The tiger had left its mother that morning. He had felt the time coming for a few days, that antsy excitement thrilling through his lithe form that something was about to change. Then, that morning, she had walked out into the jungle, followed by his two sisters, and for the first time ever, he did not follow. He was alone and free.
For a while, he had played, gamboling around and splashing in the small river nearby. But then, he realized he was hungry and there was no one to provide him food. The realization filled him with a flood of unanalyzed emotions, mostly positive. He knew of a cache of food nearby that his mother had left, but the concept of Ours was fading and now he realized that it was Hers. A new concept, that of Mine, was beginning to form in his mine and he set out randomly to explore it.
He walked far until the scent of his mother faded. He avoided the scent of other tigers as well, especially males. The sun reached its peak and was starting to descend when he stopped to drink from a small stream. Then he caught the scent of wild pig. It excited him so much that he whipped around, catching at his own tail before remembering the business at hand and climbing a tree to wait.
He had watched his mother do this many times. He had killed before, but always under her watchful eye. Now, he crept along the branch just over the stream, watching and smelling the air. The pig appeared a few minutes later, rooting around in the soft dirt. The tiger watched it, waiting for the perfect time to strike. The pig approached and the tiger’s muscles tensed. Then, he sprang.
There was a loud crack and the branch he had been sitting on broke off and fell into the stream, the tiger following it. He landed on his feet and was bounding towards the pig as soon as he landed but the pig was already gone, squealing and crashing through the underbrush, back the way it had come.
The tiger pursued it, glorying in his young, strong body. The pig was dodging this way and that, but the tiger was gaining on it. The pig’s bobbing tail appeared through the foliage in front.
Suddenly there was a roar and a tawny flash and the pig disappeared, knocked to one side. The tiger saw a huge male tiger sinking its fangs into the pig’s neck, silencing its terrified squeals. Then it dropped the pig and turned back, roaring a challenge. The younger tiger retreated back to the stream.
He was angry and hungry both, but he knew better than to challenge the larger male. He prowled back and forth, trying to decide what to do.
There was a sudden boom, like thunder, although the sky peeking through the canopy was blue and cloudless. He climbed a tree and crept towards where the sound had come from, back towards the other tiger. It lay dead, with blood coming from its neck. Two other creatures, tall thin ones that looked like large monkeys, stood over it with sticks in their hands.
They did not look dangerous. The other tiger was dead and the pig was lying on the ground, his for the taking. He waited until one of the creatures had disappeared into the trees, and then he leaped.
The creature turned and cried out in fear. It raised its stick but not in time. The tiger knocked it to the ground and bit its neck. He could feel the warm blood flow over his teeth and the life go out of it. He was tempted to take this prey or the pig and run, but he was young and the taste of blood was fresh in his mouth. He stalked through the trees until he saw the other creature come running, stick raised. Then he pounced.
The sun went down, burning the tips of the leaves a fiery orange. The tiger sat gorging himself. His thoughts flicked to his mother and sisters, but he did not miss them. He was his own tiger now.