Okay — go brew yourself a pot of your favorite hot beverage and get a little something to snack on…maybe a cinnamon raisin scone, or an old-fashioned doughnut. Then, sit back, make yourself comfy, a prepare for a long, wild read!
Wide blue sky. Scudding clouds. Steep slope of grassy hill awash in gray stones scattered like small flocks of sheep. We follow her — this green-clad woman, this mystic, old-world physician — up the hillside, struggling against an edge of wind through which she glides unbufetted. We have left the small town below so suddenly, the townsfolk are suspicious; they gather together in the square, plotting and whispering. Even at this distance, at our ever-increasing elevation, I feel their collective stare.
We have almost reached the hill’s top, that gently sloping shoulder of soft, wind-tossed grasses, when we see them — three small gray balls of fluff. Wolf pups. And then, we see their mother, prone upon the ground, torn in two. Beyond all probability and imagining, she yet lives. The woman, this doctor who leads us — she can save the wolf. I watch as she kneels beside the ragged body, and I realize another gray shape hurtles toward us from the hill’s far side. The she-wolf’s mate. Fury in his eyes, bristling his coat. He won’t stop, will rend us entirely, though we wish only to help.
Standing, placing myself in his path and shielding the doctor and her lupine charge, I call out in a loud, steady voice unfamiliar to my own ears:
Immediately, the rushing male halts. Yellow eyes stare, but he listens as I explain, in wolf’s tongue, what we attempt, that he must take the pups to safety, that we will bring her to him when we have completed our task to the best of our abilities. He must show me where we may deliver her at that time. Still, he stares with those yellow eyes, turns at last and leads me around the hill’s far side till we arrive at a steep mountain of polished granite. A smooth ledge is incised into the mountain’s curve, up and around. The wolf starts upon this path, looks back at me, and gestures with his muzzle several times to be sure I understand. Yes. Follow the path. Continue. Around. Like the warming curl of tail over nose in Winter. Up. And up. Like wolfsong called out to the full Moon.
Back at the scene of carnage, I am, now, the woman physician. The mystic. I kneel in the spread of spilled blood. Green skirts rusting, hands slick. I stitch the she-wolf together — organ to organ, flesh to flesh, front half to back. I wrap her torso in strips of white cloth. Fur pokes through, a fringe of gray between overlapping seams. She makes no noise at any time. Never struggles.
With help, I fashion a litter from two long branches and a pair of jeans. We struggle to force the leafed and twigged limbs down the pant legs. At last, I lift the wolf as gently as possible, secure her to the litter. Leading the way, I begin the trek up the smooth granite path to the mountain’s top.
Such a climb. Footing unsure on gripless stone. Ceaseless, tugging wind. Upon reaching the top, I have abandoned the litter, clutch the bundled wolf to my chest. Before us — a pair of stainless steel sliding doors, which part, allow entry into a cavern fashioned from within the mountain’s dome. Lights hang from impossibly long steel cables anchored to the interior curve of mountain above us — slender, luminous stalactites. A plane of polished granite spreads out before us, chasing away past a reception desk, a set of elevators, what appear to be offices. The floor disappears into the dark beyond.
Most astonishing, though are this places’ inhabitants — wolves all, yes; but the majority of them walk about upright on two legs. Some are clad as people, in business suits and work uniforms; others in only their varied shades of fur. All eyes slew to intercept us, eyeing me in particular, with my bloodied burden clasped against my chest.
A wolf dressed in white doctor’s scrubs and head mirror steps out from behind the front desk. I lay my charge down, and the wolf doctor speaks to me, assures me of our safety, of their gratitude. She speaks English, I notice. She begins her examination, and I watch her run a scanner over the wounded hind wolf’s paws, witness her alarm when the device offers no reading. Again, the same with the she-wolf’s front paws. The doctor wolf is confused, she says; the patient smells of the right identity, but the scanners do not support this finding. I explain her injuries were so severe, I was forced to apply skin grafts.
Noise from the dark. Tumult. The wounded wolf’s mate is charging, on all fours. I exhort the doctor to check the she-wolf’s eyes, to take a retinal scan. She peel’s back an eyelid. To my great relief, the scanning device blips confirmation.