RUNNER UP, MOLLY MACLEOD – THE MOUNTAIN PANTHER - Al Fresco Holidays
A large black cat padded around a dismal cage. A clattering noise roused him from his trance and a pitiful slab of meat was thrown in. Then the young gamekeeper walked away. Immersed in his thoughts, the gamekeeper had left the cage gates ajar. The panther did not react immediately, but carried on his normal routine around the perimeter of the cage. As he neared the door, sprinting forward he dashed through the gate. He ran for all he was worth, stopping only briefly to drink before resuming his journey towards the distant mountains. The gap between them and him did not seem to shorten. He passed towns and shops, factories, play-parks and churches. The people who saw him gasped in wonder. Some screamed, others cheered. But, slowly he left them all behind.
After what seemed like hours, he reached the foot of the glacier- covered mountains. As his heart rate slowed, he realised he was free! Instinct told him this was home, where he belonged.
The metallic clink of claws on the rocky ground echoed eerily around the open mountainside. He strode purposefully forward, bright eyes flashing, an air of menace and evil about him. Suddenly, he stopped. His muscles tensed. His hackles raised. He was ready.
An ear piercing shriek went up. The wounded stag sprang up and bounded away. As burly as it was, it was no match for the mountain panther. Animals cowered in their homes and knew that the chase was on. Leaping after the stag, the mountain panther slipped on the glistening ice, giving the stag a vital chance to escape. Making deep grooves in the ice, the mountain panther regained his grip. Now the stag was panicking, he could tell. “It was a fast one” he thought. That made it more interesting. It galloped away, oblivious to the torrents of snow that fell mercilessly from the pitch black sky. The pair travelled far up the mountainside, the mountain panther gaining speed. They leapt over rocky outcrops, and slid down frozen streams. They raced on through the dark night.
Stumbling at last, the exhausted stag fell down. Jaws clamped around the limp body. It seemed dead. He thought, maliciously, that it was a very good feast, well earned.
As he carried his prey to shelter, blood trickled down his chest and red speckles appeared on the crisp snow. The snow was falling heavily now, covering his deep paw prints. His warm breath dissolved into the cold, mountain air. The snow beat down against his black, sleek, shiny body. His neck fur stood on end. He stood out from the snow like a rock.
Finally, he arrived at a cave and started to devour his meal, the best he had ever had. He gnawed it to the bone, savouring its juicy flesh.
Lying down he licked his lips. What a delicious feast! Sighing, he settled down. His last thought was:
“No-one escapes the mountain panther. “