ayinde. I would always remember that moment; Ayinde and I, leaning up against the Baobab tree, when I finally knew that I had found a friend.
That night, Ayinde fell asleep with his head buried in my fur. We awoke the next morning, the weather perfectly matching my mood; warm and bright.
“Good morning.” I said as Ayinde woke up.
“What?” I said, suddenly frightened.
“Zamba, I fell asleep! I spent the night!”
“And that means I never returned to my village last night! What if my tribe finds out where I have been all along?” Ayinde’s face broke out in a sweat. I almost thought I could hear his heart beating out of his chest. I began to realize what he was saying. “I must go, Zamba. I have to return to my village. I do hope I will see you again. Goodbye.”
“No! No, you will not leave without me.” I yelled. “They could hurt you!”
“There is nothing that you can do to stop me. I am going with you Ayinde.” His face took a sickened look. He stood in the grass for a moment, completely motionless.
“Okay.” He said, and we began to walk.
We approached Ayinde’s village after a long, silent walk. I hadn’t got a good look at it the last time I was there. Several small huts stood in rows, a fire pit between each. No one was outside. “Stay here.” said Ayinde, a certain tenseness ringing in his voice. He went into one of the huts.
After waiting a while in silence, I began to hear yelling. I knew Ayinde must have told his tribe where he had been all along. Suddenly, a crowd of people began to emerge from the huts, screaming a number of different things.
“Where is this lion?
“How dare you betray us?”
“Hey, there is the lion!” Everyone became quiet, there eyes fixed upon me. Suddenly, a man with long, dark hair pulled a spear out from behind his back.
“I’m sorry Ayinde, but I have to do this. You betrayed us.” The man raised his spear, pointed it right at me, and threw it. Ayinde screamed and before I knew it, he was jumping in front of me, knocking me to the ground. Ayinde screamed again, only this time in pain. I whipped my head around and found him, flat on the ground, with the man’s spear stuck straight in his heart. The crowd fell silent. I roared with all my might, standing on my two back legs. This was my entire fault. I should have listened to Ayinde when he had told me to stay behind. But I didn’t, and now I had to pay the price. Ayinde was dead. I didn’t know what I would do next, kill the man who had taken Ayinde’s life, or kill myself. But, even as I considered this, I realized that no matter what the wise elephant had told me that day, I couldn’t, and would never kill. Instead, I grabbed the nape of Ayinde’s neck with my teeth and threw him over my back. I began to run.
I reached the Baobab tree just before the sun began to set. I laid Ayinde’s limp body on the ground and began to dig.
It was just right. I once again clutched Ayinde and dragged him to the hole. His body fit perfectly in the spot I had dug. I filled the hole and sat next to where Ayinde was buried. As I sat, once again, under the Baobab tree, I knew that this was the worst day I had ever faced. And in this same spot under the tree, I had experienced the best day ever faced; when Ayinde had said that I was his best friend. I curled up to sleep that night, feeling as though the spear had killed me and not Ayinde. But I knew that in the end, everything would be okay, for Ayinde would always be with me, alive or dead, beneath the Baobab tree.