Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Off the Shelf: The Jackal

I recently recounted the story of being stalked by a jackal in Afghanistan, and as fate would have it, I subsequently unpacked this from a box:

My very first acrylic painting. I clearly didn't know what I was doing.


It was very early, well before dawn. I was stationed at Mazar e Sharif Airbase in northern Afghanistan, and I was hungry. Nobody else was up and available to go with me to get food, so I embarked on a solo mission to the German chow hall. It was not, I reasoned, very far to walk, the streets were well-lit, and I was, after all, armed. I went by myself.

There I was, walking down a (well-lit) deserted street in the middle of the night. It was quiet and cool. I was enjoying myself.

What was that?

A shifting of gravel in a parking area to my eight o'clock. I paused.

Although the street was lit, beyond was pitch black, and I couldn't see anything. I couldn't hear anything either, so I proceeded. But this time I was on the alert. I looked around as I walked, and then I glanced behind me.

I almost didn't see it at first. I literally did a double-take. But there it was: a wild dog, just about five feet behind me, following in absolute, eerie silence. Had I not looked, I never would have known he was there.

The dog wasn't very big, similar to a coyote but quite yellow in the street light. I looked him up on google later and decided it must have been a jackal.*

I stopped; so did he. Having encountered strange domesticated dogs on evening walks with my dad in the past, I knew most responded to firmness, so I told the jackal, loudly and in no uncertain terms, to go away. He backed up a single step and I could no longer see him at all. It was dark and he blended in perfectly. That added to the creep factor considerably.

I hesitated for a moment, but there was nothing else to do but start walking again. I took a few steps and looked over my shoulder. There he was again, same distance, same perfect silence. Again: Creepy.

I told him again to go away. I may have clapped at him in the absence of an errant stone to kick in his direction.** He disappeared again.

I proceeded to the chow hall, looking behind me every few steps, but the jackal did not reappear.^

It was a rather creepy incident. I never traipsed around base in the dark by myself again (because that kind of behavior is stupid, even if you are armed), and when I received some tiny canvasses and a small array of acrylic paints and brushes from my brother, I decided to paint the jackal. The results, as you can see, are rather dubious. It doesn't quite convey the ghostly, barely visible quality of the animal, but then, I'm not a painter.

*I later saw a couple of jackals on the flight line when it was dark, jogging alongside the plane as we taxied.

**Mazar e Sharif was a German-run base. It was very tidy. (You can't make this stuff up.)

^Incidentally, on my way back from the chow hall as the sun was rising, I crossed paths (from a slightly more comfortable distance) with a very large cat. After I googled the jackal, I googled the cat, which I subsequently believe was an Asiatic Wildcat.

No comments:

Post a Comment