Have you ever had that “eerie feeling” someone was watching you. Heard footsteps behind you only to look over your shoulder and see no one there. Those might be the normal feelings you would expect if you were walking through a “not so nice” part of town or walking home from a friend’s house, alone, at one o’clock in the morning. One can be quite paranoid in those situations and in all probability those feelings were cultivated from watching far too many horror movies, scary television programs, or the evening news.
In my case though, when that “eerie feeling” suddenly popped into my brain, I was standing in a neighborhood where I felt safe and had visited many times before. In the past, I have always felt comfortable in that neighborhood and thoroughly enjoyed spending time with the local inhabitants.
Now, just for the record, that neighborhood was neither in the “not so nice” part of town nor in the busiest part of town. No, that place was far from the bustling crowds, noisy cars, buses, or trucks. It was a quiet, safe neighborhood in tune with nature’s beauty. I guess you would have to refer to that section of town as the “boondocks”, but mean it in a good way. However, on this visit, something was different about the neighborhood and I just could not put a finger on what was different or what had caused the change.
Many of the neighborhood residents, who had grown accustomed to seeing me around from time to time, were acting standoffish. They no longer seemed to be interested in what I was doing, choosing instead to either hide from me or remain at a safe distance. Hey, I heard that, not fair, not everyone who knows me acts that way, be nice now.
During my entire visit to the neighborhood, the residents were keeping an eye on me and at the same time, they were scanning the area around them and the skies above them. Something clearly had changed since my previous visit, something had the inhabitants of this little neighborhood spooked, some unknown force was indeed terrorizing this neighborhood. I could sense the tension and fear and it was contagious making me question if it was safe for me to remain without a bodyguard or at least a large baseball bat.
I finally settled down enough to start snapping pictures. I had to use a long lens since there was no way I could get anywhere near enough to the “locals” for some decent close-up shots. As I was maneuvering around to get a better angle, I was scared half out of my wits by a loud screeching noise right over my head. In a panic, I jumped back expecting to see a ghost or extraterrestrial being, but instead, only finding a very nervous red-shouldered hawk perched on a branch above me. It had its wings outstretched as if it was ready to take flight at any moment. The hawk wasn’t the only one with a pounding heart, but at least the hawk was not going to have to check its pants.
I had seen the red-shouldered hawk around on past visits, but, at the time, “Red” seemed to be more interested in “earthbound” food sources rather than the birds that frequented the area. As I studied my very nervous friend, I noticed that, like the other birds, the hawk was also looking around keeping a wary eye out for “something”. I quickly concluded that “Red” appeared to be another victim and not the “something” that was terrorizing the neighborhood.
Once I had calmed down and verified I had not “dropped a load” in my pants, I continued to walk around snapping pictures. I still had no clue as to what was causing the panic I saw in all the “locals” eyes. Based on the creepy feeling I was getting, I am not very sure that I was interested in solving the mystery. For all I knew, it could have been a large black bear and I would become the topic of tomorrows news headlines “Bear’s afternoon snack included a delicious, nutritious, photographer.”
As I looked around, I suddenly noticed a burrowing owl with its head turned completely around facing backwards. I had always heard stories about this phenomenon but had written them off as an old wives’ tale. However, there it was, right in front of me, fascinating to see and yet a wee bit strange.
As I marveled over this little “backwards” creature, I was surprised to note that it did not seem to give a hoot about me, no, it was intently staring at something. Finally I was able to take my eyes off the odd sight long enough to look in the direction the owl was staring.
What I saw made a cold chill run up my spine and the hairs on my neck stand up. It was as if I was playing a part in a real life horror picture. Standing not far from me was the most hideous creature I had ever seen, a true omen of death. As much as I wanted to get out of there, my feet would not move and I just could not tear my eyes off the “something” that had been terrorizing the neighborhood. It made all the ghoulish Halloween ghosts, goblins, and vampires pale in comparison. This was the ultimate fright sight.
It was a black vulture and it was staring right at me. Suddenly I felt like I was six years old and scared to death of all the creatures banging on our door Halloween night…I wanted my mommy. I knew, without a doubt, I was going to have to change my pants after seeing this monster. Finally, a noise to my left forced me to look away. There, sitting on a twisted tree limb, were some of the monsters friends.
Looks as though an unwanted element had indeed moved into the neighborhood. No wonder the “locals” were so nervous and upset. I began looking around to see if there were any more members of the gang hanging around. Just as I thought I had seen all of them, I noticed movement on one of the other tree limbs. When I finally zeroed in on what was moving I discovered one of the gangs cousins, a turkey vulture. To make matters worse, an ominous shadow passed over me and when I looked up, I saw another turkey vulture, this time soaring across the sky. It seemed as though they were everywhere, they really had taken over the neighborhood.
Now, there comes a point when it is far better to retreat and live to tell your story than hang around and become vulture chow. I boldly chose to run…er, a…retreat, especially since there were no other humans around to see me make my fast, cowardly exit…frantically looking over my shoulder to make sure I wasn’t being followed.
After my encounter with the creatures of death, I am not sure Halloween will ever be the same…well, unless there is a rather familiar looking black vulture sitting on the porch when I answer the doorbell on All Hallows’ Eve.
Oh, one final thing, to answer the question you are itching to ask, yes, when I arrived home, I did indeed grab a change of clothes and head for the shower.
Another great adventure comes to an end. It doesn’t get any better than this…well, unless you’re talking about finding the Fountain of Youth and never having to worry about getting old. That might just be a step up from this story.
I guess as we travel the road of life, we can never be really sure which way the road will turn…one thing’s for certain though, if you come home and there are a bunch of vultures perched on your roof, it’s probably time to sell your house and move out of the neighborhood.