Excerpt from Rajah’s Game – Tiger Stripes
It was time to move. The patch of light would soon be gone and he wanted to set his trap while he could still see without attracting any attention to himself. The tiger had not returned and there was time to use its scat to disguise his ambush of his prey.
He had long been dismissive of the American troops who dragged their sorry backsides through the tangled jungle; noisy, smoking, unobservant and unaware of the eyes upon them. Slanted eyes set in yellow faces, broken up and disguised in the shadows with black stripes. Camped in trees; snugged away in bamboo thickets; secreted in caves on cliff faces.
Rajah uncoiled his muscles slowly, rising from his position in the canopy without disturbing a single bird or causing a single leaf to break away and twirl, helicopter fashion, to the ground with a raw stem; with bleeding sap that would cause an observant watcher to look upwards.
He took a single mouthful of water from a canister slung from his shoulder and wrapped his right leg around the single jungle vine draped over the branch on which he had rested for the past six hours. He lowered himself swiftly to the ground, not sliding down the vine and pulling some of its covering from the underlying stem, but letting himself down hand over hand with his leg giving him balance. As his booted feet touched the ground, he sank down to keep his profile low and well below the skyline, staying absolutely still until he was sure there was no one close enough to see or hear him.
The tiger scat was a bonus. He did not want to touch it, because he could not take the smell of tiger with him as he moved towards his target. With a Y-shaped branch, he carefully lifted it so it was balanced on its broader end edge with the Y holding it free of the earth, but barely twelve inches above the ground at the highest point. With his knife, he dug out a small hole under the impression it had left on the ground and he evacuated his bowel into the hole. His shit was dried out; his mind had long ago instructed his muscles to draw the moisture back into his body to minimise water loss and when he pissed over it, his urine was strong and dark. Flexing his anus, he needed nothing to finalise his relief and he barely moved as he lowered the tiger scat to cover his own. Squatting at the end of a scrape, in which the tiger had already left his own scent by pissing on the sand and the Y-shaped branch he used to lift the scat, Rajah was confident his own droppings would remain undetected by all, except possibly the tiger himself.
From the size of the paw prints and the flattened leaves, he was a mature male who would tolerate no intruders in his territory. An injured man would be a soft target and keep the tiger in the vicinity for several days until his body was fully consumed. From the fading scent of the sprays on the trees nearby, Rajah estimated it was several days since the tiger had marked his territory in the hope of a passing female being attracted to him. His scats were much fresher and meant he was likely to return very soon, if he had been successful in his hunt. Rajah had no desire to be in the immediate vicinity of the tiger’s scrape when it returned.
After a final sweeping scan of the jungle, he stood and began moving towards the smoke that gently drifted up towards the canopy. Seated by his few glowing coals, eating cold food but unable to resist the comfort of a dampened down fire, Rajah’s prey was totally unaware of his imminent fate. A tiny snap of a twig brought Rajah to a halt. A rustle of leaves chilled his spine. The slanted eyes didn’t blink as the great beast slowly swung his head to observe Rajah’s presence.
This is an excerpt from a novel which is currently being written. (c) Lesley Dewar July 2012 to current.
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