Tiger Prey

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
March/April 2001

By Pace Ellsworth, Illustrated by Ayla Reynolds

The thick, tall grass sways as the tired wind barely strokes it. Its soft movement quietly brushes against the face of the sleeping antelope. She breathes softly in and out, farther away from the herd than any of the others and one of the smallest members, too. In the middle of a large clearing, she lies there. Passing predators would take advantage of a weak sleeping animal like her. The wind blows northward, in the face of the poor sleeping creature.

No one and nothing except for the wind and the darkness of night see him, the dark, ghostly, almost invisible figure that is moving silently through the tall grass. Slinking steadily and stealthily closer and closer, the nocturnal hunter is north of the small antelope. From the scent she gives him, the experienced predator attains a better position to attack. He is only a few yards north of the sleeper, when suddenly, the wind shifts directly south, carrying his scent with it! In the dark, he despairs, flattening himself down in the thick grass. Awakening, she smells him and stands cautiously, ready to flee at a moment’s notice. Terrified for her life, she flexibly spies in every direction, but he has ducked out of sight.

Ttger Prey tiger on the hunt

No one and nothing except for the wind and the darkness of night see him

Immediately, she darts away to wake and warn the herd! Waiting long for this moment, he leaps from the tall grass in a flash of lightning followed by a roar of thunder as he pounces upon the now sprinting, panting antelope! The roar wakes the herd, and they instantly scatter in fear while the predator pulls its prey to the ground with his huge paws and claws. With the rupture of her jugular, the antelope dies instantly and the whole night is silent again, except for the diminishing whisper of a hundred antelope hooves in the distance. With Tiger’s first kill in days he rests and eats.

*          *          *

Tiger continues his meal of antelope, after a short swim in his favorite pool to clean himself from the bloody kill. Sitting there under his tree in the thick grass, tearing slowly and getting his fill for quite a while, he basks in the afternoon sun. After hiding the rest of his kill in the dirt and grass for a later meal, Tiger then sleeps in his lazy way, proud of his unbeatable strength. He is a cautious and vigilant tiger, not about to allow anything to get his hard-fought-for food. After his small nap, the wanderer goes on a walk, marking the trail behind (as always) so he can get back very easily and finish the antelope later on.

Tiger walks up to a short, lonely tree about a mile through his regular stroll. About to scratch a personal mark in its side, he is reaching out his claws when BANG! BANG! Startled, Tiger jumps from the tree trunk and dives into the grass for cover. He has no idea what the loud sound is or what it is coming from. Tiger only knows that whatever made those sounds is far away, and he thinks that it would take a long time to reach him, especially if he heads back to his kill. Then the strange barking beast would go away rather than do battle with Tiger. He is a strong and experienced tiger.

Being a predator, he is not afraid, for tigers are incapable of complete fear. He is merely concerned as he warily heads back toward his food. When he arrives at his domicile, Tiger discovers that his food is exposed and has been tampered with, half of it gone! He smells it and then jumps away. There is a different, new and strange smell. Almost a mixture of smells though. Tiger is more confused now than he ever has been in his life.

Sparked by a newly found curiosity, Tiger searches, examines, observes, and finds only a few yards away, a puddle. Though not like the puddle of an occasional heavy rain. A crude, black, nauseating substance, the liquid is also somehow clear and shiny. Tiger nudges the puddle with his paw quickly and the black covers his paw. He then licks his paw once nervously and “GRR!” He begins growling and shaking because of the revolting taste. Immediately, he jogs to his watering hole to wash his mouth and paws vigorously. When Tiger returns to the cloudy puddle, he finds that its scent marks over a long distance in a line. Captivated, he follows the scent, at first ignoring its disgusting smell. Using his curiosity more than his experience, Tiger is growing in bewilderment.

The sun slowly begins to set behind him as he walks, trudges and lumbers along. Along the trail, he sees more of the liquid and tries to stay away from it. But nothing will stop him, and he continues his journey.

About to rest and nap until night for the first time on his trek, Tiger sees over a mile away, a large thing a little less than the size of an adult elephant. With round, black feet the shape of the full moon, it looks like an oddly shaped boulder. Getting closer, Tiger sees that on the top of the bizarre structure sit creatures, silhouetted in the setting sun. Animals like nothing he has seen before. They have heads, four legs each, and some other physical features like his. Except that they stand on their hind legs and hold long pointed objects that look like small branches.

Tiger does not know what to make of all these new sights, sounds, and scents. What he may never know is that these strange things threaten his very existence. He does not know it, but he is becoming more the hunted than the hunter.

Ttger Prey Pace Ellsworth

Pace Ellsworth, 13
Burke, Virginia

Ttger Prey Ayla Reynolds

Ayla Reynolds, 12
Juneau, Alaska

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