His gaze darted to and fro, anticipating the sweet taste of the slippery meal swimming in the river below.
The sparkling claws of the white tiger reflected on the surface, his paw suspended in midair, poised to strike into the sun dappled river. With his mouth salivating his breath came short and quick, yet still he waited. The tiger instinctively knew the time to attack was near.
Half an inch closer and death would sustain life, or at least an empty stomach. Faster than lightning he snatched the unsuspecting fish from the river’s edge. Though the predator was aching with hunger he chose to tease the squirming prey, chasing its tail with his glistening fangs, savoring the cool spray of water from its desperate thrashing.
Impatient, he sunk his teeth into the cold flesh, his meal cherished but ending too soon. He looked back at the flowing rush, anxious to resume the hunt when an unfamiliar scent permeated his nostrils. Turning into the wind the tiger’s nose quivered, scrutinizing the breeze, seeking out the source of invasion.
A shadow passed overhead, blocking the bright glare of the sun just long enough for the tiger to catch sight of the intruder. Crouching low the powerful beast wriggled into position, gripping the soft earth, ready for assault.
Unaware of the danger the fawn rabbit sat up on its haunches, codling its precious find. Turning the walnut over several times it nibbled its meal, curiously watching the blue sky above.
Brandon screamed at the top of his lungs when the dragon swooped down toward the ground.
“Hang on! Tightly now!” shouted Mr. Crane through the wind. “Face the fear, look it in the eye, and eyes open would work great for that ya know, not all scrunched up tight like that. Find your confidence, feel your balance. Grip her with your knees, Master Brandon!”
Exasperated, Mr. Crane huffed with frustration and tried to remember his own lessons of keeping calm in the face of anger.
His pupil frantically clutched at the dragon’s frame, fumbling for somewhere to grip. He knew Mr. Crane was flying close but he couldn’t keep his eyes open long enough to see just where he was. He tried to follow the instructions but his legs were starting to cramp they squeezed so hard.
Mr. Crane worried Brandon wouldn't learn to fly his spirit dragon at the rate he was going. He also knew the only way he would ever get over his fear of falling was to do exactly that.
The reason anyone fears anything is mostly due to the mystery surrounding it. Once you do something and you know what is going to happen, it doesn’t seem as scary.
Mr. Crane used an ancient form of communication known as telepathy to tell the dragon what his intentions were, unbeknownst to his student. The dragon understood and shot snout first toward the uneven earth.
Brandon wailed his terror, throwing his arms around the dragon’s rough scaled neck. Mr. Crane signaled the flying beast as she twisted to the right in a corkscrew motion.
In peril, Brandon accelerated straight down, thrown off his steed.
Instinctively the fawn rabbit darted as the pale tiger sprang into the air for attack. In midair the falling Brandon and leaping tiger collided, but instead of bouncing off each other, they merged, the boy vanishing within the tiger.
The world morphed into a mixture of fur and hunger, claws and teeth pulling anxiously, gravity racing to greet him. Breath he couldn’t catch, intuition took control.
Brandon pitched his new bulk around, instinctively sinking nails into soft earth. The ground accepted his claws like rain to a desert dune. He reveled in the feel of his powerful weapons scraping beneath him as if nothing could withstand their strength. Gleefully watching his deadly claws he played with the dirt, tensing, releasing, over and over, slashing the ground into clumps and repetitively flicking it off.
He shook his head when his sensitive ears tickled from unfamiliar breezes, the hairs so acute every movement became immediate and alarming. It was painful to listen to air drift by. It felt funny, moving in an alien pattern. He crooked one ear while the other stayed still and could hear rustling in the forest so far off in the distance he wondered if it was real.
Brandon could see Mr. Crane flying above him clapping his beak, talking to his Spirit Dragon as their shapes got smaller and smaller. They left him!
The musky scent of the scampering rabbit hit his senses like the first candy bar hits the tip of your tongue on Halloween. The metallic scent of the rabbit’s coppery blood caused Brandon’s pulse to accelerate. His black nose quivered, nostril’s flaring to chase after that delectable scent. He resisted the urge to chase after it.
There was more than the frisky hare hitting his senses now. He could smell the damp sand beneath him and knew another animal had marked the territory. The trees surrounding the glade exuded an ancient fragrance, foretelling their wisdom and age.
It physically ached when he surveyed the rabbit jumping away, until it was lost in the foliage. Drool began to pool on his pink tongue with the temptation to feed. He wanted that bunny, though it looked different. It was no more than a dark shape disappearing within the darkness of the forest, however the woods shouldn’t have looked like that.
Staring at everything closely, the colors were all gone. Shadows and light filled his vision but with a clarity he never knew as a human. The trees were sharper and more vivid in their detail and patterns. The ground sparkled with minerals and pebbles he’d not noticed, not even once in all the times he traversed the path meandering before him.
Brandon was comfy warm within his white coat striated with cocoa brown stripes. His consciousness burrowed into the feel of muscle and brute force, exploding an epiphany of energy and will he only ever possessed in his dreams.
He remembered wishing he could be just like the tiger before he met his Spirit Dragon. Now he could feel those muscles like a cloak of rogue power instead of merely feeling them under his palm. He stamped around in circles trying to spy what was brushing up against his thighs. His mental giggle exploded as a roar when he realized he was chasing a tail.
But the hunger wasn’t like wanting mom’s cookies after school. He was near to bursting with famished need. Brandon usually wanted to feed rabbits, not rip them to shreds for their meat.
Anger rumbled deep in his throat at the loss of his meal. Growling, he paced back and forth, still refusing to hunt the furry delicacy. He just couldn’t, despite his intense desire to do that very thing.
Where was his body? Why couldn't he see color? Why did he want to eat that adorable little bunny? Everything was topsy turvy and he worried, desperate to understand what was going on.
Did his dream come true? Was he now a real tiger? Yet the question remained and could not be ignored, how long would he remain a powerful feline predator…?
Brandon violently jerked, fighting with his blanket, gasping for air. He was mildly disappointed to wake, finding himself in his room.
He didn’t have the toys of a child scattered around his bedroom like his little brother Jamie did. Once he started karate the organization within his thoughts extended to a neat and tidy room.
His Playstation sat tucked underneath a small television with three gaming videos next to it. It was something he didn’t play much, but it comforted him to see it there.
Wrapped in the shadows of the night he could just make out a large rocking chair in the corner. His mom insisted he keep it there to remind him of her love. He never quite got that one but he didn’t mind the decoration.
Dripping with sweat he sat up in bed, swinging his legs to plant his feet firmly on the floor. He stared at the wooden boards under his soles, breathing heavily.
“It was just a dream,” he whispered to no one.
But he knew his dreams were more than just dreams. In his dreams whatever happened affected his waking world. Whatever happened in his every day life affected his dream - or rather - spirit world, just the same.
Brandon had never had a frightening dream about his spirit world before, which scared him more than just a regular nightmare would. With a nightmare you can wake yourself up and say, it was just a nightmare, a silly dream. This was different. Something happened in his spirit world.
Something had happened to him.
Standing, he meandered to the bedroom window. He was much trimmer at thirteen than he was when he first discovered his spirit world. When he first met his spirit friends, Mr. Crane, the wonderful white tiger, and the old man, whose name he still didn’t know but who just about saved his life back then.
Reaching out from within his dreams they guided an overweight and heavy-hearted little boy to karate. There he met Marisa who is still his best friend to this day, and in the process gained self confidence.
By lightening up his heart and healing the wounds of his aching soul, he was able to save his Spirit Dragon. Bound by the weight of all the fears he refused to face, the many years of self doubt and loathing, Brandon’s Spirit Dragon was near death before he found the tools he needed to help them both.
Staring at the lawn looking velvet with deep shadows, he thought about this third year of karate and learning the fifth kata so he could shoot for his black belt. Still a straight A student Brandon discovered a passion for Japanese folklore. It was a short study subject in his Literature Class, and an even shorter one in his Social Studies Class at school.
Once he got a glimpse into the world of powerful ninja and their swords of great lineage and destiny, it resonated deep in his soul. He yearned to be a master, to breathe powerful chi in through his nose and use it to perfect the ancient Japanese art of the warrior. To breathe in the force all around us and use it in the deadly moves of each kata, to exude that power as a part of him, deep inside. He craved to have their speed, skill, and stealth.
He borrowed many books on the subject from the library, reading everything and anything he could get his hands on. He even discovered movies portraying his beloved characters and their histories.
Wind wafted hard enough through the maple tree to send a whisper across the lawn, while Brandon smiled at how he replaced his Star Wars Episode One poster with one from Ip Man. It's his favorite movie, placed proudly next to the movie poster of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.
Yes, he was very different to the ten year old kid he was, the one without any balance or coordination. Brandon could remember practicing his karate for hours before seeing the slightest improvement. He did stick to it though, passing each test to reaching the rank of Ni-kyu, or advanced brown belt.
When he first became a Go-kyu green belt he hit a bit of a speed bump. Sensei referred to it as a trouble spot.
Scudding clouds unveiled the moon, highlighting the silver stillness filling the bird bath outside. At karate he and Marisa were cruising right along, doing their thing, when all of a sudden he absolutely could not get the fourth kata.
Seichin completely baffled him.
Most of the time he still couldn’t even remember its name, and he was well into learning the next kata. So that took some extra study before he could advance to his current rank. Yet he still found frustration in his inability to learn true control. His thoughts really threw him off balance and that was a key component.
He lost a considerable amount of weight but now needed to develop muscle. Losing weight doesn’t just leave you with the muscle underneath, you have to work at it. Realistically he needed to work on buffing up.
Lifting his arm he made his bicep flex, wishing it was as strong and effortless as the dream tiger's. It made him want to train harder, to reach deep and become a living warrior with a Ninja's instinct and the assassin's ease of a Samurai.
To become the human equivalent of the dream tiger.
Not that he was a big fan of weight training, or anything that caused pain for that matter, but he kept his determination resolute, keeping at it, doing his very best.
He surveyed the night sky as if he might find the answers hidden within a moonbeam, or the twinkling of a star.
His thoughts turned to Marisa. They'd been close friends for awhile. She helped him when no one else would even talk to him, let alone lend a helping hand, or an ear for that matter.
Crossing his arms he leaned against the wall, his face so close to the window pane that his breath left a misted impression.
His finger squeaked against the glass when he spelled out MARISA in the condensation. Breathing over it again, he could almost spell Uechi-Ryu before he ran out of room.
Sighing, he turned back, padding across his room to his rumpled bed. Snuggling back under the covers now that his heart rate was back to normal, he fervently hoped he wouldn’t dream.http://www.amazon.com/Minding-Tiger-Spi ... +the+tiger
Thanks for the read.