This short story is brought to you, in part, by the following writing prompt from /r/WritingPrompts/ post:
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Horace (a stupid name for a tiger, if you ask me) was just like the other twelve big cats owned by pop star Enrique Guavarde. Named after Guavarde’s father, Horace spent his days in a twenty-by-thirty metre enclosure at the edge of the place the humans called ‘The Ranch’. It was a very pretty place to live, but this did not compensate for the small space and the boredom. Nothing changed.
The same olive-skinned man watered the bitter-sweet smelling plants potted around Horace’s enclosure at 10am every day, using a bright red hose pipe. A plump woman, who looked very similar to the man, came soon after and threw meat into the enclosure. She made her human noises at Horace, and he heard her doing the same to the ocelots next door, but he never answered, and nor did his neighbours. The rest of the day was spent sleeping, or pacing. The truth was that Horace longed to kill something – murder was, after all, in his blood – and to run and prowl. Instead he was stuck behind bars, looking out at the same line of trees that marked the edge of the grounds, day after day.
The only entertainment that had ever presented itself in Horace’s seven long years came when Cilla (another stupid name, conjured by another stupid human), a lynx from two enclosures down, escaped and killed some flamingos that Guavarde had just purchased. It was torture, watching the blood; it called to Horace, but he couldn’t find a way to escape the enclosure. As his primal urges surged and pulsed throughout his muscular body, he had head-butted the bars of his enclosure twice in effort to get to the blood. In the end, the humans had given him more cutting of meat to distract him, and though Horace had taken them greedily, he never truly shook the devil that was awoken within him that day.
Time passed, and Horace was dozing another day away, eyes closed in rest, waiting for the plump woman with olive skin to bring his slab of meat when a new scent crept towards Horace’s muzzle, finding its way into his sensitive nose. It was sweet and inviting. Paws flexed, three-inch long claws protruding from them, Horace opened his eyes.
There, standing at the edge of the enclosure, staring at him boldly, was an infant human. With olive skin similar to the plump woman and the man with the watering can, this infant human was perfect. Horace could virtually hear the pulse in the infant’s neck, and the scent of its breath and flesh only grew as he stared. The infant human stared deeply into Horace’s eyes; there was wonder in the child’s face, but for Horace there was only the need to tear at the infant and to pull it apart and taste its bones. Before he knew what had happened, he had collided with the bars of his enclosure. As with the flamingos, the devil inside him was alive and desperate to satiate its thirst for blood. It had chosen this infant human, and Horace couldn’t rest until the devil inside had been appeased.
At Horace’s collision with the bars, the infant human had fallen backwards in shock, and was now crying and wailing. The plump woman arrived quickly, and scowled and hissed at Horace, but the Tiger’s eyes never left the child. The woman opened the gate to the enclosure to toss in Horace’s daily feed, but she was distracted by the child; Horace knocked her down with a forceful blow of his head, and squeezed through the small opening the woman had made. His hulking form dwarfing the plump woman as he leaped over her, Horace landed silently on the grass outside his enclosure. A small instinct told Horace to run to the trees at the boundary of The Ranch, but the devil inside him had taken control, lowering his belly to the floor, flexing his paws so that his iron claws gripped the ground. Horace’s eyes were fixed squarely on the infant child, who was just eight feet away; a distance Horace could leap before the human had said its own name.
It happened in slow motion: Horace lowered himself even closer to the ground, before springing forth, a flash of orange, black and white death, God’s beautiful killing machine. With paws reaching, waiting to press prey into the ground, Horace was inches from his quarry when he jolted, folding in mid-air and crumpling to the ground, stunned, a dart in its hind-quarters. He drew ragged breaths and eyed his victim, as the devil died within and he drifted into a heavy sleep.
Three feet away from where Horace had leapt, the plump woman inhaled deeply, eyes bulging; blood from the raw meat that she had brought to Horace stained her khaki shorts where it had dropped onto the leg. The tranquilliser pistol in her shaking hands clicked as she continuously pulled the trigger, despite it being empty, until it was taken away gently by the olive-skinned man.
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Horace awoke, his head heavy. He made his way to the pool of water in the corner of his enclosure to drink deeply. He didn’t know how long he’d been asleep, but he was swiftly reminded of the previous day’s incident by the sore spot near his tail. He smelled the air for the scent of the infant child, praying that his chosen quarry had returned.
Returned the infant human hadn’t, but Horace knew that he would. Humans always did, once the cat had chosen them.
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Thanks for reading!