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David Taylor, 03 Feb '13

Wrapped tightly in my faithful poncho, I sat huddled in the mouth of my tent. Rain pattered gently against its taut hide, sheeting down as it had all day, and I stared wistfully into the small fire that crackled merrily as it held the pooling darkness at bay.

The rich smell of beans hung in the air, bringing water to my mouth as they fried in a thick sauce along with heavy chunks of meat, and I licked my lips in anticipation as I listened to the amiable chatter of my companions.

A coyote howled far off in the distance, no doubt greeting the moon that was peeping over the horizon with its silver eyes, and one of the horses cobbled nearby nickered as it fretted over the beast. I smiled despite myself, wondering if it knew it was safe here, and noticed that a comfortable silence had descended over the camp.

The soft thud of wood on metal made me lick my lips again as our supper was carefully stirred and I could feel the peaceful promise of sleep reaching to embrace me. I relaxed under its soothing caress, allowing it to brush the sore from my muscles and the ache from my bones, and felt the thick vines of tension easing from my body as my head lolled forward to rest on my chest.

A gunshot shattered the serene still of the night.

My eyes clicked open, all thoughts of sleep now gone, and my gaze locked with Robert who crouched on the far side of the flames. The spoon fell from his hand as another shot cracked out over the desert, causing sparks to spit from the fire as it joined its ashen kindling, and I hurriedly lurched to my feet.

I grabbed my rifle as I stood, pressing its butt hard into my shoulder, and set off at a sprint to chase down the source of the shooting. I had no doubt that we would have them before they found us.