Frost Bitten

I heard myself panting, but I didn’t know whether it was because I was being chased by a pack of wolves, or because I had just shot one. I tried aiming behind me to shoot another bullet but I knew for a fact that the thing in my hand was a poor excuse for a working gun. It jammed every other bullet, and gave me absolute hell. When it finally went off, the sound of it scared me more than it scared the wolves behind me.  I remembered my gym teacher telling me to never look back when I was running track. That was the only time I remembered something from school.

I must have ran for miles until the snow storm finally swept me. It was the middle of a raging winter, and I knew for a fact that having a marathon in the middle of winter in a desolate forest out in the country wasn’t doing me any good. The storm pelted me with so much snow that I was glad to be wearing three layers and a scarf. But I wasn’t glad enough that the wolves had been hunting in the woods for as long as I’d been in school. I looked back in the raging storm, unable to see much, but fired off the rest of my shots. I didn’t hear anything, and didn’t expect to. I dropped my gun in the storm and then with full force pushed ahead until I was out of breath. I thought I was sitting meat when I grabbed onto a trunk and bent down for a quick rest. The snow was not letting anytime soon in the forest and I knew for a fact that the wolves had my smell. My heartbeat was probably racing down the street and my face was being burnt alive. Everything seemed to stop once I concentrated and caught my breath. Time slowed down, the snow began feeling like a warm blanket, and my entire body felt like it was being baked in an oven. I felt like my entire being was being melded with the winter’s snow, and I heard the sounds of bears and deers slowly making their way in the snow. I envisioned antlers and fangs and the smoke out of mud houses and venison being roasted slowly in a campfire. My head then began filling with the sounds of chants and humming and dancing and young children smiling and laughing around an open fire. Then, I remembered an old man giving me a pipe, and then being sent into the clouds.

I was brought out of my trance when I felt a sharp sting on my leg. I looked down to see a wolf had driven his mouth into my leg. If I didn’t move fast enough I would have thought that the wolf was drinking my blood, but I kicked it with my other leg and brought it down into the snow. The kick took all my strength, and I knew that the smell of my blood would attract the rest of the pack. I brought one hand onto my wound, and began limping away. I couldn’t stop blood from dripping onto the snow, and I knew that the path I was making would spell my death anyway. I cursed in the snow, and looked back for the wolf. I couldn’t find it, and I began panicking. My breathing began fluctuating again, and everything was shaking. The snow kept raging on, and even if the wolves didn’t find me, I knew that the cold would. I leaned back onto a tree, and pressed my hand onto the two fang marks on my pants. I felt the meat of my legs sink as blood spurted out. The pain shot up through my body, but I pressed forward and reached into my back pocket. I grabbed the knife I kept for emergency measures and sliced the bottom of my pants off.  I then tied it to my wound and got up. I could barely stand, but with the snow freezing my legs, It made moving surprisingly easy. I began moving with my arms out to try and find balance with my steps, but the snow storm was proving to be too much of a hindrance to make any progress. I felt my gloved fingers starting to numb as well, and then realized that I hadn’t had a fix in over two days. Once that realization hit me, my entire body began shaking, and my vision slurred into a canvas of red and black. I felt my eyes widen in excitement, or adrenaline, and suddenly my entire body began entering into a canvas. I imagined being painted blood red and standing in a field of wild deer.

I rummaged my pockets for a needle, trying to make reality of what was already fiction, but the only reason why I understood that was because of the color of my hands. I peered under my gloves to see my hands covered in red liquid. This brought me back and I was suddenly in the middle of a raging snow storm. I shook my head and then looked back. I sighed in relief, but then upon turning forward my eyes locked into the eyes of the wolf who bit me. The only reason why I knew that it was this particular wolf were the drips of blood staining his teeth. The knife was still in my hands, but despite any amount of strength I mustered to try and use the knife, my hands wouldn’t move. They were frozen in place, but I felt no fear. The wolf opened his mouth, and I stared back, unmoving to his bite. It was at that moment that the snow storm calmed down. Visibility around me recovered and the wolf, instead of biting down into me, closed his mouth and lowered his head. I brought my free hand over the top of the wolf’s head and began patting its fur. I made broad soft strokes down its neck, and that was when I felt a surge. This animal was mine. I began trying to remember the old legends and tales that my grandmother used to tell on the reserve. I couldn’t remember much, but I knew that this wolf was mine. My sister used to tell me stories of how a wolf would find its way to our home every winter and bring her fish from the frozen lakes. I knew my sister was no liar.

The wolf turned, and began slowly walking into the residing storm. I grabbed onto a nearby tree trunk and propped myself back up while holstering my knife. I began following the wolf through the thin snow, which still irritated my skin, but did not freeze my legs as bad anymore. It was this time that I also stopped feeling the effects of not taking any hits. I followed the wolf’s strides with my eyes very carefully, to the point where I began crawling on my hands and feet to match the wolf’s strides. My legs hurt far too much for me to continue the act, so I stopped, but the urges fought against me like a needle would.

Sometime in the storm I began dozing off. The wolf’s fur began glowing bright white, but I knew that the magic my people used to chant about were not of this world. I knew that my ancestors had already abandoned me once I began partaking in the rituals of the white skinned people and took to arms with their medicine. I knew that I had no business in partaking in their magic. However, the wolf’s fur continued to glow bright white to my eyes. I knew it was not the storm. The storm was dying down already, and I stretched my fingers to prove that fact.

Rows of dead trees paraded the forest, and I knew that the wolf leading me was not lost. Every tree around me began oozing some kind of strange aura towards me. It was as if the dead trees of winter were all cluttered to create a cemetery. The wolf in front of me didn’t let for a single second, but the leg that it bit began losing itself, and I fell straight into the snow. I tried to pick myself up, but a sharp pain shot itself up my body again. There was something in my leg that needed medicine. I wanted the white skinned men’s medicine. The wolf came back for me when he noticed that I was kneeling, and brought his head under my arm, indicating that he wanted me to use him to move. I began moving forward in a limp, slowly allowing the wolf to drag me forward. The texture of his fur as I crawled alongside him brought me back to the times of when my grandmother would show off our grandfather’s wolf pelts. She would knit them into carpets and clothes, and she allowed us to touch it before she would.  Each fur would glide alongside our hands and feel like a million fibers were caressing our palms. Except, with the wolf by my side now, it didn’t feel like a million fibers caressing my palm. It felt like a soft touch on my bare skin. Like a woman’s fingers gently wrapping herself around my arm. The wolf’s fur no longer glowed.

I didn’t know how much time had passed since I first got on the wolf, but time seemed to pass by without me ever really noticing. My leg was still in shambles and I knew that putting any more strain on it would not help in any way with its recovery. My longing for the white skinned men’s medicine grew with every step in the snow, but that would all dissipate when the wolf had arrived at his destination. At first, I didn’t know what I was looking at, but as the pains in my body began relaxing, I fully understood where the wolf had brought me. I didn’t know where I was in relations to the forest I was in, nor did I know how far I was in this forest. It amazed me that the white skinned men had left such a thing here in this forest. I knew that many reserves still existed, but the remnants of those that were destroyed were said to have all been cleaned. But what I was looking at seemed to refute that. It was a burnt down hut covered in snowfall and ashes. I could imagine where the fire pit would be and where the kids would gather, where the father would go out to hunt and where the mother would prepare all their necessities. Everything in this small family system bloomed in my mind, but the only thing that stood was their remains. The wolf brought me up towards the charred wood, and I reached one hand over only to have the wood fall apart upon my touch. Everything in the area seemed to gravitate towards my being. Not only the trees, but this destroyed settlement began enticing me. I got off the support of the wolf and then touched the wood again, watching as it broke in my hands. The wood dust littered the snow, and something in me sought out to keep reaching for more pieces. Every plank I touched broke, but I kept my pace and didn’t give up. The wolf that had brought me watched in silence.

I didn’t know why I remained there scurrying away at planks of rotting wood, but I did know that I was determined to hold one of the remains in my hands. For some reason, it felt like my duty to hold one of their fragments. Perhaps I thought it would honor them, but even so I had long forsaken my heritage. It must have taken me nearly twenty minutes until I was finally able to hold a piece in my hands. By that time, my gloves were torn, and the red of the blood from the man that I had killed began dripping onto the snow and wood. The wolf nestled itself under me, and licked the snow. It then began growling, and pushed me down, forcing pressure onto my injured leg. It widened its mouth onto me, making me smell my own flesh. The wood that I was able to hold was now in shambles, and the wolf grew closer to my face, inviting me to its fangs. My muscles would not pulse any resistance no matter how many times I told my body to move. The wolf now began growing white, and as the wolf came towards my face, I closed my eyes.

When I opened them, the wolf retracted its head, and got off my leg. It then bit into the wood that fell when it brought me down and placed the ashes of it in a strange pattern.  I couldn’t read the symbol, but it felt similar to the symbols that my people wrote long ago. This wolf and its pack had a connection to my people far greater than I could ever achieve. I looked at my bloodied hands again, and remembered what it was that drove me to kill that man. My hands began shaking again, and I began hearing the sounds of boots driving its way into the snow violently. The wolf’s ears jerked up at the sound of other humans, and looked at me before running off in the opposite direction. I knew that it wanted me to follow, but I remained on the snow, unable to do anything, and held onto my injured leg. Even a wolf’s blood was purer than a human’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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