Once upon a time, in a land where time did not matter, there lived a little lion named Kineosho. He was no ordinary lion cub. In fact, he was the result of a rather extraordinary chain of events that occurred one crisp autumn.
Kineosho’s story began in a cosy little cave on the edge of an enormous forest. In the cave lived a majestic lion and lioness, Griffon and Curie. There was freshly imported grass from the savannah scattered abundantly on the floor. The soothing smell of damp earth wafted through the air as the dense, humid jungle hummed and croaked outside the cave. A feather of light from a crescent moon completed the romantic scene for the couple. In fact, it completed it for all the jungle, including the half-blind, asthmatic aardvark who had become quite enamoured of his reflection in a muddy puddle nearby.
Now as romantic as the atmosphere was for the lions, ordinarily the couple would not do anything, well, romantic. In fact, they had successfully avoided doing anything romantic for quite a while already. The pair had long agreed that intelligent and responsible lions should not produce offspring as it was simply selfish. Besides that, the world was just not what it used to be.
The less-than-intelligent conservationists, on the other paw, had been trying for cubs for many moons, but without success: fertility rituals; multivitamin supplements; test-tube cubs; aphrodisiac eggplants—you name it, they had tried it. More recently, they had tried to simulate an environment that would allow the instinctive urges of the regal pair to kick in. After a series of failures, unwittingly, this time they had scored. That night had one special ingredient that nobody had counted on: neither the smart couple, nor the six scientist-types that eagerly watched the video feed of the cave.
The special ingredient lay in the dainty, half-eaten gazelle that was lying in a dark corner of the cave. Poor thing. Not poor because she had just been killed, but rather because she had never managed to resolve those deep identity issues that she was so involved in exploring. The gazelle had been born close to a stampeding herd of elephants, and since then, the very sight of the elephants that caused enormous trauma for mama gazelle, had given baby gazelle a great deal of comfort. So much so, that baby gazelle had simply considered herself a late bloomer, believing that her own trunk would grow someday. So she had happily followed the elephants around as she grew up, oblivious to how strange it all looked. The elephants, of course, hadn’t helped matters by befriending her.
Earlier that very day, the friendly elephants had stumbled onto a stash of fermenting marula fruit and decided to have a party. Now there is nothing quite like a bunch of yob elephants imposing peer pressure on a confused gazelle. The animals indulged, and the effects of the marula fruit kicked in. The elephants fell asleep peacefully, and the little gazelle went totally berserk from a marula high. After randomly ramming her head against some trees, she ran around wildly. Then, in what probably seemed a good idea at the time, she madly attempted to leap over a large, fast-moving yellow creature that she had spotted. Much to her surprise, she failed miserably.
As luck would have it, the yellow minibus she had tried to leap over contained some conservationists who were on their way to witness their next lion breeding attempt. They were quite startled by the large thud, and immediately stopped. Initially, they all found it rather amusing to see the gazelle still drunkenly wobbling on her feet making some peculiar, almost elephant-like sounds. When the gazelle glared at them and started trying to flap her ears threateningly, they were practically rolling outside their vehicle with laughter.
They were, however, not nearly as amused with what happened next. The gazelle stormed straight towards them. She headed first for the bewildering fat woman who held the threatening-looking device making the blinding bursts of light that were hurting her eyes. A photo moment if ever there were one.
The gazelle took a flying leap and leading fearlessly with her trunk, she headbutted the lady’s stomach. She then began bleating uncontrollably as she shook her head and chewed on the woman’s colourful blouse. The lady ran yelling and in tears, allowing one of the conservationists to finally take a clear shot with his tranquillizer gun.
Thud! Bleat! Gazelle down.
The conservationists nursed Rosemary, their traumatised colleague, back to her senses and agreed that they would let the animal recover before deciding what to do. When the fat lady finally managed to speak, she blurted out a string of expletives that would have made the filthiest gutter comedian blush. She then demanded that they feed the deranged creature to the lions. Her colleagues promptly rationalised and agreed that it was a great idea. After all, lions in their natural environment with a fresh kill of their own—what could be more conducive to the successful coupling of two lions than that?
The little gazelle whimpered a confused, low bleat as they loaded her onto the roof of the minibus. They drove for some time and finally delivered her to a feeding area close to the lions’ cave. The combination of the tranquillizer and marula fruit resulted in a dozy gazelle totally disconnected from her surroundings. Barely a few minutes later, the gazelle could have sworn that she saw a cute kitty cat leaping happily around her. And then everything went black.
Unfortunately for the lion pair and fortunately for the conservationists, twelve minutes after the meal ended, the special ingredient released a gush of serotonin into the couple’s bloodstream. They gazed into each other’s eyes and suddenly felt so very warm and happy. No doubt, it was not the first time that recreational edibles had resulted in an unwanted pregnancy.
On a rainy night about four full moons later, the conservationists were huddled in their observation room near the cave once again. They looked more enthusiastic than usual—sure that this was going to be the big day they had been waiting for. Rosemary had prepared herself by wearing an elaborately sequinned dress with a big white hat. She reminded the group of how she had bravely battled the crazed gazelle earlier that year. After all, if it wasn’t for her insightful suggestion, they wouldn’t be witnessing the miracle of a lion cub birth.
The tension built as the seconds passed—and then finally it happened. Kineosho was born.
The conservationists looked on, anxiously wondering how many cubs would appear. They had expected three kittens based on their research, so were rather surprised to find that only one was born. Of course, they didn’t realise that this was because after many years of evolution, lions had adapted themselves to having fewer cubs. Cub-care was enormously challenging for parent lions, and this, together with the lack of predators, drove the genetics behind having fewer offspring.
Swimming in another gene pool altogether, Rosemary waved frantically and yelled at the others to move so she could see the new cub. She looked at the cub, and then at her husband and the other conservationists. She tugged at her husband’s sleeve and sheepishly suggested that they name the cub Rosemary, after her. She felt it only appropriate, given that it looked so much like her.
Her husband shrugged, and nodded with quiet resignation. His colleagues giggled silently as they had already determined that Rosemary was actually a little boy cub.
The conservationists continued jotting down detailed notes about the rare birth they had just witnessed. Rosemary, in the meantime, ambled around the observation deck wondering what it would be like to pat the little cub and to keep her as a pet. The lion family looked so sweet, gentle, and caring.
Rosemary slowly daydreamed her way to the far end of the deck. There, she spotted an unlocked door brightly labelled ‘Feeding hatch—no unauthorised personnel’. “Hmm . . .” she thought, “now that it’s stopped raining, perhaps I could get close enough to take a photo and really capture the moment!”
She looked over her shoulder to make sure no one was watching and opened the feeding hatch. She opened the extra security door after it and braced herself to get a closer peek at her new pet. “Oh, such an adventure!” she thought.
As she slowly tiptoed towards the cave in the moonlight, she stumbled into one of those rather poetic good luck/bad luck situations. It started with a stroke of good luck: she accidentally slipped and fell into a deep puddle, but was completely unhurt. Bad luck: she had just inadvertently splashed away the love of a half-blind, asthmatic aardvark’s life. This was once again met with some good luck: aardvarks can’t do much damage to humans, except perhaps to slap them in the face with their sticky tongues. Bad luck: the same, unfortunately, could not be said for lions.
The aardvark let out a blood-curdling shriek when he saw his true love in the puddle displaced by a fat human thigh. A few seconds later, Rosemary healthily contributed to the annual statistic of humans getting mauled by a wild animal whilst parading outside the secure area of a national park. The conservationists looked on in horror as Griffon powerfully ripped off chunks of flesh from the potential threat to his new cub.
The distressed aardvark took consolation from having witnessed instant divine retribution. He then blinked sorrowfully for a moment at the big white hat that now covered his lost love before disappearing into the bushes.
The conservationists were still in shock, having just seen a ferocious lion maul their colleague’s wife. The only person in the observation room who seemed calm was Rosemary’s husband. Actually, the others had not noticed, but he had a slight twinkle in his eye. He was the first to suggest that they return to their distant village for help. The others agreed immediately and they all hurried off to their minibus.
Griffon pawed at the cub and tickled its stomach as he heard the minibus speed off. He sighed deeply when Kineosho gurgled in response. “Never thought I’d say it, but I’m quite looking forward to this,” said Griffon quietly. All rationality had slipped out of his mind—there were neither thoughts of leaving legacies, nor intellectualised debate about the pros and cons of procreating. He was overcome with awe by what lay innocently before him.
“You know we need to get out of here, Griffon—we can’t stay and risk these idiots coming in and fiddling around with Kineosho—” said Curie.
“—I know,” replied Griffon immediately, his eyes still focused on their cub. “We leave tomorrow morning—early. Let’s get some rest now . . . it’s been a long day.”
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