A bleak sky, streaked with white, stretches over the desolate South Rim of the canyon. There will be snow tonight.
The grinding of a pickup truck grates through the silence.
A four-door Tundra. Tonneau cover over the bed. Two men dressed in camouflage inside. Fast-food and jerky wrappers litter the wells at their feet. In the back seat, a cooler packed full of beer.
And three rifles, three-inch twelve-gauge magnums, strapped to the padded back-seat gun rest.
Hunters, driving the rim.
The front-seat passenger sets his sights on something moving ahead of them, leans forward greedily. “There we go, there we go.”
The driver follows his gaze, fixes on what he is tracking. Not a deer, but a young girl, shining black hair underneath the hood of her parka. Schoolgirl’s backpack on her shoulder.
On the men’s faces, something crude and capering.
“That’s some tasty-looking pussy.”
“Oh, yeah, that’ll do.”
The driver swerves the truck over to the side of the road, squealing brakes.
The girl hears the sound, stiffens, is starting to run before she even completes the glance back.
The truck skids to a stop in the snow. The doors fly open; the men are out of the car, grabbing for their rifles.
The girl runs for the rocks, but her pursuers are bigger, faster. Two of them, grown men, against a teenage girl.
They move forward into the strong wind, a military-style formation, heavy boots crunching in the sandy snow.
They pause at the rock outcropping, looking out over the boulders. The girl seems to have disappeared. Then a scrabble on the rocks betrays her. Hearing it, the men grin at each other.
The driver rounds the rock first, his mouth watering. He is already hard in anticipation . . .
The tire iron bashes him across the face, breaking his jaw. He staggers back, howling inarticulate pain.
The girl kicks him viciously in the knee, crumpling him, then swivels as the second hunter rounds the edge of the rock. She slams the tire iron against the side of his head.
Now both men are collapsed on the ground, moaning and cursing.
She steps forward, no longer feigning that youthful, hesitant gait.
She lifts her arm and uses the tire iron on their skulls. Two, three, four blows, and there is no more moaning. Thick crimson drops spatter the snow. Her breath is harsh. Her face is ice.
There is only the wind, swallowing the sound of her breathing.
Cara stands at the edge of the canyon, looking out at the spires of Spider Rock, the vast open gorge.
Below her is an icy crevasse. The canyon has any number of them, deep splits in the rock wall where whole sheets of the cliff have broken away. Behind her is the hunters’ pickup truck.
Their bodies lie at her feet.
She drags one, then the other, to shove them over the cliff’s edge, stepping back to watch each body hurtle down into the crevasse, tumbling into oblivion.
The snowfall tonight will cover all trace of them. Later, birds and animals will pick the bones clean.
Another offering to the canyon, and the gods and ghosts that haunt it.