THE LAST WALK OF THE KING

The tiger paused; watching and listening. The ground was bare and the cover sparse. Hunger had driven him this far.The dry, dusty ground with scattered, stunted trees was making him uneasy.


Then he started forward, crossing the road; when suddenly a harsh glare of light blinded him.  There was a loud sound and a hot burning pain crashed into his side making him stumble and fall.


He bounded up with a roar and charged at the blinding light. But when he reached it; he found it high up, beyond his reach. 

 

The night air was rent by his furious roars. As more loud sounds erupted with flashes of light; he went back across the road and disappeared down the slope. In a state of shock, he walked aimlessly; lying down again and again.

 

He was unable to understand it. He tried licking the wound; turning his head to get at it, but the effort made him only suffer more.

He lay down on his haunches; trying to come to terms with this searing, throbbing pain lodged inside. He smelt his own blood and saw it trickling down his side to soak on the ground below.

 

He was indecisive; but then instinct took over.

 

He got up and started walking.

 

As he walked; now and then, he moaned in pain.

 

The night was still young. The moon had come out full and bright bathing everything in a silvery luster. A breeze was blowing, rustling the branches and the leaves.

 

But the big animal seemed oblivious to all this. Intermittently he would lay down to rest; but would soon get up and start walking again.

 

As if when the pain became particularly acute; he would emit a series of angry roars which carried far into the night.

 

Hours passed. Sometime late in the night; the tiger paused in his movement. The forest had begun. He turned his head and changed his direction a little.

Some more hours passed. The tiger had stopped again.

 

He sensed other animals blocking the path that he wanted to take. He heard the sounds and knew that there were many of them.

 

A herd of elephants was walking towards a pool of water that came down from the hills and nestled between the trees.

 

Normally, the tiger would have avoided them. But this time he didn’t. Roaring continuously, he walked directly towards them,

A jumble of huge tuskers turned and faced the advancing tiger; their ears flapping. Behind them, the herd jostled in confusion.

 

The tuskers moved together towards the advancing tiger; their trunks raised, trumpeting shrilly.

 

But the tiger kept on advancing; giving deafening roars.

 

The tuskers gave way. The herd shifted to one side with the tuskers forming a barrier in front.

 

The tiger headed towards the water; his head held high and the long tail curling gracefully behind, holding his emphatic majesty as he walked.

 

He reached the water and lay down on his belly. Slowly he drank; lying there a long time on the soft mud at the edge of the water.

 

The elephant herd watched from the distance.

 

Then the tiger slowly got up and started crossing the water. Now and then, he would stop, as if cherishing the feel of water against his skin.

 

Then he crossed over to the other side and started walking up the embankment. His struggle was painfully obvious now.

 

The forest here was deep and thick. A bed of fallen leaves carpeted the ground. The wounded animal turned and headed for a bamboo grove. He was walking much more slowly now; stopping frequently.

 

Then, as if with a final effort, he reached the bamboo grove and lay down on his side on the thick bed of leaves. The forest around was deep and heavy and there was smell of water nearby.

 

The animal lay there; his breath coming more slowly and painfully.

 

Slowly and then very carefully, he sat up and crawled a little forward till his head rested on a little boulder.

 

The dry, broken, mutilated ground where he had been shot and wounded was mercifully lost and left behind.

 

He lay now where he belonged; on the leaves, between the trees with water alongside.

 

That is where he died when dawn broke.

 

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