Prologue

From a distance, from somewhere in the sky, the tiger now running through deep snow seems unusual only in that it is a tiger running through deep snow. It is not so uncommon an occurrence, though it is not commonly witnessed.

Without any points of reference, on a gray day when there is almost no line on the horizon, the size of the tiger is difficult to determine.

The pilot of the chartered airplane begins to circle back to have a closer look. His four passengers, mining executives and a wide-smiling politician, are excited. They are all taking pictures with their phones, even though the tiger will appear as only a speck at this distance. He decides to give them a chance to get some good photos, and a little thrill. He is an experienced pilot. Flying close to the ground cannot even be considered a test of his skill. He knows the terrain well. It is flat enough in every direction for many miles.

He descends and is now approaching the tiger head-on. After a moment, he catches his breath and glances at the altimeter. His altitude is fine but something is strange. Having served in the Russian Air Force, he has approached countless targets at low altitude. He has a general idea of how large a Siberian tiger is and unless his eyes are playing tricks on him, this tiger must be a giant.

As he guides the plane lower and prepares to pass to the right of the tiger, he adjusts as all four of his passengers move to the left side of the small aircraft. But the tiger is still directly in front of him. He adjusts again, and again the tiger follows.

What the hell?

He dips lower to keep the tiger in view out his front window and realizes the tiger is not just big, it’s huge, impossibly huge, size-of-a-truck huge.

Finally, in an attempt to give himself and his passengers a better view, he banks to the right and then to the left as hard as he dare at this low altitude. If he has timed it right, the tiger should be coming into view out the left window right about… now.

His passengers start screaming. The pilot doesn’t scream because something seems to be telling him to remain calm, and also because he refuses to believe that a tiger nearly the size of his plane has just leapt into the air and is about to snatch them from the sky.


Copyright © 2016 by Mike Ferguson

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