The deer walked. The tiger stalked. The deer walked. The tiger stalked. Stalked from those knee high bushes. Bushes that were too green for the deer to see. Too green for the stripes of the tiger to be unveiled. The deer walked on slowly, blissfully unaware, staring on in the far distance. Staring in the distance, when the danger was in fact close by. The eyes of the tiger lit up brightly. In front of him were possibilities. Possibilities of a successful hunt, possibilities of a hearty meal.
The hungry stomach of the tiger growled again. A grim reminder that he had not eaten in days. A grim memory of failed hunts. Some prey had run away, others had fought back. Sometimes he had to give up the chase out of fatigue, and at other times he had to surrender to save his life. And his stomach continued to growl and growl some more. But finally here was a prey that seemed right for the kill. This time the tiger’s eyes burned more fiercely with determination, with ambition, with possibilities. This time he would not fail, he could not afford to fail.
The grass caught a rare midday wind and rustled. The deer startled and turned around. The tiger ducked quickly as low as he could into the grass. He was not ready to reveal his position. Not yet. The deer stared intently at the grass for a long time. Was there a hunter behind those tall blades? At long last when he was satisfied that there wasn’t one, he turned around and resumed his long lazy walk.
The tiger breathed out slowly. That was close. He continued his slow crawl in the bushes. He had to wait for the right moment and the right moment had not come yet. Suddenly his ears perked up. What was that sound? It was coming from behind him. He turned around. What was that shadow in the grass? In the near distance. It was barely visible. He strained his eyes to see. Was that… was it… no, it could not be? Another tiger. A competitor. Yes, it was. Another tiger, and it was also stalking the same deer.
The tiger’s heart stopped beating for a while. He had not anticipated this. When he had planned his hunt this scenario never occurred to him. He had failed at hunts for many reasons, but a rival tiger had never been one of the causes. But where had he come from? As far as he knew he was the sole hunter in this neck of the woods. Then where had this new predator come from, and that too hunting on his territory.
His eyes flashed back to the deer. The deer had turned around and was looking at the bushes once again. But this time he was not looking in his direction. He was looking in the direction of the new predator. The other tiger had not been careful in his movements and the deer had been alerted to the presence of a stalker.
The tiger furiously began examining his options. What could he do? He could attack the deer first, but then he would still have another fight on his hands. His rival would no doubt attack him for the carcass, and having just hunted his prey he would be too tired to fight back. He would lose to his rival, he would lose the carcass, and all his efforts would be in vain. Maybe he could wait for his rival to hunt the deer and he could then finish him in a fight and take away the carcass. Yes, that seemed like a better idea. Or maybe he could cooperate with his rival and they could take the deer down together and share the carcass. But he knew nothing about his rival. He had only spotted him a few seconds ago. Was he weaker than him, was he stronger than him, was he selfish and single minded, was he cooperative and kind? He knew nothing about him, and not knowing anything about him he could not take any chances.
But the way the deer was looking and standing it seemed like they would both lose the prey. His eyes had become sharp and alert. His lazy gait had changed to an alert pose. He looked all set to spring at the sight of the slightest provocation. Deer were fast. The tiger knew that well from past experience. They could also maintain their speed and keep running for a long time. The tiger would get tired after a short quick burst. Hunting made his body heat up excessively and it took him a long time to cool down.
The tiger felt the grass rustling in the near distance and instinctively knew that his rival was moving in for the kill. The deer saw the grass rustling as well and took two uneasy steps back, his body coiled like a spring and ready to jump away. The tiger was furious. His rival was a fool. He was scaring the prey away. The deer was still some distance away. There was no way his rival could time his leap over that distance. The deer still had enough time to spring away and they could spring long distances in a short time.
The tiger had to think quickly. He needed this hunt to be successful. He needed to eat a full meal. He could not withstand one more day of hunger. His eyes darted at the deer then darted back to his rival then darted at the deer again then darted back at the rival. Decisions, decisions, decisions. He had to decide. What to do? He had to take action. There was no time left. The deer was ready to spring.
The rival leapt out of the bushes. Now the tiger had no choice. He had to leap as well. With all the strength he could muster, with all the might he had, he sprang like a coil. The deer’s eyes went wide open with shock as he saw two powerful tigers leaping out of the bushes and at him from two different directions. But his body reacted on instinct and he turned quickly. The deer got half a spring in when the mighty claw of the rival slashed and caught a huge chunk of his tail. The deer’s body momentarily paused from the impact. That moment was enough for the tiger to come ramming in from the right. He threw the full strength of his body against the deer. The lithe body of the deer went tumbling from the impact.
The rival suddenly stopped and growled. Who was this new competitor? The tiger did not stop, however. He kept going at the deer and found his throat with his fangs. The deer was struggling and fighting furiously, trying to get himself free. The tiger was desperately trying to find his windpipe with his sharp teeth to choke him. The rival stared at the tiger in surprise then stared at the deer struggling. For a moment the scene made no sense to him. But he shook himself out of it. He had a hunt to finish. He could deal with the sense part later. He charged at the kicking feet of the deer and held them down with his claws. The tiger finally found the windpipe of the deer and cut his fangs into them. The deer kept struggling and struggling. The tiger cut his fangs harder and harder. The rival thrust his whole body on the deer and held him down firmly. The deer was still struggling. But his struggles were getting weaker. He was panting furiously from trying to keep up the fight, but his breathing was getting weaker. His eyes were starting to close and he was fighting to keep them open. The tiger closed his own eyes and threw all his strength into biting the windpipe as hard as he could. The deer finally gave up the fight, went numb, stopped kicking, stopped breathing, and closed his eyes for the last time. When the tiger was finally sure that the deer was dead he released his fangs and stood back breathing heavily. The rival also released his grip and stood back breathing heavily.
Then they looked at each other. Two tigers face to face. Two rivals sizing each other up. Could the other be trusted. What were their intentions? They looked at each other’s eyes. The eyes of two killers; fierce and intelligent. They looked at each other’s claws; sharp and deadly. They looked at those lethal fangs and the powerful striped bodies.
The tiger let out a low growl, not a purr, but a low growl? Hello! How’s it going?
The rival did not respond. He merely continued to stare back.
The tiger turned his head towards the carcass. Looked for a while. Then turned back again to face the rival. He let out another growl. Should we share?
It was now the rival’s turn to look at the carcass. Then look back again at the tiger. He let out a threatening growl. No way?
The tiger emitted a menacing growl of his own. Don’t mess with me.
The rival looked at the carcass and roared. That meat is mine.
Now the tiger had real fury in his eyes. He eyed his rival coldly. Then after a long pause he let out a long, huge roar. A roar that could be heard for miles around the forest. The call to battle.
The rival responded with a long, hostile roar of his own. The prelude to a fight.
The tiger took a few steps to the left. The rival took a few steps to the right. They stopped. They eyed each other warily. Then they again took a few steps to the left and a few steps to the right. They completed a neat semi-circle through their stepping. Their eyes never left each other, their minds never stopped thinking. Both were panting hard, both were growling deep.
Then suddenly the rival stopped growling and he stopped panting. He blinked his eyes once and with the violent scream of a banshee launched himself at the tiger. The tiger raised his front feet in the air, stood on his hind legs and got ready to meet the assault. Fangs clashed with fangs and claws clashed with claws. The body of one heavyweight predator crashed into the body of another heavyweight predator. The earth stood still in shock and the air parted in fright.
Tiger fell on tiger and they tumbled. Sometimes the rival would be on top and sometimes the tiger. They roared in anger and screamed in pain. Razor-edged teeth bit savagely and tore away pieces of skin. Claws tried to gnaw at the eyes, missed and took away chunks of ear. The rival attacked the throat of the tiger and failed. The tiger attacked the throat of the rival and failed. But the tiger kept trying and the rival kept trying.
With a vicious push the rival pushed himself free and ended the tumble. He got up and jumped a few feet away. The tiger took his own time in getting up. There was a victorious glint in his eye. Too much for you, eh.
Once again both were panting hard, both were growling deep. Wary eyes followed each other’s every step. Clever minds analyzed the next move to be made.
The tiger roared again. Shall we continue?
This time the tiger leapt and the rival defended.
They tumbled and roared, they cut and bled. Grass was crushed under their weight, dust flew with a gust of violence. The ground was already red with the blood of the deer. Now it turned even more red as body parts of two tigers were opened up.
Foxes and buffaloes watched from behind the safe cover of trees, squirrels and raccoons dug their holes and peeped out, while eagles and hawks watched this epic fight from their safe distances in the air.
The fight was increasing in its viciousness. The level of violence was gory. The drama nearing an epic climax. There could be a winner and there could be a loser. Or there could be two losers. This was a fight to the finish. Question was at the end, would there be one tiger lying on the ground or two tigers?
This time the tumbling never stopped. The growling turned to screaming as fangs and claws and blows found their mark. Thousand pounds of muscle inflicted pain on thousand more pounds of muscle.
Then just as suddenly as it had started, it ended. The rival was thrown off the tiger and they both fell a few distance away from each other. Neither moved. Something had happened. But in the tumbling of the tigers and the dust of the earth, it was hard to tell what. Both were bloodied, both were hurt. But what had happened? Were they both alive and bleeding? Were they both dead? Something had happened. The fight had ended. But what?
The foxes and the buffaloes held their breath. The squirrels and the raccoons came out of their holes seeking an answer. The eagles and the hawks slowed down their glide.
It was a long wait.
Then slowly, very slowly, in slow motion.
The tiger got up.
The winner of the battle, the undisputed heavyweight predator of the jungle.
He slowly stumbled over to where his rival lay. Looked at him for a long while. The rival was cut. The rival was bloodied. The rival was not breathing.
The tiger finally roared. A long almighty roar. A never ending roar. I am the King of this Jungle. This is my territory. I am its greatest hunter and its finest killer. I am tiger. Hear me roar!