I am the prey. As I jog toward the hunting ground, my skin pinches making the hairs along my arms prick up, calf muscles clench and I scan the path wary of the hunter’s morning resting place. I know somewhere behind the hillside pond my aggressor waits ready. And there is no escape from this route. On one side the pond, on the other a steep downhill roll toward the road covered in prickly bushes and nettles. Morning runs can only take this track. My muscles anticipate the sprint that I must make to safety on the other side, breaths coming faster and stronger. The hunter never strays beyond the fence at the border of its’ territory. I must only make it beyond this boundary, to the other side, to safety.
So close. It comes so close every morning. Mere inches from a bloody encounter. Teeth puncturing the skin, ripping into muscles, bruising and blood. And if it can get me down on the ground, my imagination runs wild. Death…death by goose.
The image of this menacing bird wakes in my mind from the moment I step out of bed, tie up my running shoes and step out the door. The wariness grows to a kind of panic. I try to tell myself, it’s only a bird. Just a bird. But, by the time I have run the couple minutes through a small wood to the edge of the pond trail, the fear seems much more logical.
This morning, I see the white monster at the edge of the road near the fence. Only six feet from it to the cliff, the space I must pass through. It has already seen me too. Craning and swaying its’ neck to the side to glare at me in an awkward way, strangely snake-like. On its’ feet and ruffling feathers. Preparing to run. The panic is full blown now despite the stick in my hand meant to scare it off and my advantage in size. I slow my jogging to a trot as I enter the goose grounds. It responds by weaving and dancing in a serpentine manner, then opens its’ mouth and hisses. I grip the stick and move toward the hill side of the road as far as possible, keeping a slow and calm pace. Contrary to my heart rate which has rocketed to sprinting tempo.
Then the attack. The goliath shoots at me, wings back and neck strained forward with beak gapping. My breath catches and I go into full end-of-race sprint at the same time trying to do footwork like a footballer and wave the stick in a threatening way. I curve around the beast, and just miss his first bite. I curl back and push all my energy to my legs and getting to the gate. Around the fence I look back, the hunter ruffles himself some more and gives another hiss saying, I know, “I am waiting for you. Come again soon runner.”
Now before this particular goose, birds and I had a quite pleasant relationship. I enjoyed occasional bird watching, especially keeping an eye out for Canadian geese that migrated through my state. Beautiful creatures that I loved to watch soaring and creating formations in the sky. Besides, receiving the good luck gift of bird excrement a few times, my negative experiences were nil. But now this fear has developed, which has me viewing every winged creature with the plot of the Hitchcock movie playing through my mind. What used to be a relaxing morning ritual of lacing up and heading out for a little exercise to wake up, now induces a deep primal fear. Perhaps a remnant of a prehistoric dinobird fear passed through my DNA.
My rational mind calls me a child. Will the goose kill me? Probably not. Will it hurt if it bites me? Yes. Most definitely. My imagination takes that image of the first bite and runs with it, making up worse and worse scenarios. Almost as intimidating as my fear of aggressive dogs while running of which encounters I’ve had many. Far worse than my fear of strange people attacking in the early dawn, the ways empty of people.
This goose, goose because it is only the one. He is my nemesis. I can’t bring myself to take the pond path anymore. He is too damn fast and it is just too close. Can anyone support my claim that geese are the most frightening bird? Hearing another experience would make me feel less foolish.