Chapter V: Slaughter
Fujo looked at the giant carcass, ribbons of slobber dripping down his face. It was at least five times his size. Oh, I have died and gone to heaven, he thought. He ran towards the feast, thinking of how juicy, how tempting, how tasty it all looked. The carcass seemed to be moving slowly away from him, too, but still not fast enough. He jumped for it, opened his mouth to take out the biggest chunk possible—
—and woke up in the den. He felt himself being prodded.
“Fujo, wake up,” came Taraju’s whisper. “I need to talk to you.”
“It can wait until morning,” Fujo said grumpily, turning over from lying on his back to his stomach. All he wanted to do was get back to that wonderful, wonderful place.
“Fujo!” Taraju hissed. Fujo didn’t bother answering. Taraju slowly counted to ten, reminding himself that this was his brother, that he didn’t need to do anything stupid to him. He looked back down at Fujo. Still not moving. Taraju snapped. He put one of his paws down over Fujo’s snout, making sure Fujo couldn’t move it. Then he dug his other paw’s claws into Fujo’s shoulder. Fujo tried to bolt upright, yelping. Instead, his body, save for his head, only moved about half a foot in the air, his yelp silenced by his pinned mouth. Taraju took his paw of Fujo’s mouth.
“Okay, okay, I’m up. You didn’t have to do that.” Fujo watched Taraju leave the den. He rubbed his sore shoulder and followed him. He saw Taraju waiting for him by the slope leading down off Pride Rock. “Now what is so important that we had to get up in the middle of the night?”
“I need to tell you something. Show you something, too.”
“I don’t know what they did wherever you’ve been, but we don’t show off manly scars over here.” Taraju ignored him and walked down the slope. Fujo followed him. “So, where are we going?”
“Oh, so we feel like talking now? Well, that’s great. You know, they say it really does hel—”
“How’s your shoulder?” Taraju growled. He looked back at Fujo, clearly annoyed.
“I would. So if you don’t want me to make sure you have a pair, you’ll shut up.” He turned back around and kept walking. They walked for some time in silence. Finally Taraju spoke again. “Fujo, there’s not really any way to ease into this, so I’ll come right out and say it. I’m a killer.”
“Yeah, I think I figured—”
“Shoulder.” Fujo immediately shut up. “I really mean it. You have no idea what I’ve done.” They had finally reached the Outlands. Taraju went up to the edge of the basin and sat down. Fujo did the same. “You wouldn’t believe what I did for this.”
Taraju turned to look at Fujo. “I have murdered an entire pride.”
Fujo appeared to think through the words again. “Yeah, I must have misheard you. What was that again?”
“I’m not joking Fujo.” Taraju got up and walked down into the basin.
“Look, that’s impossible. You are one lion. There is no way that you could possibly have killed an entire pride. That’s crazy.” Taraju kept walking. Fujo thought it over. Well, he certainly looks capable of it. He looked over Taraju’s muscular body and his sharp claws that he had extended. But, no, there is just no way that—
“If I can’t prove it to you, maybe this will.” Taraju’s voice cut through Fujo’s thoughts. He stopped at the edge of a clearing, stared back at Fujo. “Go on.”
Fujo walked past Taraju into the clearing. “Oh, gods . . .”
Skeletons lay everywhere, some more decomposed than others. Every single one was a lion. Some had been stripped clean by the gods knew what. Fujo could see clearly that some of them had had necks broken, throats ripped out, bones snapped. On the ones that still had some skin he could see cruel gashes outlining their body. Fujo looked back up at Taraju.
“What could they possibly have done to deserve this?”
“I needed a new balance. They ate too much, drank too much. I had to get rid of them. I imagined a better Outlands, these Outlands. I knew that I had to make sacrifices. They were one of them.” He walked down to Fujo, sat down, looking at the each of the skeletons in turn. “I simply walked right up to them and slaughtered them. They weren’t expecting it, they had taken me in. I killed each and every one of them, one at a time. The last one . . . he was the leader. He had found me, took me from the edge of starvation to this pride. I made sure he suffered before I finally snapped his neck.
“I was too wounded to actually hunt for dinner that day. I took advantage of what I had. I ate them. Just went right up to a body and devoured it. I’m sure you’ve noticed the stripped ones. That’s what happened to them. It was the best meat I had ever tasted. So sweet. After the third day they began to spoil. I could hunt by then, so I just left them here.” He looked back up at Fujo. Fujo was staring at him, revulsion showing plainly on his face.
“You ate lions?”
“It was either that or starving.”
“You killed all of them and then you ate them? What kind of sick—thing—are you?” He paused, looking away from Taraju’s face. “You aren’t Taraju. He’s dead.”
“I wasn’t Taraju. I didn’t remember. I do now.” Taraju swallowed hard. “You have no idea what those memories are doing to me. They’re tearing me apart. I have done horrible, horrible things. I don’t deserve to live.”
“Damn right you don’t! What do you think you are, a god?! How the hell did you possibly think that—”
“Like I give a damn what you’ll do to me anymore! I was happy when you came back! Happy! We all were! We thought you were dead, we actually missed you! What are you going to do to me if I don’t shut up? Kill me? What is one more corpse around the place? Just add it to the twenty that are already here!”
“What kind of sick bastard keeps track?!”
“Do you think I don’t regret this?!” Taraju was finally yelling. Fujo cowered. “I would give anything to be anything other than what I am! I am despicable! I can hardly keep from puking when I think of all the things I’ve done!” He paused, taking a breath. When he started talking again, his voice was quiet. “I had no morals whatsoever. The memories are finally giving them to me. I am sickened. I shouldn’t be allowed to live for what I’ve done. I have ethics now, and they’re tearing me apart. All because I wanted to make a difference.”
“I’m sure what you’re feeling now helps them a lot.” Taraju turned away from Fujo, but not before Fujo could see something glisten on his face. He heard Taraju take a deep breath.
“Just listen to one more thing, then we’ll go back to Pride Rock and you can tell them however much you want.”
“I didn’t kill all of them. I massacred the ones here when the rest were on hunting detail. I knew they were out, and I that’s why I chose that time. They found the bodies when they came back. I had hidden so I wouldn’t be found. They swore to find out who did it. They raised a cub to kill me. Mvushi they call him. Savior. They’re coming to kill me. I don’t know how they found out I did it, but they’re coming. They’re somewhere in this jungle, just waiting to see me. Then he’ll try to kill me. I just thought you might want to know.”
Fujo said nothing. His face was unreadable as he got up and left Taraju. He walked out of the jungle, started back home. He ran home, and arrived when dawn had just broken. He looked at the sleeping lionesses in the den, at his parents sleeping in the back. They didn’t even know who they had let into their home. Fujo didn’t know what to do. He just went back to his spot and lied down, begging for sleep to overtake him.
About fifteen minutes later the den began to wake up. The lionesses trickled out, leaving to catch breakfast for the day. Fujo lied there, watching them leave. He saw Tumai walk over to him.
“You’re usually the first one up. What’s wrong? You feel okay?”
“No.” Tumai was a little taken aback. She expected him to say “yes”, she didn’t actually have an answer to “no”.
“Oh, well, um . . . You want to talk about it?”
“Get breakfast first. You’ll want it now, not after.”
“O-kay.” She looked around the den. “Where’s Taraju?”
“Here.” They both looked to the mouth of the den and saw Taraju standing there. Fujo felt a growl escape him. Tumai looked down at him.
“Just get breakfast for yourself. I’ll tell you later.” Tumai left, looking back over her shoulder once before disappearing. Taraju stared into Fujo’s blue eyes. Fujo stared just as intently back. Taraju finally looked away and walked over to the other side of the den. He lied down, his back to Fujo. Fujo turned over, looking away from his brother. The rest of the lions slowly exited the den, completely emptying it save for the two siblings. About a half hour after the last lion left Tumai walked in.
“So what happened?” Neither of the two spoke. “Did you remember, Taraju?”
“Yes.” His voice was flat and dead. A smile spread across Tumai’s face.
“That’s great!” Neither of the two moved. “I mean, you remember everything? That’s wonderful!” She paused, waiting for one of them to say something. Her smile slowly lessened. “What’s wrong?”
“Tumai,” said Taraju, “I don’t want to hurt you. I know that now. I can’t tell you. I just can’t.”
“Oh, so you can hurt me but not her, is that it?” Fujo’s voice came angrily from his still form.
“I had to tell someone. I had to get it off me.”
Fujo turned over angrily, looking at Taraju. “Why me?” Taraju remained silent.
“What are you talking about Fujo?” asked Tumai.
“He won’t tell you; I might as well. That—lion—if he even deserves to be called that—is a murderer.” Tumai looked over at Taraju, shocked. “That’s right, a murderer with cannibalistic tastes. ‘It was the best I’d ever had.’ Filth!”
“Is it true, Taraju?” The sadness showed openly in her voice.
“Of course it’s true!” Fujo was on his feet now, shouting at Taraju. “Do you actually expect him to tell you? Hell, he doesn’t even care about it! He is nothing more than a killer! If you had been out there, you’d be dead, too! All for his little utopia.”
“Shut up.” Taraju finally spoke.
“Oh, does it bother you that—”
“I told you to shut up!” He turned over and had Fujo on the ground by the neck before Fujo barely had time to gasp.
“What are you going to do? Kill me? Just chalk one more up on your list? Just so you know, in case you bother to alphabetize, I go under F.”
“Taraju . . .” It was Tumai. “Taraju, you’re going to hurt him . . .”
Fujo watched as Taraju’s face slowly changed from rage to . . . something. Taraju sighed and got off of Fujo. “I can’t stand it.”
“Just tell me. Don’t worry about me, just tell me.”
“Fujo is right. Everything he’s said is true. But it’s not like that anymore. I have feelings now. I know what I did was wrong. I massacred an entire pride, and just because I knew how they’d feel I left a few alive to feel the pain of loss. I ate lions, and I killed the people who took me in.” Tumai took all of this in with an increasing expression of disbelief.
“I’m going to turn myself over to them. I don’t deserve to live. They should at least be the ones who kill me.”
“What? You can’t.” It was Fujo.
“I thought you were the one who was just ranting for my death.”
“It’s not like I actually meant it. Yes, I’m disgusted with what you’ve done and yes, I think you are the scum of the earth, but that was then. I just wanted to get my feelings for what you did off my chest. It’s not like I actually want you gone, I never said that. You’re here now. I mean, this is here, and that was then. You shouldn’t have here mixed up with—”
“He’s trying to say,” interrupted Tumai, “that you’ve gone and done that. I know you’re truly sorry. We know you regret it, but you’ve come clean. Shouldn’t that count for something?”
“No. Not for what I’ve done.” He walked out of the den.
“Where are you going?” Tumai called.
“To pay for what I’ve done.” Fujo and Tumai looked at each other, then rushed out of the den after him. He was running towards the Outlands. It was all they could do to catch up to him.
“Taraju, please reconsider,” begged Tumai. “You don’t have to go back to that. You can stay with us, we’ll protect you.”
“What, so more innocents can die for me? When they find I’m here, they’ll kill me. And anyone in their way.”
“Look, we know you can take them, so please, just don’t do this,” pleaded Fujo. “It was bad enough losing you once, we can’t go through this again. What will Mom and Dad think?”
“Dad will understand.”
“Mom has been crying her eyes out every damn day almost. She finally stopped when you came back. She was happy. Do you really want to take that away from her?”
“She was happy with Taraju. I’m not Taraju.”
“Damn it, you are! Who do you think is even telling you to do this? Not the killer, that’s for sure!” They had reached the boundaries of the Outlands.
“A few years of memories aren’t enough to change someone.”
“Look what they’ve done to you!” said Tumai. “You’ve gone from a killer back to a cub! We want that cub back!”
“Don’t give me any more reasons to not go through with this.” They reached the basin. “I want you to go back and tell them what I’ve done, and what I’m doing. Whatever you do, don’t go down there after me. I will kill you.” Taraju walked down into the basin. Fujo and Tumai stood there, stunned, watching him go.
“Do you think he really would?” asked Tumai.
“I don’t care anymore.” Fujo walked down after him Tumai at his heels. They rushed in, only to not see Taraju anywhere. “Damn it, where did he go?” They heard a chorus of roars. They ran towards it. They came upon a huge termite mound. Lions stood on various parts of it. One male lion was advancing towards Taraju.
“You have no idea how long I’ve waited to do this.”
Fujo ran up to Taraju, planting himself between Taraju and the young lion. “Taraju, think this through!”
Taraju whacked Fujo as hard as he could, sending him flying. Fujo hit the ground and heard Taraju say, “Just do it now.” He looked up to see Taraju sitting down, Mvushi advancing towards him. Taraju arched his head back. Mvushi leapt on Taraju. Fujo saw him sink his teeth into Taraju’s neck and tear out his throat.
“Taraju!” Tumai screamed. Fujo saw Taraju’s limp body slowly keel over. It hit the ground with a dull thud. It didn’t move. Mvushi spit out his chunk of Taraju’s neck.
“It’s done.” He turned and walked into one of the mounds. The rest of the lionesses followed him. Tumai and Fujo walked over to Taraju’s body. Tears streamed down Tumai’s face. Taraju laid there, his body looking as if he was only sleeping. Only the blood seeping from his neck told a difference.
“I can’t believe he’s gone.”
“Brother . . .”
They sat there all day, just looking at Taraju. Finally Fujo got up from where he was sitting. He walked until he was right next to Taraju, and lied down next to him his back to Taraju. He made sure to drape one of Taraju’s forelegs over him. He bit into the foreleg and rolled over, then stood up. Taraju was clumsily over his back. Tumai walked around Fujo’s back and pulled one of Taraju’s hind legs over, so that he was evenly draped across Fujo’s body. They both began to walk slowly back to the Pridelands.
When they neared Pride Rock several lionesses rushed out to greet them. They immediately stopped when they saw Taraju. Fujo and Tumai walked up the slope to Pride Rock. They saw Kiara and Kovu standing there. Kovu stared at them. Kiara turned away. Fujo walked over to the mouth of the den and gently dropped Taraju. Kovu could finally see Taraju’s neck.
“Gods . . . what happened?” asked Kovu.
“Taraju came back."