By Willow Taylor
Usually, the pounding water would ground Tina, making all her problems seem less real and at the same time, more down to earth, and easy to deal with. More than once, she'd had such inspiration that she had leapt out of the shower dripping to run to the computer and type for hours. Somehow the sound of flowing water, and the relaxing feeling of heat would free up blocks in her brains that made it impossible to cope with the problems in her life. But it didn't seem to be working today.
"Alright Tina," she said to herself, bracing her palms on the tile of the shower wall. "What are your problems. Old outline format, like Ms. Greely would have wanted." Her English teacher's name conjured up images of high school and that of her schoolmates, and that led to the terrible sound of ripping wet leather. Tina clenched her jaw and swallowed. She turned up the power on the shower head, and let her thick dark hair fall in her eyes.
"One - the murders. They appear to be done by a wolf-creature. Two - I am such a wolf creature - was it the wolves on the mountain? Three - Crowly, if I have to deal with him, everyone will know how I might be connected and that will be the end of any hope I have for a trial. Four - the man in my living room, who apparently is a wolf, and claims to be the one doing the killing." Tina sighed and squeezed her eyes shut, all outside noise drowned out by the drumming of water on her head. "These are my problems, step two, solutions..." Suddenly the sliding door to the shower was pushed open, and the dark skinned wolf man looked in.
"ARRAGH!" yelped Tina, pressing herself against the wall of the shower. "Will you get out of my house?"
The man-wolf peered through the misty steam curiously. "What are you doing?"
"I'm bathing!" snapped Tina, "And if you don't mind, I'd like to continue!"
"Go ahead," he said with an honest, uncaring expression on his face. He tipped his head to one side. "Is it like swimming then, because you are all covered in water." He inhaled the steam and coughed slightly. "Obviously not."
"Go away!" Tina yelped shoving him in the nose like an over curious dog.
"Why?" he asked. "I am only waiting to see what will happen."
"Nothing is going to happen! The killings have stopped, and everything fine!"
"The killings have stopped because I took the humanity from my pack."
"Fine, if having you... leering at me is what it takes to stop the killings, then fine... but let me finish my shower!!" Jumping out of the shower stall, she pushed him out of the room. As she shut the door again, she heard his funny half laughter. She wanted the killings to be ended. But if what he said was true, they would only stay away as long as he was around. She didn't know how much longer she could deal with that without something happening. Tina wasn't sure what would happen but she knew that if he stayed around here something would. Besides, he was too much wild and too human at the same time for her to deal with. He awoke the wildness inside her, that he said, came from his pack. Did he mean to do that, she wondered, or was it simply something that happened. Or was it an even more raw and base instinct than the ones the wolves had given her. She blushed, and turned the hot water mostly off.
Why couldn't he have just been ugly or wolfish? Tina felt dizzy, and reached out, grabbing a towel and wrapping herself in it.
It was nonsense. He wasn't human, and that should have been the end of it. Goddess of Springtime, lady of flowers, why wasn't it just that simple? There was a crash from somewhere in the house.
"Damn it," muttered Tina.
Wearing her thick cotton robe she stormed into the main section of her house, to find out what the man-wolf had broken. He was picking himself carefully out of the remains of an end table and lamp, remaining balanced neatly on his hands and knees. As if affronted by the mess, he sniffed at it.
"You broke my Gramma Cates' lamp," Tina said simply. "I hope you're proud of yourself." Instantly he was back on his feet.
"It can be fixed," he said with a shrug. Then with a grin that edged more to mischievous than wolfish he added "With Crazy-Glue." Tina shook her head at him disgusted.
"That's it," she said. "I'm killing the TV, it's polluting your mind with nonsense." The dark haired woman went to get a broom.
"Why kill the Tee Vee?" he asked, following her like a puppy. "No meat in it."
Tina made a disgusted nose and turned her back on him, opening the broom closet. "Oh just shut up. I am so not in the mood to deal with this sh - " The doorbell rang. Tina snarled at the door automatically, a tinge of red haze touching her vision. Then she turned and shoved the broom and dustpan into the wolf-man's hands. "Clean up your own damn mess," she spat and stalked to the door. Somehow, she got the feeling it was going to be more bad news.
She wasn't disappointed. When she opened the door, she found Crowly standing there, and to top it off he was wearing a cloak in the worst taste she'd seen outside a Halloween party. Pure black velvet, lined in purple, with silver designs covering it thickly, and then a fringe of crystals around the edge.
"Oh, hello, Dr. Crowly. How... unexpected." Tina kept the door only partly open. She did not invite him in. Maybe there wasn't any truth about having to invite evil into your house, but she didn't feel like taking the chance right now.
"Oh is it? I'd have thought you'd expect a visit from me, that or the police."
"I beg your pardon?"
"Well, we have already spoke about this Tina, surely you remember - it was just the other day."
"How could I forget?" Tina said, barely keeping ice out of her voice. As if in response to that, it began to snow. Crowly took the initiative and pushed the door open slightly. Shocked, Tina let him, a moment later, he was standing just inside the door. "Can I help you?" she asked, a little outraged.
"Why, I've come to help you Tina," oozed Crowly.
"Do not believe him," cautioned the wolf in man's form from behind Tina. "He is not whole."
"Who is your friend, Tina?"
The slim dark haired woman pressed her fingers to her temples. "Go away Crowly, I'm having a bad day."
"Oh certainly," he said with a certain self satisfied air. "And no call me Abraham, we are colleagues after all. Peers if you will."
"Peers stick out into the ocean," Tina muttered. "Why don't you go take a long walk off of one?"
"What was that?"
The wolf that walked like a man growled softly. Crowly took half a step back and fixed his cold, beady eyes on the wolf-man behind her.
"Please, Ms. Cunningham," he purred. "Introduce me to your fascinating friend."
"I do not trust you," said the wolf in a flat voice. "If I had a name, I would not share it with you."
"I'm offended - but surely you have a name." Tina stepped out from between them, as a feeling of power filled the entry way. Was Crowly casting a spell or something? Tina unfocused her eyes and shut them, looking at the two men's auras. And took another step back hitting the wall. Her eyes flew open, and she had to rub at them to remove the double image of the bright flares coming off Crowly's aura and snatching at the man-wolf's.
'I can't believe I never looked at Crowly's aura before!' she thought desperately. Her thoughts were interrupted by a growl, that rose in volume.
"What sort of creature are you?" demanded the Doctor of the Supernatural.
"GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!" yelled Tina at the top of her lungs. Both men turned and looked at her surprised. "You, Crowly, get out of my house and leave me the fuck alone." Crowly looked shocked.
"Why, Ms. Cunningham."
"No," spat Tina, red mist clouding her vision so thick she was sure he could see it too. "Don't talk. Just go. You... leech!"
"I have done nothing wrong," said Crowly sounding offended, "I was simply..."
Tina snarled, an animalistic sound that didn't belong in a human's mouth.
Crowly jerked back startled.
"I thought so - it was you." He kept backing towards the door, fumbling for the handle. "Those killings all bore your goody-goody mark."
"There is not blood on my hands," snarled Tina.
"The blood is on my pack's teeth," supported the man-wolf.
Crowly pointed an accusatory finger at Tina. "This is your doing...."
"I have taken no lives," she said, breath coming in rasping pants. "But if you don't leave now I may."
"And don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out," added the wolf as Crowly fled. Tina collapsed on all fours and stared up at the wolf in man's form.
"Even as the wildness grows within you, your humanity grows within us. Within me," he amended, pushing hair out of his eyes.
"You're saying there is something inside me?" The wolf nodded, then paused, then nodded again.
"Yes, that is what I am saying."
"Oh, I can't take this," Tina mumbled and clawed her way to her feet. The wolf watched her the way he always did, taking in every detail. "So there's a bit of wildness in me, or something," she said as she stumbled into the living room, turned off the TV and collapsed into a chair.
"Yes," he said, coming to crouch beside her.
"And that's what is causing these changes in me."
"Again yes, did you not know?"
"Can you take the... whatever it is from me?" she asked. The wolf in the man's form looked at her, and his eyes narrowed in thought.
"I'm not sure," he said. "It is possible I'm sure, but it may not help."
"What do you mean?"
"It has grown within you, like a pup. It is more than it was when it possessed you."
Tina thought about this for a moment. "What does that mean?" He shrugged.
"I do not know. I know only what my lord tells me, and what I learn from watching you." Tina bit her lip.
"How do you talk to your lord?"
"I hear a voice in my mind deep within me. It has grown fainter." He looked off into the distance, and again, she saw the flash of wolf, and the spark of herself. "And sometimes, I hear it when I run." The wolf-in-man closed his eyes and let his mouth hang open. He didn't look particularly smart that way, but he did look more like a wolf than a man. He snapped his fingers, and his eyes opened, aflame with the wildness he held. "That is it!" he cried. "Running!" Tina jumped back surprised, as he leapt to his feet and shed his shirt.
"Running!" he cried again "Come and hear my lord's voice"
"I ...." Tina said weakly, eyes wide and scared. He tugged at her shirt as well, pulling it away from her. Tina shivered. "I can't it's too cold...I'll freeze!"
"No," said the wolf that walked like a man. "You run, like I do." His fingers touched her bare skin, they were rough and callused like the pad on a dog's foot.
"I don't!" Tina said vehemently, pulling back from him sharply.
"Come now," said the wolf-man. "Run with me. It is not that cold, you will not be harmed by it. And you will learn much." That phrase caught a hold of Tina more than anything else. To learn, to know what was happening... that would be worth more than anything.
"Wait!" she said pulling away. "You said the killings stopped because you were here. If you leave - if I follow - will the killings start again?" He shook his head, eyes wild again.
"No. It is only when the balance is twisted that we are driven to kill. Come! Run! Hear my lord's voice." Tina bit her lip, considering it, and something in the man's wild, wolven eyes caught her heart and set it afire with it's wildness, taking her away from herself. All protests forgotten she let herself go in the misty mind of wildness within her, and felt herself change.
Running Running Running. Keeping pace. The night is cool, the scents are easy to track, running running running. Run with a like, another not-wolf. Now on two legs, now on four, running, running running. It is good. Sounds - howls! Running. Sniff the air, catch the scent - the wolves! They no longer walk like men. It is good! Running Running Running. Be a wolf! Running Running Running. This will not work. Running Running Running. In this you seek only to escape from your problems. Running Running Running. This is not the solution, not in whole. Running Running Running. It will take you, woman, human, to remove the curse of the wolves. Running Running Running. Remember... Running Running Running.
The change had a hold of her, and the world was blur of stark sights, thick scents, and rich sounds. She ran with the pack of wolves, who were wolves, but there was something else inside them. And the longer she stayed with them, the more like them she became. Once she came back to herself, and changed back to human, sobbing in the snow, rocking back and forth. Where was she? She was losing herself. The dark furred wolf came and looked at her, tipping his head this way and that, as her pale human body rocked back and forth in the snow, and tears ran down her face. She couldn't remember her name. She had a name! She knew it! The dark wolf curled himself around her, and she buried her face in his rich dark fur, losing herself even further in the warmth and the scent of him. The other wolves turned and circled them, then pressed up against her bare form to help warm it. They kept her warm until her tears and panic was gone. She stared up at the winter sky. Orion, like the giant he was, loomed above them, shrouded in clouds, reaching for the moon like it was some great, pearly fruit.
"My name is Tina," she said out loud. One of the wolves growled, and the dark wolf made an odd chuckling noise. It sounded a bit like laughter. "My name is Tina," she repeated, because it sounded odd. It was disconnected from her. What was Tina? Tina was a writer, who lived in a house on a mountain. She couldn't be Tina, sitting bare-assed in snow, breath fogging against the fur of a black wolf that licked her face. But she was! She had to be! The wolf licked her ear.
Come back to us, it seemed to say. We will run together.
Her human mind remembered though. She remembered the voice in her head when she ran. It had told her to remember, but she'd forgotten until now. She wasn't a wolf, not at all. She was a human. She had to go back. Part of her howled as she realized that. It didn't want to back to a world of noisy cars, and high-heeled pumps, and men that treated her like nothing. And that scared Tina even more. But now, she was naked, in the middle of nowhere, and cold. She looked up at the moon, which taunted the night, being so high and out of touch, and yet so close it seemed you could reach out and stroke its pitted surface, and called the gray mist of change upon her. Fur sprouted and warmed her, and the wolves whuffled in gladness. But now Tina kept a firm hold on her mind, even as she ran - she could not afford to lose herself. She had to return, and be human - because in being human was the only way to win.
Something deep within her wailed at lost joy. And that part lifted her head and howled to the moon as she ran.
The summer cabin was empty, and locked up for the winter. Tina sniffed around the door, the black wolf staring curiously at her. With a bit of effort, she regained human form, bare and pink against the cold winter wind. It was a human hand that wielded the rock that broke the lock, but it was a wolf with wise hazel eyes that pushed the door open, and slunk inside, followed by the rest of the pack, who sniffed about curiously. The pack snuffled about, pawing open containers and making playing games with the folded woolen blankets. The hazel eyed wolf wrapped herself in one, then returned to being Tina. Protected from the cold by the walls of the cabin and the heavy woolen blanket, Tina searched the cabin for what she needed.
"I can't go back unarmed," she said to herself. The wolves turned to look at her and growled. She was suddenly ringed by flashing teeth. Tina looked back at them in shock, eyes bright under the thatch of dark brown bangs. The woman swallowed once, and then continued with her search.
It took a bit of time before Tina found what she was looking for, a hand axe, and a change of clothing, tucked into the closet and forgotten. It first, wearing clothes felt cumbersome and silly, and she carefully only did it where none of the wolves could see, because if she spoke in front of them, or even acted overtly human, they would growl fiercely.
She took the axe in her wolven jaws and ran. She searched through the snowy woods, till she found the bark she wanted, for the tree she needed. Shivering in the cold, Tina forced herself back to her human form, and felled the hawthorn sapling. Still shivering she resumed the wolven form, which already felt more natural than her human body. She marked the place with her scent and returned to the pack.
While she slept in the drowsy place between night and day, Tina heard a woman's voice sing to her. It was beautiful. She ran to follow it, and it drew further away, then she stopped and it drew closer. The world around her was warm and scented with spring flowers. The voice sang to her, and Tina stood up letting it caress her senses. Abandoning herself to the song and singer, Tina danced.
When she woke up, it was full light. The dark furred wolf slunk away from her sleeping pack mates, and turned into a dark haired woman, who stifled tears for the song she lost upon awakening. Tina dressed in the hunters discarded garments and went into the woods, following the tracks she had made as a wolf. She cursed herself for being clumsy every time she stumbled. Somehow walking on two legs didn't seem quite right. At last she found the felled hawthorn and began trimming the branches away, making it a convenient length for a staff. As she worked, she hummed the song in her dream, and tried to remember human things; swimming at the beach, and cotton candy. Reading a book, and working at her computer. Curls of bark began to peel away ahead of her axe blade. Tina bit her lip as a wind blew fiercely around her. Since she had woken up and remembered that she was human there had been this growing feeling of urgency, Tina had to go back. The wind that blew her hair about suddenly became balmy against her skin, and scented like spring.
"If you leave," cried the warm wind, "the wolves will follow - and they will not be your friends any longer." Tina turned, looking for the source of the voice that came drifting on the wind. She lowered her head, letting her bangs fall into her eyes, and continued to remove the bark from the staff.
"They are your friends now, for you are part of them," the child's voice said, rich with a painful innocence. "But if you leave, you will separate yourself from them once more. It is the time of the master of wolves. He grows strong. It is he you will have to answer to in the end."
'I'm going mad,' thought Tina.
"Do you really want to leave them Tina, and lose all that you have witnessed, all that you have found."
'I have to,' Tina thought, half to herself, half to the mysterious wind.
"I thought you might," said the wind with a child's voice. "You have always been my mother's." The sweet smelling wind rushed around her one more time, then dissipated, leaving Tina to scrape the bark from the long staff of hawthorn exposed to the winter winds. Tina had never felt so alone. She wanted her mother, who'd been dead for years. She wanted to hear her Grandmother's voice, assuring her that she was doing the right thing. But no, she was alone in the woods. She could either return to the woods, or to civilization. Swallowing her heart, Tina walked downhill, towards the town. And before that would be her house.
When she first saw her neat little house perched on the hillside below her, Tina felt like crying. It didn't seem real, quite. She stopped and leaned on her staff. Off in the distance, she heard a wolf howl, a sad longing note, that changed as it went. What had started out a mourning song, became the scream of the hunt. It sent shivers down Tina's spine, because she had an awful feeling that the thing that the wolves were hunting was her. She started back down the hill. Some how, she couldn't wait to be within the warm, familiar walls of her house.
design ©2001 by Cindy Rosenthal
Wolves of the Horned God © 1999 by Willow Taylor
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