It was 30 degrees out. I could see a hard glitter of frost on the ground. The rock in my hand was like a block of ice and my fingers were going numb, naked in the cold night. The growling continued unabated. The adrenaline was leaving my body a shaky mess and terror was gnawing it's way into my belly; worse, it would begin to leak out my pores and drift towards the thing growling in the dark. A signal.
Clarity returned and I knew I had to get back inside. A rock? I needed a gun for this type of heroism. Or would that be lunacy? Could the others in the pack be creeping in around me? I knew that even if I did get a second surge of adrenaline I was certainly no match for a wild predator, let alone seven or eight of them. I suddenly felt very squishy. My flesh would rip easily in the jaws of a coyote. The stand off had to end, and I was really hoping for only one conclusion. Me, safe and warm inside with my kitties and a fresh brew.
By now my toes were numb and I was shivering from the cold as well as the energy drain and the fear.I renewed my yelling at the coyote, but it was real words this time- mostly curses. And I started walking slowly, sideways, back towards the house. Somehow there was a stick in one hand that I didn't remember grabbing. It was very light weight, practically useless as a weapon, but I didn't let go of it or my rock. I kept my eyes strained at the darkest shadows to catch any sign of movement, but the growling was fading as I neared sanctuary.
I never ran, but I made it. The warmth was almost painful, and it was hard to unclench my fingers from the rock. My shaking was violent now, the delayed reaction like all the fear of the last ten minutes (or was it an hour?) injected in one concentrated instant. I said "holy crap" about fifty times. When the shaking slowed I called up a friend I knew would be awake at that hour. I had to tell somebody, I needed the calming words of a pal. As I told the story to him, the words took the last of my trembling, and my bones slowly warmed.
I know it was stupid. I'm not superwoman, and I can't take on a pack of coyotes in hand to hand combat. I knew that out on the frosted hill, and I still know it. Next time I'll take a gun. That's right, I said next time. It's one thing to be stupid, but it's another entirely to be a coward. When a loved one's life is on the line, you lift that car off your baby even if it breaks your back. And you don't regret it.