The Tiger Story is a humorous scary tale for kids about a man who tells some children a frightening story about his adventures while hunting wild animals in the jungle. It is based on an old short story by the Irish author Lord Dunsany called “In a Dark Room”.
This story concerns my uncle Fergus and the trouble he caused when I brought him to dinner at the house of a friend of mine. What happened was not my fault, but I am sure I will never be invited back again.
This friend of mine had three young children, two boys and a girl. One day, when I was visiting his home, he happened to mention that his children loved listening to scary tales. Since I myself am a fan of ghost stories and urban legends, I decided to tell them a few tales of some legendary creatures and mythicl monsters I had read about. However, my stories absolutely failed to frighten them.
Then I remembered that my uncle Fergus had, in his youth, spent a lot of time in the jungles of India and Africa, hunting wild animals. He even had a lion’s head hanging on the wall of his living room. I suspected that he might have some tall tales that could produce the desired effect.
Therefore, I told the kids that I knew of an old hunter who had some exciting and thrilling experiences in the jungle. They seemed to be interested, so I asked my friend if I could invite my uncle over for dinner the next day.
I never expected that my uncle Fergus would be able to tell the children a scary story that would genuinely terrify them. I did not imagine for one second that the kids would get so scared. And now their parents blame me. I cannot understand why. If you ask me, they brought it on themselves.
As soon as I arrived with my uncle, the children began demanding that he tell them a story. Uncle Fergus was always ready to spin a tale and they didn’t need to ask him twice.
Of course, you must remember that the children had never seen my uncle before and the only thing they knew about him was that he had been a big game hunter years ago. Also, don’t forget that young children can be very gullible.
As he began his story, my uncle sat down in a comfortable chair and the children sat on the floor at his feet, eagerly trying to catch every word. When I was a child, he had told me about some stories about the lions and tigers he had encountered while hunting. I expected to hear the same old tales again. However, my uncle significantly changed the plot and it seems he went a bit too far.
“The tiger had spotted me long before I knew he was there,” announced my uncle, in a commanding voice. “He was following me quite leisurely, as though he did not want to run in the hot weather, and knew perfectly well that I couldn’t run either. Let this story serve as a lesson for all of you in the future. When you grow up, never go out into the jungle without a weapon. Even if you are just going out for a brisk walk, as I was that ill-fated morning. For on the way, I met a tiger. I heard a noise behind me and when I turned and saw him following me, I almost jumped out of my skin. I knew I couldn’t outrun him, so I just quickened my pace, but of course, the tiger was a little faster. As I hurried along, glancing nervously over my shoulder, I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that escape was impossible.”
“Why?” asked one of the boys.
“Because the tiger was walking faster than I was,” replied my uncle. “For every hundred feet we traveled, he got two or three feet closer. I was doomed and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it. The distance between us was steadily decreasing and it was only a matter of time before he caught up to me.
“Why didn’t you run?” asked the other boy.
“If he had wanted to kill me, he would have pounced already,” said my uncle. “Instead, he was playing a game with me, silently stalking me, drawing closer and closer every minute. I knew that, if I suddenly started running, the tiger would have thought it a new game. He would simply chase me down and rip me apart. Even though I knew what the outcome would be, I kept moving. I didn’t want to die. Unfortunately, I was only delaying the inevitable.”
“Why didn’t you climb a tree?” asked the girl.
“We were moving away from the jungle and approaching the rocky hills,” said my uncle. “There was no hope of finding a tree, because the tiger was between me and the trees.”
“Why did you go out for a walk in the jungle in the first place?” asked the first boy.
“Tigers usually come out of the jungle at night and return at dawn,” said Uncle Fergus. “All of this took place in the early morning. I thought that all of the tigers in the jungle would be asleep. That’s why I went for a walk without a weapon. However, as it turned out, I was wrong. One tiger was still awake and searching for his next meal, and he intended that meal to be me.”
“Why were you so stupid?” asked the girl.
“You should never ask anyone why he did whatever he did to get himself into trouble,” growled Uncle Fergus. “The reason is always the same. As I told you, we were among the rocky hills. The tiger was slowly closing in on me. Just when I was about to give up all hope, I noticed something between two large rocks, at the very top of a small hill. It was a deep, dark cave. Of course, entering the cave meant that I would be cut off from all lines of retreat. But there was no way for me to flee, and the cave, at least, might give me some small chance of survival.”
“How?” asked one of the boys.
“For example, it could have become very narrow,” replied my uncle. “So narrow that I might have been able to squeeze through a space that the tiger was not able to fit through. Alternatively, it could have become wider and split into two passages. This might serve to confuse the tiger. While I went down one tunnel, he might go down the other. Hope springs eternal, as they say, so I went up the hill and entered the cave. The tiger followed me inside.”
“As I ventured deeper into the cave, the light began to fade and I could hear the tiger hot on my heels. The tunnel grew more and more narrow and soon I was crawling on all fours. The tiger was still in no hurry and the tunnel was still wide enough for him to fit through.”
“It was then that I remembered an article I had read in the newspaper. It was about the skeleton of a mouse and a cat that were found during the reconstruction of an old church. The cat had been chasing the mouse. The mouse must have crawled down into a narrow burrow, and the cat could not get at it. The cat refused to give up and stayed there waiting for the mouse to come out, but the mouse was to frightened to leave. That was how their skeletons were found. The cat and mouse had remained there forever. I just had to hope that the tiger would be smart enough to give up and turn when the hole becomes too narrow.”
“While I slowly crept forward into the darkness, I could hear the soft padding of the tiger’s paws behind me, coming closer and closer. I could feel his hot breath and the heavy stench of the wild animal filled the air. It made the blood run cold in my veins.”
As my uncle came to the climax of his story, I looked at the children’s faces. They were listening intently. I wasn’t sure if they were worried about what was going to happen next or secretly cheering for the tiger. I had no idea what was coming next.
“The tiger crept closer,” continued my uncle. “I felt his sharp claws nipping at my heels. And then I ran into a dead end and found myself face to face in the darkness, with a smooth wall of impenetrable rock. I turned around and smelled, rather than saw, the tiger.”
“What happened then?” asked one of the boys.
“He ate me,” said Uncle Fergus. “It is a ghost that is speaking to you.”
The children all began screaming in unison and all hell broke loose in the living room. In the ensuing chaos, glasses were broken, plates were smashed, tables were overturned and all the fuss that happened in that dim little room was blamed on me.