Somewhere in a lifeless land, the black wolf twitched at the memories of his death as a man. There had been the burning shock of a blade sliding against his neck, sliding through it, and then the panic of not being able to breathe. The moon had spun dizzily in its waxing state, throbbing like a heart while chanted words pinned him in place. Kept him still.
Then there had been the darkness of a burial, each shovelful of dirt soaking up his blood and leaving him lost in silence. But he didn’t die. Didn’t rot. And when the moon next rose full and heavy, it cast ivory light upon a wolf shaking grave dirt from fur as dark as pitch, his tongue lolling with the effort of digging himself out. The hole left behind bore scraps of human clothing like some grotesque version of a cradle and its blankets—outgrown, unneeded.
As he panted there in the frigid air, the wolf smelled everything. Sharp remnants of magic. Old blood that had soaked into the earth like rain. His own rage. Then he caught hints of sweat from the ones who had buried him there.
Memories flickered at the edge of his mind, as dim and vexing as peering through frosted glass, but he remembered their faces at least. Yes, each and every face that had stared down at his mutilated form in a mixture of disgust and relief. That and their scents were enough to track them down. Enough to drag them into their own graves.
But when revenge is fulfilled and the empty ashes of determination are blown away, what then? To lust over another’s death is to be left empty once the final traces of blood are licked from satisfied teeth. Such a hollow existence, living as a monster in the shadows, and the black wolf soon realized it to be the true horror of his punishment.
For what is left to a nightmare creature that can slip between two worlds without belonging to either? His teeth. His hunger. His loneliness.
Embers still glowed near the bridge, and the air there still breathed ash among the warped metal of what had once been cars. The fire had devoured everything down to the skeleton and yet the black wolf lunged up from the cinders whole and furious, his yellow eyes the only color in a grey landscape. Reformed, eternal, untamed.
His ears swiveled against the utter silence of the burned forest, finding no hint of life. It didn’t matter. He still felt the strength of the shadows. Still understood that on this special night, the two worlds he knew had no barriers. The veil had lifted, and Alice would be alone with the bitch and her human puppets.He ran, hardly more than a shadow, himself. On a night when the dead could touch the living, all barriers fell away like dust. Nothing could stop him. Nothing would stop him. As the black wolf tracked Alice beneath the long reach of the moon, unrestrained by distance and time, his teeth flashed in a silent vow. If he had to, he would drag her back from death, itself.