The clothes fell off him. At night he stripped in the park and flung his rags into the undergrowth. Free of their itch, he jumped high under the moon, ran through the bush, rubbed himself againt trees. Finally untethered, he was truly a wild thing.
As the wind rustled his tresses, all sounds, smells and tastes were heightened to arousal. With laser sharp vision, he was a vital sensory being, existing in the now, void of past and future.
He paused, panting, squatting on haunches and sniffed the air. He was not the only one in the park. Garbled voices drifted across the lawn. “Blud blud blud.” He thrashed round, alert to the source, then tensed still once located.
“What we have ‘ere then?” There were three of them – lanky, hooded shapes, swaying agitatedly in the dark. They loitered around a turning in the path, then slowly moved forward with lurching gait, metal glinting in their paws, towards where he crouched in the bush. He was not their prey though.
A lone woman walked hurriedly along the central path, shoes clacking on the gravel. The pack moved on her in classic predatory formation – two in front, while the third looped round in an arc, circling from behind. Their intersecting attack would be directly in front of him.
“Blud blud blud.” As they closed in, primal rage coursed through him. He roared, leaping from the undergrowth in kill mode. He landed square on the back of one, velocity sending them both down – as they fell he gripped the mugger’s head and pushed it into the corner of the bench. Thud, crunch and splatter finished the scream.
“Blud!” He bounded upwards towards the second, shoved his fists into the shocked open mouth, gripped inner cheeks and wrenched; plank-strong arms extended out both ways, tearing the hole into a gaping flesh-maw wider than bulging, horrified eyes.
Once shock blinked out, the third moved forward and slashed. The blade caught his ribs; he span and fell to the ground. Above him, the hood drew his weapon back for the death plunge.
“No!” The woman came behind with a stone in her right fist. She yelled and swung, smashing the back of the slasher’s head, snapping his neck round; the hood teetered mid-fall, then collapsed to the floor.
Panting, the female rose above her attackers; with a howl of anger, fear and relief she kicked the mugger, The body rolled, but didn’t rise. She turned to her defender and looked down at the figure sliding in the muddy grass – the wild, hairy, naked, white ghost of a man, erect, beneath her.
“Too much crazy for one night,” she said, then turned and fled.
ONE WAS ANIMAL AS MUCH AS ONE WAS MAN, LET EACH ENJOY THE DIFFERENCE
The shower washed away the blood and dirt. He stood under the hot spray, scrubbing at skin until it blushed raw pink. As the full horror and stupidity of his behaviour hit home, his eyes span and streamed in fitful chokes. Tears mixed with broiling steam and the tub floor blackened with scum, before that too drained away.
How could he have been so stupid? He’d ignored the most basic rules, universal to wilderness and civilisation, for his childish experiment. He was not animal, he was a man; denial of that simple fact would only result in a shorter life, not better.
Life was survival, but Man cannot survive alone. Civilisation was created to protect us. Predators are everywhere, disease is everywhere – the world was always inventing new ways a human can die. Those man-made restraints he sneered at provided him the luxury of sneering.
He shaved, trimmed nails, binned ragged clothes, bought a new wardrobe and cleaned his flat. The space was filled with fresh plants, clean sheets and sunshine once more. He cooked meals with fresh vegetables, dusted off old records and rediscovered the joys of good music.
He rescued a dog from an animal shelter before euthanasia was due and named him Rufus. Although he frequently spoke to the hound, he also pledged not to anthromorphise him. One was animal as much as one was man, let each enjoy the difference.
He sipped a cup of coffee, watching the twilight gleam orange over the city from his bedroom window. All around was life; it throbbed and groaned and screamed and laughed, people twirling in dances of panic and celebration, exhaustion and lust, those in power and those in peril.
“Good night for hunting,” he said to Rufus.