WOLF AND OLD WOMAN
WOLF AND OLD WOMAN
by E.C. McMullen Jr.
The Old Woman walked among the trees. She wasn’t sure how far she had come, probably not that far. They could find her easy if they were looking, but hopefully she wasn’t missed yet. She was doing her own business and that was nobody else’s business.
She came out of the forest into a field of Savannah and dried, cakey mud. Insects flew about and seemed to take no notice of her. She couldn’t recall the last time she enjoyed direct sunlight on her face.
In the distance she saw a mound of trash and headed toward it. It was a clump of junk that had weathered many rains, maybe many seasons.
Off to the side of the junk and on its own, someone had dumped an old bus stop bench near the clutter. The Old Woman worked to push it over upright. She tested it. Perfectly serviceable she decided. Nothing wrong with it but age.
There was a clump of papers among the trash and the Old woman found a sun bleached magazine. The ink remained legible enough, and she had nothing better to do, so she sat down and began reading.
The Wolf came along.
The Old Woman saw its arrival on the outskirts of her vision, but didn’t acknowledge it. If it was The Wolf, it would stay. If it was just A Wolf, it would leave. So what difference did it make?
The Wolf stopped before the Old Woman and waited. It sniffed the air but found nothing of interest. The Wolf scratched all her itches, bit at all her fleas, chewed away all of the burrs, and stayed alert.
The Wolf wasn’t tame and, despite the truce with this one, the Old Woman was still a human. So it stayed on guard, poised on all four feet.
The earth moved, the sun warmed it, birds flew, and no one came looking for the Old Woman.
The Wolf didn’t have a mind for counting time however, and grew bored. Finally it spoke,
Wolf: “Is forever?”
Old Woman: “Hm?”
Wolf: “This waiting. Is forever feels like?”
Old Woman: “You’re more impatient than a child.”
Wolf: “Human child. Not human or child. No care.”
Old Woman: “To answer your question, this is not forever, though it certainly is longer than I expected.”
Wolf: “Should help you along?”
Old Woman: “You’d better not! We just have to wait. The blemish will pass over me soon, and then this worn out old package will be garbage.”
Old Woman: “Death is a shadow: a spot. Throughout the life of all things, through the minutes, hours, and days, our daily potential deaths randomly move all around us: And we between them. The longer we live, the larger our spots grow, the more numerous they become, until it’s difficult to avoid them.”
Wolf: “Darkness comes.”
Old Woman: “Yes. For all of us. Mine must be pretty large these days.”
Wolf: “No, darkness comes now.”
Old Woman: “What? Where?”
Wolf: “There. See it? Moves like cloud over ground.”
Old Woman: “I can’t see it!”
Wolf: “Smell your fear. Fear and… something else.”
Old Woman: “So? I should…! Okay. Yes, I’m afraid. I didn’t think I… well, I guess we’re never really ready for it. I go to you. I go to you! I go to you!“
Wolf: “What you say?”
Old Woman: “My mantra! Imprints my life. Once death takes me I won’t have any brain to think with. I’ll be disoriented, so I… my life must know that I go to you to complete this. I go to you! I go to you! I go to you! I go – !”
Wolf saw the shadow touch Old Woman and pour into her as water down a hole. Her old body fell over and her life stood, briefly protected by the shade of its death.
Wolf: “Come, human life, fulfill pact. Be born among my children to pay your debt.”
Life: “I Go To You.”
Story by E.C. McMullen Jr.
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