The tiger sprang.
This could only mean death for Yii.
Trapped, hopelessly trapped in a curving rock face; terrified, no chance of escape, looking into the face of death, the face of the great tiger, all gleaming gold stripes and dazzling teeth. As the beast paused, crouching to spring, Yii wondered what death would be like. Would there be a heaven? Or blackness, the light put out for good?
How had he come to be trapped in that curve in the rock face? He had gone into the jungle to find peace, calm shattered when he sensed, rather than heard, the tiger. Try as he would, he could not get back to the huts, the tiger blocking his way back, herding him like one of the goats.
So he found himself where he least wanted to be – in that curve in the rock face, open space, totally exposed in the diamond-sharp light of the young sun’s glare.
Standing still, he was distracted, a glint of reflected light at his feet. He picked it up, a beautiful stone. Entrancing, like a jewel – small, round sparkling with a bright star pattern on it, five points.
Straightening up he froze. Face to face with him was the tiger – huge, crouching, ready to spring, glaring at him.
A moment of waiting: the jungle silent, holding its breath, waiting – waiting for the death cry of the human.
That was when the tiger sprang.
Now it must be death for Yii.
Many things happened.
All at once.
Before Yii had time to leap upward or sideways, there was a huge noise, a deafening, crashing noise. Far louder the anything Yii had ever heard; the thunder clap of the heavens brought close to earth, splitting his ears.
He closed his eyes against the pain, crouching, clenching hands over ears.
A long pause.
Slowly, he took his hands away from his ears – and looked. There was the tiger, motionless on the ground; in fact, lying dead on the ground in front of him. Huge, stretched out, mouth part open, showing the deadly sharp teeth which were to have crushed and torn Yii; massive paws, vicious claws half extended. And dead. Yii shivered, cold embracing him within the jungle heat.