Rated: ASR · Fiction · Children's · #819212
They look like leopards, tigers, and lions all mixed together into one ugly beast...
In the Forest of Darkness that surrounds Jeffrey's bed, lives Fire-breathing Elephants, Deadly Spiders, Golden Ants that can talk, and the fiercest beast of them all, the dreaded Leoparigerion.
Leoparigerions are so mean, that if hungry enough, they will eat the bark from the trees, the thorns from the prickly pear, or even the rocks from the very ground. They look like a leopard, tiger, and lion all mixed together into one of the most ferocious and ugly beasts ever known to Man. They have black spots on sleek yellow fur, thin stripes across their shoulders, and a very bushy mane and tail. Their yellow eyes can see in the dark, and they can smell food from more than five miles away. Leoparigerions are fast as a leopard, cunning as a tiger, and as savage as the King of Beasts, but the important thing to remember is that they only hunt when they are hungry - and they are hungry all the time.
On the outskirts of the forest lives a little boy named Jeffrey; he is freckle-faced and red-haired with eyes the color of the afternoon sky. Jeffrey is a brave hunter, and it's only the darkness that surrounds his bed at night that ever gives him reason to pause. His mother says to be patient because the darkness will always be chased away by the morning sun.
So, Jeffrey is patient -- as patient as any six-year-old could ever hope to be. And while he waits for the darkness to run from his room, he warily scans the black forest that surrounds his bed.
Jeffrey knows that there are dark parts of the forest that even the sunlight can never hope to reach, places like the Closet Caves or the Under the Bed Tunnel.
He sits upon his magic bed and studies his trusty bow and rubber-tipped arrows that lay at his side. The bed is his sanctuary, and nothing may reach him here. Not Golden Ants. Not Deadly Spiders. Not Fire-breathing Elephants. Not even Leoparigerions. The bed is always safe. At least, until this very instant, when Jeffrey decides to slip off the bed and venture into the forest to do some hunting.
The grass is burned at the spot where Jeffrey enters the forest, and he recalls the last time he hunted here. He fought a blazing battle with a Fire-breathing Elephant and narrowly escaped with his life after jumping on his bed in just the nick-of-time. Jeffrey shivered at the thought, and feeling the evening cold, he wishes for his housecoat, but it is too late to turn back now.
He pushes on into the darkness, traversing through a large pile of dirty clothes he had promised his mom he was going to pick up. Suddenly, he realizes that he should not have disturbed the mound of laundry.
He hears them.
They are coming.
The Golden Ants.
With mandibles clicking furiously, the ants swarm out of the pile, their bronze-colored bodies glisten in the morning sun, and their antennae lay flat against their heads, which is a sure sign of threatening attack. They completely encircle Jeffrey. They twitter and chitter as if they appeared to be waiting for something, or someone.
Jeffrey readies his bow.
“Who will die first?” he says to them, as bravely as possible.
A large, gold-colored ant approaches from the rear. The others part a clear path for her. She wears a golden crown as magnificent as anything Jeffrey has ever seen. He bows low, showing respect to her as she draws near.
“Greetings, your majesty, Antacid,” he says, overly-loud.
“Jeffrey, Great Hunter of the Black Forest and Keeper of the Magic Bed -- greetings!” The queen ant curtsies in an ant kind of way. “Are you here to chase us out of our new mound like you did when we lived under your bed?”
“No, your majesty. This time I hunt the Leoparigerion. Have you seen them?”
“When the Leoparigerions are about, we Ants hide deep within our tunnels. I fear they are close by though, for several of our scouts have turned-up missing. They were searching the Closet Caves in the deepest part of the forest, when they simply failed to return home.”
“Ah, the Closet Caves . . .” Jeffrey shoulders his bow. “Yes, I know them well, and I’m afraid that is exactly where my path leads me. I’ve hunted at the Closet’s dark doorway before but have never explored the blackness waiting inside. I am positive the Leoparigerions live there, and I will hunt and chase them from the forest forever.”
“You are very brave indeed, Jeffrey. Perhaps I can offer you some assistance in your hunt?” With her front leg she removes a necklace she is wearing. There is a six-inch plastic tube hanging from it. “This is a magic light-stick,” the queen says. “We found it while digging through the mound of clothes.” She carefully puts the necklace over Jeffrey’s head. “It is said, that in time of need, all you must do is bend and shake the light-stick hard and a brightly-colored glow will magically appear.”
“Thank you, Queen Antacid. I will wear it proudly.”
“May it serve you well, brave hunter. And good luck to you on your quest.”
At that, the Talking Ants scurry into a single row and file back into their mound. Queen Antacid is the last to enter. She pauses and looks back at Jeffrey. “Farewell!” she exclaims, then disappears into the mound.
Jeffrey slowly turns and continues deeper into the Dark Forest. He hears the unmistakable roar of a Leoparigerion. The beast sounds hungry. Jeffrey knows he is heading in the right direction.
Suddenly, a ravenous fiend attacks out of nowhere. Jeffrey ducks low as the Leoparigerion sails over the top of his head. Pulling back on his bow-string, Jeffrey falls to one knee and lets fly a poisonous arrow. It strikes the beast full in the side, and the leoparigerion falls over dead. There is another roar from in the distance. “A hunting party,” whispers Jeffrey.
He continues on until he reaches the entrance to the Closet Cave, peers inside, but can see nothing but darkness. He hears the Leoparigerions all around him, closing in, forcing him toward the mouth of the cave -- there is no escape. Jeffrey sets his jaw in determination, then bolts for the cave, running as fast as he can into the darkness beyond. The Leoparigerions, gnashing their sharp, pointy teeth, hastily follow.
Jeffrey blindly runs into the depths of the cave. He can smell the stink of the Leoparigerions everywhere. “This must be their lair,” he says, sniffing. “And with only one way out.” He hears them growling, getting closer and closer. He listens to their terrible claws scratching the rocks as they climb to get above him, trying to cut him off.
The Leoparigerions have the advantage -- they can see in the dark, while Jeffrey is stone-blind. Suddenly, he remembers the magic light-stick Queen Antacid gave him. Grabbing it with both hands, Jeffrey bends the stick, hears something break inside, then shakes the tube as hard as he can. A neon-green glow appears in his hand. Startled, the Leoparigerions back away from the strange, eerie light. Jeffrey can see them now. There are so many.
Letting the light-stick hang loose about his neck, he aims his bow at the nearest Leoparigerion and fires. The creature falls. He loads and shoots again -- and again, and again, killing ten . . . twenty . . . thirty Leoparigerions.
The beasts are so scared they run frantically about the cave, howling and growling, trying to avoid Jeffrey’s arrows. Then there are no more arrows, and Jeffrey stands defenseless before the remaining leoparigerions. Bravely, he climbs a small foot stool he finds on the cave floor. Shaking his arms and fists he lets out his loudest, most horrendous war-cry. The leopardigerions can take no more, clamoring over each other in a frantic retreat, they run from the cave and out of the forest as fast as they can . . . never to be seen or heard from again.
Jeffrey breathes a sigh of relief as he gathers up his arrows and heads toward home. Because of his courage, brave heart, and nerves of steel, he has rid the Dark Forest of the terrible leoparigerions forever.
As he nears home, Jeffrey fails to see a pair of sinister, yellow eyes watching him intently from beneath the Magic Bed. He removes his bow and empty quiver and sets them on his pillow. Just as he is about to jump upon the bed, a hairy, clawed-paw reaches out and grabs Jeffrey firmly by the slipper, pulling him down to the floor, trying to drag him under the bed. It is the queen of the leoparigerions, and she is very big and very angry. She reaches up and grabs at Jeffrey’s leg, tearing a hole in his pajamas.
Cats have soft noses, and leoparigerions are no different. Jeffrey, knowing this from reading books about animals, kicks the Queen square in the nose. She lets out a terrific growling-scream and releases Jeffrey’s foot. He jumps to the safety of his bed just as he sees the queen of the leoparigerions leap out of the bedroom window and run across the front yard to catch-up with the rest of her pride.
There is a knock at his bedroom door. “Jeffrey, time to get ready for bed, dear.” The door opens and the prettiest mom in the whole wide world enters Jeffrey’s room. “Homework done, dear? Teeth brushed? School clothes out for tomorrow?”
“Uh . . . yeah, sure, Mom.”
“What on earth happened to your pajamas, young man? How’d you get such a big hole in the knee?”
Jeffrey smiled proudly. “It was the leoparigerions, Mom. But don’t worry, they won’t be coming back here no more.”
“Lepar . . . iger . . . ions? What in the heck is that? Oh, never mind. Get in the bed.” She covers him up and lightly kisses his forehead. “Goodnight, my tall, brave hunter."
"Goodnight, Mom. I love you.”