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The Halloween Project 2020 - Story 4: Night Howl


 

The grey wolf emerged from the darkening edge of the forest and stood alert, nose high, scanning the farmer's farthest fields.  Unparalleled carnivore.  Six feet long and 180 pounds it ruled this section of northern Idaho.  Occasionally a farmer missed a sheep, a cow, a goat.  They wandered off.  But the wolf never did.  The dusk offered no special opportunity.  If forced, it would forage for night animals.   A badger perhaps, or rodents of one kind or another.  But tonight the pack would hunt together, searching for deer, elk or even a moose.  They now gathered behind him, 10 in all. Three pups, two females, and four males; strong, fast, alert.


        They had come 13 miles last night to this area they knew well.  Animals drank at the Kootenay River across its 400 mile length, from here to Canada.  The wolf knew none of that.  It knew of meat and food and survival.  It could smell prey two  miles away and hear six miles, or eight or even 10 in the open.  It smelled and waited, turned to the other wolves, and raised its snout again.  Then something, off in the distance.  The grey began a lope toward the west and the pack followed. 


        A herd of elk were gathered at the edge of the river.  The grey flashed into motion, it's eyes directed toward a calf in the middle of the herd.  The other adults moved quickly, pups lagging behind, learning the sport.  Females, lighter and faster, branched out darting in and out of the herd, causing confusion as the elk, eyes widened in fear began to run, at first together then broken into smaller groups.


        The grey, intense on the young elk, broke its attack when it noticed an older bull, slowed by age and time, falter at the riverbank and stumble. The grey and one other, changed course immediately and fell upon the elk.  Others joined for a bigger meal.  A labored kill as the elk thrashed and mewled, thrusting its antlers in a futile effort at survival, lingering for minutes as it's blood mingled with the Kootenay.  All the wolves, including the three hungry and fast growing pups fell upon the elk and gorged themselves in a frenzy of plenty.


        The grey turned its head from the carcass and looked to the east over the tip of a far hill.  Something was happening.  The edge of a light glowed and the grey began to tremble.  Bristling fur ran electric currents throughout its body.  It's head jerked, spasms coursing through its muscles.  It moaned, then howled, a screaming wail filled with anguish and torment.  The other wolves leaped away.  The pups ran to a small copse of trees yards off.  All watched the grey in its torturous writhing. 


        Wails screamed from it's receding snout.  Fangs shortened, claws retreated.  Fur, once thick, luxurious, and warm pulled inward, growing shorter, disappearing.  It's face rounded, nose pulling inward, flatter, fuller.  It's body thickened in the trunk, back legs shot out, longer.  Howling turned to guttural cries, then tears.  It's throat filled with dark grunts and a sound much like a deepened scream.


        The creature hesitantly rose to its knees, heaving with intense breath, chest rising and falling in convulsive rhythm.  It gathered upright on unsteady legs.  Looking down, the no longer grey saw a white, pasty, soft thing, unlike itself.  Blood, appearing black, covered its torso, from face to foot.  The elk lay dead next to it.  The scent of death and offal filled his nostrils.  Its ears captured a mournful lament filled with fear and confusion.  Wolves in the near distance howled.


        The man raised its arms to shoulder height, then to the sky above.  Its head turned and its eyes watched the full moon rise.



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