Petra’s second challenge.

 

 

Once back in the house, Petra was mobbed by Ahanu and Haimati, wanting to know whether she’d carried out the sentence on Simba.  Petra, still shaking from the enormity of what she’d been tasked to do, refused to answer their questions, much to Ahanu’s disgust.

       “You won’t discuss any of it?”  He asked.

      “No,” Petra mewed, “do you think I liked killing him?  I know I did kill him, but I can’t remember details.”

      “I’ll bet she wrung his neck,” Isaac said, padding near.

      “Is that how it was done?”  Ahanu asked.  Upset and tired, Petra brought her paw slamming down on Ahanu’s, startling the cross bred cat.

        “Hey!”  He mewed.

       “I’m not talking about it, okay?”  Petra snapped.

        “Okay, Okay, Keep your fur on!”  Ahanu mewed.  Petra’s response to this was to slap Ahanu hard across his face.

       “Don’t you ever, ever tell me to keep my fur on?”  Petra snarled, “I deal with this kind of effluent all the time, Simba’s crimes sully my mind and weigh heavy on me.  So don’t tell me to keep my fur on Ahanu, for you have no idea what’s going on!”

      “That was so stupid Ahanu!”  Haimati mewed.

      “Not you as well!”  Ahanu spat, “Petra’s on my case now, I don’t need you also!”

       “Oooh dear, one angry kitty,” Bjorn scoffed.

       “You can shut up too!”  Ahanu yelled, furious with the bear cub, “you know nothing, nothing!”

       “That makes two of you then,” Petra mewed.  Ahanu stamped from the passage, Haimati following.  Petra felt dreadful, her head ached and her paws felt heavier than usual.

      “You look exhausted Petra,” Duke mewed.

      “I’m all in,” Petra admitted.  Duke hesitated, before asking:

      “I wonder, could I?  I mean, would you let me?  I want to, oh dear!”  Duke babbled, daisy glancing at him with mild irritation.

       “Paw massage would be great,” Petra mewed.  Duke smiled:

      “So I can stroke your paws?”  He asked hopefully.

       “Yes,” Petra mewed, every part of every single one.”  Duke smiled:

      “Thank you,” he purred.  Petra smiled:

       “I know you’ve wanted to stroke my paw for a long time,” she purred, “so now’s your chance.”

      “Why does he get special treatment?”  Bjorn snapped, “We never get to stroke your paws!  Or is it that you have a thing for duke?  Bianca is gonna be really impressed with that!”

      “You have never before asked if you can stroke my paws,” Petra mewed, “and as for Bianca not liking Duke stroking my paws, she’ll understand.  Duke isn’t looking for cubs with me, he just wants to stroke my paws, and right now, I’m up for it.”

 

 

Duke followed Petra to her rug, alarmed at her paw dragging progress.  It was as if her paw pads had become lead weights, leading to the lioness dragging her paws rather than walking properly.

      “I’m beaten,” Petra mewed, quite literally collapsing onto the rug, duke catching her as she fell, supporting her head, and gently resting it on the rug.

       “I don’t like this!”  Petra mewed, now distressed, “I’ve never had to do that before, Salty’s the one who usually does these things!  What’s happening to me!  My paws are heavy, I ache from my head to my toes, and I’m feeling wretched!”

      “It’s the affects of the amnesia induced by eohippus so you don’t remember what you did to Simba,” Theo mewed.

        “I remember,” Duke said, “I know what Petra did.”

      “Don’t think of that while you stroke her paws duke,” Theo warned, “for Petra will feel it.”  Petra lay as if lifeless, her paws too heavy to lift.  She couldn’t even curl her toes, so tired was she?

       “Please release me from this!”  Petra wailed.  Duke took fright at the lioness’s tone:

       “She’s ill, not just tired!”  He mewed, now terrified.

       “Swallow your own fear Duke,” Theo mewed, “concentrate on how you want Petra to feel when you’ve finished stroking her paws.  You must want to help Petra while you massage her paws, or it won’t work.  Think of her playing with you, not with heavy, uncooperative paws, but with light, mobile and agile paws.”

     “My paws are never agile,” Petra whimpered.

       “So what do I do?”  Duke asked.

      “Take one of Petra’s paws in both of yours and imagine what you want her to feel as you’re stroking and massaging each of her paws,”  Theo mewed, “once she’s relaxed, you might be able to tickle her paws too, but don’t force her into allowing you to do this.  She might play games with you when she’s feeling better, but not now.  Take her left forepaw in yours and start stroking it duke.”  Duke took Petra’s massive left forepaw in his, feeling how tense and exhausted she really was.  The toes on all four of Petra’s paws had curled hard, her claws nearly digging into her pads.  Duke couldn’t reach the fur between the pads of her paws, so bunched were her pads.

       “I can’t deal with this!”  Duke mewed, “Petra’s as tense as a drum skin!  Her paws are clenched so hard her claws are nearly digging into her pads!”

       “Try your best Duke,” Theo mewed.  Duke lay down and began to rub the pads of Petra’s left forepaw with his right fore, using his toes to stroke the bunched pads.  Duke closed his eyes, imagining the paw he was holding relaxing, the lioness’s toes uncurling and pads relaxing.  Petra panted with fear as she fought to control whatever was going on in her head.

 

After ten minutes of stroking, duke was no further forward with relaxing Petra’s paws.

        “I can’t do it!”  He growled, angry with himself.  Petra looked into Duke’s eyes, pleading with him to help her.

        “I thought it would be simple!”  Duke protested, “All I wanted to do was stroke your paws Petra, I didn’t want this!”

       “Do you think she wants to be where she is?”  Theo asked.

      “Um, no,” duke mewed, “but I’ve not got the knowledge to sort her out!”

       “My paws are so painful!”  Petra sobbed.

      “I can’t cope with this!”  Duke yelled, trying to drop Petra’s paw, but he couldn’t.

       “I can’t let go of your paw Petra!”  Duke yelled, “What the hell’s going on!”

       “it’s up to you to stroke her paws until she calms down,”  Theo mewed, “you offered to help her, now make good on that offer.  Duke began to sweat with fear.

       “If I do anything wrong, I will be so angry!”  Duke mewed.  Petra mumbled something which duke didn’t catch.

      “What did you say?”  He asked.

      “Just, just do your best duke,” Petra pleaded.

       “You’re asking the impossible!”  Duke whimpered, “I can’t give this lioness back her strength!”

       “But you must,” Theo mewed, “she saved your life duke, giving her back a little of the strength you have inside you is the least you can do for her.”  Duke shook his head:

       “I’m not strong!  I have no strength, no power, nothing to give her!”

       “Now isn’t that a pity,” Panja said, “for now it’s down to you duke to rescue Petra.  She went through hell for you, and now you will not repay her selfless actions?  She saved your life white one, and this is how you repay her!”

       “Don’t say that!”  Duke pleaded, “I know she did it for me, but she also did it for others, surely they bear as much of the burden as I do?”

       “If you hadn’t asked to stroke her paws, you wouldn’t be here now,” Panja replied, “now you have to help her, where ordinarily it would have been Theo who helped Petra through this time.  Now it is down to you.  Good luck, Petra’s life is in your paws duke, I hope you don’t throw it away.”  With that, the snow leopard turned and walked away.

       “Is he right?”  Duke asked Theo, who stood a little way off.

       “Yes,” Theo mewed, “usually I am the only one who will go near Petra when she’s had an experience like this.  Now though, you have, and have taken my place.  It’s down to you to find the strength within yourself to help Petra through this.  The last time this sort of thing happened, where Petra was really tested, was when she was a young cub.  Her foster mother poisoned her, and I helped her through it.  Now though, it’s down to you to help her through this.”

        “I don’t understand all this stuff!”  Duke mewed, “surely, surely she’s got Eohippus on her side?  Surely the white mare can help her?  I can’t!”

       “The white mare helped Petra by dulling her memory to the details of what she did to Simba while killing him,” Theo said, “now it is down to you to help her through the trauma of going against all her instincts.  She didn’t want to kill Simba, she was forced to.  Now you have a white lioness that’s emotionally injured.  You need to help her recover her belief in herself, for she’s lost it totally.  She doesn’t believe she can rise from what she had to do.  Petra is a normal lioness with special tasks to perform while she’s on this earth, tasks she will not be prepared for, such as the one she’s just undertaken.  Now you have to help her duke, to find it in you to restore her belief in herself.”

      “I can’t do this!”  Duke mewed, “I can’t do any of this!”  Suddenly Petra’s right forepaw clamped round duke’s paw, holding it with such desperate strength that the white tiger was moved to tears.

       “That was your last strength wasn’t it Petra,” he sniffed, “you’ve almost left us.”  The lioness just lay inert on the rug.

        “I don’t want you to die Petra!”  Duke screamed.

        “I can do nothing,” Theo mewed softly, trying not to cry, “For it is how it should be.  The first to offer Eohippus’s representative help after she’s carried out an arduous task must be the one to help her through it all. They can’t refuse the journey after they’ve offered a helping paw.”

       “Why didn’t Petra warn me of this?”  Duke mewed, “surely she knew what killing Simba would do to her!”

      “How could she?”  Theo asked, “Petra’s not Eohippus, Eohippus speaks through her!”

       “Then you should have warned me!”  Duke snarled, angry with Theo, “it’s all your fault!  You knew!”

       “I know yes,” Theo mewed, “but before I could offer my paw to Petra, you’d already offered yours.  I can’t take over from you duke, that’s not how it’s done.”

       “So it’s all down to me to help Petra,” Duke mewed.

       “Yes Duke, that’s right,” Theo replied.

 

Duke looked at Petra, his paws now free of hers.  She looked more dead than alive.

       “I can’t let her die, I won’t let her die!”  Duke thought.  Taking Petra’s left forepaw in both of his; duke rested his head on her shoulder.

      Petra, Petra dear, can you hear me?”  The white tiger whispered, “I don’t know how to help you, but I will try.”  Petra made no move, no signal to duke that she was hearing his words.

        “I love you Petra,” Duke whispered, not caring if he was overheard, “what you did was the right thing to do.  You saved my life, and countless other lives of which you have no knowledge.  What was that you said about you killing Simba being an act of love?  Don’t you believe that any more?”

        Petra is like fleur,” Theo mewed, “she can’t stand death.”

       “So they weren’t your words after all,” duke mewed to Petra, “nor were you in control of your actions from the minute you walked out of the door to perform the execution, to the time Simba was buried.  Rolling over and letting fleur have a go at you wasn’t natural behaviour, that was Eohippus’s doing, making you roll over to make fleur think twice?  You don’t understand it do you Petra.  While you sounded certain, that wasn’t really you that were someone else.  The Petra we know is now confused, shocked and horrified by what she has done.  When tigers and other animals see you in their dreams, they are seeing eohippus through you, not the real lioness who lives in the white body with its black paw pads.  In reality Petra, you’re a frightened cub, called to do a duty you don’t understand.  Theo understands it, but he’s not the one performing the duties.  He studies Eohippus, and has some insight into the minds of others.  You though, you cannot study eohippus, for you are living with her as your guide.  You are her mouth piece, her representative on earth.  It’s not for you to understand why Simba had to die.  If it was left up to you, you wouldn’t have killed Simba, for you couldn’t have killed him.  Eohippus chose you when she saw you had the right characteristics for her purposes.  A vegetarian lioness with white fur and black paw pads.  Eohippus numbs your mind to the details of Simba’s death, but cruelly leaves you with the job of working out why you did what you did.  Simba’s actions and his death were not your fault, not your doing.  You didn’t kill Simba, someone else did.  The problem is, no matter how good the intentions this higher force had, they have left a white lioness with a mess to clear up.  The only snag with this is that you don’t’ understand how to begin clearing the mess up, for you can’t understand.  You don’t remember what you have done after eohippus speaks through you.  You remember speaking words, or the intention to do justice to Simba, but you don’t remember the actual details, or know why you did what you did.  Eohippus was in control of you from the time Simba set paw in the wood.  You might have thought you’d told Raja to be careless, but it wasn’t you, it was someone else telling him, through you.  Petra, please, believe me, all this trouble, it wasn’t your doing, you didn’t kill Simba!  It was never your intention to kill him!”

 

Throughout duke’s speech, Petra’s paws had been relaxing bit by bit, and when the tiger stopped speaking, she was quite relaxed.

       “You’re right,” Petra mewed faintly, “I don’t understand, it scares me duke!”  Duke held Petra’s paws while she cried into his fur.

       “I can’t understand what you go through,” duke mewed, “I’d do anything to help you though Petra, now I know a little.  Please, let me help you.”

       “I don’t want to be the one who carries out death sentences on errant tigers,” Petra mewed, “I don’t mind helping out at a difficult cubbing, but I suppose if I like helping at cubbings, I need to deal with death too.  I don’t understand what happens to me when Eohippus gets hold of me, it’s a blank.  Now though, I know it’s not my fault, it isn’t any of my doing.  I didn’t want to kill Simba, but I had to.  Eohippus must have known fleur would think twice, if fleur hadn’t reconsidered, I wouldn’t be here now.”  Duke kissed Petra’s nose, the lioness purring with contentment.

       “From one misunderstood cub to another,” Petra mewed, “Duke, I’ve been wanting for years to have someone explain the eohippus thing to me.  It took strength, courage, and strong belief for you to tell me all that.”      “I do believe in your innocence” duke mewed, “you were the right lioness for the job, and eohippus chose you.”  Petra got to her paws, her eyes not leaving dukes.

       “You’re not a useless and unimportant cub,” Petra mewed, “Duke, promise me something.  Promise me, that from this day forth, you will walk with your head held high.  You are a good and kind tiger.  Another thing, remember this always, if you need me, I’ll come to you.”  Duke, his eyes full of tears, hugged Petra tenderly.

     “I love you Petra!”  Duke blurted.  Petra kissed duke on his nose.       “Now duke,” she mewed, “I must go.”  Duke, tears rolling down his nose, watched Petra leave.  Almost choking on his tears, duke turned away, feeling strangely bereft.      “I feel like Petra’s dead, not like she’s just gone to the next room!”  Duke thought, “Why do I feel this?”

 

Daisy saw her brother’s expression and padded up to him:

      “You promised me you wouldn’t do this!”  Daisy snapped, “Petra’s not your mate, she’s Aslan’s!  What will Bianca think?”  Duke looked at his sister.

       Petra’s my friend, not my mate,” he mewed, “I want to help her if I can.”  Daisy turned away, not understanding duke at all.

       “It’s all a sham,” Daisy mewed, “Petra’s just strange, there’s no such thing, and never was anything called Eohippus!”

      “But there was, and is!”  Duke mewed, “she guides all of us, you, me, Petra, even Theo.”

       “You can’t convince me,” Daisy said, “give me proof, then I will believe.”

       “Talk to Leo,” Theo mewed.  Daisy went off to talk to the huge lion.

 

Daisy found Leo in the bathroom, Fleur washing his mane.  When he saw her through the steam, the huge lion was greatly embarrassed.

       “Um, hi Daisy,” he mewed.  Daisy came straight to the point.

      “You know we’ve had a little difficulty,” she mewed, “with Simba n’all?”  Leo nodded.

        “Well, yes, you could call it that,” he replied, “I understand Eohippus dealt with Simba and all’s fine now.”

       “I don’t believe eohippus exists, it’s just a fairy tale for foals and cubs!”

       “I didn’t believe,” Leo mewed, “but, when snowy fell dangerously ill, Theo told me to go into the wood and see what I found there.  There I found a white mare, as well as a lot of answers.  I won’t go into details, for its very private, but believe me Daisy, eohippus does exist.  I know that for sure.”  Daisy told Leo of the goings on between Petra and her brother.

       “Poor Petra gets used by the powers that be, and she can’t do a thing about it,” Leo confirmed.

       “Tell me about Petra,” Daisy demanded.  Leo did, and at the conclusion of his tale, Daisy was thoughtful.

       “So, according to you, and to duke too, Petra was chosen by eohippus to do her work on earth, and now will be saddled with that job for ever more.”  Leo nodded.

      Petra doesn’t understand how it works,” he mewed, “and that’s the worst of it.”

        “Poor thing,” Daisy said sighing deeply, “it must be dreadful for her.”

 

Meanwhile, Petra and duke padded towards the pool complex, Duke having run to Petra in desperation, pouring out his feelings towards her.

      “I’m sorry about all this,” duke mewed, “I don’t mean to intrude.”  Petra smiled:

       “You weren’t to know about the rules governing the work of eohippus,” she mewed, “I’m sorry you got caught up in it.”

       “I’m not sorry now,” duke mewed, “for it brought me closer to you, and I’ve wanted that ever since you were part of a dream I’d had,” Duke replied.

       “The real Petra is not eohippus,” Petra warned.

      “I know that,” duke replied, “I want, want to get to know the real white lioness.  Apparently you don’t think your paws are beautiful.”  Petra smiled:

       “For a long time I didn’t like them,” she confirmed, “now though, I like my paws.”

       “Here we are,” duke mewed, as the two big cats entered the pool complex.  Padding along the passage, they soon stepped into the bath pool.  Settling down, duke began to stroke Petra’s paws like he’d wanted to do since early that morning.  Petra let him have access to all four of her paws, loving every minute of the white tiger’s ministration, realising he believed totally in trying to help her.  The intent to give pleasure was there, even if he was a little clumsy sometimes.

       “How would it be if we escaped from here?”  Petra mewed, “we could go to London, a big city not too far from here and see what its like.”

        “I feel I can do anything when I’m with you,” duke mewed.  Petra smiled:

      “Let’s go tonight,” she proposed.

       “Yes let’s do that,” Duke mewed, feeling something he’d not felt before, a furious energy.

      “Let’s not tell the others where we are going though, or they’ll stop us,” duke said, surprising himself.

       “Yeah,” Petra replied, “good idea.  Though you’d better go about your normal business until midnight, then we meet up by the old oak in the wood,” Petra said.  Duke agreed, and they shook paws on the deal.

 

That night, Petra and duke left the community for London.

 

They found their way to the railway station, and Petra found the goods yard.  The two big cats crept into a container of coal, rolling in it to make themselves black cats.  Until then they’d had to move quickly, and trust to luck their pure white coats didn’t draw attention.  Once having blackened their fur and paws in the coal truck, Petra and duke made their way to another truck, more of a carriage this time.  Petra crept into the carriage and looked round, choosing a place where they could hide.  She knew the carriage would go to London the next day, as the carriage had the timetable stuck to the walls.  Duke and Petra, still high on adventure, hardly thought of the consequences of their actions.

 

Meanwhile, back at the house, Theo noticed Petra was missing.  He’d woken around two to find she’d disappeared.  Something told him all was not right, that she’d intentionally left the house.  Padding round the empty rooms in the house, Theo wondered where his cub had gone to.  He found some food packets in a recently emptied bin and realised Petra wasn’t alone.  He smelt duke’s scent on one of the food packets, and guessed the white tiger had followed Petra from the house.  Theo, now anxious, woke Daisy to talk it over.

       “Duke is fascinated by Petra,” Daisy mewed, “maybe Petra decided she’d had enough of being Eohippus’s mouth piece.”  Theo couldn’t blame her for that.

      “She crept away because she didn’t want us to restrict her,” he mewed, “Petra, darling cub; I wish you’d spoken to me about this!”

        “She’s gone, and so has my brother!”  Daisy mewed, “where the hell did they go?”

 

Meanwhile, Petra and duke were on their way to London.  Hiding in the carriage, they travelled with ease towards the capital of England.  The carriage was spare capacity for the train, and luckily for them wasn’t used.  When the train reached the station in London which Petra guessed was the end of the line, they disembarked and moved into the shadows, reaching street level within a few minutes.

 

Petra found her way to a small square off a back street, where she and duke found a few trees, a park bench, and nothing else.  Duke looked round him, astonished at the silence in the square, just a few metres from the street.

       “Now we’re here, where do we go, and what do we do for food?”  Duke asked.

       “I think we head for the zoo,” Petra mewed, “as for food, we’ll pick up what we can from markets; discarded vegetables are usually good eating.”

      “For you they are,” duke mewed, “but I’m a meat eater, I need meat!”

       “Try vegetables alone,” Petra mewed.  Duke left it, he was too tired, and beginning to feel a little scared.

 

Meanwhile, in the garden at the back of the house, Theo paced anxiously, thinking hard about his lost cub.  Petra hadn’t spoken of her wish to leave, and Theo had no idea where to start looking for her.  He knew the birds were his best bet of finding Petra quickly, but would they help him?  Theo felt dreadful, as lonely as he’d ever felt in his life, even though he’d got animals round him.  Petra was his main concern, and his heart ached to find out where she was.  Theo’s thoughts were interrupted by a sharp peck to his paw.

      “Hey!”  He snarled, angry at the bird that’d pecked him.

      “Begging your pardon,” the pigeon said, “but I ‘ave news for you, Theo’s your name ain’t it?”  Theo confirmed the pigeon’s information was correct.

      “Well, I’m from London, and I saw your lioness cub in a tiny square with a white tiger.  We know of Petra, ‘er name is famous throughout the land.  We know of Eo’ippus rep on earth, and even us pigeon’s looks up to your cub.  I spoke to Petra myself, and she says she wanted adventure, was sick of being Eohippus’s puppet, and wanted to be a normal lioness again.  My question to ‘er was why come to London.  Petra told me she knew of a zoo nearby.  There is a zoo, and I know the inmates well.  Maybe, just maybe she and ‘er friend ‘ave gone to rescue two tigers from the place.  Their names are ‘alfear and Whitepaw, two male tigers they are.  The thing is, ‘alfear wasn’t named so from birth, ‘e got torn up for what ‘e is.  ‘E’s ‘omosexual, or so it’s said, Whitepaw’s ‘is partner.  A more beautiful relationship I’ve never seen, but of course, the other zoo inmates don’t think the same way as we do.  Pigeons see so much, and accept almost everything.  The two tigers, ‘alfear, and ‘is white friend Whitepaw, pray every night for deliverance from the zoo, where they get persecuted by the other inmates for their way of life.”

      Petra would do something like that,” Theo mewed, “she’s that kind of lioness.”

      “I’ve convinced Petra to let me tell you all this, and asked ‘er if she wanted me to tell you anything.  She says she’s sorry for running away, but she needed to get away from pressures of ‘ome.”

      “Poor cub,” Theo mewed, “if only she’d confided in me, but then she [probably didn’t know she was going to escape until the urge hit her.  Now she’s gone.”

       “I can take you to her,” the pigeon cooed, “just you, no one else.”  Theo’s heart leapt at the thought of seeing his cub sooner rather than later.

       “I could come,” he said, “but I’d have to leave my mate in charge of the community.”

       “You’re going nowhere!”  Elsa snapped.  It was plain she’d overheard everything.

       “I must find my cub!”  Theo mewed, “I must find her Elsa!  Don’t you want to know where she’s gone too?”

        “Yes I do want to know,” Elsa mewed, “but it’s too difficult to find her.  She won’t be found if she doesn’t want to be found.”  Theo almost choked on a rush of tears which overcame him.

       Petra’s not ready for this!”  Theo mewed, “I must find her!”

       “I’ll stay here,” Elsa mewed, giving in, “you make sure you bring her back alive.  There’s no point in arguing with you Theo, you’re going, I know it, and so I’ll let you go.  Good luck to you, and may Eohippus keep you safe.”

 

Theo made his way to London using the same route as his white cub had.  The Pigeon insisted on chopping off most of Theo’s mane so he looked more like a domestic cat, but this was a small price.  With a new hair cut, and hope of finding his lost cub, Theo padded through the streets of London, the pigeon giving him directions to where he’d last seen Petra and duke.

 

Theo found them curled tightly together in the corner of a small square off Regent’s park.  Theo touched Petra’s paw with his, waking the white lioness.

      “Ay?”  She asked blearily, “oh, Theo!”  She exclaimed, “What the hell are you doing here?”

        “I needed to find you Petra dear,” Theo mewed, “your place is home with us, not here, sleeping rough in London.  I’ve come to take you home.”

       “But, what if I don’t want to go?”  Petra asked, “what if I have business here?”

       “What business do you have here?”  Theo mewed.

       “Do the names Whitepaw and Halfear mean anything to you?”  The white lioness asked.

       “Who the hec are they?”  Duke mewed.

      “Two friends of mine, pigeon friends you might call them, as that’s how we’ve been communicating, via pigeon.  Whitepaw and Halfear, or “’alfear,” as the pigeons pronounce his name, are two tigers in the zoo not far from here.  They are persecuted for the life they lead.  I intend to rescue them and bring them back to the community.”

      “What lifestyle could be so wrong?”  Duke mewed.

       “They are homosexual.  The other zoo animals despise them for it.  Indeed, Halfear’s real name is Tigger, though he’s been known as Halfear since one ear was ripped in half in a fight with his father who despised his son for what he was.”

      “What about Whitepaw?”  Theo asked, “I suppose he’s got white paws.”

     “Got it in one,” Petra mewed, “a Bengal tiger with white paws.  Some called him tabby behind his back, but his real name is Whitepaw.  Now are you coming with me Theo?”  Theo wasn’t about to leave his cub now he’d come so far to find her.

      “Let’s find your friends,” Theo mewed.

 

In the nearby zoo, Halfear and Whitepaw hid in the vegetation in their enclosure, the taunts and abuse from the other animal’s plaint to hear.

       “You raving queers!”  Benji, a large lion yelled, “I know you believe in eohippus, and that you pray to her for deliverance from this place, but it hasn’t happened yet!  You two are stuck here with us, and we hate you!”

       “Well said Benji!”  A giraffe who went by the name of Princess said, “Those two are horrible!”

        “Eohippus doesn’t like homos, or so I’ve heard,” a huge polar bear named Alaska remarked, “she strikes them down.  Do you know that the representative of Eohippus is said to be a white lioness?  She hates homosexuals, or so I’ve heard.”  Whitepaw was about to refute all their bigoted sentiments, when Halfear placed his paw on that of his friend.

      “We know this isn’t true,” he whispered, “We know it, for the pigeon said as much.  We know Petra, she’s gentle, and she wants to help us.  Don’t listen to them Whitepaw!”  Whitepaw shook with impotent rage.

      “I wish I was where that lioness comes from,” he mewed, “it sounds so peaceful, so warm and lovely.  I know there we’d be safe and able to live our lives.  I hope Petra comes soon.”  Halfear stroked Whitepaw’s left forepaw, feeling his friend’s anxiety.

      “I can’t cope with this!”  Whitepaw sobbed.

       “You wont’ have to for much longer,” a voice from within the thick undergrowth said, “I am here now.”  Halfear was about to investigate, when a white paw parted the undergrowth, and Petra stuck her head into the tiger’s refuge.

       “She’s beautiful!”  Whitepaw thought.

      Petra?”  Halfear asked.

     “Yes,” Petra mewed, “I also have my friend duke, and my sire Theo with me too.  They’re outside the zoo gate.  I told you I’d come.  Now, now let’s get you out of here.  The gate’s open, so let’s go!”

 

“You think you’re going to get two tigers back to your home?”  Benji scoffed, “Well miss Eohippus, I don’t think you will!”  Petra ignored the voice and released Whitepaw and Halfear.  Benji, having escaped from his enclosure, waited for Petra to round the corner of the tiger’s den.  Letting Whitepaw and Halfear pad past him, he fastened his gaze on Petra.

     “You’re mine!”  He screamed, leaping at the white lioness!  The two big cats fought madly, Benji heavy and deadly, Petra slow and sluggish.  Petra fought bravely, winning by virtue of weight and cunning.  She managed to throttle Benji to within an inch of his life, giving her escape time.  Once the lion was incapacitated, Petra ran for her life!  Bleeding from bites and scratches and with one paw crushed, Petra regained her freedom, slamming the gate behind her.

       “Everyone here?”  She asked.  Theo looked with concern at Petra’s injuries.  She’d fought for her friends all right, and he knew this had nothing to do with Eohippus.  Petra was a lioness first and foremost, and she was proving herself.

      “How did you fight Benji?”  Whitepaw asked, “He’s dreadful!”

       “I don’t know,” Petra mewed.  She limped along the road to where duke waited with Halfear.

       “You’re injured Petra!”  Duke mewed.

     “Paw’s crushed, that’s all,” Petra replied.  She limped along, painful though it was for her.  Halfear and Whitepaw followed Petra and her companions until they reached the railway.  Whitepaw feared they’d get caught any minute, but strangely enough, the humans left them alone.  All the way to the station, and on the train back to the county town where the community’s house was, no human paid the big cats the slightest heed, even though there were plenty around.  Petra thought she knew why the humans paid no attention; Eohippus was making sure they couldn’t see the three tigers and two lions, protecting them until they reached the front door of the house.

 

Once Petra and her group reached the door, Elsa opened it.  Hugging her mate, then Petra, she led them into the house, Duke and the two tigers from the zoo following.

     “Why did you go to London?”  Elsa asked Petra.

      “To rescue these two,” Petra mewed, waving a paw at Whitepaw and Halfear.

       “Why rescue these two in particular,” Elsa mewed, “they’re just tigers!  If you rescued every animal in a zoo, we’d be overrun before the day was out!  So why these two?”  Whitepaw’s eyes pleaded with Petra not to answer the question truthfully.

      “They have had a hard life,” Petra mewed.  Elsa wasn’t convinced; to her the tigers looked well fed and fit.

      “All right,” she replied, “I know you’re not telling the truth Petra, now, come clean, why did you bring these two here?”

       “I think I know why,” Leo mewed, very unhappy, “they’re partners aren’t they, same sex partners?”  Whitepaw confirmed this by dropping his gaze to his paws, which were clenched, his toes dug into the carpet.

       “What if they are?”  Petra asked.

      “I don’t like it!”  Leo yelled, “It’s unnatural, it’s horrible!”

      “Would you rather they hated each other?”  Petra asked.  Leo snarled at her.

      “How dreadful!”  He yelled, “Why bring unnatural relationships into this house!  Get out of here!”  Leo screamed.

      “No!”  Theo roared, “I will not have this!  Whitepaw and his partner stay!  If you don’t like it Leo, you go!  I’m not having prejudice here!  Love is hard enough to come by as it is, without persecution adding its burden.  Now, let’s all settle down and enjoy life.  Whitepaw and Halfear have come here to escape the taunting they were subjected to by other animals.  Now you’re starting on them!”

       “Who knew these two were, abnormal?”  Leo snarled.  Petra wisely kept her mouth shut.

     “Noone knew?”  Leo asked, “Noone suspected the taunts and abuse were for a very good reason?  Well, I know!  It’s blindingly obvious what those two are!  How horrid, how disgusting!”

       “I think you should have told them first Petra,” duke mewed, dropping the white lioness in it.

      Petra, you knew these two were, like this?”  Leo asked, “Before you went to rescue them?”  Petra looked down at her paws.

      “I’ll take your silence as confirmation of my suspicions,” Leo snarled, “I hate homosexuals!”

       “I can’t cope with this!”  Whitepaw mewed, “We came here to get away from this, now we’re in it with all four paws, and it’s rising to swallow us!”

       “Shut up!”  Leo screamed.

        “Halfear and I love each other dearly, I can’t help how I feel, and neither can he!  It’s no crime!”  Whitepaw begged. Leo snarled and growled his anger.

      “It is a crime!”  He yelled, “It’s an abomination!  Perverting nature will be punished!”  With that Leo sprang at Halfear and clamped the tiger’s head in his jaws.  Lifting Halfear off his paws, Leo shook the tiger and threw him against the wall!  Halfear landed with a splintering crash, in which Petra could hear several bones breaking.  She hoped for Halfear’s sake he was dead.

      “Stop!  Stop this!”  Petra yelled, Theo too astonished to move.

        “No!”  Leo yelled, “I’m going for the other misfit, just watch me!”  Leo ran at Whitepaw, who turned and fled!  Leo chased him from the house, then stamped back into the house, kicking out at, and spitting on Halfear’s body as he passed it.  Theo looked at his brother.

      “Leo,” he said gravely, “you shouldn’t have done that.  You really shouldn’t have killed Halfear.  I can’t stop what’s about to happen, and I pray that those tasked with carrying out the deed do not suffer.  Leo knew what his brother meant.  His eyes fell on Petra, now seemingly four times her usual size.  Leo and Theo realised Petra was terrified!

       “Oh no! No!”  Leo begged, as the white lioness strode up to him.

        “You think you are able to take the life of an innocent tiger and get away with it?”  Petra asked in a voice that was not her own.  Leo began to sweat with fear:

      “They were unnatural; homosexuality is unnatural and needs to be punished!”  Leo yelled.

      “No!”  Eohippus roared through Petra, “it does not need punishment, it needs understanding and acceptance!  You took the law into your own paws!  While Halfear will surely go to a better place, you will rot in hell!  You murdered a tiger for no other reason than you hated his way of life!  You have forfeited your right to live!  Theo buried his face in his paws, knowing he could do nothing, but dreading the final outcome.  Petra’s body leapt at Leo, and Theo heard their bodies meet.  Shrieking with fear, Theo leapt to his paws and ran from the room, unable to cope with what Leo had unleashed.  Theo pounded up the stairs, tripped over his own paws and fell backwards down the stairs, landing in a heap at the bottom.  Theo’s world went dark, and he passed out.

 

Regaining consciousness, Theo felt paws holding him down.  Opening his eyes, he saw fleur and Aslan standing near to him, their paws gently holding him down.

       “Leo,” Theo sobbed, “he, he, eohippus…”

       “We know,” fleur mewed, “Leo’s dead Theo.  I’m sorry.”  Theo cried for his brother for a long time.

       “What happened to Petra,” Theo mewed when he could speak, “she, she won’t be fairing too well.”

       “She’s curled in a miserable heap,” Aslan mewed, “noone can get a word from her.  She’s destroying herself over this, and I don’t think anyone can help her.”

       “You mean noone’s tried?”  Theo asked.

       “It’s been four days since your accident Theo, Leo’s buried, and Petra’s been like this for four days.  She’s not going to recover from what eohippus made her do.”

       “My poor cub!”  Theo mewed, “I might have lost my brother, but now I’m going to lose my cub too?  No! No, no no!  Theo pushed past Aslan and stumbled up the passage, screaming Petra’s name.  Reaching her lie up, Theo found her as Aslan had described, crumpled in a heap.  The white lioness was breathing shallowly, her whole body bathed in sweat and shaking violently.

       Petra, Petra my love?”  Theo asked.  The lioness screamed with pain.  The sound was dreadful, full of confusion, terror and grief.

       “Leave me here!”  Petra panted, “Let me die alone!  You don’t want me after what I did to you and your brother!  I’m worth nothing now, for I killed your brother!  I must have, for they’re my claw marks on his body!  I killed Leo!”

       “No, no Petra you didn’t, it was eohippus that did, not you!  She directed you to kill Leo, you didn’t want to!”

        “I tried to stop it,” Petra mewed, “When you cautioned Leo, I knew, I knew I was going to be used by Eohippus again!  I couldn’t stop it, I tried, but the force was too strong!  I can’t, can’t fight it Theo!  I haven’t the strength!  I couldn’t kill Leo, not a hope, but I did, I was possessed!  I don’t want this any more Theo, I don’t’ want to do this any more!”  Petra clung to her sire with desperate paws, “Make it stop!”  She cried, “Please Theo, make it stop!”  Theo felt his cub’s anguish.

       “I can’t Petra, I can’t,” he mewed, “it’s not my gift to do so.  I’d like nothing more than to free you from this.  It wasn’t my doing you were chosen.  Believe me Petra, please!”  Petra gave vent to a shriek of rage and pain which chilled Theo to his marrow.

      “Eohippus,” Petra begged, her forepaws clasped together in desperate prayer, “leave me alone!  I’m not your plaything, I’m not your servant, and I don’t like killing other creatures!  If you love me as you profess to, please, please do not go against my wishes and make me do things I would never do normally.  I can’t remember Simba’s death, but I remember Leo’s, every dam second of it!  Your magic no longer works on me, and you have all but destroyed me!  I saw what you made me do to Leo, and I had no control, I was a spectator, this white lioness watched another use her body to kill her leader’s brother!  I want nothing more to do with you, your laws or your messages.  I want to live my life as Petra, not as the plaything of a higher power!”  Theo then saw something which stunned him.  A white mare appeared in front of Petra!

      “You will have to kill me first!”  The mare whinnied, “can you do it Petra?  If you can, you will be released!”  Petra launched herself at the mare, bringing her down!  The white mare died soon after.

        “Now you horrid creature,” Petra yelled, “let me go!  Let me live my life in peace!”  Petra collapsed onto the carpet, her whole body shaking uncontrollably.

       “You have been released,” Theo mewed to his cub.  Petra burst into tears.

       “I don’t’ believe in Eohippus,” Petra mewed, “not when she does things like she’s done to me over the years.  We were incompatible.  I hated dealing out punishment, and she made me go against my own wishes.  She dulled my mind to everything I did, but in the end I saw what she made me do.  Theo, my sire, please, do with me what you feel fit.  For I killed your brother.”

       Petra,” Theo choked, “I can’t set paw on you!  You did what you did under duress, you had no control! It wasn’t your fault!  If Eohippus wanted Leo dead, she should have come and done the job herself, not used a defenceless lioness!  How can I believe in a spirit who’s mistreated my own cub?”  Theo wept, “Religion used to mean a lot to me, but now, now I’ve seen how things can be messed up, I don’t know what I think.”  Petra clung to Theo, her paws damp with sweat.

      “I was just a white cub!”  Petra sobbed, “A cub who had meat intolerance, but that was it.  I wasn’t eohippus when I was born, and I never wanted to be!  The higher power tried to force me to be something I’m not!  I have had many talks with the spirits, and explained my situation, but they’ve always overruled me, now I’ve taken control of my own life.  I want to be Petra, not eohippus!”

      “You can be Petra now my dear sweet cub,” Theo mewed, kissing the white lioness on her nose.

       “All that about making Sam and Allie sleep,” Petra mewed, “that was rubbish, and I knew Allie was a heavy sleeper.  Magic had nothing to do with it!”  Theo stroked his cub.

      “Think of it no more,” he whispered.  Petra cried into her sire’s badly cut mane.

       “I’m sorry!”  She sobbed, “Sorry that I didn’t fight hard enough to be myself!”

        “You couldn’t fight eohippus,” Theo mewed, “not when you were young.  Now though, you have fought her, and won.  You are your own lioness now Petra, and rescuing Whitepaw and Halfear was something my Petra would do.”

      “I loved those two,” Petra sniffed, “they were such beautiful tigers, now though, Halfear is dead, and Whitepaw is mourning his loss.  I’m tired, so, so tired Theo!”  Theo caught Petra as she collapsed from exhaustion.

Petra lay for days after, mostly inert and unresponsive, but sometimes clear headed.  She didn’t know which state was worse, for when she was out of it, she missed the scary bits, when her mind would replay leo’s death in front of her eyes, though she wasn’t watching it from the point of view of the executioner, rather that of a bystander, watching everything this lioness did to the disgraced lion.  Petra wept as she witnessed the brutality of Eohippus’s attack on Leo.  Petra couldn’t stop the video; she had to endure it to the end, time after time after time.  Petra realised she’d been used by the powers, that when approached as a young and impressionable cub, she’d jumped at the chance of being someone important.  In the end realisation dawned she was being used for the power’s own ends, but not before she’d had to do things that were beyond what most considered reasonable.  She didn’t want to kill Simba, she’d had no desire to, and eohippus had realised this, making it seem to fleur that Petra was rolling over in deference, when the power was really trying to get rid of the lioness before the lioness realised fully what was happening to her.  Eohippus overreached her power when she commanded Petra to kill Leo for what eohippus considered a heinous act, that of killing Homosexuals.  Eohippus had taken her revenge on Leo, because she’d been denied the chance to save the lives of Halfear and Whitepaw.  The problem was, Petra had wised up to the ways of the greater power, and fought any attempt to dull her mind to what she was forced to do.  Petra had seen it all, and begun to fight back.  It was salty who killed Amber and Blanche, but he did it because he was wild and that was what happened to errant wild things.  Petra’s killing had started when she was strong enough to do it, and Eohippus wanted it done.  Petra was misguided into thinking she was doing a good turn during the periods when she was controlled, but her actions were not those of a gentle white lioness.  Petra hated killing Simba, even if it had to be done in the end, she would have preferred to take her time over exploring other avenues to punish him, imprisonment seemed a good one, but no, eohippus said she must kill, and Petra killed, regardless of her own feelings, which she couldn’t tap into when she most needed them.  Petra didn’t wish Simba to be roaming the house, impregnating tigresses, nor did she wish Leo to have remained unpunished for killing Halfear, but the manner of their deaths, one she couldn’t remember, and one she so vividly could, appalled and disgusted Petra.  Petra had sold herself as a cub, and now she knew she’d regret it for the rest of her life.

 

While the scenes depicting Leo’s death were replaying in her mind, Petra would lie twitching and sobbing, be she out of it or of sound mind.  From time to time she felt paws on hers, soft, gentle paws they were, but to whom they belonged, and for how long they stayed in contact with hers she didn’t know.  Petra began to realise she felt the paws when she saw the video, so maybe the paws were trying to comfort her.

        “I’m a gentle, kind, playful lioness, not a killer!”  Petra screamed at the lioness in her mental video.  Petra cracked on the fourth day, her resolve to keep a lid on things breaking finally.  She wept for Leo, screaming for mercy and begging for forgiveness for what she’d done.  Despite telling herself she’d never ordinarily set paw on Leo, the constant replaying of the video finally convinced her she was a killer who needed salvation.  Petra was caught between her fear of what she’d been the mind-set which told her she was a killer and the real Petra, the kind gentle lioness she’d thought she was at the beginning of her breakdown.  Petra remembered playing with flour as a very young cub, covering herself in it, and even rubbing it into the fur of a large polar bear.  She could feel the flour in her fur and between her toes and paw pads, and she knew then that how she felt then was where she wanted to be.  Then she was just Petra, a white cub with black paw pads and blue eyes.  A gentle mischievous cub.  It was after Snowy’s illness that things had started to go wrong.  “Did Petra want to help snowy?”  A voice had asked her in a dream one night.  Petra, knowing snowy was ill, and wanting to help the tigress had replied yes, and from that day to this, she’d been caught up with eohippus.  Now she was free, free to be the clumsy cub she once was.

       “I will be myself from this day on!”  Petra mewed, “I’m no plaything, no toy, and definitely no slave to Eohippus!  I am a decent, loving lioness!  I want to love Aslan and everyone else who’s here.  I am a gentle lioness, I’m not a killer, and I’m not letting myself be taken in again!  I was used, and it will never happen again!  Eohippus, you have no further hold on me!”  Petra tried to roar with triumph at reaching her own decision, but all that came out was a cub like mew.

 

Petra came to her senses for the final time to see Aslan and Theo watching over her.

        “It’s been a long time Petra love,” Aslan mewed.

       “Longer for me Aslan, much, much longer for me,” Petra replied.

 

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Martin Wilsher © 2006

 

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