He looked into the blood-red sky of his homeworld, knowning that this glimpse
might well be his last. He was the last of his tribe, which was the last of eight tribes of tiger-people, a
race of mighty hunters. Even now, he dreamed of the hunt as he drifted in and out of consciousness.
He, his father and the elders of the tribe were a proud people. No planting and harvesting for them, no grubbing in mines or keeping of shops. They were wild, free, independent. They held dominion over all of their world and the creatures in it.
His tribe had held fiercely to the old ways -- self-reliant and self-sustaining. No mind-poisons for them.
The other tribes had gradually grown soft and complacent. They wearied of the hunt. They were seduced by the way of the coca leaf and the poppy flower. They no longer hunted for their own food, no longer cared for their young, no longer cared about anything. "Why should we hunt when we can escape into a cloud of smoke?" they would ask, not really caring for an answer.
No wonder their world was dying.
Suddenly, he was back in the present. He was conscious again and had to face what his world had become, what his tribe had become, what he had become. The odor of poppy and coca swirled around him, penetrating his nostrils. How could he have let this happen? How could his father . . . ?
A wave of fatigue swept him. No! He would not pass out again. If he must die, he would meet his ancestors on his feet, free of any drug. The way of the poppy and the coca leaf had already destroyed his world, his tribe, his family. It was close to destroying him, as well. His body was racked by the agony of withdrawal from the influence of the poisonous plants. He was determined that if he must die, he would die clean and free.
As the other tribes died off, the world became lonely and full of loss. The burden of sadness caused even his own tribe to succumb to the seductive power of the poppy and the coca leaf to numb fear, sadness and pain.
As his father lay weak and dying, he had not the strength left to roar and alert the next world as was proper, because even he had succumbed to the sickly sweet blue smoke.
"How could we allow this to happen to us? How could we sink into shameful slavery like this? We are Tygers, yet we have grown as weak and pathetic as the hairless apes that live in caves and skulk around the edges of our hunting grounds."
A towering rage seized him and finally, he roared. He roared with all the accumulated pain and grief of his dead race. He roared a roar that ripped open the fabric of time and space, creating a huge swirling vortex breaching the barriers between this world and another.
His head spun. "What's happening to me?" he thought, as the souls and memories of thousands of generations of Tygers, all the lost tribes swarmed into his mind and took up residence.
Blackness engulfed him as he was swept into the vortex.
When he awoke, he was no longer a single, isolate individual. He had become the bearer of all the knowledge and experience of his race and it changed him. No longer was he a hunter. No, he was something new. The disaster that had overtaken his race must never be repeated. It was he who must make war against the way of the poppy and the coca leaf.
He carried within him all the memories, the pain, the joys and fears of his entire race. He could never bring them back to life, but through him, they would end the story of their race clean and free of the poison that had destroyed them. Though he might live and die alone on this new world, he would live proudly until then.
And he saw that he was in a new world indeed. Everything around him was different. There were strange plants and unnatural structures everywhere. The sky was even blue. His tribal encampment was nowhere to be seen.
Footsteps and voices!
How could this be? There was no one left. He was the last. He took cover and watched.
As the figures approached, he saw that they were a pair of the hairless cave apes -- apparently one male and one female. But they were wearing clothing -- and they SPOKE! They seemed to be waiting for something or someone. They were very nervous.
After a time, a third hairless ape approached in a furtive manner. They exchanged trinkets. The couple gave the newcomer something made of paper and he handed them a pouch made of some transparent material. The newcomer left.
As he continued to observe, his keen nose detected a familiar scent, one he knew all too well. It was the scent of the coca leaf. And when he recognized its sickly sweet smell, he let out a tremendous roar.
The ape people screamed, dropped their pouch and fled for their lives. Their story of a towering, roaring tiger-man would be discounted by the authorities as the ravings of a couple of drug-soaked crack-heads.
Our hero soon learned that the ape people were the dominant form of life. He even met one -- a young and fearless male who, when they met face to face on a forest path, said: "Wow!" and didn't flee. "What's your name?" asked the kid, as the young apes are called. When he found the Tyger name unpronounceable, the kid said: "I knew a great cop who used to round up lots of drug dealers and put them in jail. His name was Tom. That's what I'll call you -- Tom Tyger." And it stuck.
But where was he? Another planet? Another dimension? The future of his own world? He didn't know and in the time thereafter it didn't matter. His world was dead. He was here. And so was his sworn enemy -- the way of the poppy and the coca leaf. These apes apparently had little defense against them.
The talking boxes and printed rags of this culture would soon be full of stories about the vigilante dressed in a tiger costume who did battle with drug lords, taught honor and self-reliance to kids and confronted parents who did not care properly for their "cubs." All the while, Tom was amused that they took him for an ape in disguise.
With the legacy of strength, courage, wisdom and fierce compassion of his people great within him, he could save the ape people from their weakness. It was too late to save his own world, but he would help them save theirs.
And so begins the saga of the crusader they called Tom Tyger.
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