Thick fog, flapping birds and a bloodcurdling scream greeted Kevin Page on his venture into remote New Zealand. Photo / Michael Craig
I was reminded this week of a telly programme I used to watch late at night, on a Saturday I think, called Tales of the Unexpected. You may recall it.
Said programme was British
and involved a different story each week which would end in dramatic and unexpected fashion and generally scare the bejeezus out of you.
It could be anything. I recall one episode where a car took a wrong turn, drove through some fog – ironic as it turns out when you read further on – and ended up going back in time to a town where the residents turned out to be cannibals. That sort of thing.
The scary bit was much anticipated each week, especially among my mates and me for one simple reason: babysitting.
I’ll explain. In our small town, the girls would often go off babysitting on a Saturday night and sometimes we boys were allowed to take our raging hormones and accompany them.
Long story short. When a scary bit came up on the screen the girls needed a reassuring arm around them on the couch. And guess who just happened to be there to save the day? Got it? Enough said.
So, let’s get to what happened this past week.
My day job took me to the farthest reaches of the central North Island. The guy at the coffee shop I stopped at before I turned off the main road on the way in said I had a fair way to go still. He was right.
It would be a little unfair to be completely specific as to my location so let’s just say I went to the Back of Beyond, turned left and drove another 40 minutes to the Middle of Nowhere and then went up a dirt track to the top of a hill.
I’m sure you get what I mean. It was extremely isolated.
At the top of the hill, I could clearly see a dip in the track ahead of me and then another rise. At the top of the rise, there was a T junction with one house on the left and another, about 100 yards away, on the right. Knowing where everything was proved invaluable as it turned out.
That’s because, and I kid you not, as I surveyed the scene in front of me a quick check in my rear vision mirror revealed some fog creeping up behind me.
My day job basically entails me inspecting the exterior of various properties and I diligently set about this task on the left-hand property as the fog slowly started to swallow up everything. Me included.
By the time I had completed my circuit of the property, I was engulfed in a virtual peasouper – certainly one of the thickest fogs I had ever come across. Luckily, I knew the other house was not too far away and I’d seen the track to it was essentially straight.
On that basis, and from the safety of the ute with its lights on, I gingerly steered towards the second house.
After what seemed like an age, the headlights picked up a corner of the house and I hopped out.
It was then the fun started.
Talk about spooky.
Whether it was deadened by the thick fog I don’t know, but not a whisper could be heard.
I managed to find the corner of the house and edged my way along it until that wall became another wall. The rear of the house as it turned out. That’s when all hell broke loose.
As I turned the corner what sounded like the screeches and flappings of a thousand magpies filled the air. I have no idea exactly how many there were but, as they took off, they disturbed the fog enough for me to see the swing on a child’s play set, well, er, swinging.
I’m guessing the birds had been perched on the equipment somewhere and moved it as they’d departed. It was like a scene from a scary movie. If I’d had hair it would have been standing completely on end. As it was, I could feel the remaining follicles inside my scalp clamouring to get out and make a run for it. Brrrr!
Worse was to come.
As the cacophony settled down and the magpies realised an intruder was somewhere in their midst, they started talking to each other.
If that wasn’t scary enough, I could hear an occasional flutter as they recovered their composure and started to return to the fence or wherever they’d been perching when first disturbed. Thirty yards away suddenly become 20, then 10. You get the picture I’m sure.
By this stage, all I wanted to do was finish the job and get back to the comparative safety of the car. As I felt my way along the last wall, magpie sounds tracking my every move and fog trying to engulf me again, I deduced I was going past the kitchen window.
Just to get my bearings I put my hand up on the glass as I edged by.
That’s when the lady of the house, who happened to be in the kitchen by the kitchen sink, screamed. Actually, to merely call it a scream is to do it an injustice. Imagine the most bloodcurdling shriek you’ve ever heard in your life and quadruple it in decibel level and you’ll be somewhere close.
Well, at least that’s what it sounded like to me in my already heightened state of basically scared-out-of-my-nut.
From within the house, I could hear a lot of yelling and screaming and rushing around and eventually I heard a door open and a tiny little voice inquired: “Hello?”.
I won’t bore you with all the details but basically what happened was a miscommunication. I’d understood the house was empty. It wasn’t.
The inhabitants, relatively recent arrivals in the country with limited command of the lingo, had not been advised a bloke in a hi-viz outfit would be clomping around the outside of their little bit of paradise. To say they were somewhat surprised was an understatement.
As I emerged from the fog in their little front porch to try to explain what I was doing, you could tell they were not convinced and I’m sure my hasty retreat to the car was greeted with relief from both parties.
I think the magpies might have even been laughing too.
Eventually, I managed to calm my racing heart, get all my scalp follicles back in place and find my way back through the fog and out to the main road where civilisation greeted me in the form of a flat white coffee as I relayed the details of the visit to the bloke I’d met earlier in the day.
He roared with laughter as my yarn reached its conclusion and told me I could have my cuppa on the house.
It was, at the risk of sounding completely corny, a rather “unexpected” end to the day.