Chapter 6

The night of the coyotes


    In the night, the wind arose, which the people of Eagle Creek had been dreading. With all it's might, it swept through the valley, whipping up the waters of the Arrow Lake into big waves that rolled and thundered against the rocky shores. The wind was howling eerily around the Hartmann's house, causing things to rattle and clatter. Something fell over with a loud bang.


    Suddenly, there was another howling that was mingling with the howling of the wind, a howling that sounded even more eery and that was giving Nicole goose bumps.
    Here they came again, the coyotes!
    Nicole knew that these animals normally wouldn't attack humans. They only liked to snatch chickens and other poultry from the farms. They were after cats too, as Corey from down the road had told her. But their howling sounded so blood-curdling that you automatically got scared .
    Nicole mustered all her courage and got out of bed. Barefooted, she groped toward the window. When she looked over at the big old barn with the moon right above the roof, she felt a shudder run down her spine. The coyotes must be pretty close now.
    And then she saw the pack of dog-like animals moving along the pasture fence like dark shadows! Some of the coyotes stopped to sense what was around, then they all disappeared behind the barn.


    Nicole sighed with relief when the howling and yowling faded away in the distance. In Canada, there were so many things that scared her and that she had to get used to, like the bears and the coyotes, the cougars and the skunks, and the bad thunderstorms in the mountains.
    Oh, and not to forget the forest fires! Back home in Schwabach, they occasionally heard that something got hit by lightening but they never had such big fires that went out of control and that nobody was able to put out.
    For a while, Nicole was standing at the window, looking up to the stars. There were thousands of them, a real sea of stars. Here at the Arrow Lake, the air was clear and clean and there was no city nearby whose lights made it impossible to experience a real starry sky.
    Suddenly, Nicole felt again such a strong longing for Germany, her Grandparents and her girlfriends that she felt like crying. Contrary to her parents and siblings she was never thrilled by the idea of immigrating to Canada. She would have much rather stayed in Schwabach. Now she was in this big strange country were she got scared to death every so often and had to cry lots because she was so homesick. Never again would she celebrate Christmas with Grandma and Grandpa or go to the public swimming pool in the park with her friends!


    Nicole rolled over on her side. The threadbare little stuffed monkey that she'd had since her seventh birthday was firmly clutched to her chest. She tried to go to sleep and not to think of coyotes, forest fires and being homesick, but it was hard. The longing for Schwabach and their life back there hit her really strong now. In her mind she was hearing the churchbells of the "Stadtkirche", the city's oldest church. She always liked listening to the churchbells and she always liked going to church. It made her feel so solemn. But here, everything was so different. There was an old wooden church in Eagle Creek but it didn't have nice church bells and she couldn't understand a word of what the minister at the sermon on Sundays was saying.
    Nicole folded her hands for a prayer. Dear God, I'm going to sleep now, send me an angel to watch over me in the long and dark night. Amen.
    After the prayer, Nicole's fear had eased a little, but she was still lying awake for a long time. She just couldn't get back to sleep. The moon was gone now and it was totally dark outside. Back home in Schwabach there had always been a friendly light that had accompanied her into her dreams. Here, the nights were often pitch-black and full of eery noises.
    Eventually, Nicole fell into a troubled sleep. Horrible dreams were torturing her in which she was chased by bloodthirsty coyotes with fiery red eyes.


    In the middle of the night she woke up again. At first she thought she had only dreamed the howling of the coyotes, but then she realized it was real.
    They had come back! But what were they looking for at their farm? The chickens were all in the chicken coop and the coyotes couldn't get in there. And Mickey, their tom cat ... was he in the house? No, probably not. Her parents didn't like the cat hair all over the place. That's why Mickey had to stay outside. He was probably hunting mice in the barn right now. Did he manage to hide from the coyotes in time?
    While worrying about Mickey, Nicole forgot how furious her sister could get when she was woken up during the night.
    "Andrea!", she called in a suppressed voice. "The coyotes are back again!"
    "So what!", the answer came right away. Obviously, Andrea had already woken up from the howling of the coyotes. Nicole heard her sister getting up and plodding to the window without turning on the light. The next moment, Andrea let out a loud scream.
    "Oh my God!" It sounded so full of fear and despair that Nicole's heart almost stopped.
    "W-what is it, Andrea?" Her legs were shaking as she got up and stumbled over to the window.
    In shock and bewilderment, the sisters stood there and looked toward the mountains on the other side of the Arrow Lake. They'd never seen anything like this before! The sky was lit up in a brightly glowing red, not because the morning sun was about to rise but from the fires!
    The entire sky seemed to burn, in the middle of the dark night! The black clouds of smoke they had seen billowing up behind the mountain ridge during the day had turned into a blazing inferno!
    Nicole started to cry. "What are we gonna do now, Andrea? I'm so scared!"
    At that moment, Andrea felt sorry for her little sister. Now she could understand how Nicole felt because she was frightened herself. Comfortingly, she wrapped her arm around Nicoles shoulders and pulled her close.
    "Right now, we can't do anything", she said in a shaky voice.
    While they were standing at the window looking at the fire-storm across the lake, a loud and excited clucking came from the chicken house. Then a gunshot rang out.
    "Andrea!", Nicole screamed, fearfully clinging to her big sister.


    "Hey, is anyone going to tell me what's going on? It's the middle of the night!", Holger called impatiently through the open door of his room.
    At that moment, another shot could be heard. Andrea noticed how Holger flinched. "Don't be afraid", she said consolingly. "That's life in the wilderness. Wildfires and coyotes and gunshots in the middle of the night. Don't worry, we'll tackle them all."
    No doubt you will!, Holger thought to himself bitterly. All of a sudden, he felt terribly depressed and discouraged. What about a cripple like me? Am I supposed to lay here and do nothing? What if we do get evacuated? Then I'd only be a burden to everybody. You better leave me here and let me die in the fire! That would be the best for all of us. He kept his thoughts to himself. He knew they weren't right, but it was exactly how he felt in his heart at that moment.



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