Chapter 1 - Always alone
I opened the metal gate and reached for the shivering kitten huddled in the corner. “Don’t worry, little guy,” I said, pressing the tiny warm body against me.
As soon as my hand touched his fur, the little kitten calmed down. A satisfied smile grew on my lips. This was why I wanted to become a vet.
I scratched the kitten behind his ear, causing it to purr, and walked into the waiting room. “There you go, ma’am. He is all better again” I said smiling.
The old lady looked at my hands, while I handed her kitten to her. When she had him save in her arm she looked up to me. I saw her eyes widen when she looked at me. She tried to hide it. I gave her a reassuring smile, while shaking my head as a sign that I didn’t mind.
For a long time, it didn’t bother me when people were surprised when they looked into my eyes. Nobody ever asked questions. That wasn’t necessary either. My eyes spoke for themselves. My right eye was deep blue, and my left eye light green. I had never met anyone with the same condition.
The old lady’s cheeks had turned red and she murmured an apology. I leaned forward and stroked the animal on its head.
“I’m just happy to see little Milo healthy again. Let’s hope he has learned from now on that he should not try to catch birds that are bigger then him” I said.
The woman had meanwhile recovered.
“I don’t know how to thank you,” said the lady, looking at me gratefully. I shrugged my shoulders “This is what I do,” I said gently.
I waved after her as she left the waiting room and picked up a document from the desk to check my next patient’s medical records, when the door opened. Two women came in and I looked up curiously when I heard them speak in a muffled voice.
“Wolfs? Are you sure?” asked one of them anxiously
The other woman nodded frantically. “They were first seen a few days ago by hikers in the woods, not far from here. Apparently, the city council took immediate action and hired hunters to fix the problem,” said the woman.
She clearly agreed with the mayor’s decision. I had never seen a wolf before, but I had read a lot about them. The thought that the mayor wanted to kill these animals was outrageous. The women sat with their pets on their lap.
I tried my best not to judge them, but a small part of me couldn’t resist. Fortunately, that was when my next patient came in and I was able to return to work immediately, forcing the subject to the back of my mind.
After a tiring day at work, I was relieved to finally be able to close the practice. The place I called home was on the outskirts of town. There I rented a small wooden cabin from a old married couple. It was previously a shed. It was rather run down, but I didn’t care.
Once the door creaked shut behind me, I fell back against the wall and sighed exhausted. I loved my job. It made me feel satisfied, but sometimes it all just got a bit much.
I walked down the narrow hallway to my bedroom, opened my wardrobe and changed into a little more comfortable. My bedroom was small, and the only other separate room besides the bathroom. It held just enough space for a bed and wardrobe.
After zipping my vest up to the top, I took the elastic out of my hair and let my red locks fall freely over my shoulders. The length came almost to my lower back. I was in a constant battle over whether to cut it or not, but my adoptive mother had always expressed how beautiful she had found my hair.
It had been three years since the day I had to bury my adoptive parents, after they died in a car accident. I had loved them so much, that after the first few weeks of their deaths I couldn't do anything but cry. After they were gone, I had to sell the house that I had called my home all my life.
The discovery that my adoptive father had huge debts due to some risky investments he made just before his death made everything only harder. It now all rested on my shoulders. I had already managed to pay off part of it with the money I received from the house, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
I wanted to blame him. I wanted to be angry at the situation he had left me in, but I couldn’t. Because if it hadn’t been for them, everything would have been different for me. Because they were the ones who saved me as a baby.
When I was just a few days old, I was found by a bunch of hikers in the woods. Wrapping in nothing more than just a blanket, I was left there. The hikers brought me to the orphanage where I spent the first months of my life.
There were countless couples who wanted to adopt me, but from the stories my parents had heard from the caretakers in the orphanage, I had cried uncontrollably whenever one of the previous couples wanted to take me. Only with them I had been quiet, while sleeping peacefully in the arms of my new mother.
I’d be lying if I said it didn’t leave scars. I had always wondered how anyone could have thought of leaving me in a hollow tree, in the middle of nowhere. There just had to be something wrong with me.
I had always blamed my eyes.
The first year after the death of my adoptive parents, it was an exhausting battle whether I should stay angry or continue with my life. But I finally decided not to give up on myself.
So instead of blaming him for everything, I decided to face my problems. I took a side job at the local vet and worked as many hours as possible. Eventually I had earned enough money to go to university and learn to be a veterinarian.
I decided to live cheaply so that I could pay off my father’s debts as soon as possible. Then I would be free. My dream was to open my own practice one day. I was happy with my simple life. At least, that’s what I kept saying to myself.
As I walked into my kitchen to prepare my dinner, I thought about what shifts I could take over from my colleagues to get more hours this weekend.
Lost in thought, I prepared my dinner on the stove and then sat down at the table. Thoughtlessly I put my fork in the tasteless boiled potatoes and craved a tender piece of meat. I silently ate my dinner.
After I finished my dinner and put the dishes in the sink, I went back to my room. I hadn’t realized it was already that late. In the practice, I was often the one who came first and the last to go home. As a result, I worked ridiculously long days, but some animals just needed more attention than others.
Completely exhausted, I fell down on my bed. The mattress was outdated and damaged, so I often slept badly. A yawn escaped from my mouth. I stared absently at the ceiling. Eventually my eyelids became heavy and I was slowly carried away in a deep sleep.
Darkness was everywhere. I felt the panic taking over my body. Yellow eyes stared at me from all sides. I heard creatures growling loudly. A panicked whimper left my throat as I dropped to my knees. I closed my eyes and squatted.
I was all alone. Always alone.
I heard the growling approach. They came for me. I trembled with fear. I didn’t want this. I didn’t want to be alone. As soon as I felt a presence nearby, I made the big mistake of opening my eyes. I stared straight into a pair of yellow eyes and screamed. He wanted to hurt me, I knew that. I retreated and tried to get away, but the eyes followed me.
They would follow me everywhere.
The creature opened its mouth and revealed razor sharp teeth that could easily tear me apart. My body was overcome with fear. I couldn’t move anymore. I looked as my end approached. I just gave up. I even bared my neck for the creature so that at least my death could go quickly and painless...when the creature suddenly disappeared.
I looked stunned at the new creature that had appeared before my eyes. It was nothing like anything I had ever seen before. He towered over me and held the creature that had threatened me in his claw, his nails pierced through the creature’s skin. He looked at me from over his shoulder, his eyes were blood red. I should scream, but I didn’t. I relaxed instead.
Those red eyes were different. They felt safe.
My sleep was disturbed by a deafening bang. In a mixture of waving limbs, I sat up in my bed and looked around me disoriented. I had no idea what time it was or what the hell happened.
I cringed when my hearing was ravaged again with a loud bang, but this time I was able to place the sound. It was a gunshot. Immediately after the shot was fired, I heard the howling I recognized all too well. An injured animal. It took a while for my head to recall yesterday’s memories. The hunters must have started hunting the wolves.
For a second I sat in my bed like a frozen statue and didn’t know what to do. Until it cut another loud cry through the night, then my body made the decision for me. What kind of vet would I be if I left an animal to suffer. Before I realized I was standing in front of my wardrobe and had put on jeans and a sweater. In my kitchen, I pulled out a flashlight from the top drawer and headed for the door.
“I hope I’m not going to regret this,” I thought to myself, before disappearing into the dark night and closing my door with a cracking sound behind me.