Attached to Animals
by Edward Burger
Part 1 appears|
in this issue.
It was soon too dark to continue. With neither the chasm floor nor ledge in sight, there was a place where I felt I could stand a while. I planted my feet squarely on two rocks and leant back against the wall. The tiger was as heavy as ever but I thought that if we were still for a while, my flesh might stay intact. The weight of the tiger’s sternum against my knees acted as a brace for my legs so I felt quite secure. I actually managed to get some sleep.
When morning came, little light reached into the chasm. I looked towards the sky and saw only a narrow slit way above. Yet there was more light than at the end of the previous day’s journey. So we continued our descent, the dangling tiger and I.
The tiger didn’t stir but she definitely was awake. Her eyes stared blankly at my groin. The scene below us was dark and undefined, the bottom presumably still a long way down. But I noticed a sound that was emanating from below. I had heard it earlier — a humming sound that I had thought was the wind. Now the sound was clearer — a fluctuating, buzzing noise.
As we continued our descent, the tiger grew restless. She twisted her head to one side then the other, searching for the source of the sound. Yet all her wriggling pulled at my chest, and I gasped in pain. She stopped wriggling then. She was learning just how important my wellbeing was to her own survival.
The buzzing seemed everywhere. Whatever was making the sound, the floor of the chasm was filled with it. Then I noticed something other than just darkness below. There was a lighter shade of something. At first I had thought it was mist, but it was more defined than mist. I thought it could be a field of dense white flowers or some other form of plant. And I could also detect movement. As we descended further I realised that the sound was made of thousands of voices. They were birds’ voices. The chasm was full of white birds.
Eventually we reached the birds. They were doves — chatty and contented doves. They filled the length of the chasm for as far as I could see. They seemed not to be resting on the floor at all but, rather, resting on each other. I lowered the tiger’s body among them. Soon I could feel their soft shapes against my ankles. Then they were up to the tiger’s head.
The poor tiger looked distressed, and let out a soulful whine, yet I had no choice but to continue. Negotiating a chasm full of doves is not easy. With each step, I passed my legs between their amassed bodies till my foot found the next rock. In a moment the doves were all over me, in my face, on my head, under my chin, under my arms and between my legs. There were too many of them. They got in the way of my hands and feet.
I tried to lean back to brace myself, but they were behind my back as well. I lost my balance. I trod on a dove that plummeted under my weight, and we fell. We fell on the doves and through them. We fell in slow motion, slowed by their soft, yielding shapes. Our descent became slower and slower till eventually we lost momentum and stopped.
I don’t know where we were with relation to the mass of doves — how far from its ceiling or base — but we were close enough to the bottom that the birds beneath us were less yielding. The view was the same in all directions. Doves everywhere. I was held aloft by the tiger’s raised forelegs. She was standing upright on the doves, and her forelegs had become stuck in the raised position, as if her muscles had ceased up. She twisted her shoulders and arched her back, but she could not lower them. I grabbed her paws with my hands and tried to unhook them, but the claws were too firmly embedded.
The tiger looked perplexed, and not least for the fact that she was forced to stand in an upright position. She took a few steps forward, unsteadily at first, but the pressure of the doves helped her to remain upright. Soon she was walking quite confidently.
I was relatively comfortable with the situation. My chest didn’t hurt as much because the doves were supporting our weight. I was more concerned about my stomach. I hadn’t eaten since the morning of the previous day. And I was concerned about the tiger. She hadn’t eaten for at least as long as I, and she was such a large animal. Not that I was afraid she would eat me. We had developed a special relationship and I sincerely believed she would be repulsed by the thought.
My stomach rumbled and the tiger looked up. She had feathers sticking out of her mouth. I looked at her stomach. It was nearly bursting. She must have been snacking for some time. The tiger grabbed another dove with her mouth and offered it to me. I shook my head. I couldn’t eat one of these beautiful creatures. Besides, I was a vegetarian.
Then the tiger headed off with more speed and purpose than before. It was as if she had smelt something. Soon I noticed doves with streaks of purple on their plumage. There became so many of them that the world took on a purple hue. We were heading for the purple centre. The doves were feasting on something.
Then I saw that they were berries. A great mass of blackberries was suspended among the doves. The tiger had found me food. She carried me into the midst of much raucous feasting. With feathers in my face and squawks in my ears, I delved my hands into the great berrymass and filled my mouth with them. They were delicious. I fed some to the tiger too, which she eagerly devoured even though she was already full.
Once I was full, it was time to rest. The tiger carried me to a quiet area where all the doves were asleep. She bent over and lay me down upon the soft, feathered surface. Then she too lay down and rested her head upon my crotch. She soon fell asleep. Occasionally she nuzzled me in her sleep, but I didn’t mind. I felt good. We had found happiness together in this world of doves and berries. It was the perfect world, so soft and carefree.
* * *
Then I was tied to a whale, and it was continually breaching, no doubt in an effort to squish me out of existence. Again and again I was hoisted high out of the water and then plunged down again with the whole of the whale’s weight upon me. We threw up enough water to flood a village. Once when it breached, a harpoon came sailing by. Luckily it missed the whale and got my chest instead.
But the whaler’s action had angered the whale, and it threw itself into the air and onto the ship. It broke the ship in two, amidst the curses of some angry peglegged fellow who had been on deck. Then the whale dived. It was trying to drown me, but it swam straight into the clutches of a giant squid. The squid wrapped its tentacles around us and squeezed so hard that I was almost winded. But we managed to break free, and we made it back to the surface just in time. The whale was almost out of oxygen.
Then I was tied to a giant mole, and because moles have very poor eyesight, it didn’t realise I was there. It would start digging a hole, throwing dirt all over me as it went, but then it wouldn’t be able to descend very far because the hole wasn’t wide enough to fit me in as well. It tried to push and claw its way in but my head would hold us back, or my shoulders, if we had gotten that far.
Then sometimes it would dig a wider entrance, only to get stuck again once we were a few feet under. It eventually got wise to the fact that it was of more bulk than it use to be, having probably figured that it must have put on weight or something. But still it was a tight squeeze. Everywhere we went, I was bumped, squeezed and pelted with dirt.
And then I was tied to a sloth. It was a blissful experience. With its four paws wrapped around a branch, it hung upside-down, and I lay upon its furry belly, which was much like a warm luxuriant bed. It looked at me with its beautiful large eyes and round face, and I could almost believe it was my mother. We were hanging high in a tall tree, safe from all terrestrial predators. The sloth gently swung from side to side, and I fell... I fell into a peaceful sleep.
Copyright © 2006 by Edward Burger