To catch a tiger

Eenie, meenie, miney, mo.
Catch a tiger by its toe.
Eenie, meenie, miney, mo.

The child’s song echoed through the darkness, the musical, life-filled lilt of it dropping me to my knees.

Laughter followed the scrap of tune, bouncing from bough to bough, trunk to trunk, until it whisked away, followed by a damp, musky breeze. Frantic, I searched for the sound or, better yet, the child. But I found nothing.

The oppressive darkness closed in about me. I checked my watch, 6:43. I imagined an orange and pink sunrise, shimmering across the sand of the beach just outside my oceanfront sanctuary, wishing I was there instead of this dank, musty nowhere full of gigantic trees.

I’ll catch you, tiger,
by the toe.
Eenie, meenie, miney, mo.

The child’s voice came again, not filled with laughter and innocence this time, but dripping with malice.

I stumbled to my feet, ripping moss and ferns from the ground in my haste. The change in the child, if child it was, frightened me. I guessed at an easterly route, hope clasped firmly to my heart. East was the dawn, the rebirth of the day, a fresh beginning.

Behind me, an echo of giggles, not pleasant, but mocking, bullying me on my chosen route. I ran. As much as I could manage. Fallen logs and sprawling tree roots loomed in my path, forcing my aching self to climb over or track around. Both ways ate time, time that the voice used to taunt me.

Though you run and hide, tiger.
I’ll catch you, even so.
Eenie, meenie, miney, mo.

Sobs, torn from my throat, echoed in the forest, small in comparison to the child’s lilt. Ahead, I could see a thinning of the trees. A loamy gust of wind brought a hint of salt to my nose. I pushed onward, certain the sea and escape from my tormentor lay beyond the edge of the wilderness.

I leapt over the last enormous fallen oak, staggering on my feet as I landed. Through the trunks of the few trees left, I spied the ocean, waves crashing mightily on the glistening sand. The underbrush grew heavy this close to the edge, where the thinner coverage allowed in more life-giving light.

The brush moved easily aside, almost a silken screen compared to the obstacles behind me. The sun shined brilliantly, just emerging from its watery lair. The sight was joy unbridled. I pushed forward.

But my foot caught on something, sending me crashing to the sandy soil. I kicked, trying to free myself, to no avail. I looked, thinking a stray vine had captured me.

Eenie, meenie, miney, mo.
I caught my tiger, by the toe.
Eenie, meenie, miney, mo.

The evil chant danced around my screams. The sun’s pure light faded as I was pulled, once again, into the smothering darkness of the primaeval forest. The child’s cackling laughter followed me down, into sweet release.

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