Walking Wolf Road - Chapter 7
The rest of the trip, and our return to the house were all somewhat patchy and difficult to recall, as if I had fallen asleep when I couldn’t have, such as walking to the house from the car. Oh well, the important parts were that I was home and I felt like shit.
I can remember arguing with my folks about taking me to the hospital, and finally winning. I assured them it wasn’t serious enough to warrant the emergency room, and that I just needed time to work it out of my system. I also remember once nearly screaming bloody murder when I woke up to see a very concerned Jacob staring at me intently, and then asking if I’d been attacked by a wolf or a bear. I told him it was a rabid beaver that got me…then rolled over and promptly passed out again.
Suddenly, I awakened in a rush, having napped the day away, the last dying rays of the sun squeezing through my window to pierce my punished eyes. Why is it that when someone’s ill, it always feels worse at night? Apparently, ‘food poisoning’ was no exception. I dragged my corpse up from the dungeon and into the bathroom where I cleaned out the wound on my hand again, which didn’t hurt near so much anymore. I started running water for a hot bath, still feeling rather clammy and undead.
A knock on the door, “Are you feeling any better Jimmy?” Dad’s voice, muffled by the wood of the door.
“Not much.” And my voice reflected it, yikes…
“Well, if you feel like eating anything, we put some leftover chicken in the fridge for you.”
As I undressed, it felt like I was peeling my skin off with each item of clothing. I eased my aching body into the steaming water when the bath was full. Except for the absence of a fever (rather, the presence of it’s opposite) it felt just like flu. The nausea, the irrational fever dreams, the aches and hypersensitive skin. Fucking viruses. Grrr!
The hot water felt agonizingly hot on my chilled skin, but eventually my body acclimated and the scorching pain fadeded to a dull numb. As my body temperature rose and I became more comfortable, my foggy mind began wandering to odd places. My previously temperamental stomach was now roaring for some kind of meat product. Now and then I would notice something peculiar, like the smell of mold, or the sound of the TV in the living room as if it were right next to me.
I was letting my virus inundated mind wander of its own seemingly harmless will when I had a sudden vivid mental image of running through green trees and bushes in a forest. It was more than an image though; it was almost like I left my body for a second or two and entered some animals’ body. Surprised by the sudden sensory outburst I returned to my body, jerking upward out of the bath, and splashing water all around the room, and on my clothes.
“Oh, frickin’-A!” I shouted as my temper flared wildly for a moment. I sat back into the water breathing heavily, exhausted from my little outburst. My head swam as I rested my head against the cool porcelain wall of the bath tub. The knots in the back of my neck just seemed to keep growing worse and worse. As I lay in the tub, a sensation ran up my spine, causing me to shudder. And gradually, the shaking returned; starting in my limbs and slowly moving inward. God, what the heck was happening to me?!
I tried to stand up, but my legs wouldn’t support me, they wobbled beneath me and finally buckled; sending me crashing down into the tub again. I crawled out on all fours, dripping water all over the bathroom rug, it felt like my skin is on fire and some sadistic kid was inflating a balloon in my skull! I started to crawl over to the pile of extra towels, when a cold chill ran down my back and I froze. It was like the fine hairs all over my body were standing on end, and the shaking amplified. When I glanced up and out the small bathroom window; my blood seemed to break into a boil and all the muscles in my abdomen spasmed and clenched, drawing a pained gasp from my mouth.
The full moon was half visible through the window, not too far off the horizon and tinted golden amber like a wolf’s eyes. Like Fen’s eyes. Its light fell right on me and as soon as I made eye contact, it seemed to mesmerize me. I found my minds eye following the wooded path again; my senses erupting with familiar but extremely amplified stimuli. The smell of mold and wet denim, the sound of the water dripping off me and the TV in the living room. My stomach flip-flopped from ravenous hunger, to sweeping nausea.
Unable to process everything at once, I buried my head in the soft flesh of my forearm and whimpered, panting and gasping for breath around the spasms. I could feel the fever raging in my super heated face, the water dripping off me now an equal part sweat and bathwater. With blood rushing through my ears and pounding in my temples; the darkness covered me.
* * * *
It was sometime around noon when I came to. I had been wrapped in a robe and carried to the couch; Dad probably did it. I was too exhausted to feel any shame over him seeing my fat naked body, and slightly distracted by the unmentionable taste in my mouth. Mom had already called the school and told them I was ill. Although I didn’t really feel sick... I actually felt like I got run over by a goddamn truck and died, but nobody bothered to inform me of the accident.
After bundling myself up in several thick blankets, I raided every last piece of deli meat from the fridge, and crawled down to my dungeon. I tried to practice my guitar, but my head was too scrambled to focus and even the smallest noise seemed deafening. Finally I gave up on all of it, and surrendered to the sickness. I floated in and out of sleep for several hours, in and out of those abstractly repetitive fever dreams. I returned several times to the woodland trail, I also watched moons rise over massive plains, and chased things through snow and sun, hill and brook. I finally concluded that I indeed had finally lost my mind, or at least what little was left of it.
The sound of children walking past the house signaled that school had let out. I partly slipped into a hallucination of something stalking me outside the house, trying to get in and kill me, but completely ignoring the helpless children on the sidewalk. The doorbell pulled me out of the fever dream just before the thing would have managed to pull the door knob out of my hand. I growled in pain as my sensitive nerve endings screamed out when I moved. I stumbled through the kitchen, and started to head toward the front door, but stopped cold when I saw who rang the bell.
Fen stood on the porch, watching the children walk past. Call me an ass, I don’t care, but I didn’t feel much like letting the person who, as near as I could figure, caused my current condition into my home. I slipped back behind the doorjamb as he turned and hit the doorbell again, and began to look inside the glass.
“Jimmy? Jimmy are you there?”
I didn’t answer, but as if he could sense my presence, he looked directly at the place I hid and called me again; I was very glad the beveled glass distorted enough that he wouldn’t be able to see the visible parts of me.
“Jimmy, let me in; we need to talk!” He tried pounding on the door with his fist this time. “Jimmy, I know you can hear me!” What the fuck? A: Who does he think he is? B: How the hell does he know I’m even here?
“Fine, call me when you have questions! I’ll be waiting for you!” Fen sounded, if anything, fussy and demanding.
I leaned against the doorway as another wave of dizziness moved over me. Images flashed before my eyes again; forests, plains…places I’ve never been to or seen. My stomach roared with persistent but unfulfilled demands.
“Fuck…” I stumbled back into the kitchen, absently rubbing an itch in my hand on the towel wrapped around my waist, and fished a couple eggs and some cheese from the fridge. I fried them up in butter and retreated to my dungeon with my golden prize held before me. I ate half the plate, paused to see if I was just gunna puke it back up, and then finished the rest of the eggs. With the pleasant sensation of food in my stomach, I vaguely noticed a grogginess settling in and a strong itching sensation from under the bandaids on my hand. My eyes just felt so dry, maybe if I closed them for a second…
* * * *
When I opened my eyes I was no longer in my bedroom. I was sitting cross legged in front of a large fire, surrounded on all sides by great towering pines, with the full moon framed up above my head by the silhouetted trees. Across the fire from me, a woman sat, visible through the dancing flames. I vaguely recognized the white face paint with the red triangles from my other dream.
She looked at me while humming some kind of song.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“A part of you,” She answered slowly, cryptically, her eyes closed in an endearing smile, “A part that was always inside you, but was only recently…awakened… A part of what you are destined to become.”
Wow, even my own dreams speak so vaguely I can barely comprehend them.
“What is your name?”
She grinned, showing sharp white teeth, and looked up into the sky, “Oh, there have been so many over the years, so many… Probably the best for you to use though, for now, is the name Fen and the others call me. I am the Great Wolf Spirit.”
“I’m sorry, the what?”
She smiled at me lovingly, with the patience one would show a slow child, “The Great Wolf Spirit. I am the spiritual essence of all wolves, Plato’s ideal form for the lupine race, the memory and essence of the entire species.”
I smiled caustically; I felt no need to be polite to my own dream phantoms. “I hate to break the news to you, but you’re human...and delusional...”
“Oh?” She tilted her head to the side in a very Fen-ish gesture, and laughed richly. “If all things were nothing more than they appear in a certain instance, there would not be much to the world. I am only perceived by you in this way, in this instant.”
Out of nowhere, black birds like ravens started to circle down and land around us, flying around us in circles. They whirled around the fire like a black curtain of feathers, and yet never once did they caw, the only sound they made was the rustling of their feathers. I felt a thrill of excitement tear through me when I see them, raising goosebumps on my arms and shoulders, though I couldn’t figure out quite why. The wind generated by their beating wings seemed to fan the fire; the flames rose higher, and bright yellow and red sparks tried to reach out and touch the moon. I felt giddy and happy, like a child when he catches his first glimpse of the presents under the Christmas tree, yet under it all was a chilled layer of fear, fear of the unknown. Something was very wrong…
“You will change, so will your mind.” The woman, spirit, whatever; stood up and walked around the fire. “When you fully accept me into your life that is when you will fulfill your dreams.” The fire flared up brightly, and when it receded, the woman was gone. A white wolf was where she just stood, and continued walking toward me as she had. I didn’t feel any fear of it, but I was still shocked when it spoke with the woman’s voice.
“I am a part of you, I am your destiny. You don’t have a choice anymore.” Even through the words should have been creepy; they felt too real, too…true ... I felt no fear, only a strange sense of longing. Like a promise wanted so hard it was denied for that very reason. I reached out to touch the wolf’s coat, which gleamed like snow in the moonlight and reflected the flickering reds and golds of the fire. The ethereal quality of the whole dreamscape seemed to grow as things seemed to become slightly foggy. I felt the compulsion to touch her growing stronger, a kind of longing at once wordless and worldful.
“Go to him, he will lead you.” And she sank her teeth into my hand in the exact place where Fen’s teeth had broken through.
* * * *
I ran up the stairs and into the bathroom, almost not making it before the vomit rushed up my throat. I slumped by the toilet after the retches subsided, the fever raged in me like a beast encaged.
I looked down at the place where Fen had bitten me; the place the spirit in the dream had also tasted my flesh. The flesh seemed irritatingly itchy. I peeled off the bandages apprehensively and gasped when I saw the flesh beneath. The little red dots that only earlier today had been open and weeping, were now closed over with shiny pink new scar tissue, not even a scab remained, already seperated and peeled of with the bandage. The flesh around the wounds was puffy and ruddy, but otherwise, unnaturally healthy. Voices, images; chaotic and foreign crowded out my own thoughts and sensations.
My mind unhinged into a jumble of image-words, a strange awareness not of words, but of raw images and sensations, recalled by memory. Whispers, spoken yet not seemed to surround me. I could only make out a few words here and there, like ‘soul’, ‘chosen’, and ‘moonrise’.
I staggered upwards through the dizziness that had confined me to the floor. Stumbling over to the window, I pressed my hand to the sill and stared out at the sunset. I had awakened yesterday at sunset too. Ah hell, maybe I was dying and turning into a vampire. Shivering again, I returned to my bedroom and got dressed.
I stumbled up the stairs and out the front door; sensing that my family was not home, I didn’t bother to tell anyone where I was going. I still wasn’t entirely sure why I was going there anyway; maybe the fever was fucking with my brain or something. The cool evening air felt so good against my hot skin as I walked the two blocks, and stepped onto Fen’s porch. Another wave of shivers came over me as I noticed the smells coming out of the house, and knocked on the door.
He answered the door before I finished my third knock. A twitch of my stomach muscles bent me double as I looked up into his blank face, those amber eyes. I felt angry and foolish when I saw him, almost unable to bring myself to speak the words that had been floating at the periphery of my consciousness since the incident. As another spasm racked me, I glared up at him, hyperventilating from the pain.
“What did you do to me?” Each word was bitten out in staccato. Something moved behind Fen’s eyes, and he stood still for a moment before opening the screen door.
I shuffled past him, and he shut the door behind us. I collapsed on the couch, unable to make it any further into the house. Something in the air here seemed to be stirring the convulsions to greater heights. The hairs stood up all along my body, dancing a little jig with the minute muscles under the skin. Sweat ran in beads down my body and dripped from my face. The fever must have broken, but I felt worse if anything. Fen crouched down on the floor in front of me, staring at my face.
“Tell me what it feels like.”
Another rush came over me, fogging my thought processes. “It feels…It feels like my soul keeps trying to leave my body. My body feels like it’s tearing itself apart, I go from fever, to chills, and back again… I wake up every night at dusk and have these strange convulsions…” I looked up at Fen, “What did you do to me? It makes no sense, but I can’t shake the feeling that you did something.” I tore the bandage off my left hand, the scars had healed yet more since the last time I’d seen them. “What the fuck? This isn’t fucking normal!”
“Calm down Jimmy, it’ll pass soon. Here,” Fen reached up and undid the silver necklace he was wearing, a five pointed star, “This should help keep things under control. It’s pure sterling silver, it should dampen the effects.”
“Why should it do that?” I ask dumbly
“Pure metals purify the blood, let me know if you develop a rash or anything from it, some of us are allergic to silver, but not all.”
I reached out and cautiously took the necklace from him, almost immediately I felt tired and heavy. “You still haven’t answered my question yet though, Fen.”
“What did I do to you? Isn’t it obvious? I bit you. You’ve already started to change,” Fen chuckled a little, “Faster than most of us did...”
My gut experienced falling sensation when he spoke, I remembered from my dream, ‘you will change’. “So what, do you think you’re a werewolf or something?”
“Come again, what?”
“Yes, I’m a wolf”
I laughed weakly, “So what, you change under the full moon, and run around howling and eating babies?”
Fen narrowed his eyes, “I would never eat a baby.”
I start laughing hysterically. That was fucking it! Fen was off his freakin rocker and was expecting me to play along! “So, how much spirit gum do you go through in a month?”
Fen snarled and snatched me from the chair. He drug me through the house with frightening strength, and pushed me through the back door.
“You said you keep waking up at dusk right? What do you think has been happening just before dusk?” I stared up at the skyline, underlined by jagged mountains and highlighted my the setting sun on the other side of the world. There, just above the horizon, the mostly full waning moon hung amber and heavy in the sky and my heart.
My voice shook, all humor gone, “moonrise..?”
Fen started to rant. “You were chosen by a higher power; your coming here of all places, the off chance that you might take me out to the wilderness on the FULL MOON! I’ve seen you in my dreams for months now, the spirit told me you were coming. At first I didn’t believe it, I thought I misunderstood her, but then there you were in class one day!” Fen paced back and forth in front of me. “I wanted to wait, see if you SHOULD be changed, I should have known better than to doubt the judgment of a demi-god. The Wolf Spirit chose you Jimmy; it was decided long before you had any choice in the matter. Why, I’ll probably never know, but it’s done now. I’ll teach you all I can…but first, we’ll see if the change even sticks. Sometimes the body rejects it, kicks it out like a bad organ transplant. I’ll be in contact with you, you should go home now and rest, the first few weeks are the worst; and you seem to be changing very fast…the silver should help though…” Fen got a distracted look in his eyes.
I stood back up shakily, and walked back through the house. I stumbled home, through the front door, and down into the dungeon. I slipped into the sheets of my bed, still fully clothed, and lay there for a few minutes, struggling to think.
It wasn’t true , no way. Werewolves are fiction, b-movie stuff, not teenagers in small town America. It was inconceivable…and yet even as I thought these thoughts, beneath all of them, the truth was gnawing at me like a rat. My heart knew, it always knew the truth, even when my brain didn’t want to fess up. The tears slowly leaked out, and finally I just wept, partly out of fear, party because…it felt so right…and that was wrong…right?