Daniel, who was still a Dik-Dik, and his friend Francois, who was still a Fennec Fox, were traipsing through the darkness of a cold African night. Now, nighttime in the Savanna is a fearful time, because it is difficult to see and because there are many mean monsters that walk in the night looking for juicy Dik-Diks and savory Fennec Foxes to munch on.
And yet still Daniel and Francois made their way through the darkness, because Daniel wanted to find Beshekee, a mythical monster meaner than Man. Francois led the way, because he seemed to know his way around the Savanna and because he had an idea (or at least he said he did) for how to become friends with Mr. Beshekee.
“Francois?” said Daniel, a little nervous, “Where are we going?”
“You said you wished to give Beshekee a gift,” said Francois, “And I can think of only one place we could look.”
“What gift do you have in mind?” Daniel asked.
“If Beshekee were real- though I still don’t think he is- you could not present him with a tuber or with a flower. He will not care. But there is one thing I believe even Beshekee could not get, but maybe we could.”
“What?” Daniel was intrigued.
“Look up to the sky. What do you see?” Francois said, gesturing to the velvet, twinkling blackness above them.
“I see the Moon. And Stars,” said Daniel, “They are even more beautiful than Grandfather told me.”
“They are very powerful,” said Francois, “They help me to know where I am at night. They light my way in the darkness. They are always with us, no matter what happens down here. But tonight, upon my honor as a Fennec Fox, I have seen one of the stars above us fall from the sky to strike the earth. We shall go find where it landed, and we will take this fallen star to Beshekee.”
Daniel the Dik-Dik’s eyes widened, “Wow! A star!”
“Yes,” said Francois, “But we must be cautious. I do not know what stars are, and I do not know if they are safe to get close to. But they are certainly powerful and I am certainly curious, so it is a chance I will take. I must, you see, for it is the way of things that a fox should seek wisdom. You, however, are not a fox and you need not do so – I must warn you that it may well be nothing that we find – perhaps a star is fire and it has burned out. If it is still there, it may attract monsters. Even if we do find it, we will likely not find Beshekee, or if we do, he may wish to devour us, and if he doesn’t, there are still Lions and Baboons and Snakes and Man out here. You do not have to take these risks, little Daniel, if you do not wish to seek this star with me-”
“I do! I do wish to help you seek this star,” Daniel said, his little Dik-Dik voice becoming loud in his excitement.
“Hush now, young Dik-Dik,” said the Fennec Fox, “For there are many monsters about who are waiting to find tasty little animals such as ourselves and eat them.”
“Oh, sorry,” Daniel whispered, “I will be very quiet.”
With that, the little Dik-Dik and the tiny Fennec Fox scampered along the Savanna seeking a star.
They walked very long, and very far, and the night became darker and colder as they walked. Francois trotted ahead of Daniel, leading the way to the star that fell out of the sky. They pushed through the grass and hopped over rocks, and took breaks to munch on some little plants. Soon the grass became thicker, and the clouds covered the moon. When the moon disappeared and it was darker, they heard a sound.
“Who tramples my graaassss?”
The Dik-Dik looked over at the fox, his eyes wide with terror.
“Who stalks across my Sssssavanna?”
“Run,” said Francois, and they ran. They ran as fast as their tiny little legs could carry them, knocking big heavy blades of grass aside as they did so. Before they could get very far, their path was blocked by a long, big, heavy body. The dim light of the stars made the body glow a dark green and grey, and it was covered in scales.
“Ah, what luck!” the harsh whisper came again, and a big head appeared. A big beast with no legs and no fur: this must be the Python that Grandfather had told Daniel about! Now, the big legless body surround Francois and Daniel in a ring, and its head was looming above them with its cruel eyes staring down at them.
“A little fox and a tiny Dik-Dik,” the Python said, flicking its forked tongue about, “You must be far from home indeed, for we do not see too many of your kind around here. A shame, for Dik-Diks are a delicacy and foxes are a feast!”
When the big creature opened its mouth, its teeth where long and pointed. “I am Wollunqua the Python, and I am Lord of this plain. I will squeeze out your breath and swallow your tiny little bodies.”
The mighty coils of the monstrous python began to tighten around the two frightened critters.
“Daniel,” said Francois, “You must run away. I will attack this Python’s eyes and perhaps buy you enough time to run home.”
“I have a different idea,” Daniel said, and then, raising his voice (very loud) so that the big snake could hear him, he yelled, “Excuse me, Mr. Python, before you kill us, may I ask you a question?”
Wollunqua’s great head came swooping down out of the sky to lock his green, slitted eyes with Daniel’s.
“I ssssuppose you may. I do not see what harm it would do. Ask your question, delectable Dik-Dik.”
Even as the snake spoke, his coils were ever tightening around Francois and Daniel. Now, they were tight enough that it was starting to become difficult to breath.
“My name is Daniel, and this is my friend Francois. We are two very friendly animals on a very important mission for our future friend Beshekee. Perhaps you have heard of him?”
The snake brought his nose directly up to Daniel’s.
“Of course I know of Beshekee!” the serpent hissed, “But you are not friends with him. Such a being has no friends!”
“Well,” Daniel said, “we are going to bring him a present. You see, we Dik-Diks are afraid of Pythons, but I have heard that you are afraid of Man.”
“I fear nothing!” said the Python, “I even eat the mighty crocodile!”
“Perhaps that is true,” said Daniel, “But surely a powerful serpent such as yourself knows an opportunity when he sees one?”
“Yes,” Francois said, getting the idea, “If you too were friends with Beshekee, as we shall be if you do not eat us, you could be so very powerful, because Beshekee could keep Man away from you.”
“You cannot save yourselves this way,” said the snake, “I admit I am intrigued by your idea, and I’m sure you are very nice, but I am a snake. It is the way of things. Make peace with your Dik-Dik gods, and your Fennec Fox gods, for now you die.”
“Actually,” said Francois, a little short of breath, “Fennec Foxes are atheists, we do not believe in-“
“SILENCE!” Wollunqua’s grip tightened even more, quieting the tiny Fennec Fox. Daniel hoped he could find it in him to say the next words.
“As it is the… way of things that you must eat us,” Daniel wheezed, “So it is that Man will destroy you. So it is that, while you may not fear any other creature, the same may not be said for your family. Perhaps you have, or will one day have, some little baby pythons?”
The snake squeezed even harder, “Do not speak of my babies!”
“I just wish to protect them!” Daniel said, “What of the crocodiles you have angered by eating their own? What of the Eagles in the Sky? What of Man’s Fire? Beshekee can help you protect them. Francois and I can help you find Beshekee.”
Some strange look came over Wollunqua’s face, and his grip loosened.
“Beshekee… could make the Savanna safer for my children?”
“Certainly,” Daniel said, catching his breath, “Until they are big enough to protect themselves.”
The snake loosened his coils further, “If you are wrong, I will eat you both.”
Daniel the Dik-Dik smiled, “If I am wrong, you are the least of my worries.”
With that, Daniel the Dik-Dik, Francois the Fennec Fox, and Wollunqua the Python continued on their journey to find the fallen star.