Monday, October 02, 2006

I Almost Killed Kaepora Gaebora

Vern and I were driving back to Fredericton last night from Saint John at about 11:00PM, taking the notorious highway where evil moose are known to prowl the darkness, seeking the souls of living men for their arcane rituals. We didn't actually see any moose, but what we did see was in a way almost more unnerving-- I almost ended the life of a beloved Zelda character.

The trip began uneventfully enough. At first, the only animals were in my imagination, which was busy transforming roadside stumps and garbage into the aforementioned foul creatures of the night, thanks mostly to the flashing ominous sign depicting a giant moose attacking a car (seen above). However, when actual wildlife started making its presence known, it was much less ambiguous about it. A fair distance in front of us, something flew across the road from left to right, a couple of feet above its surface. I exclaimed "Hey, look, a bat!" as it saw it flapping its big, leathery-looking wings on the roadside, at which point, almost as if to contradict me, it quickly darted right back in front of us. I've been given to understand by Vern that it was chasing a mouse-- I didn't see any mouse, but I was understandably focused on other concerns.

As it loomed large in my high beams, it quickly became clear that I wasn't looking at a small bat, but instead a rather large owl. The shape and appearance of the wings mislead me-- I'd have expected something closer in appearance to normal bird wings than bat wings. I'll admit that I can count the number of owls I've seen up close after last night on one finger, but I still think I can safely say that this was one fucking big owl, although I'll grant that things a few feet in front of your windshield tend to look larger than they might otherwise. I sure as hell wouldn't want to meet it when not enclosed in a large metal frame.

Now, a smarter person would have slowed down the moment he saw the damn thing on the roadside, but I thought at first that I was looking a fairly small animal that was content to stay where it was, so I don't think that I even touched the brake until we were almost on top of it. This is especially embarrassing, given that the last time that I said, word for word, "Hey, look, a [animal]!" when I saw something on the side of the road, I ended up branding a deer. For whatever reason, I don't seem to have that essential reflexive braking instinct in these situations-- it's as if my curiosity supercedes caution in some way. It's clearly something that I'll need to work on.

In any case, I hadn't slowed down, so I was still staring out my windshield straight at The Owl that Time Forgot when it was only a couple scant meters away, with Vern screaming beside me (*rubs ears gingerly*), and it was one of those moments that seems frozen in time. There was this infinitely prolonged instant where he and I were staring at each other, separated by only a few feet, communicating using only our eyes (and his eyes looked very intelligent at that moment). It was as if everything else just fell away, and it was just him and me, standing there facing each other in some kind of stare-down, and I blinked first, despite the fact that I was hurtling at him in a large metal killing machine. I don't think there was any question which of us was the predator and which of us was the prey.

So, I jumped on the brakes, and precisely side-stepped around him. I may not have slowed down when I should have, but I still have a pretty deft wheel-hand, if I do say so myself, and I'd say that I missed him by a good couple of feet (although the clearance to his wings, which had an impressive span, was considerably less than that). Fortunately, unlike the deer, he was content to stay in one spot after darting in front of me. I find it kind of morbidly amusing that of the two, it was the owl that remained frozen in place (while, hovering in place, at any rate) once caught in my headlights.

After that climactic encounter, the rest of the drive was comparatively uneventful, although not entirely without incident. Shortly after the owl incident, while I was still coming down off the adrenaline high, I spotted a couple of animals in the darkness well off to the side (the light reflected off their eyes), although I couldn't make out for certain what they were. And after that, we saw two deer in separate staggered roadside encounters. Fortunately, we had advance warning of those two, as the fellow driving in front of us really had our back, and was kind enough to flash his four-ways both times.

So, I guess the long and short of this is that I saved the Zelda franchise by sparing its escaped supporting actor. Oh, and I think I might be afraid of owls now.


Anonymous Vern said...

The owl was all white.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006 3:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous (Vintage) said...

Last time I saw an owl that big was on a Hooters shirt! (smiles)

I think I'd have to say I'd prefer to see the one on the shirt than the one you descibed on the drive.

That was quite the adventure! (I mean your story, not Hooters). Although that was quite an adventure too,...

Friday, October 06, 2006 11:21:00 AM  

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