Back a few years ago there was a very large pack of coyotes that roamed west of my hermitage. They came up close one night, closer than I would have credited them with having the courage to do and I also wondered why they would be so stupid. Bert was still alive then and even in his later years he was a guard dog’s guard dog. With the very young Loki at his side the wild canids would have done very well to avoid us and it troubled me somewhat they had broken the border, and in Bert’s opinion, and mine, the peace as well.
I walked out into the blackest night, alone, for about a mile, peed on a large pile of brush, and fired six shots into the ground. It was an unmistakable message sent in a language the coyotes understood very well. They backed off and decided that getting closer to us invoked wrath and gunfire. Until last night, that is.
About three this morning they cranked up just on the other side of the pond. There weren’t that many of them, doubtfully more than a half dozen or so, but they did have some young ones with them. Sam raised his head, sighed, and went back to sleep. Lucas stood up and alerted at them but didn’t make any noise at all. Lilith, who to my knowledge has never heard a coyote, cranked it up, Little Warrior Girl that she is. With the fiercest of war cries, Lilith flung herself out of the bedroom, across the living room floor, out of the back door, past the porch and over the deck to make answer to the yammering across the pond. This caused Lucas the Large to follow, and I knew better than to try to stop him. He would, of course, stop if I yelled, and Lilith likely would too. But the coyotes have to know we’re here, and that we’ll come out at night, into the woods with them.
They have to know I will.
I slip my shoes on and grab the double barrel. Warrior Girl is way too far out in front and I’m pretty sure I don’t like it. Lucas is getting there but the gap between the two means if something happened Lilith would be on her own. Sam finally joins us and I truly do not want him anywhere near a fight. There’s our fence, of course, but limbs fall on fences and when it gets right down to it, a six foot high fence doesn’t mean very much. The hot wire on top might really be a shock to them, but I trust it very little when it comes to war.
It’s a little too cool to worry about snakes so I can move swiftly down the trail. Does it surprise you I carry no light? The woods close in around me and the stars are all I have but what else do I need? These are my woods and these are my feet. With Lilith braying her challenge to them and Lucas finally giving his voice to the dark, the coyotes fall silent. They are, of course, still there. They’ve come to see who lives here. They’ve come to, perhaps, stake some claim, some part or parcel, to the woods near the pond, and they want to know who else is out here. Who else will cry back in the darkness if they call? Her voice is clear and strong. It is Lilith who claims these woods. Lucas’ voice is louder and even more sure. This is his home and he tells them that here he defends this darkness. There are at least two of them, the coyote pack knows this now, but more worrisome is the scent of a human, who uses no light.
Light does very little out here but to create shadows for things to hide. The Coyotes live in the shadow world, they own it, they breathe it in and swim in it likes fishes in water. But because I have no light they have no shadows. Out there, in the ink, are at least a half dozen of them, I can tell by the noises they made, and they have to stop and wonder now. Likely, those with pups have led them away from the sound of the L Hounds. Those that remained now face a choice; they can stay and try to figure out who or what is out there or they can leave. I suspect they already know about the fence and the dogs. I suspect very strongly they are positive the dogs won’t leave the yard. But now, yes, they have to be out there, possibly close enough to hear my footfall, they know I am in the night.
I find a place in the sky that has no limbs and is full of stars. The night sky is blemished only with the light of the Milky Way and somewhere out there a creature very much like me might have companions like mine, and they might be in what passes for woods, in the blackest of nights, and it is an awesome thing, to share this darkness with that being, for I know, I truly know, somewhere, this creatures exists and watches the light from my star.
The roar of the shotgun dispels the quiet and creates a thin tree made entirely of hot light as both barrels erupt. Both the L Hounds flinch at the sound and as do I. It’s a sudden and violent thing, a blasphemy of a blast and the sound tears asunder all that is Holy and Good in the woods. My eyes rings and I am truly blind now. But the message has been sent, deadly and sure, into the night sky.
I stop and pee on a tree well away from the fence and now the borders have been set. The Coyotes know, truly know, the pond is off limits to singing and yammering late at night. The Warrior Girl and the Large Grey live not alone with The Ancient One. There is a human here, who sees the night and carries fire deep into the woods. Here no one will hunt, here there will be no battle, here is where the line, in the darkest night, in the most primitive and savage manner possible, has been drawn with flame.