They rested for but an hour beside the pool, Dak anxious to be moving on. Lin suggested daylight might reveal some trace of those who had set the fire, but Dak thought it unlikely.
“This is not the head of the burn.” He pointed out the charred remains of a handful of white thorn trees and unfamiliar scrub. “I doubt they would have been staying here.” He surveyed the horizon ahead of them. “And there is damn little cover here, Lin. If they are close, they could easily spot us.
Lin agreed to the logic of that argument and began preparing to go. While Dak refilled the water bottles Lin collected the largest of the brush pig’s bones, and any that held even a hint of meat. They would crack the bones open for the marrow come dawn, a breakfast Lin really looked forward to.
While the vicinity of the water hole afforded little cover the charred plateau they traversed provided even less. It was beginning to look like they would be caught out in the open by sunrise when they finally stumbled upon a crack in the earth, a jagged crevasse about a stone throw wide and perhaps twice as deep.
As they searched the edge for a way down it suddenly dawned on Lin that they were no longer walking on ash.
“We’ve missed the fire’s head,” she said, weariness and defeat straining her voice.
Dak came up short, and gazed around. “Damn. I’m sorry. I’m so tired I wasn’t paying attention.”
She leaned into him and gave him a squeeze around the middle. “That’s OK. I didn’t notice either. We’ll just have to backtrack and look for it tomorrow.” He only nodded in way of reply and started a very tentative descent. This time the dingos let him take the lead. In fact, they seemed reluctant to follow even after Lin began her climb down.
“The dingos don’t like this,” Lin called down after Dak.
“It’s not that bad,” he shouted back up.
She continued on down. Eventually, after much yipping in consternation, the dingos followed her lead.
They made camp amid a tumble of boulders on the east face of the little canyon. Dak took stock of their water situation and concluded that they could move onward for one more day before reaching the halfway point, at which time they would need to return to the waterhole if no new source was found.
Lin set about cracking open the bones. Each crack of the rock she used echoed eerily up and down the arroyo. Neither she nor Dak liked it, but they had to eat. They scooped out the marrow with sharpened twigs and tossed the remains to the dingos. Komaninu leapt upon them with relish, but Shisha only sniffed, then turned away with a whine, and laid down with her head between her forepaws, shivering.
Lin looked from Shisha to Dak and said, “I don’t think we should stay here too long.”
© 2015 by J. M. Strother, all rights reserved.