Careening across an empty freeway in the dead of night is not the best way to wake up. It could be worse, I guess, but it’s hard to describe the shock and confusion of screeching tires, and the echoes of a thud that you heard in your sleep.
When the driver of the vehicle is an old man, who you suspect might be as drunk as you are, starts screaming “Tiger! Tiger!” you are thrown further into panic as you shake off the beer and the slumber and begin to work out where it is that you are, and what exactly just happened.
Last Friday I found myself waking up in such a manner. I had fallen asleep in the back of a taxi and was awoken by the aforementioned thud and screech. I was quickly sobered as I tried to get a grasp on the situation, but the driver’s continuous Blakean riff was drowning out my thoughts.
Had we really just hit a tiger?
I thought about it and as my head cleared I realized that the most likely possibility was that we’d just hit a person. We were, after all, just coming into a residential area.
I sprang into action: leaping out of the taxi and running back towards the place where I’d awoken; where we’d begun the skid across the still deserted highway.
There was indeed a body on the road, but it was neither the shape of a person nor a tiger. It was shorter, rounder and had giant white tusks gleaming in the light of the moon.
A wild boar. Still alive.
I was running towards the animal when I realized what it was, and stopped dead in my tracks. Expecting to see a wounded person, I was shocked and horrified to see an animal that was bigger than me, thrashing around pitifully. Its legs were making running motions, but its body seemed paralysed. There was no life in its eyes; no grunting or yelping from its mouth.
The taxi driver soon followed me, staggering drunkenly. He began pointing and shouting at the animal. I didn’t understand much of what he said, but I did understand one thing: “Kill it!” Soon that was all he was saying. “Kill it! Kill it! Kill it!”
I looked at the poor giant beast and wondered if it stood a chance. Perhaps killing it was the merciful thing to do. It didn’t look like it was even fully alive, and it couldn’t exactly be happy with its predicament. Its legs were slowing and its head slumping towards the tarmac. If we left it would it get up and run back to freedom or just die a slow death? Most likely it would be hit by one of the next vehicles to come flying along the dark road – killing it and endangering the lives of other people.
I walked around the boar and contemplated finishing it off. I needed a weapon – something quick and humane. I scanned my memories for a Bear Grylles-style method of dispatch, but all I could think of was Lord of the Flies, and I’d left my best spears at home. Besides, it looked like it was dying pretty fast, and I didn’t really think my services were required. I didn’t want to cause it extra suffering – to be the asshole who gave it a kick in the head as it headed for the piggy gates.
Checking if it was still alive, I leaned down close and tried to listen for the sound of breathing. Its legs had more or less stopped moving by this point, and my drunkenness was returning just enough to make this procedure seem necessary, and nowhere near as needlessly dangerous as it seems in retrospect.
I listened and could hear only the faintest heaving. The driver was still screaming “Kill it! Kill it!” and so I tried to appease him by choking the boar, but alas, its mighty neck was too big for my girly little arms. I gave it a squeeze and it snorted, sending the driver running back to his taxi and leaving me expecting the monster to rise and smite me with its bulk and tusks. It was, after all, probably double my weight.
But that snort, I believe, was the pig’s way of saying “Leave me to die in peace, you insensitive drunken clod.” It wanted to be choked to death on a highway about as much as it wanted to be hit by a drunk driver. The best I could do for it, I decided, was to help it off the road, where it might miraculously recover and wander back to the forest.
The taxi driver seemed pretty enthused by the idea of dragging the beast off the road. I found that a little disturbing, but he genuinely did seem to grin with pleasure when I mimed the dragging action. I wondered whether he was thinking about coming back and slathering it with kimchi. I wouldn’t entirely blame him – it was a lot of meat.
Together we somehow hauled the beast into a patch of sparse bushes and left it to die. It didn’t look so monstrous lying there. Its mighty bulk seemed withered and tame in amongst the shrubs, and even its tusks were dimmed out of the light of the moon. Perhaps when the driver offered his Blakean uttering he was referring to himself or his vehicle, and not the beast. This was no unnatural terror of the night; it was a mere pig lost in the middle of the road.
Five minutes later we were outside my apartment, stopped under a streetlight. I was wondering to myself whether my drunkenness had caused me to hallucinate the entire adventure. Perhaps I’d simply fallen asleep in the cab and dreamt it.
When we stepped out, though, and looked at the front of the vehicle in the full glare of the light, we saw the impact the boar had made. It looked as though two cars had collided head on. The car had shown more signs of damage than the goddamn boar.
The following morning I woke up and pushed aside my hangover. I took my motorcycle and drove back to the place where we’d left the boar. The bushes were flattened where its body had been, but like the end of any good monster story, the beast was gone.