On any other day, the forest shadows would contain a serenity unlike this world has ever felt. The trees would be still, and the ground would not speak. You cannot find insects, or birds, or any forest creatures. The only movement comes from shallow pools rippling underneath the softly pattering rainfall.
On this day, though, the forest is disturbed. There is a man lying in a forest glade, eyes closed but not asleep. The man is dressed in a business suit, with a white shirt and maroon necktie. It hasn’t fallen from the sky, and it did not travel from a different part of the woods. It just… simply… is.
There were no creatures, aside from the flowers, grass, and trees, to witness the man’s arrival. If in fact it had actually arrived from anywhere. It may have always been; lying in a field, unmoving yet alive.
Beyond the man, in the darkness beneath an unyielding tree canopy, a shape pulses rhythmically. The shape is more than black– it is the absence of light. The shadows surrounding it look gray in comparison.
Two emeralds appear in the abyss. They disappear quickly, then reappear. The green gems seem to be completely still, but they are in fact moving gently and subtly up and down in time with the surrounding pulse.
The emeralds stare over the man in the field. They watch for five minutes, seconds, or maybe eternity.
Finally the abyss takes form. The emeralds position themselves to either side of a long and cruel snout. Short fuzzy ears appear. A spine, crooked like that of a jackal, covered in the blackest of wiry fur, ends in a long dark tail. The void in the shadows becomes a wolf of nightmares.
She is a beautiful, terrible beast.
The wolf places a gigantic paw in the light of the meadow, and pauses. The forest is known to hold much that even she must fear.
She runs her tongue over her fangs, tasting the air blowing gently in her face. There is rain. There is a hint of pollen. There is man sweat.
There is nothing else.
Cautiously another paw enters the light, and then another.
The growing anticipation of the kill only heightens her awareness, but like a true professional, she hides her excitement well. This man is her hunt. It is why she is, and why she was sent.
The last beast sent was careless. She rushed in, then became ensnared, butchered, and skinned.
This one is not so hasty.
Like a phantom, she glides over to the motionless human. Though it looks dead she smells that it is very much alive. She places a paw in the middle of its chest, and it begins to stir restlessly.
Outside of space and time, he is sitting at his kitchen table, reading a newspaper article; fourteen more killed in Ciudad-Juarez, all beheaded. He watches a documentary on the sex trafficking of ten year girls in India. He reads an email about a four year old girl in Kenya with HIV, a virus the girl contracted when raped by her grandfather. He hears the screams of thousands of dolphins slaughtered off the coast of Japan, to be sliced into lunch meat for school children, all of whom test positive for hazardous concentrations of mercury. The news reports an Afghani teenager, falsely accused of working for the Taliban by greedy neighbors that were easily persuaded by the fifty dollar reward; he is kept in Guantanamo Bay prison, released years later, smuggles himself into America using Mexican coyotes to cross the border, then kills himself and four others with a bomb on the steps of the US capitol building. A woman living four blocks away from the man drowns her three infant sons in the bathtub and then goes to waitress at her diner as if nothing happened.
Outside of space and time, the man becomes aware of the massive tragedies in his world. He becomes lost in his depression as he realizes everyone can’t be saved. He can’t even save enough to make a difference.
Outside of space and time, the man lays awake at night, and unknown to his wife sleeping soundly beside him, the man has visions of an enormous wolf, with black bristled fur that smells of sage, cloves, and rotting flesh. In the vision, the wolf breathes on him, its breath like the sweet and sour stink of sex. He envisions its green eyes watching him hungrily. He imagines the razor sharp fangs tearing him apart.
In the forest, beneath closed lids, the man’s eyes run with tears. The wolf feels the man’s heartbeat rise in its chest, and the body under the grace of her paw begins to convulse. She removes the paw, and the body becomes still once again. She watches for any more movement, fully aware that she can end its life at her whim. She imagines closing her jaw around its weak throat, and tearing it out with a snap of her neck– the warm and salty blood running over her teeth, and she’s swallowing it thirstily.
But she does not kill him. She was sent by one more powerful than herself for a purpose, and though she isn’t conscious of the purpose, her instincts tell her that it is not yet time.
In the blink of an eye, she turns and vanishes in the embrace of the forest.
On the wet grass, in the meadow of a strange wood, the man begins to stir.