“You’re lying,” Jackson says.
We sit in my room while Zachariah, Bernard, and Grandma Meadows prepare to complete the ritual. Darkness is falling, and with it, the time for me to clear my mind is drawing to a close.
“No,” I say, and shake my head. “I’m not.”
“You told me and my dad that you wanted vengeance—that you wanted whoever did this to pay.”
“Just because I want them to pay does not mean that I’m the one who’s going to make them do it, Jackson.”
“It sure sounded like that at dinner the other night.”
I shake my head in an effort to dispel his belief and find myself crossing my arms over my chest in the process. “I’m not going into this with the intent to hurt anybody,” I say. “So… in theory: I should be fine. Right?”
“In theory: I should be fine.”
“In theory,” Jackson says. “But Oaklynn… you have to realize something.”
I lift my eyes to face him.
“If you have even the slightest desire to cause harm to someone, that energy will go out into the world. Your body—your soul—will act as a conduit to whatever feels would serve you best.”
“I understand, Jackson.”
“Do you? Do you really?”
I force myself to nod despite the reservations I hold. “Yes. I do.”
He sighs, then, and runs a hand through his thick dark hair. He waits a moment to speak again, but when he finally does, it’s to say, “They’ll be calling us any minute.”
“I imagine so.”
“I don’t know a whole lot about what goes on during an invocation, but… I’ve heard that it’s very, very physically taxing. That’s not to mention the psychological or even spiritual exertion you’ll have to go through.”
“I’m ready for anything, Jackson.”
“I’m glad you are, because I’m not sure I am.”
“What do you mean?”
A knock comes at the door, cutting him off before he can finish.
“Jackson?” Zachariah asks. “Oaklynn?”
“Yeah, Dad?” Jackson replies.
“We’re almost ready to head out.”
I close my eyes, take a deep breath, then expel it a short moment later.
Well, I think. Here goes nothing.
I lean down, kiss Belle on the top of the head, then pull her into my arms and hug her tight before whispering, “I love you” in her ear.
“You’re coming back, Oaklynn,” Jackson says.
“I know,” I reply. “I just… needed to do it.”
With a nod, Jackson climbs off my bed, turns, then makes his way to the door.
Outside, Zachariah, Bernard, and Grandma Meadows stand waiting—the former with his cane held tight in one hand, the latter two with hands slack at their sides.
I swallow the lump in my throat and stand up as straight as possible. “We’re ready, then?” I ask.
Grandma Meadows nods. “Yes, dear. We are.”
I step forward.
The Meadows family turns toward the front door.
I wonder, for one brief moment, if I have made the right decision, or if, by some chance, I’ve even managed to make a mistake.
No, I then think. This isn’t a mistake.
I will claim what is rightfully mine, and in doing so, turn back the tide threatening to change the town of Red Wolf for good.
In the darkness outside the home, I inhale a deep breath of fresh air, then look beyond the home to find that darkness has consumed the land—and that, above, only a sliver of moon can be seen.
“Come,” Grandma Meadows says. “We must hurry.”
We steal into the night as if we are thieves intent on liberating the world of its greatest treasure. After crossing the road as quickly as we possibly can, we begin to maneuver around the remnants of my home—which, I was told, would be dealt with in the coming days. The fact that nothing except memories remain within is enough to give me pause, but Jackson’s hand at my back spurs me onward, toward the woods nearby.
The small field is the only thing that separates us from the woods that begin beyond my home.
Stay strong, my mother would have said.
You can do this, my father would have added. Have faith in yourself.
Faith? I think. In myself?
I almost laugh.
How can I have faith when everything has been taken from me—when I have been pushed down, beaten, and then robbed of my life?
I try not to think of these things as we approach the thicket, but find myself doing just that.
“Oaklynn?” Jackson asks. “Are you all right?”
“I’m fine,” I reply.
I step away from his hand and say, “I’m just nervous is all.”
“Don’t be,” Grandma Meadows says. “You are ready for this.”
A nod is all I can respond with.
Entering the thicket is like stepping into a passage to another time. The moon shines brightly here, lighting the animal-trodden path. Owls hoot. Small rodents skitter about. A fox crosses our path, then pauses for a moment to acknowledge the greater beings—the apex predators—that are entering its midst.
“Go, little one,” Grandma Meadows offers.
The fox does as asked and disappears into the underbrush.
Come time we step into a clearing, within which the moon shines at its brightest, Grandma Meadows comes to a halt and says, “Take positions.”
“Positions?” I frown, watching as Zachariah Meadows limps to one side, while Bernard and Jackson go to two others. “What’re you—“
Grandma Meadows guides me between the three men, then takes a step back.
It is then that I realize what they have done.
They’ve formed a circle around me. But for what reason?
I try not to think about this as Grandma Meadows reaches into her pockets and withdraws a small dagger from its depths.
“You’re not—“ I swallow “—gonna cut me, are you?”
She shakes her head. “No.”
She then proceeds to cut her own palm, and tightens her hand into a fist until blood pools from between her fingers.
I watch the liquid drip at my feet.
“What do I do?” I ask.
“Close your eyes,” she replies, “and open your mind, your body, and your soul to what is to come.”
I close my eyes.
She takes my hand.
I feel her blood slick through my fingers, then grimace as she takes my other hand and presses my fingers together.
“Mother Wolf,” she then says, in a voice as clear as day, in a tone as hard as night, “hear my plea on this humble night: I call upon you, as one of your many Daughters, in this time of need, in this time of grief. Please, hear me; and please, give me clarity as I prepare to invoke a Wolf lost to the world.”
Around us stirs a wind, smelling sweetly of nature, sickly of pollen. The cool breeze stirs the hairs on the back of my neck and causes gooseflesh to rise along my arms.
“I invoke you,” Grandma Meadows then says, “Great Spirit of the Wolf, Lost Child of our Mother. Come to me, and bond to this child who seeks your guidance.”
A white light flashes over my vision.
I gasp, then cry out.
“Keep your eyes closed,” Grandma Meadows says. “Do not look into the universe, Oaklynn. It will blind you.”
I do as asked as I see before me a cosmos of emotion, a universe of possibilities. Stars flash before my vision. Supernovas explode in front of my eyes. A line—golden, and drawn plainly upon the horizon—shoots out from an undetermined destination in what I can only assume is outer space, before zipping across the great expanse beyond our world. I see what I believe is Pluto, small as it happens to be, then Neptune, Uranus, Saturn’s rings, Jupiter’s moons. Mars comes next—and then, from the darkness, Earth. Blue and green and mean as can be, the golden thread shoots down, then through the upper atmosphere until finally breaking into the darkened sky above us. Above me.
Through it all, I feel wonder, need, greed.
Please, I think, as I sense its presence drawing near—as I imagine its purpose coming closer. Come to me. Give me what I want. What I need. What I breathe.
I feel everything.
My cruel, undeniable need for revenge.
The white light shifts in focus at that moment—and though I see a great, transluscent wolf in shades of white come soaring from the Heavens, it is not this creature whose energy I feel.
It is a darkness—pure and absolute—that shoots from the sky, then collides with me a moment later.
I feel like I scream, but only in my head.
I taste blood in my mouth. Feel fire in my veins. Experience nature as it takes hold.
When finally the worlds are bridged, the anchors settled, and the connection made, I hear a voice say a single word in my head.
Hello, little one.
Then, a moment later, I pass out.