By KG HEATH
Matthew was sat at the dinner table. The warm air of the evening outside continued to blow in through the open window. He and his parents chomped away at their food. His father was discussing how the farm was doing - business was down again.
"It's all to do with the damned South African government," said his father. "If they'd get-"
The sound of a gunshot cracked through the window. All of them froze. Matthew looked to his father. He saw fear in the man's eyes. His father dropped his knife and fork, they fell directly onto his plate with a jarring clatter. He rose to his feet with such speed his chair fell backward and the table rocked.
"Daniel," said the mother.
"Patricia, stay here with Matthew." He picked up the rifle propped against the door. "They are not going to take this farm."
He opened the door and bellowed profanities the like of which Matthew had never heard his father utter. He heard other male voices shouting back, but Matthew could not make out what they said.
A loud boom thundered through the window, the unmistakable sound of his father's rifle firing. "I have more where that came from," his father shouted.
Several pops sounded as the men fired back. Bullets hit against the wooden walls of the house, sounding as though rocks had been thrown at the building.
The door flew open and his father collapsed through the opening. Something darkened the shirt around his belly. Matthew ran to his father, before halting only inches from his father. He saw the blood covering his father’s hands, the pale complexion of his father's face. The way his hands shook.
"Patricia," said his father. "Get the boy out of here. Run! Run!"
His mother didn't argue. She swept Matthew off his feet, carried him to the other side of the kitchen, opened the back door, checked that it was clear, and knelt in front of her son.
"Listen to me. I want you to run, run like you have never run before - and you don't stop - you don't look at this house. Do you hear me, boy?"
Matthew nodded, his eyes filling with tears.
"Those men out there want to hurt you. This is the only way to keep you safe. Remember us, now - but you have to run!" She pushed him out of the door. "Run!" she said in a hoarse whisper.
Matthew did as she said. He ran into the darkness, stumbling over the brush and uneven ground, but he never looked back.
He ran until dawn. The sound of the gunshots and the screams of his mother echoed around his mind.
Matthew’s feet were raw, his legs heavy with exhaustion. He looked about him, there was nothing but the plains. The sun was rising, the air was cool, but he knew it would not last that way for long.
In the distance, he heard a low growl. His heart jumped inside his chest. The instinct to run was strong.
Again, the growl came louder, closer.
He turned in the opposite direction, wanting to run. But, something told him not to. He turned back.
In the long grass only a few metres away, he saw it, a lioness. Her brown eyes stared at him, studied him. Matthew saw an intelligence in those eyes.
She stepped forward, slowly.
His heart was beating so hard he thought his body was vibrating.
She was merely a handful of feet away. She growled, a sound that buzzed the bones in his chest.
This is it, he thought.
She jumped, taking Matthew in a bear hug that threw the two of them to the ground. She laid on top of him, growling again. He felt the warmth of her body, the soft fur, the hot breath coming from her nostrils.
He expected the bite to come, but instead the lioness licked his face. It was hot, rough, but he understood the meaning of the gesture.
He placed a hand against her head and scratched with his fingers. She made a yowling sound and pushed against his hand.
He woke from the dream. The dream that never left him. He was a man, tall, muscular. Lions lay all about him, snoring and yowling under the shade of a tree.
He looked at the pride, the pride that had taken him in, and smiled.
The next chapter is soon to come in this Movellas saga, The Pride.
You can follow KG Heath on Twitter @kg_heath.