Short Story
                                     Wolf Child
                                                     By Rose Titus

     
     Eddie stood at the foot of the bed in the cheap motel room and surveyed
all that he had brought with him. A machete, two revolvers, a shotgun, and
plenty of ammunition…  he wondered if it would be enough.  It would have to
be, he said to himself. He felt like he was getting ready to do a job, like in the
old days, when he made big money and he was called Crazy Eddie.

     But no, instead he was actually just going hunting.

     He was near the end of the long journey he started when he finally got
out of prison.  When he got out, he swore he’d go straight, get a real job, and
try to live a normal life.  Whatever normal was.  But he had one thing to do
first, the thing he wanted to do for all the ten years he spent behind bars.

     Kill off an entire pack of wolves.

     He got the weapons from where he hid them ten years ago, and then sold
a few drugs to get enough money to buy a decent car.  Now he was close to
the Canadian border, close to where it all happened.

     Before he went to jail, his wife Myra left him and took their baby girl.  He
couldn’t blame her, really.  She had enough.  Enough of the cops coming to
the house looking for him, enough of the thugs he did business with coming
to the house, enough of him sleeping with a gun under the pillow...  One day
she packed up and left a note telling him she was leaving.  He figured maybe
she was heading back to be with her family in Ontario.  When he found the
note, he swore out loud that she was a dumb bitch, tore it up, and tossed the
shredded paper into the wastebasket.

     But he knew deep down she was right.
     
     He just figured he would never hear from either Myra or his daughter ever
again.  But he was wrong.  Myra’s father telephoned a few days later to tell
him that his wife was dead.  She had an accident.  The road she travelled
was covered in ice, and she skidded out of control.  When the ambulance
came to take her, they said her last words were, “Wolves came and took
away the baby.”  And by the time she was taken to the hospital, it was too
late.  She was gone.

     He picked up the shotgun and held it close to himself.  He had to do this,
if not for his long dead wife, for his lost baby girl.

     The next day he stopped for gas and then to get something to eat at a
small town diner.  The waitress brought his coffee and he asked, “Hey,
honey, how far is the state forest from here?”

     “Real close, mister.  Just up the road.  Not even ten miles.”

     “Are there still wolves running around in that forest?”

     She hesitated, and looked at him strangely, “Yeah?  Why?”

     “Long time ago my wife had an accident on that road up near there.  
Before she died she said that wolves took the baby,” the place was crowded
so he didn’t tell her that he was going there to wipe out every damn one of
the gray vermin that he could, “I figured I’d go up there, just walk in the
woods, and you know, have a look around.”

     “Don’t go up there, mister,” she said coldly, “You just might not like what
you find if you do,” she walked away silently, saying nothing else.

     Eddie just put his money on the countertop and left.

     The forest was silent and felt almost dead, even though he was
surrounded by trees and ferns and hidden wildlife.  A doe bounded out from
behind some bushes.  He aimed his gun, but he didn’t shoot.  It wasn’t what
he came for, so why waste bullets?  He continued on, walking into the woods,
until after what felt like hours had passed.  He then slowly came to the
realization that he had never really been in a forest before. That he spent
most of his useless life in the city, that he knew nothing about hunting, and
that he knew even less about wolves.

     He imagined that hunting wolves would be simple, like taking out the punk
who ratted him to the cops ten years ago.

     Finally he came to a large rock half covered with moss and so he sat
down on it, and wondered if he was cut out for big game hunting after all.  He
was out of shape and probably should have spent more time working out
when he was in the slammer.  He also wondered if he would ever be able to
find his way back to the road where he left his car…

     Suddenly he heard a growl.

     He stood up and whirled around.  There, right in front of him, was a large
silver furred gray wolf.  And beside the wolf was a creature he could not at
first identify:  It stood on two legs, it had long out of control wild hair, it wore
animal skins, and it was filthy…   and after getting over his shock, he realized
what it was that stared back at him.  It was a ten-year-old child.

     A girl.
     
     The child looked back at him, and snarled ferociously with rage.

     He aimed his gun, not at the girl, but at the wolf.  Quickly the girl charged
at him, knocking him down before he could shoot.  Eddie landed flat on his
back, the girl on top of him.  He looked into her eyes.  They were wild, like an
animal’s.  Her hair was matted and filthy.  Her skin was covered in old dirt
from roaming the forest.  Her nails were long and covered in dried blood,
probably from ripping apart raw meat from some animal the pack of wolves
killed.  And her lips, also, were smeared with blood.

     Was she even aware that she was human?

     Or did she think she was a wolf?
     
     The girl snarled again, and then suddenly she got up and ran.   He
struggled to get up and he saw them.  The girl running away swiftly, like a
deer, with the wolf following her.  They disappeared into the forest, and in a
distance, he heard a mournful howl.

     “…  folks around here tried to help her a few times,” the waitress said,
refilling his coffee and bringing a second piece of blueberry pie while
explaining the story of the wild girl in the woods, “But that child is just too
wild.  My grandpa has chickens, and sometimes he sees her with some of the
wolves around the chicken coop.  He shoots over their heads to scare them
off.  He hasn’t the heart to shoot any of those wolves, they’re the only family
she has.”

     “It’s sick,” he mumbled, staring at the food he had ordered.  Thinking of
what he saw made him suddenly lose his appetite.

     “There’s nothing that can be done for her now.  Just leave her alone,
mister, that’s all.”

     “It makes me sick,” he repeated.  He got up and shuffled out of the diner
to head back to the cheap motel.

     “Hey, mister, what about the bill?”

     But he didn’t hear her.  He kept walking, not sure of what he was going to
do next.

     In the motel room he sat alone with nothing but his guns and knives to
keep him company.  He thought about his life and how things could have
been different.  If he had quit working for the mob when his wife wanted him
to…  if he had quit and got a boring, normal job after the baby was born.  But
no.  He liked the money and the cars.  He even admitted to himself that he
liked the action.

     But it was all a waste.  His wife was dead, and he had spent the last
decade in the joint.  It wasn’t worth it, and now he knew that.

     And what about the girl?  He would never push her on the swing or watch
her first pony ride.  She would never go to her high school prom.  She would
never have her first kiss.  He would never walk her down the aisle in a church
and give her away to a future son in law.  Instead she had become a wild
animal.  Those were his wife’s last words, “The wolves took the baby.”  The
car had overturned, glass shattering, opening the car to the wind and ice.  A
wolf came and took the baby and kept her warm through the winter’s cold.  
And now he knew the animals in the forest were far better parents than he
could ever be.

     Eddie reached for one of his revolvers, pointed it to his head, and hoped
it would be painless…

     The long, sad cry of a wolf echoed into the dark night.

     And somewhere, out there, deep in the forest, a girl ran.
To read other short stories,
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About Rose Titus
Rose Titus works two
jobs to support her
writing habit.  She exists
somewhere in a suburb
in cold, dreary New
England, with three pain
in the arse cats and a
very out of date
Macintosh.  She also
has a restored classic
Buick that gets her to
the grocery store.

Her work has previously
appeared in Lost
Worlds, Lynx Eye, Bog
Gob, Mausoleum,
Midnight Times, Blood
Moon Rising, The Bugle,
Weird Terrain, Descend,
and Wicked Wheels.