Sandy, Bedfordshire: Where was the creature that made these sounds? Its breaths were all-pervading, as if they emanated from the sky itself
All through the night, rain had swept in on a strong southerly. Daybreak brought the stillness of mist and a slap in the face. Banks of fog lingered over the open fields, even though a stiff breeze whistled at them to disperse. It smacked my cheeks, chasing through the wood to my left, stirring up a gossip in the leaves. As its speed rose and fell almost imperceptibly, the buffeting wind created speech-like modulations among the trees, hissed swells of indignation giving way to low-level grumbles and then rising again in crescendos of fury. As always, I half-imagined animal spirits inhabiting these great pulses of sound.
I think it was when I reached the kissing gate at the foot of the heath that I first heard the heavy breathing. “Uh-whah.” My first reaction – a what? After I’d listened to three or four gasps, panted with mechanical regularity, I grasped their tone and character – short, sharp, shallow intakes, followed instantly by explosive exhalations of the kind that drops both shoulders.