(A/N: I work at a supermarket. Upon seeing Halloween candy starting to roll into the store, I got in a horror story kind of mood and wrote this. Enjoy!)
It was in the dying hours of the day as the king's trusted majordomo squawked, flying through the lands.
The hornbill, named Zazu, finally caught a glimpse of his master and swooped down to land beside him.
"Sire, there is an intruder on the Southern border!" he cried, matching his king's gaze of alarm.
"What kind of intruder?" asked the king, named Simba.
"A lioness…" replied Zazu, although there was a hint of uncertainty in his voice, "…or, perhaps a very young male…too young for his mane to have grown in. The fur looked scruffy enough. But he's heading this way!"
Simba's eyes darted back and forth. He was uncertain of how to deal with this situation. All of his lionesses were dispersed over the lands. There was not a chance that he would be able to gather them together in time. He needed to deal with this intruder himself.
"Zazu, Timon and Pumbaa usually spend their time on the Eastern border, searching for bugs. Get them to box her in from that direction. Rafiki's tree is to the South and Nala likes to spend her time to the West. Alert them and we'll corner this intruder in from all three directions. Pride Rock to the North will be our fourth…I'm sure we have some members asleep in there."
"Yes sire!" exclaimed Zazu, swooping off with a salute. As soon as he had gone, Simba took off to his feet. It was nice to know that he would have some backup coming but, for now, he knew he would have to deal with this intruder himself.
Simba growled as he moved himself into position, standing just in front of the intruder.
The intruder hissed as it took a step backwards, attempting to escape from the king.
"Why did you come here?" asked Simba, advancing a step towards the lion.
Simba was, in truth, quite repulsed by the sight of this lion. He couldn't blame Zazu for struggling to identify with its gender yet, now that he had gotten close enough, he could indeed tell that the lion was a female. Her harrowed eyes, scruffy fur and shrunken and wrinkled stature though were enough to cause confusion and, in fact, even spread a jolt of fear throughout Simba's body. This lioness was up to no good. He could just feel it…
"Just passing through," spat the lioness back. "Is this how you treat all your guests?"
Simba snarled. "These are the Pridelands," he replied. "Our borders are well marked. Nobody enters these lands by mistake. What are you after?"
"I am an old friend of this pride," replied the lioness. "Surely you must know me, my name is Edith."
Simba held his gaze onto the sunken pupils of the lioness as he paced his way back and forth in front of her. He had never heard of this lioness but, then again, he had never heard of a lot of the locals that lived in the neighboring prides. During the time between his childhood and his adulthood, he had spent much of his life far away from the Pridelands, and so had missed the opportunity to acquaintance himself with the Prideland comers and goers.
Indeed, this was not the first time that an intruder had been spotted since his return, and most of the 'intruders' had actually turned out to be quite friendly. Yet Simba had his doubts about this one.
"I shall inquire with the elders of this pride about your name," Simba responded. "I have not heard of it before and I have no reason to trust you. Meet me at the Southern border this time tomorrow. I will pass my final judgment then."
The lioness snarled back but she knew she would have no say. A few background voices began to fill the area, causing the lioness's eyes to dart back and forth as a warthog, a meerkat, a mandrill and a pride of lionesses appeared through the dense fog that had built up in the clearing.
"As you wish, your majesty," the lioness hissed back, cowering backwards and disappearing into the heavy fog.
The rest of the Pridelanders finally closed in on Simba. They had had no idea what all the commotion had been about. Zazu swooped back down from the sky and gave a stern look towards Simba.
"This was everybody I could find, sire," he replied.
Simba nodded in acknowledgment.
"Thank you Zazu," he replied. He turned around to face his subjects. "Everyone but Rafiki and my mother, Sarabi, please leave the clearing and be on your ways," the king commanded.
Timon, Pumbaa, Zazu and the rest of the lionesses all departed, leaving just the crowd of three alone in the descending fog.
"Rafiki," addressed the Pridelands king, "are you familiar with that lioness, who calls herself Edith?"
"Unfortunately I cannot say dat I am," confessed the mandrill.
"Mother?" addressed Simba. "Has anyone from our pride ever heard of this lioness? She says she is a friend."
"I am not aware of her name," Sarabi confessed. "Nor do I think any of the pride is. They all gave her perplexed and disgusted looks upon our arrival. That is going to be a face that's not hard to forget."
"You're telling me," the lion king replied. "Very well. Unless anyone else says otherwise, I will banish her from the lands this time tomorrow. She did not declare any intentions nor reasoning for her being here."
Sarabi and Rafiki both nodded in acknowledgment, and then departed from the scene. Simba followed suite, both him and his mother heading back to Pride Rock.
The lion king slumped down next to his mate in the cave, yet knew it would be a long time before sleep would overcome him.
"Something wrong, Simba?" asked the Queen by his side, Nala.
Simba sighed. "Why would a lioness just be passing by aimlessly, Nal'?" he asked. "Usually female rogues are either greatly troubled or thirsting for power, yet this lioness was neither. She seemed content, yet she did not attack nor threaten me when we were alone. It was as if she was lost."
"Perhaps," Nala agreed. "Did you get her name?" she asked.
"Edith?" asked Nala back. "I know a lioness by the name of Edith. She isn't quite the social type, nor is she physically appealing…"
"…yes, quite…but she's actually quite harmless," Nala added. "She's a friend, Simba. I knew her growing up."
"How come my mom hadn't heard of her? Nor Rafiki?"
"Because they're adults, silly," Nala replied, chuckling at Simba's ignorance. "We were cubs, remember? I was a cub when I met Edith. You had already left but I was here for her. We kept these inter-pride ties secret, just like you did with your friend, Tonio, remember?"
"Yes, I remember Tonio," Simba replied. "Alright, you've won me over, Nal'. A friend of yours is a friend of ours. I'll give Edith permission to join the Pridelands tomorrow."
Nala smiled as a response. "Sounds good," she replied. "She's a good girl, Edith. There's no need to banish her."
The fog descended just as quickly as it had the night before, yet Simba found Edith easily enough. Even in just twenty-four hours, he had forgotten how ugly this lioness was. In fact, he could have sworn that she was even more wrinkled and dainty than she had been the day before, and some of her longer, pointier teeth were beginning to poke through when she had her lips pursed, giving her a more villainous smile.
"My mate, Nala, says that you are an old friend of hers," Simba stated. "Can you confirm?"
"Indeed, I am acquainted with that lioness," confirmed Edith.
"Then I hereby grant you acceptance into the Pridelands," replied Simba.
Edith snarled. "I never asked for acceptance," she responded. "I am a rogue lioness. I come and go as I please."
"Then I give you permission to come and go into the Pridelands as you please," Simba replied. He gave one last look at the lioness. The lack of expression within her face and her eyes were making him question his judgment. He still didn't trust her. "Just remember," he added, "I have the right to change my judgment at any time. Any questionable behavior, and you will be banished."
Edith didn't give a reply to this. Instead, she just hissed out of disapproval and then took a step back, vanishing into the dusk.
It was as if a giant weight had been lifted off of the king's shoulders. It had been four weeks since he had heard of that lioness, Edith, and things were looking quite swell in the Pridelands.
He was on his way back to Pride Rock on one clear night, however, when a giant object fell down from the sky and crashed right in front of him.
Simba stopped dead in his tracks, attempting to identify what…or who…had just landed in front of him. As it rolled over, it became all too apparent to Simba what had happened.
"ZAZU!" he exclaimed. "You've been attacked," he noted, lifting up the hornbill's wing. It was all torn and mangled, and the king couldn't help but see the sorrow in his majordomo's eyes as he investigated the damage to his self.
"Think I'll ever be able to fly again, sire?" asked Zazu.
"We'll take you to Rafiki, he'll be able to fix you up," Simba replied. "Who did this to you?" he asked, prepared to knock the living out of whichever culprit.
"Edith," the hornbill replied, simply.
"Edith!?" Simba restated in alarm. "Where is she? That bitch is no longer welcome in our lands!"
"On the Southern border. Same clearing as last time. I was just doing my nightly patrols."
Simba gave out a loud roar, signaling distress to all of his pride mates.
"Don't worry Zazu, I've called for help. Someone will be here for you in a second," Simba explained. "Tell them to take you to Rafiki's. I'm going to find Edith."
And with that, the lion king departed from the scene.
It wasn't until the crack of dawn that Simba made his way up into Rafiki's tree. The king had pulled an all-nighter, searching every border for the rogue lioness. His quest had turned out to be in vain and, now that morning was here, he decided that it was best for him to meet up with Zazu and check that his winged friend was still okay.
Simba smiled as he pushed his way through the leaves. It really showed just how much all of the Pridelanders cared for each other as he made his way into the center of the room, where Rafiki, Timon, Pumbaa, Nala, Sarabi and a couple other lionesses were all gathered around the wounded Zazu.
"Is he going to be okay, Rafiki?" Simba asked, joining in the circle with his fellow pride members.
Sarabi chuckled as she looked at her son.
"Simba," she stated. "You look like death warmed over. You haven't slept all night, have you?"
"No Ma'am," the lion king confessed. "Rafiki?" he asked again, still waiting on an answer.
"He's going to be okay," Rafiki reassured him. "I'd give him a week or two. Here…hand me more of the blue berries would you."
Simba found a branch of blue berries hanging next to him. He picked off a couple and handed them over to the Prideland shaman.
"Thank you," said Rafiki, popping the berries and allowing their juices to spill into a gourd shell beneath him.
"Did she give any warning?" Simba asked Zazu. "Did she say why she attacked you?"
"No sire," Zazu replied. "It was still foggy on the southern border. She came out of nowhere and began to pummel me. I tried as hard as I could to escape. It's a good thing I did…I'm sure she would have killed me."
Simba snarled. "Then she is banished from the lands," he stated. He turned towards his mate. "Sorry Nal', but whoever this Edith is, she must have taken a turn for the worse since your childhood days."
Nala nodded in acknowledgment. "I agree, Simba," she replied. "I don't want to see her again, either."
"The southern border seems to be the place this Edith keeps showing up," Simba figured, "and it's always at dusk. I will wait for her there each night until I am certain she is gone forever."
The rest of the Pridelanders all agreed with what Simba had to say, and so they all turned back to face Zazu.
Simba, meanwhile, was looking around for some orange berries. Finally, he spotted them hanging above Timon and Pumbaa's heads.
"Rafiki, you say those are stress relievers, right?" he asked, pointing at the orange berries. "Mind if I have some?"
"They're not the most perfect berries in the world," was Rafiki's response. "I would advise against it."
"I agree, Simba," Nala interjected. "You don't want to grow dependent on something like a berry just to relieve stress."
"Well I'm considering it," Simba replied. "I don't want this Edith thing to drive me to the brink of insanity, Nal'. Yet I fear that it probably might."
That night, the lion king found himself face-to-mug with that repulsive lioness again, standing right in the clearing next to the southern border. It was to Simba's surprise, however, that the fog had cleared the clearing on this night. This was the first time that he'd been able to get a glimpse of Edith, whole. Indeed, she seemed less lionesque now, and more just wild, savage beast like. Her muscles building, her fur scuffling, it was as if she had aged years within just a few weeks, yet had gained power in doing so.
"I want you gone, Edith," Simba stated. "You are hereby banished, forever. No one attacks one of our pride members and sticks around to tell the tale."
The lioness simply grimaced as a reply, and then whirled around, heading away from the Pridelands. It was at that moment that Simba realized something odd. Ever since he had accepted Edith into the lands, he had not actually heard of her utter a single word in English. It was almost as if she had lost the ability to speak.
"And Edith!" he called after her, stopping the lion-beast in her tracks. "If I ever hear of you attacking one of our pride members again, I will beat the living hell out of you!"
Edith got the message, and then took off into a run, departing immediately from the lands.
For the first time in a long time, Simba was able to sleep peacefully. It had been four weeks since he had banished Edith and nobody had ever heard of her since. His rests, which had been consistently bombarded with scary scenes of that lioness Edith and what she had done to the Pridelands, were now peaceful. It had been weeks since he had had a nightmare like that.
It was to his horror, therefore, when he found himself awaken in the dying hours of the night as the rest of his pride ran around ferociously, chasing Edith around the cave. Simba lifted himself up onto his feet, briefly catching a glimpse of a wounded and beaten Timon cowered up against the back wall.
Simba joined in the fight, but it was virtually already over. The rogue lioness had made her way to the cave exit and ran out of the door, vanishing into the dark.
"That's it!" exclaimed Simba, storming into Rafiki's tree, where the Pridelanders had gathered around the wounded meerkat, "I have had it with Edith. This is the last straw…next sighting, kill her on site!"
"Now Simba, let's think rationally here—" interjected his mother.
"I AM THINKING RATIONALLY! A rogue lion invades our lands, tries to kill Zazu, gets banished, invades our home and then tries to kill Timon! You think it's irrational for me to say kill her?"
"Simba, you need an orange berry," Nala stated, quite frightened by his anger.
"I DO NOT NEED A DAMNED ORANGE BERRY! Do NONE of you see how perilous this situation is?"
"We do, Simba, we do, and we completely understand that this is tough for you," Nala replied gently, forcing the berry into his paw. "That is why I do not think you need this berry now…but you might as well keep it, just in case she causes you any more trouble."
Simba heaved a deep sigh. "Alright, Nal', if you insist."
"You're probably just a bit hungry," Sarabi replied. "Come on Nala, come on everyone, let's rally up the hunting party. We've had a few unsuccessful hunts recently but I think we can pull this one together. Our highness's sanity depends on it," she joked, giving her son a smile.
Simba didn't return it. He really didn't see how any of this was a laughing matter.
The lionesses dispersed from the tree, leaving just Rafiki, Timon, Pumbaa and Simba.
"Are you okay, Timon?" Simba asked.
"He will live," Rafiki stated, reassuringly.
"Those orange berries help heel pain too, don't they Rafiki?" asked the meerkat, looking up at the shaman.
"Negative. The pain killers are the green ones, over here," Rafiki replied, making his way over towards them.
Simba looked up at the branches above him. It stunned him for a second but, after a while of searching, it became apparent to him.
"Rafiki," he called, "there aren't any orange berries left."
Rafiki checked over his shoulder and looked at the same place that Simba had been. Indeed, where there had been multitudes of orange berries before, the branches were now bare of nothing but leaves.
"Indeed," replied the mandrill. "Well, I guess you'd better make de most of dat one. Here are your painkillers, Timon…"
That night, Simba found himself, once again, wrapped around in dense fog on the southern border. He was waiting for Edith. Would she be here? Probably not. But he wasn't taking chances. He didn't care what his pride had said. He needed to end this matter once and for all.
After about an hour of standing, alone, a set of footsteps were audible from behind him.
Simba remained with his eyes affixed on the southern border, however. He knew who that lioness behind him was. Only one soul he knew of would be brave enough, and in love with him enough, to venture out into such a dank and dangerous area at this time of night, just to find him.
"Simba," called his mate, soothingly, "she's not coming."
"She may," Simba replied, not breaking his glance with the southern border.
"No, Simba, she won't," Nala argued back. "She doesn't exist."
Simba's gaze was now finally broken. He turned around to face his mate.
"W—what?" he stammered. "Nala, if Edith doesn't exist, who attacked Zazu? Who attacked Timon? Who were you all chasing in Pride Rock? Who was your cubhood friend?"
Nala groaned. She didn't have the right words to answer all that. She looked up at her mate and then back down at his paw.
"Still got that orange berry?" she asked.
Simba wrapped open his paw, exposing the berry to Nala's line of vision.
"Good," she replied, unraveling her own paw, displaying another identical orange berry towards him.
Simba frowned. "Why do I need two?" he asked, confused.
"You don't," Nala replied, looking back down at her own. "But for heaven's sake, Simba, don't lose that second one, no matter what you do."
Simba looked back down at his own paw. "That's because it's the last one left," he reasoned, looking down at the berry.
"I know," Nala replied. "I destroyed the rest."
Simba lifted his head and glanced back over at Nala.
"W—what?" he stammered. "Why?"
Nala sighed. She didn't have the right words to respond to that.
"I love you Simba," she stated, "you know that. I would never want to harm you."
Simba was completely bewildered. What was Nala getting at?
"That being said," the lioness continued, "go to the island in the center of the waterhole, you'll be safe there."
Before Simba had a chance to question Nala further, the queen had tossed her orange berry up into the air and had opened her jaw, ready for it to come back down.
Simba followed the berry with his eyes as it came back down and landed in Nala's gut, causing her to take a step back.
Nala recoiled and collapsed down onto the ground, and Simba could've sworn that her fur was turning paler and scruffier.
What had that berry done to her?
Simba closed in on the lioness, but then soon took twenty steps back, as his mate reared her head back up and displayed herself to the world.
Simba stumbled off of his feet and fell over backwards onto the ground. He couldn't believe what he was seeing; but it was there…
His mate was now Edith. Nala was Edith.
And she was coming for him.
Simba was finally able to find his footing. Menacing growls were already fast approaching him from behind as this lion-beast began chasing him across the Pridelands. Simba stumbled over a tree root sticking up, and almost lost his footing and the berry.
The berry! Simba thought. It must turn her back. That's why Nala wanted me to protect it. That's why she destroyed the rest. Once I give her this berry, there will be none left. No more Edith.
With every stride that Simba took, he paid extra precaution to make sure that he didn't dare lose that berry. Every now and then, just thinking about it caused him to stumble a little bit more or to perhaps even run a bit slower, causing Nala…no, Edith…to close in on him.
Eventually, however, Simba made his way to the waterhole. He swam through it with his paw tightly wrapped around the berry and then reemerged in the center, where a small island peaked up enough for him to stand on.
Simba whirled around. Even through the heavy mist he could see the lion-beast standing by the water's edge. Her teeth were longer and pointier than they had been before, drool was rolling down both sides of her mouth, her eyes were ever-more sunken and hallowed and, had Nala told Simba of Edith's identity before, he knew he never would have seen it. The only thing that Nala and Edith seemed to share in common was their persistent fear of water. Simba knew that this was his only opportunity.
"HEY, BITCH!" he exclaimed, calling across the water, "CATCH!"
Simba lobbed the berry across the water and straight into the face of Edith. The berry burst open and spilt its juices over her. As the lion-beast recoiled, some of the juices from the berry landed on her tongue.
Edith collapsed onto the ground in agony and roared as she placed her paws over her aching head. Simba began to wade his way back through the water, hoping that his shot had been on target.
Indeed, he could now tell that Edith's white fur was turning back to beige and its scruffy appearance was smoothening out.
Seconds later, and the transformation was complete. The lion lifted her head again. Simba's chest rose. It was Nala!
The lion king waded his way back through the rest of the water. However, before he could get to the shore, his mate was back up on her feet and had positioned herself into a cautious stance.
"DON'T!" she exclaimed.
Simba stopped. "Why not?" he asked back.
"Simba, it's me, alright? It's me. Nala. I love you. I love you. I can't say it enough times…it's me, I'm Nala and I love you. But I don't know if this is permanent. I—I never knew Edith as a cub, alright? I lied about that one…but I had to. Or…I thought I had to. See, we had a bad hunt a couple of months ago and…well…I blamed myself. I couldn't get over it and, so, I took a bunch of Rafiki's orange berries on the night of the full moon. It's not something I would have usually done but I was just really bummed out about the whole hunt thing. Afterwards, I felt so much better! It was like I was relieved of my conscience. For the first time ever, I had no worries – much like you didn't when you went to live with Timon and Pumbaa. Difference is, I thought this feeling would only last one night and I would get over it. Well, I went to take a drink and I saw that I had transformed. It sounds terrible but…honestly…I kind of liked who was looking back at me. Her ugliness didn't bother me and…so…I gave her a name, because I knew it wasn't me. She was Edith. I couldn't find a way to get rid of Edith so I took an orange berry in the morning and she was gone. I was back to being Nala. I knew I didn't want to become Edith too often so I stayed away from Rafiki's tree, but I did it from time to time. Then that one night came when Zazu and you spotted me. That's when I had to come up with that alibi about me being Edith's friend because I didn't want you to banish her. But…the problem was is that you kept saying you wanted to see Edith on the southern border, so I kept having to take pills again and again to transform into her. With all these unwilling transformations, I was beginning to blank out a bit when I turned into Edith…I was beginning to lose control over her and what she was doing. When I attacked Zazu, I decided that enough was enough and I vowed to stop becoming Edith. The only exception was when you asked to see her. I wanted you to see her leave because I knew that was the only way everyone would be satisfied. After that, life went on as normal again. I was Nala. But…then we had a full moon and…I woke up Edith. That's when I began chasing Timon around the cave…that's why Edith was in Pride Rock. That's why, when I heard you saying you wanted to kill Edith, I knew I had to show you her true identity. Because if you killed Edith, you'd kill me."
Simba wouldn't have believed Nala if he hadn't seen it for himself. What she was saying made sense as far as putting the puzzle pieces together went, but he couldn't bring himself to accept that the beautiful, caring lioness that he was married to was also a heartless, villainous unnatural beast.
"What do you mean, you don't know if it's permanent?" the lion king asked.
"It happened on a full moon!" Nala exclaimed back. "It was a full moon when I transformed into Edith in Pride Rock and began chasing Timon. And…" she added, her voice quaking as she stared up at the stars, "…I fear it may still be a full moon tonight…"
Simba joined Nala in looking up at the heavens. Indeed, as the cloud cover broke, a full, giant silver orb was visible hanging in the sky above them.
Simba returned his glance to where his mate had been, but then panicked upon discovering her latest transformation.
As much as he was surprised to see that Nala had turned back into Edith, the shock was tenfold greater as he watched the lion-beast splash her way through the water.
The transformation was whole: Nala was lost. Edith had no fear of water anymore.
Simba whirled around and began on the run again. The chase would last until either the sun came up and the full moon disappeared, or until Edith had satisfied her endless appetite, with the taste of fresh lion flesh.
"So you see son," stated the lion king, flames flickering in front of his face, "that is why you can't stay up too late on the tenth full moon, because otherwise your mother will turn into a cruel, ugly, heartless beast."
"But Dad," Kopa responded, "I thought you said Mom was a cru…"
"Why, look at the time now!" Simba exclaimed, interrupting his son, "the full moon is almost up – time for bed, son!" he stated, knowing that Nala's piercing eyes were burning into his sides.
Simba pushed Kopa into Pride Rock, while the rest of the Pridelanders chuckled, watching the scene unfold as they sat around their small bonfire.
Content that Kopa was on his way to bed, Simba reclaimed his position in the circle around the fire, still refusing to exchange glances with his mate.
Finally, he spoke up.
"I'm not sleeping in Pride Rock tonight, am I?" he asked.
"For a story like that? You'd be lucky if I let you sleep in the Pridelands." Nala replied.
The rest of the group laughed.
"You would really call me a bitch?" Nala asked.
"Technically it wasn't you, it was Edith," Simba reasoned. "Besides, I doubt you'd be one who would take a berry like that, anyhow."
"You don't know me."
"Course I don't."
"Mom, Dad," called Kopa, stepping back outside of Pride Rock. "I don't think I can fall asleep on my own. Can I hear one more story?"
Simba sighed. "Alright," he replied. "Just one more, but this time..."
"…but this time…I'm going to tell it," Nala interjected.
Simba exchanged glances with her.
"You're going to do me in, aren't you?" he asked.
"For every Nala, there's an Edith," she reasoned.
"And for every Simba?" her mate asked back.
Nala chuckled. "Oh," she replied, "wouldn't you like to know?"
(A/N: Well, would you? If I got enough requests, I could be tempted to write another one. Btw, the story this was based on was 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.' Reviews appreciated!)