Welcome to installment #4 of the Chasing Shadows – Making Amends series. For more information or to read the previous scene, head to this page.
A trickle of light crept up Kecil’s legs and teased her awake. Slowly the events of the prior night washed over her like a fragmented nightmare. Her chest clenched tight as hollowness consumed her and blotted out any brightness the sun offered. She fought for every agonizing breath, wanting the Great Spirt to claim her and send her into the comforting arms of her mother.
Despite her wishes, life continued with Kecil in it, but eventually the aching grip in her chest eased. She rolled to her back and concentrated on the thick canopy of leaves, let the ambience of the forest quiet her tormented soul.
Before long, she noticed a peculiar smell, slightly sweet and familiar but with a hint of decay. Kecil rose to her feet and brushed away the dirt caked on her stinging shoulder—the least of her pain—and traced the scent to a Goliath of a tree. She circled the trunk and found a dead binturong laying in the dirt, its back twisted abnormally.
She stepped closer.
Kecil jumped back and stumbled to the ground. Her heart thudded against her ribcage as she scrambled backward, but her heels found no traction and scraped ineffectively against the dirt.
From behind the corpse, a miniature whiskered face appeared and hissed—a baby binturong no larger than a newborn wehr-tiger cub.
Kecil sat frozen, waiting for her body to catch up with her mind and recognized the threat as minimal. She forced her heart and breathing to slow, then took a deep breath and returned with cautious steps, her hand outstretched and shaking.
The civet’s fur bristled. Hisses turned to growls as its thin black lips pulled back revealing tiny fanged teeth.
“It’s okay. I’m alone too.” Only inches away, she jerked back as the binturong snapped at her fingers. She tackled the cub, clamping its mouth shut with one hand while holding it tight to her body.
The baby raked and thrashed for freedom, scratching her stomach and arms, but in the end the small cub’s size was no match for her. Defeated, its struggles slowed though its body remained tense.
“That’s better,” Kecil cooed and released its muzzle, letting her hand slide over its head.
The little civet turned to sneak in a bite but missed. Eyes wide, teeth bared, the cub snarled as she petted. Eventually it quieted, turning its head into the caresses.
“I’ll take care of you now,” she said.
“Find him! He couldn’t have gone far.” Gemuk’s voice called out.
Kecil scanned the area and located the small handful of adult males in her clan combing the area—all were accounted for, except her father. If he’d been here keeping vigilance over his territory, her mother would be here today… alive and waiting in the hut. Kecil’s teeth ached as she clenched them. Why did he leave us unprotected?
“What are you doing out here?”
Kecil spun around to face the speaker—Kasut. She craned her neck to look at the giant of a wehr-tiger, tall like her father, like all of the males in the clan.
His eyes flicked to the binturong in her hands. “Go back to the village. It’s not safe.”
“Did you find him?” Gemuk approached, breathing heavily through his mouth. He focused on her, and his eyes shifted to the birthmark which encompassed her entire shoulder. “Get that runt out of here. She’s nothing but trouble… like her mother.”
Kecil’s eyes smarted, and she fought to swallow the lump welling in her throat.
“The killer escaped.” Kasut nodded toward the village. “Get out of here.”
Kecil edged by the two males and ran. Leaving behind the scrutiny of Gemuk, she sought the safety of the village, her prize in hand.