Chapter 1: The Light at the End of the Tunnel
Why? Why now? Why him? He's only a cub. He didn't deserve this. All this... this... whatever it was! It had all happened so fast. He tried as hard as he could to put the pieces together.
"Ok," he thought aloud, "First... everything was fine. Mom and dad were cuddling in the den, so I left... to find Nala. Then... I found her? No! She found me. She ran up to me... and... collapsed!"
Why would she collapse? None of this made any sense!
"Then..." He couldn't remember. He paced back and forth a couple of times, then sat down and stared at a pebble with crossed eyes as he probed the deepest parts of his memory.
"Then..." He looked up at Pride Rock and every terrible detail of the night's occurrences flashed into his head.
Him, running to his parents to tell them of Nala's condition. His father becoming suddenly alarmed and bounding out of the den, past Nala's motionless body. And the reason for his father's sudden dash: the laughter. The horrifying, ear-splitting laughter that escaped from the hyenas' mouths. Him, running to the tip of Pride Rock just in time to see his father and uncle clash, claws extended, jaws wide. Mufasa's easy pinning of Scar. Scar's evil smile. And the same smile plastered all over the hyenas' faces sneaking up from behind. The tremendous thud of Mufasa's back on the dirt under the weight of several hyenas. His last immense roar, a roar that filled the entire Pride Lands with tears. For it wasn't a roar of might and terror. It was a roar of love. A ruler's last cry to his family and his followers. It was the roar that ended his incredible circle of life.
"Noooooo!" Simba burst into tears.
"Get back in the den Simba!" Sarabi ordered her son as she pushed him towards the cave.
"Do as your told Simba!" They were both in tears now. There lay the body of their king. Their father. Their husband. He would never hold them again. He would never comfort them. He would never tell them that everything was going to be okay. Everything was not going to be okay, because Mufasa was dead!
Simba escaped his mother's grasp and ran to the top of Pride Rock. To where his father had showed him all the lands he would someday rule. None of that mattered now. How could Simba rule when his father was dead?
He laid down, mentally exhausted, and watched the scene from above. He couldn't look away as the rest of his hell unfolded before him.
Sarabi now devoted herself to only two purposes: protecting her cub and tearing Scar to shreds. She leaped at Scar from above and landed, claws extended, onto his back. She took this opportunity to completely tear his right ear off. Scar screamed in agony. He had never felt pain this excruciating. In a very ungraceful manor, he managed to throw Sarabi from his back and retreat behind his minions.
The hyenas attacked. In one fluid motion, Sarabi thrust her arm out and threw three of them completely off of Pride Rock while she tore a chunk of fur out of another one's side with her teeth. She then brought her focus to the rest of the hyenas. She let out a roar that shook the heavans, but it was cut short as the claw of a hyena cut her across the throat. This hyena had a chunk of hair missing from his right side. The chunk of hair that remained in Sarabi's motionless teeth. Simba would not forget this hyena.
He couldn't take this any longer. He ran down from his viewing spot and down the back of Pride Rock and didn't stop. He just ran. As far as his little feet could take him. Past the waterhole. Past Rafiki's tree. Then he collapsed, and the nightmare ended.
Simba continued to stare at Pride Rock. Tears blurred his vision, so he had to turn away and blink. This couldn't be true. It had to all be a dream. This isn't how everything was supposed to happen. Right now he should be playing with Nala, without a care in the world.
She meant so much to him right now. Although he didn't want to admit it, he missed her more than he missed his parents. She was the one that he had told his problems to. She was the one who always listened, and smiled at him and told him not to worry. She was the one that would make him happy when he was sad. She was the one who entertained him when he was bored. She was the one who needed him just as much as he needed her.
"Nalaaaaaa!" He knew that this wouldn't achieve anything, but it made him feel good.
"Nalaaaaaa!" He tried again. And again, no reply. It couldn't be true. It just couldn't. He attempted to call out for her one more time, but it sounded more like a moan.
"Simba!" Simba whirled around and saw what he could later describe as being the most beautiful thing he had ever laid eyes on. It wasn't the amazing sunset that was attempting to hide behind the horizon. It wasn't the picturesque clouds that could not have more perfectly complemented the sun on it's journey downward. It wasn't the endless reaches of Savannah that were to one day belong to him. No. It was the cream colored lioness that stood before him. The lioness that had always been his best friend and had always been at his side when they were in trouble. The lioness that up until this glorious moment he had thought to be dead. Everything was going to be okay.
"Nala!" Simba broke into a wide grin, mimicing the smile on his friend's face. They both ran to each other, and met in the air, which consequently ended in Nala looking down upon the struggling Simba.
Nala, caught up in the moment, proudly remarked, "Pinned Ya'." Simba completely ignored her victory.
"I can't believe you're alive! I saw you fall over. Nala, I thought you were dead, it was terrible." With the change of subject Nala's face grew somber.
"I must of fainted, because I don't remember anything. I just woke up from a bad dream, which I realize now must have been real. Simba... They..." She shed a tear and turned her head away from Simba.
"I know what happened. I saw it all. My parents died."
"No Simba! It's worse! They're all dead!" Simba could now see that she was crying. His face contorted as he tried not to join her. He couldn't cry. Not in front of Nala.
"All of them?"
"Yes! I saw all their bodies! Rafiki! Mufasa! Sarabi! My mo-" She broke into hysterical sobs and dropped to the floor. Simba didn't know what to do. He had never comforted Nala before. She was always so strong. He decided he would sit down next to her, and put his paw on her back. She shivered at the light touch, which seemed to calm her a bit. After awhile she lifted her head up.
"Simba, after I had walked around that... that horrible place, I came looking for you. Because I hadn't found your body. I thought, 'I really hope Simba is out there, because I-'" She turned her head away from him.
"Because you what?" He moved closer to her, and placed his other paw on her hand. Her face lit up, but Simba could not see.
"Because I need him." Out of embarrassment she quickly flopped on her side, facing away from Simba, and scrunched her eyes shut. She shouldn't have said it! Grr, why does she always say stupid things. She really liked Simba, but she knew that Simba thought that girlfriends were gross. How could he feel the same way about her? Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!
Simba sat there bewildered. She "needs" him? But Nala was always better than he was. She won every game, every fight, every race. Why would she need a loser like him? Could she like him? No. She always talked about how stupid love was, and how it's a waste of time. But maybe. Just maybe.
He walked around to the other side of his friend and laid down so that they were symmetrical. Simba barely managed a whisper through his nervousness.
"I need you too."
Nala's expression relaxed into a smile. Simba noticed this, and knew that he had done something right. He also smiled.
The two lions fell asleep, both smiling, both forgetting all their problems, both fully occupied with thinking about their companion. After a day filled with grief and hopelessness, there was now a light at the end of the tunnel.