A truck slammed its brakes, and from behind the metal grill a deep, low pitched honk steadily blasted in all directions. The she-wolf could feel its intention was focused at her, she froze not knowing what to do, and for a split second all of her being just stopped. What this huge beast was she did not know, but she had seen others like it on the road before, and always kept her distance. She was aware that it could surely outrun her, and was large enough to kill her quickly if it wanted to.
When the honk stopped she came to her senses. The giant beast of a truck was no longer moving, she had not been attacked. She was still alive. Quickly she darted out of the street and back onto the small black rocked ground next to a large square structure. She was unaware of her surroundings as she had never seen things like this before.
When first she had ventured into this unknown world a few hours earlier, somehow her senses had been scrambled. Now she knew not which way was home, something she had never before done, and the things she saw seemed to get stranger and stranger. Colored lights, big machines, unusual structures, even the humans here, which she saw as two legged animals, were wandering in a daze completely unaware of her, and seemingly each other as they passed by without a glance to one another.
The sun had not yet risen, but soon it would. The she-wolf had come to this city setting in the middle of the night on the trail of a raccoon. She was hungry and had to feed the puppies inside her. She and her mate lived in a section of the Medicine Bow National Forest in southern Wyoming, where the elevations jump from five thousand feet to over twelve thousand. It is a place where farm land is green and sun covered, and within thirty miles snow banks stand six feet high. The she-wolf was in fact a seclusive wolf, she had never ventured down to the farm lands to pick off sick calves, and had avoided the human world whenever she could. She lived high up in one of the ranges and trekked through the snow to her den. Only with puppies in her belly and a sick mate at home, did she dare to travel so far away from home, and to such unknown places. On the trail of the raccoon she knew she was in danger, but the drive for food had pushed her to follow her prey farther, and when it ducked under a parked car and then scrambled out the other side and up a fence, she had already lost her bearings. Slowly she had begun to pull them together and realized where she was, or better to say she realized she had no idea where she was. The smell of meat being smoked overnight had encouraged her to push on, and the excitement of this never before seen place had dulled her senses. In those early morning hours she pushed into the city much farther than she should have.
Now she was fully aware of her mistake. Hiding in darkness against a dumpster on the pavement of a cafe parking lot, her mind rang frantically with fear and need. She needed to get back to the forest, but from which direction had she come? She was nearly a full day's run to her den and to her mate. She knew that if she could find her way out of this place and back into the woods, she could make her way home to him, but the hunger she felt was more than just an urge, it was weakness in her muscles.
The first rays of the sun shot down on the road in front of the cafe. A door opened from the rear of the cafe, and a man headed directly at her. She pushed back against the wall with nowhere to go, her butt tucked under her and her spine to form a large C shape. She stared intensely at the man as he approached, ready to fight if need be, but again the obliviousness of these two legged animals surprised her. He came within feet of her, threw a garbage bag in the dumpster, turned and headed back to the door from where he had come.
A deep low growl rumbled from the wolf's chest and out of her sharp teeth. In it she called for her mate, a longing that traveled over mountains and through the distance that lay between them. And he heard her distress, lying on the floor of their den. He pulled his strength together and tried to stand, but he could not. A dead fish he had eaten contained parasites that had infected his body. He could feel them attacking the structures of his anatomy, and was trying desperately to fight now, but the parasites were strong.
The she-wolf stood for a while, still lost on what to do, but it was time to go. She could not stay in that parking lot forever. She tiptoed forward, on the pads of her paws, out of the dumpster's shadow, and slowly to the corner of the building. On the street there were a few more people. As the day was beginning more and more people would arrive, but the wolf did not know this. She watched them meandering along, though no turns lay in their path, and noticed that they always held something, which they put to their mouths again and again. Sometimes smoke came out, other times they swallowed. These two legged animals confused the wolf.
She was able to move behind buildings for a while, across little parking lots and driveways and under bushes. She found holes in fences to push through, but this was difficult with her wide gut. Eventually she came to a brick wall with no way past but the street. Creeping along the wall, to the end she came again to the paved road. Another car sped past, still some unknown creature to the she-wolf, causing her to pull back. She built herself up for a moment and with an energized fear she jumped into the road, and ran across it. A man watched, surprised to see a wolf in town, and pulled out his phone to call the police. He believed a wolf in town must be crazy and dangerous, so it must be shot. This was only sometimes true, and not in this case.
Once across the street the she-wolf was again able to make her way out of view, but the further she went the less familiar things became. More buildings, more cars, everything became louder, she heard whistles and machinery from a not too distant factory. It seemed she was going deeper into the town but her senses told her this was the way to go. The truth was that she was close to correct. The town lay in a valley diagonally stretching towards her home. She was on the correct side of the valley and needed only make a hard left at any point to get out of the town and into the woods, where her sense of direction would function better, but her current path kept her in the heart of town.
Eventually she came to a large field containing sheep. It stretched acres and lay on the corner of the town. The green of the grass invited her to enter, but from within the house on the property a boy saw her, his awareness keen due to an interest in his surroundings, far less dulled than that of an adult. When the boy told his father, the man grabbed a rifle and went out to protect his property. In the boy’s heart he was saddened for this mistake in telling his father, he felt something wrong in killing the wolf, but he was young and mutable and listened to his father's instruction about halting the danger to the herd. The man drew the rifle to his shoulder and looked through the scope, scanning the field tactically in a zigzagging left, right, down; right, left, down, pattern to cover all the space that lie in front of him. He almost missed her, but then, there she was, white fur blurred with gray interspersed throughout her straggly coat. He thought her kind of small, but still dangerous. He aimed his crosshairs slightly leading her, breathed in deep, and while exhaling steadily, he fired.
The shot rang out across the land, a high pitched sound of a bullet cut through the air, and tore the peacefulness of space. Before the she-wolf recognized any sound, the dirt in front of her face exploded. Some kicked up into her eyes, blinding her, and the concussion smacked hard the inside of her ears. She spun back the way she had come, running as fast as she could. Another patch of dirt exploded behind her. She shifted her course with each of those blows in a lawless escape. The man's arm flung bullets into the chamber, each with four jolts of the bolt action mechanism. He was firing too quickly, and in the she-wolf's instinctual movements she seemed to weave at just the right moments.
She made it off the property and onto the street, running at top speed in a panic past cars and humans, the town now alive with the risen sun. They pointed and yelled at her, some in fear, and some in anger. Cars honked, the sound familiar to her now. After what seemed like an eternity she found a long driveway on her left and shot down it. At its end lay an old rickety house. She came up to a wood pile in front of the house, and burrowed her way between a crevice in the stack. This was not a good place to hide, but her body was weak and the adrenaline could no longer carry her. She hid in there for nearly fifteen minutes before thinking of coming out. Unbeknownst to the wolf, time was of great importance, Animal Control was on their way to the area, and soon they would come down this driveway. In waiting she tried to calm herself. Through this experience fear had overtaken the she-wolf, she was transformed into a creature other than herself, and she became a threat to any human that might come in contact with her.
Looking at the house she smelled something. Chickens, she saw chickens. She crept out towards them, they were loose in the yard, foraging for bugs and worms in ground. When the she-wolf, babies in her belly, wild with hunger and exhaustion, was close enough, she charged. She grabbed a hen by the neck and killed it instantly. The other chickens squawked and ran in all directions calling out to no one and everyone at the same time. She tore into her prey quickly, not taking it back to a safe place to eat, for there was no safe place. She ripped into its chest, blood rushed out of its still beating heart, and feather flew in the air while she swallowed some meat without chewing it.
Still on all fours, she looked up and saw a man. He stood staring at her from the steps of the house. She jumped back a short distance, and got into a defensive stance, facing him.
But the man did not move. They were both in great danger, he from her and she from the approaching Animal Control.
Her eyes darted left and right and then back to the chaos from where she had come at the end of the driveway. The lips of the wolf pulled up and converging on the bridge of her muzzle, and revealed her sharp teeth.
Then the man spoke very slowly and softly. "Alright," he said.
The wolf did not understand his word, but the tone soothed her a little, and she didn’t know what to do.
He backed up slowly and pulled the screen door open with a hand behind his back. He continued to face her. The door let out a little squeak.
The she-wolf wanted so badly to run, but she rooted herself, waiting in her surroundings for him to make the first move so she could react, instead of be reacted to.
But the man did not give her reason to react. "You're okay," he assured her, and stepped one foot slowly backward inside his house.
She just watched him, not moving a muscle.
The man barely moved as he turned his head off to the left, and his eyes followed further to the side of his house and beyond. In his mind he told her: This way.
She took her eyes off him and followed his offer.
The man's eyes returned to her again, but his mind pointed past his house and focused on an image of tall yellow grass, and then of a forest in the distance.
The she-wolf realized herself as too relaxed, and tensed again, the snarl reaffirming itself.
But the man exhaled and stepped backward all the way inside the house. "Go. . . ." he whispered to her, and he was gone behind shadows.
She stood there not moving, but she could feel him inside of her head, urging her to move to the side of the house. One step at a time she crept to the calling, the remains of the chicken still in her mouth.
On the side of the building she could see broken down trucks and metal scrap. The large beasts lay in wait for her, but they did not move, they were not alive, she understood now. With courage she walked to them, sporadic head and eye movements still darting in random directions. Behind the bone yard of old machinery was a long field, and way off behind it were trees.
The she-wolf just stared for a moment. Letting her senses tell her what to do and if she was safe. In confirmation with the latter she scarfed some more chicken meat down her throat, then leaving the remains of the carcass on the ground, crept off through tall yellow grass. After a few moments she broke into a run, head bobbing above the grass, and headed for the forest, and for her den, with her mate inside working hard to win his own battle for survival.
She heard the man again in her head, a feeling of praise from where she had just left. As the man stood behind a window watching her run off he quietly said, "Good girl," and continued, "Go to your forest."