Chapter 1 - Out of nowhere
“Jesse! Come on.” Travis, my eldest brother, yells from downstairs. It's one of those wolf-hunting days again. The thought alone makes me want to throw up. Don’t get me wrong, wolves are beautiful creatures, which is the reason why I can’t stand having to kill them.
“I’m not going!” I scream back at him. If only they would stop forcing me to go to these things. I came out of the closet a few months ago and they think making me participate will somehow make me more masculine. Like that’s even possible.
“Of course, you’re going!” Xander, my other brother joins the shouting party. Something must have gone wrong when my parents were doing it to produce those two maniacs. I am nothing like them. They both have dark blonde hair and green eyes. I have dark brown hair and green eyes. They are also very masculine and sporty, the exact opposite of me. Their teasing can get out of hand, though I wouldn’t say they are bullies. My coming out did not help in that department.
“Jesse, come down here! We’re going hunting.” My dad’s low voice sounds. He somehow has gotten it in his head that I can become straight if I participate in his ‘manly’ hobbies.
I pff in myself at the thought. There is nothing manly about killing animals, and there definitely is nothing about me that would ever be straight.
I let out a dramatic sigh. Can’t they just leave me alone? It’s the last day of my summer vacation. I’m starting college tomorrow to get a degree in music. All hell will break loose if I ditch them though, so there I don’t really have a choice but to go with them. Why didn’t I work more so I could afford my own house? I wouldn’t have to deal with these bozos. But then again, my mother will be sad, and that will only make me sad. It’s a vicious cycle.
I stand up and walk over to the stairs, putting my most annoyed face on. I will not go down cooperating. They are all standing at the bottom, staring at me with scoffs on their faces. “Finally.” Travis sighs like the drama queen he secretly is. I just give him a nasty look.
They look down at me when I reach the bottom, their height a gene I am a little jealous of that I did not receive. Xander slaps my shoulder, and I have to physically strain myself not to fall to the ground. Fortunately, they never leave a bruise or wound.
The jeep is already waiting for us as we exit the house, the forest only a few minutes’ drive. Luckily for me and the wolves, most of the time we don’t even see them. Usually, we just walk around, following tracks. If I try hard enough, I can almost pretend I’m on a hike. Only twice in my life have they actually killed wolves. I can only pray I’ll never have to.
The sun is shining, and I can only hope today is going to be a calm day. I am not looking forward to running into a group of innocent wolves. They are just animals, they can’t help it that they are ‘good for hunting’ as my dad says. Apparently, they hunt wolves cause they put up a fight and make it more exciting that way. Like hunting deer isn’t bad enough. Our house is decorated with the furs of the wolves they killed, like a sick showoff of their prize. My mom hates them too, but she never complains to my dad about it.
The car stops. “Tracks!” My dad yells from the front. Doors open and heavy boots thud on the soil. Rolling my eyes, I step out of the vehicle as well, looking out for any mud pools.
They take off in the direction the tracks are leading, leaving me no choice but to follow them in absolute silence. That might be the only plus side to hunting, there is no talking involved. A half-hour passes, when sounds coming from the left have us all snapping our heads up. Peeking into the forest, I try to make out anything out of the ordinary, but nothing comes up.
“Spread!” My dad gives us all a gun, the machine falling heavily in my hands. “Travis, there!” He points to his left. “Xander, there!” His finger points to his front. “Jesse, there!” My head follows his finger to our right, the dense forest waving eerily.
“What?!” I shriek, my voice coming out higher than I intended. Don’t get me wrong. I hate spending time with these jerks but that doesn’t mean I want to be alone in a forest with wolves in it. They can attack if they feel threatened. A gun is threatening I would say.
“Come on, Jesse. We have more chance of catching them if we go separately. Just shoot when you see one, okay? We’ll hear and come to you asap.” He lets as much kindness as he can muster seep into his voice, but it doesn’t dampen the nerves. He is basically sending me to death!
They start jogging in their direction, away from me. I’m on my own now, in a forest full of wolves that can kill me. This is just perfect. I have a gun, but I’ve never shot one so I don’t know if it will be of much use. I’ll be more likely to just shoot myself.
I slowly walk in the direction my dad pointed, stepping off the path and into the dense greenery. I look around me, focusing on every sound. Only the chattering of birds and buzzing of insects greets me, nothing out of the ordinary. Branches crack under my feet, not hiding my presence here very well. Don’t wolves have good hearing? This must be a dead giveaway. I should have put my foot down, and stayed in the car. Or better yet, stayed at home.
There are no strange sounds. No howling, growling or gunshots. Nothing. Maybe dad will figure out soon enough there is nothing here, and we’ll get to go home? This nightmare will finally be over. A guy can only hope.
Putting one foot in front of the other, I walk in what I assume is a straight line, maybe I’ll exit the forest like this. That would be awesome. I could call my mom from there to pick me up or something.
I speed up a little, desperate to get home. These woods are creeping me out, the happy chitter dying down into only a few birds shouting.
Out of nowhere, something jumps forwards out of the bushes, tackling me to the ground. My heart jumps to my throat, pumping my blood around like crazy. Where did this thing come from? The giant creature crushes my bones, making it hard for me to breathe. The incoming panic may contribute to that as well. Not to mention his teeth are staring at me, straight in the face, saliva dripping off the sharp whites. It’s a wolf, a big one. I don’t look in his eyes, I saw on National Geographic that that means you want to pick a fight. I really do not want that right now.
Squeezing my eyes shut, I wait for it to rip me to shreds but he doesn’t. My heart slows down a bit and I slowly open my eyes again. I don’t move a muscle, locking them in place. Somehow, somewhere deep within me, my instincts kick in. I keep quiet.
It just keeps breathing in my face. its breath does not stink. It actually smells kind of nice. How on earth can a wolf’s breath smell nice? Don’t they only eat deer and other raw meat? This is weird.
His paws dig into the skin of my shoulders. He is heavy and a low burn is blossoming, but I can’t complain. He hasn’t put his teeth in me. Yet.
I keep my eyes fixed on the fur of his chest, his paws, anywhere but those eyes. What does it want? Does it like to toy with its food before killing it? My gun is further away so maybe I would have a chance if that happens, but I’ll have to get out from underneath it. Should I scream for help? But what are the chances that someone will hear? It might just make the wolf mad. I don’t want to piss it off and drive it to do something stupid, like hurting me.
I don’t struggle at all in his grip. I need to show him that I am not dangerous and that I don’t mean any harm. Maybe it saw my gun and felt threatened? Does a wolf even know what a gun looks like? Does it know what a gun can do? Maybe if it has seen a gun before, or felt the pain of it. Wolves are supposed to be really smart.
Maybe if I keep lying still like this, the wolf will get bored of me and let me go. It’s okay to hope right?
I accidentally let out a sigh, causing the wolf to growl. My eyes snap up out of reflex, I didn’t think about it, it just happens. My eyes meet those of the angry predator on top of me.
They are startlingly beautiful, the brightest color of blue I’ve ever seen. It’s like the sky is trapped in them. They look strangely intelligent too, like he knows exactly what is going on.
Before I can even move, he jumps up and sprints away. I lie there for a few minutes, trying to process what the hell just happened. A wolf attacked me, well not really, but then the moment I looked in its eyes, it just took off. Was it scared of me? Did I look somehow dangerous? Did he see a threat in my eyes and figured he wouldn’t risk it? All of those options do not seem likely at all?
Was it just a random coincidence?
My eyes follow the direction the strange animal took off in. My heart constricts in my chest, and my stomach turns in knots, a strange sadness coming over me. It was so beautiful, not to mention merciful. What a strange encounter.