Tiger Tiger book 1

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Chapter 10: New Home

Well, the cave is not on this side of my new home. It must be on the other side. I will investigate tomorrow: it’s getting late and I have not eaten all day. I also have not had a drink, and feel dehydrated. Water supply is going to be the biggest problem. I must find a place which can provide all the things I require, or the most important of them: shelter, water, food, and a place to work.

It was almost dark when I returned to my cave. I could hear some howling coming from the direction of one of the caves that I had suspected was occupied. Sounds like I was right. I will have to check out the threat to me and take action, should it be required. I start a small fire near to the entrance to my cave. Supper is jerky again: I will soon have to hunt for some fresh meat.

I awoke with a start. Something had changed. I went from deep asleep to fully conscious in the blink of an eye. The fire had burned down low and was not giving much light. It was the smell I noticed first – like rotting meat, but stronger – and then the sounds. Something was in here with me.

Moving only my eyes, I tried to locate what had made the sound. From the corner of my eye at the extreme range of my vision, on the other side of the fire, two colourless eyes – a very light luminous green, reflecting the firelight – were looking in my direction. I had fallen asleep with my back against the broken section of rock on the other side of the opening, while working on a new hammer – a heavier stone with a longer shaft: a formidable weapon, if I could but swing it.

Without moving I watched the eyes watching me. I cannot make out what it is. The body is in shadow with only the eyes showing. The eyes move and I can hear a sniffing sound. It’s trying to locate me by smell. The eyes disappear and I move my head very slowly, bringing the hammer up in my right hand, bringing it slowly to my left shoulder, keeping a light contact with my body. Should the eyes return I can stop moving, resting the hammerhead where it is. I was at a serious disadvantage sitting with my back against the wall: I would be unable to get up fast.

I could make out a shadow on the back wall. I stared in horror. It was a big hyena and it was moving round the fire and coming inside the cave. It had only been looking in when it woke me. Now it was trying to find me. I watched as it looked around. I must not have been visible so close to the fire. I could tell when it eventually saw me: the eyes fixed on to my position. I still had not moved. It started to sniff the air and without warning it dived at me, jaws open, emitting a fearsome sound. I screamed in response, leaning forward and swinging the hammer just as hard as I could – twisting my upper body and engaging the left hand and arm in the swing.

It was not a good or powerful blow but it did land just behind the ear with sufficient force to snap its head to my right, the jaws snapped shut on air and not on my face. As I was swinging from the left to the right my body was out of the line of attack. It had also been deflected to the right by the hammer blow: the hyena crashed into the cliff wall and fell into the fire.

The fur on one side exploded into flames. The beast let out a cry of pain, scrambling around, trying to get out of the fire. The light increased dramatically and I could see it was a particularly large female hyena which had produced a litter at some time in the recent past, all six nipples being engorged. By the time I had regained my feet it had run out of the cave still on fire – crashing into two more, which were attempting to come in. The fire was exchanged between two of them who, howling in pain and rage, were running around aimlessly.

When I looked out on to the shelf I could see several hyenas milling around in the moonlight. I started to gather all the firewood I had worked so hard to bring up the hill into the cave and stacked it in the entrance. I had to control myself and not use all the wood at one time. I could be here a long time. I was lucky that the entrance was only just over two metres wide at the ground and less than one metre at head height. A small fire should stop any unwelcome visitors, I hope.

I had nearly exhausted all the wood by first light. All night I could hear them outside growling, barking, fighting. Now and again I would see some eyes in the dark. Taking stock of the weapons I had in the cave, it did not look good: three spears, five arrows, two hammers, one bow. The opposition outside numbered in excess of fifteen: I counted at least fifteen of the brutes and that was only what I could see from the entrance.

I could try the same trick as last time but with only five arrows I would have to make each one count. I may have to go out and retrieve some if it is possible. The fire is almost out. It is time to see if I can dissuade them from hanging around my front door.

The same routine as before: all five arrows sticking in the ground by my feet. The big hammer hanging from my belt; the other close at hand; the spears against the near side wall. All is ready. I notch the first arrow – sighting on a large male that is sitting upright four metres from the entrance, facing me. It is the easiest shot. I can almost be sure of a kill: all the vital organs are in view.

Taking careful aim, I loose the first of the five. I watch in fascination as I see the exact spot that I was aiming at fold in as the flint-tipped arrow strikes home. The big dog is thrown back by the force of the blow, dead before it knew what had hit it. It went down without a sound as the arrow struck home in the throat, passing through the soft tissue, finding a gap between the bones of the spine, severing the spinal column. Dead before it hit the ground.

The next arrow was notched as I looked for who was next. The assembled group did not even notice the first going down. The next target was two metres to the right and downwind: it was just standing up to investigate the smell of blood as it walked back to the now-deceased member of the pack. It was very close to the edge of the shelf.

Again the arrow hit home. This time there was a yelp as it was thrown off the edge with the arrow embedded in its ribs. Without taking my eyes from the group another arrow was notched. Picking the closest animal, I let fly. It went down with a yelp. Not a good shot: I must have hit a large bone as it was crippled, not dead. I thought to myself, “I must check the feathers better. They are making the arrow fly off target.”

The pack were now running around making lots of noise. I had only two arrows left. It was time to take care. I heard a loud and long howl. It caused the pack to stop. As one they all looked in one direction and all ran off, leaving the wounded and dead. Carefully and with great care I walked round the fire and looked out. I could see several of the pack heading towards that direction. The others were running out to meet them. There was a lot of obvious greeting between family members. One of the larger dogs then vomited or regurgitated something, which was very quickly eaten by two smaller animals.

I took this chance to try and retrieve the arrow from the crippled hyena that was lying just outside the entrance. Watching the pack I rushed out, club in hand, and dispatched the wounded animal with a vicious blow to the head, pulled the arrow free, and rushed back inside. I had killed three and five had replaced them. Not a good result, I feel.

I did not think they would bother me during the day but with the setting sun I was sure that they would come. I took the time to examine my home, which was now my prison, in more detail. My first thought was escape, but how? As I move around the inside of this small cave I find that there is little to help my situation.

Suddenly I hear a stealthy approach, only given away by the click, click, click of claws on the stone outside. So much for not coming during the day. I notch up an arrow and stand ready. I could see the shadow first, then the head sniffing and looking around but not entering. “Just a few more centimetres and you’re all mine,” I said to myself. The shadow moves, becoming two animals. The first moves in another 300 mm and stops. It’s a perfect target, silhouetted against the bright sunshine. Twang went the bowstring and thud went the arrow on target, hitting the neck just under the ear.

The beast went down, howling. The other turned tail and ran for cover. The downed beast was lying on its side making whining sounds. Another arrow was in order. I had no intention of getting close to a wounded animal of this size. My next arrow was also on target, passing through the underside of the jaw right into the brain.

When I was sure it had stopped moving I notched my last arrow and moved slowly towards the dead hyena, which was blocking the entrance. I could see two big dogs prowling back and forth, just looking at their dead pack member. I wait until one has turned and is heading back across the opening. It’s a very bad shot. I was aiming for a long shot, and it stopped the arrow. Missed the target by 300 mm, hitting the beast squarely in the ear. It went down howling and twisting, attempting to reach the arrow.

The pack were in an uproar, running around barking, I was watching the animal with the now-broken arrow sticking out of its ear flopping around, unable to do anything. Using the confusion outside to my advantage I drag the dead one into the cave. I had to use the point of a spear to remove the arrow as it was firmly wedged in the beast’s head. I will have to make a trap of some kind to prevent one of them getting in when I am not on guard or asleep.

Looking around, I find a branch which I missed in the dark last night. It gives me an idea. I can wedge it against one side of the entrance and use it as a pivot point for a club. I will use one of the bow blanks I have been carrying around for ages. I have some string in a bag to make a tripwire, and some unburned branches and twigs. I set to work. Wedging the branch was the hardest part. When it was in place the bow blank was trapped at one end and then tensioned. It was held into place by two small sticks wedged against each other and balanced against the trip string, which I fixed at 400 mm up across the entrance.

The first animal to cross this threshold would be in for a shock. I was looking at the fire, thinking, “What can I do tonight?” when I noticed that there were several short sticks which had fire-hardened points. What if I attached them to the end of the bow blank? It would make it a much more effective weapon. I should need more string for this. I had some, but not quite enough for the task in hand. I had some bark which, if I was careful, I could use. It did not need to last long. Just the once would be enough. I was looking at the dead one and thought, “I could always cut strips of skin and use them to tie the points into place. They would shrink as they dried and that would be good.” Looking out the cave entrance all the while I could see that there were more hyenas than before. I could not count them all but judging by the individual sounds and their relative positions the pack must have doubled. I was not going to fight my way out of here.

I looked around for another way out. As the cave had been formed from an overhang falling off it was not a true cave but a tunnel or, more accurately, a lean-to. The right-hand side as you enter was blocked solid except for a thin wedge at the top where the smoke could get out. The left side was a better option: there was a very small gap where the back wall met the front wall (which was the roof). I could see daylight at the top of a small gap. The gap was full of sand and small stones. I was able to scrape the gap bigger and could look out.

I could not see any of the pack. I could see a small gully running for about two hundred metres, clogged with scrub and small trees. If I could get out this hole I could get away. I worked feverishly, enlarging the hole, but decided to only make it large enough for me to squeeze through. I would have to try and block it after I passed through it, otherwise – when it was discovered I was not at home – I could be followed. They had a better sense of smell than me.

After packing everything into two bundles I left the bow and remaining arrows at the door of the cave, pushed my pack out of the hole and crawled on my belly down the gully. After about three-quarters of the way down I found a small tree that had a lot of foliage, which I could use to screen myself and look out on my jailers.

I could see from this vantage point that the pack had in fact almost doubled. Most were lying down just off the ledge in cover, out of the direct sun. I went back up the gully and into the cave. I was going to show myself and then get out of the back door, hoping that I would be long gone before it was noticed I was not home.

I had two arrows left. I had to make them count. I would try for the leader of the pack, only which one was the leader? I watched and decided that the alpha male and female were in the centre of the pack, lying in the shade of a large bush.

It was a long shot but not impossible. There was a good chance I would hit something as there were a lot just lying around. The big dog was sitting up, watching me moving around the cave entrance. I would try for him first. Aiming above his head I let fly and watched the arrow fly true till the last second, where it hit a small branch and was deflected down. I was rewarded with a howl. I had hit something. The pack were up and milling around. I loosed the last arrow at the assembled pack and again was rewarded with a howl. Time to go.

I checked the trap at the door then dragged the dead one by the back legs to my escape route. I slid through the hole backwards, pulling the carcass behind me. I used the now-useless bow as a fixing post, wedging it against the outside of the hole and tying the back legs so it could not be dragged back inside.

Off down the gully to the tree to check on what’s going on. The pack have moved back further from the ledge but are still watching the entrance. When I am far enough away from the ledge to not be seen I stand upright and walk away. Looking at the sky, I have about three or four hours of daylight left. I hope it will be after dark before they attempt to enter the cave. The first one in is in for a shock. I hope it will put the rest off for a bit longer.

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