Face to-Face with a Cougar

The Borneo Post - Good English - - Front Page - By Jane Westrick

MY KNUCK­LES were white from grasp­ing the rock face of the cliff and my knees and feet hurt from scrap­ing and pulling at the rock. I swear I had a dozen blis­ters in­side my hard brown boots, but I didn’t care. Climb­ing was my life. I’d al­ways loved to reach peaks and stare down at the world from great heights, be­ing able to say that I made it there all by my­self.

I had come with a group of friends, but I had strayed away from them, want­ing to ex­pe­ri­ence the el­e­ments on my own. I had told them I’d be back be­fore sun­down. I felt like I could do any­thing I wanted in my life. I was full of in­de­pen­dence and free­dom. I closed my eyes and let the wind blow back my long shiny black hair.

I re­mem­bered the times when I was younger, be­fore I had moun­tains, I had trees. In the sum­mer I loved to feel the cool bark of the tree against my cheek as I lazily day­dreamed about my fu­ture. My cat, Princess, would of­ten fol­low me, and we would en­joy our par­adise to­gether.

I al­ways ended up play­ing fire­man, as my cute lit­tle Princess al­ways found it eas­ier to climb up than down. I had owned Princess for a long time, but I couldn’t re­mem­ber ex­actly how she came into my life. Was she a present? Or did she just show up on my doorstep one morn­ing? I shook my head; I couldn’t re­mem­ber.

My ter­ri­fied face re­flected in the glar­ing yel­low eyes of a full-grown cougar

My mother would al­ways yell at me to get down off those branches be­fore I killed my­self. I thought she was go­ing to blow up and take the whole earth with her when I fell off a dead branch and broke my arm. The mem­ory made me laugh. I love to climb.

With my mind back on the moun­tain, I opened my eyes again and took in the beau­ti­ful sight be­fore me. The sun was at its zenith. The land stretched out as far as I could see. Moun­tains rose up on ei­ther side of me. A for­est of pines crept along the hori­zon; the sight was breath­tak­ing.

My climb­ing gear clinked and clanked as I con­tin­ued to pull my­self up onto the ledge above me. Fi­nally I was able to sit down on the hard over­hang of rock and rest my aching limbs. My chest heaved in and out from the ex­er­tion. I set down my pack and let my­self rest. I in­tended to close my eyes for only a sec­ond. I did not fol­low my in­ten­tions.

I was awak­ened by a low snarling 1 growl. Sit­ting straight up, I rep­ri­manded my­self; I had not meant to fall asleep. The last rays of the sun were just slip­ping over the hori­zon as I saw my preda­tor. My ter­ri­fied face re­flected in the glar­ing yel­low eyes of a full-grown cougar.

Three words. “Oh . . . my . . . God . . . “

I saw the brown-and-yel­low blur and light­ning sil­ver claws of the killer flash through the air as he charged.

My world was thrown back into my child­hood as I watched my life flash be­fore me. Am I about to die? I tried to scream but no sound came out. All I could do was watch this strange vi­sion of my younger life, as I was not re­ally there.

“Come here, lit­tle kitty,” my younger self coaxed to a kit­ten cow­er­ing in a dark al­ley. I re­mem­ber now; this was how I had found Princess. I watched the kit­ten who was to be­come Princess snarl and hiss at the child who was me. I looked so con­fi­dent back then. I wished I was back home with Princess. The kit­ten con­tin­ued to snarl and bite at my younger self. It didn’t faze her. I lis­tened as my younger child­ish voice filled the air with song.

“What are you hiss-is-ing for? I’ll some­day un­der­stand What makes a tiny kit­ten roar, There is some­thing you don’t see, Trust in me, trust in me,

Trust in me, trust in me.”

I watched in amaze­ment as Princess’s yel­low eyes eased into a green­ish blue, and her bared teeth were brought back into her mouth. I had al­ways had a way with cats, but I had not re­mem­bered it like this. The child who was me con­tin­ued to sing as she stroked the charmed cat. Princess lay down her head and closed her eyes un­der my touch. I was lost for words.

The im­age dis­ap­peared and was re­placed with the glar­ing eyes of the cougar. Im­me­di­ately I re­mem­bered and, filled with panic, jumped to my feet. The pow­er­ful cougar pressed for­ward, his bared teeth hang­ing out of his mouth and his lethal claws scrap­ing against the ground. I felt my­self back­ing up and I won­dered fran­ti­cally how long I would last if I ran, ex­cept there was no place to run to. Now there was nowhere left to go but down. Tak­ing a quick glance be­hind me I could see it was ei­ther a fa­tal drop or cougar. Death or death.

A cougar was just an­other cat, and I love cats

The cougar pre­pared to at­tack. I closed my eyes and waited for the end. Why do I have to die? And to be killed by a cougar? Why does it have to hap­pen like this? A cougar was just an­other cat, and I love cats.

Just an­other cat . . . At once a plan formed in my mind, although a very weak and far-fetched one, and I com­menced to sing. My un­sure and fright­ened voice wa­vered at first as I watched for how the cougar would re­act to my strange be­hav­ior. The notes filled the air and the song be­came stronger as I gained con­fi­dence. The cougar be­came con­fused and backed up, un­sure of what to do. I con­tin­ued as the cougar sat down on his haunches, a strange look in his eyes. I cau­tiously crawled away from the rocky edge. The cougar scru­ti­nised my ev­ery move­ment.

“Trust in me . . .”

The wild cat was en­tranced by the song. He let out a mighty roar and lay down at my feet. My preda­tor closed his yel­low eyes, lay­ing his head on his deadly paws. I snatched up my pack, ner­vously back­ing away to find the rest of my group, aware of how close to death I had come.

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