Our girl first notices the wolf on a warm summer day in Detroit. She is walking along the river, having wandered away from her friends at a local club for a cigarette break. Truthfully, she quit smoking months ago but still uses it as an excuse to duck out of social gatherings she didn’t want to be at anymore. The water is gently lapping away at the break wall, the only natural sound among the traffic and baseball game running late into the night. She decides she is going to head home instead of back into the club when she sees him.
There he is, gigantic and black, standing still on the path in front of her, watching. Our girl stares back, a little unsure. Surely there aren’t wolves in Detroit, she thinks. It must be one of those stray dogs that roam the city, she decides. They stand there staring at each other, sizing each other up, for several minutes. Finally, our girl turns and slowly walks away. Each time she turns around, the wolf is still there. She never catches him moving, but he always seems the same distance away from her. Pinpricks of fear poke at her skin like icicles. She speeds all the way home, trying to shake the feeling of being followed.
The next day at work, she sees him again. This time in the hallway, standing between the cubicles. Still just staring. Bob from accounting must have been able to feel the beast’s breath on his arm, but he never turns from his computer screen. Our girl tells her boss she’s not feeling very well and needs to go home for the rest of the day. When she catches the wolf in her boyfriend’s front yard a week later, she decides to pack her bags. She quits her job, breaks up with her boyfriend, and dumps her friends. She heads up north.
Right before she crosses the Mackinac Bridge, she thinks she might see him standing in the median, but she convinces herself that she imagined him there. She rents a small cabin in a place called Paradise. She goes for long walks along the beach and gets a part-time job doing things around the property for the owner. By mid-October, she’s shoveling the elderly residents’ walkways and drinking at the only bar in town. She even calls the old men she drinks with her friends. She keeps busy, learns how to play guitar and how to speak Polish, and it works! It works for a little while. She hasn’t seen the wolf since crossing the bridge. While she hears wolves sometimes at night, she knows it’s not her wolf.
But then the winter comes, and she finds her routine to be getting old. She’s tired every day, and she feels his presence. She hasn’t seen him, but she knows he’s coming, and he is. She finds his tracks surrounding her cabin in the morning snow. Sees his claw marks etched in her front door. He howls every night outside her bedroom window, and she can’t take the sound. His lone howls against the sound of the rushing wind echo in her head till one night she opens the door and lets him in. She sits on the floor in defeat, and he curls up beside her, resting his head on her thigh, looking up into her eyes, and they scream.
Sarah Muir is an emerging writer from Kirksville, Missouri who just graduated with her MA from Truman State University. Her work has been published in the Moon Zine and presented at the Missouri Folklore Society. She enjoys writing in the space where fiction and nonfiction overlap
photo by Andrew Amistad and Philip Macias (via unsplash)