The benefit of the barbed wire fence line is that I could follow it in the pitch black, all the way from the road until its end at the edge of the cliff. I marched as deliberately and quickly, yet quietly as possible. It became a stressful challenge as I got within a hundred yards or so from the cliff, to walk even quieter yet artfully continue to chase the sunrise to my place of hiding.
Like a history lesson of photography, the black and white trees and rocks so slowly turned to dark and then light grays, then sepia and finally washed out palettes that gradually gave place to brilliant ones. My smoky breaths became more and more faint and my shaking and shivering lessoned bit by bit as the minutes and hours climbed past.
I began to cry, first quietly and then gradually as loud as I could go. I didn’t cry in my own voice. I was a liar. A fraud. A murderer. I’d stolen another’s voice, purely to kill innocents. I kept crying. Why couldn’t my pain be heard and attended to? It was as sincere a lie as I could make.
Then I finally heard movement. I could hear it, but I couldn’t see it. It got louder and closer. Maybe it was a killer, bigger and deadlier than me. Why couldn’t I see it? I sensed it was almost on top of me and I still was blind, in the dull colors of almost daybreak. I lifted my weapon, ready to strike out at either predator or prey.
I turned facing forward again and there he was, just three feet in front of me and staring me down. He only could get so close before I spotted him because his disguise was so much greater than mine. But mine still was convincing enough to keep him confused and guessing, unsure if he was staring at something living or just the base of an empty tree.
His dull golden eyes shined at me and he snorted to clear his nose for a better scent. He bared his fangs for just the briefest moment and I almost fired. Then he lowered his head and quietly vanished into the sage brush as quickly as he had appeared.
I had a dozen chances to fire, but I was here for a deer and not a coyote. He had a dozen chances to lunge and bite, but he was here for an injured fawn crying out in distress, not an empty tree base that didn’t smell quite right.
I finally spotted his low form again bobbing with each almost silent step. He joined with a second coyote, with as good a story as mine to tell. They disappeared, following the edge of the cliff, watching the same brilliant greens and blues as I did, suddenly coming to life around us.