The Lady and the Wolf

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
a woman who is searching for something inside herself finds a wounded animal in the woods.

Submitted: January 19, 2017

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Submitted: January 19, 2017

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THE LADY AND THE WOLF

 

It seemed as if he had been running for days, and perhaps he had.

His neck was raw and bleeding where he had pulled loose from the collar. His blood congealed like a thick syrup around his shoulders and head.

There was a time when the captivity had suited him. But that was long ago and virtually beyond the reach of a wolf's memory.

What had changed? Why did he pull himself from the collar, tearing his fur and his flesh, nearly choking in the process. He was fed. He had a warm place to sleep. He was safe. Why couldn't he have bee satisfied, even happy?

He had never really known the woods. He had been found as little more than a pup and taken in. His mother was long gone, a mere shadow of a memory. The wild was an alien place to him, or at least it should have been.

Running through the trees, free really for the first time in his life, he felt exhilarated and the adrenaline that flooded his system carried him further than what could ordinarily have been expected from a tired, bleeding, hungry animal.

The woods were new yet old to him. Call it deja vous, instinct, collective memory, or just good fortune he was at home, really at home.

In the cool crisp clear days of late winter, when spring hangs in the air like a promise not quite fulfilled, she walked for hours in the wild woods content with her own thoughts and the freedom that comes from being by one's self.

She had a small cabin in a clearing in the heart of the forest. Tall and beautiful, with golden silky hair, she lived alone. She was originally from the valley below, and she often returned there, but it was in the high forest that she was free. At night she would look at the eternal sky and draw strength from the light that was old before her grandparents' grandparents were born. She gazed on stars that in the valley were obscured by the lights of the town, and they reflected the beauty and kindness of her eyes, and mirrored the depth of her soul.

At first she did not see him. She mistook his silver gray fur for unmelted snow, protected from the sun by the shade of the tree under which he lay. What caught her eye was the slight movement of his chest as he breathed and the redness of the bright blood that marred the symmetry of his coat.

It would have been very simple to just keep walking and leave the wolf to die. But without thinking she went to him. She knew immediately what he was, a wolf, that is to say a hunter, and, though not vicious in his killing, a killer by nature. Later she would wonder why? Perhaps it was a mother instinct that she did not know she possessed, or at least believed she had long since purged, or maybe she was simply impressed by the creature's combination of power and helplessness. It was a question she was never fully able to answer.

She walked cautiously over to his prone body and gently laid her hand on his side. The wolf jerked, but exhausted and bleeding his defenses were completely down. He tried to stand but his legs failed him. He tried to show his teeth and growl but all he could do was cry. He was afraid.

Beneath her hand she could feel him tremble. She stroked his fur and spoke gentle soothing words in to his ear. The wolf relaxed, still afraid and in pain but at that moment resigned to whatever was going to occur.

Somehow she managed to get him on to a small cart she kept at the cabin to carry supplies and wheel him home. She cleaned his wounds and made a bed for him out of straw on her front porch, and there he slept, with dreams of the wild woods running through his head.
 

That night the dream came to her again, more real this time than ever before. As always it was dark and cold. She was standing on the mountaintop looking down on to the valley. The lights of the town and the farm houses pierced the darkness, pale reflections of the stars above. The cold surrounded her and she absorbed it like water into a sponge. Her thick gray coat and fur boots were no protection.

Like a shadow a feeling of loneliness swept over her. It was as if she was a child again, longing for approval and her heart filled with an unidentified yearning and sense of urgency.

"Choose." A male voice said. She had had this dream many times before and despite the fact she expected the voice it was still a shock.

"Choose what!" she screamed in startled reply.

She turned in the direction that the voice had come from. "Who are you? What do you want from me?" she said. Out of the corner of her eye she saw something move, she turned and she was suddenly no longer on the mountain.

"Want another beer Hon?" asked the bartender. Surprised at the sudden change, all she could say was yes.

She was sitting at a bar, with people she knew yet was unable to recognize. Their faces were blurry, and their names were just beyond memory.

There was a conversation going on but no matter how hard she concentrated on the words that were spoken she could make no sense of what was said. Each word had its meaning, but collectively they did not form phrases and sentences. She felt a sense of panic growing inside of her she knew she had to get away.

The bar tender put a beer down in front of her, and she took a long drink. Then she said "Excuse me, I have got to go to the rest room." She got off her bar stool and picked up her purse. Once she got to the rest room she closed door to the stall and opened her purse desperately looking for something to write with and on. She felt an overwhelming need to put down her feelings. All she could find was an eye brow pencil and an old parking ticket. She began to scribble as quickly as she could, but before she could write much the scene changed again.

She was in the arms of her lover. The warmth, the tenderness, and the luxurious feel of her skin against his were a great and welcome pleasure. But in the instant of the full realization of her pleasure in rapid succession come a series of moments each more disturbing than its predecessor. There was a moment when there is no more passion between them, another when they no longer talked, and then the instants when she discovers he steals from her, when he cheats on her, and finally the tears and regrets of the final painful parting.

Again she was on top of the mountain, now in a clearing in the forest. It is snowing and there is no sound except the branches of the trees gently rustling. No one else is there but she is not alone. She feels safe and secure. There is a movement in the trees, and then there is a sound she cannot recognize though she knows she should.

"What is this?'' she says. There is no answer and the dream ends.

 

In the weeks that followed the wolf healed and his strength gradually returned. He became her companion. When she walked in the woods he would run large circles around her, playfully stalking her, almost cat like. He was a big affectionate puppy.

She fed him and quickly she learned what he liked most to eat. At night she would allow him to sleep close to her. The wolf came to rely on her. She was his pack, and it was obvious to her that he had no idea of his own strength and potential. She knew that it was wrong to keep him, after all he was a wild creature and he had the right to live free, but, though it was selfish, she could not bear the thought of letting him go. His company, his gratitude for being alive and his unconditional devotion filled some void in her. There were places in her heart where she dared never go. The wolf's presence guaranteed that she would never need to.

From the wolf's perspective she was everything. It was because of her that he had not died alone in the forest. Often he would go to the edge of the clearing where her cabin was, and listen to the sounds of the woods. He could hear the secret noises that ring only in the ears of the hunter. They were a sirens call, but each time he began to respond something would happen. He would hear her voice, or the wind would change and he would scent her, and before he would realize it he would be back on her front porch, head in her lap, content.

In form the wolf’s new life was not all that much different from what his old one had been. In substance it was radically changed. She took no steps to restrain him. He was completely free to leave at any time he wished, and forever. He stayed not out of some false sense of devotion or because of a collar around his neck. He stayed because he wanted to and because just as he filled some need in her she filled a need in him.

 


At first the wolf thought all he had heard was a deer. He instinctively moved in its direction, making maximum use of the cover and taking care to at all times to stay down wind, but as he got closer he realized that this was not a deer, it was a man, someone he had never seen before.

The man was walking up the path directly to the clearing where she had her cabin. By the way he walked it was obvious he was not accustomed to hiking forest trails. The unevenness of the climb caused him to misstep more than once and on one occasion fall. The man arose swearing at no one except perhaps himself.

The wolf watched from a respectful distance, not quite sure what to do about this invader. It had been months since she had found him and he had gotten accustomed to her and her alone. To him it was as if there were no other people and the sudden appearance of the man left him confused.

As the man got closer to the clearing the wolf got closer to the man. As he crossed out of the trees the wolf positioned himself squarely in the man's path. The wolf's confusion had given way to his innate need to defend his territory. The man had crossed what the wolf considered to be the last threshold and was not just a mere trespasser anymore, but an attacker. The wolf stared at the man, his eyes fixed and focused, his fur bristling, teeth barred, and a low growl emitted from his throat. He was ready to fight for what was his.

Walking from the darkness of the woods to the light of the clearing the man was suddenly confronted by the sight of the wolf. He had a momentary feeling of panic which quickly passed. His first thought was to run, but though inexperienced in the woods, he was not stupid. He knew that if he ran the wolf would chase, and it would be a race that the man could not win. Avoiding eye contact he reached deep into a coat pocket and slowly pulled out a revolver. Making no sudden movement he raised his arm and pointed the weapon at the snarling wolf.

"NO!" she shouted. Both wolf and man simultaneously turned their heads to her.

"Don't shoot him! Just stand there and I will take care of this." She said.

"Do you know what you are doing?" he said keeping his aim fixed at the animal.

"Yes, he won't hurt you, just do not shoot and let me get to him."

She walked slowly over to the wolf and knelt down beside him. Putting her arm around his neck she whispered softly in his ear, and with her other hand she stroked the side of his head.

"It is OK" she said to the wolf.

To the man she said "walk over to the house, just don't turn your back on him and move slowly. No sudden actions. I will hold him. It will be fine."

"I don't like this," he said.

"You should have told me you were coming. I would have met you down the side of the mountain."

"And how was I supposed to do that? Carrier pigeon? Smoke signal?"

"Much more of that and I'll the wolf eat you. So just get in the house and we'll talk."

The man rolled his eyes but did as she said, backing slowly on to the front porch and then in to the cabin.

She let the wolf go. He ran immediately to the cabin door, and scratching at it he howled.

She followed. Reaching the door she placed herself between the entry and the wolf, shielding him away. Opening the door only wide enough to let herself in she slid in to the cabin leaving the wolf outside.

 


Afternoon turned to evening and evening into night with neither the man nor the woman emerging from the cabin. The wolf circled continuously, making wide sweeps across the clearing all the way to the tree line. She had never exclude him like this before and he had no idea as to what was occurring or why.

The lights came on, and with them the sound of laughter and the smell of food cooking came from inside. The night went on, the lights went out and still no one emerged. All the wolf could do was watch and wait.

Finally the dawn came. Midmorning the door opened and the couple cautiously walked out on to the porch, the man holding her hand.

"Why do you stay up here?" he asked.

"We went through all that last night. I am happy here." She replied.

"Happy? Up here with the wolves?"

She just looked at him, smiled and gave him a subtle shake of the head.

"Everyone misses you."

"Well, I miss them too."

"Do you miss me?"

"Of course."

"Then come back with me, get off of this mountain. Your friends, your family, your job, me, we are all there waiting for you."

"I will think about it."

"You promise?"

"Yes, I promise."

"Great, now are you going to get me out of here without that hell hound of yours ripping me apart?"

"Just stay close. I will walk you out. He is really very sweet. He is just protective."

Together they walked across the clearing to the tree line.

"You should be fine from here. He will not bother you beyond the trees."

"Where is he anyway?"

"I am not sure, but he is close."

The man started to walk off, he took two steps and then turned back to her. He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her.

The wolf had watched them walk across the clearing from some tall grass right at the tree line. He had not moved, but he had kept a keen eye, focusing all his attention on the man. When the man put his arms around her the wolf interpreted the action as one thing, an attack.

Silently, swiftly and with grim purpose the wolf darted from the grass and like a missile aimed himself directly for the man. Avoiding her, he threw himself at the man knocking him off his feet. The wolf then lunged for the man's throat. In defense the man threw up his arm. The wolf's mouth closed on the man's forearm, his teeth sinking deep in to the flesh all the way to the bone. The man screamed in agony.

She was totally surprised by the suddenness of the wolf's attack, but she recovered and pulling on the wolf's neck and ears she screamed "No! No!" The wolf released the man.

Reaching in to his pocket the man pulled his revolver and fired it three times hitting the wolf with each shot. The wolf did not run, he was protecting her. Instead he lunged again for the man's throat. The man fired his revolver one more time catching the wolf square in the chest. The impact of the bullet knocked the animal to the ground.

She looked first at the man lying on the ground holding his ruined arm, then at the wolf, breathing heavily and bleeding. She went to the wolf. The animal attempted to raise his head but could not. Blood was running from his mouth. She looked in to his eyes and in them all she could see was a look of unconditional devotion. The animal licked her hand, smearing it with his blood. Then his eyes glazed and he died. He was finally free.

 

The night after the wolf died the dream came her to again.

It was different because it clearer than it had ever been before. She could recognize the faces of the people. She knew these people, they were her friends and she loved them. Still there persisted the need to get away.

The joy and pain of her lover were extraordinarily intense, hot like a burning coal.

As usual she found herself back in the forest. There was the movement just out of sight, and the sound that she never recognized before. The sound came again, piercing and loud beyond words. She knew what it was this time. It was the call of a wolf.

She never had the dream again.


 

 


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