And when, still muddy from the flood, the earth
had dried beneath the sunlight’s clement warmth,
she brought forth countless living forms: while some
were the old sorts that earth had now restored,
she also fashioned shapes not seen before.
And it was then that earth, against her will,
had to engender you, enormous Python,
a horrid serpent, new to all men’s eyes—
a sight that terrified the reborn tribes:
your body filled up all the mountainside.
In the beginning there was darkness. Chaos lived here. From out of chaos light was born. And these two gods would wrestle for all eternity.
When lightness was born, life arose from all that it touched. In time the water would boil and rain would burst forth from the heavens, and the earth would slowly begin to froth with life as the seas churned and the land baked.
From out of the earth a spirit of greatness sprang forth and manifested into the form of a lion. From this lineage produced a princely lion of great destiny. He lived in a wide valley surrounded by mountains in the heart of a great continent. In the middle of the valley was a ridge where this lion’s pride could see the entire kingdom from its perch. There was no suffering, no death, no evil. Reincarnation would transform life into life.
The lion was happy. The princely lion would patrol his kingdom, walking the perimeter, taking stock of the animals he ruled over. Each day at sunset the lion would return to the pride on the perch and sleep.
Darkness was the time of chaos.
One day he was sauntering along the streams outlining the valley when he heard a voice whisper in the distance. He looked and saw a cave and approached. He had not seen this cave before, this small dark mouth in the mountain.
Hello, he called. A voice echoed back, Hello
Who is there?
A friend, said the echo
The lion approached the dark cave and a snake smoothly slithered from out of the darkness.
Who are you? said the lion.
I am looking for a king said the snake.
The lion puffed his chest, I am the king
Wonderful! The snake said, we need a wise king. Will you come with me?
Where are you going? Said the lion
To take you to your kingdom, said the snake.
This is my kingdom, the world is my kingdom.
The snake laughed and the lion roared
How dare you laugh at me!
I’m sorry sir, but there is another kingdom, beyond yours
The lion did not understand.
You speak nonsense. Everything the light touches is my kingdom. I can see all the earth from my throne.
You are right sir. But there is a kingdom beyond the light
The lion grew curious.
Where is this kingdom then?
I will take you there said the snake, and he began slithering into the cave.
The lion stopped. He knew that no life was permitted to venture into the darkness, for this was the holy promise to the great mother earth, that light shall guide our steps, and without it, all is lost.
The snake paused and turned. Why, dear king, can you not go into the darkness?
The lion paused. Because the darkness is for sleeping and creation. The darkness is where the new day germinates.
You are right, said the snake. But your new kingdom lies on the other side of the darkness.
The lion was perplexed by this riddle. He looked over his shoulder and saw the sun setting behind him.
Be gone snake. You speak in riddles and nonsense. I am king of all the earth.
Very well said the snake.
The lion returned home and had a dream that night.
That night the lion fell into a restless sleep and slipped into a dream. He returned to the cave and saw the snake coiled upon its self, eating its tail.
Why are you eating yourself, Snake? You will die! said the lion.
The snake stared wide eyed at the lion and continued eating.
The lion turned from the cave lifted his eyes to he heavens. The sky turned red and the sun turned black and darkness enveloped them.
Where is the light! the lion said
I will show you the light, the snake echoed
Follow me and I will show you the light…
The lion could not move his feet. All around him was blackness. Suddenly the light returned and the sun shone brightly. Hotter and hotter until the bush and trees burst into flames and all was engulfed in the roar of raging fire. The lion grew fearful and closed his eyes and roared loudly. And suddenly there was peace and coolness. The lion opened his eyes and he stood surrounded by endless dust and desert. In the distance there was a mighty dune. He climbed the dune and peered into the distance and saw a mountain, and below the dune there was a pool. Thirsty, he descended to quench his dry mouth.
He approached the pool and saw a baboon next to a coconut tree, bathing in the sun. Trying not to disturb the baboon. The lion looked into the pool and saw his reflection. His majestic mane blew in the wind. The lion bent to drink.
If you drink you will die, said the baboon
The lion stopped and looked at the motionless baboon for a time, then bent to drink again.
You will die, the baboon said again.
Who are you, said the lion.
I am a friend here to help you
The baboon rose.
Do as I say and you will live.
He climbed the tree and retrieved several coconuts and wove a rope from the palms and strung the coconuts around the lions neck.
What is this nonsense, said the lion. It’s heavy.
Walk to the mountain my Prince and you will find more help along the way
I need to drink said the lion
Soon said the baboon.
The lion was parched and exhausted by the heat. He looked at the cool blue pool in longing, then at the old baboon.
Being in a foreign land he felt helpless, the first time in his life.
Very well said the lion.
He began to walk towards the mountain. He continued onward toward the mountain in the distance, up the steep dune surrounding the pool.
Back at oasis, the pool belched gaseous vapors and a carcass floated to the surface. The baboon, seated peacefully under the palm, opened one of his eyes and observed a dead lion float to the surface and sink back into its depths again.
The lion scaled dune after dune in the desert heat. His limbs were growing weak and soon he collapsed from exhaustion. The sun baked his gold fur and he closed his weary eyes.
“Foolish lion” said a voice
The lion opened his eyes
“Foolish lion who listens to monkeys”, the voice said again
The lion saw a small lizard crawl out from under the sand
“Some king you are taking orders from a monkey” said the lizard
The lion winced and tried to speak but his mouth was too parched to form words.
The lizard crawled on the lions back and inspected the coconuts.
Silly lion, taking orders from monkeys. But you look like a tasty treat, said the lizard, and he bit into the lions flesh.
Too exhausted to move the lion released a deep groan.
A shadow flicked overhead and in the next moment the lizard squeaked and leapt from the lion and jetted across the rippled sand.
A howl pierced the air and a plume of sand erupted where the lizard once was. When the dust settled the lion saw a large raven tossing the remains of the lifeless lizard into air and down his throat. The raven then turned to the lion and peered at this lifeless king of beasts. He hopped closer and, inspecting the coconuts, hammered his beak into their flesh. Water began to trickle out.
Drink, said the Raven. You’re close.
He nudged the coconut closer to the lion and the lion lapped the refreshing coconut water. Life returned to his limbs.
Rise and follow me.
The lion rose and continued his march, while the raven flew overhead
Soon he reached the foot of the mountain, just as the sun was setting
There were large rocks at the base, crags and pointed peaks. He climbed the mountain and at the top he saw a large tree engulfed in flames. A voice spoke:
You must fulfill your destiny as king and step into the darkness, said the voice
The lion shook with fear.
The voice spoke again.
Go into the darkness and bring the light into the kingdom, said the voice
The tree burned bright and the lion bowed his head and shielded his eyes
Go now, said the voice.
The trees flamed and roared louder and louder until suddenly silence.
The lion opened his eyes and was greeted by the morning sun. He stood and saw his pride all around him stirring in their sleep. The sun just began breaking over the horizon, illuminating the valley below.
What a strange dream, the lion thought.
He was disturbed by the dream. What does it mean? He thought of the cave and the snake the day prior. That day he roamed the valley like he had done so many times before, but he could not get the dream nor the snake from his thoughts.
He returned to the cave and approached the opening and called into it.
An echo rang back.
He began to walk into the cave, deeper and deeper. He turned and saw the light at the entrance of the cave appear as a small bright dot.
Hello, he called.
Hello hello hello, the echo called back.
He walked further and lost his footing and slipped and tumbled down the rocks and into a free fall. The lion looked up as he fell and the last trace of light extinguished into blackness as he plunged into the dark pit. Time stopped and the lion trembled at the thought of being lost and dying alone. Down down down he fell until he splashed into dark waters. His lifeless body, shocked with pain, paralyzed with fear, floated in the dark waters. Beneath the waters was only the sound of whooshing and his heartbeat. Blackness bled into nothingness.
The lion felt arms wrap around his body and pull him from the waters and onto shore. The sun warmed his body.
There were voices all around him, and he felt himself being pushed and prodded.
He opened his eyes and there were a pair of awkward looking animals towering over him. Small, furless creatures, resembling monkeys, standing on two legs, with tufts of blonde hair on their head, and slender limbs with long fingers, and pink lips. The lion reeled back and splashed into the water. The small figures all cackled with laughter and pointed.
The lion looked into the water and saw a reflection he did not recognize. Instead of a golden mane, he saw a hairless face, with gold locks of hair. He was one of these fair, furless monkeys.
William, the creatures exclaimed, you scared us!
William? Thought the lion. Who is William?
Don’t swim so deep next time! You’ll drown yourself, they said.
The lion thought himself to be in another dream, even more bizarre, so he relaxed and played along
I’m sorry, he said.
That’s okay. Lets get dressed and go to supper. Mother is calling us.
The lion looked into the water again and studied his reflection for a moment, opening his eyes wide in curiosity. He looked down at his small frail body. He was wearing a pair of shorts. He shivered and looked back at the female creatures. They began skipping off.
William, the lion thought to himself. What a peculiar name.
He picked himself up and began crawling forward before he realized how awkward this was. He looked at the creatures ahead, and raised himself on two legs, gaining his balance. He stepped forward and walked after the creatures.
The lion was now a boy, in a world he was not familiar with. He soon learned that these two creatures were called humans, and that they were his sisters.
He met his mother who was setting the table for dinner.
You’re a mess William! Get cleaned for supper and put on a new set of clothes.
William looked at his half naked body. It was smeared with dirt. Mud and grass protruded between his toes, what once were paws. He began to lick himself clean.
His sisters began to squeal with laughter.
William! his mother said. Stop being an animal and clean yourself up this instant. She grabbed him by the arm and led him to the bathroom where she turned on the shower. She left and returned with a towel and some garments.
Clean yourself up and hurry down to dinner, she said before closing the door. The shower steamed the glass. William took his hand and smeared the glass to study his face. What a strange dream, he thought to himself. I will play along. My destiny awaits.
William stepped into the steaming shower. It felt nice and rejuvenating. He rinsed his fleshy body and rolled around on the towel to dry himself. He picked up the clothes and put them on as best as he could figure.
He returned to the table downstairs and took a seat next to his sisters. His mother sat and called “Dinner is ready!”
A large solemn human entered and sat at the head of the table.
He looked at his family.
Smells great, he said.
William, your shirt is on backwards.
William looked down and back at the man, then at his sisters who laughed.
William almost drowned today! they said
Yes he was trying to touch the bottom of the blue hole and we had to go pull him up.
Don’t be stupid William, said the man. No need to show off.
William blushed. They said prayers and ate a marvelous dinner. William used his mouth, being unfamiliar with utensils, which earned him more scolds.
That night he laid in this new bed, and felt very alone. I hope I wake from this horrible dream, he thought to himself. He thought of his kingdom, his pride, his family.
Soon he fell into a deep sleep.
Light filled the room and birds chirped nearby. The young lion stretched his legs and opened his eyes. He was not on his lofty valley perch. He was on a bed, in a room.
Wake up William! the voice of the lady said from downstairs.
You’ll be late for school!
School? he thought. He shrugged and proceeded to climb out of bed.
The mother lady scolded him for not dressing himself for school and took him back upstairs to put on some clothes and hurried him out the door with a paper bag and a bag fixed to his back. He and his sisters walked to school. There were large trails of rock in every direction, straight and long, crossing with other trails. Marvelous wooden homes lined these trails, called streets.
William made it to school and encountered a large area where many children were running about, climbing, kicking balls, huddled in groups. His sisters ran off and he was again alone. No matter. They were all different shapes and sizes. William found a large tree and sat beneath it and observed the children. A large green caterpillar was articulating his way across some fallen leaves. William picked it up and examined its small face.
Hello sir, can you tell me where my home is?
The caterpillar raised itself and replied, Dear king, you are at home. You need to make your kingdom here now.
That can’t be right, said William. My home is far away. I need to find my way back.
You will, said the caterpillar. But if you excuse me your highness, I need to finish my breakfast and began weaving my cocoon! I wish you the best on your journey, he said, before leaping off Williams hand, and descending down a silk thread.
A bell rang and the crowds of children ran towards a large building.
A large monstrous woman came from behind William.
Boy, it’s time to get in line! William looked at her in confusion.
She grabbed him by the backpack and led him to a line of children and deposited him at the back.
They were lead into a room and another lady with a beaming smile and greeted them.
Welcome children! said the women.
They put their bags away and then assembled into a circle. William sat through this class largely mystified and confused. For hours they would rotate between listening to this lady and creating designs with wax sticks, which they called penmanship. Then they would plant some seeds in a foam cup with soil, play with colorful blocks, and parrot back some words to the teacher. They ate food from their brown papers bags, had a nap on foam mats, ran around outside before they returned to parrot more of the large lady.
Then they were released from the school and William and his sisters and a serry of children walked home, peeling off into their respective homes on one by one until they said goodbye to the last children and walked up to their house. Mother was waiting on the porch husking corn.
Grab a seat and help your momma with the corn.
William and his sisters husked corn and soon ran to play in the back yard.
William’s sisters, Jennifer and Nicole, would run through the woods with William, searching for the forests creatures. William would stop and speak to the animals and send them a message to bring back to his kingdom. None of the creatures could tell William how to return, but they all knew he was king, and respected him for his kindness, despite his boyish appearance.
William was an odd child, and the other boys didn’t seem to take to his weird ways, frolicking in the woods, finding wood creatures, and playing in the rivers. This is where William felt most at home. The other boys preferred these games on a magic box with buttons. Video games. Sparkling images would entrance the boys for hours, but William would grow tired and restless.
In his classrooms William would be more fascinated by the ant crawling across the classroom carpet, or examining the rainbows produced by prisms of glassware, or examining the surface of a buckeye he cracked from its shell. His teachers would grow more and more impatient with his inattention.
They soon consulted with his parents and took him to an elder called the Doctor. The doctor thought that William was sick, and had his parents give him a white pill twice a day. This would heal William of his preoccupations with nature and bugs and animals, and help him sit for hours while the teacher parroted.
The pill indeed worked. William was entranced every day after taking the pill. His wonder and enthusiasm soon waned, and he found himself greeted with smiles and good remarks from all the adults, but inside William felt like he was dying. He moved less and less, and could sit for hours for no reason, his mind attending to what was in front of him, or dreaming of his old kingdom.
Each night he would call out to the animals beyond his windowsill, the moths and bats and owls and fireflies, and tell them his story, asking them to find a way to pass along his message to his parents in his kingdom. Each night he longed for this dream to end, and each morning he woke to the humans ordering him around, get dressed, do your penmanship, practice your words, clean your room, eat your vegetables. (Lions don’t eat vegetables.)
As he grew older William developed into a strong, smart boy. His father was a military captain with a strong faith in god. He lived by the book, and William’s mother, a loving and kind woman, kept the house and fed the children.
When William wasn’t roaming the forests, he was sprawled out in his father’s library reading the encyclopedia’s and other books of his fathers. After he learned to read, William discovered how large the world was. These books contained all these stories of other kingdoms, other lives and countries and ways to live. William was fascinated and read voraciously.
He would dream up all kinds of his own inventions and imaginative works, drawing elaborate schemes, devices, or images.
Williams father was an eccentric man, and the family was always moving to new houses to renovate and remodel before moving to another home, far away. William spent much of his time alone, in the wood, in books, or with his sisters. He was an odd child. Not like the others, but that’s expected since he was a lion.
At school William rarely fit it. His mane was transformed into long golden hair, and often the other children would laugh at him. What did a lion care for the opinion of these sheep, anyway.
On the playground a group of kids would take to bullying William, tripping him, kicking balls at him, and defacing his chalk drawings. William didn’t pay them too much mind until one day he saw them picking on someone else.
There was a new girl, named Claudia, from some country south of America, he was told. She barely spoke a word, and had half her arm missing; just a twist of skin on the stump, like the end of a sausage. The other children would laugh and point and treat her as if she was infected, never playing with her, and avoiding her.
One day in class, while William was inspecting the patterned crevices that collected small rocks on the bottom of his shoes, the teacher called everyone to collect in small groups for a project. They would be planting bulbs. All the children gathered together and collected supplies for the teacher. William dreamily scanned the room and saw Claudia alone in the corner of the room. He looked at the other children happily at work, and Claudia seated there alone, looking at the floor. His heart began to crush with compassion. He walked over and sat next to her.
They became friends.