A Cough

Last night I went for a walk. Nice and simple, at dusk, to the bog walk of course. It’s my place. Nobody there except us and the birds. And a strange coughing creature as we were leaving. Hmm. It reminded me of the cough of a large cat, say a lion or a leopard’s cough that you hear in a zoo. Fin and I stopped to listen to the noise.

There are no recorded ‘big’ wild cats in Mid-Wales, but if you talk to my sister-in-law, you’ll hear different. She had a farm at the end of our village, at the other end of the bog. Every once in a while, she’d find one of her lambs or calves dead in her field. Animals can die, sure, but this was different. These animals had been completely stripped bare. 

‘No dog would have done that.’ That’s what my sister-in-law said. And she had photos on her phone to prove it. When I looked at the photos, I realised at once she was right – it was a completely and carefully stripped animal. No organs, no tendons, no blood left. The leather tanner could have turned up at the farm and started working straightaway. 

When my sister-in-law called the local authorities to report the kill, they’d send an agricultural man round who was a ‘specialist’ in these matters. He had a big map up in his office of our area with a pin stuck in every location where one of these stripped carcasses was found. Apparently he had a number of pins stuck into rural Mid-Wales. He was tracking every one of these unusual kills – and was sure this was the work of a big cat. 

‘Completely unpredictable attack range,’ the specialist asserted, ‘and too smart to stay in any one place for long.’

Sometimes Fin and I go to the bog walk in deep dusk – like fifteen minutes before it starts to get dark. I don’t mind going at this time. I feel safe with no one else there, and now it’s almost mid-summer we can get to the bog later in the evening. When the sky is pink, midges are in love and swallows glide non-stop through the air. Sometimes on these dusky evenings, we get to the section of the wooded walk and Fin stops dead in her tracks. She’s unwilling to go any further.

I stop to look around. Nothing out of the bog-walk ordinary. Birds tweeting as usual. Maybe the shadows are a little deep, but still; is Fin really scared of shadows?

‘Do you want to go home instead of walking?’ I ask her. 

She looks at me and runs back to the car, wagging her tail in relief. Could she smell something? Or hear something? Or feel something?

We heard this coughing noise last night just as we were leaving. ‘Keep going,’ the coughing noise seemed to say. ‘Back to your own home.’  

By the time I took my phone out and pressed the record button, the creature was still coughing at regular intervals,m. The tone had got lower, into an almost Earthy rumbles. And low rumbles are hard things to capture on audio when you have sheep baaing and birds singing their good night songs. The rumbling cough disappears straight into the ground.

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