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“He’ll just mind his own business and if you’re lucky you’ll see him catch a bug.”

Stephanie let her breath rush out, emitting a slight sigh.  

“If you’re interested in rattlesnakes, they are several hundred yards away. Over there.” He motioned with a flick of his hand, adding, “They usually don’t come here.” He felt her arm tense. 

“Don’t tease me,” she scolded. 

“They’re really there,” he insisted. “I’ve got a big flashlight in my bag. We can look for them if you want.”

Before she could answer, he was gone. His command, “Wait here,” floated back as his footfalls faded. Perturbed, she was poised on the edge of rattlesnake land with no flashlight and her guide was gone.

The night air and the silvery light reached out to her again, stirring the urge for adventure. She heard the flapping again. This time, in the corner of her eye, she thought she saw the moon light flutter over tiny wings. 

She was alone only minutes, but in those moments her senses heightened. The warmth of the building radiated into her back, comforting against the cool of the night. Her eyes dilated and searched her surroundings. They raced to a nearby sage bush, up and down its branches. She pick out the individual leaflets, in rows, raised together, praying to the moonlight. The pungent odor of grease wood filled her nostrils with each breath, and as the breeze slid over her arms, she could feel her pores tighten against the dry air. In those few minutes she began to adapt to the desert.          

She heard the soft crunch of his footfalls, and then he was beside her, the dark form of the flashlight in his hand. She gazed at the distant mountains, wanting to say, “No, don’t destroy the magic. Let’s go into the haunting chaparral with no light.”

She took one last look at the painted hills and then watched his finger press the switch.

The huge yellow eye gobbled a hole into the night, but it wasn’t as awful as she had expected. The sand was orange and soft, not the harsh white she had seen under the midday sun. Now every ripple on its surface was accented by a wisp of grey shadow. As the light passed over them the dunes undulated, like living creatures, while just outside the circle of light the grey shadowy world of brush moved pensively about then froze in place when the beam struck them. Beyond the light, the once magical moonlit world was vanquished into blackness. The eye could not hold the beam of the light and the glow of the moon in the same vision.

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