Looking back I suppose it was a defining moment of my life. One that gave me a huge sense of self belief and confidence but also instilled a deep seated fear.
I am seven years old. Me, my older brother by one year and older step brother by 2 years are wandering along the beach in Samoa. Having just spent the day surrounded by tropical fish, following coral paths in your stereotypical paradisical sth seas lagoon, we head back to the archetypal, golden sandy beach to avoid being trapped by the rising tide.
We find some sticks and start tracing lines in the sand as we slowly meander back to town. About 100 metres away in the treeline we hear and see some dogs playing rough amongst themselves, not an unusual occurrence in the islands as they tend to run wild, somewhat paralleling island youth when also transplanted to foreign climes.
Upon spotting us, they start barking like crazy, sprinting towards us and closing the distance with alarming speed. It takes all of half a second to realize we’re in deep shit. There’s about 7 of them and 3 of us. They’re stronger, better equipped to defend their supposed turf from ignorant intruders and they're faster but still we run.
Naturally, with me being the youngest, I am also the slowest. I watch helplessly as my older siblings out pace me. I capture a quick glance backwards, I call out, my voice broken and shaking from fear and lack of breath, for my brothers to slow down. It is in vain. I hear the barks getting louder, I feel their presence. I fully expect the next thing I feel to be a chunk of flesh torn from my calf.
There only one thing for it…
With precision timing born of instinct, I spin and in the most aggressive stance possible for a 7 yr old I decide to hold my ground. I’m not scared anymore, I’m alone in my plight and I accept my fate. Now I’m just fucking angry and in the same instance I let out an involuntary growl. It’s time to stand and fight.
Dogs in a pack tend to take cues from a leader, usually the strongest and fastest. Being instinctual creatures also and faced with no other choice, the leader in this case knows its gonna get the smash, hard and full on, right across its face, so in less than an instant it chooses the softer option.
With a cowardly yelp it turns on its heels and starts running with equal alarming speed in the opposite direction followed by its pack of would be assailants. I make a gesture as if to give chase. The leader in looking backwards sees this and I glimpse fear in its face. It flees faster, its tail firmly between its legs and whining like the dog it is starts to outpace its siblings.
My own siblings upon hearing this come back to stand beside me as I exhiliratingly say words to the effect of ‘fuck that was close’. With little else need saying and from emotions borne of desperation, we piss ourselves laughing and carry on meandering up the beach tracing lines more forcefully in the sand.
Looking back and in keeping with things learnt later in life concerning ‘the way of the warrior’ being governed by ruthless intent and impeccable timing, there were so many things that could have gone wrong.
The lead dog for example, if given more time to make a decision would surely have slowed down enough to let one of its minions take the first and possibly only blow I could have managed. It would then have salvaged some pride and ripped its pound of flesh from me for our intrusion on its patch.
Or if my brothers and I had made a decision from the outset to collectively make a stand, the dogs would again have reassessed the odds differently and probably have turned tail much earlier. As it was, everything turned out as it should have because that’s the way it did turn out.
Since then there have been many a time when faced with fight or flee or as the case may be, refuse to fight, I have drawn on that instance. Knowing that if the time calls for it, I can go to that place without fear, hold my ground and let instinct take over, though the rationalist in me will always look for the non violent solution first even if it means losing face.
As for chasing the 4th when theres only 3 of us. That’s a recurring dream I’ve been having that reminded me of the above incident.
Its dark and we’re being chased thru desolate city streets by something way scarier and otherworldly than dogs. There’s 4 of us, only I don’t know who the others are, just that once again I’m last in line and first to get caught. There’s no point calling to the others to slow down, they wouldn’t hear me and even if they could they wouldn’t slow down. Why would they ?...theres no scaring whats chasing us and theres no defense against them.
The thing is, I don’t give a shit about defending the others or myself, its just that I’m last. Why cant the others be last for a change ? That’s all I care about.
In this dream there has to be a sacrifice and someone has, in the best tradition of shitty movies, to martyr themselves, slow down the enemy that others may escape but why me? Its always me…
…and it’s making me fucking angry. You don’t want to make me angry !!!