|Watcher Of The Night
2004 by Lois Armstrong
Gus Kopper stared down at the fire they had made in their camp. He and the boys had been cutting down trees in the Gray Wolf forest for the last week and soon, in a couple of days they will have the wood they need. He puffed on his pipe looking like he was resting with a tin cup of coffee in the other hand while his eyes seached the shadows around him. He had seen dark skies before but here in this place, where stories of wolves passing in the night were told; the darkness seemed blacker. There was a small piece of moon up there with a few dim stars but he'd be damned if he could see them from where he was sitting. There was this feeling that he was being watched. He found himself having to pee, afraid to go in there and relieve himself. Something was out there. He knew it. He felt it. His Boss, Ed was talking with two other guys in one of the tents. One man had to be outside to watch for anything that could be taken as danger. This was his night, his kidneys hurt and if he didn't do something about them he would bring on a fever, which would mean nights in the hospital. This, he didn't want. So in spite of himself, he eased his full six foot four frame on his size fourteen shoes and walked toward the nearest tree then unzipped his heavy jeans. He felt himself being emptied and all the while his eyes searched about him waiting for something to stand out that would send him screaming into camp.
The Gray Wolves Forest was an old forest. No one dared to trudge in there for stories of wolves that stand like men were told over the years. Old man Forkk said when he was a ten-year old kid; he saw a female holding her young to her breast, feeding it while her blacks searched the ground around her. The kid had been curious and sneaked up as close as he could get, to watch her. "She was a beauty that one." He told the tavern men, those who would listen to the age-old story. "She was black with long hair down her back. Her body was covered with fine hairs. Her face was oval with a thin nose and flower lips. You would think that such a creature would be wolf-like, but she was a beauty and I as a lad was stricken by her. My dick raised up in my pants as I watched her. It was a pleasant feeling but she must have heard me breathing, as she turned in my direction hugged her baby and fled." He drank from his glass as he watched the expression on his comrade's faces. They were listening to every word. Rumors about men being attacked and laid by a stray female, was the talk of the town. Stories of women missing from their homes, never being seen again, spread like wild fire. A man in his eighties told of seeing a wild white woman running through the forest with a young lad at her feet. Some stories were ignored, while others made you sleep in fear, with a rifle near by. A newly-wed couple was taken from their home and never seen again. The townspeople of Gray Wolf looked for them for days until the body of the young groom was found near the path that led into the forest.
Then they came with their big trucks and big vans. They were told not to go in there but they refused to listen and drove in and began to cut at the forest's heart.
Gus zipped up his pants and headed back toward the fire. Wolves didn't like fire. It was a safety zone for him. He had stepped five feet, almost to the point where he would be safe, when he heard a branch break behind him.
Black eyes watched as the man walked toward the fire in the middle of the camp. It watched as he sat down and picked up his cup to drink from it. The eyes watched carefully as movement around the man became still. They will sleep. It watched.
Thunder, as he was named, was a young male of twenty moons. He had lived with his people down by the river and its great falls, hanging onto his mother while the father would go out and hunt the rabbit and the squirrels. Once he brought back a young bear that strayed too far from it's mother, but it was the deer that kept them fed for days to come.
Word had come to them that men walked in their forest, cutting down the trees. They told of them and their tools that made loud noises, that sent the trees to the ground, that sliced the trees up and put them on huge animals, that made a roaring noise when they moved. The young were told not to leave their mothers, for any reason. The young males with families moved only at night. The noise of the great Gods sent the rabbit and the deer running for safety, and food was getting hard to find. Thunder's own son was just weeks old, still nursing on it's mother; would soon need meat to grow big and strong and alert to the world around him. They were forced to feed on the fish from the waters, but fish was not a wolf meal. He needed meat. Thunder was forced to leave the safety of his cave, to go out into the woods and if need be face the roaring Gods to get the meat that was needed. He stood in the shadows of the night, his senses alert; listening to the grass, the trees, whispering of the night birds as they hunted for their young. One landed on his shoulder gently he shooed the bird away, up into the tree.
Thunder had the build of a warrior. His shoulders, arms and chest; hefty, his hips and legs built for running. His feet pads, to protect their bottom, could sense the feeling of anything under them. It was his hands that were slender with nails that could rip anything apart. His whole body was made for survival. Teeth sharp and pointed to rip at meat or a man's head, if need be.
He watched the man by the fire. Oh yes, they knew and understood fire. It had burned their woods, almost destroying their homes. They knew what the thing that burns and kills, could do. They would not approach it unless they had to; he preferred to keep his distance. The eyes searched out while his ears listened. A noise was close. He was taut. It was low to the ground, moving quickly. The nostrils flared in the air. Rabbit, meat for his young. His body turned slowly, listening to every move.
Gus stirred and picked up his rifle, hunger told his stomach he would have to find something out there. The woods. They knew, because they had seen rabbits out there. That sounded good and if he needed to be out there, by himself; shouldn't the need for hunger be fed? He looked around, picking up a flashlight and began to move toward the wood.
Thunder soundlessly picked his way though the tall grass his nose picked up the odor of a rabbit but it also told him that some one else was out there. The smell of burnt clothes came to him as if a man had sat to close to an open fire. He was ready. His young needed the meat more than the other and, if necessary he would kill it to have the rabbit. The both of them were so close now that Thunder almost stopped breathing. His ear picked up heavy steps along with a rustle of the grass. Tensed and fully ready to spring, a voice called out and the other turned to call back. Thunder moved quickly and the rabbit lay limply in his sharp teeth while the other moved back to the clearing.
"You are an ass hole Gus!" The man stormed at him. "You know the woods is full of wolf and yet; you go out there anyway."
" I was tracking a rabbit." Gus protested.
" A rabbit?" The man felt like hitting him. "We have a grocery store here and you're out acting like Daniel Boone. Come on.." They both retraced to where Gus had been, "Look! See. It was a rabbit." Gus pointed out the trail in the grass. The big man moved two feet and shook his head, "Yeah, and these tracks are not rabbits." Gus walked over and looked down at the grass. He reached down to touch drops of blood. Then he saw it. A tuft of black hair lying close by the drops. Gus peed his pants.
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