When I awoke, it was late at night and I was sweating like crazy.
I hadn’t dreamt of anything. Everything was just black. My headache was gone, but my whole body was sweating profusely. Kicking the covers off of my body, I threw off my jacket like it was an unwanted skin and struggled to remove my shoes and pants. Sitting on the end of my bed, I breathed in shallowly, taking in my moonlit surroundings. My room was just how I had left it that afternoon after school. Nothing had changed. I remembered my pounding head and my bleeding nose, and instinctually swiped above my lip. There was no crusted blood. Just those strange sweats.
It was absolutely sweltering.
Getting up swiftly, I opened up my window. I grunted as I heaved it open to be greeted by a cold breeze. I sighed in relief. Standing there, I let the coldness wash over me.
After a couple of minutes, the heat returned. It was becoming more and more unbearable, more and more confining.
Not knowing what else to do, I grabbed my shoes and pulled on a pair of shorts, quietly making my way down the stairs and to the door that led out to the back deck. The sliding glass door opened smoothly. I stepped out into the cold. Standing there, it brought me sweet relief once again. I held out my arms, letting the night air soak into my sweaty underarms. I had never sweat so much in my life- heck, I hardly ever broke a sweat at all, no matter what the activity was. I could be standing in a desert and nothing would happen.
I remembered one summer when Adam, Monica and I had gone on a class trip to Mexico. They had both been sweating through their shirts while I was perfectly dry. Of course, Adam had hugged me tightly in his adorable way so that I would be tainted by his sweaty boy-ness.
But this- this was something else. Something strange.
Once again, the relief was fleeting. Groaning, I felt the heat coming back, spreading like the sun along my arms and legs and face. I wiped at my forehead, which was slick with sweat. It was fall in Oregon and I felt as if I was standing in the middle of a sauna.
Frustrated, I was about to go into the kitchen to get some ice, a cold wash cloth, anything- when I saw it.
It was strangely beautiful. Out of place. Standing there in the stretch of woods that bordered my house. Our neighbors were far and wide, so the forest was thick. A shroud in the night. I saw its eyes first. They were what caught my attention immediately, because they were so incredibly unique. The color of topaz. They surely did not belong on a wolf.
I stood still. Stopped cold. No sudden movements. The creature had a dark coat of fur- I could tell that by the way it blended seamlessly into the dark, like it was made to be there. So effortlessly. As if the blue-black sleekness had bled into the fabric of night.
It was strange to see it there. With all of the hunters around, wolves hardly ever came near populated areas. But that one- it was just there. Watching me.
With its strange eyes.
I was still sweating.
I stared at it. I could feel my heart in my ears, in my throat. The contrast of the cold to my heat did nothing for me. I stood in the painful inferno, with the night a crescendo around me as my eyes lingered. I could hear my breath mixing with the night air. It steamed, the white vapor there for one second in a cone-shaped puff, the next evaporated completely into the shade.
No sudden movements.
The creature kept watching me. Those eyes were all that I could see. They became the center of my fear, the catalyst of my silent desperation for shelter. The beauty was undeniable. But there was a chilling sort of fear that I felt, in the middle of the sweltering pain of the all-consuming fire. I knew that I needed to get inside as soon as possible and as quickly as possible. Wolves were viciously aggressive when threatened- I knew that much. If the creature felt that I posed any kind of threat, I knew in the most pressing part of my brain that it would not hesitate.
But I couldn’t move.
I was petrified. With both an awed kind of fascination and a damning fear that had swallowed me whole so that I blended with the tainted darkness, just as the strange wolf did.
It was then that it moved.
There, among the shade of the oaks, I watched with expanding pupils as the wolf moved silently among the tree line, slowly backing away from me. Those eyes. Those strange eyes. They still watched me, lingering painfully with a starting intelligence. Standing in my sweat, I watched as the eyes slowly disappeared before fading completely into the gray.
As soon as the creature was out of sight, I quickly made my way back into the house. My steps danced along the wood of the deck, and then the shining laminate with franticness. My body was tense. As fast as I could so as not to make a sound, I closed the sliding glass behind me. For a moment I stood there in stunned silence. I stared out into the backyard through the glass. My breath fogged the dulled surface.
It hadn’t seemed real. Everything had seemed like a dream.
That wolf. It couldn’t have been real. Wolves didn’t just wander into someone’s backyard. It was winter- they wouldn’t dare mingle with civilization. Hunting season was coming up fast. It didn’t make sense. None of it.
I turned around to see my mother standing like a shadow in the dim light of the kitchen. Her dark hair was askew, her eyes bleary but never failing to contain their usual sharpness. “What are you doing up?” Of course, she said nothing of the lingering sweat that covered my entire body, or what must have been a literal ‘just saw a ghost’ look on my face. She had to comment on the sensibility of everything, the formality. “Just getting some water.” I said this in a monotone way, hoping that she would go back upstairs so that I could have some time to comprehend the strange happenings of that night.
She peered at me. Her deep eyes were intrigued, but not obviously so. “Alright.” She said quietly. I listened to the sound of her feet as they connected with each stair, counting eleven. I listened to her bedroom door close.
I leaned against the side of the counter, splaying my fingers along the cool marble. The mysterious sweating had disappeared, excluding its remnants that stained my underarms and the collar of my shirt. Remnants of dampness coated my forehead. I took a deep breath that made my rib cage shutter. Thinking of the wolf along the edge of my property, a certain eerie intrigue filled me. There was something about those eyes…
True to my word, I filled a glass up with tap water and made my way back up to my bedroom. The coolness of it did something to soothe my former panic from the back deck. The memory of it shook me.
That feeling of utter fear, of facing the unknown, was both a rush and the most horrifying thing that I had ever experienced.
My pillow felt cool against my normalized cheek. Closing my eyes, the night was soundless. All that I could hear were my own thoughts, scurrying around in my head and making for a restless sleep.