The night was beautiful, the stars sparkling with an intensity you never see in town. As I leaned back in my camping chair, I saw a shooting star flash across the sky. I automatically made a wish, then chuckled at myself. Years of wishes on stars that never came true, and I was still as superstitious as ever.
I leaned in closer to the campfire, rubbing my hands to warm them. I picked up the bag of marshmallows and fitted two of them on the hanger at my side. I supposed a couple more wouldn't hurt. I'd certainly burn off the extra calories on my hike back down the mountain in the morning.
A rustle in the woods behind my camp caught my attention. I loved the little creatures that visited at night, racoons and opossum and once a small fox. I picked up my flashlight and shined it in the direction of the sound, hoping to catch sight of my visitor. The beam illuminated two bright green eyes staring intently at me.
I froze, mesmerized. I held still, afraid to frighten it off, and my heart accelerated a little with excitement. Whatever this animal was, I'd never encountered it before. I couldn't wait to tell my students about it on Monday.
The animal moved towards me. As it approached, I realized it was much bigger than the visitors I had been used to, and the first primal hint of concern throbbed in the back of my head. It moved lithely, slowly, with grace and purpose. Its furry head and strong shoulders came into view, and it stopped for a moment, considering me. I wanted to move closer, to see if I could get close enough to touch, to wrap my arms around its neck, place my cheek against its chest and feel the beating of its heart.
A deep growl from its throat broke the spell, and I became aware of how precarious a situation I was in. I stood up quickly, brandishing the now flaming marshmallows, and yelled like a maniac. The big cat bounded off into the woods, disappearing from my view. My heart sank, and I wished I could bound away with him.
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