When the beast of Seeonee jungle wakes, he is
convinced that his day will be as musical as the ripples
of Wainganga River by the wood. But by afternoon, he
hears only skeletons of cotton trees clatter to the
ground, and the cold whistle of the water and its winds disturb
him. So he lays supine on the silvery-white rocks, his lips
as lifeless as the rotten banana leaves, his eyes as dull as the backs
of the inky beetles. He watches the glassy reflection of the sun and
remembers the canary yellow fire that chased him on Monday.
The day started well: he pounced on the spiny legs of an elk,
feasted on its meat, red as a cocoa pod, dragged his long nails
through the wildflowers, and listened to the Bandar monkeys
trembling at his voice. But then Mowgli reduced the king of
the jungle to a loud, loud scream that was lost in translation.
Today, he is the haunted. The jungle is blind with music,
it drowns, stumbles through the finite air. Shere Khan listens
in a stupor, the ghosts of the thrums are too much with him.
How does Baloo live in harmony with the vultures, the water
buffalo, the golden jackals? Does he ever want to tear through
the eucalyptus and stalk the deer, fat and pink and sweet in places?
It would be only natural. Shere Khan wants someone to bring him
the angelfish gliding through the river, he will not hunt today.
Sometimes, the splashes of the smallest hearts flying away pierce
the stitches of his careful grin. He thinks maybe he’ll yank out
the ferns and their ferine light from his arch, the golden face
adorning the curve once again commanding the heady vines.
Maybe Kaa will emerge with his wide, too wide green eyes.
He sees a figure with a pale mouth far off in the fog,
hears its stunted breaths, hushed and tuneless.
But no voice, no warmth, no thrum, no song will stir him.
He can do without the fear, the jungle can do without a king, worn
in his own pain and the pain of those around him.
He rises for six short seconds and moves to lay beside the black rocks.
Now, he will not be disturbed.
Nikita Bastin is a junior at Saint Francis High School who enjoys editing for her school’s newspaper and literary magazine, blogging, and tutoring in her community. She is a recipient of a Silver Key in the Scholastic Writing Awards. You can find her at nikitabastin.com.