Every night, the great rock face puts on a show depicting the lifetime of a bruise. First, the sun melts over the cliffs, wounding them with a bright red glow. The hue deepens to a blood orange and as the night conquers, the mountains go lurid with violet.
I seldom wait for the blackened end. It’s best to fall asleep before the cold takes over.
My belly presses against the burrowed earth as I crawl into my lean-to. The branches above huddle along a boulder forming a crooked spine of roof. I try to believe that this is safe, that the gleaming eyes of the mountain lion won’t find me here. I’ve seen her watching me, following.
A distant rumbling jars me from my thoughts. Is a storm coming? My shredded poncho is useless against summer monsoons. The ground trembles beneath my fingertips.
Then I see it: a glint of silver flashing against the variegating sky. Like a blade ripping through the air, a plane loops overhead. I’ve been wilding for . . . I’m not sure how long now. It’s been ages since I’ve seen signs of humans other than the occasional helium balloon bidding me happy birthday or get well soon from the top of some pine. Crooked-necked, I watch the small plane not far overhead.
It moves mechanically, lacking the majesty of the eagle’s soar. Still, it arcs as smooth as the vultures’ circle.
Numb, I stare skyward. I’d given up. It’s almost the black hours and I remember that someone may be looking for me. I stagger from my shelter into the clearing and shout.
They can’t hear me.
I wave my arms. Here I am . . . I’m still here.
The plane turns and morphs into a speck before disappearing on the horizon.
The dark settles. I’m left wondering if the plane changed direction because it saw me or because it didn’t.
I may never find out.
I feel the cougar’s yellow eyes lingering on my neck.