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Thursday, May 31, 2018

Microstory 854: Between Man and Wolf

When I was a child, my grandmother would tell me stories of a new species that showed itself to the world when she was younger. They were hideously deformed, but a naïve girl had convinced them to reveal themselves, believing that people would treat them kindly. While no one was hurt or anything, the creatures decided it was best to go back into hiding, and eventually, the truth of their existence was transformed into legend. No one in my day believed they existed, but I was always convinced. I spent my entire life savings on a trip across the ocean, and to the Dolomiti Forest. It took me days to figure out exactly which village housed the girl from the stories. I was surprised to learn that she was still alive, but also unwilling to help me in my quest to meet the hyperintelligent Dolomiti wolves, and learn from them. So I began my search the hard way, tirelessly trekking through the forest, looking for any evidence of an intelligence, and just hoping they hadn’t move somewhere far away in order to avoid people like me. Finally I came across their encampment, and the pack that lived there. It seemed that I had merely found a group of a few dozen humans who lived amongst some very large wolves. They greeted me politely, provided me food and a place to sleep, and told stories around the fire. Of course, they told them in Italian, so I didn’t understand a word they were saying, but they sounded wondrous. Though they did not speak English either, they clearly understood that I was there to see whether werewolves were real, so they made it clear there was nothing to be found. Still, I was suspicious that the rumors could have been borne simply of a tribe who had domesticated wolves. I indicated that I was leaving, but instead circled back around to watch them in secret. I soon learned that I was right, but the reality was even more astonishing than I was told. The wolves in the camp, thinking no one else was around, could transform themselves into humans. Meanwhile, those I met as humans were capable to turning themselves into wolves. The stories were true. They were all true, and more. Smiling at my success, I left for real, respecting their wishes to remain a secret.

Years later, I was still in Italy, having fallen in love with the city of Verona, and also a man. I told no one of what had brought me to the country in the first place, or what I had ended up experiencing, yet out of the blue, he suggested we take our honeymoon in the Dolomiti Forest. Thinking there was no way we would run into the werewolves again, I agreed. What we didn’t know was that the area was experiencing a severe drought, and resultant forest fires. Many woodland creatures had died, or been forced from their homes. It was not uncommon recently to see a herd of deer on the road, or an owl in the daytime. We still wanted to go on the trip, though not so much on a honeymoon, but to see if there was anything we could do to help. We were staying in that same village again, which had actually grown since I first visited. We were eating outside when a young wolf came up. Though he was thin and malnourished, he was quite a bit larger than your average wolf. His fur was mangy and dirty, and he was obviously thinking about eating us. The only thing that stopped him was that there were two of us, and he was probably trying to find a way to incapacitate us both at the same time. He attacked me first, but since I had lived my life well-fed, I was able to knock him away from me. I yelled at my husband to run away, which he did for a few meters, but couldn’t bring himself to leave me entirely. Yet he stayed back when he saw me take a brick paver from the ground, and threaten the wolf with it. “Yes,” I said to him in Italian. “You know what this is. It can be a weapon. Show yourself.” He just growled. “Show yourself!” I yelled. “I know what you are; that you know what I’m saying.”

Cautiously, he absorbed his fur, twisted his bones, adjusted his face, and stood up. Now in human form, his sickliness was even more obvious. “Please,” he begged. “I’m just hungry.” I told him that I understood completely, and that I was perfectly happy to help. We gave him the rest of our food, then we took him back to our room, and let him sleep in the bed, while my husband and I shared the corner on the floor. My husband, the more proper of the two of us, watched in horror as the werewolf ate breakfast like an animal the next day. He had quickly accepted what this individual was, but didn’t agree with the way behaved. He said that the forest is no longer an acceptable place for him and his people to live. We were evidently going to teach him to be civilized, and if it worked, we would do the same for the rest of his pack. The wolf looked between the two of us, and seemed amenable to the idea. But then in one final surprise, he asked, “what about all the other packs?”

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