Yesterday on Tumblr I was merrily scrolling along and came across a picture of a gorgeous clouded leopard cub looking up at her handler adoringly. She had gorgeous eyes (the cub – couldn’t see the handler’s) and someone had written underneath:
Can you tell me a story?
That sparked something off and so I started thinking about the story that I would tell an eight month old leopard cub if she happened to want to hear a story. And then I wrote it…
A long time ago this world was very new. The grass had never been cut and so it grew long and wild. The rocks were still stretching out, growing lines and ridges. Trees were tender and waved in the wind. The Himalayas were shivering as the snow made its home in the dips of their arms, circling around the young rivers that wound down to the lands below. There were no names and no borders, peaks rose un-watched by any eyes. The snow liked to be close to the sky and the water ran down, down away to the bright forests on the shallow slopes that had walked away from the high mountains.
When the land had settled and the earth had found its place the animals started to emerge. They had been hiding in the rocks and the water while the ground was rumbling around and crashing into itself. Birds flew out from inside the trunks of trees, colourful with green and blue foliage feathers. Fish swam up into rivers away from the deep seas. The Himalayas held many animals, they had been waiting so patiently that they were keen to explore right away.
The bold rhinoceros walked to the water. Snow leopards padded their paws across mountain passes. Wolves and bears filled the wide open skies with cries and calls. The small dolphins swam back up the triple rivers to find food. The plants opened and the insects buzzed up and downwards. All through the day new creatures started to explore the land and found their way around. The sun started to get ready to go to bed, snuggling down behind the snow blanketing the mountains and the animals found their way into homes, caves and safe branches of trees to sleep after a long day.
Once sleep had started to creep across the tops of the mountains a pair of green-grey eyes peered out from her hiding place following a pink nose and wide paws. Stripes and spots followed, on undulating shoulders covered in short fur. Clouds of rich colour chased across her spine towards her strong back legs. She came out into the open and looked up to clear stars in a sky blacking from blue. Like all of the other animals she had been hiding from the noise when the earth was making itself whole and had been waiting to come out and explore, but to her the rest of the creatures had sounded as scary as the world’s collisions so she waited. Patiently she watched and when all was quiet she crept on short legs towards the nearest tree and started to climb.
She danced among the trees and ran across the ground, her feet sure and her head smiling. Sharp teeth looked over the food and the playtimes she was chasing. She found her place in the new lands. The mountains welcomed her, a friend for the between-light-times. Her paw prints left a trail in the snow and she rubbed her head against her hunting ground. She ran and chased the moon as it echoed the direction of the last day. Tired she followed her feet back home. The birds woke up as she walked along their trees back to her rest. They started calling as she fell asleep. Her dreams were full of the peace that she knew when the land was just going to sleep and waking back up. She had seen new places and new creatures but it was in the empty half-lights that she was her own self.
And that was how the first Clouded Leopard claimed the day’s dusk and the night’s dawn as her own.