The night is clear. Moonlight floods the shoreline. The fire has died down. The air is cool and calm. I see the boy lying on the sand. He sleeps restlessly, tossing and turning. He cries out "no" and then rolls over, pulling his knees up to his chest.
I hear the call of an owl from deep within the forest. I listen for the sounds of the night. Except for the waterfall it is quiet. I look around the edge of the forest. I see nothing out of place, nothing is moving.
I hear the rustle of leaves, the air is still calm. Alertness, fear. I stand up and flap my wings a couple times. I screech, the boy does not stir. I search the trees by the rock wall. I see nothing. I hear something close by in the trees. Increased fear. I screech again, he begins to sit up. He reaches for his stick.
A rush of black fur leaps out of the forest. Fear, adrenalin. I take to the air. The panther is on top of the boy before he can bring his stick around. His back is torn up and bleeding. I dive at the night hunter. I pull up and rake the panthers back with my talons. He turns toward me. I attack again.
The panther swipes at me. Searing pain. I drop to the ground, one wing is too painful to lift. I back up against the boat. The panther prepares to pounce. I spread out my wings and try to fly. The boy swings his stick around and hits the panthers hind legs. As the panther turns around, the boy spears it in the side. The panther retreats into the forest bleeding.
My wing is torn but not broken. The boy speaks to me gently, brushing back my feathers. He slips the hood over my head. I relax. The boy wraps my wing to the side of my body. He places me on the canoe and removes my hood.
The boy goes down to the water and washes off his back. I watch the forest. The sky brightens, the sun comes up. The warmth feels good.
The boy picks me up and carries me to the end of the pool. He places me on a rock. The boy spears fish trapped in the rocks and cleans them. I watch the forest. There is no movement. The forest is calm.
The boy caries the fish and I back to the canoe. He makes a fire and hangs the fish on sticks close to the fire. The sun is high overhead. The boy always keeps his stick close. I search the trees for movement.
"It is time to go" the boy says. The sun is lower in the sky. The fire is out. He places his stick and the smoked fish into the boat. I am perched on the bow. The boy pushes the canoe into the water and jumps into the stern. He paddles us to the mouth of the river, leaving our campsite behind.