She moved close to him, her eyes following the light to see what it would reveal. It flashed over the sand like a hound frantic on a scent, racing at first then slowing to inspect points of interest.
“After a few minutes your eye becomes familiar with the shapes of the brush and the characteristics of the sand. You must not allow this. The creatures of the night are camouflaged to look like those things. A sidewinder looks like another ripple in the sand, unless you hold your eye motionless and see him move. At night, it’s hopeless for the eye to find a diamondback within the shadows of the brush.”
The hair on her neck bristled.
He snapped a dead spike from a yucca. It made a nice straight stick about five feet long. He handed this to her, then broke another for himself.
They were in a large sandy area, an island ringed by brush of all sorts. A narrow trail through the bushes connected it to the next open sand, which then connected to another, and so on in a chain.
Matt proceeded to shake the brush with his stick, moving slowly forward to the next open space. Stephanie imitated, staying close. They crept forward, again and again as they moved from open ground to open ground.
Then he stopped and she slammed into his back. The sound came clear and sharp, more a rustle than a rattle, but she heard its aggressive confidence and knew it was a rattlesnake and she knew it should not be challenged.
Matt inched forward.
She grabbed the back of his shirt, whispering, “Let’s not.”
“It’s okay,” he reassured. “He’s out in the open, and I’ve beat this brush enough that there isn’t another one near us. Keep using you stick.”
As he moved toward the snake, she froze in place. He took another step and was out of reach. The illumination of the flashlight was slipping away and a frightening darkness was closing in. In panic, she took three quick tip toe steps, arriving beside him. Then momentum carried her forward, forcing her foot to take one more nauseating step to regain her balance.
There it was, in front of her, coiled.
Her sudden presence seemed to rekindle its anger, the hiss and
rattle rising in vigor, his head shifting toward her, a head as
wide as her fist. Mesmerized by fear, she stopped, wondering if
she was within range. Then Matt moved in front of her again. Her
body relaxed, wanting to go limp