Animal Kingdom

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Summary

A world where humans are at the bottom of the hierarchy, valued as nothing but game meat. Species of the land and seas fiercely compete to claim glory for themselves and their species: the spot at the top of the food chain.

Genre:
Drama / Fantasy
Author:
Chua ♡
Status:
Ongoing
Chapters:
1
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
18+

Abji

Growlings of violent hunger in my stomach became white noise. Nothing occupied my mind other than a melody once hummed by the blissful voice of Maman. She once sang it sweetly with Baba as they threshed the rice together, its inflections reverberating promptly through the hot air, and soon lost in its harsh refraction. Strange, worm-like waves through hot days seemed to dance like the oceans would. Abji and I would dance with the waves until our feet burned from its oppressive intensity, mocking our helplessness.
Our skin became vigorously flushed by the unforgiving blaze, and Baba pushed us back inside. To temporarily cool our hands, while still making use of time, we dipped our hands in the murky water from a close river, and padded the thatched hut from the inside, only to be bitten like prey with more of the sun’s rays, viciously clawing through the cracked clay walls that tried their best to protect us.

As the dust finally dampened, our hands were given mercy. To celebrate, Abji and I soaked them in the beautiful pottery she made for us, adorned with the slightly sloppy marks of a charming child painter. Waves of red mud lined the mouth of the pot, perhaps acting as a rather abstract interpretation of a giant fish’s lips or heat waves. I think of these times fondly before starting a new life, especially with my family. Especially with Abji.


Abji came to us like a fallen angel.

My hand gripped loosely to Baba’s shirt as he spoke to a neighbor. Two tall bucks conversing of trade. A large bag of grain hung over Baba’s shoulder, sealed by a closed fist, and a small pouch of rials rested comfortably on the neighbor buck’s palm—another fellow Hijazi goat with long ears.

“Salaam.”

“Salaam Alaykum.” [May peace be upon you.]

The Hijazi buck rustled the rials in his wide palm, the coins producing gentle clinks. As they spoke of terms to make the deal I heard a disturbance from the steep hills that hugged the edge of the village.

A tumbling noise?

Childish curiosity, confusion, and the urge to relieve my boredom engulfed me. My baba seemed preoccupied, so I ventured alone behind the huts where the sound came from.

There was nothing in sight. Quickly, yet quietly, did the sound come towards my direction.

I glanced at the hill.

THUNK.

Brutally hit right in the stomach. A high pitched noise fizzled through my head as I blacked out for a split second, coming and going in overwhelming intensity. I felt a strong, invasive tingle in my throat, erupting an uneven sequence of dry, painful coughs while resting on the wall of a hut pressing against my back.

As my vision and hearing recovered, I spotted something that laid face-down in front of me.

I tightly grappled and hugged my abdomen, wincing in pain while slowly crawling, approaching the figure that had hit me. An animal?

Cautiously lifting its cloak, I saw a scratched Appanzel doeling. Lifting the rough fabric she wore I choked on a gasp, laying my eyes on the sight that befell me. Her fabric cape was stained with dried blood... and her fur was stained with fresh blood. All I remembered was the smell with a tinge of iron, and the vague sight of lacerations that covered her right arm. I couldn’t imagine what it was like everywhere else if one limb was that considerably impaired.

Occasional sights of blood from mild injuries were enough to get me feeling light-headed. Ignoring the spiking pain from my abdomen, I pressed my palm against my forehead. In a messy, disarrayed fashion, my feet carried me desperately towards Baba in an awkward, skipping motion.

Attempting to interpret my incoherent babble, Baba nodded and calmly asked, “What’s wrong, child? Talk slowly.”

“Baba! B-bushes!” I hastily tugged him towards her direction. Baba apologized to the neighbor as he placed the bag of grain down and headed towards the feet of the hills.

We approached her as she still laid in the same spot. Right as Baba saw the petite doeling, he rolled her gently on her back to see the same brutal sight. The neighbor, who followed out of curiosity, immediately called for his wife as she was sewing inside a nearby hut. Baba carried her into their home and the doe placed a pot of leftover rice water beside her lap.

Cool rice water flooded and flowed like a river over her stomach, arms, and legs. Specks of dirt streamed off her skin and seeped into the floor. For her face, the doe used her own hands to lightly clean her. Everyone’s knees were soaked. My heart was racing in a panic. I’ve never seen a foreigner with pale skin in my life, nevertheless terribly injured. Baba told me her body wasn’t built to handle the heat.

I hadn’t even noticed until he mentioned that, and when he did, I saw that she was excessively panting, drenched in sweat. Deep lacerations covered her body, disturbingly and keenly alike to the webs of a spider. Much of her was furless, covered in both old scars and new wounds.

Baba took on a concerned face and crossed his arms, clearly distressed. “Only an animal is capable of making these wounds.”

“Do you think a merchant could have done this? Or encountered the Ibex village?”

The doeling spoke in a soft, grim tone. “We must be careful that no outsider knows of her. We don’t know what trouble she could be in right now.”

The adults reached a silent consensus, and the room was overtaken by a tense atmosphere.

Her injures were dressed with the neighbors’ children’s worn clothes. After she was finally treated, she took on the appearance of a mummy. If she were to try to move, there would be no luck in bending or flexing any limbs. The doe handed me a piece of fabric and asked me to periodically cool her with it, soaked by the little leftover rice water.

“You’re our little hero right now, alright?” She knew I could see her troubled expression, yet still masked it with a weak smile.

She left to grab more water, a pot balancing perfectly on her head, supported by one hand. Her lengthy skirt fluttered in haste as she hurriedly paced towards the river. My baba and the neighbor buck left to grab firewood so they could boil the water.

I awkwardly sat near her, and she didn’t seem any better than before. Holding the dampened fabric in my lap, I rudely stared at her strange appearance. She had nubs for horns like I did, but her ears were tiny and pointed upward, while mine reached below my shoulders. My size towered over as she was, at minimum, half my age. Thinking about what happened for a bit, it was amazing how she didn’t suffer serious damage. A slight feeling of relief held my morale up for her, as her injuries could’ve been much worse if I weren’t a cushion at the end of her rolling down the towering hills.

I cooled her down as best I could, but felt a deep sense of worry as the expression on her face became progressively more scrunched, even forming a frown. Before I could assess something that seemed seriously wrong, she began to shriek in agony. Her eyes opened, revealing intense, citrine-like irises. They had a faded, dazed-like look to them. Is she having a nightmare?

Her miniature hands held a strong grip on her horns. It seemed as though she was in a defensive stance while in a dream-like state. Baba, the doe, and the buck ran inside the hut with water and firewood. Other concerned Hijazi goats formed a small crowd at the hut’s entrance.

The doe collected herself and calmly placed her hands on the doeling’s, hunching over and holding her as if caring for a baby. Shrieking leveled down to quiet sobbing, and soon after, peaceful silence. Once the neighbors saw she was alright, they left while muttering in soft gossips.


It approached nighttime. We had all shared a meal while watching over the sleeping doeling, covered in the colorful shalwar kameez that the doe was planning to gift to her granddaughter. As it was time to head home, my baba thanked the family in a slightly regretful tone for troubling them. The doe insisted on taking care of the doeling, saying farewell as Baba and I walked back home.

“Khuda Hafiz.” [May God be with you.]

Night graciously blanketed the village with its cool and shade, leaving only the moon’s light and it’s celestial companions. Baba serenely strode across the powdery dirt with the bag of grain still over his shoulder. I kept pondering the frail doeling with curiosity.

Who was she? How did she get here?

And... who gave her those wounds?

The thought of that made me shiver.

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