The Jungle – 2009


The air is thick and still in amongst the trees, every surface dappled with shafts of light penetrating through from the canopy. Insects crawl in the damp soil, hidden among the leaves and the decaying remains of the half-eaten fruits discarded by the monkeys high in the trees above. Their chattering fills the silence, the constant squabbling a reminder that the jungle is teeming with life. The calls of birds ring out from all around, the culprits hidden in the thick foliage from prying eyes. A snake moves silently through the undergrowth, occasionally pausing as if it senses something that no one else can, its forked tongue flicking in and out, testing the air. Somewhere nearby the squeals of a distressed animal are cut short as it falls prey to a member of the food chain apparently higher than itself. A group of small antelopes take refuge in a small open clearing, basking in the sunlight pouring through the hole in the canopy of the rainforest, grazing on the thick green grass and leafy ground plants. They seem to be comfortable in the open space; it is obviously one of their usual spots. A group of younger antelopes frolic in the center of the clearing, careful not to stray too close to the shadowy areas on the edges, an obvious hiding place for any predator that cared to attempt an attack on their group. The larger animals graze closer to the outside, their ears pricked, alert to the many sounds of the jungle environment.

In its rock den nearby, a tiger stirs from its slumber. It slowly emerges into the open, moving with a lazy confidence, the master of its domain. As it moves through the jungle, spots of light illuminate its brilliantly coloured fur. As it nears the clearing, it starts moving lower to the ground, slowing its movements down so as not to disturb even a single blade of grass. The beast moves with a practiced ease, blending in with its surroundings, attracting minimal attention while still moving as efficiently as possible, closing the distance between it and its prey. Reaching the edge of the clearing, the tiger stops, concealed by grass and deep shadows. The antelope, still grazing, are blissfully unaware to the predator’s presence. The smaller ones are straying close to the edge now, lulled into a false sense of security. The muscles in the tiger’s legs coil up like springs, full of pent up energy waiting to be released. The young antelopes are within strike range now, bounding innocently about. Then, in a terrifying and beautiful climax, everything happens at once. One of the larger ones trips and tumbles to the ground, the tiger propels itself into the open, a force of nature bearing down on the fallen creature on the ground, and noise explodes from above as the monkeys become aware of the imminent danger. Within seconds it is over. The clearing deserted, the squealing of the monkeys reduced to a distant whine, and the tiger slinking back into the shadows, the broken body of the antelope dangling lifelessly from its jaws, a tax taken so easily by the king of the jungle.


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