Where The Wild Things Roam
You know when your parents joke about throwing you to the tigers? And then one day they actually do it.
Granted, this only happened in a dream but I can confirm that it felt pretty damn real.
As we drove up to the front gate to buy our entry tickets, I was struck by how completely ordinary the outside of this park looked. Nothing but low walls with dirt creeping up through the cracks. Surely a tiger could scale that wall in one leap? Perhaps they were caged more by their own perceptions than by any physical barriers.
We drove into the park that hadn’t been able to escape the claws of Autumn and began our search for a lunch spot. Because nothing screams “family bonding” quite like a picnic in a tiger enclosure. I spent most of my time studying the tall trees that sauntered to the pulse of the wind but eventually, we settled into a small area. During our meal, a few tigers passed by but none of them afforded us much attention.
I could vaguely remember being warned about one particular tiger that was especially aggressive, but I was way too enchanted by the butterfly on my shoe to give that fact a moment’s consideration. Would it let me touch it? The delicate wings teased me and danced up to the web of branches, just out of reach. As I watched it zig-zag towards the sun and create a strobe light on my eyes, I felt the air shift.
It was a stillness that dug mercilessly into my bones. Making my skin feel heavy – as if every fraction of my soul was being scrutinized. I peered down from the sun to see a tiger on the other side of the clearing. It was perfectly still, except for the sinister flicks of its tail. Even at that distance, it was clearly abnormally large.
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see my family cowering behind the car. Nice. Distract it with a little snack before making your hasty exit, I assume. I didn’t know what to do other than stay exactly where I was. There aren’t exactly any handbooks on what to do when you find yourself trapped in a staring contest with a striped beast.
There was a small tree about a meter away. Maybe I could try to climb it before he reached me. Not that climbing a tree would’ve done much, but it was all I had.
As I took my first step, the crunch of the fallen leaves echoed throughout the clearing like a gunshot. I hadn’t even made it halfway before the sheer weight of his paw hammered into my back and slammed my head into the sea of red and yellow. When I opened my eyes, it was as if a jar of glitter had exploded and I couldn’t quite focus my gaze. I rolled over to find his blazing amber eyes burning through me. It kindled a fear that hit me in flashes and obliterated any thoughts into ashes.
As he leaned down, I suddenly became aware of an icy knife in my hand. Had I been holding that the whole time? He dipped his head to my ear as if to whisper a secret and sighed into my neck. His warm breath caressed my veins. He was going to kill me and he was going savour every moment. My nimble fingers curled around the knife as he bared his yellow teeth, preparing to rip my throat out. You or me?
In one swift moment, I speared his heart. He didn’t expect it – they never do. I could feel each beat weakening as the blood oozed down my arm. I watched the life drain out of the tiger’s body and…liked it.
It was there. Lying in an ocean of leaves with hot blood sinking into my skin, that I made friends with the wild things. The wild things that roam in a forest, imprisoned by imaginary walls.