Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Predators on the prowl - I heard something die last night

At about 11 p.m. last night I sat near a window in the upstairs of my house. The moon was nearly full and its gentle silvery light brightened the balmy night. Then a scream behind my house startled me. My thoughts flew through the possibilities for what I was hearing. Cat fight? Child screaming? Goose being crushed?

I rushed downstairs and called my husband to hear the screams. We went into the screened in porch at the back of my house and listened. The screaming had ended. There were no more bloodcurdling shrieks, but we heard something bashing about the bushes on the other side of a fence. There was the distinct sound of climbing and then a horrible and greedy chomp, chomping.

My husband speculated that it was a raccoon that had made a kill because he said raccoons make those sloppy nasty chomping sounds when they get something good to eat. The ravenous slavering coming from the other side of the fence unnerved me. Then the unseen creature went silent as it surely heard my husband and I talking about it. Instinct kicked in and it slunk away with its kill to a more private location.

Although I can't be sure what was killed, I'm guessing that it was a juvenile goose based on its final nasal wailing as it failed in its fight for life. There are many young geese around, just hatched last month. They are astonishingly large already considering that they were bumbling fluffs six weeks ago, but they won't be able to fly until fall. One gosling lost in the night apparently made an easy target.

Hearing these sounds of life and death beneath the hunter's moon last night reminded me vividly of why we have an instinctive fear of the night. Things prowl out there, and if they can, they will grab us and eat us. Perhaps humans don't have to worry about that as much as they used to, but the primeval possibilities remain. Nature has an appetite and one should never assume he or she can safely pass in the night.

I store little experiences and feelings like these in my mind. That sensation of true fear, of hearing the moment of death, and the lip-smacking hunger of a successful predator are raw and real things that inspire my writing. Storing rare moments like these helps me write my characters' feelings when they are in frightening situations.