Brent Braaten of Halifax is now in possession of a taxidermic three-headed duckling and he has no idea why.
It arrived in the mail last week in an unassuming cardboard box that sat on his table unopened for hours because he figured it was a Pilates ball he'd ordered online. It wasn't.
"I tore away at the plastic and packaging and then one of the duckling's faces emerged and I immediately sort of jumped back," he told CBC Radio's Mainstreet.
"When I gained the courage to go back to the box and dig a little bit further, I noticed it wasn't just one head, but there were three duckling faces staring back at me."
The package is addressed to Braaten with a return address in China, so he's certain the duck delivery wasn't a mail mix-up.
"They were definitely intended for me, but I certainly did not order these ducklings," he said.
To be sure Braaten didn't accidentally make the order on eBay after a night of drinking — something he admits has happened on occasion — he checked his bank statements.
He can find no evidence that he sought out the strange item himself.
How to care for a 3-headed duckling
The three-headed duckling comes with a set of instructions.
Instruction No. 1: Let your new arrival sit out in the sun or in the air for 48 hours after opening the package.
"I guess sort of the same way as you'd want to off-gas a new mattress, that's the way I saw it anyway," Braaten chuckled.
"The second instruction was to — this is something that I found kind of strange — it asked me to use a regular hair blow-dryer 'to fluffy' the duck's feathers."
Braaten wrote on Facebook about "becoming a three-headed duckfather" and posted a video where he dutifully follows the instructions.
He said a quick search online revealed a taxidermic duckling can cost between $80-$200 US.
"This is an expensive artifact," he said. "I can't imagine a company … sending away all these ducklings when they're quite valuable."
Email offers a clue, but no answers
The only clue contained in the package is an email address. Braaten sent a message to the address but didn't receive many answers.
"They didn't quite understand what I was asking. They wanted to know if I wanted to buy something, and so I asked for more information, but they haven't gotten back to me yet," he said.
Some digging online also revealed the name on the email address matches the name of a Chinese zoologist who appears to be well-known for his work preserving larger animals like elephants and giraffes.
"I really hope that I do find out who sent it to me," Braaten said. "I figure it's either a friend who really likes the idea of giving me a mystery or it's an enemy who's trying to send a cursed object to me."
He asked his friends to come up with a name for the duckling, a question that led to a philosophical discussion about the nature of the soul, and whether a three-headed being deserves three names.
One suggestion was to name it after three Disney cartoon ducks, Huey, Dewey and Louie. Braaten's personal favourites are Cerberus, the three-headed dog that guards Hades in Greek mythology, or Howards the Duck, a spin on the name of the Marvel Comics character.
Braaten might be confused, but he's not mad that this unusual gift landed on his doorstep.
"I guess in these sort of COVID days, it's nice to have something whimsical happen to you once in a while."
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