When I told myself it took about ten minutes of pacing... the reality is it was more like an hour. I'd snap frustrated at myself, and go through the list of all the things this new girl might be, and all the things she might do. I snapped at Belts in the comfort of my home as well, wondering why she just wouldn't get up and leave. “I said I'd sick my sisters on her!” I yelled to myself. My heart raced and I dreaded going back out there. Luna came up to check on me, and made me stop pacing altogether. Now I knew, I should just go outside and talk to her.
Opening the door, I stepped out hesitantly as I moved to the river. Belts, by this point, had fallen asleep, sprawled over the box like a rag doll, as I waded across the blue water, fish darting from my path as I did. I chose not to say anything as I stared for a moment at her. I hadn't noticed before... underneath her dark black mop of hair, she was very thin. Thin in a way that suggested she might have started to starve. I swallowed, before taking one more step, keeping my distance. “Hey.” Belts didn't move as dread washed back over me. 'Oh no. Is... is she dead?' “Hey!” I called out, as Belts stirred slightly, but never once opened her eyes. I watched with a frown. 'Not dead... but...' Belts skin hung loosely over her small bones, and it was an eerie sight. Nothing on her person suggested that she hunted food.
Darting back inside the house, my wolves watched carefully. I searched through my few shelves, and grabbed an old handmade bowl made from sturdy vines. Inside the bowl was yesterdays harvest from the woods-- blackberries and blueberries, primarily. I had hoped to keep them for myself today and not need to hunt for fish at all-- which tended to make Silver impatient and whiny-- so I could relax and take the day off of working. Moving back out with the bowl, I hopped across the river and slowly set the bowl down next to her, before pulling back again. Belts didn't wake up. “Hey. Hey!” I called again. “Wake up! Next to you- that's food- eat it!” Belts laid there as I frowned. “...dang it...” If she didn't wake up and eat... darting over I gave her a good slap across the face, as Belts jumped up and woke with a start. “Wahh!” She yelled out as I darted across the river, my heart racing. “FOOD! There's food next to you just eat it and MOVE ON!” I yelled as I shut the door behind me. From behind the blinds however, I watched as Belts slowly looked to the bowl. She picked up a berry gently as she ate it, rubbing her cheek with her other hand.
The sun moved lazily across the sky, as I kept eying the strange girl with her box. She ate the food slowly, as I cursed myself for feeding her at all. But despite not wanting her around... I couldn't let her die there, could I? No, I could never allow that. But just her presence made me nervous, my hands went clammy and I paced until I passed out for a nap. When I woke, and the sun was low on the horizon, I checked and saw that yes, she was still out there, watching the sun set for herself. Frowning, I looked to Luna as she glanced up to me from the bed. “Luna,” I spoke, “I have no reason to be hiding in my own home from a stranger. She comes from where ever, and this is MY- no, this is OUR land Luna. And why should I hide from someone who doesn't even live here? And its not like she can DO anything, she's just sitting there, quiet and weird.” Luna just cocked her head to the side as I sighed. “...okay. Fine. I'm going out.”
Moving back out, I moved across the brook as Belts watched the water, not looking up at me. “Hey. Belts.” I spoke, still disliking the name she picked- “I see you ate all the food.”
“Yes. Thank you.” Belts spoke quietly as I frowned, my heart racing. 'No, this is YOUR land, own up to it! Show confidence! Don't run away!' “Why are you still here then, Belts? I told you my sisters would eat you up, right? They almost did that to you this morning.”
“Yes, you did say that.” Belts spoke glancing up to her. “But I'm tired, the water here is clean... and it won't matter if they eat me anyway.”
“Because... I'm probably going to die in the next few days anyway. A week tops. And I'm so tired of running. I just want to rest before it all ends.” She spoke, as she pet her box covered in its strange belts.
This threw me off. “Die? What do you mean, die?”
Belts was silent, as if she tried to find out how to put it. “...I won't be the only one. You're going to die, too. Everyone's going to die.” She spoke distantly. “I guess it doesn't matter what your name is anymore. Nothing matters.”
A lump rose in my throat. Everyone...? “What do you mean everyone?? No. You're crazy. Besides, if nothing mattered, even you... then why would you eat the berries I gave you? Why would you keep fighting on if you felt like it didn't matter?”
Belts sat there as she laid her head on the box, before glancing up to me with a look I hadn't seen before. “Because I guess I'm stubborn.” She smiled sadly as my heart skipped a beat. This girl... Belts. What was her story? Why does she seem to think the world will end...? Glancing to the sun, the last shred of sunlight fell below the horizon.
“...my name.” I spoke as I turned to her. “You want to know my name? Because its still important. I'm still important. If not to anyone else, I'm important to me.”
Belts sat back up, watching curiously. “...what is your name then?”
I glanced back to where the sunset was. “If you're not going to give me your real name, then I'm not going to give you my old one. My new name is Wolf.”
She blinked before a smile. “I thought you said your name was important...? And now you made one up too?”
I shook my head before glancing back. “Its not that. My old name doesn't mean anything to me. My old name hurt me. My new name... my new name I gave myself, and its the name that gives me power.” She watched quietly before a nod. “...Wolf... okay Wolf. Thank you for the food.”
My heart raced as anxious thoughts played through my head. 'Did that sound weird to her? Wolf- I bet it sounds dumb, but to me... to me its empowering. Does she think I'm crazy?' “I'm strong like a Wolf. And have a pack that defends each other to the end. My sisters are all loyal to me, and I'm loyal to them.” I blurted out, as if to push aside my anxiety. “And I don't care if it sounds dumb to you, I think its great.”
“I don't think it sounds dumb.”
“Well good, because it isn't.”
The wind blew and the two of us became silent. The moment began to feel too awkward, before I finally stepped back. “...you can stay out here if you want, but in the morning you need to leave. Even if you're tired.” I spoke as I turned, moving back to my house. She said nothing in return. As I stepped past Midnight and Silver, they watched with curious eyes as I shut the door behind me. Luna stepped over as I pet her head, and laid on the bed. A million thoughts went through my mind, and none of them good. I sighed and rolled over. Maybe she'd be gone in the morning. But some strange shred of me... hoped she'd still be there.
The stars were bursting with light, as I gazed up at them. I was floating. At first I thought it was water, but I looked down and realized only more stars surrounded me. And I was at absolute peace. I heard a howl, and turned to my right, watching my three sisters dart and play, hopping between stars as they went. We must have been giants... thousands of lightyears long, as I watched stars around me glow into existence, and explode out of it. Billions of years in the blink of an eye would pass, as I spun myself lazily to watch the universe play its fireworks. I was a part of it... and it was a part of me.
'Wolf?' A familiar voice spoke, as a chill went down my spine. It never occurred to me that sound can't travel in a vacuum. It never occurred to me I couldn't possibly be in space, or that time was passing so quickly around me. Turning, I saw her short black hair, the long ragged navy shirt that fell down to her knees- and her handmade rope sandals. 'Wolf...' she spoke again, the glow of a supernova lighting up her face. All of a sudden, the stars went dark. She was illuminated still, but I could not tell what did it. 'Wolf-' she repeated a third time, as from her mouth, thousands of eyes came out. Their eyes shifted and turned into people, and now instead of stars, hundreds of sets of eyes surrounded me-- watching me. My sisters were gone, and now it was just Belts and her people. The murmurs started, the people whispered and hissed to each other, as the lack of stars started to suffocate me. The people moved closer, floating nearer to me, as my heart raced.
'No-- leave! LEAVE ME ALONE!' I tried to scream, but my body was frozen. The people grew larger, and closer. The murmurs turned into talking, then into screaming. I clung to myself tight, trying to escape them. 'Leave me alone!' I sobbed to myself. The people moved closer, and reached out to me--
And I woke with a start. A small scream or gasp must have left my mouth, because Luna nudged me close. Without understanding why, a small sob left my mouth as I clung to her.
I stormed out the next day to find Belts, and sure enough she hasn't moved. She glanced up and weakly pulled to her feet. “Hello.” She spoke softly- as always. “What you said yesterday.” I spoke curtly, crossing my arms, tired and unnerved from my nightmare. “About everyone dying. Is it true?” She looked back to her box, and grabbed the belts, playing with them slightly. “Yes. Its true. Its six days now, probably. That's my guess.” She turned to me curiously. “Are you okay? You seem upset.” I watched tiredly and turned. “...I was fine. I was perfectly fine before you got here. But now you're here and messing things up.” I spoke coldly as she watched.
“...I'm sorry.” She stared down. “I just can't drag this anymore... and I'm so tired of running.” I looked down. “I said no matter what, whether you're tired or not, you need to go today.”
“Are you alone up here?” She asked curiously, as I looked to her. “I have my sisters. That's all I need.”
“So just the wolves? No people?”
Belts stared at me puzzled, and I could tell she was trying to make sense of me. I glared in return, as I stormed back to the house. She wasn't going to move, I was certain now. Grabbing my spear and a small burlap bag, I headed out into the valley, and moved into the dense forest as my sisters joined in.
I put Belts far out of my mind, as I imagined my scenario. I was queen, and my land has been invaded. My kingdom was underwater-- the sky wasn't made of oxygen, nitrogen and icy water particles, it was made of pure water. The waves above refracted light down onto me in a billion rainbows, as my wolves ran past the trees- no. The seaweed... my wolves darted past the seaweed. As sea creatures who ruled the ocean floor, we could go at any speed we wanted. I darted after them, spear in hand.
Instead of birds, fish swam about the giant towering seaweed, as Midnight was the farthest in front, sniffing and lurking. Her ears twitched as she propped her head up, glancing to the side. “Ah- I see!” I spoke confidently in response. “A traitor- you've found their scent.” I said no more, as my three wolf guardians checked the scent, and darted as well. I held my spear close and followed them. The fish swam and darted, and the ribbons of rainbow light swarmed in front and in back of me. They ran fast, but their queen could keep up.
'I will protect my kingdom personally from traitors who wish to take my crown!' I thought to myself as my feet pulled me through the short underwater bushes and small animal dig outs. An animal struggled in the distance-- as I spotted Silver, Luna and Midnight swarming and biting at it. The deer- no, the traitor, begged its case. 'Please!' It told me, 'Please I'm no traitor, I'm moving to the next town to trade and bargain!' “Ha ha!” I laugh, not believing the villain, “Then why do you have a bag of my gold at your pocket? You think I don't see the royal seal!? Guards! The price of betraying the queen of the sea, is death!” At that point, the wolves descended... and received their meal for the day.
I let them destroy the traitor, as I moved to a bush. I stuffed a few water berries into my mouth-- which tasted a lot like raspberries. Pulling out my bag, I began putting the berries into the sack, moving from bush to bush, gathering a variety. Some fish were hiding in one bush, and flew out into the watery heavens, making me jump back startled. My kingdom is a beautiful one, quiet besides me and my guards. All the citizens are hermits, keeping to themselves and tending to their own lives. Moving through the seaweed as I looked around, building the scenario further. Underneath my castle, there is a deep underwater ravine, and that is where the traitors come from. It is a city hidden in the depths, who don't like my rule. They think I only care for the upper ocean folk, and not the people who live in pure darkness, away from the suns light. 'I have tried though!' I tell myself, 'I have tried to talk to them, but to no avail! They don't like the sun dwellers, and want to take me down, no matter what.' Smiling I nodded to myself, as I heard a rustle in a bush, yanking me back into reality.
Turning towards the bush, I raise my spear slightly. The bush went quiet... before a rabbit jumped out. I threw my spear... and in an instant, I knew I was going to have berries and rabbit for dinner.
By the time I made it back to my home, I had caught three more, and tied the rabbits to my side. With my sisters finding their meal from that deer, I was grateful Silver shouldn't be begging for food tonight, and the three should be full and content. I was content too... busy thinking up the ocean kingdom and its rules, and if I was truly a good queen, or a wicked one. My punishments for theft was clearly harsh... were the traitors right in betraying me? Maybe playing the villain would be fun.
When I returned home from a long day of hunting, gathering, and stomach growling, the sun was low on the horizon, and Belts was gone from under her tree. Now she had moved across the river, her strange box sitting at its bank, as she got her hair wet. She had taken off the navy shirt and sandals, as she sat naked in the water, watching the fish silently. She must have been there a while, because the fish swam around her close and weren't startled by her presence. As I saw her in the distance, my thoughts switched from pleasant fantasies to heart racing unease. Even so, I stopped and watched a while. She was especially thin without her dress, bones poked out everywhere in jagged edges. But she seemed content there... and almost beautiful.
The thought made me jump as I turned away. Beautiful, why would I think that? She's invaded my privacy and won't go away. She won't believe me about the wolves eating her, and I couldn't have the heart to do that anyway. It was just a threat. “Hey!” I heard her call out as I jumped, and turned. She was standing now, as I blushed. “Er- you're naked!” She stared to me, then down. “...so? We're both girls. Its nothing you haven't seen before- oh no the fish moved away...” She mumbled as she knelt again. “Come on over Wolf!” I frowned and glanced to my own wolves- but Silver and Luna were already off playing together further near the forest, as Midnight laid silent by the tree. The three of them were no longer bothered by Belts presence. “You're the real traitors!” I called out to them, as Midnight's ear just twitched. Sighing, I moved over to Belts.
“You're really starting to frustrate me.” I spoke as I crossed my arms. Even so, I sat down with her. “...I got rabbits.” I pulled them off my side, as the three dead rabbits dangled by their feet. She stared stunned, but I could see a look of hunger in her eyes. “R-rabbits? I've never...” I shook my head and darted to the shack, before returning without my spear, but with a rock knife instead. “Here. I'm going to teach you how to skin a rabbit.” Belts looked at me confused. “...really? I thought you didn't like me being here...” “I don't. But I'm too nice to sick my wolves on you again, and you're too weak to move much anymore.” She smiled and looked down, as she took a rabbit. “...poor rabbit.”
“Listen-” I spoke as I watched her. “First things first- you have to get their fur off. It'll come off in a few pieces, but it'll be easy.” I spoke as I took the stone knife. I held up the leg, as I sliced a ring of fur around its ankle. “Do this to both ankles. Then, you cut a small cut on the backside of each leg. From there, you can start pulling off the fur—” I spoke as I struggled, trying to hold up the rabbit, cut and pull at the same time. She watched before grabbing the ankles, and holding it up for me, the rabbit dangling in her hands. “Does this help?” I watched a moment before nodding. “Actually... I guess. Yeah.” I pulled off more of the fur, and kept going through the steps with her. She nodded listening and patient, before eventually the rabbit was completely furless... and unfortunately for Belts, headless. She frowned and winced at the idea, and asked me during the process, “Do you have to do that?” I nodded to her. “Its just a part of the process. Easiest way to remove the last fur.” I could tell she was uncomfortable with helping remove the pelt, but I bet the desire for some meat kept her going. I made a mental note to myself, 'She's never done this before. She couldn't be a country girl.'.
As the sun was finally setting, the two of us sat around my fire, spinning the second rabbit on a stick, as she was pulling some pieces from the first one. We were quiet for the most part, as the stars began to glow again. I stared up at them, as Belts finally spoke. “So. Wolf. Where do you come from?” “Ah ah ah.” I responded, glancing back to her. “We aren't starting that.” She went quiet, thinking to herself before nodding. “Thank you. For the berries the other day. And the food tonight.” I watched her, before turning away. “...yeah.”
She leaned forward over the fire, staring up to me. “Then if I can't ask you that... can I ask why you're up in this mountain alone?” “Only if I can ask you.” She frowned leaning back, before turning to glance at her box, that now sat next to the stairs on my porch. “...its... sad. I don't want to talk about it.” I sighed as Silver pawed over to me, and I scratched her ear. “None for you Silver. And okay. So we can't talk about who we are, or where we come from, and why we're here.” Belts nodded. “I... guess so.” We were both quiet, I pet Silver, as she rested her hand on the large box. Staring I glanced up. “...and I'm not allowed to ask about that package?” “No.” She spoke as she instinctively grabbed the belts.
I sighed and leaned back. This was already far too exhausting... I tried talking to her. There. I did my duty. I fed her and I talked to her. Maybe now she'd stop looking so sad. Even so... her eyes hung low, with some terrible weight. Belts glanced up, almost instinctively as I darted my eyes to the side. “Thanks. Really. You come across really brash... but this has been nice.” She bit more meat as my heart raced. 'Brash? What else does she think of me?' Swallowing I glared down at the food without responding. I want to leave. I want to sleep. I don't want to talk to her anymore. And worse yet- she's done nothing to me, except sit outside near the river. She hasn't been mean or rude... not like me. The guilt dragged me down, as I stood quickly. Grabbing the third uncooked rabbit, I tossed it to Silver as he ate it gladly.
Belts looked up confused. “Wolf--?” I bit my lip, holding back a tear. “Stop talking to me.” I grabbed the rabbit off the fire and took a bite, stepping to my home. “Just leave me alone!” Belts jumped to her feet confused. “Wait- was it because I said brash? I didn't mean it offensively...” “You heard me! Just stay out here and leave me ALONE!” I snapped as I stormed inside, leaving her confused on the grass near my porch. “Wolf!” Luna stayed outside tonight, as I fell into the bed, clinging to my makeshift pillow from rabbit fur, as I started to sob. I probably looked crazy to her... just like I look to everyone.
I'm just the crazy wolf girl.