I stared behind the freezing snow at the strange shape in front of me. The sky was dark, the stars blending in with the snow. The wind was blowing; the cold air was burning the skin on my arms. Looking at the figure ahead, I trudged through the hard white snow. I looked around, searching for the source of whence I came. There was nothing around me but snow and sky for miles. I had been traveling for hours, y eyes were drifting shut. One step, two step, three step, it was gone. The snow, the figure, the sky, everything was gone. Only blackness remained
When I woke, I was in a silk bed, the comfort of the glossy gold pillows closing in on me. The walls were full of tiles making crimson and pearly white decorative swirls lining my view. The ceiling was pure blood crimson, so rich it stung my eyes. The overwhelming softness took over and just as soon as my eyelids closed, I heard them. Footsteps. The ominous pounding was even and steady. My eyes flashed open, looking for the creator.
That’s when I realized I was some place new; that I was no longer in the blizzard. With surprise, I propped myself up with the heels of my hands and found myself panting frantically. The footsteps continued at their steady pace: almost like dripping water. I panicked. Where was I? My panting continued; my forehead filling with sweat. The world seemed to spin; the crimson surrounding me swirling in my head. The quiet steps got louder and louder as they neared the room of which I was being held. The pounding in my head made the steps sound like stamping elephants. Just when the feet reached what seemed to be just outside (although there was not a door in sight) the steady beat of feet on a hard floor went silent.
I half expected the person, whoever it was, to walk through the wall after everything that’s happened today. I waited. There was no audible sound. Minutes passed. Then hours. I was sliding in the silk. My eyes were drifting shut once more. I awoke, but my eyes seemed to be held together by a thick sticky glue. Before I could open my eyes, I heard a sharp, high-pitched shrieking sound. The ferocity of the piercing sound seemed to release the binding glue holding my eyelids together. As if on cue, I screamed.
Standing before me was a white and black striped Bengal tiger. There was nothing I could do but scream. I couldn’t hide, I couldn’t run. I couldn’t do anything but scream and cry. The image of the furry animal in front of me started to blur behind the tears swelling in my eyes. My screams gradually got softer and softer due to the stinging in my throat. When the screams ceased altogether, I heard a soft voice whisper close to my ear to be quiet. Startled, I looked around.
The tiger approached again and looked me straight in the eye. “Sweetie, don’t cry,” it gestured in a gentle raspy voice that reminded me somewhat of what you’d expect a lamb would sound like. As I thought of this irony, I didn’t notice that the fierce but gentle cat had its paw resting on my shoulder, the other one carefully petting my back. What was going on?
Its eyes were a magnificent ice blue. I looked deeply into them at the pure cold feeling that came with them. I was so entranced that I soon found my hand resting on the back of the large creature. I felt its glossy for, the velvety smooth surface. I gulped. I was standing face to face with a tiger twice my size. If it wanted to, it could kill me at any moment. This is where I started panting again. It heard my pains, almost as if it could read my mind. It took its paw off my shoulder and stood. It walked over to the other side of the gold silk and sat on the pillow closest to the wall.
“Now dear,” it started. “Tell me why you’re scared. Tell me where you’ve been today and tell me how you got here.” I thought at this beast’s simple request. I had barely even took the time to think about it for a minute since I’ve been here. I was questioning the trust of the tiger. Why did it want to know? Again, by some mystic power, it seemed as if the cat knew what I was thinking. “Now my dear, don’t be scared. I want to get to know you.” it still saw the questions in my face so it continued, “Please dear, I’m not to be feared. Let me introduce myself. My name is Jessie. I’ve lived in this castle for all eternity. I always have and I always will.” This was a start: at least I knew I was in a castle. I just wanted to know how to get out.
With a large here-it-goes gasp, I began. “Where did I come from?” Jessie’s response never came. The question was true and more to myself that to Jessie. After so many strange things happening, I was actually starting to wonder where exactly6 I did come from. “Right. It was earlier this morning. I was playing hide-and-seek with my elder sister Clara. I was searching for her when I heard a rustle form behind the bushes. I looked carefully behind it when I realized there was nothing but a family of quails. I looked back at the meadow and our old little cozy country home. I found a tree. Not just any old tree, the tree. The tree that wasn’t there when I looked behind the bushes. It was very large and bulky. I walked past it with caution: questioning the power strong enough to make an item appear out of thin air.”
While I was telling my story, Jessie the tiger sat quietly nodding her head. There seemed to be a faint smile on her face: half mocking and half mischievous. With a questioning glance, I continued on. “Just when I looked up, I saw behind a tree yonder the silky brown hair of my sister Clara. I tried to run straight to her and claim my glory of hide-and-seek champion when I tripped on the roots of that awfully large and mysterious tree. Down I plummeted face first into the dirt. I pulled myself up and found a small hole in the curious tree. I stuck my fingers in it and started to pull. It seemed to be the opening of a small door that would only fit my head. I looked inside and found a powerful blizzard. With all intention to pull my head out, run to Clara and tell her I found a snow storm in a tree, I pulled my head out. There was only one problem. There was no tree to pull my head out of. I was in the blizzard. My pale pink dress was all I had, no winter coat, no warm stockings.
The tiger was still nodding, its freezing blue eyes and cream white coat reflecting my experience in the snow. When she finally stopped the careful up and down motion of her furry head, I expected her to say something. She never opened her mouth. I thought this was because she maybe hadn’t known I’d finished my story. “And, now I’m here,” I stated, showing her I was done.
To this she replied, “I know.” there were another few seconds of awkward silence. “There’s nothing to be afraid of,” she started so suddenly it made me jump,. “I’ll take care of you. I promise.” Those words echoed in my head. I promise, I promised. Did she really promise? Did she really want to help me? These questions remained in my thoughts. Could I really trust the beast I saw in front of me?