The place suited them, him, and his owl. The owl too loved the wilderness, the immense skies, the many creatures who inhabited the desert.
They had their routine. Before their night visit to the mountain, he would dismantle his weapon, in total obscurity, a puerile exercise practised eons ago, in the academy. Then, slowly, his long fingers recognising each part without hesitation, he would clean and reassemble the gun. He took great care of the lens, the cherished lens.
Then the two of them would take the trail, which started in the foothills, and was a little remote from their home. Acquiring night vision, after he fell, had been one of the many wonders of his new life: a gift for a sniper. That, and being free. They moved slowly, listening to the minute sounds of life, admiring the rocks, the miracles of the desert at night. They would travel as far as the cascade, high near the snow, drink and bathe, his pale body hardly visible in the moonshine. The owl loved hunting there.
Rarely they met a wanderer. Once a goon had tried to shoot the owl. That was one early morning, many years back. Then he had stood, silent, waiting, his anger slowly receding. When the man eventually saw him he dropped his gun. That day he let the goon live, and run away in terror.
In the heat of the day they kept to themselves, hidden, perhaps asleep, he himself had little use for food. Once or twice in the year he drove down to town, far below on the plateau, to fetch supplies for their home, sometime new boots, and books.
Now winter was near. The desert would soon wear a veil of ice. He loved the melody of the desert, when the temperature fell, and the earth dreamed of a new year.