The phantom reared from the shadowy grey and disappeared again. I grasped the steering wheel, the moisture on my palms eroding the grip I so desperately needed. The bones in my knuckles were four anticlines, the valleys among them deep.
In the dim morning, I swerved the car to the right, the grey fog closing in on my grey car which sought to avoid a grey object.
“Mom…” My daughter’s scream was drowned as I interrupted.
“Bend down!” The terror in my voice was tangible, wild and high-pitched. Shaking in the passenger seat, the child sprang into action, burying her face between her knees, her ten-year-old hands over her ears. Through the thick haze shrouding the car, I saw the outline of something large. Faint, imperceptible. A hint of dark, blending into the swirling, misty dawn. An animal it was standing on its hind legs, flailing the front ones. Then it dropped on all fours, and raised the front ones again. Was it coming or was it going? Why was it moving in circles? I strained to catch a glimpse, conscious of my eyes straining in their sockets. Two. Three. Four times the ghostly shape repeated the motions, as if in a pageant rehearsal, and my car mimicked the movements with haphazard zig-zag sweeps from ditch to shoulder to ditch on the highway. And each time it moved, I screamed.
The monster had appeared from the south side of Hwy. 1 as I drove in the threatening fog from Wolseley to my workplace in Regina. It was a dark spring morning, but missing work and school weren’t options, even in darkness or fog. There weren’t many options when living in a small town, so my daughter had to travel to the city for French Immersion. My job was in the same city, over an hour’s drive on a normal day. Taking time off for snow was rare and fog had never been a reason for absence. Our choice was always GO.
The animals I saw along the highways were usually deer, gophers and coyotes. Not today.
“It’s a horse,” I screeched, and veered the car pointedly to the right again. My breath was ragged, my mouth dry. My heart pounded under the blazer on which my employee ID was pinned, identifying the company for which I worked. Hooves pounded as death danced around me, belonging to an apparition that had emerged without introduction.
“It’s a moose.” I shrieked the correction in an even shriller tone. The fear that had flooded my insides torpedoed into a single spot deep in my intestine, its hand as clammy as the cold mist that enveloped my Honda, isolating it from other eyes. No traffic whooshed by this morning; driving at 20 miles an hour seemed reckless…
The silver CRV was camouflaged by the silvery fog that hovered for miles along Canada’s longest highway. The No. 1 stretched from the west coast of British Columbia across the breadth of the provinces to Newfoundland in the east. I had travelled this route daily for years, but today the familiar lanes lay mysterious, wrapped in damp gossamer that kidnapped the commonplace sights: the signs posting speed limits, the life-sized posters with attractions of Regina. On this day, getting to Regina may never happen, for danger courted in the green middle separating the eastbound lanes from the westbound ones. Coming from the ditch on my left.
Over 4,970 miles of road spanned the Pacific coast to the Atlantic, and along the western half of the Trans-Canada Highway, the moose and I danced. Me in silver metal, he in grey fur. Cloaked in the mist, we swerved and skidded, backed away and came forward again. On slick, wet pavement. We had eyes only for each other, my moves coordinated to escape his several hundred pound body. In increasing crescendo, the music of death drummed in my ears.
Would I be able to stroke his nose if the moment had been enacted in slow-motion? I believe so; he was that close. He came within a hair’s breadth of my fish-tailing vehicle, and I pivoted to the right in a frenzy. He stopped, as if bumping into an invisible wall. He receded and sprang again towards my window. I screamed—a hoarse sound from a far-away voice—and strained against the seatbelt, my hands taut on the wheel. For the second time, the invisible curtain pushed him back. One more leap and he bounded at the car swaddled in cold, heavy air, a blanket belonging to an ethereal kingdom.
And we danced in an eternity of thirty seconds…
(An excerpt from Remarkably Ordinary, Chapter 1)