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By Neil Primus

THERE are many stories about the existence of the Kanaima: Some are believable; others are not. Here is one that you have to decide whether to believe or not.
Basil was 28 years old and on his first visit to the city. All his life he had lived in the interior jungle among his tribe. It was a simple life without too much influence from the city. He was the son of the tribe’s spiritual healer; it was believed that he possessed special powers. This was no lie. Basil was indeed a very powerful young man. He had the uncanny ability to shape-shift. Yes, Basil was a Kanaima.
When he arrived in the city, he was greeted by relatives and friends who had migrated to the busy metropolitan capital. He was fascinated by the houses, vehicles and throngs of noisy people. Basil arrived in September, and was expected to return home in late December.
His cousin, Annemarie, invited him to attend her staff party. What she failed to tell him was that it was a Halloween Ball. When Basil arrived, the man at the door told him he could only gain entrance if dressed in a costume. Meanwhile, people were passing, wearing all sorts of weird costumes. Basil decided he would comply.

“I’m going to put on my Jaguar costume and return,” he told the nonchalant doorman.
He was true to his word. Ten minutes after, he was back. When the man at the gate saw him approaching, the poor fellow was speechless; it was the most realistic costume he had ever seen. Besides that, the young man wearing it must have had a lot of practise! He looked perfect in his role! Basil entered unchallenged.
The party was in full swing. All sorts of animals, birds and mythical creatures roamed the large hall, but none could be compared to the Jaguar. He had no difficulty in enjoying the best cuts of meat. As the party neared its conclusion, an announcement was made.
“Animals and all creatures, including aliens, please get ready to reveal your identity.”
One by one, people stepped forward and removed their mask. After every revelation, there was loud applause. This went on for quite some time, until it was Basil’s turn.
“Now, who can this be?” The announcer’s voice was playful.
“Take off the headpiece.”
Basil just stood there.
The announcer misread the lack of response as some sort of hesitation and shyness. He stepped forward to assist. That was when he received the shock of his life! He grabbed the neck, trying to detect where the headpiece could be pulled off. Finding no seam or opening, he just took a leap of faith and yanked roughly, trying to tug the headpiece off.
Flashing feline eyes, raised hackles and exposed claws were accompanied by a ferocious, deep growl.

The man took an uncertain step back, his mind trying to wrap itself around this new and present danger, as there, in front of him, was a real live jaguar. It was too much to take in. With a shriek, he burrowed his way out of the building, much to the shock of everyone. That is, everyone except Basil.
“J…J….Jaguar! Real J…J…Jaguar!”
When the significance of what he was saying penetrated the liquor and drug-crazed minds in the party, they all responded as one. In a flash, there was a screaming, jostling mass trying to exit the room.
The man at the gate had seen him enter, and had his own suspicions. He kept checking to see where the strangely costumed fellow was. Something about the costume made him uneasy. When the MC made his exit, screaming for Jaguar, the doorman took his cue. He sprang into action, heading for the safety of his home. No more Halloween Balls for him!
As for Basil, he exited the empty dancehall and made his way home; transformed, of course. On the way, he met a terrified cousin, babbling about some monster at the party. When she asked if he had attended, he replied in the best way he knew how.
“Got lost; sorry,” he mumbled.
Basil returned home, and to normalcy. But for many of those who attended the party, particularly the MC, normalcy was A Lost Kingdom.

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