It’s not that I thought I would survive, it’s that instinct will move you even when you presume will lost. My ankles, calves, knees, thighs were sore but my body was propelled by a slow churning fire, a neurological release that screamed “flee!” I obeyed. I wished I could have looked up to see them in formation. If there was anything I had learned it was about formation.
“Look, watch this,” I showed my friend the youtube video of the moose stomping the guy to death outside of an Alaskan post office.
“Whaaaattt? That’s morbid.”
“Yeah,” I nodded.
“Did you see the one where the lions get the baby elephant?”
“Yeah. What about the one where the snake swallows the man?”
“Oh, did I show you snake island?”
“Let’s rewatch the one where the sting ray gets the molting crab.”
I spent my entire life watching predators prey, hunt, massacre. Even the tiniest carnivores intrigued me. I spent a lot of time as a kid scooping crickets in my hand to feed to our turtle just to watch the way his neck craned when he felt the movement, when the water vibrated, when he knew that something was in the tank. I had learned all about hunts, long hunts, long stalks and sprints. I knew if you ever saw a mountain lion you were dead. Same with an alligator and crocodile if you were in the water. A shark may not bite you but those other ones will sprint. And packs? You see one, you’re dead.
It’s the screech then the scream then the howl I heard, then the second howl then the third, then the cacophony. A victorious announcement calling for celebration and yes we have a runner. You could possibly see a wolf and live to tell about it but I was squarely in a forest covered in snow without any sense of direction home, had been hiking for eight hours and was experiencing a light frost in all my appendages as well as a persistent light headedness. My body told me to run, but my head, had she stopped, would have told me to leap into the center of the four stones there and see what you get. You can’t see lakes in winter. You can’t see frozen lakes covered in snow in winter. I could hear them howling. You know what else you can’t see?
I was shot into the air and cradled there by something like a web. I felt dizzy and wanted to vomit from the movement. I felt my fingers grab the mesh of the rope. Encircled, I was encircled by fibers holding me there and something trotted beneath me. I was in mid air, suspended. It was mid-January, sixteen degrees and I felt it.
If there is something better than drowning or having your throat torn open, it’s not this.
“The woman who saw her own death’