The Lone Wolf
There was no-one else there but her. The house was so quiet now with everyone gone. Mom, Dad and Megan had gone to collect firewood. The snow had been falling heavily for days, then finally, at dawn on the day before, it subsided back to the northern parts. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief as they watched the snowstorm disappear beyond the horizon line.
The white blanket was not so thick today, yet still disarmingly beautiful, but somehow desolate; like a great icy world civilisation had lost. Holly turned away from the thought and threw another log onto the crackling fire. Watching the flames lick around it, cackling louder, emitting fireworks in their wake. How different to the snow, she thought warming her hands in the heat. The grandfather clock in the hall chimed noon. The others were only gone half an hour, yet it felt so much longer; they wouldn’t be back for quite a while. She loved the clean crisp air snow always brought with it. So, putting the fire guard up to the fire, she quickly put on her snow boots, coat and hat and ventured out.
She was surprised how much her boots sunk in the snow when she stepped outside the garden, and headed for the fields beyond. Waving goodbye to the snowman Megan had made. He looked at her sadly, as if knowing his days were numbered. His hat had fallen onto the ground and his carrot nose was barely hanging on.
‘Look, there’s nothing I can do.’ She said to it. ‘This happens every year, you should be used to it by now. Cheer up, and look forward to next years make-over!’
It melted some more as she walked away, in a straight line for fun, liking the pattern her footprints made in the snow. Some birds flew by overhead squawking, she wondered where they were headed. Her eyes followed them a long way, then rested on something moving in the distance. Swaying from side to side, or was the snow playing tricks on her? She thought she could hear a tune flowing on the breeze. Was it her imagination? She wasn’t sure. But her curiosity urged her on.
Midas hummed a tune as he walked along the snow-laden dirt track. This new territory had him thinking maybe he’d wasted his time hitching this far. But then he wouldn’t be recognised, and that was always a good thing. Most folk took pity on him when they saw his ragged clothes and hands blue with cold. Then again, in these country parts, some folk were always suspicious of an outsider. Never trusting. Always watching. Last place he’d stayed had been that way. The sheep farmer had taken pity on him right off. Not so his wife. She’d kept the little ’uns well away, insisting he slept in the smallest barn they had. He’d sighed, thinking he couldn’t blame her; too many things happening these days; too many bad stories on TV. He’d always wondered what it was about him that made people feel this way? Always on the outside. Never fitting in. The silence when he entered a room. Always and ever. Always and ever. Funny thing was, he’d fitted right in in prison.
For all of those years, he’d felt more himself than at any other time in his life. Sure, he’d met a few crazies, and gotten into a few scraps, but who didn’t in the Big House? He’d made some real friends too. For the first time in his life, he’d been one of the gang. Maybe not the leader but an important member. Some of the guys were too old for prison life, should’ve been left out while they still had time to live. He was still adjusting. Was taking a long time. First couple of months, the probation officer had him set up in a little bedsit. Not in the best part of town, but it was clean and homely. He couldn’t cope. Kept the heating off all winter, living in one room like in his cell. Missed the company of his cell mate. Missed the walks in the yard everyday, watching some of the younger guys fight. So he took to living on the streets, then roaming from place to place. He’d put down roots somewhere, just wasn’t sure where yet. For now, he’d keep going.
Holly looked up at the sky and made a wolf call. Laughing as it echoed around the empty field. Her mother always hated her doing that.
‘Wolves are dangerous Holly, how many times do I have to tell you? A pack could kill you in seconds.’
‘Oh crap Mom, they stay away from humans, they’re terrified of us. You’re just annoyed because I love them so much!’
It was true, ever since she’d heard that first eerie call as a child she’d fallen in love. Had posters of them in her bedroom. Always wanting to get closer. She thought she heard a weak howl in the distance and stopped still in her tracks. Was it a wolf? But a lone one? That would be unusual. They always travelled in packs, staying well away from humans. Safety in numbers from a farmer’s gun. She called out again and waited. Then there was a reply. It was somehow different though. Not the strong haunting unison of a pack, paying homage to the winter. Holly’s gut told her to turn back and go home, but her heart went out to the Lone Wolf.
The Lone Wolf was a rabid one. It had left the pack two days earlier, its health deteriorating rapidly. It was now in the stage of Furious Rabies: a constant state of agitation and aggression. Attacking anything it could; real or imagined. It longed for the kill, to rid itself of its savagery. Suddenly it heard a howl in the distance, and saw the form of a human. Its hackles rose furiously, eager for the attack, the kill. It tried to run, but couldn’t and just swayed more furiously. Howling in frustration and anger as the world whirled around it.
Holly frowned as she treaded through the snow, was the wolf in trouble? It was definitely on its own, but why? Where were the rest of the pack? Were they in trouble too? She thought hard, and suddenly smiled. This was her chance. Yes, it really was. And with no Mom to stop her. She’d never gotten as close as she’d liked to wolves in their natural habitat. But today would be different. She looked back at the house; it wasn’t that far away and her footprints were still fresh in the snow. She trudged on quickly scanning the distance,
‘Hey wolf, where are you? I know you’re in trouble, but you can count on me. I want to help.’ She yelled with all her might, starting to run.
Midas heard the words and stopped still. Kind words. Hadn’t heard words like that in a long, time. Well they sure weren’t for him. Sounded like some kid. A girl maybe. Had someone fallen in the snow? He looked around as far as he could but there was no movement. Then a sharp cold breeze blew into his face, bringing with it the strangest noise he’d ever heard. A groaning, haunting howl. The blood drained from his body, making him shiver and shake. A wolf. He hadn’t figured on wolves. Hadn’t even thought of them. Only thought he’d had when he left the city was to get away, far away. What the hell was goin’ on out there? He figured maybe the wolf was in trouble. If he saw the girl, he’d run away, never fared too well ’round kids. Always called him names in the street when he passed. Especially when they saw the scar on his face…
‘Eeww, that’s gross man. Don’t you know how to wash your pizza face. Like, have you never heard of soap?’
What did they know? A scar had made him fit right in in prison. Had told his inmates it was a rite of passage into a successful gang of thieves. And they’d believed him. Had been in awe. Told him he was brave. He knew better.
Holly started to sweat but she didn’t care. The Lone Wolf needed her. She ran faster. Yes. She was on track; she could just make out the wolf’s form in the distance. There was no going back now.
‘Hey big guy, I’m coming. I know you’re in trouble, so hang in there. I’ll get help.’
The Lone Wolf’s head banged and throbbed, as it growled and howled. Then stopped suddenly. Smelling a distinctive scent on the air. A human. Fresh for the kill. It watched and waited. Then saw its intended victim. The hairs on its coat stood on end as rage after rabid rage pounded through its head. It stood upright shaking, its hackles rising as it pawed the ground.
Midas could see it now. Was still quite a ways off, but was definitely a wolf. A lonely creature in trouble; just like him. He could relate to that. An outsider. Wolves weren’t liked by everyone either. They were feared. He had been too. Hadn’t been fair. Had got to him, taken its toll. One night, Christmas before he went to prison he sat in his lonely bedsit, feeling as isolated as any man could. He put the poker into the fire until it was red hot, and melted down some golden Christmas baubles that had fallen off his little tree. They looked like pure liquid gold shining there. He twisted the poker round and round until the gold sparkled on the end, then made the mark of a circle on his cheek. He’d felt a whole lot better afterwards, as if for once, he’d done something worthwhile. On his terms and no-one else’s. Had given him a real sense of pride.
Suddenly, the world opened up, and there was the Lone Wolf, right in front of him. Looking in pretty bad shape. Their eyes met, and Midas didn’t feel afraid anymore.
‘Hey there big fella. You lookin like you’s in trouble, just like me.’
The wolf growled in confusion and anger as the rabies took over its mind and body. Only the kill would release it. Midas edged closer.
‘Now I’m not gonna hurt ya. You’s the same as me see? Nobody likes us, nobody wants us around. You roamin’ the countryside same as me. On the outside. Well now we got each other, and I’m gonna help ya.’
The wolf pounced before Midas could say anymore. Tearing at the scar on his face, then his shoulder, sinking in its teeth and not letting go. Midas yelled in agony, trying hard to fight it off. He fell to the ground struggling, pulling a knife from his pocket. Digging it hard into the wolf’s side. It howled out in pain as blood seeped onto the thick white snow.
Holly couldn’t run any more. So she stopped for a few seconds, to catch her breath, bending over in agony. She searched again for the Lone Wolf and saw it, not so far away now, but struggling with something. Was it a man? Then they both fell, and the world went silent. She wondered whether to go forward or turn back. Snow started to fall again, heavily. She ran and ran but it was so hard to see anything ahead. She called out frantically.
’Hello? Where are you? Is my wolf ok? I’ve got to help my Lone Wolf.
She cupped her hands, making her wolf cry again, but there was no response. She tried again, and again. But nothing. Nothing around her only snowflakes covering up Midas and the Lone Wolf; their spirits watching as her tears fell and froze into the earth. Then they made an invisible pathway through the winter storm, and guided her home.
Did you enjoy my story? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, JoyceBWriterWrite a Review