The snow squeaks beneath my booted feet as we walk into the forest. Winter at night in a Massachusetts forest can be a coldly beautiful thing. Murphy’s fingers are warm against mine. I love it when he holds my hand, but he rarely does – mostly when we’re about to shift. I think perhaps the moonlight and the anticipation free him. The same way they do me.
His eyes shine amber in the darkness. Mine are silver blue. I can see the scruffy bark on the skeletal trees, shriveled leaves sticking up through the snowdrifts. Pinpricks of stars against an icy black velvet sky through the lacy canopy of tree limbs.
The air is squeaky clean and it hurts a little to breathe because it is so cold.
I steal a look at Murphy’s face in the moonlight. He is smiling, his gaze fixed on the trail ahead. I like that about him, he doesn’t live in the past like I do sometimes. He’s always straining toward the future. A future he wants to share with me.
“Remember that she doesn’t have to find the words for everything all at once.” Murphy’s voice is pitched soft to blend in with the winter darkness. No one is here, the park closed at sundown and it is long past that, but there is a strange majesty about the forest at night. It demands soft voices and strict attention.
He’s talking about her. My wolf. She’s not like his. She has no real concept of the future and only a tiny handle on the past. She exists in the here and now, but she is childlike and stubborn. Not like other wolves.
Together, Murphy and I are trying to bring her up to speed. Make her like the other wolves in the Pack. He is confident, but me, I’m not so sure. I’m afraid.
Afraid to change. Afraid to lose her uncomplicated joy. Afraid that if she is normal, she won’t be who she wants to be.
Lately, my wolf doesn’t play the way she used to. She gets fixated on the things she does not recognize. What is the word for that? She will think. The answer could be a rock. A blade of grass. A rabbit. She recently learned the word for snow, but even that wasn’t enough. The next time I shifted after she learned that word, it was snowing and she could not think of snowflake. She knew there was another word for a piece of snow, but she could not find it in her head. She thinks the words live in her head. She’s very literal, my wolf.
When she can’t find the words, she gets mad.
Anger is a new emotion for her. She never used to get mad. She was always so happy to run and play and her life was an unfettered, gorgeous joy.
Now it is hard. It is frustrating. She gets angry and when she is, she can’t think. So sometimes she scratches at her head with her front paws and tries to drive the mad out so she can find the hidden words. She thinks they hide in her head to make her mad. The more she tries to find them, the angrier she becomes. Until there’s no more room for joy or for play. Just the relentless pursuit of hidden words.
Well, she is a hunter, my wolf. She used to hunt joy, now she stalks words. It doesn’t seem fair to me. But I don’t think she understands the concept of fair.
Does she remember the joy or is that just me, grieving for her?
Murphy says she’s trying too hard. That if she’d just relax, they would come to her.
Tell her to relax, Stanzie, he tells me.
How do I make her do anything? She is her own entity. She has her own thoughts, her own heart. I am only a bystander, watching the show.
Murphy says that isn’t true. We are the same thing. Two parts of one whole. But I can’t grasp that. Sometimes I want to scratch the stupidity out of my head so the knowledge can pour in. Everyone but me in the Pack knows these things. Their wolves aren’t like mine.
How do I make mine like theirs? Is it possible? Is the price of fitting in worth losing the joy? Can there be a middle ground where they meet?
I don’t know.
We reach a clearing and Murphy drops my hand so he can shrug off his jacket and unbutton his shirt. I struggle out of my boots and jeans, breath pluming as I try not to swear. It is so cold.
Please be happy, I tell my wolf and let the shift take me over.
It feels like cold fire at first. Tingly. Stretchy. Muscles slide and reform. Bones shift and mutate. Fur sprouts. The cold goes away. For a moment I am in blackness, another dimension where most of the change occurs. I can’t hear anything, but I can feel my thudding heartbeat . One, two, three, four and then…
My books can be found here at Lyrical Press:http://www.lyricalpress.com/store/index.php?main_page=authors&authors_id=183&zenid=nsqtc3jdaacfbhdn49req0gn27