Takes place just after JB2…
The footfall of the girl seemed to echo in the dense jungle as it landed in a puddle of muddy water. She grimaced as she felt the cold, chunky brown substance stick to her foot. Pausing to let out a small cry of frustration, she continued on her journey to the sanctuary of her village.
Shanti, not being older than twelve, was obviously too young and small to be wandering around alone and utterly defenseless against the creatures that stalked the darkness of the Indian Jungle. She donned a white shirt and a long, light purple dress that was now covered with mud and twigs. She usually wore her crow black hair in a ponytail, yet she spread it out in rage after it kept sticking to low lying branches.
Earlier in the afternoon, she had opted to take a 'quick walk' in the forest by herself, thinking it would take at the most ten minutes, and now she regretted completely. She was cold, frightened, and alone. The only creature in the jungle she was close to was Bagheera, a panther, who was most likely far away and probably wasn't even aware on her current location.
She finally gave up in trying reaching home while it was still dark. She was lost and treading farther would most likely lead her farther away from home. She also feared that she would eventually encounter a beast that would identify her as weak and easy prey.
Walking a little ways, she discovered a tree that would have to settle as an idle rest site. The trunk was small enough for her to firmly grasp it. She then grappled herself up a short ways before locking her legs on the trunk for support, a technique that Bagheera had taught her. After repeating the process a few times, she reached the first branch that was large enough to support her, which was a good thirteen feet off the ground.
After settling herself on the branch, Shanti sighed and pondered her situation. She was miles away from safety, and the morning didn't seem to bring any promises on getting even closer to home. She closed her eyes for a minute. Then the next minute she started crying. First it was a few lone tear drops, and then it became a slow trickle. She bowed her head into her knees and sobbed, her tears forming dark blots on her dress.
No creature heard the child crying into the night.
Kaa had been listening to the girl from the branch above. If the python had been less wise, like he had been in the past, he would have seized the moment by using the child's fear to his advantage, feigning trust to catch his prey. But, after several past experiences, he had learned better than involve himself in 'man-cub affairs'. So, practicing his newly learned restraint, he ignored Shanti's presence.
Her sobbing, however, didn't stop. Kaa tried to ignore her, but the sound she emitted started to cause his right temple to throb. Stay out of it, Kaa; he repeatedly thought to himself, it's just going to lead to another ache in the future. After another ten minutes of endless crying, Kaa concluded he had no choice but to reveal himself to the girl. He slithered down through the leaves and appeared next to her bowed head, his coils slightly glistening from the moonlight.
After thinking about the best way to approach her, he settled with taping her on the shoulder with the tip of his tail. She quickly jerked her head, her eyes red.
"Oh no…," she choked, lying her head back to her knees and letting out a few more sobs,
"Excuse me, missss," He said, hissing the last word, "I take it that you're sad, hence the tears and your quite moody attitude, but could you pleassse quit your weeping. Ssssome animals are usually asleep at this hour."
Shanti raised her head again, but this time there was slight angry etched on her wet face.
"Go away," she croaked.
Kaa became slightly more curious. He slithered behind her back and faced her. She shivered as his body brushed against her. "Aren't you a bit young to be traveling by yourself? Not that it isn't the first time as I seem to recall."
Shanti, who did remember her last encounter with the snake, avoided his eyes while he ranted.
"Shouldn't you be under the watchful eye of one of your friendly four legged friends" Kaa said, already knowing the answer.
Shanti felt a slight ache at the thought of Bagheera, so far away. She turned her loneliness into angry sarcasm and reflected at Kaa. "If I knew where he was, I wouldn't be chatting with you, would I?!"
Kaa backed up a bit, "I guess I touched a nerve."
"You think," she mumbled.
"I guess I shall move elsewhere," he said, retreating to the upper branch.
Shanti wasn't about to object, but a thought crept into her mind. "Wait!" she cried.
"Yesss," hissed Kaa, lowering himself back down.
"That's it," she asked in a puzzled voice, "You're just going to leave?"
"Did you expect me to stay and entertain you?"
"Why would I want you around me?" she answered coldly, "What I meant was, you tried nothing. You didn't try to trick me with your spirals," She did a whirling motion with her index finger to empathize her point.
"A sssimple answer," the snake said, "you're not worth it." He empathizing his point also by pointing the tip of his tail at her nose after the word 'you're'.
Shanti was caught off guard. Was that an insult or a relief?
"W-what do you mean?"
"Let's review: Ever since I attempted to prey on a human, I have been bruised, had my tail knotted twice, unintentionally swallowed a ten pound rock, and I was beaten by a toddler with a stick. I have learned to stay away!"
Shanti allowed herself a small smile, fond of the memory of Kaa's failed attempt of eating her.
"Goodbye then," he said, reeling himself upwards again. This time, Shanti offered no objection of his retreat.
After their encounter, Shanti found that she was unable to sleep. The tree she rested in was, in fact, not an idle sleeping location. The wood of the branch she laid her head on was hard and slightly jagged. She turned several times, not able to fall asleep even though she was exhausted.
She thought of her conversation with the python. Perhaps she couldn't sleep knowing that the sly reptile rested on the branch above, waiting for her to doze? Was his new tactic pretending to want to avoid her to catch her off guard?
With so many questions involving Kaa, Shanti had no hope in sleeping. She stood up, stretched, and climbed to the next branch. She hid in the leaves, spying at the thick branch.
Kaa wasn't asleep. Shanti watched him move his body side to side, almost like a hypnotic dance. He had multi colored rings cascading his eyes, but they weren't aimed at the hiding girl. A bluebird was standing in front of the snake, his eyes mimicking the colors. Shanti quickly looked away, already having predicted the bird's sudden change in fate.
After Kaa had finished 'entertaining' the bird, Shanti cleared her throat, making her presence know. Kaa spun around, cheeks bulging. He comically spit out a single blue feather, which floated down to the dark jungle floor below. Shanti quickly brought her hand to her mouth, hiding a giggle; she then took the hand away and feigned a disgusted look.
Kaa swallowed, his cheeks deflating. "What?" he said, reading her face, "A meal's a meal."
Shanti rolled her eyes, a small smile formed.
"Isn't it a little past your bedtime?" he said, sharing the smile.
"Isn't it past yours as well?" she retorted playfully. "I couldn't sleep."
"Neither could I, mostly due to the moaning and groaning I kept hearing below."
She looked down at the branch sheepishly.
"Why did you come up to visit me? I seem to recall you not wanting me around."
"Well, I uh…"
"Checking to make sure I wasn't planning something?"
"Yes," she admitted, face burning red.
"Would you really expect me to eat you, after the very good reasons I gave against it."
"This being said by the snake that just made a snack of a bluebird," She said.
"He had quite a mouth on him. He deserved it, honest."
Shanti yawned. She was pale and had dark rings on her eyes, one of which she rubbed vigorously in an attempt to stay awake. Shanti looked past Kaa and gazed down behind him. Kaa noticed this and looked down at the pile of coils that lay before him. He looked from there to the tired girl in front of him. He sighed deeply. "Would you be interested in sleeping, uh, in the coils?"
Shanti looked nervous. Should she? Kaa had left her alone most of the night, but was he still considered an enemy of sorts to her? After pondering for a minute, she walked ahead and practically threw herself down on the coils. Kaa chuckled as she curled herself up in a ball, feeling comforted by the soft pile rather than the rugged branch she had laid on earlier.
"Good night, uh…"
"Good night, Ssshanti."
She liked how he hissed her name.
Kaa didn't fall asleep like the child. He looked at her, intrigued. In one night she had gone from hating him to sleeping in his coils as if she was his own. On the other hand, by the way she had looked; she would have probably kissed a tiger if it meant getting a bed. Humans are too confusing, he thought to himself.
"Perhaps I should eat you," he said to her.
She snored in response.
He set his head by her right foot and fell into peaceful sleep.
The next morning, they awoke at the same time. She rubbed her eyes and stretched her arms. Kaa just blinked several times, his eyes adjusting to the brightness of daylight.
"We should probably get you home," he said, "although I don't know where 'home' is."
"We'll find a way," she said.
He wrapped his tail around her waist and lowered her down to the ground. He lowered his head down alongside her.
Next thing she knew, her name was called, a black jet jumped from the trees and landed on the ground close by them, and a stern, suspicious eye was directed towards Kaa.
Bagheera had arrived. And he looked livid.
"Shanti!" Bagheera repeated, "Where have you been, and what are you doing with him!?"
Shanti had no chance to respond, due to Bagheera rushing behind her and pushing her to where he appeared. He briefly looked back at the snake and gave him a look meant to kill. As she was being pushed away from Kaa and the tree, she looked back and caught his eye. She smiled and winked at him, while mouthing thank you. Kaa grinned back and nodded his head.
As the girl was pushed out of sight, Kaa pulled himself back up the tree. He laid his head lazily on his coils, shifting them side to side. Something about the coils felt off. It took him only a moment to realize that his coils felt different because they were missing the weight of one small girl.
Note: I had limited time to edit. Sorry if you notice a mistake or two. Please review!!!