"The sixth wolf"

11:54 PM


The pack of wolves sprinted cheerfully across the forest. There were a total of six, two males and four females, all as black as a demon's heart. They had been searching for prey all night, but their intended targets were obviously very well hidden. They knew a Hunt was taking place tonight - they had been told so - and had decided to take the offense. The constant calls would certainly lure the Hunters into thinking there were five wolves, and the unknown sixth wolf was the "weight" needed to tip the scale in their favor. It was certainly thrilling to be part of a Hunt, and to have such worthy opponents just added to the flavor.

All six of them originally came from Dawson City, some eight to twelve miles north-northwest from their current positions. There was Mrs. Wellington, the housewife, who used to be constantly battered by her husband, until a wolf "killed" them both (he's dead, all right). And Mr. Berton, the mailman, who got tired of the same routine every day (and the same indifference of the town towards him, as if he didn't exist). He, too, was "killed" by a wolf, although his body was never found, and there really wasn't any proof that backed this theory up. But that was what must have happened, 'cause the same thing seemed to have happened to Mr. Arnold ("he was a freak, real scary guy..."), Miss Satterfield ("she was just a child!"), Ms. Mulroney ("a tragedy, no doubt 'bout it..."), and Miss Walsh ("that whore... it must've been the hand of God... this should be an example to all the ladies who might be tempted to..."). All of them appeared to be victims of a new wave of wolves' killings, and their numbers only seemed to be on the rise. No one in Dawson dared anymore to mount a hunting party to get rid of these wolves, as each party only added to the victims' list - and in their case something was found, even if it was only their carcass.

Mrs. Wellington was in full sprint when she heard the call. She immediately stopped, the suddenness of her halt nearly knocking her over. The first one to give the call was supposed to be Dreadwolf (Mr. Arnold insisted on being called that way since his arrival), because he was leader of the pack. But now that duty fell temporarily into the hands - or paws - of Mr. Berton, while Dreadwolf assumed the role of the "absent" sixth wolf. Mrs. Wellington gave her signal, and returned to her search. She wondered where Mister...where Dreadwolf was hidden, since he preferred to remain invisible even to them in order to keep the pack in full alert. Dreadwolf was definitely insane, but he possessed a cunning mind, and a lack of remorse that none of them - not even now - had. He was dreaded by the rest of the pack, taking the leadership without any objections. In fact, there was only one being that evoked respect and even fear in him, only one he would listen to.

But none of that concerned Mrs. Wellington at this moment, as her whole attention was drawn into the task at hand. Her heart was beating at an incredible rate, and she thought she had never felt so alive before. The possibility of being killed tonight frightened her, but at the same time she embraced this fright, enjoying every minute of it.

Something went past her some ten or twelve meters to her left; whatever it was could move even faster than her. Seconds later she saw the thing again, a shadow moving cautiously amongst the trees, and knew what it was.

It was then that she picked up the scent. It was coming from the direction opposite the wind was blowing - southward - but it was so powerful there was no mistaking it. Human scent.

It came from the bushes, straight ahead. She fixed her eyes intently on them.

Cálmate, Ignacio, cálmate.

The sounds of the howlings came to him like trumpets signaling the beginning of a hunt. He had been in plenty of those back in Spain, and in England, where the prey were only harmless foxes. In the north american wilderness he had hunted down bears and timberwolves; in the jungles of South America, jaguars and tapirs; in the hot African savannah, lions and cheetah; in the Indonesian archipelago, Komodo dragons. Yet, none of those hunting trips, not even all put together, could match this. For the first time in his life he felt as if he was out of his element, unable to control what was about to happen. He thought that he wasn't ready for this, and would never be; even more terrifying was the fact that this Hunt was only practice, intended on sharpening his skills and getting him ready for the real thing.

Up until now his mind had been a whirlpool of emotions, the doubts piling up as time went on. That was no more; as soon as he spotted the wolf running across the forest - apparently oblivious to his presence - all his doubts were erased, the cold-blooded demeanor of a Hunter taking over his persona.

The wolf stopped. It was carefully sniffing the air for some aroma that had probably caught its attention. Probably him. Let it pick me up, he thought, it will make no difference. Once I have you locked, you are as good as dead.

The wolf spotted him. Its eyes met Ignacio's, and, for an instant, predator and prey - it wasn't clear which was who - waltzed through each other's mind. But it only lasted an instant.

Clicking off the safety of his rifle, Ignacio aimed.


>> continue...



Part I - Stage A
Part III - Casualties
Part IV - The Dark Man of the Forest
Part V - Siege
Part VI - The Cabin
Epilogue - Days of Crimson
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