Wednesday, July 16, 2008

In the dark of night

The animals are changing. They are taking back the night. Or perhaps, they always owned it, and I never knew.

Last night, Cubby and I came home late from the TMS sessions in Boston. At we pulled into the driveway, we saw a flash of gray at the walkway around the garage. “It’s a cat,” Cubby said. But it was a little big for a cat . . . and it wasn’t quite the right shape. We drove closer. It was a coyote.

And it didn’t run. It looked at us, then turned and walked down into the yard. I should stress that. It looked back at us, and walked. Not ran. That, I thought, was unusual. In my experience in the woods, bears and moose sauntered. Coyotes and fox ran. What had changed?

Perhaps Cubby was right . . . the chemicals from the old landfill were affecting the wildlife in strange and ominous ways. Smaller animals were obviously pondering the possibility that maybe – just maybe – we could be food.

Cubby and I took the flashlight from the trunk, and went down the lawn after it. Secure in our position at the top of the food chain, we trotted briskly and shined the light ahead. We found him at the edge of the yard, by the fireplace. Staring back at us. We walked forward, and he backed up. Step for step.

We went forward, and he went back. We went back, and he went forward. After a while, we returned to the house. An hour later, we heard hoots. Stepping out onto the deck, I shined the light and there he was, right where we’d left him. I walked back down the steps and crossed the yard. This time, he stood his ground till I was twenty feet away – almost spear range.

I heard another noise, and looked behind me. To my surprise, there was another set of eyes between me and the house. How did that happen? Suddenly, I realized the truth. It doesn’t matter if I think I am at the top of the food chain. What matters is what they think. And it was clear they were not certain. I remembered the velociraptors in Jurassic Park.

They may be small, but there is strength in numbers.

We looked at one another. I advanced on the one on the lawn, and he retreated into the woods. How many more were there? Obviously, the situation was not as it had seemed. I circled the house, and met another dark shape at the edge of the flowerbeds. It melted into the brush, and I kept going – all the way back inside.

I listened to the hoots and cries as I went to sleep.

I’ll consider perimeter security and defense in the morning.

24 comments:

Melanie Avila said...

Oh my gosh! They're turning on you.

The velociraptors comment put me right there with you. Excellent description of what must have been a scary experience!

Stacy said...

We have them in SE Michigan too. At my friend's condo, which is in the outskirts of a small city, they can't let their housecats out due to the high coyote population. I think they are advised to keep small children inside too.

drewdude52592 said...

That must've been a surreal experience. We seem to get similar stuff out here in Hatfield (especially when you live near the forests). Thankfully, I live near farmland, so we don't have much of a threat of coyotes inhabiting the area. But it's these kind of posts that interest me since I've been thinking of a career in natural science. Have a great day John!

-Andrew

Alex said...

Keep an eye out for any "ACME" products in the vicinity. That would be a clear sign of trouble.

bristowmom said...

May I have permission to copy your entry into my blog? I just recently started one and I frequently write about the wildlife in my backyard. Your story has mine beat by a mile and I would love to share it with my "readers" (family mostly).

Oh! And I have to add... The comment from Alex made me laugh!

Katie Alender said...

We live in a coyoteful area of Los Angeles, and being the owner of a small dog, I am hyperaware of their presence. If I go out on a night that has that "coyote feeling" (a change in the weather, maybe?), I take the jogger spray with me.

Earlier this year, I saw a bobcat the size of a coyote.

You can't be too careful. Especially if a human saw them as puppies and gave them food, or whatever. Bad news.

Strange Behaviour said...

Common around here, (Los Angeles suburbs) but just as scary. They howl and giggle at night and I hear them casing the neighborhood after 11:00. People find bears in their Jacuzzis here too. Yikes!

I got within 20 feet of a grizzly last week in Yellowstone. Magnificent creature. but I hope he stays there in Montana.

The Girl from the Ghetto said...

Ok, Coyotes in my yard would freak me out! I live in SE Michigan as well and had a friend whose neighbor was chased by one - he was 7 years old and thankfully made it inside safely. I love how you thought of the Velociraptors!

The Girl from the Ghetto said...

Ok, Coyotes in my yard would freak me out! I live in SE Michigan as well and had a friend whose neighbor was chased by one - he was 7 years old and thankfully made it inside safely. I love how you thought of the Velociraptors!

ChrisEldin said...

This is scary!!! In a very good way--use it in one of your books!

Dean Koontz wrote a book called "Whispers" (I think that's the one)---this could be a scene from that book.

I LOVE your line "It doesn't matter what we think. It's what they think." So true.

Rebecca said...

Thanks for the correction! I appreciate your visit to my blog.

Lisa said...

This brought back vivid memories of the coyote packs that prowled the dumpster and the access road behind my apartment in southern California. I always remember their boldness and the creepiness of seeing headlights reflected in dozens of pairs of eyes -- and having to slow down and wait for them to stroll by because they weren't afraid of my car. Although they aren't supposed to be a danger to humans, there is something quite menacing about them.

Michelle O'Neil said...

Holy crap! This reads like Stephen King!

Kim Stagliano said...

Wow! Very Stephen King! We just moved across town. I was told that if we had small pets, keep them in at night. There are coyoytes in the neighborhood. Cubby might be correct in his assumption. After all, look at us humans!

(PS) Do you have a spear???

Kim Stagliano said...

Michelle! I hadn't even read your comment. Great minds! I'm going to go crawl under the covers. You?

John Elder Robison said...

Kim, you are the only one to comment on that tidbit . . . yes, I do indeed have a spear. I got it from this mideval weapon maker at the Celebration Of Celts two years ago. It's a fine spear, or as the craftsman said to me . . . It's a walking stick with attitude!

Holly Kennedy said...

Great comment, John.
'A walking stick with attitude.'

After talking to some of the homeless who frequent Boston's Public Garden at night I think I would've done well to bring one of them spears with me! Gulp. A few were more than a bit odd.

Hinura said...

coyotes aren't uncommon in Massachusetts. we had a pack of them when I lived in Hull, and there is at least one in my neighborhood in Marlborough (and I don't live in the woods either).

Kim Stagliano said...

John, I have a feeling your house might resemble the Addams damily manse? ;)

Doreen Orion said...

The explanation for fearless foxes in our neighborhood is clear: Our utterly moronic neighbors HAND FEED them in their house. Yep. They leave the door open, lure them in with stew meat, satiate them until the foxes decide to leave, like guests at a party. I'm surprised the neighbors don't get a designated driver to drop the animals off at our place (where they live somewhere in our backyard.)

When I encounter the foxes, they will often approach me to see what tasty treats I have for them.

Hopefully, this idiocy will soon stop, as someone narked on the neighbors to the wildlife dept.

Wonder who?

Chumplet said...

My sister had to cut a visit short last night because her new adopted dog was in the dog run for the first time alone, and Leslie was worried the coyotes would freak her out.

We've had several coyote incidences in our area, snatching small dogs out of their leashes while on walks.

Polly Kahl said...

We're just really starting to see the coyotes here in PA. The black bears are coming down now too. Too many developments up north are forcing them to create new habitats.

John Elder Robison said...

Thank you for your support. As you will see in today's post, the saga continues

kamille said...

i dont know where i should put this comment, and i bet someone's already said it, but.. since you are going to print the book over anyway.. there is a typo on page 227 paragraph 5, "the look similar"... should be "they look similar".. :)
enjoyed the book! cant wait to read running with scissors!