This is a short story revealing a little background on the characters of the WWII novel I’m writing. The main character here (John) is the father of the main character in the book (Kailyn). It’s set in the Himalayan mountains of Burma. Hope you enjoy it . . .
He didn’t have much use for his small knife any longer. It had been so long since he’d carved blocks of wood into jungle animals, that the monsoon rains had left rust and mold on the blade.
But tonight. Tonight his hands needed the feel of wood. The surety behind it’s hardness. The knife peeling away bits and flakes to reveal what had always lurked beneath the bark.
John rubbed a calloused thumb across the edges. His white skin stark against the ridged grain.
A scream ripped through the jungle and John jumped from the fallen log. His daughter, Kailyn, sat quiet. Amber eyes wide, staring through the fire at her Papa, shifting between the door of their thatch-roofed home and the jungle. He knew she wanted to run, but her mother’s pain contained her here. Captured in the flickering light of the fire.
John sank, blinking at the blood bubbling small in his palm, soaking into the block. He hadn’t even realized that the blade had bit him. Settling the block back in his hands, he cut away a chunk of wood. Shavings gathered on his lap, dripping onto the dirt, piling up like the screams.
Under his patient tutelage, a head emerged. Then a long, lanky body. Dark. Graceful. Powerful. Silent. A tiger. So much like his wife and daughter.
The silence registered. John looked up, hands cradling a miniature tiger in his long fingers and watched as the midwife carried a tiny bundle to him.
Absently, John dropped the tiger near the flames, scorching it black before Kai could rescue it.
The midwife refused to look at him and tears slipped down her dark cheeks. Kai slipped up the bamboo ladder as the Kachin midwife handed John his son. Perfectly formed cheeks, grey with death, were smeared with his mother’s blood. His son. John’s knees gave way sinking to the ground.
Another cry, weaker still than the last dribbled into the darkness. John forced himself to stand, trying to go to his wife. But the death of this celebrated child sent the first roots of a strangler fig deep into his heart. His faith stuttered under the crush. How would he survive this alone?
Kai’s murmurs slipped through the woven bamboo walls. “Please mama. Mama?” Such a smart little girl, his little tiger. Her voice rose in fear.
John could tell by the fidgeting midwife that his wife was not long for this world either. There were no prayers left that could save her . . . not even from this missionary. God’s angels would slip over the Himalayan mountains and steal her away. John sat hard, humming, rocking his child into the sleep that would last forever.
John looked down at the dark lashes of his son, felt his soul yearning to fly away. Kai’s voice lifted in an ancient cry. The cry of the abandoned, lost. And the tether on John’s soul snapped tight, yanking him back to the brown crust of earth. Trapping him. Kailyn. Encased inside, hollow. He must stay for Kailyn.