This blog is a compilation of short works of fiction by Allan and Helen Krummenacker, authors of the Para-Earth Book Series. The stories contained here take place before our novel "The Vampyre Blogs – Coming Home", with the idea of introducing you to some of the characters who appear in that book and the upcoming anthology "The Vampyre Blogs – One Day At a Time" coming this November. So please, sit back and enjoy more glimpses into Nathan's (our vampyre) and his friends' lives.
*Author’s Note: For those who are new to this site, this entry is a repost. I first wrote this story 4 years ago and have never done another because I don’t think I could surpass its message. For it shares the gratitude many of us have for those who’ve served and made the ultimate sacrifice. It reminds all of us at home that serving one’s country can come at a price which should never be forgotten or taken for granted. So to all who’ve worn a uniform and lost everything for all of us, to you and yours we say “Thank you, and God bless and keep you all.”*
The Soldier appeared again this year, just as he has over almost a hundred and fifty years. The first reports of him showing up here in Pointer date back to 1868 when the first Decoration Day (now called Memorial Day) was held. At the time most people assumed he was merely a veteran but when he moved there was no sound, and when he spoke everyone felt compelled to listen. It was as if an enchantment had been cast over all. He spoke of each soldier from the town who had fallen during the war between the states, telling tales of bravery and humanity. Then, once he finished, the figure marched back the way he came only to be swallowed by a mist that seemed to come from nowhere.
This happened again the following year, and every year after that. At first most people just assumed him to be a magician who had served alongside those who had died. Yet, none of those who had come home recognized the fellow. In fact, no one could even really describe his features even if he had been standing next to them. They could distinctly remember his uniform which had clearly belonged to the West Virginia 7th Volunteer Infantry Regiment. He had all the bearing of a soldier, but even if they looked up into his face all they could remember was that he was young, with a kind face, which had born witness to the horrors of the battlefield. But none of them could actually describe his face in detail.
Naturally the idea that the fellow was a ghost began to spread among the children and a handful of adults. But after thirty years passed and those children who had seen him close up could honestly say he had not aged in that time, that others began to believe the tale.
Throughout the decades, he has always appeared, never once missing a Decoration Day. And with each visit, he shared new stories about those who had served and fell in the Civil War. But it wasn’t until the end of the Great War that this began to change. In 1919, one year after World War I ended, a new monument was erected in the town square with the names of those who had left Pointer to fight overseas. On that occasion the soldier appeared and shared several stories about those who had been lost on the battlefields of Europe.
From that day on he continued to appear on Remembrance Day (now called Veteran’s Day) as well as on Memorial Day.
By this time few, if any, doubted the Soldier’s existence. In fact many began to welcome his strange visits, but not all. Those who were too traumatized by their loss, could not bear to see him come. In particular there had been Violet Parker, who had been engaged to James Moore who fell at the Battle of Belleau Wood in France in 1918. When the Soldier appeared again on Remembrance Day in 1920, she rushed at him brandishing a pistol from her father’s collection and shot him point blank. The Soldier did not flinch, nor did he fall. Instead, he gently took the weapon from her shaking hands, and pulled her close. She resisted at first, but then began to calm down. Those who dared approach them could hear his voice speaking gently to her in sympathy. Soon Violet slipped her arms around him and held him tightly. Then she kissed him on the cheek and walked back to where her father stood. For the rest of her long life, she was happier than anyone could remember, and strongly rebuked anyone who spoke ill of the Soldier or of anyone who served their country.
The addition of new names and stories of those who served that the Soldier spoke of continued with each passing year. Whether they were lost in peacetime or during America’s entry into World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, Iraq and of course Afghanistan, he made sure no one forgot them or their service. And today was no exception. He spoke of the town’s most recent losses with such feeling, one was convinced he had personally known, or had watched each one of them grow into fine young men and women.
Of course, I and a number of others know this happens to be the truth. There are at least a dozen families here in Pointer that know of Uncle Nate. And they preserve his secret with fierce loyalty, just as mine does. It is a loyalty based on love and respect. Whether he’s the ‘Soldier’ or just the family friend or godfather, he has been there for all of us over the decades. Our dark guardian, the soldier who even when he does not wear the uniform, is always on duty. Ready to defend and protect all of us and our town, just has he did the day he marched off to war at the age of 16, back in 1862.
God bless him and all the men and women who have served, and will serve.
As I was still asking myself that question I stared up at the Aurora Borealis over head.
I could make out the stars through the swirling colors. It’s an incredible sight. I can understand why Nathan comes up this way every so often. I don’t think I’d ever tire of this sight. According to Lisa and Otto, Nathan also goes to Norway, Sweden, Finland or one of the other northernmost countries where you can see these lights. Those countries also tend to have open wide expanses of wilderness which allows him to ‘cut loose’ with his abilities. Those countries also haves long periods where the sun may not appear for weeks or even months, which makes it easier for him to be out and about even during the ‘daytime’ whether he’s out in the woods or in a city.
As I lay there I understood that the night, or those periods of long-nights, do have a lot to offer a person. But, to actually have to live that way most of the time? I mean, I know Nathan can ingest extra blood so he can go out into daylight for a few hours a day (then load up some more if he needs to in order to keep being out in it) but it’s still physically uncomfortable (even painful at times) for him to be out in it.
I shook my head. I wanted Nathan more than anything… but to be like him?
One of the wolves who was cuddled up to me must’ve sensed my distress, for he suddenly raised his head then nuzzled and licked my face as if to comfort me. At first I thought this was more of Nathan’s doing, but he was no longer with us. I figure he must’ve silently got up and headed who knows where, leaving me with my protectors. Carefully I reached up and stroked the licking wolf’s face and then scratched him behind one ear. He seemed to like it. Then one or two others took notice and they decided they wanted some attention too. Eventually, after I gave them all a bit of love, we all settled down and sleep quietly overtook us.
The dreams that followed were the most vivid I’ve ever had. I was in the middle of a greenish fog which slowly dissipated and I found myself staring at a woman I’d never met in my life, but who’s face I knew quite well.
It was Madeline, Nathan’s first wife and Lisa’s great-great grandmother. I recognized her from a number of paintings Nathan has done of her over the years. He keeps practically all of them in his art studio which is located on the top floor of the same building that houses his club “The Crypt” in the basement.
She was standing in the middle of a room with shelves with canned (meaning jars) of fruits and pickled items, a large mound of potatoes in one area, and carrots in another. I quickly realized this was an old root cellar. But instead of gathering any supplies located there, Madeline was simply standing in the center of the room looking down at the dirt floor. I caught the gleam of anticipation in her eyes. A moment later the ground began to ripple, as I had seen it do many times before, and Nathan rose to the surface.
He was standing upright as he emerged from the rippling soil with his arms open wide. As soon as the ground became solid again, Madeline stepped eagerly into that waiting embrace, and I couldn’t blame her. Nathan was clearly as glad to see her, in more ways than one (since he was naked as usual when he came out of the ground). As they kissed, I swear you could practically hear their hearts pounding in unison.
Then the scene changed, I now saw the two of them curled up in front of a fireplace. Nathan was wearing clothing now and there was a little boy, from Madeline’s first husband who died during the war, fast asleep on a chair nearby. Nathan was holding Madeline in his arms as they were talking softly so as not to wake the little one. While I couldn’t make out what they were saying, I saw a number of occasional kisses and caresses being exchanged with genuine affection.
Feeling like a voyeur I turned only to find another scene playing out before me. The boy was now 8 or 9 years old and smiling as he watched Nathan and his mother dancing a waltz. They clearly had eyes only for one another, even though there were a dozen other couples around them. As I watched the scene seemed to melt and now the two of them were dancing alone in their bedroom. Madeline was wearing a white chemise, while Nathan was wearing what was then called a man’s dressing gown, which was basically a more elegant version of the modern bathrobe. As I watched them, I caught the first signs of crow’s feet in the corners of Madeline’s eyes. Her figure also seemed slightly fuller now, not that it seemed to bother either of them. I swear they were acting like a young couple about to celebrate first anniversary.
Other scenes of domestic life rolled out before my eyes like a movie with the occasional fades which revealed a new scene. I witnessed walks, trips, travel to foreign lands, gatherings with friends, and a number of quiet personal moments. I knew time was passing, but the emotions and passion between Nathan and Madeline never seemed to diminish even slightly.
Then a new scene began, and for a moment I thought we were back at the beginning, for Madeline was standing in the root cellar again. Then I realized she was wearing a robe instead of one of her dresses. I also noticed there were traces of gray in her hair, along with a few extra lines here and there. But as soon as Nathan emerged she opened her robe and let it fall to the ground to reveal she was wearing nothing underneath. And although time and gravity had been at work on her body, she was still quite desirable. I became a little envious watching Nathan scoop her up in his arms and begin kissing her like a sailor who’d been away at sea for way too long.
As he spun her around in his arms, more time passed and her hair became more gray until nothing but long silver tresses crowned her head. But the thing that got me was the fact that Nathan’s attention and affection towards her never changed. He was still at attentive, flirtatious, and devoted to her as ever. And neither did their passion for each other.
Just then the Chainsmokers/Coldplay song “I Want Something Just Like This” started running through my head.
“Yes,” I murmured, holding my arms out as if to hug someone, “That’s exactly what I want.” Now I’m going to admit, I was so caught up in the tune, that it took me a moment to realize that I my arms were wrapped around someone because I could feel the warmth of that person.
‘But I’m asleep,’ I thought to myself in confusion. ‘Aren’t I?’ Instinctively, I began to grope around with my hands to try and figure out what was going on and awoke to a wolf licking my face. Sighing I muttered, “So much for waking up in the arms of a hot guy.”
“In spite of technically being a vampyre, I am not undead, so I resent that remark,” came Nathan’s voice from just above my head.
Looking up I found that I was lying in his arms. Glancing around I found the wolves had not only surrounded but covered us in a huge puppy pile. As I became more aware of our situation, I quickly realized that Nathan was naked, and that one of my hands was very close to a certain ‘region’ of his anatomy.
My eyes locked with his.
“Careful, I can be very ticklish,” he warned.
Instead of answering, I looked around and spotted our friend and his mate curled up together. Clearly she was very happy to have him back, Sangui-sapio and all. Then I thought about Madeline and all I had seen about her life.
Turning back to Nathan, I kissed him with everything I had. Then I moved my hand lower and took hold.
His eyes widened, but instead of admonishing me as he had in the past, he said, “Are you sure?”
“Why?” he pressed.
“Madeline,” I answered after a moment.
“You saw her memories,” he said and began nodding to himself.
Her memories?” now it was my turn to be taken by surprise.
He gave me a gentle smile. “You now know firsthand, that I remember everything that ever happened to me because of the Sangui-Sapio. And you know I have access to the memories of its previous, and currents hosts.” Here he gestured at me and our wolf friend. “But what I didn’t tell you, was that I also have the recollections of those who’ve ever had even ‘some’ of the Sangui-sapio in them.”
“Madeline had some in her?” I gasped.
Nathan sighed, “Yeah, I hadn’t realized it myself for the longest time but eventually I figured it out.”
“How did it happen?” I pressed.
He gave me a disappointed look, then sighed, “Someone wasn’t paying attention in biology class. Okay, when a man and woman are really into each other, certain activities can lead to an exchange of body fluids which…”
“You guys weren’t using protection?” I cut in.
Nathan shook his head. “She caught an infection after giving birth to her son, and wasn’t able to conceive after that, so we didn’t bother worrying about protection. And since I was still getting used to my new existence, I hadn’t realized what had happened until much later.”
I started to frown. “But she never became like you.”
“She never wanted to. And as I learned later on, the Sangui-Sapio respected that and simply gave her a healthy long life,” Nathan explained at gazed out at our wolf friend and his mate. “Just as it will with him.”
I thought briefly about how good Madeline looked and moved during her later years. “Can the Sangui-sapio that’s in me, do what it did for Madeline?” I began.
Nathan nodded. “I already asked it to. Not that I had any idea what you were about to decide, mind you. It’s just,t I like to make sure those I care about are ‘taken care of’ so to speak. Especially if there’s the possibility of them one day contracting something serious.”
I knew he was referring to my father and his fight with cancer. I’ll admit, I have wondered and worried from time to time if I might develop that same form of cancer one day. So hearing that Nathan had already made ‘arrangements’ for me, was a huge relief.
“So, the Sangui-Sapio will have to remain in me, but I won’t become like you,” I asked, just to be clear.
“Only if you wish to. Whether it be now or one day many years down the road, you’ll have the option,” he told me reassuringly.
“And if I choose not to?”
“It will return to me, and I will have a bit of you to carry with me always,” he smiled.
Feeling as if a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders I relaxed into his chest and kissed him deeply once more. I knew where I wanted things to go next, but my stomach had other ideas and started to growl.
Talk about a mood killer.
A couple of the wolves who’d been keeping us warm raised their heads and gave me a funny look.
“You haven’t eaten since before we met up last night,” Nathan observed and slowly sat up. “And you don’t strike me as the type of person who’s into raw bison.”
“Definitely not,” I replied, doing my best not to look over at the remains of last night’s kill.
“Luckily, I know of a nice place less than an hour from here, where we can get you a good meal and I can hide from the sun for the day,” he continued.
That made me do a doubletake. “We’re in the middle of the tundra, how can there be a place to stay that close by?”
“I never said it was close by,” Nathan corrected. “I said we can get there in less than an hour.”
“But it took us a few hours to get where we are from the airport,” I pointed out.
“That’s because we were trying pick up the pack’s scent and then zero in on their location,” Nathan replied reasonably.
Apparently, him having an answer for everything was one of those little quirks I was going to have to get used to. Still, as much as I wanted him in that moment, I was sorely tempted to smack him on the arm. But I resisted and pulled out my cellphone. I knew there probably wouldn’t be any reception here, but since it was still kind of dark I was curious to know that the time was.
You can imagine my surprise to see it was 7 in the morning. Then I reminded myself where we were and that the nights were longer here. However, I could see the first hints of the coming dawn way in the distance. Nathan then informed me the sun would not be up proper for another 2 hours, which meant we needed to get him indoors as well get me food.
Around us the wolves began to meander amongst themselves, while our friend and his mate came over. She came to a stop just out of arms reach, while he came right up to me. Bending down, I ran my hands through his ruff once more and gave him a hug which he readily accepted. “Take care of yourselves,” I told him, knowing that a part of him understood my words perfectly.
He in turn, nuzzled and licked me. Then he looked at Nathan and gave him a short bark. To which Nathan smiled and said, “Thank you, I will.”
Then the pair returned to their pack and slowly moved on.
“He invited you to come and run with them again sometime, didn’t he?” I asked Nathan who was already transforming back to his own wolf form. Once shifted, he nodded, then gestured for me to climb onto his back once more.
Obediently, I climbed on board and felt the fur stretch and wrap around me once more. And boy was I glad for it. When we took off, we were moving way faster than last night, and I couldn’t help but keep a death-grip on Nathan as we went.
But as he promised, we reached our destination in just under an hour. Although, I was more than a little shocked by what we were looking at as I climbed off him.
“Are you serious?” I asked Nathan as he began putting on the clothing I had been keeping safe for him since the night before. “I thought you said there was a ‘nice place’ we could go.”
“It is a nice place,” he protested.
“It’s an ICE place!” I cried gesturing at the white curved structure. “It’s a frickin’ igloo! It’s going to be freezing inside.”
“No, it’s not. Take a closer look,” he instructed.
Frowning, I did as he instructed and got closer. Now I could see that it wasn’t made of ice but was a geodome partly covered in snow and frost. I could make out a chimney of sorts and as I moved around I spotted a wooden section that acted as the entrance to the structure. I was slowly becoming less annoyed and more impressed. I’d seen pictures of such places on the internet. Most of them were found in the Nordic countries. However, I had heard there were some here in Alaska but those were located way north of where we were.
“I had it built by some friends from Norway a few years ago,” Nathan explained.
“So you own this land?”
He nodded. “I went the ‘homestead’ route back in the 1960’s. I own several pieces up here in fact, and before you ask, yes, I do have cabins/homes built on them too. And all of them are well stocked with food, warm beds, and heating materials.”
Taking another look at the dome I could see there was a huge window looking out onto the tundra and the sky. Having slept under the Northern Lights outdoors, I started thinking about being able to do it again but inside a nice warm place with a bed.
My mind suddenly switched over to sharing a bed with Nathan all alone up here under those lights…then I started thinking about Lisa. My best dearest friend, who also cared for Nathan every bit as much as I do. While she and I had talked many times about one of us being with him, we hadn’t really…
Suddenly, my phone started to vibrate. I had a signal? All the way out here? Pulling the phone out I saw that I had full bars and a message. It was from Lisa. “It’s your time. Go for it.”
“What?” I stammered, staring at the message in confusion. She knew? But how?
Nathan came over and placed a hand on my face. “Open your mind and listen,” he told me.
Then I heard Lisa’s voice inside my head saying, “Welcome to the family, Bestie. And remember, I love you too.”
“The Sangui-Sapio,” I whispered in shock, “She has some in her as well?”
Nathan nodded. “I only do it with certain people who are very dear to me who I want to keep a close eye on. This way I can be there all the faster in case I’m… needed during an emergency.”
The way he said that last part told me it wasn’t something he wanted to discuss right now. And I was fine with that. Just knowing that my bond with Lisa had become even stronger and made us closer than ever, made me extremely happy.
But not as happy as Nathan did over the next few days and nights…
Glancing down at my watch I saw half an hour passed already. How much farther did we have to go? I mean, I was grateful for Nathan’s suggestion of putting on his coat, but it was much colder out here than I’d expected. There was a strong breeze and even with the extra layer of clothing, along with the fur he’d extended to keep me from falling off his back, I was starting to feel the chill, especially in my legs. Still I had the heat coming off of his wolf form to help. But instead of complaining, I simply hugged Nathan tighter and buried my face in his fur and tried not to think about my discomfort.
Then I noticed more fur stretching and slowly covering my legs. “Thank you,” I shouted over the wind.
“You’re quite welcome,” Nathan replied, inside my head.
Now I was feeling much more comfortable. Between that and the rhythm of being rocked while on Nathan’s back I wound up dozing off. It was only when we came to a sudden halt, that I awoke. Remembering where we were I was about to ask if we’d found the wolf’s pack. But no. Instead we had come to a halt on the top of a ridge.
I was about to ask what was wrong when I suddenly had to catch my breath. We were standing right under the Northern Lights
Or at least if felt that way. The Aurora Borealis stretches for miles and miles naturally, but at that moment it felt like we were right under the very center of it. Front, back, side to side, they were the sky for us at that moment. I could even make out the stars beyond the swirling colors, which was something I’d never thought about until that moment. It was… incredible.
“I thought you’d like it,” Nathan told me through our mental link. There was a tenderness in his words that I actually felt. I’ve always felt something for Nathan, but in that moment I truly knew how much I was in love with him.
Yet at the same time I wished that Lisa could have been with us in that moment. Her being there with us would have made it truly perfect.
“Another time,” came Nathan’s voice in my head.
Taking the hint I looked over at our wolf friend. I could tell he understood how we felt about the scene above and around us, but he had a longing of his own to fulfill. Nodding I said to Nathan, “LET’S GO!”
Nathan turned his head to look at me and smiled. “Hang on!” he told me with his voice, instead of our link.
It was a good thing I listened. The pair of them took off like shot. We were moving much faster than before. I realized they must’ve gotten the scent of the pack who were on the move. A hunt perhaps? No doubt I would soon find out.
Finally we spotted them in the distance.
They were out in the open and seemingly in disarray. From the tracks in the snow near them it appeared that some kind of big prey had gotten away. A failed hunt? More than likely.
“They apparently haven’t been able to decide on a new pack leader,” Nathan said in my head. “Look off to the side and you’ll see the alpha female.”
I did as he instructed and saw her.
She was even more beautiful in person than in our companion’s memory. She was curled up off to the side, ignoring the boisterous males who seemed to be arguing amongst themselves. Clearly she had not chosen a new mate, and nearby were several more females watching her closely. Sisters? I wondered. Possibly. Maybe that’s why none of them had challenged her her alpha position, even without a mate.
But even more curious was the fact that she was staring in our direction. Ears perked up, eyes sharp and alert.
“Maybe now would be a good time to take the Sangui-Sapio back?” I whispered in one of Nathan’s pointed ears.
He shook his head and did not speak aloud but through the link once more. “She knows we’re here. Or rather that HE is here.”
“Then she can smell the Sangui-Sapio in him,” I thought back. Knowing that wolves are normally very shy of people to begin with, I didn’t want to use my voice and possibly spook the pack.
She was on her feet now and took a few steps in our direction then stopped. Clearly something was holding her back. Then I spotted the rest of the pack. They had either spotted us or caught our scent, and were clearly not happy about it.
Feeling a little anxious I mentally hissed, “Okay, NOW would definitely be a good time to take back the Sangui-Sapio.”
“Not yet!” Nathan thought back forcefully. From someplace nearby I could hear bison calling to one another.
A herd was nearby.
I caught the look that passed between Nathan and our friend and suddenly the two of them took off, with me still on Nathan’s back. Looking over my shoulder I saw that the blonde female was following, along with the other females. Eventually, the rest of the pack began to follow as well.
What was going on?
I soon found out.
On the other side of a rise, the herd soon came into view causing us to slow to a halt. There were about 20-30 of them, slightly scattered, grazing on the tall plants sticking out of the snow.
Now I understood. Our friend needed to make a kill to prove he was still a good hunter/provider to get his position back. And since Bison were extremely dangerous animals, Nathan was leaving the Sangui-Sapio where it was to give the wolf added strength to bring one down. But even with the extra strength, surely one wolf couldn’t bring down a bison all by himself.
Suddenly, Nathan’s backside hit the snow, and the fur that had been holding me in place receded. Taking the hint, I slid off him and stood next to a nearby tree. As soon as I was clear, the two of them began sneaking up on the group below.
I’ll say it right now, I was worried. Not so much for the two of them, but for myself. Because I could tell the pack, still following the alpha female, were practically right behind me. I hadn’t realized how close they were until our friend’s mate came to a halt just a few yards off to my right. She was keeping one eye on me, while also paying close attention to what was happening below.
There were a few calves among the herd, and for a second I was afraid that one of them would be the target. But no, Nathan and our friend were making their way towards a lone full-grown adult. A male, I later found out. An older one, but still full of fight.
I won’t go into detail, but needless to say the two of them pounced and kept their prey from escaping with the rest of the herd. But still, the odds were not necessarily in their favor. It was quite the struggle and only when it was clear that they were able to keep the bull form escaping that the alpha female turned to the pack. She became very vocal letting out a series of barks and growls, then took off to join the fight. A number of others joined her, while the several of those who remained behind slowly began to take up positions around… ME!
TO BE CONTINUED… and eventually concluded I promise!
The first thing I noticed was one of the poor creature’s paws beginning to stretch and lengthen. “NATHAN STOP!” I cried, which he promptly did. He shot me a confused look then saw what was happening to the wolf and quickly reverted to his own animal form.
As he did so, the wolf’s paws began to revert to their true state as well. Once they had, I gave the wolf a reassuring hug, which it accepted without hesitation. It trusted me and I knew it. Hell, I didn’t just know it, I could feel it. The bond we were sharing was so strong. I’d never felt like this with anyone or anything before, except for maybe Lisa. But she wasn’t here and I could feel the wolf’s growing despair as if it were my own.
The poor thing just wanted to go back to its pack, especially his mate. But we both knew it would never be accepted, not if it kept shapeshifting without meaning to. Memories filled my mind of happier times of hunts, playtime, sleeping in a huge pile for warmth against the cold, the bond he shared with she who was his mate…
She was beautiful. And I say this not just because of what the wolf was feeling either. I could see her clearly in my mind.
She was more blonde than I would’ve pictured for a wolf, but oh that face. So sweet, so intelligent, and that fur, Lord I would’ve loved to have the chance to run my hands through that ruff as I had with him. Her coat was so soft looking. And I knew from his memories she was intelligent and a great hunter, as well as a wonderful companion.
“If there’s some way to get you back to her, we will,” I sighed aloud.
“And we’re going to,” came Nathan’s voice from behind me. Then he placed a hand (a human one) on my shoulder. Surprised I turned and saw he was back to his normal self. He was even wearing some of the clothes I’d been holding onto for him, namely his shirt and pants. “You… how…?” I stammered.
“You inadvertently helped anchor our friend,” he smiled, nodding at the wolf in my arms, who was still in his true form. “That bond three of us share, allowed me to see what was going on between you two. He was so focused on showing you his pack and mate, that I was able to shift back to myself without triggering the Sangui-Sapio in him.”
“Can you get it out of him now? Like you did with the Cannibal Killer?” I asked.
Nathan looked at the wolf and sighed. “The Sangui-Sapio has been a part of him for months instead of minutes or an hour. It’s become a part of him, like it has with me.”
I pulled the wolf closer to me. “So it’s too late? There’s nothing we do for him?”
“I didn’t say that,” Nathan corrected. “But first I to need to get him back to his pack. And to do that, I’m going to need your help.”
“Anything!” I said firmly, which earned me a lick and a nuzzle of gratitude from my furry companion.
“Good. First, I’m going to need you to take my clothes again, because I’m going to shift back into wolf form,” Nathan told me and began to remove his shirt. “And then once I’m in that form I’ll only communicate with you through our bond. I don’t want to scare the pack, once we find them, by talking out loud. Seeing one of their own kind speaking like a man will only freak them out.”
“It would kind of freak me out too,” I confessed.
Grinning he continued, “You may want to put my coat on top of what you’re wearing.”
That made me frown. “Why? Where are we going?”
“Out onto the tundra where it will be colder. That’s where we’ll find the pack.”
“For how long?”
He shrugged, “All night?”
I blinked. “You do know how long a night lasts up here…” I began when suddenly a distant howl pierced the night. The wolf in my arms raised his head and a feeling of longing and sadness suddenly swept over me.
As it ended, I suddenly knew who it was. “That was her,” I breathed, looking at Nathan, “His mate.”
He nodded. But before he could speak, the wolf threw back his head and let loose a long howl of his own. I’m thrilled to say that before he finished, his voice was joined by hers. She had heard him and was letting him know it.
I have to say it was both strange and beautiful listening to them calling to one another. Emotions and memories, none of them my own, began filling my head until Nathan took one of my hands in his and called me back to myself. I was about to say something, but he placed a finger to his lips with his eyes closed tight. I stayed quiet.
After a few moments the howling came to an end, and I could hear were the sounds of the breeze rustling the trees around us.
Finally Nathan broke the silence, “A few miles north of us. The pack is with her. Here, put my coat on, it’s going be really cold up there.”
Obediently I did as he instructed, while he stripped down to nothing. Yes, I did peak, and I liked what I saw. Well, up until the fur started appearing. Then I averted my eyes.
After that, Wolf-Nathan came over started nuzzling his way between my legs.
“HEY! What’s the big idea?” I cried, feeling slightly annoyed. I mean there have been a number of times when I would have loved for that to happen, but that was when he was himself.
‘Get on my back and hold tight. Otherwise, there’s no way you can keep up with the two of us once we start moving,’ Once again it sounded like Nathan’s voice, but now I knew I was only hearing him inside my head.
Obediently, I did as I was told. After a few more ‘suggestions’ I half sat, half lay across his back, with my hands firmly gripping his ruff. I wasn’t really sure how well this was going to work, but then I felt some of the fur stretching and reaching up and around my waist and back. Feeling more secure I smiled and turned to our friend who had been anxiously watching and waiting.
“Let’s go find her!” I shouted and immediately he took off, with us in hot pursuit.
Soon the airport and all the signs of man vanished into the distance. In spite of the ride being a little bumpy, the ride was exhilarating. Initially, I let out the occasional cry of “Watch out for that tree…” or “Oh God you’re not going to jump that…” but then I got more used to it. I even kept myself from gasping when we leapt a twenty-foot gorge that no normal wolf could have managed, but by then I we’d be fine.
Eventually, I got so comfortable I began looking up at the night sky.
It was incredible. I’d never seen that many stars before. And many of them were so bright! Brighter then I’d ever dreamed possible. Then before I knew it we were in the open tundra.
OKAY, MY BAD, TO BE CONCLUDED NEXT TIME… I THINK…
PS: What can I say? These stories and the characters take on a life of their own sometimes.
The next thing I knew I was out in the snow, running across a huge clearing. I could see the edges of the forest on all sides. The dark trees seemed to stretch high into the night sky, I could see stars. Miles and miles of stars. I’d never seen so many before in my life. They seemed endless, and so very bright.
I remembered I was still running, and brought my attention back to what was in front of me. More snow covered ground and I realized that either the snow was really deep or… my head was a lot closer to the ground. Yet it felt perfectly normal… aside from the burning pain in my chest. Only it wasn’t so bad as before. I spared a brief glance downwards. There was blood, a lot of it. Yet even as I stared it was slowly disappearing, because it was being re-absorbed through the skin under my black fur.
Yeah, you read that right. My black fur. I was in Nathan’s head right then and he was on the run and booking across the snow at incredible speed. From what I was experiencing we were on all fours, which was why the snow was so much closer to our face. He must’ve shifted to full wolf form after being hit by the gunfire. In the past he’s complained about how uncomfortable it was to be hit by bullets, but he always seemed to be half-joking. Now I know how much it really hurts him. I’ve made a mental note to try to keep him from making himself an unnecessary target in the future.
In the distance I could hear the rangers and men with the guns far behind us. Their voices became more distant as we ran. They had given up the chase it seemed, but then I managed to hear the word ‘snowmobile’ mentioned. Neither of us liked that sound of that.
Then I thought, ‘Okay, we need to get out of here…’
Suddenly, I/we stumbled and stopped. Then I felt Nathan’s thought echo in my head.. ‘Marisa?’
Before I could respond, I started hearing, “Ri-sa… Ri-sa…” over and over again, followed by something cold and wet brushing against my cheek. I opened my eyes and found I was on the floor of the room at the airport. And a pair of worried looking eyes were staring at me.
They were wolf eyes, and to my immense relief, they were watching at me from a wolf’s face this time.
“Ri…sa…?” it spoke again. Apparently, being back in his true form was making speech harder for the creature. But the fact that it could still speak at all, meant there was not telling how long he could keep his own shape. I started to wonder how he had gotten his own form back, but then I remembered, Nathan had actually shifted back to full wolf form. Thanks to the link between the two of them, which I seemed to share now as well, the wolf had reverted to his natural form.
Sitting up, one thought raced through my head. What would happen if Nathan shifted back to himself? Would the wolf’s form change too? I suspected that’s exactly what would happen, which meant I had both myself and my new furry friend the heck out of there and quick. The million dollar question was, how?
I turned to look at the window the wolf had come through earlier. I wasn’t too high and both of us could easily slip through, but then what? Security and rangers were still out there, no doubt with guns at the ready. And even if they didn’t shoot, the first questions they’d be asking would be where the hell did I get the wolf?
The answer suddenly came, loud and firm. “STAY PUT! BOTH OF YOU!”
“Nathan!” I cried and looked around, but there was no sign of him.
I saw my companion was looking around too, so he’d heard it too. He was on high alert now, but seeing no one he finally looked back at me with the most confused look. “Easy, he’s in our heads,” I assured my new friend and petted him gently.
He readily accepted the gesture and started rubbing up against me. Thanks to the ‘connection’ courtesy of the Sangui-Sapio, I could feel that he was very happy to not be alone anymore. But there was also deep longing inside him. He was missing his pack, especially his mate. Even if we got him out of here in one piece, and get the Sangui-Sapio out of him, then what? Even if there was some way to find his pack, would they take him back? And if not…
My thoughts were interrupted by voices coming from the window. Some of the security people had come back and I could hear them rather clearly. Moving quietly, I headed to the window for a quick look. To my surprise, I could see the men were still quite far in the distance, yet I was hearing them as clearly as if they were mere feet away.
‘Damn, no wonder Nathan always seems to know what’s going back at The Crypt,’ I thought. The Crypt is a club in the basement of an old building, that Nathan owns. And in spite of it usually being filled with young people, Nathan always seems to know when trouble may be brewing, or tempers rising, even across a crowded dance floor. From there he naturally intervenes before anything serious happens.
Just a dark shape lopes from around the corner of a nearby building and heads towards my window. It seems to be emitting a greenish mist as it moves. It even walks between by two security guards who take no notice of it whatsoever.
I smiled and opened the window a little wider. “Hurry up and get in here,” I hissed as he drew nearer. Just then I heard the wolf in the room with me give a little growl. Quickly I turned and saw he had his teeth bared slightly.
“Easy,” I told him, “He didn’t mean for this to happen to you. He’s going to make you better, then we’re going to get you out of here and someplace safe.”
I’m still not sure if he actually understood my words, he probably did. But I think mostly he trusted me and knew I was there for him. As he calmed down, Nathan slipped in through the window which I quickly closed. A second later, there was a knocking at the door.
“Miss? Are you all right in there? I thought I heard growling?”
It was the security guard who’d been stationed outside the room. We’d completely forgotten all about him! Clearly he’d heard the wolf growling at Nathan and was now inserting his key in the lock to come in. How the hell was I going to explain how not one, but two wolves had gotten into the room with me.
Just then, Nathan (still in his animal form) turned to the wolf and the two of them nodded. Just as the door opened, the pair of them breathed more of the greenish mist at the portal.
The guard blinked briefly and then smiled, “Are you and your dogs all right, Miss?”
“Yes,” I smiled and petted my ‘dogs’. “We’re fine.”
“They seemed to have calmed down,” the guard nodded. “Glad we were able to find them for you. You’ll need better kennel crates, if you’re going to keep traveling with them.”
So that was going to be our ‘story”, I thought and nodded. “Yeah, my boys are pretty strong when they get riled up. Thanks for all your help. We should be get going.”
“Of course,” the man smiled, “I’ll lead you through the terminal and outside.”
Which he did. Of course, Nathan and the wolf continued to exude their mist so that anyone who glanced our way simply saw me walking my dogs out of the facility.
As we walked, I did catch some of what the rangers and other security people were saying. From what they could tell, they nailed the ‘werewolf’ which turned out to simply be a bear with a serious case of parasitic mange. The body was already being disposed of and there was nothing for anyone to worry about.
Once we were outside Nathan led the way across the street and beyond the parking lot area. After making sure there was no one around, he began to shift back to human form. But as I feared, the wolf began to change shape as well.
I couldn’t believe my ears, but I knew damn well I had heard the creature’s exact words! Before I could react it spoke again, “Mar-is-a…. please… end…”
It knew my name… and it was asking me to kill it!
My eyes fell to the rifle on the ground between us. Then I looked to him. His human/wolf shaped face was nothing like the old wolfman movies I watch with my father. Nor was it anything like the faces the more modern movie-makers have come up with. This face was literally moving and reshaping constantly as I stared at him. Only the wolf’s eyes themselves never changed, and were watching me the whole time with that pleading look in them. I could see tears running out of those eyes, they were red just like Nathan’s. It was those tears that got me.
Instead of reaching for the gun, I reached for the animal to pull him close. At first he tried to recoil, but then it seemed to realize that I was trying to do, and let me put my arms around it’s huge neck.
You might think I was crazy for hugging such a creature, but how could I not. The poor thing was in agony. Trapped in a body that was not sure what shape it should be taking. It’s mind filled with images and memories of another life, a human’s life no less. A human who could shift his shape and become other creatures. Walking on four legs, or two, or six… wait, SIX?
Where the hell had that come from? Nathan never turned into anything with six legs. Now my own mind was becoming confused. I was seeing creatures now, things not of this world. Some reminded me of prehistoric beings I’d seen in books or documentaries, but were still quite different. I held up one of my hands and it was like I was looking at several different images all at once, each layered on top of the other. One of them almost looked like a pseudopod, while another had claws with seven fingers/toes.
What was happening to me… the answer suddenly hit me. The Sangui-Sapio! My tears, the wolf’s tears, they were both running down my face. Just as the wolf had accidentally ingested some of Nathan’s blood during that hunt, now some of that mixed blood had passed into my skin. The same thing had happened with Isabella all those years ago. When she had slowly been dying in her brother’s arms, his tears had fallen onto her skin and been absorbed without his realizing it.
Now, I don’t want to sound like a complete idiot here. Between what happened with Isabella, and that Cannibal Killer who bit Nathan a few years ago, I knew he could infect someone else pretty easily. But he never mentioned the memories.
Okay, technically he did. Many times in fact. He’s always teasing that he has an eidetic memory, but because he’s been around for over 150 years, there are a lot for him to sort through to find certain memories. But he never mentioned the ‘other’ memories. The ones that were not his. Mind you, I’m not talking about the one’s I was getting from the wolf in my arms. There were other memories. Old ones, from other Para-Earths…
But I pushed them aside. Right then I only wanted to focus on the wolf’s memories. We were connected now in a way I never dreamed possible with any creature, human or animal. The poor thing’s anguish ran far deeper than I had first imagined. After having accidentally ingested some of the Sangui-Sapio, it had felt stronger, tired less easily. It had taken down a full moose by itself and the pack had eaten well. And of course with every kill there had been blood, more than enough to satisfy.
At first this all was fine, but then the nights started getting shorter and he had found the sun becoming uncomfortable and needed to stay in a den. Not that the pack really minded, they were more active at night mostly. But when the nights became shorter and the sun lasted longer and longer, he had had to dig a den and could barely come out unless they had eaten well the night before.
The pack had tried to stick by him after first, but with his inability to hunt as often they began to grow restless. The final straw though had come when he began to ‘change’ physically. It had happened while he had been sleeping. He had been dreaming, or actually remembering things that had not happened to it, but to another…. namely Nathan. There had been a fight, in a place with stones and death. It was standing on two legs, instead of four and… had awoken with a start hitting it’s head on the ceiling of the den. Instinctively, it raised a paw only to find the toes of that paw had elongated. So had the leg attached to it.
Confused, it scurried awkwardly out of the den (which seemed much smaller than it had remembered) and into the clearing where most of the pack lay. The shock of seeing what had happened to their leader was too much. At first the pack growled, then caught his scent. Confused and frightened they bolted would not return. No matter how hard he tried to catch up with them, they kept running. Only his mate occasionally would stop and look. She even tried approaching him, but then his body would shift some more terrifying even her to the point that she fled.
Alone, and unable to hunt properly, the wolf had started following the smells of food wherever it could find some. Successfully killing sick or wounded prey to satisfy the need for blood. Eventually, it found prey caught in traps and would take from them, but then it began running afoul of humans.
They had always avoided people. People had long sticks that lit up with a loud noise. Occasionally, this was followed by pain and blood. He had lost prey and even some of his own pack to those noisy sticks. The creature now knew it was called a gun, but how it knew this was confusing. There were so many memories filling it’s mind. So much confusion… and the dreams. Those terrible dreams! Places and creatures it had never seen or experienced, yet it could remember them.
But recently, while feasting on a trapped deer, a man had shown up and used his fired his gun. He had felt the piercing of the… bullet, rip through his side. Instinctively, it turned and ran, but on two legs instead of four. More shots were fired and several hit, but it managed to get away. When it was safe, the wolf had lay down in a cave. With no pack to feed to help keep it warm, it expected to die all alone and forsaken. But instead of death, the pain simply went away and the wounds healed.
“That’s when you realized, you couldn’t go on…” I murmured aloud, still holding the creature close. “No pack, all alone, and afraid that this painful existence might not ever end.”
“Ma-ris-a…” it said once again, in that same broken manner as before. I understood now that it recognized me from Nathan’s memories. As that thought passed through my mind, I realized I had Nathan’s memories now as well. That startled me. Nathan’s thoughts and feelings… were in me now as well. And I now knew him in ways I’d never dreamed of before.
Suddenly, the both the wolf and I gasped. Pain! Red-hot stabbing pain ripped through out chests. Unable to help ourselves we collapsed to the ground and rolled apart. The pain was beyond belief and the next thing I knew, everything went black.
TO BE CONTINUED…
(A thousand apologies for leaving you all on this much of a cliffhanger, but I promise not to keep you waiting long for the next installment – Yours Respectfully, Allan)
I have to say, the folks at the airport did not waste any time trying to get me indoors and away from the ‘creature’. They were so quick, I barely got a chance to look over my shoulder and catch one final glimpse of Nathan in his Man-Wolf form as we got close to the door of the terminal. Unfortunately, one of my ‘rescuers’ caught my backward glance and also spotted him. Next thing I knew, he was yelling to the other around me and a couple of them were armed with rifles.
Now I want to point out that no one in my family hunts, so I had no idea just how loud a gun sounds when it’s fired. I now understand why people wear those hearing protectors that look like headphones. Damn, those things are loud. My ears were ringing and I could barely make out the sound of the airport around me. Hell, I could hardly hear a plane taking off. Luckily, one of the men who had opened fire was right next to me, and I could barely make out his shout of, “I hit him!”
For a second my heart skipped a beat, then I remembered they were talking about Nathan not someone in a costume. Surely the Sangui-Sapio inside Nathan had protected anything vital. I know from past experience that it always does. Even if Nathan had been hit bad, the Sangui-Sapio would have either moved the organ in danger to a safe spot, or created a secondary version of whatever had been injured to keep him going. From what Otto has explained to me in the past, if healing could not take place, the new organ would simply replace the original which would simply be broken down and absorbed on a cellular level into the rest of the body. I swear, even knowing as much as I do of what that Para-Earth entity can do, I’m still in awe of it.
But I didn’t have time to dwell on either Nathan or the Sangui-Sapio. My ‘rescuers’ were busy hustling me past a crowd of lookie-loos who had gathered by the doors leading outside, trying to catch a glimpse of the action taking place outside. Of course, there were a number of podcasters, and Tik-Tokers on hand who tried to get close and ask me and the security people questions about the creature and my encounter with it.
Apparently, Nathan and I had put on a real good show, or someone had spotted the poor wolf itself. In either case, I was now a news story. Yay me!
Anyway, security took over and had quite the time spiriting me away from the crowd. They wound up leading me to an out of the way office on the main floor far away from the crowd. After getting me a cup of coffee and making sure I was unharmed. Once I assured them for the 12th time that I was fine, then one of the men started asking me what the hell I was doing out side the terminal in the first place? Didn’t I know that area was off limits to anyone but airport employees?
The more he spoke the more he was getting himself worked up. He was shouting now, and several of the others in the room were looking more and more uncomfortable.
That’s when I decided to draw on some of what I had learned in the theater classes I took with Lisa during our last year of high school. Every, time the guy started raising his voice and getting in my face, I started cringing and flinching. Finally, I practically burst into tears and began babbling hysterically. I wound up telling him I’d never been here before and that I had taken a wrong turn trying to find my way to the ladies’ room, because it was that time of the month and I wound up going through a door that led outside which locked behind me…
That was more than enough to get the “Spanish Inquisition” off my case. He backed off and ordered someone to ask one of the female employees to get me whatever I needed, then exited the room himself. Once a woman came in with what I ‘needed’ the others exited the room to give me privacy.
As soon as they left I went over to the one window in the room. From there I could see what was happening outside. Clearly, the hunt for Nathan was still on. I could see bobbing flashlights and brief silhouettes of his pursuers in the distance, beyond the parked planes. I opened the window to see if I could hear anything of what was being said, but it was too noisy out. As I began to close the window I could hear some kind of report coming from over a radio nearby.
It seemed to be coming from the other side of the door to this room. Forgetting the window I sneaked over to the door to listen. Apparently, a security guard had apparently been assigned to keep the ‘paparazzi’ away from me, and he was currently listening what was going on outside over his shoulder radio. From what I could make out, one of the rangers had been knocked down by the wolf-creature, which had then stolen his rifle and taken off.
I frowned at that. It had to be Nathan’s doing, but why? Were they getting too close? Had he been hurt by one of their shots? Maybe, they had caught a glimpse of the real creature and were taking aim.
It sure as hell couldn’t have been the wolf who had stolen the rifle. It wouldn’t know the first thing about guns, aside from possibly knowing they were dangerous in the hands of a human.
Suddenly, I heard a clattering noise right behind me and whirled. There before me was the Man-Wolf, while at my feet lay the rifle.
I swear I didn’t know whether to be surprised or terrified at that moment. But when it spoke, I nearly burst into tears. For in very broken English it said, “End… me… please…”
Otto raised one bushy eyebrow and asked, “Nathan, what did you do? Come clean, now.”
“I got hurt during a hunt,” I replied distractedly, as I pulled up a new tab on the computer and began searching for the nearest flight to Alaska. There was one leaving that evening from Columbus, Ohio. I could easily make it if I started getting ready right away. Booking a seat on the plane, I got up and began making for the door only to find both Otto and Isabella blocking me.
“You do know I can easily mist past the two of you,” I pointed out.
“Are you so sure?” asked Otto, pulling out an oversized fireplace bellow. It took me a moment to realize the bellow he was holding was the one I kept next to the fireplace. As usual, I never heard or saw him grab it. He’s a sly one, let me tell you.
Knowing the clock was ticking for me to get to Ohio I told them, “Fine, follow me upstairs and I’ll explain while I pack.”
That got them to let me pass, and the three of us headed upstairs. I told them all about my visit with my friends in Fairbanks and how I’d headed for the Boreal Forest after leaving them.
As we reached my bedroom Isabella headed straight for my closet and pulled out a couple of suitcases, one of which was almost as big as her. Not that she had any trouble handling it. Since I accidentally infected her my Sangui-Sapio (a story for another day), she has the same strength, speed, and weaknesses I possess. And although she has the body of a child, unlike me she has been growing at the normal rate of any 12-year-old girl. Though I suspect, that like me, this will slow down considerably once she reaches adulthood.
In the meantime, Otto urged me to continue my tale and I complied.
Since they already know about my tendency to ‘go native’ when I’m up in Alaska, I was able to gloss over that part quickly. Finally, I got to the part about meeting up with the pack of wolves, and how I’d won their confidence with my mist trick.
“Since the hours of night are so long at that time of the year, I wound up staying with them almost a week,” I explained. “Since we were making kills pretty regularly, there was plenty of blood to keep me sated. Plus, it was pretty cloudy at the time, and we were keeping under the tree canopy a lot, which made things even easier for me to stay in wolf form.”
“Sounds like you were having a lovely time,” Otto nodded pleasantly, as he sat on my smiling. “So, when are we going to get to the ‘Oops’ part of your story?”
I stood there holding a stack of underwear in my hands, and just stared at him. “What makes you think there’s an ‘Oops’ part coming?”
“Because it’s clear from your reaction to the article that you suspect you accidentally infected one of those wolves with your Sangui-Sapio companion,” he answered calmly.
“Psychology?” I asked.
Otto shook his head. “No, more like I know that look you get whenever you’ve goofed something up,” he teased, then his expression became serious. “So how did it happen? You’re usually very careful about not ‘sharing’ your gifts.” His eyes darted to Isabella ever-so-briefly before looking at me again.
As I mentioned before, infecting my sister had been an accident. It had happened back in 1863, shortly after the Sangui-Sapio and I had formed our bond. I hadn’t learned about the mistake until decades later, mistaking her for a ghost at first.
Anyway, I resumed my packing and my tale. “It was the last night I was with the pack. We were hunting bison. Shortly before I met the pack they had lost both their alpha and beta leaders. With me appearing on the scene, they’d had more successes with their hunts and were beginning to eye me as a new leader. Too many failed hunts and they’d be in trouble. Luckily there was one young male who was showing a lot of promise and I was trying to support him, so to speak. Follow his lead and all, kind of thing.”
“And how did he take it?” Otto inquired.
“He wasn’t exactly thrilled about me, but he knew I was effective in helping bring down prey so he tolerated my presence. But during that last hunt, errors were made. He wanted us to go after one of the younger bison. Unfortunately, I could tell already that the herd was keeping a very good defensive ring around their young. No matter how much the pack harried them, they wouldn’t break rank. That is, except for one older bull who at that point was wide open.”
As usual Otto was already ahead of me, saying, “Let me guess, our young alpha saw this as an opportunity to firmly establish himself as leader. Am I correct?”
I nodded. “Oh yeah. Mind you he was a good hunter, but I could see he was going to be seriously outmatched.”
“So, you jumped in to try and help him?” my sister asked.
“That had been the plan,” I winced, “I didn’t want to make him look bad, but I knew he couldn’t take that bison alone. So, I zipped ahead and challenged the big bull myself, giving the alpha a clean shot at the throat. Unfortunately, the bull was faster than either of us expected and he gored me something fierce, got my blood all over his face and neck. A second or two later, the alpha nailed him in the throat and the three of us went at it. The pack arrived moments later, attacking the bull’s rear and sides. And that was it for the bull, we brought him down. But looking back, I suspect that some of my blood was on the bison’s throat where the alpha struck. Which means it didn’t return to me when we called my blood back.”
“You called your blood back?” Isabella repeated with a frown.
“Whenever I bleed, either me or Sangui-Sapio can call the blood I spilled back into me through the skin. Unless something prevents it from reaching me, like being ingested for instance,” I explained.
“Like the Cannibal Killer you fought three years ago?” Isabella continued.
I nodded. That guy had lived up to his name and had taken a bite out of me, along with a chunk of the Sangui-Sapio. He’d been injured in our fight before he bit me. And since the Sangui-Sapio’s first instinct is to preserve life, it went to work pretty quickly on him, making the guy nearly as strong and hard to stop as me.
As if reading my thoughts Otto spoke again. “If this is indeed the case with the wolf, why is the creature taking a humanoid shape? From what you’ve told me in the past, the Sangui-Sapio normally just adapts to its new host’s form. It only tries to shapeshift the body briefly, in or to protect or help the new host. Otherwise, the host appears to be normal. Yet, according to the article, the creature seems to have taken on a humanoid shape and was having rough time of it. Now, why would a wolf do that?”
Once more I thought back to the dream. In it, I was having trouble keeping my wolf form. “I don’t know,” I replied, finishing up my packing. “Which is why I have to get up there as quickly as possible, before that poor creature accidentally winds up infecting another animal or even a person.”
Upon reaching the bottom of the steps I could hear Otto, Penny, Richard and Isabella in the study laughing about something on the internet.
“Well that certainly makes a change from Abominable Snowman sightings,” Richard was saying.
“Maybe it’s a Wendigo?” I heard my sister chime in, “They travel with the snow!”
“True, but I have never heard of one that far north,” Otto’s gentle bass voice pointed out.
Intrigued, I did a 180 and headed for the study instead of the kitchen. Coffee could wait, this was sounding interesting.
Upon entering the study, I saw that they were all gathered around the computer on the big desk where I work on my novels. There are two computer monitors, which makes it easier for me to do research on one while I work on my story on the other. At this point though they had the story on only one screen and their heads were all in the way, so I couldn’t see what they were looking at.
As I strained to look over their heads, Penny suddenly said, “You’re up early, Nathan.”
I did a doubletake. She hadn’t even turned around to look at me. And I know I didn’t cast a reflection on either monitor. I swear the woman has developed some kind of “Mom Radar” ever since she gave birth to her son Richie Jr. four years ago.
Then again it may just be a survival tactic she developed growing up in Detroit. She doesn’t like to talk about her childhood. But one time she did tell me you needed to have eyes all over your head to survive not only the neighborhood, but the apartment building you lived in too.
Before I could respond to Penny’s observation Isabella spoke up again. “Lisa’s visiting some museums over in Charleston for one the college classes she’s taking, and Marisa’s travelling with our carnival friends. He doesn’t have any reason to be tired enough to stay in bed.”
At that point Otto looked at me and waggled his bushy eyebrows at me saying, “You poor boy.”
Ignoring these little jibes at my expense, I finally got to see what was on the screen. It was clear from the headline what movie they got their inspiration from.
“An American Werewolf in Alaska?” I read aloud incredulously.
“I know,” cried Penny turning to me. “Alaska has been part of the United States for decades, so of course any werewolf that turns up there is going to be American.”
“I would have gone with ‘Red Fang’ myself,” added Otto.
I stared blankly at him for a moment, which earned me an eyeroll from my oldest friend.
“What?” I cried, wondering what I’d done this time.
Richard came to my aid. “He’s making a joke off of the title ‘White Fang’. You know, the novel by Jack London that takes place in Alaska?”
“Never mind, Richard,” Otto told him, “Apparently, he doesn’t read modern books.”
“Modern!” I exclaimed, “That was written in 1906. If that’s modern, what do you consider ‘classic’?”
Otto simply shrugged, “The Bible, the Vedas, Ovid’s Metamorphases…”
“The Dead Sea Scrolls, anything you were able to check out of the Library of Alexandria…,” I supplied helpfully.
“I wish,” he sighed.
Laughing I excused myself and went to get some coffee. Otto is way older than me, yet in spite of our being friends for the last 120+ years, I still don’t know exactly how old he really is. Oh, he claims he’s given me plenty of hints over time (which I know he has), it’s just… I have a problem with numbers. It’s called Dyscalculia, which is a kind of dyslexia only with numbers instead of letters, which throws my calculations off whenever I’m doing math. I barely passed my classes at the universities, which made me kind of blase when it comes to doing casual math problems, outside of research or for a class.
Heading back to the study, I found only Otto and Isabella were still there. “Where’d Penny and Richard go?” I asked.
“To wake Little Richie up from his afternoon nap,” Isabella answered, then turned back to Otto asking, “If the creature is real, do you think it might be another Para-Earth incursion?”
“It’s possible, but none of my calculations predicted an opening taking place in that area recently,” he replied.
This piqued my curiosity and I slid into one of the chairs vacated by Penny and Richard, in order to check out the article. There were a few photos, but since they were taken at night, so the lighting was not great.
Heck, I’ve seen photos of Bigfoot (which never do him justice, FYI) that were more recognizable. And that includes the fuzzy grainy shots like this one.
Turning to my old friend I asked, “Otto? What did you mean when you said you’d have called this article ‘Red Fang’?”
“Well, if you read the article, you’ll find out,” he replied curiously.
Obediently, I did as he instructed. The description of the creature varied somewhat from witness to witness. However, they all agreed it looked humanoid with tufts of hair on its back and misshapen limbs. According to those who got a better look at it, one or more of the creature’s limbs was longer than the rest, which made it hard for the thing to get around. Perhaps that was why it seemed to vary running on two limbs and then all four. However it was only towards the end of the article that two people described the creature’s coloring not as reddish, but red. Almost blood red, to be specific. Looking back to the title of the article, I saw that the encounter had taken place on the outskirts of Fairbanks.
I suddenly found myself thinking back to the dream, and now an uneasy feeling was sweeping over me.
As if knowing my thoughts, Otto observed casually, “Of course, the creature could have made a kill and was simply covered in the blood of its victim.”
I shook my head. A century and a half on this, and a number of Para-Earths, has taught me that if something seems ‘sus’, then it probably is.
Just then Isabella said, “The article said this wasn’t the first sighting of the creature. There have been reports of a red wolf type of creature being spotted as far back as April. You were in Alaska back in January? Did you see the creature while you were there?”
At that moment I remembered a particular incident that had happened during my visit. “I think, I might have…” I replied.
As I sit here typing my mind is still in a whirl. The idea that something I’ve written is actually getting published seems unreal. Then again a lot of things I’ve done in my long life feel that way.
The first time I stepped out onto a stage in vaudeville to play a part in one of the Marx Brothers routines I felt the same way. I’d been helping out in their rehearsals and knew the routine by heart, so when Gummo wasn’t able to appear with his brothers one night, I was drafted then and there. I’m proud to say that I did not suffer stage fright, but that was mostly because I had Julius, Arthur and Leonard with me. I knew they had my back and I wasn’t about to let them down. In a way, it was like being back in the Union Army, where I knew I had a bunch of guys watching out for me just as much as I was keeping an eye out for them. When we finished our routine they made sure I took a bow with them. After that I started finding myself on stage a number of times with some of the other acts who knew me pretty well.
But I digress. As my second semester taking writing classes was drawing to a close, one of my instructors urged me to try and submit a few of my short stories to a few magazines for publication. This was in March and I trusted my instructor’s judgement and with their help I prepared a cover letter, synopsis and a sample of one of my stories. Needless to say the results were pretty much what I half expected…
Not to say I wasn’t a little hurt, but my instructor was like, “Good, now you’re really on your way to being an author.” Needless to say I gave her a very curious look, but nodded and kept trying. Within weeks the responses, or rather more rejections, came rolling in…
Yet in spite of this, Brian, his family, fellow students, and even other members of the English and Literature faculty kept urging me on. So I kept at it. Finally, yesterday, I got a response from of all magazines Playboy, who wanted to publish one of my stories. It was one I submitted on a whim to their college fiction contest last year. I didn’t win mind you, but one of the editors kept it on file because he thought it was really good.
In any case, somehow they were looking to fill space and he remembered my story and contacted me saying they wanted to run it. Naturally I said yes so next month, my first published short story will be coming out in Playboy Magazine. I’m hoping the readers like it, or at least those who read Playboy for the articles, all of two of them.
Still, to have my first published story appear in a magazine of that caliber is an honor. I’m hoping it will help springboard me into other publications or at least get my name out there. Or rather my pseudonym Daniel Bachmann. Bachmann was my mother’s maiden name and Daniel was my grandfather’s name. Too many people out there know or heard of Nathaniel Steward over the last few decades who don’t know my secret. So a fake name just seemed more appropriate on this occasion.
So my first published work will be sandwiched somewhere in between naked women and… now I’m jealous. Time to head out and enjoy some nightlife. I hear there’s plenty of great places here in London, and the lights at night are beautiful. Who knows, I might get an idea for a few more stories. Yup… I’m a writer all right. Always thinking about the next tale.