A Brief for the DefenseSorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies are not starving someplace, they are starving somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils. But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants. Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women at the fountain are laughing together between the suffering they have known and the awfulness in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody in the village is very sick. There is laughter every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay. If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction, we lessen the importance of their deprivation. We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure, but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world. To make injustice the only measure of our attention is to praise the Devil. If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down, we should give thanks that the end had magnitude. We must admit there will be music despite everything. We stand at the prow again of a small ship anchored late at night in the tiny port looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning. To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth all the years of sorrow that are to come.
Jack Gilbert
One day, as Sarita tended to the wash, Gemma played in the garden. She was a knight, you see, with a sword fashioned out of wood. Most formidable, she was, though I didn't quite know how formidable. As I sat in my study, I heard screaming from outside. I ran to see what the commotion was. Sarita called to me, wide-eyed with fear, Oh, Mr. Doyle, look- over there! The tiger had entered the garden and was making his way toward where our Gemma frolicked with her wooden sword. Beside me, our house servant, Raj, drew his blade so stealthily it seemed to simply appear in his hand by magic. But Sarita stayed his hand. If you run for him with your life, you will provoke the tiger, she advised. We must wait....I must tell you that it was the longest moment of my life. No one dared move. No one dared draw a breath. And all the while, Gemma played on, taking no notice until the great cat was upon her. She stood and faced him. They stared at one another as if each wondered what to make of the other, as if they sensed a kindred spirit. At last, Gemma placed her sword upon the ground. Dear tiger, she said. You may pass if you are peaceful. The tiger looked at the sword and back at Gemma and without a sound, it passed on, dissappearing into the jungle....The tiger had gone. He did not come around a gain. But I was a man possessed. The tiger had come too close, you see. I no longer felt safe. I hired the best tracker in Bombay. We hunted for days, tracking the tiger to the mountains there. We found him taking water from a small watering hole. He looked up but he did not charge. He took no notice of us at all but continued to drink. Sahib, let us go, the boy said. This tiger means you no harm. He was right, of course. But we had come all that way. The gun was in my hand. The tiger was before us. I took aim and shot it dead on the spot. I sold the tiger's skin for a fortune to a man in Bombay and he called me brave for it. But it was not courage that brought me to that; it was fear...But you, he says, smiling with a mix of sadness and pride, you faced the tiger and survived....The time has come for me to face my tiger, to look him in the eye and see which of us survives. - Mr. Doyle
Libba Bray
I was in a copse of pine trees and the pine was overpowering my scent. The pheromones of the big cat mingled with the pine and I spun around. I was smelling and looking for the flash of white, but I couldn’t see it. I grew angry and I pawed at the earth. The aroma of the soil cleansed my nose as I leaned down and sniffed deeply. I slowly closed and opened my eyes. As I looked ahead I saw something. There, further on, I had another glimpse of the large white cat. She was stopped and her hindquarters were in the air. I stared, trying to figure out what she was doing. Her forepaws and head were on the ground, but her hind was wiggling. She was next to a tree, marking it, so I slowly paced in a zigzag pattern as I walked close to her. I was being cautious because poachers had been known to employ shifters to entice real animals in the wild. She turned her head and growled at me. I took it as an invite to come closer. I ran up to her and started circling. She was an albino panther as I thought. I paced closer, breathing deep. I was in the middle of Ohio, outside of a lost cougar and a few bobcats there were no big cats here, at least not counting lycanthropes and this creature didn’t smell like one of those. Her rump almost wagged in anticipation and I felt my tiger body respond. I circled her, taking a swipe in her direction to see if she was going to respond negatively to me. The pink eyes followed me and she growled. I walked up to her, sniffed her face and neckline. I didn’t smell any other male on her and I walked to her raised rump. Burying my nose in her groin I smelled deeper and she shifted her body. I felt it before I could see it. She was shifting, changing from albino panther to human. I sat on my hindquarters as I watched. Her white fur seemed to melt from her, sliding upwards, starting with her back legs. The flesh and fur on her feet slid forward, leaving human feet and calves. It was fully fleshed, unlike some lycanthrope changes when they’re younger. The calves of her legs appeared and slowly slid up. The panther flesh was sliding forward, slowly and methodically. Across her ass and groin, now lower back and stomach. The pheromones I smelled earlier were coming from her, the human form. I stood and started pacing behind her and her panther head shook in a very human gesture. I stopped, fighting the desire to lean forward and lick her wetness with my large tongue. The flesh was sliding forward and as her teats turned into breasts, I growled in need. Next were her shoulders and arms, then her head and hands. As the transformation ended, there was a pile of fur and flesh lying in front of her. Her human form was beautiful; a full figured woman with long white hair, that was perfectly natural. She looked to be in her early forties, but didn’t have a line on her face that she didn’t want. In the corners of her eyes were small, but beautiful, crow’s feet, laugh lines surrounded her mouth. She laid out with her former form under her, laying on it, propped up by her elbows. She smiled with the confidence of someone who was used to being in charge. Her long hair flowed around her shoulders, framing her body. She reminded me of someone, but I couldn’t figure out who.
Todd Misura