Kemala is just a few hours old.
The tiny tiger cub is a squirming ball of fluff, blind and completely helpless. Nuzzled into the soft fur of Mum’s stomach, she mews hungrily. With a giant tongue, Mum licks her from the tip of her tiny nose down to her tail, and again, and again. She might not be able to see what Mum looks like yet - but she already knows she’s the best.
On either side of her are two other squishy, squirmy fur balls, mewing away. Her two brothers.
Nestled into Mum, who seems giant, they feel toasty and safe. Her body rises and falls, rises and falls, and they listen to the familiar sound of her heartbeat. She smells musky and, although the ground is hard, and the new world scary, she is soft and comforting.
Kemala glugs as much warm milk as she can fit in her teeny tummy before Zzzzzzzz. It’s time to cat nap.
She’s woken by something completely new. The sound of singing? From not too far away. One solo voice calls out, its song on repeat. Then suddenly, all at once, hundreds join in. All with dif-ferent sounds and songs. The fill the air, echoing all around. It’s almost deafening - and so an-noying. Kemala scrunches up next to one of her brothers. Whatever they are, she wishes they’d shut up and let her sleep.
Days go past and Kemala and the cubs drink milk, squirm around and snooze. They’re getting bigger and chunkier and clamber over one another battling for milk. They’ve pretty much ex-plored all of Mum now. A giant, furry island with a massive, flat, rough tongue, four big, squishy paws for batting them when they get too boisterous, and one long tail, which flicks around when it’s time to be quiet and go to sleep.
Then one day something amazing happens.
Kemala can see.
At first everything is bright and blurry but, bit by bit, a picture starts to emerge - Mum. And she is magnificent. Striped all over, her body is long and slim and powerful. Her eyes are big and bright, standing out against the pattern of her large furry face. Being a tiger is awesome.
And where have they been living all this time? Kemala looks around. The walls are wobbly and stony and completely surround them, except for…maybe…a little in the distance - it that a hole?
For the next few days Kemala explores the den bit by bit, getting a little bit braver every time. A couple of days after, her brothers’ eyes open too, revealing bright blue peepers. They’re smaller and much more cautious than Kemala though, only exploring a couple of metres before wrig-gling back to Mum mewing.
Well, forget those scardy cats, Kemala’s decided it’s time. Time to explore the hole. She’s now seen Mum use it several times - and she wants to see what’s out there.
The next time Mum’s snoozing, she sneaks up to it, her paws wobbling. As she gets closer the light starts to change, her eyes adjusting as things become sharper.
Gingerly she approaches the opening. She pops her head out…
Something large and feathery is standing right in front of the cave. It flaps its big wings in shock.
Kemala tumbles back into the den, running as fast as her paws will take her, tripping over them as she dashes back to Mum and the cubs.
She scrambles over Mum, hiding in her fluffy stomach fur and panting. What was that mon-strous thing?! With its sharp beak and feathers. It was nothing like a tiger. Kemala nestles into Mum’s warmth, her rough tongue brushing through her coat. Her eyes start to drift shut.
Maybe she’ll leave it a while before exploring outside again.
Watch out for chapter two coming soon!