(since there are no wolves where I live, for me to photograph, I had to borrow this image)
Chapter 11 (partial)
There is a loud noise from the kitchen. The shattering of glass, a loud thud, it wakes me instantly. At first I’m not sure where I am. I remember when I see the pale walls of the bedroom. Reaching over I check to make sure Lina is safe. She is still sleeping soundly next to me. Stevie is at the bedroom door pacing, pawing at the wood. I walk over and crack the door; she bounds down the stairs to inspect what happened. Lina is still asleep. I close the door quietly behind me. The stairway smells strange, sour and damp, Stevie growls from the kitchen. As I walk down the stairs the smell gets stronger, the sourness turning into something much more putrid. There is a warm breeze blowing through the open living area, I look to the kitchen and see it’s coming from a broken kitchen window, in the front of the town house. Stevie continues to growl at something on the floor in the dining room. I walk closer to it, slowly, pulling my shirt up over my nose. There is a lumpy mass, it’s brown and white, leaves and twigs are stuck to it. As I look around I see there are dark marks on the floor where it must’ve rolled across the room. I can’t move much closer to it, the smell is so strong, so putrid, it seeps through the loose weave of my nightshirt, and I cough a few times, trying to get the thick smell of rot out of my nose and mouth. I walk around the mound, noticing that the white areas are moving, slowly, they are piles of maggots crawling and squirming, when I get to the other side I see what looks like a triangular ear, and a snout… the decapitated, half decayed face of a wolf is staring at me, one dark dead eye sagging open. I stifle a scream with my hand. I can’t have Lina waking up and seeing this in the dining room. I tip toe across the kitchen floor, trying to miss the glass shards from the broken window, but I miss and one stabs sharply into my heel. I balance on one foot and pull the glass from my heel. I notice the blood specks on the floor from my bleeding foot. I grab a garbage bag from under the sink and open it up. I throw the open end over the decaying wolf head and pull one side under the head, so I can get it in the bag without touching it. There is a damp spot on the carpet that will have to be scrubbed clean before it stains. Stevie continues to growl at the bag as I tie it up, holding my breath so as to stop myself from vomiting. I head for the front door, turning as soon as I hear the tap of Stevie’s nails on the floor.
“Stevie, stay. Stay with Lina.” I point up the stairs where Lina is sleeping. “I’ll be right back.” I close the front door behind me and look around the cluster of townhouses. There are no lights, only the moonlight. I wish I had a flashlight. My plan was to toss this in the ditch by the road, but I don’t want to venture out in the dark. Whoever threw this through my front window could still be out there, but I’m sure they’re trying to get away from here; they wouldn’t be stupid enough to stick around with all the Volker watching us. I remember the sound of the wolves chasing us down the road, a chill runs up my back and my heart starts thumping in my chest. The thought of Lina waking up to find this mess scares me more. She has already been through enough, and I’ve tried so hard to keep her safe after the wolf attack. She barely slept for days, waking in the night, screaming. If she sees this I have no doubt it will start all over again. I take a deep breath in and run down the front steps in my bare feet, I feel the cement from the sidewalk, the smooth pavement; a few small rocks jab into my soles. There is just enough light from the moon for me to see where I’m going, I can make out the flat landscape, the grass, small sidewalk, more grass. I can see the road, the ditch on the other side where I plan to throw the bag containing the wolf head. The smell of rot is seeping through the thin plastic garbage bag, getting stronger and somehow more putrid. I try not to gag as I start to run across the sidewalk, then the grass, and finally making it to the road. I look behind me to make sure the door is still closed. Stevie’s wet nose is on the glass next to the door. The rotting smell is still getting stronger, but I am almost close enough to where I can swing the bag and throw it, the road is dark, shadows from the tall forest trees block the bright moonlight, I can barely see in front of me. The smell keeps getting stronger. Just a few more steps, I step down and feel something slimy and crunchy under my foot. It trips me and fall on the pavement, my knees landing in whatever was in the road. I drop the bag, freeing my hands to hit the rough pavement and stop my fall. The bag must have ripped because the rotting, putrid smell is stronger than ever. I roll over and look down to see what I tripped over, giving myself a moment for my eyes to adjust in the darkness. There is a dark mound in front of me. I can make out four legs, a high hip bone, and a tail. That’s all it takes for me to realize, I am looking at the decaying body of a wolf, the body that belongs to the wolf head that was thrown through my window.
“Oh god…” I whisper into the darkness. I scramble to get up and run back to my front door, realizing that this was a big mistake. I’ll just leave the mess where it is, someone else can deal with it in the morning. I am almost to my feet when I feel someone grab the hair on the back of my head. They also grab my upper arm and drag me across the pavement, down the street into the darkness. I start screaming and slapping with my free hand. I can see the cluster of townhouses, and hear Stevie barking from behind our front door. It’s when I’m screaming that I notice, there is no Volker guard vehicle parked in front of my townhouse, as there has been for days.
“Adam!” I scream as loud as I can, “Help!” I scream it over and over. Whoever is dragging me lets go of my hair and clamps their hand over my mouth. I can’t scream anymore, I can’t even get air out of my mouth. Suddenly I am filled with the same fear I’ve felt too many times in the past few weeks, during the earthquake, and the wolf attack. Lina.
Whoever is dragging me lets go of my mouth I am able to get out a few more screams and shouts, hoping someone will hear them. My captor responds with a sharp slap to my face, when that doesn’t shut me up they progress to a punch to the other side of my face. This is enough to almost knock me out. There is a pillowcase placed over my head, my hands tied behind my back. Then I am roughly tossed into the cargo area of a truck. The truck starts, and I kick the sides of the cargo area, and the top, trying to find a way to get out. The driver speeds over potholes and bumps in the road, tossing me around. There is the metallic taste of blood in my mouth. Ringing in my ears. I cannot see where we are going but the truck stops a few minutes after it started. I hear heavy footsteps, and the back of the truck opening. Someone drags me by my foot, dropping me on the ground outside of the cargo area. There isn’t enough time to get my feet under me and my balance is off with my hands tied behind me, I land hard on my hip. There is a loud rushing noise from underneath me and a heavy breeze by my legs and hands that are on the ground. It takes only a few seconds before I realize, we are on one of the bridges over the large rushing river, which separates the town. The person grabs the pillowcase and the back of my hair, pulling me to my feet. I stumble as I am pulled across the bridge and slammed up against the metal barrier of the sidewalk guard. The pillowcase is finally pulled off my head and thrown in the air, I watch the wind carry it like a ghost, over the barrier and down towards the rushing water.
“What do you want?” I can barely get the words out, my jaw and hip hurt so badly.
There is a deep grumbling laughter from in front of me. My captor walks towards me, into the moonlight so I can see him. I look around quickly. There is no one on the street to help me. Ever since the curfew was enacted the streets are bare at sundown. I struggle against the ties around my wrists, trying to get my arms free.
“What do I want?” The voice in front of me repeats, it is deep, and southern, and I know instantly who it is. Baillie. He steps in front of me. His skin is so dark I can barely see his face in the night. He is tall, much taller than I am. “What do I want?” he repeats, mockingly.
“I don’t know.” I whisper.
“What I want… is your useless excuse for a human being out of the Phoenix District Committee meetings.” I have never been spoken to so coldly before. There is no mistake in the seriousness of his voice. He does not want me being any part of the committee. “I tried to take care of that with the wolves but they obviously didn’t get the job done because here you are, as weak as ever.”
“I’ve never done anything to you. Why are you doing this to me?” I can feel the pressure behind my eyes from impending tears. Baillie must sense this. He starts laughing, his deep, thunderous laugh.
“See, I’ve barely even done anything and here you are cowering like a fool. There is nothing special about you. You are worthless, never giving any decent contributions to committee meetings. I don't know why Crane keeps you around. Making you Sovereign was a waste.” He reaches for my waist, picking me up, resting my hips on the top of the metal barrier, my upper body hanging over the dark, rushing water. “But we are going to fix that."
“Stop, please,” I try and plead with him, “I have a child… I’ll do anything.”
“I don’t care about you, or your child. You are both a waste of space. I can’t believe they let you past the fence. We were told you were something great, you would bring so much to the committee, the District. But you just sit there, barely speaking. If I didn’t know better I’d think you were a moron.” His words cut deeper than any knife could. This is not the first time my intellect has been questioned because I have been quiet and observant. It’s something I’ve struggled with my whole life.
“Please, stop.” The wind from the river whips my hair across my face. “I never wanted any of this.”