Maya.

Maya had grown up listening to the stories, the tales; the ones that told of a big ferocious animal that had to be scared away from the village. Their cattle had been disappearing and there was not a shred of doubt in the villagers mind that it was the beast that was behind this.

Hunts were organised. Some were big, with many men and boys taking part together. Others were independent ventures. Someone would just take in to their heads the idea that they would be the one to hunt it down, to trap and to slay it. None of them ever got so much of a glimpse of this terrorizing monster.

Once the cattle stopped disappearing, so to did the hunts. Soon the beast was nothing more than a creature of legend, something to spin stories around to entertain on a chilly night. Never quite forgotten, the monster was banished to the backs of people’s minds and there it stayed for many years.

Then it happened. One of the farmers found a cow had gone, completely disappeared. No signs of spilt blood, no signs of any panic; the rest of the herd, although skittish, were all unharmed. “Could it be that the beast has returned?” he was heard to ask after a few too many jugs of ale.

That suggestion was met with ridicule and laughter. It was a story, nothing more; an imaginary beast could cause no harm.

They would go out in to the mountains and hunt the monster down, show it no mercy for their weapons were so much more advanced these days.

Maya knew the truth. She had heard the vehicle in the night, watched in fear as hooded figures directed a cow in to the back of the truck. No one else heard for they kept to the far side of the village and the nearest abode was the one in which Maya lived in with her family. No one else woke up, only her.

She tried to wake her parents, she tried to wake her brother too, but they all slept on and in the morning they were all so busy.

Stop pestering me with your tales,” her brother had snapped.

Oh, Maya, love, it was just a dream,” was the eventual response from her mother.

But there could be no denying that another cow had disappeared, and a hunt was planned for the following day. Maya resolved to go herself, that very day, just in case there was some truth in the stories. She slipped away and nobody noticed her absence for ages.

Mile after mile she walked, across ever scraggy grass and started to climb her way up the mountain. It was not easy and sometimes she had to turn back to find a different route but she managed to go ever upwards until she saw it.

The tiger was magnificent. Orange, white, black and grey, it was a giant of a creature that had spotted Maya too. It regarded her with it’s golden eyes, took one step towards her then another, pausing to give an ear-splitting roar that echoed its way around the mountain.

Maya flinched, covered her ears but did not turn to flee. The tiger looked at her with some curiosity as she spoke to it in a gentle voice. “Hush, you have nothing to fear from me. I am not afraid.” As if to prove this she stepped towards it.

You are beautiful, wonderful, I would never cause you harm. But there are those who would, that seek you death. Be warned.”

The journey there had taken many hours and Maya had not considered how far the temperature would drop. Wearing only a thin dress, she shivered, wrapped her arms around herself, becoming desperate for some warmth.

The tiger saw and the tiger knew for she had spent many, many nights on these mountains. She walked towards the den she had made, slowly, making sure that the girl did indeed follow her. It wasn’t much but it did offer some shelter from the wind. Once inside the tiger settled itself on to the ground.

Dare she? Would it let her? Maya approached timidly but the tiger made no move to warn her off. That fur, it looked so warm and comforting. Putting all of her caution aside, the girl sat down against the tiger’s side, instantly feeling comfort and heat. She reached out her hand and let her fingers stroke it’s thick, luxuriant fur. How could they, her fellow villagers, mean it harm? She’d stay, make them leave it alone....somehow.

The girl was exhausted and fell in to a deep sleep, breathing in the heat of the tiger, knowing nothing would hurt her.

Meanwhile the village was in a panic. A girl had gone missing. Cattle had been bad enough but the villagers themselves now seemed to have become targets. The hunt could not wait until the following morning but would head out to the mountains in the dark.

Grey rock fed on the lights they carried, letting them see little more than black. More than one twisted an ankle or tripped on the way, but at last they made it to the top. The den was not easy to find but eventually a shout went up, waking Maya and alerting the other rescuers. The girl was fine, asleep beside a ginger kitten. She would need warmth and food but seemed otherwise to be in remarkable good health.

Maya would not leave the kitten so it went back home with her, a memory of the mountain ‘beast’. The hunts continued for a while as the cattle still disappeared; but Maya was looked at with a bit more respect since her adventure and eventually someone listened to her account of the truck and the cattle rustlers were caught.

She never mentioned the tiger though; that would remain a secret between her and her new feline friend.


Submitted: October 28, 2018

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Comments

Mike S.

It all depends on you perspective--excellent, Hull!

Sun, October 28th, 2018 6:52pm

Author
Reply

Thanks for giving this one a read, Mike. Glad you enjoyed it.

Sun, October 28th, 2018 11:57am

Vance Currie

I feared that the end of this story would be something bad happening. I didn't expect the kitten! That's the wonderful thing about fiction. Anything can happen, and it usually does - especially in your wonderfully imaginative stories, Hully. ~ Joe

Sun, October 28th, 2018 7:52pm

Author
Reply

Thanks, Joe. I was a bit worried that the ending wouldn't really work!

Sun, October 28th, 2018 12:54pm

Jeff Bezaire

A lovely story. It has a myth within a myth feel to it. Great writing! I'm happy it has a happy ending too! I was worried things were going to get ugly.
"Grey rock fed on the lights they carried," is an excellent line, Hully.
A beautiful tale. Sort of the inverse of 'the boy who cried wolf'; it's 'the girl who cried it wasn't the tiger'.

Sun, October 28th, 2018 8:03pm

Author
Reply

Haha! I guess that's true. Glad you enjoyed it and thanks so much for giving this a read, Jeff.

Sun, October 28th, 2018 1:05pm

Kevin Michael Smith

As soon as she met the tiger, my heart sank because I felt the danger of what would happen and hoped you had some way to save it, but thinking that it would be impossible to do so and make your story work. But then, you did save the tiger and the story and I could be happy (despite the missing cows).

Sun, October 28th, 2018 9:36pm

Author
Reply

But the cows had been taken by rustlers, so maybe had suffered no harm! Thanks so much for giving this a read, Kevin.

Sun, October 28th, 2018 2:40pm

Sue Harris

A wonderful story, Hully, with a brilliant twist at the end. So pleased it had a happy ending. Still there are scum out there who take the lives of magnificient creatures in the name of sport. Makes my blood boil. Sorry for the rant! Great story.

Sun, October 28th, 2018 11:14pm

Author
Reply

I'm with you there, Sue! Thanks for reading and I'm glad you liked the end.

Mon, October 29th, 2018 12:37pm

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