May 9th, 2020 by Patrick Starks
Gum-Gum was what most called one of the largest hippos in Africa. Not only did his family worship his magnificence, but all people of Africa respected him. From the time he was a teenager to an adult. Gum-Gum had dreamed of doing so much for his land. He dreamed of joining herds together. He dreamed of everyone showing mercy for the deaths that needed to be taken, which most of that discussion had involved the lions for they at times did not know the meaning of portion control. But eventually, through time and patience the lions had learned to coexist with the rest of the animal kingdom. Gum-Gum had had plans for so much more, but when the weather had shifted did not expect what came next.
Lightning roared the skies. The rivers became oceans. And the trees, had fallen over like clumsy baby elephants, but later became water rafts for the ones that could not get away in time.
As the weather had continued to worsen, Gum-Gum thought about all of what his father would do if he were there in that present moment. Even though he’d passed away long ago, he could still feel that godly aura that his father had always carried inside. It was as if he had never left.
But after Gum-Gum’s father had died many of the other animals had gone off into their own tribes, whom of which created leaders amongst themselves. You could say that a few of them didn’t quite respect Gum-Gum. No matter how massive and strong that he was, Gum-Gum to most of them was not yet fit to be a leader. In their words, he was still too young. More so, some had felt earning leadership was one thing, but inherited leadership, well… that was arguably the opposite in a lot of ways.
Gum-Gum felt helpless. Many of the ones who believed in him had shouted out his name for aid but seeing how he had a family of his own, what more could he have done. It was every family for themselves. It then dawned on Gum-Gum that maybe having one person lead many in a lot of ways made no sense. Its literally one opinion, one soul, which eventually fades no differently than the ones he or she leads. In short definition, leaders are not immortal.
But as time went on Gum-Gum watched as his whole world become more and more tarnished by the forces of mother nature, but as those horrors had come to a calm, something far worst would arise. A ghost from his past.
“What… What is it,” asked a little a hippo.
It had been only a few months since Gum-Gums wife had given birth to his little boy and already, he was just as plump and half the size of him now. His eyes were like his mothers, almost as gold as a lion’s mane. And his teeth were out growing him so much that they poked out from his whiskered lips.
Gum-Gum took a deep breath and answered.
“I don’t know…” he gasped, squinting his eyes.
From the distance there were 7 shadows as big as teenage elephants. But none of them Gum-Gum assume were elephants because their ears were way too tiny and there walk too wobbly.
Gum-Gum’s wife stood behind him and wobbled with fear. She was in shock, but mostly from what occurred prior to that moment.
“Who’s there!?” he shouted.
There was silence. And only one shadow remained moving.
“I said who’s there?” shouted Gum-Gum, pumping himself up for what was to come. “Don’t come any closer!”
There was still silence, but as the shadow had become more visual Gum-Gum had found himself at a lost for words.
“Hello brother,” said a voice.
The voice was light but crackly, like nails to a chalk board. It made the hairs on the back of Gum-Gums back stand.
“Fiona… I thought… I thought you were dead,” said Gum-Gum.
“Yes, I figured they would tell you something like that. As well you be so naïve to believe it,” said Fiona.
Normally, when they were kids, Fiona had an aura that was loving. Nurturing like their mother. But although she had the same golden eyes as Gum-Gum, Fiona’s aura felt as if he were staring death in the face.
Scars formed all around her face and all around her body. Her feet were almost double the size of Gum-Gums. And her teeth were like his sons, which was strange seeing how big she was. They just wouldn’t have been so exposed as they were.
“Surprised to see me brother?” asked Fiona, sarcastically.
“Well… Can you blame me… I thought you were dead all this time and then you show up on my doorstep during a crisis like now…” said Gum-Gum
“Ah… Yes, mother… She always finds ways of fixing the planet. Even if some of the events in which she chooses is catastrophic. I admire her. She’s a woman that isn’t afraid to take charge,” said Fiona.
“You mean you’ve met her,” said Gum-Gums son.
“Maven stay back!” shouted Gum-Gum.
Fiona’s smile had gone from grim to demonic, which wasn’t really too far from being the same.
“Oh, and who have we here?” smiled Fiona.
Before she could step any closer, Gum-Gums wife had stepped in front of their baby boy with a rage he’d never seen. Had she had it all that time? Or was it just something mothers inherited after birth?
“Cute…” chortled Fiona. “Don’t worry missy, I mean you no harm. But trust me, this little stare down you and I are doing right now would’ve been over way before you stepped in front of the boy. Trust me on that.”
Although, Fiona was quadruple the size of her, Gum-Gum’s wife didn’t back down for one moment. She stood her ground.
“I like her,” said Fiona.
“Who are the six in the back?” asked Gum-Gum.
“Oh, right… Forgot about them. How rude of me not to introduce my heard. Let me call them over.”
Fiona shouted. And as she did, it had felt like and earthquake was happening as the 6 made their way over.
“But before I formally introduce this bunch, would it be out of context to say that we should find a safe place. It doesn’t look like mother is lightning up, if you catch my drift.”
“The tunnels…” said Gum-Gum’s wife.
Gum-Gum then gave his wife a disappointed look.
“What tunnels?” asked Fiona.
Gum-Gums wife kept quiet.
“Ah, I see how it is. My little brother king and all grown up. I get it,” said Fiona.
“No, its not like that…”
“Besides, the tunnels are probably flooded. There’s a cave that’s not far away and would be much quicker to get to,” Gum-Gum swallowed.
Fiona had a peculiar look on her face. As well the six that stood by her side.
“Hmm… Okay then lead the way oh mighty one,” she said sarcastically.
Gum-Gum then led everyone to the cave.
“There’s no lions, here right?” asked one of the six hippos, nervously.
“No,” said Gum-Gum. “They vacated this cave a long time ago, but of course they never told me why.”
“Right…” said the hippo, unsure.
“I guess I should introduce Waddles since he was the first to speak,” said Fiona. “We call him Waddles because as you can see, he waddles a lot.”
“It’s nice to meet you Waddles,” said Gum-Gum and the rest of his family.
Waddles said nothing but went off in a corner and laid down. Moments later everyone would hear his snoring.
“And the other 5?” asked Gum-Gum.
“You are so persistent… Still haven’t changed I see. But I guess I’ll tell you the others. The one furthest to the right is Mud, the one next to him is Horse, the one in the middle is Sky, the one to the left of him is Emerald and the last one has no name,” said Fiona.
“Why does he have no name?” asked Gum-Gums son, innocently.
“Don’t know why but he said that he didn’t want one. Said something about being titled or labeled, whatever that’s all about. But if there’s anything that I can say about him is that he’s as strong as rhino.”
Gum-Gum looked at them all again. All of them in a lot of ways resembled one another. Were they all brothers?
“Fiona…” paused Gum-Gum.
“Oh boy, what is it now?” asked Fiona, slightly bothered by the question.
“Why are you hear? Why out of all these years you show up now?”
Fiona pondered on the question. She even walked from one side of the cave to the other. For once, she didn’t seem at all that intimidating. Her shoulders were slouched forward, and her head was pointed to the ground.
“Fiona, I’m sorry… I didn’t mean…”
“No,” interrupted Fiona. “Its okay. You have every right to ask that of me. You see, there’s a place in the Congo that not many Hippos know about. You could call it a Fruitopia.”
“I think I’ve heard of this place. I believe it’s called Froyo,” said Gum-Gum.
“Yes… We had all the food you could ever dream of. Food that makes you bigger and stronger. A place you could roam free with no worries to the dangers that existed. But…”
“But what asked…” Gum-Gum.
“But then Tar came,” said the hippo with no name from out of the blue.
“What is a Tar?” asked Gum-Gum’s wife.
“Tar is something you never want to be caught alone with sweety…” said Fiona. “He’s ruthless. He’s greedy and never stops until he has everything, he lays his eyes on. He came into our sanctuary and with his goons ate everything in sight. We became depleted of our resources and he left us with nothing. Absolutely nothing. And so, as much as my ego hated to come back to a home that casted me off… I came back hopping that I’d get help from my only existing blood.”
Gum-Gum stood by stricken by all that had been said. He couldn’t do anything for the animal kingdom, but he at least could have done something for his long-lost sister.
“I’ll show you the tunnels tomorrow,” said Gum-Gum.
“Really?” asked Fiona, excitingly.
“Of course, … It’s at least I could do.”
All seven hippos kneeled and thanked Gum-Gum for his grace. Later that night they would all rest up for the morning.