The swinging gate of the gigantic elephant, as it moved across the great plain, mimicked the motion of a small boat on the ocean. It was almost hypnotizing. I watched the many animals that we passed by. Having been to Africa, I was no stranger to great herds of herbivores moving as one across the grassy landscape, but here I was able to view them from much closer than I had ever been before. The huge deer, standing seven feet tall at the shoulder, but with antlers spanning twelve feet; gnus, almost identical to their African cousins except for their black fur; bison with horns that would have made any Texas longhorn envious; and a species of zebra that had stripes only around its face and front shoulders—all of these creatures allowed the pachyderm to approach much closer than they would have a walking human. I saw more of the saber tooth cats, rhinoceros with no horn at all, brightly colored ostriches, and armadillos the size of a kitchen table. It was an amazing expedition, but one can only stay amazed for so long. Eventually, between the general fatigue that I experienced, and the motion of my mount, I was lulled into a drowse.
“Henry Goode,” said Kanana.
I started awake.
“It is time to say goodbye to Giwa.”
Kanana slipped a leg over the great beast’s shoulder and slipped to the ground. Fortunately I didn’t have to perform the same acrobatics. The elephant lowered itself just as it had done when we climbed aboard, and though it was still quite a drop, I managed it, sliding down its side. Giving us a parting sniff with its trunk, Giwa turned and walked off across the savannah.
“Are we back home?” I asked, looking around.
“No no, Henry Goode. We are… many far away.”
“Why did you send your elephant away then?”
“Giwa not… happy?” Kanana looked for my confirmation of the word. I nodded.
“Giwa not happy here.”
“This looks very much like the rest of the grassland to me,” I conceded. “More jungle off in that direction.”
“Smell,” she ordered.
I took a deep breath but couldn’t smell anything notable.
“What am I smelling?”
“Doesn’t zuhu mean lion?”
A tremendous roar suddenly reverberated through the air, into my skin, and right down my spine. Before I had realized what was happening, a pair of monstrous lions jumped out of the high grass, right at Kanana. I was frozen in place, but my companion wasn’t. With an equally ferocious roar of her own, she leapt forward, grasping one of the beasts around the middle, and knocking it from the air. I suddenly remembered that I had a pistol and pulled it out, but by that time the girl and the two lions were one gigantic, growling pile. As I looked for a target amid the furry mess, the jungle girl let loose with a peel of laughter. Jumping to her feet, she wrapped an arm around each of the great black-maned heads.
“Henry Goode,” she called. “These are Kanusa and Katusa. They are Kanana’s… brothers.”
I sucked in a mouthful of air, only now realizing that I had been holding my breath. Then I realized that all around me were lions—maybe twenty of them, ranging in size from the two enormous males that now nosed Kanana’s stomach to females only slightly smaller, to a number of yearlings, any one of whom would have been a match for me. None of them made a threatening move toward me, so I stuffed my pistol back in its holster and checked my pants to make sure I hadn’t soiled myself.