Running with the Wolves

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
A girl named Talisa has left the town she grew up in and ran away to live alone in the wild. She is able to survive for a little bit on her own, but it becomes more difficult to stay alive. Will the wolves that she stumbles up on kill her? And what about her former life?

Submitted: April 08, 2017

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Submitted: April 08, 2017

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My name is Talisa. I have no family, because my parents are dead and my older brother ran away to the army when I was very young. I live on my own in the wilderness since I do not choose to live with strangers. I can fend for myself; I need no one to help me.
And yet...There are times when I wish to see a friendly face, just once to give me assurance that there are still people out there. I feel so lonely sometimes that I should like to scream, if only there was someone to hear me. Since I have been on my own, I have not come close to even an animal, besides the ones that I have killed. Meeting a bird or a small fox would give me comfort. 
I do not know how long I have been in the wilderness or how old I am. But I can hunt and survive the wilderness dangers just as well as any man. I have caught mink, various fowl, wild dogs, and once even a bear. I live in a cave that I insulated with clay and protected using boards. On many winter nights, however, I shiver in my threadbare clothes. I have a bear robe that my father bought from a Native American trading post, but I only use it on unbearably freezing nights. 
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It has been four days since I have had any meat to eat or fresh water to drink. All I have left to survive are a few roots and one or two eggs that I stole from a nest. I have plenty of firewood, but is one to eat wood? For the first time in my life to my knowledge, I am afraid--afraid of the weather. The beginnings of an enormous blizzard are showing, and I am frightened that if I leave my dwelling to find food, I will not be able to get back. I will die in the snowy wilderness, to be found only by wild beasts. But how else I am to survive? I can already feel myself weakening from hunger. I realize that I am too desperate for food to care what happens to me now. Perhaps while I am out I will find another cave that I may pass the storm in. 
I grab my father's bear robe and tied it securely around me. I am not so desperate that I would be foolish to not keep warm. I pick up my brother's old rifle and check to make sure that it is loaded. I hope to find a large animal that will suffice to feed me for a few days, which is how long I believe the storm will last. I shall keep the fire going, so that, if I am able to find my way back safely, I will be able to get warm and cook my meal immediately. 
The storm is only just starting; I should have enough time to find something. I do not know where to begin looking, so I start walking straight forward, hoping to find a clue soon. But all around me I see only large white humps that give no indication of hope. Looking back, I realize with a sinking feeling that I have walked very far in a short amount of time. It gives me only small assurance to glimpse the light from my fire. For an instant, I am tempted to turn back and return to the safety of my home. But another prick in my middle reminds me of what I must do. Turning my head against the wind, I push forward. I occasionally look up to see if there is any place where I may possibly find food. By now, the storm is now working up a fury, and I find it more and more difficult to see or walk. I have no idea how far I have walked. Long ago I gave up looking back to gain reassurance from the sight of my cave. I press forward, but my strength is almost gone. I can feel myself fading quickly. Now the blizzard is so strong that I know that I am lost. I am too tired to go on.

Suddenly, I see a dark form a short distance away. I strain my eyes to see it more clearly; it appears to be a wolf! At last, I have found hope! But I am so weak and cold that I cannot hold the gun properly. I look up and discover with horror that the wolf is looking straight at me! He has a majestic gleam in his eye; perhaps he is the leader of a pack. Now he crouches. I cannot hold out against the storm anymore; I will not be able to run, and the wolf will kill and eat me. I knew I should have remained in the solitude of the cave. As this thought flashes through my head, the last thing I see is the wolf, preparing to pounce...

I wake up in a cave. Was the whole scene only a dream? No, it could not have been, because I can still here the wind howling fiercely outside. I sit up, very stiff. Looking around, I realize that this is not my own cave. But then, where I am, and I how did I get here? I hear a low growl behind me. Twisting carefully, I see the glimmer of two eyes in the shadows of the cave. Those eyes are joined by another pair, and another. Then the eyes approach, slowly, deliberately. As they come closer, a form takes shape around them. First the nose, then the rumpled fur, followed by the pointy ears. At last, the entire body of an enormous wolf makes itself known. I do not know what to do. If I attempt to run, the wolves will be sure to catch me. But what happens if I stay where I am? I decide that it will be safer to stay in one spot. Perhaps they will ignore me and go about their own business.

But I am wrong. The first beast, whom I recognize as the one I saw in the storm, stalks up to me. I hold my breath fearfully as he carefully sniffs me. Then, without warning, he shoves his wet, icy cold nose under my shaking hand. Has he accepted me as a friend, or is this only to throw off my guard? The rest of the pack emerges from the shadows, cautiously it seems. They follow their leader's example, sniffing me thoroughly and then fawning over me. The more that they do this, the more comfortable I am. I allow them to leave my thoughts for a moment to speculate how I ended up in their own cave. I know for a fact that I did not walk. I glance down at my robe to see a spot where some of the fur is missing. I believe that the wolf and some of his pack dragged me here. A rush of gratitude fills my heart as this appears to be the most plausible explanation. 
Bringing my thoughts back to my new friends, I see a group of wolf cubs playing in a corner. I smile as they bark at each other in high-pitched voices. I shift my position suddenly, causing the pups to go skittering away into the shadows. They cower about the adults, whimpering. But noticing that they are not being threatened, they quickly come out to play again. One or two adventurous ones approach to investigate my robe. Gingerly reaching my hand down to them while keeping a wary eye on the older wolves, I pet both of them. Their fur is the softest thing I have ever touched, softer than the velvet on my mother's old dressing gown. She wore that gown every day: in the library, in the garden, even at meals. Meals! I realize with a sudden shock that I still have not eaten anything. I feel the faintness once more, especially seeing the pups preparing to have their own supper. 



But the wolves have not forgotten me. The leader, whom I shall call Baron, dragged a large carcass from the back of the cave. Looking at it closely, I see that it is a small black bear. I shall have to make a fire, since wolves obviously do not cook their own food. Hopefully I can do it without frightening them. I cannot afford that. As I stand up painfully, I take a sweeping glance around the cave. Ah, there is a small bit of wood. Using that and a few sharp rocks, I manage to coax a small flame. Taking my hunting knife, which I always keep attached to my belt, I cut off a chunk of meat, just enough to satisfy my hunger. I try to be nonchalant about it, but the way Baron and the others watch makes me nervous. As soon as I step away, the beasts fly at the carcass, tearing away huge pieces of meat and devouring these in a single gulp. While it is somewhat gruesome, I am grateful that they had the sense to wait for me to take my portion. 
*********************************
I have lived with Baron and his pack for many days now. The storm ended not long after my ordeal, but I choose to stay for companionship's sake. We spend our days playing, hunting, eating, sleeping, and sometimes running about in the open just to run. It is an exhilarating feeling: running with the brisk air in your lungs, your robe flapping behind you, and ten or so wolves surrounding you and running with you. They really are wonderful friends. When one of those times of loneliness for humans comes upon me, Baron or his mate (I named her Ileana) seem to sense it. One of them may come over to me to rest their furry head in my lap. Or a pup may come and beg me to play. I agree, if only to help me forget my loneliness. One of my favorite things to do when I am especially sad is to put my hand up to Baron's face and take hold of the thick, coarse fur on his cheek. Entwining my fingers in that fur has a certain comfort that I cannot explain. Perhaps it is the knowledge that Baron understands, for he bows his head whenever I do this, as if sharing my burden. 

I am racing with the pups, which are now about half-grown, when I see a dark form far in the distance. It is much too large to be a bear, but it is also too small to be a herd of animals. Well, I don't think it matters much. I raced the pups back to the cave, and sat down hard on the cold ground, laughing breathlessly. Ileana came up to me, staring at me with her liquid brown eyes. There was something in her look that made me pause, but I could not figure out what it was. Then I heard the sound of bells, and a man yelling. 

Jumping up, I dash to the cave's opening. Peering into the bright sunlight, I see a wagon without wheels being drawn by horses. Two or three people are in the wagon. Behind them is a pile of furs and hides of various animals. One person is standing in the front, yelling at the horses and cracking a whip. A second person is sitting just behind the first, holding what appears to be a rifle similar to my own. 

I am excited to see humans again, but I am afraid too. I don't know who they are, or what they will do to me. And what if they are hunting for wild animals? What if they kill my friends the wolves? But I am too paralyzed with fear to do anything. I can only stand dumbly in the opening, with a few of the wolves next to me, waiting as the wagon without wheels approaches rapidly. Before long, it has drawn up level with me. The man driving the horses yells to them, "Whoa!" When the wagon stops, he jumps down and strides toward me. Still I cannot move. It is as if he has some supernatural power that keeps me still. 

"Hello there!" He has a friendly voice, but how am I to know that he is a good man? "Why are you out here alone in this wild? Do you have family around here?" 

There is something familiar about him, but I do not know what. I recover myself and call back to him, "I am all right."

As he comes closer, a look comes over his face and he yells back at his friend, "Hey, Gabriel, there's wolves here! About ten or so! Better get your gun ready; these should bring a nice profit. Young lady--"

"NOOOO!" I shout, and throw my arms around Baron. I know what that man has in mind; he wants to kill my only friends and take them away to help himself. Out of the corner of my eye, I see that he has stopped in confusion. Suddenly, I release Baron and run at the man, screaming, "I hate you! I hate you! You want to kill my friends, only so you can help your dirty old self! I HATE YOU!" And with that I pounce on him, kicking him in the shins and attempting to punch him in the face. But I am no match for him. He easily pins my arms down. He laughs in my face, saying "You're just like my little sister. She was a feisty one, always ready to fight if need be. I wonder what happened to her, that Talisa."

His last words cause me to stop struggling. How does he know my name? I turn as best as I can to see his face. He has curly brown hair and there is facial hair along his jaw line. His nose is a nice nose, only slightly hooked. But those eyes...They are the deepest blue eyes I have ever seen. They awaken something in my memory, and before I can stop myself, the word comes out of my mouth: "David."

The look on his face is something I have never seen before. It is a mixture of surprise, suspicion, and something of that feeling I just described. Releasing me, he steps back and takes a long look at me. He makes a motion with his hand for his friend to lower his gun. Stepping toward me again, he embraces me and says with a sort of catch in his throat, "Talisa, where have you been this long while?" I return my brother's hug, feeling glad in a way that I may never feel again. 
After much talking, David persuades me to come home with him. I will dearly miss my friends, the beautiful wolves. I bend down for the last time, tears clouding my eyes so much that I can hardly see. I caress Baron again, with my fingers holding tightly to his fur, wishing that I would never have to let go. He bows his majestic head once more, farther this time than usual. It is as if he knows we will never see each other again. At last, knowing that David is getting impatient, I very reluctantly release that coarse, comforting fur. I sit up, calling to each of the wolves by name to say goodbye. I save Ileana and Baron for last, because they were my favorites. David helps me stand up and guides me to the wagon. He places me next to Gabriel and starts the horses again with a "Gee-up!" As we ride away, I look back and see that Baron has climbed up on the hill created by the cave. His chest is out, and I can just glimpse the fur being blown about by the wind. I wave back at him and stare as long as I can until he is out of sight. When Baron disappears, something inside me breaks. I begin to sob uncontrollably. Gabriel looks at me in wonder and perhaps disgust, but David considerately lets me cry my heart out. He does not know how strong my relationship was with the wolves, but he does understand that I need to hold onto that memory for as long as I can.


© Copyright 2017 Lizzie Stephens. All rights reserved.

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