I am a Tigress, alone in the wilderness I stride with confidence and the strength of youth in my bones. I am fully content in the comfort of my wilds. As the morning rises, ripples of light intermix with lines of shadow to mark my ginger hide. To my right is a forest of greenery in every shade and hue. It is a wonderful place for play. So I play. The silver cross and chain makes a soft chinking sound around my neck as I run and jump and play. As the red ball rises… time ends for play. The umbrella canopy of dark foliage, glossy like jade, is suitable shelter from the rays of the high sun, even from the constant wind, and occasional rains. To my left is the light drenched solace of the grasslands. Cat tails, water lilies and pampas reeds bow in the winds. Sprawled out, I sleep in the fields of long grass, hidden from view but not from danger.
I dream of past days and childhood games. I dream of chasing red butterflies. I chuff in my contentment until sleep becomes a bore. I shake away the laziness that blankets me; feeling the discomfort of the red ball, playtime is over. I remove myself from the intense heat and skirt the edges of the dappled forest. There I see my favorite Omba tree, tempted, with a running start; I climb its soft and spongy branches. The crimson berries prevail over the greenish-white flowers that hang in droopy clusters from its boughs. With satisfaction I stretch out on its lower branches for yet another cat nap. The bough bends under my adolescent weight. Nightmarish visions startle me in my dreams. I am not safe here. The backwards descent from my perch does not appeal to me but the head first decline is too difficult an angle for my claws. The branches display deep scars from my prior days of leisure in their embrace.
As the afternoon wanes, I casually wander towards the cool of the deciduous forest, trying to forget the torment of my imagination; games of the mind. My last meal is a memory I feel in my gut. I would eat the red butterflies now, if I were to see them fluttering about. I pause and smell the air, for the first time unsure of my senses… the smoke of a bush fire? A regular occurrence on these grassy plains…I see a Black Kite. Is it watching the fire for escaping rodents to snatch as prey? No. Something else is in the air. The Kite hovering mid sky with little effort and striking skill, peers intently down, then glides this way, then that way, to hover minutes more elsewhere…but I find no reassurance in this familiar site. Something is not right.
With a sudden wailing cry, the Black Kite circles in the wind, startling me as it frightfully flutters past in shallow flight, its forked tail twisting all the while whistling, what sounds to me like “Pseudo err, see, see, see, see, see,!” With a bizarre shifting of its character it transforms into a black “V”, free flying, blown by the wind, string tail flailing, until it becomes entangled in the arms of the Ombu tree. I look upon this sight with disturbed concern, unaware of its meaning. I continue my journey around the curve of the forest.
There, unlike the numerous times I have traveled this same route, the wood abruptly ends. The scent of fresh cut grasses and overturned earth prick at my nose as a flood of other unfamiliar scents confuse my mind; hot smells of black and wet smells of grey. I slow my pace, hairs bristle, muscles twitch, and suddenly there is an eruption from the ground before me. The dirt is flung up, turned over, revealing black, running thick and slow like a molten river; black that burns and sticks to my pads, smelling of death. An unnatural stone breaks the ground and pushes upward towards the red ball. Another erupts from out of the earth to join the first, then a third, and a fourth like a volcanic explosion of solidified magma; grey, hard, unnatural rock. I jump backwards, twisting and turning as if convulsing as a shrill sound fills the air; far more insidious, but likened to the laughter of monkeys at play.
Before me are small forms, unlike monkeys; intruding upon my world. My empty belly fills with anger, and a thunderous roar spills out from deep within me. The sound shocks even me, and seems to resonate, permeating the squared stones and cutting through the dense forest behind me. I hear it echo from the hills beyond the Ombu tree and grassy plains. The unlike monkeys are momentarily paralyzed. Their laughter turns to high pitched screams, like the cry of prey at the time of kill. They jump from their places, and flee into caverns that appear and disappear in the towering unnatural stone. I pounce on the only thing moving on the landscape, instantly tearing to shreds a small red ball, unlike the one in the sky, that was the attention of play moments before. Retracting my claws into their protective sheaths, I leave the object; its innocence deflated. I turn my attention again to this bizarre unknown.
The cold unnatural stone seems to continually rise before me. I enter through an open cavern, entering discord. I see a tall form like the small ones before, with her hands in water, washing flat stones. Around her neck is a silver cross and chain, in every way like my own. A larger form of her kind stands beside her, enraged. She screams, as the stones, unlike stones, break apart with a shattering pitch, as they strike against wall and floor. I watch their movements with focus unwavering. The larger form holds a dark, long, thick, object, unlike a stick. My instincts sharp, my fearful heart tells me to slowly back away, but I resist my desire to run. Instead I growl as fiercely as I am afraid. The form lifts the object as I lunge forward, knocking him to the ground in reckless abandon. As I struggle against this menace, the air shatters. A smell of pungent smoke fills my nostrils. The female form falls to the floor. I turn and am upon her. Again the air explodes. I can not keep myself from cowering as a searing pain enters my side. I resist the desire to bolt as the smell of heat, unlike fire, fills the air; my courage maintained, I leap, biting and clawing at the male form.
My adversary strikes hard at my head and momentary darkness overcomes me. The air shatters once more. When my sight is regained I see the blood, the lifeless forms. Out into the moonlight I flee, back beyond the forest edge and the Ombu tree. Into the field I dash, side burning as it is whipped by reeds.
Noises unfamiliar, assault my ears, deafening my senses. Thunder shakes the terrain and once more the smell of hot black and wet grey. The smell sickens my stomach as I seek solace in the grasslands of my youth.
I find no solace there. I am pursued by monstrous beasts, unlike stone or wood, metallic in smell, beasts that rip away the field as jaws devour and long necks swing wildly about. Under lights, unlike the light of the day sky these lights blind me, all the while casting darker shadows, as the beasts continue their motions. They consume and discard all things loved by me. With quickening bites they leave behind only the rancid stench of black. Out of this black erupts, still more square walls of grey unnatural stone. Higher and higher they climb, blocking out the sky. The wind howls its complaint against this alteration as I dart in and around the commotion, running through the scene, my paws becoming burnt by the fire of the blistering hot black. I would bolt in the opposing direction yet in all four directions, similar scenes. I narrowly escape the jaws of the metallic beasts who roar at me from unseen faces.
In desperation, I set my eyes on the forest, now a few trees where once uncountable stood, with hopes to soothe the searing hurt. I only find remnants, all greenery quickly withering from view, leaving only the maze of walls. The buzz and chatter of voices, likened to the foreign forms, surround me like a thick host of insects on a muggy day. They pick at and pester me, my senses weakened, and my courage lost; I am the hunted. Quivering from shock, darting in and out between the walls, the grey and black, the walls themselves seem to be in pursuit of me, trying with all cruelty to trap, to crush, closing in.
These foreign forms pursue as faster and faster I flee, sounds making me deaf, smells sickening me, senses dizzying my mind, sights making me blind. I run the opposite way, and the opposite way again, confronted by more; I am trapped. A sharp pain, the sting of an insect, my mind continues to run, but my body does not respond. My sight blurs as my limbs give up their strength. Despite my horror I cannot prevent the sleep that overcomes me.
I awaken inside a room, empty except for a bed, sink, toilet, mirror… I hear a woman’s voice. “It’s alright Tiagra, you’re safe here.” The woman tries to reassure me. I stand on uneasy feet. My paws have become hands. The woman is watching me. “Don’t be afraid. We are here to help you.” She says. I turn and see a reflection in the mirror. It is of a girl, like the unlike monkeys. Ginger hair, slender arms and legs, unevenly tanned skin. “Who am I?” I hear myself say aloud, startled by my own voice. The woman says, “Try to remember, don’t be afraid.”
I remember. I took my shoes off in the park to walk in the grass and climb my climbing tree, happy in my imagination; but the city crews were tearing away at the grass, laying down blacktop that burned my feet. I was angry and afraid. I remember the other children laughing. Where they laughing at me? I remember feeling alienation, anger, and then the knife slashing through the playground ball. I remember being afraid, running bare foot on hot tar, running through the buildings of cold concrete, running home to the anger of my father, my fear and anger, my mother fighting with my father, the gun. He shot her. The struggle; he shot me. The butt of the gun against my temple, what happened? I saw them both; dead. I remember running barefoot till my feet bled, running, through the construction site. They were tearing up the park to build skyscrapers, working into the night. I remember running; they came after. I remember the doctor, the needle…
“I am trapped.” I think aloud.
“We are here to keep you safe for the night. Arrangements have been made for tomorrow.” says the woman. I look around at the grey; unlike stone, unlike wood, no greenery, no earth, no red ball of light, no wind, no wilds. An eerie awareness fills me. My sense of smell is fouled by the astringent stench of the sterile, the lifeless. My image in the reflection wavers as if a pebble was tossed into the water; full awareness overcomes. My body trembles as I remember metallic monsters devouring forests and fields. The smell of hot black, wet grey, cold unnatural stone causes fear to swell. I am trapped. My mind spins, staring at the sickly form that is me yet is not me. I cry out, throwing my body against the mirrored image, again and again as my screams become a roar. I lunge from wall to wall, seeking any weakness, my claws scratching, but I find no escape from this confinement. I collapse in exhaustion, my fur wet with perspiration, as the echoes in my mind slowly fade. A man’s voice disturbs the momentary silence of my thoughts. “There is no place for you here!” I see the barrel of the gun raise. I hear the thunder. I smell the pungent smoke and hot metal; I feel the flash of fiery pain in my skull. Then all is darkness…
Awakened from my nightmare I sit upright in bed. The room is bare with grey cold walls. Everything is sterile and clean. I get up and walk to the sink in the corner of the room and looking at the twisted reflection in the steel mirror, I brush back my ginger hair with slender fingers. I touch the scar upon my side where the bullet grazed me, but the one before it shot my mother dead. She tried to help me. I touch my head; the mark where the butt of the gun struck me unconscious, while my father turned the gun upon himself. I shake my head to shake away the memories. A woman comes to the ward room door; my grandmother. About her neck is a silver cross and chain, in every way like my own. “Tiagra, it is time to go.” She says. I walk with her, towards the open door, and the cold morning air. Beyond the confinement of the doorway, I pause. The city seems to suffocate the sky and crowd in around me. I see a black kite, shaped like a “V”, destined to be blown by the wind, string tail flailing, and entangled in the arms of the cityscape…But I am mistaken. The kite becomes a free flying bird, circling in the wind, hovering in mid air above the buildings with little effort and striking skill, peering intently down. Somehow I find reassurance in this familiar site as the Black Kite, with a sudden wailing cry, flutters past me in shallow flight, its forked tail twisting all the while whistling what sounds to me like “pseudo err, see, see, see, see, see!”…I walk out into the day, as the door closes behind me.