Although the sky was cloudy, morning was much brighter than night. The house gradually lit up and one could hear birds whistling outside.
Ken was the first to open his eyes, he felt different but did not know why, then he stretched out and yawned, but instead of seeing his hands, he saw the hands and claws of an animal.
In complete shock, he jumped up and looked at himself.
"Oh God!! What is this?" he looked up at the others who were still asleep, they too had changed over night. They no longer had the body of a human; they were now panthers, all black in color except Ken, who was dark blue.
"This must be a dream, and I have to find a way to wake up." He started to hit his head against the wall but only succeeded in making noise that woke the others up. They opened their eyes and saw a panther hitting himself against the wall. Out of fear and not knowing that the panther was actually Ken, they all jumped up and screamed, the screams got even louder when they looked at themselves and saw what they had become. Ken stopped hitting himself and walked up to them.
"Ken?" asked Nick, "Is that really you? or the real deal?"
"It's me," came the sad reply.
"But how did this happen?" asked Paul.
Telma moved around taking note of everything while the boys continued to rant about their unfortunate condition.
"I hate to burst your bubble guys, but, it seems we had a visitor last night."
The others rushed to her side.
"How do you know that?" asked Ken,
"Look!" said Telma as she showed them the prints of an animal on the floor.
"It is the only print I can find and I suspect it was a panther, the size is bigger than ours but looks exactly like ours, fits perfectly too." Nick noticed something and moved a little away from the others to look at it thoroughly,
"Hey guys? did you notice the plates are cleaned out and kept in their place? I don't remember anyone of us having the strength to wash up last night.”
"Oh!" gasped Telma in surprise, "The pot is washed too!”
“Am beginning to suspect that the food is the reason for this" said Ken.
"So, I was right then" said Nick, "It was a set up right from the start, the scene was just too perfect, a pot of porridge, four plates, four spoons, four blankets, and two beds? Someone knew we were coming."
"We better get out of here before anything else happens" Said Paul stammering
"I agree" said Telma, "And since it's impossible to carry our bags along, I suggest we hide them before going."
The four panthers with the aid of their mouth, pulled the bags under the bed and covered them with the blankets. Since the door was not locked, it was easy to push it wide open and step out.
The air was not that fresh due to the rot but, the woods had brightened up, even though the sky was still covered with dark clouds. "I can't believe I came in here a human and am leaving a panther" said Ken, "This is so, so weird."
“I know" said Telma, "But I also know someone who can help us out of this."
"Please tell me you're not just trying to make us feel good?" asked Nick,
"Well" she replied, "That is exactly what am trying to do and actually, I do know someone, it's been quite a long time, I only hope he hasn't moved away from home."
"And where is home? If I may ask," asked Paul,
"About three hours north from here, but, with a panther's body, I think we will get there in time if we run."
"Then we better get going" said Ken as he leaped from the pavement to the ground. The others joined him and in an instant, four of them raced away in speed.
Ken and Telma led the way while Nick and Paul followed behind. Racing through the woods with such great speed really excited the children.
"This is soooo much fun!!" said Ken." At least we know how a panther feels when it's on the run."
They were now close to getting out of the woods and Paul was the first to notice, so, he threw a challenge." You see guys," he said, "This body got rid of all the fat for me so come on, lets see who gets out first." He then doubled up his speed, the others did same and the race became hot. Ken came out of the forest first, followed by Nick, and then Paul and Telma got out together. They paused a while to catch their breath and survey the surroundings. The land spread out before them was covered with tall grasses. At the distance, there was a tall mountain, looking so magnificent and mystical; it was slightly covered in fog.
"Mountain of life" said Telma as she moved forward to stand with the others.
"You've been there before?" asked Ken."’
Yes, and we have to go through it."
"Lead the way chief" said Nick "and we will follow."
Just as they were about to continue the race, they heard the sound of laughter coming from the opposite direction.
"Did you guys hear that?" asked Paul, "I think..."
"shh..." Telma silenced him, "Listen."
They quietly listened for a while and finally, where able to make out some words and sound of the children who were saying "lets film these plants, they're so beautiful."
"But I like the other ones."
"Come now kids" said an elderly man's voice; he was one of the camp guards, "Let's visit the mountain."
"Oh no" said Ken "If the kids are going to the mountain, that’s not going to be good for us, you've seen the guns those camp guards carry around, if they even spot us, we're so dead."
"I know," said Telma, "They will see us as a threat. Look I know a secret rout we can use, buts it's going to be longer and rough." "As long as am far from machine and sniper guns," said Ken "it's okay, so lets get moving."
With Telma leading the way, they turned east and raced as fast as the wind could carry them. About ten minutes after they left, another panther, bigger in size with bigger claws raced out of the same woods the four had come out from. It stopped briefly, then sniffed the air,
"The east road" she said to herself before taking off towards east.
It was mid-day when the children got to another open field. The grasses were low and the place quiet. The breeze blew gently and the grasses waved. Traces of decay could be seen on the ground and the children did everything possible to avoid stepping on them. The children then stopped briefly to take a break.
"Gosh!" Said Ken, "This is so, so annoying!"
"What is?" asked Telma,
"Well look at us!" said Ken with a burst, "We are panthers now, am so hungry I don't know what to eat, and we can't go hunting animals to eat them raw, neither can we go back to the camp to get something to eat."
"Yeah I agree" said Paul, "Am starving, really don't know if I can continue this race."
"Guys we have to keep moving" said Telma, "It's the only way we're going to find someone to help us." "
We should have gone back with the other kids" said Nick, "But what’s done is done, we have to find help before we even think of going back to camp, and we have to find food too."
"Look!" said Paul nodding to a distance, the others looked up and followed the direction of his gaze.
"I don't see anything," said Nick,
"Neither do I," said Telma,
"Look behind the trees" urged Paul.
"Wow!" said Ken "Nice eye Paul."
"What is it?" asked Telma,
"It's a house; probably we can get some cooked food there.”
"No way!" said Nick, "Haven't we done enough harm to ourselves by eating people's food?"
"Hey! What can be worse than that? asked Ken.”
“Nothing," said Paul. "Am hungry and am going to see if I can get some food to eat, even if I turn into something else."
He then took off towards the direction of the house not caring what the others thought. “Wait!" said Ken and Telma simultaneously as they ran after him. Nick shook his head in disappointment before going after them slowly.
When Paul got close to the house, he hid behind a tree and watched. Ken and Telma joined him.
"Do you see anything? Asked Ken.
"Not yet, let’s wait a little longer before moving ahead."
The three of them watched for a while then Telma suggested that they sneak closer to the house. As they were about to make the move, Nick came up from behind and blocked them.
"Get out of the way," said Paul,
"Look!" said Nick, nodding his head to the right. The children followed the direction with their eyes and gradually, their mouths dropped open.
While walking up to join his friends, Nick had spotted two hunters, one carrying two guns and the other a dead lion. They walked happily towards the little house, so he had run up to warn the others and stop them from going into the house. The children quickly but quietly ducked into the nearby bush and watched the two men as they got closer.
"This is a fine catch we've got today," said the man with the rifle. "I'l quickly set the fire." He then moved quickly to the house, "Get me a drink when you’re coming back," said the other man before he dropped the lion heavily on the ground.
"Pew" he sighed "what a weight." he then walked away to the back of the house and came back shortly with some chopped woods. He arranged them on the fire spot and went back to get more.
"Guys, I think we should get moving" suggested Nick.
"On the contrary Nick," said Ken. "I think we should hang around to see if we can steal some food from them"
"Are you kidding?" said Nick in an alarmed tone.
"If these guys so much as spot us, we're meat."
"They won't spot us" argued Ken.
"Yes they will" Nick replied.
"Relax Nick you're over reacting," said Telma, "They won't even know we were here. "The panthers were too busy arguing that they did not notice a bull dog bounce up to them. Suddenly they heard it snare, and quickly looked up.
"Dear me" said Paul in a whisper. The dog began to bark at them and though they tried to calm it down, it only increased it's barking. Telma got mad at it and snared back but it only worsened matters. The dog got frightened and ran back to it's owners, the hunters who were tending to the lion, and forced them to follow it. Seeing that the bull dog was leading his masters to them, the children turned and took off from their hiding. The hunters spotted them and quickly went for their guns. By the time they returned, the four panthers were far away and disappeared in to the bush.
Knowing that they had lost the hunters, they stopped to catch their breath and suddenly, burst into laughter.
"That was cool" Said Ken, "Those men wouldn't even know were to start looking."
"Yeah," said Paul, "Unless that crazy dog follows our scent." Look!" said Nick, still panting, "When I said this was a crazy idea, you all didn't listen to me, we almost got killed."
"Well we didn't" laughed Telma, "Get over it Nick, you're too lily livered."
"Shut up Telma!" replied Nick angrily, "It's you who put us in this position in the first place, it's always about some crazy Island experience, you want us dead? Just say it."
"Nick calm down" said Paul.
"You shut up too" came the reply, "Just shut up! All of you." "You're over reacting" said Ken calmly.
"This is only for a while, when we find the person Telma is taking us to, we will be humans again."
"I hope for your own sake you're right" said Nick, before walking away. the others quietly turned and follow him with their heads hanging low.