The Wolf Who Did Not Know He Was a Wolf

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
A story of self-discovery

Submitted: October 08, 2018

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Submitted: October 08, 2018

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Once upon a time there was a little wolf who did not know he was a wolf. He woke up every morning in his cozy, underground burrow, wriggled through the tree roots that created a doorway to the outside world, and skipped over to a nearby stream to catch his breakfast (usually trout). He kept his distance from the other forest animals, but he sometimes observed them from a bough in his favorite tree. The tree was old and gnarled, and looked like it might have once been three or four smaller trees that resolved to grow together into one grander, more impressive tree. Perched high above the ground and hidden from view by twisting branches, the wolf felt as if he were a part of the forest itself. Sometimes a lone bird would flutter down to rest nearby, but it usually took off in a flurry of feathers and chirps when it noticed the wolf.

The wolf was alone, but he did not mind being alone. He enjoyed the peaceful solitude of his afternoon walks, and the familiar sights, sounds, and smells of his home. He did not have a given name (at least, not one he could remember), but thought he might call himself “Mooncloud” if anyone asked who he was. He came up with this name after he overheard two rabbits talking for quite a while under his tree. After several minutes of conversation, the wolf determined that they were parents discussing one of their children. It seemed “Hopper” wasn’t quite keeping up with his brothers and sisters when it came to foraging, and both parents were concerned about his future. Eventually, it was decided Hopper would take extra lessons in the afternoon, and could go back to his regular schedule once he showed he was taking his education seriously. The rabbits left, no doubt to inform Hopper that his afternoon play-time was about to be encroached upon, and the wolf was left to his thoughts.

“Hopper is probably what they call the rabbit who likes to hop more than anything else,” thought the wolf. “What do I like more than anything else?” He considered his morning stretch when he first came out of his burrow, but “Stretcher” did not sound like a good name for him. He thought about sitting in his favorite tree, but “Tree-Watcher” sounded like a name for someone who watched trees, and “Tree-Sitter” sounded like a derogatory name for a lazy bird. Still, he did enjoy looking at things from his tree; even just looking at things in general. He realized that, although he spent his waking hours in the forest and his sleeping hours underground, he most enjoyed looking up at the sky. During the day, he stared up at the clouds, watching them change from pale streaks of white, to fluffy giants towering above the horizon, to dark rainclouds low and heavy overhead. At night, he gazed up at the cheerful, twinkling expanse of stars, but his eyes were always drawn to the moon. Sometimes it was a tiny sliver of silver peeking around a dark, round shadow, and sometimes it was so big and bright he thought he might catch it if he walked all night. But no matter what its shape, it was always captivatingly beautiful. The wolf decided he would be “Mooncloud,” and from that day on, he had a name.

A summer and an autumn passed, and the air in the forest grew crisp and cold with the oncoming frost. One morning the wolf awoke to find everything covered in a blanket of freshly fallen snow. He loped cheerfully through the wintry forest, the muffled sounds making the world around him seem small, yet welcoming. In all of his excitement, the little wolf wandered farther than usual from his burrow, enjoying the mingled scents of snow and pine. As the ground began to slope below his feet, he stopped suddenly and looked around him: The trees in this part of the forest were smaller, but closer together. Their long, narrow trunks climbed high in the air, and their branches all had a uniform dusting of snow, making them look identical.

The wolf turned back and saw his tracks in the snow – he was in unfamiliar territory, but he knew the way back. He looked up at the sky, clear blue with a cold winter sun. There would not be more snow coming to cover his tracks any time soon, so perhaps he could keep exploring. He took a cautious step forward on the sloping ground, then another, and then set off at a comfortable trot. At the bottom of the hill, he came to a clearing. Bits of tall grass poked out of the snow, and sprang back up after the wolf stepped on them. He sniffed at a blade of grass, and sneezed when it tickled his nose. After a pause, he leapt into a particularly tall tuft of grass and began to roll around delightedly.

“Who are you, then?” said a small voice just off to his left. The wolf started to attention, his eyes darting around the clearing. “You’ve got some old leaves in your fur,” the voice added. He looked down and noticed a grey-brown squirrel peering at him with curiosity. The wolf paused. He had practiced this moment back in his burrow, whispering “I am Mooncloud” even when there was no one there to overhear him. He breathed in the invigorating scent of the snow and grass and leaves and said “Moo-cloud” in a rush of breath. “Oh, so you’re a cow, then,” said the squirrel. “I know about cows. My cousin lives on a farm.” She cocked her head to the side and looked at him again. “Where are your spots, then? Do you lose them in the winter?”

“No,” said the wolf. This was the longest conversation he’d ever had, and he was finding it difficult to keep up with the squirrel’s chatter.

“Got it, no spots, then,” said the squirrel, matter-of-factly. “My name’s Collie,” she added. “It’s my third winter here. The nuts were better last year, but you know how it is. Or maybe you don’t, since you’re a cow. Do cows eat nuts? My cousin told me they were mean, but you seem nice, so maybe you like nuts, even if farm cows don’t like them.”

“Mooncloud,” said the wolf slowly. “My name is Mooncloud.”

“Oh!” Collie exclaimed, making Mooncloud jump slightly. “Not a cow, then. That explains it.” Mooncloud did not think this explained anything, but he waited, thinking perhaps she had more to say. He was right.

“You’re probably new here, because I’ve never seen you before, and I notice everything.” She puffed her chest out proudly. “My father was a spy, you know.”

“A spy?” asked Mooncloud.

Collie nodded seriously. “He went on all sorts of missions. He wasn’t allowed to take me, but I probably picked up a lot of his skills just from observation. Spies have to be very observant. For instance,” she declared, standing to attention “I notice you’re passing through this field. You still have old leaves in your fur, which you got from rolling around in the grass. The leaves are from this field, but you’re not, which means you must be trying to blend in, which means you’re on a mission! Oh!” Collie was practically quivering with excitement at this latest proclamation, but she stopped just short of clapping her hands together in glee. “You are on a mission, aren’t you?” she asked.

Mooncloud paused, looking at the hopeful expression on Collie’s face. He was torn between his desire to explore the snowy forest with a new friend and the nagging voice telling him to return to the comfortable solitude of his home. He decided it might be nice to have a friend for the afternoon. Shaking the leaves out of his fur, he replied “Yes.”

“Oh!” Collie exclaimed, doing a little half-leap into the air. She looked at him thoughtfully. “I guess I ruined your cover, then. But if you stick with me, you’ll fit right in, and I can be your local guide. You’ll have to brief me, then. I need to know where we’re going if I’m going to guide you there.”

A guide! Where would Mooncloud go, if he had a guide to show him the way? He was sure he could find his way back home from here, so Collie would only need to be able to lead him back to this clearing.

“I am going to talk to the moon,” he said, and the words stirred a longing in his heart he had never known was there. “Can we get there by nightfall?”

Collie gave him a strange look, and for a moment Mooncloud was worried she would laugh at him or tell him she did not know the way. But it was a fleeting expression, quickly replaced by a look of determination. “We’ll have to get to the top of that mountain,” she said, pointing to a snow-capped peak looming over the treetops. “That’s the only place you’ll be close enough.”

Mooncloud nodded, and Collie shouted “follow me!” and together they set off to reach the mountain top. It was not an easy journey, and they were still less than halfway to the mountain top as the sun was setting. Although they could still see some light in the sky above, they were picking their way through a patch of tall, scraggly trees that kept the light (and the snow) from reaching the ground. Mooncloud was about to suggest they turn back and go home when Collie said “this looks like a good place to stop for the night!” Any tree would have been a good place for Collie to sleep, but this particular tree sat in a wide clearing, and had low, wide boughs large enough to support Mooncloud. “Okay,” he said.

Collie scurried up to a high branch and yelled down, “Goodnight, Mooncloud! We’ll get there by nightfall, alright, but it’ll probably be tomorrow’s nightfall.”

“Goodnight, Collie.” Mooncloud replied. He half expected to wake up in the morning and find her gone, in search of a newer, more exciting mission. But he had made it this far, and now he wanted to talk to the moon. Would it really be able to hear him from the mountain top? And would it say anything back? Curled up in an unusual tree, his mind racing with unusual thoughts, he finally drifted off to sleep.

“Good morning!” Collie chirped when Mooncloud awoke, and for a second Mooncloud looked around for whatever bird was talking to him and wondered how he had fallen asleep in his tree. Then he realized it was not his tree and remembered that he was on a mission! The two of them set off bright and early, splitting up briefly in the middle of the morning when Collie went to gather some nuts and Mooncloud caught a fish from a nearby mountain stream. He caught a second one to share with Collie, but she sniffed it delicately and declared it to be “not squirrel food.”

As the day passed and they continued to climb, the air grew colder, the tress thinned out, and the snow on the ground grew thicker. Soon there was no tree cover left, and Mooncloud could only follow Collie by searching for the tip of a squirrel tail poking out of the snow. The top layer of snow was powdery enough for her to tunnel through, but Mooncloud was worried for his new friend. “Maybe you should turn back,” he suggested reluctantly.

“And abandon the mission? Never!” Collie retorted, scowling at him angrily. Her expression softened slightly. “Maybe you could give me a ride, then?”

So Mooncloud bent forward, Collie clambered onto his back, and the two of them continued on toward the mountaintop. The sun began to set, painting the sky with beautiful streaks of orange, yellow, and pink, and setting the hills and the forest below them as a black outline against the sky. Large craggy rocks jutted out of the snow in places, giving them shelter from the wind and snow-free ground to rest upon.

The top of the mountain was so close and Mooncloud was so focused on reaching it that he did not even notice the moon rising behind him. The sky grew dark, but the snow was bathed in the cool-blue light that can only come from a moon in the night sky, and for the last part of their journey, he felt as if he were walking on the clouds. Even Collie, who had chattered her way through every imaginable story and conversation topic over the past two days, was reverently silent.

Suddenly, Mooncloud took a step forward and realized he was at the highest point of the mountain. “We made it,” he whispered.

“There!” gasped Collie, jumping down to a nearby rock and pointing back in the direction they had come from.

It was more dazzling and radiant than Mooncloud could have ever imagined. He had looked up at the moon so many times, but never had he felt so close to it. A sudden urge came over him, and he threw back his head and howled at the moon. His howls were like music, echoing off of the mountain and creating waves of sound. They reverberated down to the earth itself and rang back out towards the sky, the moon all the while beaming at them with luminous beauty. Mooncloud looked up at the moon as his howls faded away and saw that it had heard him.

He smiled down at Collie and said “I could not have done this mission without you.”

The two of them went on many adventures together after that, but they would always remember the time they talked to the moon.

 


© Copyright 2018 K.F. Zilberman. All rights reserved.

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