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The Year of the Water Tiger Writing of the Week

A piece of flash fiction by Robert Carrick

Jia lives with her grandfather in a village at the foothills of Songshan Mountain in China. She is nearly thirty years of age, and she has lived with him in his small timber pavilion ever since the rest of her family moved away to the nearby city.

On the first evening of the new year, Jia burns sandalwood incense and waits patiently until her grandfather retires to his quarters. When the house falls silent, she washes her short black hair and dries it off, before lying on her slatted timber bed in her silk nightdress, ready to dream.

As Jia succumbs to the darkness, she imagines herself deep inside the catacombs of Songshan. Wandering aimlessly in the grimy dust, she stumbles into the realm of the Earth Tiger. With stripes as red as iron ore and black as coal, it stalks her relentlessly until she is cornered in its lair. Jia watches on as the now transformed Metal Tiger uses its claws to forge magnetite and hematite into a golden rapier.

Armed with the sword, she is released from the mountain lair and runs with a streak of Gold Tigers across the vast windswept grasslands of the steppes, to the edge of a dense cool forest of tall redwood. There she strides into the heart of the forest alone and hacks at the bark of an ancient tree, working deftly to carve out an exquisite red Wood Tiger.

She’s enthralled by the beauty of her labour until the spell is fractured by a raging Fire Tiger tearing and crackling through the forest. It bears down upon her, consuming the Wood Tiger in a convulsion of searing heat.

She runs ahead of the blazing fury until she reaches a vast inland sea where the Fire Tiger is extinguished by a cool gushing Water Tiger, leaving her to languish on the sandy shore, which in a moment resumes the feel of her slatted timber bed.

For Jia, her night of adventures has ushered in the Year of the Water Tiger. She can only wonder at the way her mind had jumbled the order of the tiger years in her sleep, a realm which sets its own powerful reality.


text Robert Carrick;

photos Wix.



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