At dusk you could hear the howling. We were up, looking across the plain.
“I don’t see anything.”
“By those tamaracks. See now?”
It darted across a half-kilometer in five-seconds.
“Yes, I see it now. Looks like a wolf,” she said.
There’s been talk of wolves coming to Inuvik for weeks.
“Here,” I said slamming a box of shotgun shells onto the counter. You go anywhere, bring these.”
Jamie preferred the Benelli Nova.
I needed ammunition for the carbine. Went to the workshop, tied a Ruger .357 Blackhawk in a holster belt around my waist. Put my hand on four magazines for the BCL 102 in a drawer when something banged against the house. The sound of splintering wood and a bewitched howl. I loaded the BCL, and ran inside the house as Jamie screamed.
Glass shattering as I got to the living room. Something large was entering our home. I fired the carbine until it was dry, while Jamie fired two rounds with the Benelli. There was a horrific whine from the beast while she reloaded. I discharged the contents of the Ruger into its head and chest. Two more head shots from Jamie’s Benelli destroy the muzzle and cranium. There was a chaos of shape changing, then calm. We were looking at the body of a naked man.
“Trevor Dunn,” I said.
Two fingers to the chest. To our surprise, he roused, put his eyes over the scene and looked up at us.
“You attacked Jamie. We shot you several times.”
His lips pressed together in an expression of discomfort. There was considerable mangling of his body and head.
“Need to clean him up,” Jamie said walking away.
“You grab him some of my clothes,” I called out. She went upstairs.
I led Trevor into the kitchen were he sat at the breakfast table, his insides dripping to the floor.
There had been good body contact, his left pec swung in a clump from the rib cage. He was covered in wounds from the carbine spray, and there were four slugs from the
Ruger in his head, but the shape-altering damage had come from Jamie’s shotgun. I threw him a dish towel.
“It’s clean,” I said. “Get you some iodine.”
He dabbed the towel absentmindedly at the prodigious chest wound.
“Coffee,” he said, “and bourbon.”
“Tell me Trevor, how are you still alive?”
“Welp, bullets don’t kill me, they only slow me down.”
I put coffee on, slid him a bottle of iodine and a mug, and went to the bar.
“Couple months ago I was getting firewood near the edge of our property line ‘round dark when I was attacked. I didn’t know what it was. Then this started happening.”
He looked at his chest. I tossed him the bottle. He tipped it over the mug I’d given him for his coffee.
“What is it like?”
“Uncomfortable becoming the wolf, but once you’re it, feel strong. Raised awareness. Aptitude for the chase.”
“So you attack people when you’re the wolf.”
“I eat ‘em too.” He made a sound of recondite emotion in his throat. “I’m so embarrassed, Henry. It’s like having two minds working in the same body. I’ll be like this forever if I don’t get my clothes back.”
“You get your clothes back and you quit being the wolf?”
“The reading I done this week past say so. Some books say, if I bite someone who don’t die, they become the wolf, and I ain’t a wolf no more. Other books say if that happens, we both the wolf. I don’t know what to believe. Can’t be sure unless it happens.”
“So the wolf’s inside you?”
“I’m the wolf right now.”
“You look like yourself.”
“Don’t need to look like the wolf to be it.”
“When will you look like the wolf again?”
“Soon as these wounds heal.”
“I’ll kill you.”
His readiness to be sacrificed was alarming.
“I reckon I been killing everyone I see when I turn.” He teared up, palms to his eyes, crown toward the floor. “See, I remember what happened when I turn back to this. I got the consciousness of what I was, burdened by the vicious things I done. Sometime after it started, I began doing all the reading I could on the subject of lycanthropy, when I look like I do now. I need to know if I can stop turning into the wolf. Stop killing people, be a man again.”
I poured him coffee.
“Evidence right now telling me you’re a man.”
He shook his head, eyes bleared in defeat.
“The transformation ain’t just when you become the wolf. It’s permanent and constant, ‘present even when the afflicted looks like a man.’ Don’t try talking over them books I reading. Them afflicted ain’t never men again, and never fully wolf, but ‘a hybrid being of heterogeneous sources that does not wholly represent either source.’ That’s true in all the legend. What’s unique is how a man lives after the transformation. What it puts your desires to. I’ve been killing.”
“Since you became the wolf you ain’t seen her?”
He shook his head looking at the floor.
“I wan’ta see her. I wan’ta live like we used to. Be intimate with her, like we used’ta was. I got to believe she’s alive, that I can beat the wolf, else I have nothing.”
He sat silently with an inward sadness apparent in the eyes and lips.
“I’ll lock you up,” I said.
He perked to resume our discussion.
“Best pin me under a tractor and flee. I rips open locks.”
Jamie put some clothes on a chair in the adjacent room.
“Clothes behind you on the chair, Trevor,” she said, crossing through the partition into where we were.
Trevor went to get the clothes then walked to our downstairs bathroom.
“So Dunn, you’re a wolf,” Jamie called out.
“Yep, at nights.”
“Taking him to Regional?” she asked me.
Dunn went in the bathroom and closed the door.
“Nope,” I said. “We're gonna find his clothes.”
“His clothes? Wouldn’t they be all torn up from when he turned into the wolf?”
“He seems to think they’re somewhere he might be able to find them.”
“If you shoot him again will he die?” said Jamie.
Trevor came out of the bathroom. He was wearing only the pants and the wool shirt of the clothing my wife had brought downstairs. Even his feet were bare. His skull looked like an enormous bruised grape.
“Nope," he said. “I'll just pass out awhile. Lacy shot me a few times with fucking .300 win mag, and it didn’t do shit but stall things.”
“What did it stall?” asked Jamie.
“Probably her savage murder,” I said.
“Oh, Lacy, terrible,” said Jamie. I heard her posture adjust uncontrollably.
“How long have you been turning into a wolf, Trevor?” asked Jamie.
“Couple months now.”
“How often you it?”
“Comes and goes. Lately I turn every day.”
“I thought werewolves only appear at full moons,” said Jaime.
“Before this conversation did you think werewolves existed?” I asked.
“Look,” said Trevor. “I hate to put ya’ll out, but I ain’t gonna stay like this. I’m going to turn back into the wolf when these scars go away.”
I looked at his stomach. The obliteration of his chest had turned into a nasty purple spot with an enormous scab snaking through its center.
“She’s still ugly, but getting prettier,” said Trevor. “When she gone I’ll be looking for living flesh.”
“You eat people when you’re the wolf?” asked Jamie.
“Yeah, he eats them,” I said.
Trevor started to tear up.
“We’ll take you to the bunker,” I said.
“Bunker?” He looked at me.
“We got a bunker out on the property. We’ll put you in there until we figure out how to save you or kill you.”
“Yeap,” said Trevor. “Looking out for your homestead. I understand, Henry.”
“So…Lacy?” asked Jamie.
“I don’t know for sure. She might have been killed the first night I turned, sometime back. I haven’t been home since then. Hopefully she found safety. I reckon ‘at’s what the two of you gotta do before this skin clears.”
“All right, let’s go,” I said. “We ain’t wasting another minute. Jamie, check the truck for gas. Bring an extra jug, and leave it on the floor boards. Be in the truck with the engine running good. Get flashlights.”
She took her coat, the firearm, shells, was gone.
“Take the coffee with you, Dunn.”
I walked to the back door, took my coat from the rack, then turned in the partition between the mudroom and living room. Dunn had followed me with the mug of coffee in his hand and the bottle tucked into his waist. He was almost touching me. I hadn’t heard his movement.
“That shirt ain’t enough. Take one of them coats.”
“Na, I ain’t gonna need one in a couple-few minutes,” he said.
We passed a stack of firewood and entered the workshop. I found some heavy chains, removed the bottle from his waistband, then wrapped the chains around Dunn, shoulders to waist with his arms pressed against his sides, locked them.
“You got something stronger than this?” he asked. The coffee cup shaking in his hand.
“No, that’s it.”
“Gotta find some more for my legs. Hell, you gotta do it up more than this!” he yelled.
“I have ankle restraints,” I said. “Let’s get to the truck first, I ain’t carrying you.”
“Listen Henry, how about unscrewing that bottle and tipping me a drink?”
I supplied him. He drank the bourbon like water, the bottle over his face, little splashes of it falling to his cheeks.
“We ain’t got time to fool,” he said.
His scars were almost healed.
“Let’s get to the truck,” I barked, suddenly frightened at the prospect of being eaten alive. We walked outside, passing some of our field machines.
“Tie me to the mouth of the wood-chucker and chop me up,” he said.
“Make me sick, Trevor.”
“Pssh. All right, but you gonna be the one’s who gets chewed-up.”
“Look Dunn, I’ll cuff you, I’ll shoot you, but I’m not going to mince your body and spread it over our land.”
Jamie honked the horn persistently. I looked to her. There was an excitement in the expression of her face as she jerked her head out the window. Then I understand.
“Come on, he’s turnin’!” she shouts.
Running to the truck, the wind, the black of the evening-come sky, the sounds Trevor is making behind me. Leap into the bed, she drives. Watching him turn in front of the house. Spasm overtakes him, he changes. We’re rolling fast. It’s not a man when it darts between some trees and disappears. Jamie is going straight, towards Dempster Highway.
“Go to the bunker!” I shout. “Turn!”
“He’ll follow us!” she shouts from the cabin.
“Nah, turn it!”
She turns right, skidding sharply, I slide into the left wheelhouse of the truck bed.
“Gun loaded? I shout.
“Shells with you?”
We stop in front of the bunker nearly hitting it and get out. I open the bunker door. The howl comes chilling and terrible.
I’m holding the iron door open, Jamie ducks in.
It’s unbelievable how fast it runs. Its instinct is an intelligence sharper than most minds. It’s stunning to see it running toward you. The rifle needs a re-load. You can’t be doing this, it’s too frightening, too horrible. It rips my shoulder out, pulling flesh and bone from my torso. Choking on the blood in my mouth as the beast rips open my neck and thorax. I don’t know if the last thing I hear is Jamie’s screaming as the bunker door shut, or the beast chewing my flesh.
It’s night, cold and wonderful. Running through the plain, I eat a deer, then several more. Early in the morning I consume an elderly couple in a four-room house. Later I’m alone in a forest, naked. I’ve moved south, running upriver along the Mackenzie. I walk in the direction of home, weary and cold, depressed. Come to the house of the elderly couple, go inside. Find a woolen tapestry. Fix it to my waist with a rope cord. Find sneakers, and take liberally from men’s clothes I find in an upstairs room. I leave the property thinking of Jamie. I keep thinking of her while the thoughts struggle to be forgotten.
A slate-colored sky of low clouds. I’m walking over a plain in early morning. In the afternoon I sleep and dream hard. I wake running, surrounded by hundreds of kilometers of forest. Howling, with the orange evidence of sunlight low in-between the trees. Run to a small wooden house with a chicken coupe, find foxes, attack a human who comes outside. Chased by manifold gunfire. Fight with a pack of gray wolves I surprise, and slaughter them. Sleep. Wake in morning. I’ve run south to the river’s headwater at Great Slave Lake. Wandering miserably until I find more clothes in a two-room stone house with a smoking chimney. I don’t have the strength or desire to talk to the person inside, but my presence is enough to take their clothes without trouble. Later I am asleep somewhere, on a hill under a thicket of trees. My dreams are of constant movement.
I will get home, Jamie: getting clothes, moving. I am never still, never sated, never wondering, never happy or connected, but moving ceaselessly. I am movement with the ever-flickering idea of why I am moving. Sleep in the afternoon, always in a new location, deep in the forest. The dreams are active, sporting things: a kingdom between the golden light passing through the high tops of trees I am running over. I am running in the direction of why I am running. I am the wolf because I become the wolf.
Running through the damp foggy night. I’m on a property on the North side of Great Slave Lake, trotting. Eat a bear, trot at the parameter of the wood. People see me. Hungry, alone, I leave. I am running through a forest I have not been in before, charged by the cold. The fog is moving quickly tonight, a clear breadth of sky opens between enormous, drifting clouds. Running faster than before, which is the reason I run yet faster. I have a keen sense of why I am running. Here life is. There will never again be walls. There will never again be community. There is so much power, and no peer.