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Crossing the Desert
very strange and very wonderful had just happened to me. I
never thought I would see my father again, but I did.
came to me in a giant cloud. I'd never witnessed such a magnificent
sight in my life.
He spoke but a few
words, but they were enough. My body shook, my eyes
stung, my tongue was thick and choking me. Still, I've
never felt such
It had been his voice, his loving eyes, his warmth that surrounded me.
I will never
forget the warmth and forgiveness I felt in his presence.
It was as if he never blamed me in the first place.
hobbled up next to me, and we exchanged a few words about the
weather. I wasn't paying much attention to his remarks
until he said,
"Ah, yes. Change is good."
Then understanding hit me.
"Yeah," I agreed, "But it's not easy.
I know what I have to do but...
Going back would mean I'd have to face my past. I've been running from
for so long..." I let the sentence drop, expecting some wise words
or kind advice from the mandrill I now recognized
as my old teacher.
Instead, I got my head bashed in by his stick. Dang it hurt! And I
let him know
"Geez," I yelped, "What was that for?"
He looked at me, totally asking for a good thrashing.
matter," he said to annoy me, "It's in de past."
I rubbed the injured area with my paw, trying in vain to ease the
"Yeah, but it still hurts," I informed him. Rafiki leaned on his
stick, a very thoughtful
glint in his eye.
"Ah, yes. De past can hurt. But de way I see it, you can eider run
from it, or learn
I saw the stick before it hit me this time, and ducked out of the way
before any more damage could be
inflicted on my poor, confused head.
Evidently, this was what Rafiki wanted.
"Dere, you see?" he almost shouted,
"So what are you going to do?"
I eyed him and that blasted stick of his cautiously.
"First," I began, "I'm gonna
take your stick." Which I did, and threw
it as far from me as possible. As he was yelling and retrieving the
stick, I took off as fast as I could for the Pridelands. Stampeding
wildebeest couldn't...wait, bad analogy.
I was not about to stop for
anything. I was faintly aware of shooting stars falling around me.
I came to
the desert about dawn, a little winded but none the worse for
wear. I wasn't sure how far it stretched in this direction.
been an entire lifetime since I crossed it.
Thinking quickly, I figured it couldn't be larger than a day's
running. That's all the bigger it was in other places. I could make
it, easy. No problem.
topped a dune hours later and decided I was way off in my estimation.
This must have been a harsher area of the
Kouta, because never in all
my wanderings, had it ever been this forsaken hot.
The horizon hazed in every direction
and I could feel a dry breeze
begin to stir in the east.
My eyes got watery and the throbbing pain in my head returned.
Everything seemed to shift around me and I felt as if I were falling
from a cliff. My back and neck felt like
they were on fire, as did my
feet. I felt my mind losing a grip on reality, and desperately tried
to keep to
my senses. But, dangit all, they all burned!
It became very hard to breathe, and for the first time, I didn't
think I would die...I knew it. I had failed. I should have known I
could never win the desert.
No one ever escaped the Kouta's burning
dunes. I had cheated her once, long ago, when I would have welcomed
But by the grace of something more powerful than I, I had been
saved by Timon and Pumbaa. But not this time.
Now, that I was grown
and ready to fulfill my destiny, Kouta would have her revenge. I would
suffer in this
living hell until the sun burned the flesh from my
I opened my mouth to cry out in despair...or was it for
help? But no
sound came. The cracked dryness that choked the earth and scorched my
body had already permeated
my skin and moved inside. There was nothing
more I could do.
My legs buckled in unison and my body slid down
the other side of the
dune. As I lay there, panting, sweating...dying, I felt myself lift
into the air.
I looked down to see that I was swirling upward and away
from my body. Years passed, winds swept by in forward motion,
slithered across the landscape, covering my body, then uncovering it
again, only to be reinterred underneath
another creeping castle of
blown sand. This happened time and again, and every time my body
became visible again,
the less I recognized it. It became a monstrous,
mummified thing. Sun bleached bones poked out of cracked, torn
of fur. My eyes shriveled away from their sockets. My jaw gaped open,
full of gleaming white teeth
and sand. Not even the vultures dared
disturb my corpse. Even the scavengers have standards of comfort.
wind blew harder, and in its whistling I thought I heard a voice
calling my name. Like lightning, the vision was
gone, and my view was
again earthbound. Was I truly still alive, or trapped inside that
grotesque thing I had seen?
I wasn't sure. There was too much pain to
be dead, yet not enough feeling to be alive. Was there no end to the
Had I been able to lift my paw, I may have cut my own throat
then and there to get escape the slow, fiery death I was
I heard my name again, distant and unclear, as if coming from a vast
A gust of wind
blew sand up my nose and into my mouth. My body
convulsed, gagging. A coughing fit overtook me, and twisted
fetal position with my back against the wind.
The singular voice that I thought I heard calling my name
joined by more voices, both male and female. At first they only said
my name at intervals, and
somewhere in my rational concious, I
disregarded the sound as nothing but the wind. But then the voices
more urgent, and added the plea:
"We need you."
Over and over again I heard it.
"Simba. Simba we
"We need you."
The wind changed direction, blowing toward the Pridelands. Again I was
in a choking fit. This one so powerful it rolled me to my feet.
I stood before I knew I could. My head, however,
still sagged close to
"Simba, we need you." A voice said, much more clearly than before.
echoed it, and I felt a strong gust of wind push from behind.
My legs became weak once again, my stomach hollowed.
I knew I would
not be able to go on.
"I can't," I whispered, barely able to move my mouth.
"We need you,"
the voices continued. They were becoming desperate.
I closed my eyes in despair, and tried once and for all to
"I'm not strong enough!" I yelled. It didn't work. The voices
continued, growing stronger
the more I fought to silence them. They
became more firm, yet no less pleading. Wind swirled around me,
the fine, stinging desert sand past me.
Then a different voice came. One still desperate and pleading, but
holding extra emotion, making it discernable against the screaming
backdrop of the others.
"Daddy," the voice,
a female, said, "Daddy, I need you."
I looked up slowly. There, before my eyes, stood a beautiful young
Yet she wasn't there...yet. I could see through her. The
sand hazed horizon and rolling dunes were clearly visible
where they shouldn't have. Yet I saw her. She had my mother's
features, but strangely reminded
me of Nala. And everything about her
was crystal clear, like the scenery behind her. She was there, but
I tried to move closer, to raise my paw and touch her cheek, but
my body wouldn't respond.
trying," I cried. Had there been any liquid in my body, it would
have left then, streaming down my face in the form
"I can't make it," I told her, trying to make her see that what she was
asking me to do was impossible.
"I'm not strong enough."
Her expression was one of love, yet there was a trace of disappointment
in those strangely
"We're helping all we can, Daddy. You have to try harder."
The wind threatened to blow
me over, and I took a few shaky steps in
the phantom's direction.
"It's not enough," I whispered hoarsely.
My unborn daughter's face
saddened even more.
"Please Daddy. You must find the strenght within yourself.
do it for you..."
Her image began to fade away, but her voice stayed in the air.
"Daddy, we need
you. It is enough."
A surge of loneliness coursed through my veins. The same urgency I had
my father left now consumed me. Without even thinking, I ran
after her, searching.
I searched until just
before sunset. Dark clouds had gathered
overhead. Once, it sprinkled enough for me to open my parched mouth
and replenish my dehydrated body. I stopped and rested awhile then,
turning different ways so the rain could
wash the heat and sand out of
When it stopped, I found myself eager to move on. Somehow in my
of pain, I had regained my strength.
I crested a rise and stopped short, suddenly realizing that I was no
on Kouta sands, but the devastated remains of my former home.
Pride Rock pierced the clouded horizon, as powerful
and forbidding as
it had always been for countless lifetimes before mine, yet there was a
weakness upon all the land.
A sickness and decay lay like a fog
against everything, living and dead alike.
"Simba, wait up!" I heard someone
call. Thinking that it was more of
the voices, I turned to see for sure. It wasn't a voice...it was Nala!
I was surprised and baffled and overjoyed, all at the same time.
She trotted up to where I was standing and looked
at the valley below.
"It's awful, isn't it?" she asked.
"I didn't want to believe you," I replied.
looked at me then, her emerald eyes deep and penetrating;
"What made you come back?" she
"I got some sense knocked into me," I said, then shook my head to the
I'd been hit, "And I've got the bump to prove it.
"Besides," I continued, "This is my kingdom... If I don't fight
it, who will?"
"I will," she said earnestly.
I looked her square in the eye, almost looking forward
to the trouble
that lay ahead.
"It's gonna be dangerous..." I had to try to dissuade her, just for the
ha!" she laughed, giving me the strangest feeling of deja-vu,
"I laugh in the face of danger!" and she laughed again.
"I see nothing funny about this," another familiar voice broke in.
I exclaimed, "What are you doing here?"
Pumbaa bowed as best he could.
"At your service, my liege."
took a more relaxed, possibly disgusted approach.
"Ew, we're gonna fight your uncle... for this?"
I chuckled, "This is my home."
"Whoa," he muttered, "Talk about your fixer-upper.
"Well Simba," he said louder,
taking a breath as if he were about to
say something he might live to regret, "If it's important to you, we're
you to the end."
I smiled at my lifelong friends, then looked again at Pride Rock. A
brisk, cool breeze wafted
across my face and through my mane. The
winds had changed again.
Somehow I knew it wouldn't be the only change
this land would see
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