I was walking along Mill Lane tonight when there was a sudden and very loud rustling in the hedgerow. I shone the torch around but saw nothing, and then I heard the sound of wing beats. I subsequently assumed it must have been a pheasant, because the only bird that flies at night at this time of year is the owl, and the wing beats of an owl are all but silent. What was interesting was that it didn’t only startle me, it also frightened me briefly, and here’s why:
I do occasionally get startled when I disturb a pheasant roosting in a nearby tree, but they always break cover before I reach them. It’s my approach that causes them to do so, and it doesn’t induce fear because I know immediately that it’s something escaping me. Tonight’s little incident was different; I heard the noise behind me. That means that whatever it was waited for me to pass before breaking out, and the instinctive response in that case is to assume that something is attacking from behind.
Makes sense, doesn’t it? I’m sure it’s something stored in the genes, or one of Jung’s archetypes contained in the collective unconscious: the wild assailant. Did he forget that one? I’m not knowledgeable enough to know.