The woman believes zoos are cruel, but her husband menaces her into visiting one anyway. They are in the area of big cats when a blur of stripes escapes and abducts the woman.
The tiger takes her to a cheap North Side apartment set up by a leap of escaped leopards. They lie low until the authorities give up the search and, in an apparent effort to calm the public, claim they have destroyed the tiger, which according to an autopsy, had eaten the woman.
In reality the woman and the tiger have fallen in love.
The woman teaches the tiger meditation and how to disguise himself as a human. From him she learns to move effortlessly as flowing water, make savage love and other ways of his kind. The tiger gets a job as a night watchman at a meat-packing company. The two live in a basement flat but spend weekends and holidays at a remote cabin where the tiger is free to be himself.
Years pass. One day the woman and tiger are in a restaurant when she sees across the room her former husband for the first time since the zoo. He is with a female. The woman can smell the female’s fear, the same scent she herself used to wear. The female tries to leave, but the man grabs her by the wrist and jerks her down into her chair. Something surges inside the woman, and she leaps upon her former mate and rips out his throat.
The tiger, disguised as a human, attends the woman’s murder trial every day. She’s found guilty. As she’s being led into court the morning of her sentencing, she breaks free long enough to whisper in the tiger’s ear. He shakes his head, but understands what must be done.
The judge condemns the woman to spend the rest of her life in prison. She nods at the tiger. He hesitates, then tears off his human disguise and pounces upon the woman. She puts her arms around his giant neck one last time as he rips out her throat.
After doing as the woman wished, the tiger bounds from the stunned courtroom and into the street, vaulting across the tops of cars and trucks and snarling the traffic into a jungle of blaring horns and screeching tires. He eventually makes it all the way to the remote cabin where he is free to be himself. There he spends the rest of his days and salves his guilt by recalling the words the woman whispered in his ear: I escaped from a cage years ago and will not spend one more day in another.
David Henson and his wife have lived in Belgium and Hong Kong over the years and now reside in Peoria, Illinois. His work has been nominated for Best Small Fictions and Best of the Net and has previously appeared in numerous print and online journals including Free Flash Fiction.
Check out more writing by David Henson here…https://writings217.wordpress.com
The woman and the tiger…photo link.