Hunter and Prey by Layla Horsington

Hunter and Prey by Layla Horsington

Runner Up (Children Category)

The moon light cast shadows on the darkened zoo. The zookeeper was almost ready to turn out the last light, ready to go home to his family. The silence was broken by the occasional growling and hissing of the animals. Destiny waited impatiently at the door of her enclosure. She could see the last light in the keeper’s office. “Just a little longer.” She growled to herself in a deep velvety voice. Finally, the light went off and the leopard quietly pushed against the bars of her loose door with all her might. Harder and harder she pushed until the door finally gave way.

Destiny shot off into the darkness, pausing at the zoo’s gate. She smiled to herself, flexed her muscles and jumped. She padded silently through the streets, unseen as she stealthily weaved her way through the town. She turned corners, made her to way to the outskirts and into the African Savannah. Destiny slept in a towering tree. The rumbling of her stomach awoke her. She felt ravenous. She had not known hunger like this since her escape. Her wide violet eyes scanned the savannah’s horizon, she sniffed, looking for any signs of food. Destiny’s sharp gaze fell upon a young gazelle that had wandered from its herd.

She crept across the stringy wheaten grass, shielded by bushes and small trees. When she got close enough, she pounced on the unfortunate gazelle. The doomed animal struggled desperately against the hungry leopard. Destiny slashed at the gazelle with her razor-sharp claws, and once it was dead, devoured the meat. Her thirst was becoming overwhelming, so she searched for water. She made her way to a nearby lake and drank. Destiny saw her reflection in the water and splashed at it. She was having so much fun being free!

Suddenly a horn blasted and a single archer emerged from the underbrush. “One?” Destiny said scornfully to herself.  She was sure that she could handle this. On command from the first archer, ten others sprang from their hiding place in the bushes. Destiny glanced at their sharpened obsidian arrows. Just then, she received some unexpected help from the thick branches above. A muscular male leopard leapt towards the ground. Before the leading archer could signal to shoot the leopard sprang effortlessly onto him. The weight of the big cat made him crumple to his knees, crying out in pain. Despite this, several archers released their arrows and one plunged into his hide, wounding him. Destiny’s feline instincts told her to attack. Roaring loudly, she wildly slashed at them. Dropping their weapons, they fled in fear.

Panting heavily, with their hearts racing, the leopards watched them flee. Destiny and the majestic young leopard sprang up to the wide branches above them to rest. As dawn was breaking, the male leopard told Destiny his name was Fang. They bonded for life and their first litter had three fierce cubs. Destiny finally had a family. She was content.

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