Tiger's Heart River

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That’s it. I have had it. I am leaving. She thought to herself as she shoved random articles of clothing into her small, torn, beige bag. This is not a home, this is a prison. She slammed shut her wooden bedroom door as she stormed to the front of the house, not acknowledging the horrified faces turning her way to stare as she left. The witch, with her fake cackle, and horrendous, dried out, dead hair caught her arm. She turned to stare her down but her caked on make-up made her flinch “And where do you think you’re going?” the witch’s voice made her shiver. “Away, from here, from these people, and especially, from you.” She said back, trying to keep her tone hard. She set her jaw and turned to leave, but the witch wouldn’t let go of her arm. The acrylic claw-like nails that grasped her arm dug into her skin, as she struggled to break the hold. The witch cackled before she responded with a cold tone, “I don’t think so, I am your mother. You do as I say.” The girl, Sophie, arranged her face into an amused, yet horrified expression. She spat back with a hard, flat tone of her own, “My mother? You call yourself a mother? Look around you Theresa, look at these children, they are terrified! All you care about is drugs and money. You can’t even give up your addiction enough to give them a decent sitter. You are not their mother, and you were hardly ever that to me.” And with that being said, Sophie ripped her arm from the witch’s hold, walked out, and never looked back.
Sophie had lost track of the days that had passed. She spotted a small creek behind a few trees and she sprinted to the side. As she reached the bank of the creek she fell to her knees, plunged her hands into the water and splashed the cold water onto her heat-stricken face. She once again dove her hands into the water, brought her cupped hands to her mouth and gulped the refreshing water. Little did she know the importance of this creek. Not far down the road Sophie had been traveling on, a sign declares this creek as Tigers Heart River.

Now, seven years after the day she left home, Sophie worked at the diner in a small town she had come across. As she was clearing off a table, the diner door slammed open making the delicate bells clash against each other in a symphonic harmony. The man standing in the door way was a built man, with muscles cutting lines into his white shirt. He was tall and big, unlike anything Sophie had ever seen before. Once he spotted her, he started rushing toward her with such a fierce expression plastered on his face. Sophie dropped the pail she had and started rushing toward the back of the diner. She noticed that the once full restaurant was now deserted with not a single soul in sight. She abruptly stopped before the kitchen as a beautiful Tiger came through the swinging doors. The muscles on his back were tense, and set with determination as hate filled his topaz eyes, she forgot about everything that was happening around her and just stared. A loud crash just to the right of her made Sophie snap out of her trance. She swung her head and saw that an axe had destroyed the whole corner of the counter. Just then, a loud roar rumbled through the small diner making Sophie go still. The tiger soared into the air toward her; Sophie slammed her eyes shut as she waited for her death. But after a long moment of no pain, she slowly slid her eyes open to reveal the tiger latched on to the big man. As the tiger locked his jaw, and dug in his claws, the once huge man sizzled down to nothing but dust. Horrified, Sophie dropped to her knees. A few moments later she felt a warm pressure on her upper arm. When she looked to see what it was, she saw the tiger rubbing his head on her arm in attempt to comfort her. Sophie could do nothing but stare in amazement. The door then slowly opened to reveal an average sized man dressed in hard leather. A bow hung lightly on his back, supported by a strap that crossed his torso. He looked at the tiger, then at Sophie “Tiberius-” he nodded at the tiger, then turned his attention to Sophie “-come child, we must be going.” He ordered, then turned and left the diner. The tiger, Tiberius, started to make his way to the door. When he noticed the lack of footsteps behind him he turned and looked at the girl. For some reason that she did not know, Sophie got up and followed him. She held the door open for him as she stared blankly outside. A large aircraft awaited them in the field next to the diner. About half way through the parking lot somebody spoke. “You drank the water my dear child” Sophie tried to place the source of the voice, but couldn’t figure it out. When she realized it was the tiger who had spoken, she nearly had a stroke. “What water?” she replied, feeling like a mad women, talking to animals. Tiberius merely smiled, “the river child, you drank from the river”. She recalled upon her memories, but couldn’t remember a river. “I don’t remember ever drinking from a river.” Tiberius was ahead of her now. He looked back over his shoulder and said “The river you crossed seven years ago, before reaching this diner here. It is named Tigers Heart River, it is magical my dear, and you drank from the contents within it.” The memory of the creek she had crossed flooded into her mind. They way she drank so fiercely from the river, deprived of her thirst. The ground began to slide out from beneath her as everything went black.

Tristan carried the tiger to the river. This animal died as a hero, defending those he loved and cared for. His companion had sacrificed himself for Tristan. And now he hulled his limp body into the calm, shallow river. Tristan laid the tiger in the middle of the water, kissed his cheek, and gave him one last loving stroke along his neck. As Tristan left the contents of the river, tears streaking his face, he prayed to the gods that Tiberius would be treated well and accepted into the afterlife as a hero, and not an animal. As he turned to leave, a bright streak of light shot up from the river. Tristan turned to see Tiberius standing in the river. The handsome tiger strode over to his melancholy friend. Tristan sank to his knees and hugged Tiberius. “You are alive, I do not understand. You fell, and now you have risen again. The most odd work of the Gods, but I am most grateful” The tiger accepted his embrace. “Now, now Tristan, do not get carried away. I am here in body and in soul. My heart remains with the river. Over time the river will change. But the contents within it will always be special. Whoever sips from the river shall become immortal and leave part of their heart behind to the river, so it grows stronger. The one who drinks first, shall become a part of me in ways that are not humanly possible. Our souls will be linked, and we will be one. The one who does drink first will be put in grave danger as any being will want them dead. Now Tristan, who must listen to me when I tell you tha-” Tristan pulled himself off his knees and sprinted to the river but- Sophie lurched forward, ripping her from the dream. Sweat poured down her face and drenched her night clothes. She jumped out of bed and yanked the heavy mahogany door open. She found the tiger walking in the front corridor, “Tiberius! I know the story of the river. Did Tristan…..?” he gave Sophie one glance and she already knew the answer to her question. Tiberius gave her an apologetic smile that only a tiger could manage and replied, “No child, you are the first to drink from the river”.





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