There’s often merit in folkloric stories; tales told by generations past of mythical creatures used to develop law & order within communities, with adults often exploiting the element of fear to maintain control and reign over their children. Stories, unlike law, embrace emotion, plausible philosophies and relatable events that often cause the listener to question the possibility of doubt and therefore become more invested in a particular idea. This is what constitutes fable.
What if, however, the same story begins to be told between the extreme corners of a region, the different demographics and generations. Fleets of people unaffiliated with each other identifying traces of the same dark furred, larger-than-the-average-dog predatory cat. What if farmers across all types of land notice rapid reductions in livestock numbers, inexplainable claw marks on trees, soil and stone. When tourists, new to the region report back to their friends and family about ‘large, fast moving cat shaped creatures’ after expeditions into our scenic drives and remote areas of pristine wilderness, something begins to feel askew, and authenticity begins to associate itself with the existence of such an animal.
Recently a reader by the name of Anthony wrote in to Arnald outlining a recent encounter in Gippsland’s southern coastal region. After an initial review of the compelling evidence provided, it was clear that this was the next destination he needed to pursue. Having only recently returned from a visit to his homeland of Norway, the sea swept cliffs of Gippsland’s coasts seemed like the most obvious choice to return to the task of hunting the illusory feline.
With the misty flavours of a well executed pursuit fresh on our hunter’s tongue, Arnald’s first steps on the windswept sand felt almost quenching, honing his focus entirely on the chase. A consideration often overlooked is the nature of this particular beast. When your prey is that of a predatory cat, it’s difficult to be anything other than one step behind their incredibly cunning and strategic approach to remaining a myth.
This time, however, Arnald has been upskilled. His recent training with the hunters of the norwegian highlands has taught him the incredible power of patience. Looking holistically at the task at hand, the concept of chasing and always remaining one step behind is destined for failure. The alternative - to sit and wait lets the prey come to you. If one can survive without any trace, movement, or noteable presence, how can the black cat possibly avoid what it does not know exists. And to achieve this - build a hide.
Upon reaching the black stone beach of the shore below a series of cliffs, where no footprint, scent, or trail could be left by our hunter, Arnald’s exploration lead him to a coastal mountain cave that confirmed what it was he was searching for. The discovery of tooth scarred bones in this oddly protected area of an otherwise lifeless mountainside, fur attached to seaside grasses and evidence of routine movement along lightly worn trails - the telltale signs of the prey he pursues was clearly defined, and the next stage of the hunt was ready to commence.
After discovering a section of beach the panther had been using as an intermediate route between the sanctuary of the caves and the open plains above, Arnald began the construction his hide. A type of makeshift hut in the cavity of a large and fragmented boulder from the abundance of materials sourced as driftwood along the coastline he would be calling home for the next several months, as he waits in perfect silence, hidden from view for the single opportunity to strike and claim his trophy.
As seen in Gippslandia Issue 07.
Help Arnald find the panther, and email your sightings to firstname.lastname@example.org