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The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival

382 Pages · 2017 · 2.63 MB · English

  • The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival

    Also by John Vaillant


    The Golden Spruce To the memory of


    Joanna and Ellis Settle


    viriditas In the taiga there are no witnesses.


    V. K. A ,


    RSENIEV


    Dersu the Trapper1


    no easy bargain


    Would be made in that place by any man


    Beowulf2 Contents


    Cover


    Other Books by This Author


    Title Page


    Dedication


    Epigraphs


    Maps


    Prologue Part One | Markov


    Part Two | Pochepnya


    Part Three | Trush


    Epilogue


    Acknowledgments


    A Note on Translation


    Notes


    Selected Bibliography


    Permissions Acknowledgments


    About the Author


    Photo Inserts


    Copyright The Russian Far East The Bikin River Valley Prologue


    HANGING IN THE TREES, AS IF CAUGHT THERE, IS A SICKLE


    OF A MOON. Its wan light scatters shadows on the snow below, only


    obscuring further the forest that this man negotiates now as much by feel


    as by sight. He is on foot and on his own save for a single dog, which runs


    ahead, eager to be heading home at last. All around, the black trunks of


    oak, pine, and poplar soar into the dark above the scrub and deadfall, and


    their branches form a tattered canopy overhead. Slender birches, whiter


    than the snow, seem to emit a light of their own, but it is like the coat of


    an animal in winter: cold to the touch and for itself alone. All is quiet in


    this dormant, frozen world. It is so cold that spit will freeze before it


    lands; so cold that a tree, brittle as straw and unable to contain its


    expanding sap, may spontaneously explode. As they progress, man and


    dog alike leave behind a wake of heat, and the contrails of their breath


    hang in pale clouds above their tracks. Their scent stays close in the


    windless dark, but their footfalls carry and so, with every step, they


    announce themselves to the night.


    Despite the bitter cold, the man wears rubber boots better suited to the


    rain; his clothes, too, are surprisingly light, considering that he has been


    out all day, searching. His gun has grown heavy on his shoulder, as have


    his rucksack and cartridge belt. But he knows this route like the back of


    his hand, and he is almost within sight of his cabin. Now, at last, he can


    allow himself the possibility of relief. Perhaps he imagines the lantern he


    will light and the fire he will build; perhaps he imagines the burdens he


    will soon lay down. The water in the kettle is certainly frozen, but the


    stove is thinly walled and soon it will glow fiercely against the cold and


    dark, just as his own body is doing now. Soon enough, there will be hot


    tea and a cigarette, followed by rice, meat, and more cigarettes. Maybe a


    shot or two of vodka, if there is any left. He savors this ritual and knows


    it by rote. Then, as the familiar angles take shape across the clearing, the


    dog collides with a scent as with a wall and stops short, growling. They


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