Yet More Sunday Terror
It happened on Sunday, as I was walking home from church.
Over the last twenty or thirty years there have been occasional reports in the media of black panthers roaming the countryside here in Norfolk. Nobody has seen any of these creatures close up and there are no reliable photographs, but nonetheless, the rumours resurface from time to time. The theory is that a pair escaped from captivity (although no zoo or wild life park will admit to losing any) and produced offspring, so there is now thought to be a family living wild and roaming the whole of Norfolk.
Some years ago, my husband swears he saw one, way over across the fields. Since it was early morning and he was half asleep on his way to play golf, and there was a low Autumn mist clinging to the fields, I laughed. Probably a big, black Labrador, I told him, and ignored his indignant denials.
On Sunday, the sky was an untroubled blue and the sun was hot on my back, the perfect day for a walk. As I returned from church I noticed a footpath along the edge of a wheat field. The other side of the path was fringed with trees offering welcome shade, and in the distance I could see what I thought was a group of houses nestling together. The footpath was beckoning me, although I had no idea where it led.
“Come this way,” it seemed to be calling to me, so I did. It would make me late reaching home, but what the heck? Why be indoors on a day like this?
I wandered onto the footpath following it through the wheat field, but discovered that it went further than I had thought, across an empty meadow. Still, there was civilisation at the other end—or so I thought—in the form of the houses.
I continued on my way. It was quite exciting finding a new walk, but the meadow turned out to be a long one which never seemed to end. The houses remained just as far away as when I started, and the trees to my left thickened until I found I was walking along the edge of a wood.
It was then that I spotted the black panther on the other side of the meadow. It was standing quite still, its head alert and ears pricked, gazing at me. My heart started to thunder. I glanced back the way I'd come. Was it nearer to go back, or to go forward? Needless to say, I was almost exactly half way.
My heart hammering, I decided to go on. Moving as slowly and as cautiously as I could, I prayed the animal was too far away to smell my fear, but as I moved, so did the panther. No black labrador, this. It was long and rangy, with a small head and pointed, tufted ears, and I had a horrible feeling it regarded me as potential dinner.
I tried standing completely motionless again, but still it crept towards me. When it was close enough for me to observe it quite clearly, it sank to its haunches, ready to spring.
I shifted then like greased lightning, racing towards the houses—which turned out to be not houses at all but a group of derelict farm buildings—as fast as I could. I heard the low growl and the snarl as the panther easily outpaced me, but I thought I might at least manage to hide in the trees.
Even as I thought it, I tripped and fell, sprawling headlong on the ground. With one bound the panther was upon me. Its teeth sank into my trousers and it started pulling my leg.
Just like I'm pulling yours.