“Wolf” Part I

This entry is part 1 of 6 in the series Wolf

It’s on me again, a blossoming pain.  Its petals spread and I forget what it means to be wholly human — as if I ever knew.

But, the world has shifted again, and the chase is upon me.

Wind and, tonight, rain.  My heart is leaping with the strength, the dark euphoria of the world.  There are no bounds, only the chase.

I chose him six days ago, as always.

For me, it’s difficult in the cities, but I have become somewhat adept.

His scent is a map, plotting where he is, where he was, who he’s with, and who he’s been with; I know what he’s eaten, what he’s wearing.  And, I know he’s afraid.

He smells of flight, though he doesn’t know the source of his agitation, or recognize the urge.  How dull he seems; there are eruptions of anger from every dog for blocks, but none within the area of my presence.  Instinct buried under tens of thousands of years of civilization is trying to save his miserable life and he can’t comprehend its warnings.

I can.  I can sense it all through the chemicals of his body.

He peers from his second story window, but I wait beneath the iron stairs, in the deepest shadows of the trash-filled alley.

His scent, teeming with tension, only furthers my need.

Finally, I am unable to resist the climb up to satiation.  He nearly begs for release and reacts like some stricken animal in the wild.  I hear a door slam.

His tension and fear finally reach a screaming pitch on the edge of my nerves, and I am through his window with a crash of glass.  He’s behind a door, foolishly, not the one leading out.  It shatters and I am upon him, his fear now a fever consuming him, streaming like some heated vapor from his every pore, ebbing with the flow of his blood and the slow ceasing of his heartbeat.

So leaves the need…  As always.

Many times I’ve pondered the Kill.  It’s as if the act alone should abate the compulsion; however, after the Kill, the Feast.  After the Feast, sleep.

***

I awakened cold, as always, in my bed, on top of the sheets, fetal.

The only thing I recalled of the night and my victim was the blood, but I knew I brought him down.

Should I know remorse?  What does it mean that I don’t?  Sometimes I struggle with the imponderables, but to what end?

I glanced at the clock, its red glow bristling in the dark of pre-morn.  I still had three hours before the mundane was upon me again in all its glory.

I never had to clean up after the Kill.  Somehow, maybe during the Change, it took care of itself; still, I must care for my mundane appearance.  Even without the Gift, I’m sure I would have been a hirsuite specimen.  My father looked like a shaved bear with perpetual five-day growth from head to foot.  Even my mother had facial hair.

It’s the eyebrow plucking that I hate, but the surest way to avoid scrutiny is to blend.  At least that’s what the old ones tell me.  And they should know — that’s how they got old.

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“Wolf” Part II

This entry is part 2 of 6 in the series Wolf

Amid the pungent moistness of the drying streets, cars and buildings, I caught the scents of Silver and three of the Others approaching as I left to walk to work.  I could tell they had had a successful hunt, but then, their hunt was under no self-imposed qualms or restrictions, nor did it occur only one night per week.

The Others had a more instinct-driven approach to the Gift.  Theirs was a bond forged from natural hierarchy: pack mentality.  The oldest and strongest ruled, while the weakest served.  The young were held in the place they deserved: cared for, nutured, taught the ways of survival in man’s world.  If any of us treated it as a Gift, I thought, it was the Others.

If it weren’t for Silver, I felt certain the Others would have chased me from their territory long ago.  But he and I had developed a relationship I hesitated to call friendship, closer to kinship, only because my hunting never posed a threat to their survival.

Sometimes I thought Silver pitied my stunted sense of the Gift, and adopted me to save me from the oblivion of loneliness.  To him, a wolf without a pack was akin to a fish out of water.

“So,” Silver began with an arched eyebrow, “ how’d you fare last night?”  He brushed at a stray lock of silver-blue hair, his namesake.  In man’s world, his name was Steven, but I could never bring myself to consider this beautiful beast a “Steven”.

I grinned, of course he had scented my success as I had scented theirs.  “I had passing good luck.  And that string of rapes on the upper-east side has just come to an abrupt end.”

He clapped me on the back and grinned.  “You know, your super-hero antics make for ome good reading in the papers.  But I still don’t understand your need to help them.”  He waved an all-encompassing hand at the world as we walked.

This was old territory between us.

“I’m not helping them as much as myself.  I couldn’t bear to look in the mirror if I had brought down an innocent woman or child, or worse.  What I do needs to be done, one way or another.”

“That’s a man talking, not a wolf.”  The Others chuckled, silenced by a grunt from Silver.  It was no wonder I had no friends among the Others, but Silver; I was obviously favored above Silver’s own pack.

“I was a man before I became a wolf.  So were we all.”

His nostrils flared, “I surely don’t remember that.”

He even curled his lips in mock indignation.

We had played this same game for nearly six years, almost word for word.  Laying claim to our positions in man’s world every time we met.  It sure beat sniffing his ass.

“So, Silver, to what do I owe this capable escort?”  I gestured at the Others behind us.

I was assaulted by the crisp, acrid scent of fury as Silver’s face darkened, “Something has come into my domain.”

His brows drew together and he stopped to face me, “I can smell it, feel it. This ‘something’ isn’t right.  I’m not sure what it is, but it doesn’t feel like one of us.  One thing is certain, it knows of us and has taken great pains to avoid detection.”

The scent of him and the tension in his square jaw bespoke volumes of concern for his Others.

“I haven’t noticed anything strange, but then, I don’t roam in Others’ territory very often.  You keep it free from the prey that match my tastes.”  He would know my words were as sincere as his.

He halted, looked at my bookstore then at me.  “We part company here, my friend.  If you do notice –“

“You’ll be the first to know, Silver, you must realize that.”  I had never seen this formidable wolf so concerned and it moved me to distraction.

Silver sensed it right away, “Listen, Jared, perhaps I am blowing this all out of proportion, but I just wanted you to be aware, and alert.  It simply doesn’t feel like the usual loner.  Not like you, not even like that rogue Zens.”  He glanced back at the Others.  “We had best be about our search.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  Hope business goes well.”

“Be safe, Silver.”

He grinned, “No worries.”

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“Wolf” Part III

This entry is part 3 of 6 in the series Wolf

Business was light all morning, which left me with ample time to mull over the preoccupation Silver had planted in my head.

Since I had known him, Silver had repulsed dozens of rogues and accepted a few, including me.  The worst of them had never roused the kind of concern I had sensed in him.

If Zens couldn’t frighten Silver, then I had no desire to meet whatever was raising his hackles now.

Zens had no man’s name, he had no desire to live in man’s world.  To that end, he had made it his crusade to devour man’s world.  He slaughtered indiscriminately, which would bother few wolves I knew.  He had however crossed several unwritten, but instinctive, boundaries among our kind.

He never concealed the nature of his kills – of itself no great offense.  It had occurred throughout man’s world and had become food for conspiracy theorists and tabloids on an unending basis.  No, the greatest offense was that he encroached on territories with the same lack of concern which he had for revealing his nature.  This could not be tolerated within the pack structure: to reveal a pack was tantamount to destroying it, even if man’s world only saw a “lunatic cult” it was still shining light into something best left in the dark recesses of man’s imagination.

That the Others were the first to confront the rogue Zens was debatable, even doubtful.  Silver, however, made certain that no other pack would deal with him again.

Zens was a huge beast, some of the old ones said he was a throwback to the fathers of our kind, the Eastern European stock.  Black as night, blazing, feral red eyes – impossible to mistake him for a large dog or coyote.

Silver led the Others for longer than the span of a man, some say many times longer.  He was an elegant beast, shining silver like the moon, eyes blazing like stars trapped on Earth.  Where Zens possessed cunning, Silver blended an educated man’s mind with the innate intelligence of a beast’s.

Zens fought as only a great wolf can, wicked speed and ferocity, but the end was ordained.  Silver was mercifully quick with the death stroke and had never doubted the outcome.

Now Silver knew doubt.  I shivered at the thought and started as the door chime announced the all too infrequent entrance of a customer.  I looked at my watch, still half an hour until lunch.

“Excuse me, sir, I hope you can help me.”

I looked up at the deep tone colored by an unplaceable accent and was stricken by the sheer grace of the man I beheld.  He was tall, well over my six feet three, but unassumingly svelte; he wore his hair long, draped in an auburn mane over his left shoulder which fell to mid-chest.  As his eyes met mine, I was captivated by the deepness of their blue, enhanced by the size of his pupils in my dimly lighted shop.

He continued, unaffected by my scrutiny.  “You wouldn’t happen to have a copy of Mendel’s Works of Man?  I have been less than fortunate around town, and three of my stops have yielded your store as a possible end to my search.”

I tore my eyes from him and cleared my throat, affecting a cough to cover my embarrassment.

“Pardon me,” I began.  “Mendel, hunh?  Well, I seem to remember having a copy here, but it’s been some time…”

I moved from behind the counter, passing within a foot of this most elegant man, trying to concentrate on finding the text.  I heard him follow, and glimpsed his distorted figure in the security mirror at the end of the aisle.  Even in the convex silvered glass his motions possessed a certain refinement.

He chuckled, and I turned to see what he had thought humorous.

His face held little to describe his age, and his eyes sparkled as I beheld the even whiteness of his smile.  “Pardon me, but it has been some time since I saw a copy of the Gita in the occult section.”

I grinned faintly, unaware of the joke and doubting its sincerity.  I picked up the errant Bhagavad Gita, intent on reshelving it.  “Wrong section.  I get customers who treat this place like a public library on their lunch hour.”  I felt somehow inadequate to the conversation he seemed to be seeking, and returned to the search for his book.

“Here,” I reached to retrieve Mendel’s one true contribution to philosophy.  “I thought I had one.”  I extended the book to him.

His slightest movement enthralled me; merely reaching for the book brought to mind the spreading pinions of some great bird preparing to take flight.

As he accepted the book he chuckled again and flashed an even broader smile, all teeth.  His eyes rooted me to the floor with unabashed appraisal.  He weighed the very soul of me and as he turned to leave, I felt I had somehow come up lacking.

With the last jingle of the door chime I started as if from sleep.

I tried to remember what he had looked like but could only recall the blue-black eyes.

Several minutes later I realized I still held the Gita and he had failed to pay for my last copy of Mendel.

It took me another fifteen minutes to realize that the stranger had at no time evinced a scent.

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“Wolf” Part IV

This entry is part 4 of 6 in the series Wolf

The strange man’s difference had been apparent to me all along, but his utterly sublime charisma had caught me off guard.  I felt there was a promise buried within his every look, his every movement.  If only I could discern what he offered…

I knew without a doubt he was a wolf, even without the telltale markings of a chemical nature.  Yet, as Silver had suggested, there was something more to him, something not quite right.

I decided to close early and to regroup my wits at the park.  I could always think better within the trees.

I paused in the doorway as I entered the noonday pedestrian flow.   I could scent the day’s other customers: four women; one, two months pregnant; nothing, however of him.  Even his clothing left no discernable trail – impossible.

Seated upon my rock, I watched the play of the children on summer release.  They appeared to swim below me in the shimmering warmth the golden sun poured into the vale between the trees.  I felt the warmth creep upon me and the slow shuttering, momentary muffling, ever more reclining signs of a catnap overtaking me, so I gave in.

It seemed my eyes had just closed when I dreamed of the scene below.

The children swam in their play.  I could see within their roiling midst a group of dark, frenzied form, blazing eyes, bared teeth, moving about as if searching for something.

Across the sea of youth and wolf I saw a lone, magnificent wolf gazing toward me.  I had seen its like only once and then only because I had chanced upon his epic clash with Silver.  I knew however, this wolf was not Zens.  In appearance he came from the same stock.  He was huge beyond any dog or true wolf, black as the absence of light.  Blazing crimson eyes seemed to reach out to me, pleading with me, drawing me.  I rose to heed them and I saw the pack below whirl and advance on my position.

They sought to keep me from the beast across the vale, but I would not be stopped.

I had never willed the change, merely succumbed to it; now however, my desire to reach the great wolf far outweighed my fear of the agony it would bring.

A strange sensation overcame me, a pleasant warmth suffusing my entire body.  I watched in rapt fascination as my extremities contorted, widened, flattened, shortened, shifted themselves painlessly, effortlessly into their destined forms.  I realized with a start that my skin was blackening, then laughed aloud as I discovered that it was a thick black coat pushing its way out through my skin.

I felt the transition begin and could no longer lie upon the ground as witness.  I rolled to all fours on unfamiliar appendages as my rib cage expanded and my waist shrank.  I shook the tatters of clothing from about me and became absorbed in the fascination of my elongating snout.  I laughed a short, sharp bark as whiskers pushed their way from out my newly formed face.

I knew this for a dream, yet I knew this must be my true wolf form.  I wondered that Silver had never remarked on my obvious descent from the great ones, he had seen me return from the kill often enough…

I beheld the wolves climbing the escarpment to my rock and felt a growing pity for them.

I growled a warning that they should depart.  To my surprise, to a wolf, they turned about, leapt to the field and fled into the trees.

The great wolf still stood across the sea of children.  I trotted down the rocky path to seek a way through the maze of sun-drenched children at play.

I spied a glimmer, a flash, within and between the gleaming bodies, never a definite shape; Silver paced me within the maze.

I could see the end of the sea of children, my escape from the maze, when Silver darted out from between shimmering forms before me.

I paused for an instant when Silver launched.  He wanted my throat, but the moist crack as my shoulder struck his lower jaw changed his mind…  He hadn’t seen me move.  I couldn’t believe he was so slow, so frail – surely a product of the dream.

Silver collapsed and disappeared amid the seething, sun-glistening mass of youth, and I could see the great wolf at the very edge of the tree line, upon his own rocky escarpment; I saw him beckoning with his eyes, his body, his very essence.

I leapt free of the sun and into the shadow of a tree line some yards away yet, and a glint from the rear was all I received in warning of Silver’s leaping attack.  To avoid him I had to drop to the ground, losing sight of the great wolf.  Silver recovered from his leap and sought to bar my way, no longer attacking, just pacing me.  He blocked my view up the gravel and stone laden path to the trees.

As I bunched my muscles to leap over him, Silver surprised me by speaking through his lupine throat.

“Sshtop.”  He collapsed before me, in a rain of silver fur, which quickly dissolved into a fine gray dust about and upon the human that is Silver.  “Stop, hear me out.”

I paused, still crouching, and growled.

Silver, eyebrows arching, remained undaunted, even in the nude on a hill before a sun-soaked playground in my dream.

“If you wish to follow the rogue I will not bar your way –“

He didn’t acknowledge my grunted disgust.

“But you must understand that he has come to destroy us and all that we live for; everything we believe in.”

I could no longer bear to remain unheard so I sought to speak and my throat, my tongue, even my teeth shifted to accommodate my desire.

“You cannot be serious.”

Silver’s mouth gaped.  His shoulders dropped and his head bowed to his chest as walked the trail toward me.  In a whisper, he spoke, “So it has begun.”

As he spoke, he fell to all fours and transformed simultaneously, fluidly becoming a wolf and pushing past me to exist as a flash of silver among the golden play.

There awaited a wolf within the woods before me and hopefully, some sort of sense, else this dream were fantasy.

From the darkness between the trees there approached a deeper dark, then the great wolf stood before me.

“I know what you would ask of me, yet I do not believe you are ready for the answers.”

He turned to go and the sun exploded above me.

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“Wolf” Part V

This entry is part 5 of 6 in the series Wolf

I awoke to the glare of sunshine outlining Silver’s upper body as he approached my rock.  All I could recall of the dream was the lupine grin the great wolf wore that seemed to approach laughter as I shouted, “Wait!  I need to know!”

“Need to know what?”  Silver crested the small hill and I could see his smile.

In a flash of remembrance, I saw Silver flying at my throat.  My fragmented, wispy dream made me suddenly wary of him, and Silver’s eyes belied his confusion.  “What’s the matter, why are you upset?”

His confusion was genuine.  I couldn’t place it, but something was wrong with me.  Silver’s presence was agitating me, and he knew this, as only a wolf’s synthesis of senses can know a thing.

“If I’ve upset you with this rogue talk, forgive me.”  His brow was creased with his concern and his manner and scent showed me his sincerity.  I did not doubt him, yet I grew more restless as Silver approached.

Finally within a couple of yards of me he stopped.  “I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve this, I came to the park in pursuit of the rogue, and here you lie in the wake of his path.  Did you not sense him?”

I moved as if to speak, but halted.  I knew my body would betray me in so many ways that lying to Silver about the rogue in my store would be impossible.  I began to understand the message my body was trying to send my mind: flee; leave this wolf behind; conceal the source of your discomfort and unravel the knot, your mind!  The dimly recalled flashes and swirling half-images of the dream were ever at the helm of this decision.

“I’m sorry, Silver, I must leave.”  I did not run.  I knew Silver would not follow, his dignity forbade it.   I stepped from the gates of the park into the incessant traffic, both human and mechanical.  I had to grin at the thought of Silver mulling over this episode as he tracked the rogue.  I knew he would eventually seek me out to discover the truth behind my avoidance.

I couldn’t face him now.  Not knowing what I –  What?  I mused, What did I know?

I could easily face Silver if my only knowledge were that of the rogue’s appearance, but  it ran deeper.  So deep I could not fathom its form.  How could I defend myself and the rogue from Silver if I was unsure why I should feel the need to do so in the first place?

Why hadn’t I just spilled everything – the rogue, the dream…  Silver would understand, wouldn’t he?

A chill crept up my spine: Silver at my throat in dream world was the only answer I had.

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