"You gonne be alright all the way over there?" Byron asks. “It’s gettin’ dark. Kinda spooky.” He draws out the “i” in “kinda” like a counselor taunting a kid on his first night at camp. Squatting as close to our fire as possible, I glare up at him, clutching a thin jacket around myself. It’s been getting darker — and colder — since the sun set three hours ago. Now, every sound assumes a substance in the dark. The forlorn hoots and too-close rustles have all been wild turkeys, or armadillos, or something called a herniated woodpecker, whatever that is. No snakes or alligators or swamp monsters. But it’s early yet.
“I’ll be fine,” I say with more bravado than I feel, and cast my flashlight beam out over the wilderness.
About 300 yards from the fire, the reflected eyes of two deer fl ash briefly and turn toward the canal where we found water this morning. Farther back, the temporary shelter in which I’ll be sleeping — made out of a single sheet of plastic and some parachute cord — glows faintly.
Nodding in that direction, he says, “You know, we used to call that ‘Bear Alley.’”