My Red Tiger is a rich adventure to ancient lands, customs and peoples.
“I have always been interested in pyramids,” says Lila Newport. We soon find Lila at the Egyptian pyramids outside Cairo with Ken, the man she’s loved forever. But danger sings in the air beneath the Sphinx, weathered by timeless desert sand.
Mix in money and family and Ken’s surprise lover — betrayal at every turn. Add running away to Mexico and a jungle tour or two with a guide named Juan who is too good to be true. Slither in a freely roaming snake and a small child, Corrie, who requires protection and enjoy the action heating up.
As a bonus, learn about Chichen-Itza, Merida, Mayans and sacred wells and sacrifices of gold and jade. Meet a red tiger with jade green eyes. And learn: could it be that perhaps, after all, the red tiger and this pyramid point the way to a happy ending in spite of it all?
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I have always been interested in pyramids. Inevitably in school I’d write assigned history papers on Egyptians and their strange triangular pyramids. Pages were wrinkled and spotted in our old encyclopedia about Mayans, pyramids and Egyptians. Many drops of food and drink fell on their pages because I was too intent on my ancient intriguing civilizations to pay proper attention to mundane matters of juicy hot dogs and wobbly glasses of milk.
So, of course, I leaped at the chance to go to Egypt. How could I refuse when Lawrence asked me? Aunt Andrea begged me? There was no way I could say no. And Lawrence knew it.
I wonder if cold, false-hearted Lawrence knows about my talisman stone from Egypt? Would he care if he knew?
My stone is before me now, my own private jewel. An objective observer would see only a pale yellow stone shaped roughly in the form of a miniature pyramid. But I know better. This tiny sliver of rock is my key to instant memory.
In its depths I see, shimmering from my tears, cameo scenes of emotional events from my past.
I relive the dreaming magic of a full moon night when love was sweeter than spring and filled my world. Through welling tears I see a ghastly betrayal of love: unforgivable, dreadful. I see a shaken, running, frightened woman seeking a new life and finding dark mysteries in Mayaland on the Yucatan Peninsula. In my dreams snakes writhe unendingly over Mayan temples. I see Juan, my dark mysterious Mayan. I see an inscrutable red tiger, the uncanny jaguar god of ancient Mayans.
In my mind, in those secret inner places where truth always shines, I’ll admit the trip to Egypt was the start of this current nightmare. My red tiger was growling into life on the remote Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. But I was blissfully, eagerly going to Egypt seeking their pyramids and completely unaware of that other pyramid waiting for me. Waiting and holding cold black horror and my red tiger.
If only I’d said, no, that innocent sun-shiny day which now seems so long ago in experience. If only I’d said, no to Lawrence, and no to Egypt, perhaps these circles of fate wouldn’t have started. But how could I, when I’d dreamed so long of seeing, with
my very own eyes, the mysterious Sphinx and the Giza Pyramids?
Was it only six months ago when Aunt Andrea summoned me home via her intriguing note? Summoned me and Lawrence to our childhood home and then ordered us to Egypt.
Uncle Ben and Aunt Andrea had raised us, adopting Lawrence and taking me in when my entire family died in a ferry boat accident. Now Aunt Andrea, knowing she was dying of cancer, and, I guess trying to make up her neglect of me, had blackmailed us into going to Egypt. I was happy, truth be told, to go to Egypt with Lawrence, go anywhere with Lawrence, for all my life I’d been in love with Lawrence.
By 6 p.m. that next week Lawrence and I were at the Shepherd Hotel in Cairo, Egypt. Those days of the following two weeks were a bright shiny time. The memory of their unfortunate end can’t spoil those magic midnights and sunlit days.
That first night in Cairo is etched forever as an indelible memory. I’m sure in final dying moments those scenes will flame with a last burst of remembered glory.
Immediately Egypt and teeming Cairo caught me in their foreign spell. At once, driving through Cairo, seeing the green flowing Nile, men in turbans wearing what looked like white nightshirts, the veiled women in black, at once my recently ignored obsession with Egypt and its antiquities returned. I was captured by an intense excitement. I couldn’t wait one second longer.
“Please, please,” I pleaded to Lawrence. “Tonight, could we go see a pyramid?”
I read an indulgent love in his reply, feeling happy omens in his quick warm smile, his bending turn towards me, and in his strong hand affirmatively reaching out to touch me. I took his attentions for love.
“I don’t see why not,” Lawrence smiled. “I’ll ask at the hotel desk and make arrangements to see a pyramid tonight.”
An hour later he called my room, “Lila, it’s all set. We’ll have a cocktail on the roof lounge before our taxi takes us to the Giza pyramids. Then we’ll have dinner at the Sahara. I’ll tell you more later. How does that sound?”
“Absolutely wonderful,” I said. It was as though I’d moved numerous light years in time and space. My old life, Aunt Andrea, all past events, even the ferry boat accident were remote memories. No past existed. Only here and now. This situation. And a whole
new wonderful future waiting to be created. An anticipation for the night began building. I could feel myself expectant, excited, exhilarated.
Soaking, stretched full length in the luxuriously huge tub, I planned what to wear.
Lawrence’s eyes told me I’d chosen well. There was a flattering possessiveness in his quick greeting at the entrance to the roof lounge of the Shepherd Hotel. A kind of bragging warning to other men radiated in his embracing, caressing arm gestures as he guided me to a seat at the bar.
He placed us so we looked through the glass, out over the palm tree-lined Nile with dazzling city lights in the background.
I felt Lawrence’s deep blue eyes studying me as I stared at the brilliantly lighted bridge crossing the Nile. My black velvet skirt was long and close fitting enough to require a slit past the knee on the left side so I could walk in it. With the skirt I wore black sandals and stockings and dangling silver filigree earrings. My black hair was piled high with artful wisps escaping around my face.
But I knew my blouse was what commanded Lawrence’s attention. I’d never before had nerve enough to wear it, although I’d bought it three years ago. Of creamy white lace, the blouse was plain, high necked with flowing ruffles at the end of long sleeves. Prim and proper and see-through. Wickedly I was wearing a delicate beige lace bra, conveying the impression there was nothing but me under the blouse.
Lawrence’s purple-blue eyes burned warm new holes in the lace. I could feel those stares like physical touches. When we talked his eyes would slide off my face and lingeringly stare at my breasts. I watched his face grow intent, sharper, concentrated. He wanted me. This mental undressing brought a new dimension to our relationship. A certain slow leisurely quality was being replaced by an alive urgency. It frightened me, this physical attraction bursting between us. I wanted the sensations, but at the same time these new emotions sent chills of alarm to my brain advising, Put the brakes on. Go slow.
So I ignored Lawrence’s close whispered “You’re beautiful.” Instead I concentrated on Egypt, talking of the lights of Cairo, of bridges over the Nile River and of gleaming white-lighted minarets, the thin fairy-like towers used to call faithful Moslems to prayer. Still our eyes would catch and hold in ancient patterns of probing questions. That we played a time-honored male-female game became more and more obvious.
Then we were in a taxi surrounded by the foreign excitement of a middle eastern capital, masses of different-looking people – strange objects, sounds and smells on every hand. I also had the exhilarating thrill of knowing I was on my way to see a pyramid. I wanted to believe. I said the words, but it was hard to conceive it was actually me – going to visit a pyramid.
The desert night was fantastic. Towards the edges of Cairo the electric lights stopped. Here and there I could see tiny glimmers of candles or lamplights shining from dark masses of low squat buildings. The moon was full. Round and huge and gigantic, the moon rained light on the desert. The white desert rippled like a ghostly dream.
Lawrence and I sat close holding hands. I was aware of his hand: large, strong, warm, holding mine. Suddenly I pulled my hand away and moved to huddle in the far corner of the taxi. Lawrence was too much. It was necessary to conserve all the power of my senses for the moon, the desert, and the coming pyramid. A strange mysticism was borning within me. A fragile tiny ESP part was preparing to meet ancestors so remote they may as well have come from a blue world floating on the fringes of a far off galaxy.
Something I had no words for was touching me. It could have been Jung’s collective consciousness: that monstrous composite consciousness holding all human experience. Consciousness which holds human awareness from the lost beginnings of time until now. Which holds the collective consciousness together and feeds it in a drop of magic elixir buried deep in the brain of each human infant. Jung says the collective consciousness is there to be called on, if we learn how, if we trust ourselves to try.
Tonight it was easy to believe in Jung’s theory. At one level of my mind I seemed to feel myself going back in time; familiar pictures of pyramids being constructed were becoming real to me. A sense of friendly pride drifted eerily over me; these were my human ancestors and five thousand years ago they’d built these wonderful monuments.
Without conscious planning, I withdrew within myself. Physically apart. Concentrating on sensation. Pursuing an elusive, intangible something. Yet also seeing this night with a beauty that was so much a part of present reality that the beauty burned and hurt.
Now we’d left behind the small lights of Cairo’s edge. Thin black asphalt traced a curving trail through the desert. Cooler air moved over my skin. All that white sand. Small piles of sand drifted and ate away at the asphalt strip, attempting to reclaim for the possessive desert even this narrow little bit of asphalt.
The moon dominated the night sky. No clouds, no trees. Just hard cold moonlight. Rippling patterns moved on the sand dunes and the shadows were very black.
I kept looking out the window, straining for a view of a pyramid. Lawrence was sitting where I’d left him, quiet. One small portion of my thoughts had time to notice and appreciate his understanding that I must be alone with my experience.
I looked and looked, staring from the silent taxi into endless reaches of moonlit desert. A murmur from Lawrence caught at my ear.
I turned to see sharp triangular edges cutting the night sky, tracing new patterns on my brain. There was never anything like this. A clean, pure, simple landscape filled with round moon, rectangular sand dunes, and a triangular pyramid.
The cab stopped in the clear moonlight on the side of the asphalt. Like an automaton I opened my door. It all came together: the ancient past and dreams and now. I started forward. I rushed forward and equally I was drawn forward. Under my feet I could feel sharp cutting stones through the thin soles of my shoes, and I was glad. The pain made me know this wasn’t only a dream.
Impossible that such a structure could exist, yet here it was before me. Huge, the pyramid filled the sky and blotted out the land. I felt on a mountain top, at the center of creation. All else was downhill, below, subservient, existing on a lower level. This was the focal point. This was the center of the world.
Almost I was running. The pain from the cutting stones wasn’t enough. I had to touch. I had to touch, to put my hands against the yellow stone and feel it rock-hard, unyielding.
All my senses were alive. My earlier anticipation, almost exhilaration, now blazed into a form of religious exaltation. I was an awed, humble subject come to pay homage at this temple of the gods.
I hurried, yet it was a long journey. There was time to experience the magic. Time to be grateful I was seeing my ancient pyramid under perfect conditions. The desert night air was cool, holding suspended traces of sand like a wild aphrodisiac perfume. The full yellow moon rained enchantment sending glimmering messages of deep mysteries and forbidden secrets.
And there was time on my journey forward, in one fleeting second, for me to adjust to the actual color of the great pyramid. The structure shone a pale yellow in the bright moonlight and the dark shadows made it whiter.
As I came closer, the pyramid took up more and more of the world. Like a wide-screen movie, I couldn’t see it all at the same time without moving my head. Yet unlike the movie screen, the pyramid retained its full identity. Then I was close, so close I couldn’t see the pyramid entirely with one look. Yet in my mind, the pictures superimposed on each other gave a different reality. There I could see the pyramid whole, complete, an entity. I felt its integrity as I came dead-hard against a waist high foundation stone of the great pyramid.
How long, how many years ago since driven slaves worked this stone into place? I stood very quietly feeling drowned in age, in history.
For a time I remained pressed into the yellow stone. But I couldn’t maintain that peak of exaltation. I could feel my joy going, slipping away like a fantasy.
I kneeled down in the crystal moonlight and picked up a stone. It didn’t surprise me to discover in the palm of my right hand a pale yellow stone shaped roughly in the form of a miniature pyramid. Slowly, as though I were taking a sacred vow, my fingers closed over the triangular stone. My left hand clutched itself protectingly over the right one.
I brought my hands forward. With tightly clasped fingers hurting from the triangular stone, I tried to stop fleeting time. Tried to stop time and imprint forever this moment in my memory. To the best of my ability I looked, I felt, I absorbed. I treasured this timeless moment, and my small stone became my talisman, my pale yellow key to instant memory.
My stone is before me now. The tears in my eyes make my pyramid shimmer. Almost I see flecks of gold in its depths.
But I mustn’t be silly. Crying won’t do any good. If crying changed things, they would’ve changed long years ago. If amount of hurt was any help, I never would’ve stumbled over those letters of Lawrence’s. Being self-pitying and sorry for myself is less than helpful.
Now I have to write down the rest of the Egyptian trip. I must write it all down. And I have to write about the Mayan pyramids, rattlesnakes and the jade-eyed red tiger.
For a time I stood in the moonlight breathing between my two pyramids, the miniature one clasped in my hands and the great pyramid of Giza existing solidly against my back. Slowly I returned from my great journey, back to the sand and moonlight.
A shadow moved in the distance. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the shadow coming closer: a dream, a person, a man. The moon was at his back. I couldn’t see his face, but all of me knew it was Lawrence. I waited, not moving. Drained of emotion, I felt suspended in a sea of calm and quiet tranquility. There was only time for a small apprehension: my fear that Lawrence would somehow blunder and spoil this precious night.
Then he was standing directly in front of me. His hands felt good, warm on my wrists. As he pulled apart my wrists, I kept the pale yellow stone clasped in my right hand. His palms traced warmth bringing slow shivers of heat up my arms. I’d not realized I was so cold. Warm hands on my neck.
A caressing voice whispered my name “Lila. Lila. You belong to this night. And me.”
Hot warm fingers over my face and ears and tenderly reaching back into my hair. Then holding me tightly, I felt warm ardent lips searching my mouth. Not hard, not fierce, not insistent. Just a slow gentleness that brought us trembling to the outer fringes of passion. Yet Lawrence seemed to understand this was not a proper moment for physical desire. He seemed to grasp that a large part of me still drifted in blue worlds in other times.
“We must go. You’re cold,” he said.
“Yes,” I agreed.
“We have one more thing to see,” Lawrence said. “Then we’ll eat.”
“Fine,” I agreed, climbing into the waiting taxi. I wondered what the driver really thought of tourists. Did he think them silly paying good money, coming to see piles of stone in the desert. Or did it please him to have the monuments of his ancestors so honored? I remembered how earlier I’d been surprised that ours was the only taxi parked in the desert. I would’ve expected the strange beauty of the night to have lured all the lovers in Cairo.
Again we followed the thin asphalt trail. But only a short distance. Again new patterns were cut on my brain as I stared, awestruck at the giant stone figure crouched to the desert floor. The Sphinx eternally guards the pyramids. Pictures of the Sphinx had not prepared me for reality. No pictures could have. The figure’s sheer size was incredible. But more incredible was the Sphinx’s calm sure domination of this desert.
My eyes traced the figure’s outlines in the crystal moonlight, seeing the body of a beast, a lion, crouched down with gigantic outstretched paws that reached long and deep into the timeless sand. The wide open eyes gazing beyond the paws, beyond the desert, beyond time itself, were human eyes. The head of a woman sat on the body of this beast. Sat as if they’d always, from the beginnings of time, existed together. The scene was incredible, unreal. The clear moonlight night threw dark contrasting shadows. The great pyramid was in the background. And calmly dominating everything, loomed the majestic guarding Sphinx.
Lawrence and I holding tight hands walked over the rock-studded sand to stand for long moments in the shadowy guarding place between the paws of the Sphinx. Almost I was afraid. Almost I could see those paws move like lightening to casually nail us like a super cat crushing a baby camel lately wandered in from the desert. The desert was quiet. An eternity of silence. A hushed, expectant, quietness. I felt I was in a sacred place of worship.
I remembered the legend – that travelers in this desert used to come to the
Sphinx. The Sphinx would ask them this riddle. “What has four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, and three legs in the evening?”
No one could answer. The desert nomads, the slaves, the priests, ordinary people:
everyone tried, but no one could answer this riddle. Until one day a young man came alone out of the blazing desert. He answered the riddle saying, “It is man. In the beginning morning of his life, as a baby, he crawls on four legs. In the strong mid-noon of his life, he walks upright on two legs. And in the twilight evening of his living, he walks with a cane, on three legs.”
I dredged from memory that the Sphinx was so happy to have her riddle answered at long last that she made this wise young man the first pharaoh of Upper and Lower Egypt.
Lawrence’s voice was urgent in my ear. “We’d better go.”
My eyes followed his sharp gesture. And instantaneously as the scene registered, I was afraid. Two white-clad Arab men were coming out of the desert towards us. In the clear moonlight, black rifles were slung over their backs like thin pointing fingers of death. We headed straight for the safety of the taxi, hurrying. But not wanting to show
our fear by actually running. Besides, a bullet could out-travel us.
The rifle-carrying Arabs altered their path as they saw where we were headed. Breathless, we arrived at our taxi and scrambled inside. Our driver shouted unknown words at his fellow Arabs as we sped off.
I heard him mutter in English, “Ruffians, robbers.”[/tab] [tab]
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