Loki the Mercy Killer
My best mate Loki has taught me many things in life, do things properly, cleanliness is kinda important, sport is fun, its ok to eat a whole block of chocolate in the supermarket… Recently he even showed me how to tie my shoes using the loop method, a knot that has evaded me ever since primary school. But arguably the most important lesson he has bestowed upon me is that sometimes you have to execute animals.
The First Kill
The first time I saw Loki administer a mercy kill I was visiting him at his house in Hectorville. He had been banging on about this garden he had been working on. I followed him outside to feign interest in his seedlings, vaguely hoping he might have already grown something I could eat. Amongst the rows of green veggies sprouting from the beautifully turned soil lay an injured rainbow lorikeet. Loki’s garden pride dissipated as he started muttering about what pieces of shit cats are. Without looking me in the eye he calmly strode over to the shed and picked up the large garden fork leaning by the door. I stood by watching curiously, I wasn’t used to people doing difficult things without making a big hullabaloo. He bashed the bird in the head with the fork and we were both surprised when it bounced up into the air like a rubber chicken. Loki went for a couple more bashes, up and down it went, lying on the ground slowly moving its beak in between beatings. Not wanting to continue needlessly clobbering a dying animal he lifted the fork up above the badly damaged bird, lining up its heaving chest in the firing line of the central prong. Down came the fork, perfectly aimed it plunged through the breast and into the soil beneath. We looked at each other with relief, the deed was done. Loki lifted the fork and we were both surprised to see that the lorikeet remained impaled upon the prong, the calm was broken and Loki broke into a series of breathy swearwords as he roughly jiggled the fork trying to dislodge the bird. After a big plunge into the soil and a nudge from a Dunlop sneaker the bird was free. It was at this moment that River the cat decided to show herself, she stalked across the lawn towards us. She was doing that weird cat walk where they lift their paws up really high as if they are really disgusted by accidentally touching the grass. Suddenly the garden fork was held high in the air and Loki rushed at her with a big hiss and angry sumo foot stamps.
River was up the fig tree in a flash and glared angrily down at us. I rushed to her defence in an attempt to diffuse the situation but Loki wasn’t having it. He went inside and I stood by the tree with River idly eating figs and contemplating what had just gone down.
The Most Serious Kill
It was a savagely hot Australian summer and we were driving home from visiting Loki’s sister in Coober Pedy. On the radio people were talking about frying eggs on shovels. We stopped for a quick sandwich in the shade and in the time it took for us to slap some cheese and bread together, the slices of bread had already started to toast. Luckily Loki’s dad had leant us his Colorado ute so we had a substantial vehicle to combat our outback conditions. Unluckily, Loki wanted me to learn how to drive a manual and it was my turn to take the wheel. It was ok when we were tearing along the long straight roads, but stopping and starting made me break out in a wild sweat, especially passing through towns where I’d have to reduce speed or god forbid give way to something. As we cruised along I quizzed Loki about what we would do if we hit an animal and needed to mercy kill it. I suggested parking the ute on top or repeatedly running it over. Loki was unimpressed and assured me that we would cut the throat of any suffering animals that crossed our path. Satisfied that we had a game plan and Loki seemed prepared to carry it out I stopped pushing the park the car on top of animals idea.
I could see a train approaching on the railway tracks parallel to the road, excitedly I pointed it out to Loki and we eagerly anticipated looking at the train as it zoomed past. Not a lot of stuff going on in the desert. And that’s when it happened. I felt a tiny bump and glimpsed a grey flash in my rear vision mirror.
“Shit shit shit I hit something.” It took me about 500 metres to figure out how to stop the car.
I felt a big knot of nausea in my belly, as Loki and I traded places
“I don’t think you hit anything, I didn’t see anything.” Loki slowly steer the car back towards the spot.
“I’m certain I did.”
In the distance we could see a small kangaroo trying to drag itself across the road. One of its legs was completely mangled. We pulled over and started walking towards the scene. It was a joey and it was screaming. Another kangaroo, presumably its mother, appeared from the scrub by the road and watched in horror.
I stood frozen by the Colorado, tears streaming down my face as Loki approached the joey. I looked at the ute and started wondering if it would be a good time to remind him about how we could park the ute on top of the joey for a nice hands-free mercy kill. Meanwhile, without hesitation, Loki dove head first into the most hands on mercy kill imaginable, the strangle. He knelt down next to the teenage kangaroo and firmly gripped its neck in his hands, the older kangaroo kept its distance but maintained eyes on the situation.
It turns out strangling takes ages, every time Loki thought he had finally finished the job and released his hands the joey would take a slow deep breath and resume living. He knelt into its chest to try and push the air out of its lungs. I went from desperately sad and guilty to kinda impatient and bored. I can only imagine the kangaroo spectator shared a similar emotional journey. Satisfied that his efforts had put the kangaroo out of its misery Loki returned. He had some tears on his face and a stoic expression. We shared a long hug and I cried a bit more but I was curious and started peppering him with questions.
“What about the knife plan? How did it feel? Why did it take so long? How old was it do you think? Have you ever strangled something before? Should we have just parked the car on it? Are you going to tell your parents? Do you think that was its mum watching?”
He struggled through my question fire and it occurred to me that what he had just done might not have been an easy act to commit to.
We got back in the car, Loki driving now and sat in silence for a few kilometres. I decided to cheer up my friend and tried to make a joke about mercy killing. It was way, way, way, way, way, WAY too soon.
A few days later we were jumping around on rocks at Alligator Gorge pretending to be ninjas. I did a series of cool moves along a trail of rocks and turned around proudly to see how impressed Loki was. He was crouched down with a medium sized rock raised above his head. We made eye contact briefly before he smashed the rock down onto the ground. I had trodden on a small frog crushing the lower half of its body and rendering it completely fucked but still completely alive. He probably wouldn’t even have mentioned it if I hadn’t caught him out. I was touched by how willing he was minimise suffering, both mine and that of critically injured animals and I vowed that if a situation presented itself, I would step up and execute a mercy killing.
We were living in Laos, a developing country wedged in between Thailand, Vietnam, China and Cambodia. I had actually just completed my first ever mercy kill, our housemate’s dog had caught a mouse and messed it up enough to render it past the point of recovery. I went stone cold mercy killer hero on the situation and drowned it in a plastic bag. This proved to me that I had what it took to take on any future mercy killings. A week or two before we were due to leave Laos and embark on our next adventure (Portugal) I was faced with a very difficult situation.
After my last shift at work I was riding into town to meet some friends for drinks when I was confronted by a bit of scene at a busy intersection. A tiny kitten had been hit by a car and was writhing on the road and screaming in agony. I pulled over in the hope that I could witness it getting killed by a car so that I wouldn’t feel bad about not mercy killing it when suddenly things got a lot more complicated. All too quickly, one of the Dutch ladies from my work came tearing into the middle of the intersection on her bike in a wild panic. She held up hands towards oncoming traffic, optimistically hoping that Lao drivers might look up from their phones to notice her on the road. She grabbed the kitten and awkwardly manoeuvred her bike and the tiny cat to safety on the side of the road. I wheeled my bike over to join her and to survey the scene. She was bleeding everywhere, the kitten had savagely scratched and bitten her in its frenzied terror. Its back two legs were completely fucked and it was a real mangey little fella. The cat had to die. The Dutch woman was pretty rattled and implored me to dig around in her bag for tissues, meanwhile I thought only of our mercy killing predicament. One of the Brits from our workplace suddenly appeared on his bike, for a moment I was relieved, thinking to myself, “now someone else can take the lead”, but he doddered around looking like he deeply regretted stopping by. A Lao tuktuk driver wandered over to see what the fuss was about and seemed confused about why we were bothering with the cat at all.
I tried to convey what I was thinking to our bung little crew. We needed to kill the cat, it was definitely going to die no matter what so the most humane thing to do would be to kill it. The foreigners agreed, the tuktuk driver smiled serenely. There was a fountain nearby, I thought we should drown the cat. I was pretty confident that I could do it but then it occurred to me that we were in the land of potentially rabid animals and if I got bitten or scratched by the cat then I would need to get a series of rabies injections. I was leaving the country in two weeks and was not keen on trying to organise the subsequent immunisations in a new country. I explained my reluctance, and gently tried to urge the Dutch woman to do it since she was already scratched and bitten and would have to get the rabies shots anyway. She wasn’t keen. I felt frustrated because had she not “rescued” the cat from the road it would have just gotten run over and properly killed soon enough. We stood dumbly around the screaming, crippled kitten.
“Can’t you smash it with a big rock?” asked the Brit.
I contemplated this idea and the Tuktuk driver wandered around aimlessly, apparently hunting for a rock, but also possibly just bored and taking the opportunity to execute a meandering escape.
I was ready to drown an animal wrapped in a cardigan, I was ready to put a large vehicle on top of an animal but I could tell that I wasn’t ready to straight bludgeon an animal with a rock.
“I just don’t think I can.”
We were winding down, our ideas became less and less likely to be carried out. As we were revisiting the drowning idea for the tenth time, the kitten, seeking refuge dragged itself under a nearby hedge. It was sufficiently obscured from view for us to adopt an out of sight, out of mind approach and get out of there. As we got on our bikes I said with ashamed optimism “Cats are pretty tough, that guy will probably adapt to its new life with only two functioning legs”.
No one agreed, the focus was definitely on the Dutch woman’s injuries by this point. I think I carried the burden of the mercy kill fail shame.
In retrospect, I wish I had just bashed the damn cat. I’m ready for the next one.