Mini adventures. Mini Sci-Fi. Mini History. Mini Fantasy. Mini-escapes. What you can expect from the

“Five-Minute Escape” short adventure story.


TIME: September 27, 1933. PLACE: The Sundarbans, India

Copyright Terofil Gizelbach, 2013


“YOU shouldn’t have followed me, Taral. We dare not go back through the thickets until dawn. Death pads in the mangroves this night.”

Ramesh glanced at the boy standing next to him in the clearing. In the moonlight, the youth’s face seemed very earnest.

“I am twelve years old, Grandfather. I know the ways of the tiger. I have heard your tales of the great hunter Corbett. I can help. I know I can.”

The old man smiled, deepening the wrinkles creasing his ancient face. “Your father, if he were alive, would be proud. But you must stay very close and keep your eyes open very wide. A leaf does not fall as softly as does a tiger’s paw. I would not have you be the forty-first to die.”

“I will do as you say, Grandfather. I will be the eyes in the back of your head.”

The old man nodded, his attention focused back on the forest’s moonlit-dappled walls. The night was very still, with but a whisper of wind that rustled the palm leaves lining the distant riverbank.

The tiger was a mankiller; forty already it had taken from his village. The British had sent help–the hunter “Roberts”—but Roberts had failed, and tonight the old man had seen the tiger in the grove just beyond his dead son’s hut. The hut where he lived with his daughter-in-law and his three grandchildren. The hut and the family that he had promised his son to protect.

“Are you armed, Boy?” He asked, watching the forest’s stillness.

“I have my knife.” Taral spoke with bravado.

The old man nodded and smiled. He carried an ancient long rifle, a musket with a flintlock dated 1807. It had been his father’s rifle, and his father’s rifle before him. Its scarred, worn barrell had been wired down to its ancient wood to compensate for a missing band. Longingly, the old man remembered Jim Corbett’s weapon, his “275” bolt action Model 1893 Mauser. Many shots. Many chances at  survival. The old man and the boy had but one.

“We will wait here in the clearing for a while. I am too old to climb trees and too poor to sacrifice a goat. You must be my ears as well as my eyes, Grandson. I do not hear as well as I once did. Show me the tiger when it comes, Taral. The goddess Bonobibbi will protect us.”

They waited. Far away they could hear village sounds. A barking dog. Cattle lowing. A clinking pail. And the old man remembered his son, a honeygatherer who had died during harvest time by a tiger’s claws. Yet, the old man found that he did not hate the big cat. He knew tigers to be the forest’s heart, its soul painted in the color of flame—and like fire, they were at once beautiful and orange, and black and deadly. And, he thought, mysterious. He knew tigers to be afraid of man, and the old man wondered what had driven this particular animal to turn man-eater. Was it lame? Toothless? Unable to hunt the swift Chital deer that lived in the thickets? The old man felt sad that this magnificent animal must die. Life, he thought, was filled with bitter choices; decisions that killed both beauty and soul in the name of survival. He hoped that he would not live to see a time when the tiger did not rule the Sundarban’s mangroves.

“I heard something, Grandfather,” Taral whispered. “Beyond the trees. There, in the tall grasses.”

Ramesh stared where the boy had pointed, towards the lace of branches and the waving grasses beyond. Though he strained his eyes, he saw nothing.

“It may circle, boy, and come at us from the forest or the thickets. Look behind. Point me so that I might shoot. Do not fail me, Grandson, or it will be the death of us.”

Again the old man looked to the grass. This time he thought he spotted movement, a ghostly glide of shadow and darkness behind the moon-silvered blades, but he could not be sure. Show yourself to me, Tiger, he willed. Show yourself so that we might meet as warriors.

But the night remained as before: trees swaying in the gentle wind, leaves rustling…but now the forest sounds were hushed. No night birds split the quiet. The cattle in the village had ceased their lowing. Even the insects were still.

He is near.  Very near.

At his back, the old man could feel his grandson. The closeness of Taral caused him to fear, to clench his rifle tighter in his gnarled hands. The old man had not many years left, his life was of but little consequence…but the boy… The boy must be saved.

Sacrifice me, Bonobibbi, if you must. But leave my grandson be…

Sweat trickled down the old man’s spine.

In the village, dogs began barking fiercely, causing the old man to start.

“There, Grandfather! There!”

Ramesh man spun and aimed his rifle first at the thicket where the boy was pointing. Then instinct caused him to jerk his rifle back towards the forest, where a shadow had split from the gloom. Vaulting into the moonlight, it came: in orange and blackness, as if night lived on it pelt. Its fangs were white, gleaming; its muscles, flanks rippling; its eyes flashing. The boy cried out and moved to stab the Bengal with his knife. Sidestepping and knocking the youth back, Ramesh pulled the trigger. The explosion drowned out his grandson’s voice and tore the belly from the night in a blinding flash. The old man was lifted and thrown to the ground. A great weight covered him, tiger smell thick in his nostrils. He braced, expecting teeth, claws, death. But the heaviness remained motionless, and the tiger smell was replaced by the scent of blood.

“Are you well, Grandfather?” Ramesh heard a voice asking. “Are you hurt?”

The old man pulled free of the tiger and stood, feeling his bones. He could see that the animal was ancient and that its teeth were broken. This then is what drove it to prey on the village.

“I am well, Grandson,” he said, suddenly weary.

Taral stared at his grandfather with awe. “You killed him, Grandfather. With just one shot you brought him down! Corbett himself could not have done better!”

Ramesh shook his head, knowing that if Corbett were here, he would share in his sadness. “Killing is nothing to be proud of, grandson. You will understand in time.”

Bowing his head, Ramesh offered up a prayer to Bonobibbi. Then he knelt by the tiger and stroked its grayed muzzle. “I am sorry,” he whispered. “Please forgive me, I only did it because I must. The Sundarbans are diminished with your passing. You, old one, were the fire in the heart of the forest.”

The two heard voices, shouts, calls. Men were approaching from the village. The hunter Roberts’ voice was among them.

“That man, Roberts, he is nothing like Corbett,” the boy said. “He will say that it was he who downed the tiger.”

The old man smiled and rested his hand on the boy’s shoulder. “What does it matter, grandson? For tonight you, your mother, brother, and sister…this night, you sleep without fear.”





Since the setting of this story, tiger population in the Sundarbans has dwindled to perhaps 200 to 300 animals, though some experts claim as few as 100 remain. New methods are being explored to prevent human deaths due to tigers. People must be protected, but hunting is no longer the only answer if we hope to save the tiger from extinction. Even tigers in zoos are at risk. For more information about saving the tiger, please see:

For more information about tigers in general, please try this excellent link:

For more information about the hunter turned conservationist Jim Corbett, please try: (Choose the link for Jim Corbett, Hunter)

To paraphrase the old man, it would be a shame to live in a world without wild tigers.


Each “Five-Minute Escape short adventure story in this blog series will be kept under 1500 words; most will clock in at about 500. The “Five-Minute Escape” short adventure story will allow you to log on, take a fast trip, and get back quick to what you should have been doing in the first place…though hopefully the experience will stay with you long after you have moved on to something else. Subscribe to the blog and take a weekly…”Five-Minute Escape!”

“Five-Minute Escape short adventure story copyrighted Terofil Gizelbach, 2013


« »