“There’s something out there!” I exclaim, rolling the door shut behind me.
Paige, slightly amused at the role reversal, raises her eyebrows.
“No, I heard something.”
“Nick, are you serious?” She’s not amused anymore because she knows I’m serious. Something was moving in the dark.
I shine a light onto the moonscape of black rock and skeletal cactus around us. I’ve been teasing Paige about aliens all evening. We’re in a place you’d expect to see them. When we arrived and clambered up the nearest mound of rock and looked back down towards our van, we saw three circles—a landing site—drawn into the shale. Then we heard helicopters and knew they were headed for the military site next door with the eight foot razor-wire fence around it. A bombing test site occupies most of this unearthly landscape we find ourselves in—the Chocolate Mountains—somewhere west of the Colorado River, east of the Imperial Valley, and north of Mexico.
Something moves into the beam of my light. A gleam, fur, an ear—it’s a fox, a lonely, curious fox. We watch him through the window. He stops to sniff the rocks where I peed. Next, Paige’s pee. Then the spot we dumped the dishwater. These smells could’ve pulled him from miles away. He trots up to the cooler next to the van. He’s a gray, pint-sized fellow with ears like pyramidal satellite dishes. Very cute. Probably a Kit fox. We wish we would’ve left him some water. We wonder what the heck he eats.
“Perhaps bugs,” Paige says. “That’s all I’ve seen out here.”
He must eat whatever he can get. That could include the hymenoptera-like bugs that have buzzed into our foreheads all evening or a lick or two of urine. He doesn’t find what he’s looking for here. He trots off into the darkness.
Our visitor is gone; he melds back into the night. Life appears and disappears like an apparition. We’re left alone, wondering what else might visit us in the night.