Animal Kingdom by Jenna Perry

James Scott lives in a small town in South Africa. He lives with his mother and he does not have many friends. The only friend he has is his life-long bestie from Kindergarten, Nate, who basically lives with Jamie and Jamie’s mother. Jamie and Nate are always causing trouble in the neighborhood. The town they live in is low in poverty, and the drug rates are high. The only semi-cool, but also scary, thing about this town, is animals roam free. Lions, tigers, elephants, giraffes, zebras, cheetahs, etc. You may think this is scary, but to Nate, it is a life worth living. 

“Come on James, we have to feed the animals.”

“I am not getting close to that lion again.”

Jamie and Nate liked to feed the animals something different every week, but last week, James got close to one of the lion’s cubs and the lion ran at him. Luckily he got away. Now he is scared to feed any of the animals.

“Nate, how do they like you so much? I don’t understand.”

“Because I am not scared of them like you are.”

Week after week, Jamie and Nate spend hours tending to the animals that roam around his neighborhood. Jamie, never gets too close. Nate teased him about being scared, and it started to get on Jamie’s nerves.

“Jamie, stop being a wimp!”

“I’m not a wimp, Nate, I don’t want to be attacked by a lion, is that wrong of me?”

“They have never attacked me, you need to try and make them like you.”

Jamie did not like this idea, but he eventually gave it a try. One day the boys went out and found a zebra to feed. This zebra was actually one that made its way to Jamie’s front porch every so often, but of course, Jamie never got too close. 

“Jamie, come on, just hold out your hand.”

Jamie hesitantly held his hand out and the zebra started eating. Jamie then heard a strange voice come from close by. He turned around to see where Nate was.

“What?”

“Did you not hear that?”

“No?”

Jamie continued to feed the zebra. 

“See Jamie, It’s not that bad.”

Again, he turned around, Nate wasn’t there. 

“Nate! Where are you?”

He stepped on the porch from inside. 

“I walked inside for a minute, what’s up?”

“I keep hearing voices, it isn’t you?”

“No Jamie, you must be hearing things.”

The boys laughed and went back inside. 

The next week, it was time to feed a new animal. 

The boys decided on a giraffe today. They had to walk a mile to find one. The giraffe knew what the boys were there for, so he put his neck down so he could reach their hands. 

“Thank you for feeding me.”

Jamie jumped. It was happening again. He could hear these animals talking to him. He wasn’t sure if he should say anything to Nate because he knew Nate would make fun of him. He decided to wait until he approached a few more animals to make his decision on what he would do. The next week Jamie asked Nate if he was ready to go feed the animals again and Nate said that he wasn’t feeling well. Jamie begged him and told him being outside and going for a walk would make him feel better, but Nate still refused. Jamie got a little upset and said he was going anyway. This confused Nate since Jamie was always scared to go so he decided to follow him to see what was up. When Nate arrived he hid behind a nearby tree to spy on Jamie. What he saw and heard baffled him. Jamie was having a full conversation with an Elephant. The conversation didn’t make much sense, considering it sounded as if Jamie thought the Elephant would talk back. On his way back home Jamie did a lot thinking on how he would ask Nate what he was doing with the Elephant but he decided to leave it alone to avoid any embarrassment.

In the meantime, Nate had made a decision that he would talk to his mom about what was going on. As he sat with his mom that evening over dinner, he was anxious about what he had to tell her. After moments of silence, he was ready.

“Mom, I have something really important to talk to you about but I’m scared you won’t believe me.” 

“Son, by the look on your face and the tone of your voice, I believe I already know what you are going to say.”

“I don’t think you do, mom.”

What she said next put Jamie in complete shock. Jamie was born into a family that could communicate with animals. His mother never told him because it was just the male’s on his paternal side and since his dad’s death, she wanted to wait to see if it was passed down. Jamie didn’t know what to do with the overwhelming amount of information that he just ingested. Does he tell Nate, or does he take more time to process everything? What Jamie didn’t know was that Nate already knew something odd was happening.

Due to the upcoming treacherous weather, the boys were unable to visit the animals the week after Jamie found out, so his plan to tell Nate was put on hold. Later that evening, the Tropical Cyclone made its way toward their small African town. The boys had built a relationship with the animals, so they made a plan to go save them. 

When they arrived, the storm was becoming more dangerous, and the boys and the animals were in serious danger. There was only one way they could escape the storm safely, but the route to get there was near impossible for any human. This is when Jamie knew he had to use his super power. 

Jamie called out, “Can any of you guide us to safety?”

Obviously in a panic, Nate didn’t have time to ask questions.

The giraffe responded, “Come to the edge of the park, and we will save you.” 

Jamie grabbed Nate and pulled him with him towards the park.

“Where are we going?”

“The animals are going to save us.”

“We have to go now or we will never make it.”

Nate decided this wasn’t the time to ask any questions, and he followed Jamie to the edge of the park. When they reached the edge of the park, all the animals were waiting to take Jamie and Nate to a safe place.

“Hop on.”

“Where are you taking us?”

“To the underground animal kingdom, it’s safe there.”

When they arrived at the underground animal kingdom, Jamie explained everything to Nate. Nate, being the friend he was, and seeing what the animals had just done for them, believed every word and thought Jamie was the greatest superhero of all time.

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