We should be sleeping but the air
Feels wrong, like the world is waiting
Holding its breath, expecting something.
Then comes the crack of distant thunder.
Rain? We donít dare hope. There are no
clouds. We hear them coming first,
Screeching their alarm. Birds blacken
The sky. A whiff of smoke comes with them.
Four become eight as our two
Hunt parties become one to share
The load of success, bear it home on
Hastened feet as the haze deepens.
All tired from the nightís hunt,
We run together with our bonds.
But this fire moves so fast.
Grey smoke turns hot and black.
eyes leaking, legs aching
The gloom separates us, divides us
Two from the rest. Birdcatcher and I
Go on alone up the steep embankment.
canít scent, canít see
I chase Birdcatcherís tall shadow,
Moving fast, looking for
Remembered water. Can't slow down.
Blocked by flame in a ravine,
We have to climb out, leaving
The wolves to find their own way.
arms shaking, tears welling
The stream, shrunken by drought
to a trickle barely ankle deep,
Provides no cool cover.
The small expanse of sand gives
Scant safety from fire. We run.
throat burning, canít breathe
The nearly dry river bed is a narrowing tunnel
Through the blaze, leading to a small lake.
Fire speeds ahead on both sides of us.
The forest roars, snaps, Öshrieks.
We canít hear the thunder coming
Until it surrounds us. Stampede!
Fear-frothed branch-horns surge forward.
The branch-horn bull shoves past us, leading his cows.
Birdcatcher goes down beneath their hooves...
wet splatter across the sand
Chest a mangle... head seeping blood.
too heavy, no time
bad shoulder tearing, giving way
cheeks wet, feet wet, wading
He led me to safety.