There is a line. Above it, part of a glowing orb disappears. Below it, long fingers of the coming night stretch and tap the denizens of the Pridelands. The touch means sleep for some; for others, it is just the beginning. Movements slow and amplify in the shrinking hours as the dance of darkness begins. Along the soft floor, three shadows dance merrily about in a frolic of pleasure near a resting herd of zebra. It has been a long day, but a fair one. These less important hours are a bit lighter, perhaps without warrant.
Nala gave a cry of surprise as Simba tackled her to the ground. While the two giggled and rolled about in an unending battle for pounce supremacy, the mandrill alongside them looked on with a smile. He chose not to participate in the battle, but the outcome was common enough for him to anticipate the coming end. It arrived with a dramatic *THUD*.
“Ha!” Nala laughed, “Pinned ya again!” And the two would giggle together, so much in love. As usual, the losing partner would make his excuses, never using the same one each time.
“Aww, I let you win love!” Simba said, grinning mischievously, “You know that right?”
“Oh sure,” Nala said, giving his cheek a lick, “except that you never beat me Simba.” Nala released him and the lion rolled to his paws. Shaking off and regaining a piece of his playfully shattered dignity, he head-butted the lioness playfully.
“Oh yeah? Well, I’ll bet that I can do lots of things better than you.”
“Like sleep, and eat, and sleep some more?” Rafiki chimed in, precisely on cue. Nala just laughed as Simba gave an embarrassed chuckle.
“Oh you really think that huh?” He asked, partially curious at Rafiki’s observation. The mandrill only grinned at him.
“You are the king! Unless there is some little talent that you’ve been hiding from us all this time.” Simba smiled at Rafiki, who got a surprise whisper from Nala that sent him into hysterical laughing. The lion blinked.
“What’s so funny?”
“Well,” chuckled the mandrill, not seeing Nala’s emphatic gesture to keep quiet, “the dear lioness was just telling me about what you do with your tail when you sleep.” Simba blinked rapidly and looked at Nala, who was now blushing fiercely under her fur.
“Nala!” he cried out, very much embarrassed. The lioness could only giggle a little. Among the lionesses, Simba was known as a striker. Meaning that his tail quite often would rise like a snake in the night, and strike the nearest lioness. The scale in the back usually would wake the lioness with a yip, causing the whole pride to jump up. And Simba, still sleeping through it all, would suddenly be embarrassed to find the entire pride staring at his tail, which would innocently enough play dead at that convenient moment.
“Well, you ARE good at it.” This response from Nala only sent Rafiki into more laughing, and he leaned heavily on his stick to keep from falling down. Simba, now thoroughly mortified, just gazed at Nala incredulously. Seeing what she had done, she padded closer to Simba, nuzzling him under his chin with a patronizing purr, “Aww, I’m sorry dear. It was just a funny thing that popped into my head.” To her surprise, Simba pulled away.
“Well,” he started, sounding a bit hurt, “There are plenty of things I can do just fine. I’ll bet I can even hunt better than you, Nala.” Nala looked concerned at the sound of his voice, but tried to hide it. Giving Rafiki a stern look to calm down his inane giggles, she moved forward to cheekrub Simba again.
“I know you’re good love,” she purred sweetly, “you have nothing to prove to me.” Simba looked somewhat pleased at her response, but still determined.
“Of course I don’t,” he said softly, licking his mate back with a deep sound, “but just to show you I can do it, I’m going to get a zebra for us.” Nala appeared jolted, not sure about Simba going on a solo hunt. Although she had as much faith in him as any lioness could have in their mate, she had to doubt his hunting skills because of his inexperience, not to mention his size.
“Simba,” she pleaded, “you really don’t have to do this.” Simba pawed her gently on the shoulder, giving her his classic ‘devil may care’ look.
“I’ll be fine.” he said, confident in himself. “Trust me.” Nala gave him a little lick on his left shoulder as he passed into the lengthening shadows. The lioness sighed audibly, glancing to the third observer. Rafiki stood by her, silent and pensive.
“An odd proposition. An inexperienced lion hunting better than the hunt mistress.” he commented in a sagely tone. Nala nodded her head silently. Logic told her that she was the better hunter. She was the hunt mistress after all, not to mention that her form was made for hunting. Agility, strength, cunning, and a lighter body weight made her the perfect instrument of the hunt. However, she knew wisely that Simba’s lack of the last characteristic, and a whole lot less experience made it a dangerous thing for him to attempt. The two stood still, shoulder to shoulder, not wanting to upset the zebra into any motion that could possibly harm the stalking lion.
“This is crazy.” Simba thought to himself. The same analysis that Nala contemplated passed through his mind as well. Large and inexperienced continued to pop up in his head. He had nothing to prove. Zebra or none, Nala would love him, Rafiki would help him, and the pridelands would never question it. Why go on a hunt just to show them something?
“It’s a matter of principle.” Simba told himself, “If I can’t hunt then I’m not fit to lead the pride. What if they needed my help? A king has to be an all around player.” Sufficiently justifying his actions to himself, he began to scan the crowd of stripes. Logic told him to go for something easy, a calf or an infirm zebra. However, the darkening skies concealed the true sizes of his prey. Choosing what he thought to be the ideal target, he prepared himself for the attack.
The zebra would remember it as the worst moments of its life. There she was, fat, contented, and grazing peacefully when suddenly, the savanna came to life as a massive beast of tawny fur. She sprinted, hoping to outrun the deadly thing that wanted her life. But it closed quickly, quicker than she ever expected from such a large animal. Panting, heart racing, and running as fast as she could, she prayed that the end would be swift and began to resign herself to her fate.
Then, she felt the left paw of the thing caught on her back flanks. Cold panic raced into her mind and in a swift motion, she kicked high with her leg, catching the paw squarely and knocking it away as it reached up for her. There was a sudden roar that overpowered the heartdrum in her ears. A roar, which at the moment, seemed the most vicious sound she had ever heard in her life. She ran on, not stopping until she was assured that her hooffalls was the only sound being made. Looking around, the misty view from her tear filled eyes indicated that there was nothing there. Her fear slowly subsided, and if not for the claw marks on the back of her haunches, she would have sworn it was all in her mind.
“SIMBA!!” was the cry from Nala as she raced over to him followed rapidly by Rafiki. The lion writhed, lying on his right side. His repeated moans and whimperings panicked Nala to no end as she paced worriedly from side to side. “Simba! Simba! are you okay?”
“My shoulder Nala,” he groaned, through much effort, “its on fire! Make it stop!” Rafiki quickly moved in, looking him over. Nala bent over and licked his face.
“Shhh, shhh, it will be okay.” she cooed, rapidly glancing to Rafiki for agreement. The mandrill appeared puzzled at first. After checking him out thoroughly, he could see no blood, no bruises and his movements certainly mean that his muscles were fine. However an odd bulge positioned at his left shoulder made him curious.
“You say it’s your shoulder Simba?” he asked. A rapid head movement from Simba, along with a sharp cry of pain indicated it true. Rafiki placed a hand on his shoulder, eliciting a fresh agonized cry from Simba. Nala stared at the mandrill icily.
“You’re hurting him!” she scolded.
“Keep him calm,” Rafiki instructed, “everything will feel right in a moment.” Nala nodded, turning her attentions back to Simba’s head with licks and nuzzles. Tears began to form in her eyes.
“I’m so sorry Simba, I’m sorry.” was all she could manage. Simba glanced at her, even in pain his eyes betraying his deep love for her.
“It’ll be okay.” he spoke. No sooner had the words left his muzzle, did a sharp report of pain race from his shoulder through his body. The resulting roar sent Nala reeling back in fright quickly, unsure of what happened. Then she saw Rafiki, his stick in both hands, poised in a careful watching position. Simba’s moans faded into pants, and those pants into breaths of relief. Nala approached again, looking completely exasperated.
“What was that?”
“Only me.” Rafiki said in a playful tone, “And of course, my trusty stick.” Simba glared at him from the ground.
“You hit me?!?!” he yelled in a fiery tone.
“And on his shoulder?” Nala added very upset. The mandrill seemed unfazed, but appeared to change his countenance a little.
“It was necessary. Very necessary.” he said in a wise tone, “Your shoulder required it to stop the pain.” The two lions looked between each other, then to Simba’s shoulder. To his utter surprise, it did feel better. But before he could enjoy the sensations, Rafiki hustled him to his paws and began to herd him and his mate to Pride Rock.
The journey was not long, and Simba’s complaints about the soreness did not stop Rafiki from getting them there as fast as he could. The main cavern was empty because the lionesses were out preparing for the evening hunt, so it was easy to get Simba in and lying again in a comfortable position. However, he and Nala were not amused at the antics of their mandrill friend.
“What is this about Rafiki? Why are you in so much of a hurry?” The mandrill gazed sadly at Simba and Nala, sighing in his own fatigue.
“I wanted to be sure that you returned before your shoulder stiffens. It can be difficult to move when that happens.” as the two lions looked between each other, Rafiki sighed audibly and put a hand upon Simba’s head, “I will not lie to you, this injury will lead to some tough times ahead. You two will need to support each other more and more. At least for the next three weeks.”
“Three weeks?” Nala asked.
“What about three weeks?” Simba inquired.
“That’s how long you will have to stay in here. You can’t be up on that shoulder, not moving about, and in general not playing around at all.” Rafiki said straightforwardly. Nala was shocked into silence but Simba began to protest.
“What kind of injury is this anyway?” he said, wiggling his arm a bit, “It feels fine again, just a little sore.” Rafiki quickly restrained him, with a stern glare.
“You must NOT do that. If you do, you could hurt your shoulder even more.
“How am I supposed to take care of the pridelands if I can’t get around?” Simba rebutted,
“And how am I going to defend against invaders?” Rafiki gazed into his amber eyes, the first time Simba had ever seen him so intent and concentrated.
“You can’t right now. You have to let the pride help you on this one.” Rafiki spoke in a heavy tone, “This is not an ordinary injury. You have dislocated your shoulder.”
The full implications of Rafiki’s words did not hit Simba until the next morning, where he suddenly felt a painful presence where his trusty old shoulder used to be. The memories of last night’s events swarmed over him like a night after a dreamberry binge. The challenge, the hunt, the injury. It all seemed like a dream, like another lifetime. That was, of course, until he tried to move and his shoulder warned him against it. An unmistakable look of sadness crossed his face, as it all came together in one crashing blow. He was helpless. Simba sighed and lay his head back on the floor. A quick glance outside told him that it was a little past midday.
“Midday?” he thought to himself in surprise, “I must have been more tired than I though. Gods am I ever sore.” While Simba waited for the throbbing soreness to ebb, a lone lioness entered, coming over to Simba in silence.
“My king?” she asked softly. Simba’s head jolted up, startled. His shoulder flared in protest, causing him to growl his discomfort and lie it back down. The lioness jumped, looking somewhat concerned, “D-did I startle you?” Although she knew the answer, Simba tried to make her feel better.
“I’m fine Svelta,” he grunted, “what can I do for you?” Svelta came into full view, and stood before Simba. She was a young lioness, hardly out of adolescence but a real eye catcher. Her fur was a deep beige color, the type that all the lionesses envy because of its match to the savanna grasses. The creamy tips of her paws accented her perfectly shaped digits and the claws that ended them. Her ears were always pert and attentive; however, when they were not, they were folded back in a cute expression of defense. Just by getting a glance of her ears, Simba could tell that she was nervous.
“A-are you going to be okay?” she asked meekly.
“I’m fine.” was the grumpy answer from the lion. Svelta wasn’t finished, and pushed on, still concerned.
“Well, I just wanted to know because the pride-”
“I’m fine Svelta.” Simba said, putting more emphasis on his words and glancing to the lioness. This seemed to make her even more jumpy, especially when he added, “Now just leave me alone.” Svelta half turned, not sure whether she wanted to go or stay.
“B-but Simba, I just wanted to say that-” But she never finished her sentence.
“GET OUT!” Simba roared at her, sending the poor lioness scampering out of the cave. Upon seeing Svelta turn tail and run, Simba immediately regretted what he had done. It was a moment’s passion, caught in the agony of his shoulder and transmitted up into his mouth. He lay his head down again, sighing.
“The poor thing.” he thought to himself, “Now I won’t even know what she had to say.”
A few moments later, Nala burst into the cave with a face set in displeasure. Simba glanced up at Nala, then with a frown put his head back down.
“Why did you run Svelta off like that?”
“Because I didn’t want her looking at me.” grumbled Simba. Nala’s face flashed severe disappointment, and she scolded him.
“Whatever for?! You’re the king, the lionesses have the right to see you.”
“Not like this,” Simba spoke softly, “not weak and helpless lying in a cave in pain.” he looked away, very much depressed, “Not like a helpless cub.” His words startled Nala, and she suddenly realized what was going on in Simba’s head.
“Simba,” she cooed, moving next to him, “Rafiki said this will heal, you just have to be patient. It’ll all get better.” she licked his cheek. The lion sighed, and turned his head to give a nuzzle. It was at that moment that his shoulder twinged him again, causing him to give a yelp of surprise and spin his head quickly the other way. Nala jumped and moved over to his face worriedly. “Simba! Are you okay?” she asked. Simba hid his face and growled softly.
“Tell the pride to stay away from me Nala, and you had better do the same too.”
“What?” Nala said incredulously, “How can you expect me to leave when you are hurting like this!”
“I’ll be okay, just leave me alone.”
“GO!” he half roared at her. The silence was thick, and as the echo died down quickly the pair experienced a hardness from the other like they had only felt once before. Instead of jumping back, Nala rose slowly, her face setting into determination as she looked at the lion. Simba continued to face the wall, growling softly to himself.
“Fine.” Nala said sharply, in a tone Simba remembered all too well, “But don’t think I don’t know what’s going on here, Simba. I know that you’re proud, and I know you thought you were invincible. But none of us are, and these things happen. And you are NOT going to be able to get through this alone. You had better drop your personal pride and get over this, or else you are going to lose another, more important pride.” She finished definitively, and stormed out to where the lionesses were. Inside the cave, all was silence, except for the gentle plash of tears as they fell to the hard floor.
When Simba awoke the next morning, he felt groggy again. Sleeping with such pain rendered a good night’s rest impossible. Wakeful moments were spent in the same position, in the fear that motion would aggravate the injury into anger again. Sleep was filled with dreams of torture and agony, all focusing on his weakened extremity. Because of his attitude, and the prompting of Nala, the lionesses all slept separate from Simba, leaving him to the night climate alone. Few nights were as miserable as that one, and Simba knew it.
“The morning sun should be warming me by now.” Simba thought absently, “I wonder why not-” He suddenly cut himself off upon the sight of the pride, standing around him and blocking the light. All were staring at him. In his weakened condition, Simba was in no mood for games, and the pressure of all those eyes, cub, adolescent and adult on him was terribly heavy to bear.
“What is the meaning of this?!” he cried out, surprised and somewhat nervous. He made out Nala’s form as she stepped in front of the group and spoke to Simba.
“The meaning of this is for you to grow up a little Simba.” She said plainly. He put his good paw over his eyes and moaned.
“Why can’t you just leave me alone?” he whimpered a bit too weakly for his normal personality.
“Well,” Nala started, “if you had listened to Svelta when she came in, I sent her to tell you that the pride was behind you all the way on this. But you blew up and sent her out. You even tried to send me out if my memory serves me right. But you don’t have a choice in this one Simba. You are our king, and we are going to help you through this, whether you want us to or not.”
Murmurs from the surrounding lions confirmed Nala’s statement, and Simba sighed aloud, lying his head down again. Anyone who has ever been in a group can understand the power of peer pressure. Some people crack easily, and succumb to society and its standards. Those people are weak. Others refuse to break, even when society standards will help them. Those people are stupid. However, others will look at a situation logically in the face of such pressures, and if conformity is the best choice, they will allow it to happen. Those people are wise. Fortunately, Simba’s wisdom shone through this moment, and he made the wise choice.
“Okay,” he purred, sounding a bit deflated, “I just didn’t want you all to think me weak because of this.” There was a collective breath of happiness from the pride upon Simba’s statement, and several giggles of relief. For the next piece of the morning, the pride spent their time comforting their ailing king, letting him know everything was going to be okay and giving them their own personal promises of support. Nala hung back and watched, as Simba’s face gradually turned from one of despair to optimism. This would have gone on forever had Rafiki not burst in with cub-like energy.
“Okay everyone!” he called out, “Its time to go! The king and I have to talk, go on! Shooshooshoo! Ha HA!” Simba glanced at the mandrill, wondering what the excitement was for. He smiled as the pride gave him some final nuzzles as they left. Nala stood alongside him, as Rafiki came over to Simba with a bow.
“What’s all the excitement Rafiki?” Nala asked, “Did you find something out about Simba’s shoulder?”
“Of course,” the mandrill grinned, “usually this injury is debilitating and results in the death of the injured, but I found a few things that just might give us a sporting chance.” Simba and Nala looked at each other hopefully, then at Rafiki who smiled at them both. “Just trust old Rafiki, he knows what to do! Follow my instructions and everything should be okay!”
“When do I start?” Simba said anxiously.
“Right now!” Rafiki laughed, “First, you have to rest that shoulder for the amount of time I told you, then we begin the rebuilding!” Nala smiled at Rafiki and nudged him gently with her muzzle.
“This is great news! Thank you Rafiki.” she purred to him. Rafiki’s smile waned imperceptibly, and he spoke to Nala.
“Now then dear lioness, we have to let the king rest. He’ll be needing it.” he said, beginning to lead her out. Nala sensed the urgency in his voice, and playing it cool, padded out with a smile.
“Okay,” she gave Simba a quick lick before going all the way, “rest well love.” Simba, oblivious to the silent body language between the two, went back onto his side and promptly fell asleep.
Directly outside the cave, Nala accosted Rafiki with a worried look. His smile got smaller and smaller the further from Simba they got, and Nala’s concern was growing exponentially. When they were out of his hearing range, she finally burst.
“What is it Rafiki? What’s wrong with him?” She said, the panic in her voice obvious. Rafiki looked at her gravely
“I’m afraid the information I found is two tailed my queen.” he said softly, eliciting a quizzical look from Nala.
“Meaning, that there is no way to tell what will happen with this.” he looked into Nala’s captivating eyes, trying to help her deal with the fear he could see welling up inside of her. “He could come out of this a new lion, fine in every respect or…” he trailed off.
“Or???” Nala asked expectantly.
“Or,” Rafiki sighed, “The injury will linger, and increase in frequency. He will experience the dislocation more often until finally it gets so bad, he would be unable to walk.” This elicited a gasp of horror from Nala, who looked back into the cave tearfully,
“Oh my poor Simba.” she whispered, beginning to cry, “If only I hadn’t teased him that night, if only I hadn’t-”
“Hush my child.” Rafiki spoke softly, patting the hurting lioness on the head, “This will be especially hard for the both of us, but we must be strong. Because if we are not, then he certainly will be unable to handle this on his own.” Nala sniffled, swallowing the emotion that began to show.
“I understand.” she said softly, clearing her eyes of guilt for the moment. Giving a final sniff, she nodded to Rafiki, “Thank you, when will you be back?”
“Three weeks.” He said definitively, “And then, the real test begins.” With that, he leapt down from Pride Rock, nimbly getting to the bottom and heading towards his tree. Nala padded slowly out to the promontory and watched him go. How helpless she felt! And how guilty! It was hard to accept that she had made a direct impact on what could be the future of her mate, her pride, and all those in it. Glancing to the sky, she marveled at the radiance of the sun that morning.
Obviously, nature had no inkling of the dark clouds surrounding her heart, or Pride Rock.
Time is short, Time is infinite. Time is subjective, Time is omnipotent. Time is merciless, Time is forgiving. Time is sweet, Time is self-fulfilling. Time is brain, Time is brawn. And before you know it, Time is gone.
For three weeks, the Pride Rock pride endeavored diligently to help their downed ruler. The lionesses were more successful in the hunt than they had ever been before. Successes were scored on every kill, as the motivation to help Simba increased. Upon a clever suggestion from Zazu, Simba authorized the lionesses to allow the hyenas the remains after the pride was taken care of. This simple but effective move began a period of peace between lion and hyena. It may not have lasted forever, but it was long enough to allow Simba the comfort of not worrying about them.
Huddled around their ailing king, the lionesses snored softly. Simba was awake, not so much because of his shoulder but because of the anticipation. The injury had stopped hurting about a week ago, and several times Nala was the only thing that kept him from moving about. The spot he was in was worn, and besides squirming a little from one area to another, he had been in the cave the entire time. It might have been miserable, if it had not been for the comical play of cubs who wanted to cheer up the big lion.
Simba sighed aloud. He had been a cub once. So full of promise and potential. So strong, so fit, so energetic. There had often been talk about how he would fare as a king. His energy always promised good things for him. And here he was, king of Pride Rock, injured and confined to his own cave. The time had given him much to think about, and much sadness as well. He had finally made it. The kingship he had been dreaming about all his life and suddenly, in a swift fell motion they were gone. Torn away by impulse and fate.
He glanced to the ground before him. Many a tear had fallen there since he first discovered the true nature of the injury. And yet there was so much more to go! Rafiki made intermittent visits to make sure he was staying put, but today his return was to be different. Today he was to start rehabilitating the injury which had rendered him helpless. After all the time still, he was literally pawing at the ground, ready to start moving again.
A small sound caused his ear to swivel towards the entrance. Looking up, he could hear the familiar hum of an annoying song.
“Asante sana, squash banana…” the soft voice floated over the early morning. Simba’s heart raced, suddenly feeling a pang of uncertainty. He was certainly excited about moving again, but was it going to be successful? What if he tried and found out he couldn’t move? What if he didn’t have the same range of motion that he had before? While the lion pondered these questions, the mandrill came up behind him and rapped his side lightly with his stick.
“It is time Simba, are you ready?” he asked. Turning his head to Rafiki, he nodded eagerly. Rafiki smiled a little, “Then lets go.” he said, starting out.
“Go?” Simba inquired, “You mean, as in get up and follow you?”
“No,” the mandrill said with a twinkle in his mind, “I mean just your tail. The rest of you can stay here.” Shaking his heavily maned head with a chuckle, Simba rolled to his belly carefully. Not placing any weight on the injured shoulder, he rose weakly at first into a three legged stance. Reminding himself not to wake the pride, the lion limped out with his helper at his side for support.
Upon rolling over, Nala’s suspicion that something was missing was confirmed. She could feel several cubs alongside her, and the proximity of a nearby lioness. However, upon flicking her tail backwards, there was only a warm spot where her mate used to be. Turning rapidly, her mind flew into action.
“Where’s Simba??” she though to herself frantically, “He didn’t try to go off again did he?” Glancing around in the dim but growing light, she made out the familiar footprint of Rafiki in the dust, along with a large pawprint that could only belong to her love. It dawned on her that today was three weeks since the accident, and that Rafiki and Simba were out working on it. Sliding a warm, fuzzy cub towards another lioness subtly, she got up and followed the hints left by the two early birds. If there was work to be done, she intended to help Simba do it.
“OWW!” Simba roared as Rafiki pulled up on his arm gently, “Hey! Careful!” The mandrill released him, and sighed a bit.
“Simba, if we do not make your arm move, then it will be harder later.” Simba grumbled at Rafiki.
“I know, I know. Its just that it hurts a lot when you do that. And don’t you think ten times in enough?” the lion inquired. Rafiki shook his head with a sagely tone.
“Simba, you have to trust me. I have seen this before. I can help it.” Simba sighed audibly, and re-balanced himself on his back, preparing for the stretch again. Rafiki gently took his paw, and began extending it up towards his head. Another moan of pain from Simba, told him when to stop. As he was holding, his mind flashed to the last time he had seen this.
The panther’s name was Amathambo, and he was a bit different from the average panther. Large, like a small lioness, and built like an adult male lion. His injury had come in a battle with an adolescent lion. Although Rafiki never knew the full extent of how the battle happened, tending to the ailing panther was the most important thing at the time. The mandrill had tried his hardest, and the friendship between the two was cemented. The panther worked hard and they thought that it was strong enough to go on. However, Amathambo’s shoulder never fully recovered, and he spent the rest of his life scavenging on smaller prey and humans. The last Rafiki heard from him, was a day before he was killed.
“Yes Thambo? What can I do for you?” the mandrill asked, hopping down from his tree. Amathambo had a pensive look on his face. The type of look one gets when they can feel something about to happen.
“I fear for myself old friend.” the panther started, “My habits have put me in danger and I do not know how I will be able to survive much longer.” Rafiki’s face fell, knowing the extent of what his words meant. Amathambo continued, “I just wanted to be sure that you knew how much I appreciate you, your friendship, and helping me get back on my paws.” Rafiki could only smile at this, and with no words to say, he embraced the much larger animal.
“Fare well Thambo. I only wish there was something more I could do for you.” The panther, aging slightly and looking worn, smiled at him.
“You have done all you could. And that is more than anyone can ask for.” With that, the dark apparition walked out of the clearing. Neither had a dry face, but neither knew how soon it would be the last time seeing each other. The next day, Amathambo was hewed down by several of his easier prey. Although Rafiki was not there, the bloodstained pawprint he found a few weeks later told him the entire story.
“It will not happen again.” he told himself intensely. Without knowing it, he had been increasing pressure on poor Simba, who reminded him with a roar.
“Rafiki!” The startled mandrill let his arm rest, breaking out of his reverie.
“My apologies Simba.” he said, “This old mind tends to wander a bit you know.” Rolling to his side for a more comfortable rest, the lion grumbled to himself.
“Oh yes, I know for sure.” Rafiki went around to the other side and began to massage Simba’s ailing shoulder a little, eliciting a somewhat comical face of pain from the lion. Simba turned to Rafiki, who’s face looked a bit bleak. He spoke softly to him. “You know, I don’t blame you for this my friend.”
“Hmm?” Rafiki asked, “What makes you say that?”
“Well, you looked a bit down. And that’s unusual for you.” Simba said kindly, “Is anything wrong?”
“Wrong!?” Rafiki laughed suddenly, “Nothing’s wrong! Everything is just fine.” Simba was not convinced, and sighed a little.
“Simba!” called another voice, coming up from the right. It was Nala, trotting towards them eagerly. Rafiki silently thanked her for the interruption, and smiled widely.
“It’s the queen” he said buoyantly looking at Simba. However, Simba was not too pleased.
“Nala? What are you doing out here? Who is with the pride?”
“Sarabi is taking care of things I’m sure love,” she said confidently, “I had to come see how you were doing.” The slight edge of worry in her voice did not miss Simba’s ears, and he tilted his head at her for a moment. Her smile belied the true thoughts of concern in her head, and Simba knew it. It gave him a warm feeling to know that she was so concerned.
“I’m fine dear,” he nodded in indication to Rafiki, “Rafiki here is just helping me stretch my shoulder. It feels sort of good to move it again.” Nala smiled at the two.
“Great! That means I’m just in time to help.” Simba’s look suddenly wavered.
“A good idea my queen!” Rafiki chortled, much to Simba’s dismay. “We are stretching right now and its time for another round. Onto your belly you big cub!” he joked. However, the innocent joke hit Simba directly in his heart and forced him to look away sadly. He already felt like a cub, and to have his mate here to see him weak like this bothered him. He paused a moment, the uncomfortable look on his face enough to catch Nala’s eye.
“What’s wrong Simba?” She asked, feeling like she had asked that question a hundred times in the past three weeks. Simba opened his mouth to speak, then sighed and shook his head softly.
“Nothing.” he said, rolling onto his belly. A short glance at Simba made Nala understand, and she transmitted the knowledge silently to Rafiki with a look. Sighing a bit, Rafiki gently took Simba’s paw and started pulling it back. While Simba winced a little, before groaning aloud, Nala came around in front and kissed him deeply on the muzzle. Simba’s eyes popped open in surprise as his mate gazed lovingly into his eyes.
“Just remember Simba,” she said in a heavy and seductive tone, “I would never kiss a cub that way.” Her words brought a smile to Simba involuntarily, and he blushed fiercely under his fur. Rafiki released his stretch, and allowed the two a moments time to share their love. Inside, he felt things would be okay. His previous patient never had the advantage of a pride to back him up. With a wisdom that could only come from years of healing, the mandrill knew that it was going to take a lot of love for Simba to get through this difficult time.
Time is short, Time is infinite. Time is subjective, Time is omnipotent. Time is merciless, Time is forgiving. Time is sweet, Time is self-fulfilling. Time is brain, Time is brawn. And before you know it, Time is gone.
Simba endured his daily torture sessions valiantly and with purpose. The stretching, attempted walks, and exercises took a heavy toll on him, but he continued to press on. More than once, he had been reduced to tears over his condition, but more than always, someone was there to comfort him. Nala faithfully arose to assist in his therapy every morning. Although running the pride, caring for cubs, and dealing with her big cub was difficult; the lioness remained rock steady, and rose to the challenge. Rafiki often assured him that he was doing fine, and that it would all end soon.
Simba arose, and walked carefully to the end of the promontory. The early morning winds caressed his leonine form as they passed around him. Watching the sun rise from the east was a satisfying thing indeed, considering the many times he had inadvertently wished he wouldn’t. With a smile, he turned and proceeded into the main cave, pleased at his current condition. For the first time since the injury, he was walking on all four paws normally. Testing it out, he found that there was minimal pain, nothing to be concerned about though. Perhaps, finally after a month of work, the nightmare was over and he would never have to worry about it again.
“It’s about time.” he thought to himself as he padded down the side of Pride Rock, “Maybe I can play a more active role in primal affairs now. I’m sure that everyone will be happy for that.” Smiling optimistically, he encountered Nala at the base of Pride Rock, returning with a jaded smile.
“Morning Simba.” She said in a tired voice. Her mate could not help but be surprised.
“Nala? What are you doing up so early?” he asked. Nala passed by him, nuzzling close.
“Oh, just out for an early morning’s walk.” she purred casually. Simba returned the nuzzle, a bit skeptical until he caught the scent. He chuckled silently, pondering whether this meeting was just by chance, or a clever set up by the lioness he loved.
“Oh really?” Simba purred slyly, “I was just on my way for a morning workout.” he said, licking her ear gently. “Care to join me? I was going to begin strengthening another area.” The look Nala gave him was unmistakable, but somewhat wary.
“Simba, what about your-”
“Shoulder?” he grinned, cutting her off. Passing close, he nuzzled with a passionate sigh “Well, we’ll work that out too.” Nala giggled and batted him lightly on the muzzle.
“Flirt!” she scolded playfully. So the two went off for a little more therapy, breaking the morning twice before it broke.
The day was spent in celebration. Upon Simba and Nala’s return, the pride rejoiced upon seeing the king walking well again. Nala led the lionesses in a successful buffalo hunt, while Simba watched with a grin. Youth and adult ate well that day, and for the first time in a long time, the dark clouds that had so quickly surrounded Pride Rock turned white, and pained expressions became joyous.
After a little digesting, the pride engaged in a playful frolic. Cubs pounced adults, adults pounced back. The young and old raced around in a time for unbridled merriment. Simba sat with Nala, just watching the fun. Every once in a while, he might reach out and playfully bat a passing cub or help tickle a pinned adult, but other than that, the king continued to show his love to his dedicated mate. He felt proud that the fun was all in his honor, even if he didn’t participate fully. At the rate the pride was going, the festivities might have lasted into the night, if it had not been for the calling of a little blue hornbill.
“Sire!” Zazu called, sweeping in from the sky. His landing was a bit off, showing both Simba and Nala the level of concern.
“Zazu? What is it?” Simba asked quickly. Zazu panted a little, before straightening up and dusting his feathers.
“Forgive the interruption my king,” he started, “but the hyenas have come into the pridelands, several of them! Off the edge of the western border!” Simba’s face tightened immediately, and he jumped to his paws. Nala was up beside him immediately, stepping in front before he could take off.
“Simba, are you sure about this?”
“No,” he said on a pause looking back at the pride having fun. They had done so much for him, been so dedicated, gone so far out of their way to help him. And as serious as the situation was, he couldn’t bring himself to break their spirits over the invaders. “But we can handle this Nala. You and I.” The lioness nodded shortly, her face hardening as well.
“Okay, as long as you’re sure, I’m with you.” Without another word, Simba looked at Zazu. Nothing more needed to be said, and the hornbill took to the sky and led the two lions to the location. As the pair broke into a run, Nala glanced back at the shrinking pride. They were still in the middle of the great game, not even noticing the royal pair running away from happiness.
The five poaching hyenas were so engrossed in their ill-gotten prey that they did not notice the two lions approaching rapidly. They had taken down a zebra female near the furthest west edge of the Pridelands. The herds were in a state of shock at the sudden attack, and stampeding away from the feeding hyenas. The resulting dust made the appearance of the royal couple dramatic enough, and Simba’s roar of introduction was no different.
“What is the meaning of this?!” Simba roared, trotting in with his mate. The five hyenas cringed back a little at the onslaught but remained defiant.
“We’re eating, what’s it look like?” one of the bigger ones scowled. Nala spoke up in a strong and commanding tone.
“We had a deal,” she snarled, “you got our remains without a fight and stayed out of the pridelands.” There was a rise in giggles that caused the fur to stand on Simba’s back. Having no intention to move, the five spread out a little and moved towards the lions.
“Well we intend to have our own hunt. And don’t want your rotten remains anymore.” The group snarled, closing in on the two. Zazu alighted on Simba’s shoulder as he leaned lower, amber eyes narrowing.
“Should I get help sire?” he whispered emphatically in Simba’s ear. The king nodded shortly.
“Quickly Zazu.” And in a blink, Zazu was in the air and flying across the horizon. Simba glanced to Nala, who was already broken into a fighting stance. Turning back to the hyenas, he prepared himself.
The battle began swiftly as one hyena charged the lioness, followed quickly by another. The other three closed in on Simba, giggling wildly. Nala reared and swatted them away, with a vicious roar, following them to finish the job. Simba watched as the hyenas circled. Perhaps it was just their giggling, or the trauma from early experiences with hyenas, but for some reason Simba was in a state of nervous excitement over the battle.
When the first one attacked, Simba’s move was lighting fast. A paw whipped around and snatched the hyena from the air, depositing it a few feet away. In what seemed to be the same moment, the lion felt the trapping jaws of a hyena begin to embrace his lower hind leg. Without a second thought, he rolled quickly and kicked the hyena off with a minimal amount of his own fur in its mouth. Then things began to change sides. As he got up, the two recovering hyenas charged into his side, knocking him off balance and sending him tumbling onto the ground. Clearing his head quickly, he could see the two advancing, assuming the other to be on its way. He whirled to his paws, giving one hyena a mighty blow to the head from the right. When he felt teeth on his back, he spun and in one tragic moment, extended his left arm for a roundabout swing. He made contact and then, it happened.
Nala’s head shot up immediately when she heard her mate roar. The sound was recognizable only to her, and with terror she knew what had happened. Leaving the two dazed hyenas to scamper back over the western border, she raced into the fray where Simba lay on the ground, writhing on his side in agony. There might have been another scuffle there, but the combined roars of pride lionesses racing in the direction tipped the hyenas that their time was up. With a yip and giggle, they turned tail and raced over the western border and into the waning sunlight. Turning her attention to Simba, Nala nudged him.
“Simba! Simba! Are you okay?” he groaned and glanced up at his shoulder, the lay his head on the ground, beginning to cry. Paling under her already creamy fur, Nala’s view shifted to where he looked. With a gasp, she could see the hated bulge, staring at her, mocking her every effort to help Simba heal. It was as if a nightmare had just stepped from her head and planted itself before her eyes.
Gathering her frayed emotions, she cooed Simba into a sense of calm. Then, remembering what Rafiki had done, she landed a hard paw directly on the shoulder. The resulting roar was devastating, and rent her heart into another piece. She only took a glance, then looked to Simba.
“Is it better?” A little wiggle of his arm, and a growl of pain emerged.
“No! No!” Simba grunted, fighting the pain, “It’s still on fire!” Wincing, Nala took another swipe at it, jumped back as she heard the roar intensify. However, Simba’s breathing slowed and his growling turned to low grunts, indicating her success. She went around to his front, and looked into his eyes.
The two sat that way for a moment, neither speaking nor moving. Silent apologies passed between them, each one feeling responsible for the other’s pain and internal turmoil. Then, with all barriers down, lioness set her head on lion, and the two stayed that way, crying tears of disappointment and despair. They did not stop, even when the pride arrived and escorted them on the long journey to Pride Rock.
Time is short, Time is infinite. Time is subjective, Time is omnipotent. Time is merciless, Time is forgiving. Time is sweet, Time is self-fulfilling. Time is brain, Time is brawn. And before you know it, Time is gone.
Imagine if you will, having the whole world at your feet. All doors are open, there are no barriers. You have the power, the will, the determination to make it in life. All your life, every experience has led you to the highest level of your potential. All you have to do, is step out and be yourself, and everyone will know your greatness.
Imagine now, that right before making the step, something else comes up. Something traumatic, painful, and physical. Sure, you’ve been through trauma before, but not like this. This one refuses to go away. It threatens to take down all the pride and prestige you’ve built for yourself. There is no way to tell when it will strike, or how it will strike. It is a demon, waiting, watching, picking times to rear its ugly head, and smite you with a vicious blow. And each blow destroys a little part of you, the part that makes all things possible in the world. The last thing left in Pandora’s box, is slowly being eaten away by a demon sitting on your shoulder. And as the hope is eaten, it is slowly replaced by an intolerable despair. That is how Simba felt, even a few weeks after the injury.
Rafiki had been working closely with the pride, and their emotions. All were shaken by the sudden re-injury of their king. Cubs and adults alike felt sorry for him, wishing there was something they could do. The mandrill often sighed, and even doubted himself. So much had been tried, so much effort on his part that to have it happen again was like a blow in the face. In his heart, he knew he had done all he could, and that fact made it even harder to accept the spiral of agony that Simba was going through. However, through it all, his resolve never wavered to help his friend as much as he could.
Poor Nala. The queen was often distressed at the agony of her mate. It was not so much the fact that his actions were limited, as it was the fact that his emotions were torn. He was more depressed than she had ever seen him in his life. Why did the circle have to treat him so cruelly? He was a good king, a good father, and a wonderful mate. Although it hurt her to see him become so reserved in action, her dedication and love never wavered. She was determined to help him run the pride with all the dignity and respect he deserved.
And of course Simba. Poor, poor Simba. This was not like losing a father to a jealous uncle. No, that could be healed, even if it took a long time. This was different, this was so close. So close, he could look to his left and see it wherever he went. And there was no way to tell what was going to happen next.
Arising early, he made his way to the end of the promontory to be alone in the morning breeze. It’s cool touch refreshed his soul, or at least, most of it. Glancing out over the lands, everything seemed so dark. The hyenas now knew the king had a weakness, and it was only a matter of time before they pitted themselves against Pride Rock. The monsoon season was coming, which would force the pride into the rock more often. While the rains were on, hunting would be difficult. There were some tough times ahead, and he knew it. He also knew, that those were the times he was going to have to be strong for the pride.
But how could he? Better yet, how could they? How could the pride put their faith in a king who could not do anything but eat, sleep, and barely get around to mark pridal territory. He couldn’t answer that question, and he didn’t have to. The pride had been so supportive, so interested in his well being that he knew there would be no faltering of trust. But the pain still lingered. Not so much physical as in his mind. He would never be the same again. No more wild romps with Nala at dusk, no more playing wild pounce with his son, or the other cubs, he had to pick and choose his battles to insure that he could stay safe. But he would push on against the wind. He had to.
When so much is dependent on you, you have no choice but to move forward. Put one paw in front of the other and live on. Sure, you might stumble over that old block a few times, but there are those who are alongside you, ready to pick you up and help you along for as long as you need it. Simba, once again showing his wisdom, realized this and stared forward, into the uncertain future.
It has been a long night, but a fair one. These important hours are a bit heavier, with due reason. Along the soft floor, shadows dance slowly about the pridelands, quickening, and waning movements in the growing hours as the dance of morning begins. For some, the touch is sleep; for others, it is the beginning. There is a line. Above it, part of a glowing orb appears.