They stood serene in the light. They stood in a line, the three of them, the last three animals in the jungle. They stood together, at the panther’s wake, as golden light cut through the leaves and lit up their friend, their enemy, reduced to ash beneath stone.
‘At least that’s one less thing to worry about,’ thought the gazelle. ‘Is that so terrible of me? He was a nice panther, but I swear it must have been him stealing my chickens. Not that I need those chickens, I know food is scarce and I’m a vegetarian and all. But they give me purpose, my chickens. I can’t have kids ever, because I’m the last of my kind, so they’re all I have. Being a parent might not be important to them, but it is to me. I know the panther never understood that. I suppose he was always a selfish panther. All panthers are in fact, selfish, roaming the night as they please, roaring at the moon, with total disregard for the rest of us trying to sleep. And he always turned up at dawn and dusk, like some kind of prophet. God complex my friends, if I ever saw one. And I swear one time in the white dawn, I saw feathers in his mouth, but of course he quickly skulked away, like he always does. God damn panther. But I will miss his jokes. He certainly told a few hoof ticklers.’
‘The trees are mine,’ thought the monkey, ‘hell yes they are. No more sharing them with that slippery beast, who just pops up from time to time, slithering out of the dark, a pair of bright green eyes floating in the shadows, creeping me the fuck out. I play so hard all day, grooming and hitting myself, I need the night to rest and digest all those papayas. One things for sure though, I don’t believe what they’re saying. It makes no sense. He fell from a tree while sleepwalking? Don’t be mental. I’ve seen the panther in action. If he fell from a tree, then I’m king of the jungle. And if I’m the king, then we’re in trouble. I don’t need that kind of responsibility. I might be smart, but damn, I just want to have fun. A monkey’s gotta play.’
‘My dearest friend,’ thought the croc, ‘I know I will miss you the most. I’m sorry it came to this, so sorry, like an ant-eater with no tongue, forever starving. But I had no choice, panther, dear friend, for you made me feel worthless. I waited there in the river, day and night, spinning in the muddy flow, watching the trees, hoping one day you’d call me up there, to join you, where the birds once sang and the fruit grows. But no panther, you talked down to me from on high, chuckling in the moonlight, making me love you with your comedy and your mystical might. I loved you panther, you damn arrogant fool. And you broke me. I had no choice. You needed to die, for I could not go on watching you every day, knowing I will never be your equal, great panther. But now I will rule, from down here on the river banks. Now I’m the king of the jungle, you overly-mystical, creepy, little fool…’