The Snowflake Wolf : [11.08.01]

The boy walked alone through the dense growth of trees and underbrush. The jagged protrusions of the forest swept across his body occasionally snagging on his oversized clothes. His attention did not stray as he went, focused on his destination. His voyage ceased at the base of a great oak. He scaled the ragged bark and took his place amongst the immense lower branches.

He looked down the slight grade of the land sweeping away toward a creek that wrinkled the land below. The rich sunlight poured down through the treetops warmly illuminating this underworld of lush greenery. Occasionally a glint from the water of the flowing creek made his gaze follow the creek. The boy's brow furrowed slightly as he noticed how still it all seemed. A warm breeze swept lightly over the trees rustling the branches and brittle weeds. That was the only sound to be heard.

The boy leaned back against the trunk of the oak. He let his eyes close and his thoughts slowly wander away from the silence surrounding him. Incomprehensible time flowed along as surely as the creek down below. His thoughts stirred again as a faint rasping began to emanate from back down the path that he had come. The boy peered toward the sound's origin, attempting to decipher what had drawn him from his solace.

The sound grew nearer and from out of the underbrush staggered a large gray wolf. It shambled across the small clearing below the oak and flopped down flaccidly amongst the roots and thick grass. The boy looked on in fear as it laid there shallowly breathing, its one visible eye blinking in erratic fits. The boy sat there, vigilant as a statue. Again time passed as he stared on. The warm hues of the sun deepened casting an unearthly pallor about the scene below. The boy continued to perch on the branches as the rhythmic rasp of the wolf's breathing began to lull his mind. Sleep came to him before he could react.

The boy awoke engulfed in the dark air of the night. It had grown cool and all was silent still. He looked about and saw very little below the night sky. He listened for a moment. The rasping was gone. He jumped down and dashed through the dark undergrowth back the way he had came.

The day following was hot and hazy. It was about mid-day when the boy made his way down the path squinting as the sunlight refracted about in an intense array. The path led on and as he went and he knew that the silence of yesterday was now as it was before. Birds flitted between the patches of beaming sky in the treetops singing to each other. A few squirrels and chipmunks fled from the path chattering in protest as he pushed on.

The clearing under the oak came into view and the boy began to slow with caution. He slipped behind a stark birch tree and peered across the open space. There by the base of the gnarled old oak lay the wolf, motionless. The grace of bare roots and grass embellished the stage encircling the wolf. Cautious as before the boy edged into the clearing nimbly stepping farther into the open grass.

When he closed within a safe distance the boy knelt down and his hand closed about an old branch. Once within two yards of the wolf he carefully extended the branch before him. The wolf's chest gave slightly under the pressure of the branch's tip. Its jaw went slightly agape as the air from its lungs seeped out. He prodded it harder. It did not react.

"Must be dead," he thought to himself. He knelt down closer for examination. The wolf lay rather flat, its legs crossed over each other as if it had been struggling to continue moving. Its neck was strained forward and downward in a contorted pose. He choked up his grip on the branch and forced the wolf's head back in an attempt to relieve the sight of something so ghastly.

After pushing the wolf's head back, the boy noticed that its fur was matted down with semi-coagulated blood. Amidst the matted mess, a dark hole could be seen. The boy wondered what had caused this wound. He reached out gently stroking the fur on its side. The wolf felt warm and its fur soft. The boy smiled and looked up. A rabbit chewed alfalfa flowers. It cocked its ears and listened.

As the summer progressed the boy made visits to the wolf. It bloated as flies busily buzzed about and deposited their eggs into its rancid flesh. Maggots worked the wolf's insides. It bloated further and ruptured. It deflated and radiated an acrid stench. A dark substance flecked with the creamy white of maggots seeped from the ruptured body soiling the embellishing roots of the oak. Larvae grew, pupated, and flew off as adults. The dark substance was slowly imbibed into the dirt surrounding the body of the wolf.

With time, the stench faded from the now bony sack that was the wolf. Its skin began to dry and crack as the weather turned dry and cool. Gray fur took to the breeze and was gone. Fueled by the decomposition, grass that was once short now grew long and luxuriant around and through the body of the wolf. The dried skin began to flake and turn to powder and was slowly swept away by rain and wind. The grass grew longer still. Deep amongst the virulent blades of grass dull ashen bones could be seen lingering and giving but a glimpse of their former state.

The boy's interest had dissipated and autumn had begun. The memory of the wolf faded slowly from his thoughts and concerns. One day late that autumn as the boy was walking home a grayish gaunt looking dog trotted past on the sidewalk. This sparked the boy's mind and he thought of the wolf. He turned to catch a fleeting look at the dog. It had strayed into the street without looking and just as the boy turned a silver mini-van struck the dog. Its bony body crumpled and was sent rolling down the street a few yards. Dry leaves from the surrounding trees blew lazily across the street.

The dog lay still as the van came rolling to a stop. The boy went to the dog. He knelt down and thought of the wolf. He stroked its side as its breath seeped from its lungs. Its fur was so soft.

"Is he yours?" asked a sober voice from somewhere behind the boy.

"Nope," the boy replied.

A few days later it snowed for the first time of the season. The sky was a hazy shade of bluish gray. There was an eerie energy in the air. Clouds hung down low trapping the sound of the world below their thick billows. The first few flakes came down as the boy made his way toward where the wolf lay amongst the roots of the oak tree. The forest was now dormant. Color was muted in the wintry haze. The once healthy grass around the wolf now lay flat and brittle. His spot upon the oak branch looked cold and was covered in snow.

The boy walked to that spot and looked down at the bones of the wolf. They were now stark and pale white. He noticed the snowflakes drifting down all around. He came to the oak and everything seemed asleep. His eyes locked onto a snowflake and followed its bleary path. It seemed so elegant, so beautiful. The snowflake continued down. It breezed down through the delicate arcs of the wolf's ribs and came to rest below. The boy noticed a small silver glint near the neck of the wolf. A bullet lay cold as ice in the matted grass below. The boy looked up again and caught sight of another snowflake. It was as delicate as the first. He examined its dainty pattern as it shimmered down in the cold winter glow. Gingerly, the snowflake came to rest on the stark skull of the wolf. It disintegrated on contact.
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