If you all missed any part up til now, simply click “The Wolves” link at the bottom, and enjoy!
We met up with Mandy in a dilapidated part of town. Saying that it had seen better days was putting it nicely. People hadn’t lived here, legally, in a very long time. The buildings were all cookie-cutter apartment complexes. Individual houses were something only the very rich could afford. The windows were shattered. The concrete walls were cracked and in very bad shape. Years beyond simply needing repair. This part of town was going to collapse in on itself. It was the perfect place for us to make shelter for the night. In a part of town this bad, nobody would notice us. There were other people. Squatters, drifters, immigrants, the kind of people who didn’t want to get notice. Some of them were in larger groups than us. No Wolves. We would smell it if that was the case. I admit to feeling a little sad about this. Finding more of our kind would always be welcome. Since meeting up with each other, we hadn’t seen a single Wolf anywhere. We were very much alone here. The reality of that didn’t sit well with me.
We got into the house and took some rest. I gathered the others, save Maddie and Lizzy. The pup was tired from her injuries, and looking to recuperate. So Maddie was looking after her. It’s ironic – she took her job so seriously, even though, if you looked at her, she seemed to take very little seriously. Her obligation to this pup was a very rare exception to that. While Maddie was no fighter, I have no doubt that anybody who ever tries to lay a hand on her will wind up having that hand come off. Good on her. I stared at the pup, who was back in Wolf form, and laying gently in Maddie’s lap. Maddie was gently rubbing her head, scratching behind her ears, and this seemed to sit very well with the tiny Wolf. She looked so adorable, it took me back to when we first met her.
Lizzy was the last member to join our pack. When we first met her, we were all still very new to this, and still getting used to each other. Having Emily as a Beta was the biggest problem. She wasn’t completely Wolf, and to the members of the Gray Clan, this didn’t sit well at all. There had never been a Black, White or Red “half-breed.” Since Gray Wolves were the ones who had been in human contact the most throughout the years, all the mix breeds came from them. True enough, she was half-Gray, half-husky. Yet she was still a Wolf, and could still summon the energies that our people had been blessed with, by the Goddess. As such, I had none of the problems that the rest of the pack did. She had proven herself to me more than once, but for them, it was going to take time. I could live with that.
The day we met Lizzy, we were in one of the few places where people lived that wasn’t an enclosed city. There were towns here and there that were not enclosed, yet still had people living in them. It was a dangerous existence. One had to always be careful about bandit invasions. Yet if you could handle that, it was a lot easier living than in the block-cities. Most of these cities were along the railway. That did afford them some protection, which was good, since most of these cities were hopelessly dependent on being rail-towns for what little money they had.
This one was situated on an island, which is why it was such a peaceful place. The Family had a small garrison of soldiers here, but only for observation of the nearby areas. The grass was actually green, and the people were nicer than most places. The food was also plentiful. There was a lot of crop-growing here, and meat as well. It was a genuinely pleasant place to be, which made having to move on from it that much harder.
We were walking past what could be called a suburban area. It was filled with families, and actual children. While nobody was particularly wealthy here, they were still happy. It was a lot better than most of the block-cities, which were so polluted that children there were often plagued by disease and malnutrition. Here, they had open air. It was a place where you actually wanted to live, unlike most.
The wind was blowing, and I felt good that day. We were looking for a place where we could crash for the night. To be honest, we half-expected to end up sleeping under the trees, since there was an actual forest here, looking up at the stars. That sounded pretty good right about now. But it couldn’t hurt to see if we could find somewhere with a roof, and where we could go unnoticed. All these houses, however, were very occupied. Save one. It looked very old and broken down. This was a place that hadn’t been paid attention to in a very long time. At first, we were thinking that we hit jackpot. But something was off about this place. There was a smell in the air. It was the smell of death. Somebody had died in there, and this smell was old. It had happened a long time ago. We were about to move on, when Maddie stopped. She looked at the house. We all stopped and looked back at her.
“What’s up?” Mandy asked.
She stood there for some time, looking at the house. “I smell something inside. Not just death. There’s something else. It’s faint. But I could swear, it’s the smell of a Wolf!”
This got everyone’s attention. I walked over to her. “You sure?”
“Definitely. It’s small, but it’s there.” Many of us looked worried about this.
“You think the smell of death is connected to that? Like the one who died is a Wolf?” Erin asked, her eyes downcast. This hurt us all. To think that the next Wolf we would find would be dead, it was too hard to think about. But we had to find out.
We approached the door, opening it slowly. Neal and Savannah went in first. Even in human form, they were still our enforcers. I wasn’t far behind. The dust that rose from the place showed that nobody had looked after this place in a very long time. There were papers on the floor, along with spider-webs on the ceiling. The window was open, blowing dusting around. This was the house of an older person. She had pictures on her wall of various places. Yet there were no pictures of family. Did she have none? It was then that I noticed several photos. They had here, and a young pup. It was a Wolf pup! What was a human doing with a Wolf pup?! The pup looked happy. Very happy. What happened to her? And where was the pup? These were questions that needed answers, and I was on a mission to find out.
The smell of death was stronger from upstairs. We all headed toward the staircase. We were cautious. Who knows how old those pictures are. That pup could be all grown up by now, and the last thing I wanted was to get into a fight.
From upstairs, the little pup heard the sound of people. Who would come in without knocking first? That was awfully rude. The old woman didn’t like when people did that. She looked down at the body in bed beneath her. She licked her hand, trying to wake her. Maybe, if she could get her to wake up, the smell that was so heavy in here would go away. She had been trying and trying for days. But no matter what she did, the woman wouldn’t wake. Why wouldn’t she wake up? The smell was so bad in here. She wanted to leave. Her tummy was making noises. She hadn’t eaten in days. There was nothing in the house to eat. She was so desperate to get her to wake up, but she didn’t. Now there were people in the house. They were at the staircase, looking to come upstairs. She got up off the woman, walking to the door. She poked her little head out the door. There was talking. It sounded like at least eight of them. She walked over to the staircase, keeping low and looking down. She saw them all, and started barking at them. Maybe if they saw her barking, they’d leave!
We looked up at the pup, very confused. Then, it suddenly hit us – she doesn’t know that we’re Wolves! She was too young to smell it. Her tiny little gray head was just so cute, trying to look tough. But she wasn’t. She was WAY too young to be a threat to us.
I looked at the others and told them, “Turn back to your Wolf forms. That should make things easier for her.” In a flash, we were Wolves again, looking up at her.
This was bad. She could deal with eight humans. Barking usually scared them off. But eight Wolves! That was too much. But how were they able to become humans? That was weird. She stood up and looked at them.
“You should leave. My owner will be up at any moment, and she doesn’t like guests who come unannounced.” She was trying to sound brave and sure, but she had never felt so scared in her life. It was then that a Red Wolf approached. She was very thin, and didn’t look all that imposing. She smiled at the pup and looked up.
“Has she been asleep for long?” she asked, as gently as she could.
The pup nodded. “Yeah, for a long time. I keep trying to wake her up, but nothing works.” There was sadness in her voice. She wanted to go out and play. She wanted to get some food. She wanted to be out in the wind, or go for one of their long walks. Anything was better than this.
The Red Wolf nodded, moving just a little closer. Enough to be friendly, but not get her nervous. She could see that the pup was nervous.
“You look awful hungry. We’re going to look for food. You want to come with us?” She smiled at the little pup. “I’m sure that she will still be here when we get back.”
The pup thought about this for a moment, then nodded. “Sure, I guess I can do that.”
We started to leave, with our new companion. The poor thing was so malnourished. It was awful. If she had stayed in this house too much longer, she would have died here. She desperately needs food. Maddie walked over to her, changing back into her human form. She smiled down at the pup, “What’s your name?”
She looked up at her, a little nervous, but quickly warming up to the Maddie. “The woman who lives here called me Lizzy. Says that’s the name of somebody she cared about.”
“That’s a nice name, Lizzy,” Maddie replied, opening her arms. The little pup moved closer, letting Maddie pick her up. She smiled at this. She liked it when she was carried. She was so small. Who knew how big her human form would be. She was too young for that. So for now, she would have to be our pet.
As we left the house, I turned to Emily. Very quietly, so our new charge wouldn’t hear, I whispered to her, “Head back to the house. Check the place out. Find out how long the woman inside has been dead. Take Erin with you, to watch your back.”
Emily looked up at me with a rather ugly look. “She doesn’t like me.”
“You’re the Beta. I gave you an order. If she doesn’t like it, tell her to take it up with me.” My voice was dead-serious. Emily said nothing, just nodded and walked back. Erin gave her a cold look when she was talking to her, but she saw my face looking back at them, and knew that now was not a good time to mess with me. They would have to get used to this, whether they liked it or not. The two slipped back, and we started off toward the town.
We had some money from a previous run-in with a bandit group. They had been robbing a Family supply train, and we decided to get in on it. They had some funds being transferred on the train. We robbed the cases they were sending the money in, and now we were able to barter with ease.
The town was a very mellow place. Street vendors had various trinkets and foods that were grown around town. Well, whatever food The Family’s troops didn’t take for themselves. Most of what they sold here was vegetables. The land outside of the town was farming networks. This was the safest place for a long time that one could grow food. Well, that The Family could grow food, anyway. Underground farming was getting bigger and bigger, since The Family was taking more and more of the harvests. The street vendors who were part of the Underground were also out. In a place like this, it was safe to do so. The troops that The Family garrisoned were too bored and the police were too easily bribed to care.
We walked from stall to stall. Lizzy was eye-balling everything, but like us, vegetables didn’t interest her much. We were after meat. But on an island, you can bet that the biggest source of meat was fish. The harbor was alive and bustling. Various fish vendors were holding up their catch. It was so ironic that even after the third World War, with so much death and destruction, the oceans were still alive and well. There wasn’t much point nuking the water, so almost all of the nuclear fallout was on land. Thanks to the vastly smaller amount human activity, after the initial pollution nightmare that was post World War III, things in the oceans bounced back very quickly.
Most of the fish was nothing exceptional. But we got to a vendor who had a very nice smell coming from it – lobster! Now this was something to get excited about. We hurried over, and as we thought, there was a fresh caught bunch of lobster on sale! We had to jump on this. It was a treat, but since we had a new friend, this was as good a time as any to have one. We bought enough to feed the pack, but were careful about our money. Who knew when our next payday would be? The pack was excited. So was I. But now we had a problem – we needed somewhere to cook it.
A continuation of this is coming very soon. Stay tuned!
Until next time, a quote,
“Too many people grow up. That’s the real problem with the world – too many people grow up.” -Walt Disney