The Pack

By , Louisville, KY
Snow. That’s all I could see. Snow on the ground, snow covering the skyscrapers, the roads and motionless cars. Every step I took, snow came up to the top of my boots, taking a little more energy out of me. I didn’t know how much longer I could keep going. After all this time, I still haven’t found any humans. It was getting very lonely and my hope was decreasing.
Maybe I really was the only one who survived the virus. But I didn’t know how or why. I mean, it killed off entire states of people by the day. It would’ve only made since that I died with them. The effect was too quick for scientists to know how to treat the virus. The only thing they could tell the public was that the virus paralyzed the nervous system, stopping muscle functions, both voluntary and involuntary and that it was very contagious.

It felt quiet. And though I was the only living person in the entire city, the quietness suddenly felt eerie. It was as if someone, or something, was alive and close by. I stood very still, listening for any possible sound. My eyes raked every inch of my surroundings. It was still snowing, the bodies scattered everywhere still laid dead; nothing looked different.

Then from behind me, I heard what sounded like breathing. But this breathing was different, somehow. It wasn’t coarse, but it wasn’t calm either. It sounded slow, like whatever was breathing wanted to stay quiet. I turned around, still having my guard up, and I saw nothing. The only thing that was different was the track of my rubber boots embedded in the thick snow.

But then I saw the cold chill of breathing around the corner of a building I had passed a couple blocks down the street. Except the breathing was close to the ground.

“Show yourself, whoever you are,” there was no response. Before I could say anything else, a huge, white paw stepped out from the corner, followed by the heavy white coat of a wolf. Its golden eyes were full of hunger and blood-thirst; its fur coat was stained scarlet, more so around its jaw.

As if it had smelled my blood go cold and sensed my heart filling with fear, the wolf started to growl at me. Don’t you dare freeze, Renata, I told myself. You’ve come this far. Don’t give up. So without any more delay, I turned away from the wolf and ran as fast as I could.

I could hear the wolf running behind me, but I didn’t dare look back to see how close it was. I had to focus on what was in front of me. But I knew I couldn’t outrun it forever, so that meant I’d have to outsmart it…somehow. I tried to think of how, but I was so scared. I couldn’t think straight.

A huge yelp disturbed and echoed the city’s streets. I wanted to look to see what had happened, but I was too afraid to stop running. But then up ahead, there was a restaurant. Once I was inside and had pushed a chair under the handle, I hid and listened, hoping that whatever happened, the white wolf would at least forget about me.

As I hugged my legs close to me and tried to catch my breath, I heard two different growls. Other than the white wolf’s growl, there was another that sounded defensive. Another wolf is defending you? Yeah, right.

I was yanked out of my thoughts when I heard a sharp cry of pain. Then there was a howl, declaring that one of them was dead. Was it the white wolf or the other wolf? As scared as I was, I knew I had to look and find out. But the windows were coated by a thick layer of frost. My legs began to shake, not wanting to go back out into the streets. You have to, Renata.

Trying to swallow my fear, I pushed the chair away from the door. My hands shook as I pulled the door open. The sudden draft of snow made me jump out of my skin. Once I was outside I looked down the street, but the thick falling snow only allowed me to see a couple feet in front of me. I didn’t know if I should go and see which was dead, or walk the other way and try to find shelter.

If the white wolf had lived, then I should get as much of a head start as possible. But if the white wolf was dead, then the other wolf might decide later on to come after me. Just as I was about to turn around, I heard something coming toward me. Whichever wolf it was, they weren’t padding right.
My heart pounded like a drum. My body froze. The voice in my mind was gone. The figure of a wolf began to become more lucid. Then, the figure formed a grey coat and I felt rush of relief. But then the thought that it might want to kill me next made my blood go cold again. It then fell to its side, appearing to be overwhelmed with exhaustion.
Giving in to my harmless curiosity, I walked up to the unmoving wolf. Looking down at it, I saw that its front legs covered in blood and its right ear completely torn off. The waterfalls of blood spilling out from its wounds formed a thick pool around its body, staining the snow. Among its storm cloud-colored coat, I noticed that there were a few long, narrow scabbed claw scratches. It must’ve fought the white wolf once before.
I knew it would die soon, and there was no reason for me to try and save it. But just as I was about to turn around, I saw that two small, identical wolf pups had made their way to the grey wolf, their small bodies nearly being swallowed up by the thick snow. They were licking the bloody wounds and letting out high-pitched whines. But their efforts were proving fruitless. Even so, they didn’t leave their mother. When they realized that there was nothing they could do to help, they curled up next to her. It reminded me of the day the virus took Wendy, making my eyes water.
These pups were about to lose the one thing they loved most and I knew all too well what that’s like. Before I knew it, I was kneeling next to the mother wolf, pulling out bandages from my ragged backpack. As I was wrapping the area of her wounds in bandages, I noticed that the pups didn’t do anything to stop me. Maybe they know a kindness when they see one.

“Come on, you two,” beckoned by my words and smile, the pups rushed up beside me as I carried their mother into the restaurant.

As we came inside, snow dashed between the closing doors. To my disappointment, I still could see the chill of my breath after the doors closed. There wasn’t a single light on; no music was playing on the intercom system. Only the sound of the strong wind pushing against the windows. But that was soon interrupted by the growl of my stomach. It made the pups jump a little.

I laid the unconscious mother wolf on the tile floor and then slid my backpack off. If I was going to try to find any food, I needed to see at least five feet in front of me. While I was pulling the flashlight out, a sudden loud noise made my heart skip a beat. I looked to the entrance doors, where the sound came from. My body went numb and my eyes widen. It was the white wolf, trying to force its way in. Even though the doors had to be pulled open to come inside, I knew the wolf would keep trying.
I tried to calm down and think straight, but the loud noise wouldn’t let me. Then I remembered that all restaurants and small stores have some kind of gun hidden somewhere. Maybe behind the bar, in this case. As I ran over to find it, I heard a loud crack. Then I heard the pups growling defensively. I tried to speed up my search, but I was so filled with fear that I was hardly paying attention to what I was doing.
Another loud crack echoed in the restaurant and the pups growled even louder. My mind was screaming like a banshee. And even though I found the pistol, I still felt helpless. I’ve never used one in my life. Heck, I’ve never even shot a water gun. None of that matters. Right now, you need to focus on killing that wolf.
“Come here, pups!” I stood up from behind the bar and walked up close to the doors. Since I didn’t have any known skill with shooting, I wanted to make sure that I had the best chance at killing the white wolf. I held the pistol in both hands and pointed at the wolf. The doors were about to shatter any minute. And once it did, I’d have to shoot the wolf. It was the only way I was going to keep all of us alive.
Once the pups were beside me, still growling, I kept the pistol aimed at the wolf, waiting for it to crash through the doors. The sound of my pulse echoed throughout my body and inside the restaurant. I couldn’t hear the cracking glass doors or the pups growling. Everything seemed to slow down. Even the shattered pieces of glass that fell to the ground seemed to almost defy gravity.
My mind went blank. None of what was going on seemed to make sense. Was this a nightmare? Was the virus a nightmare? Was any of this really happening? Look out! The white wolf was airborne; its claws reaching out for me. I was so surprised that I shut my eyes and then pulled the trigger. You idiot! You should never close your eyes when aiming!
Followed by the forceful recoil was the wolf pouncing on top of me. Just as I saw its soulless eyes and its shattered, bloody skull, I fell back and hit my head against the back of the bar table. Then everything went black.

I found myself sitting on the edge of a bed. It felt rather uncomfortable, like the mattress was made of marble. I was staring down at a hard wood floor. Across from me was a bed identical to the one I was sitting on. Except it was a complete wrinkled mess. It was my bed.
“Renata, my arms are going numb. Please lay beside me.” I looked over next to me and saw my best friend lying under the bed covers. Her skin looked more pale than usual, her auburn hair wasn’t brushed, and the calmness in her voice perplexed me beyond words. I couldn’t figure how or why she wasn’t crying or telling me how scared she was. She had already accepted that she was going to die, just like the rest of the people who had caught the virus.
I lied down next to her, not knowing what else to do. It brought back memories of when I had nightmares as a little girl. I’d wake up crying in the middle of night and crawl up next to her. I felt safe around her. I had believed that she had the ability to scare off my nightmares. If only I could wake up from this nightmare.
Without warning, Wendy started to sing “The Storm is Passing Over”. It was a song that always gave us a sense of hope and strength. But seeing her like this, I couldn’t find any courage or hope. Regardless, I joined in with her, trying to hide the cracks of sadness in my voice. When we had finished the song, she looked at me, still smiling.
“Renata, will you promise me something?”
I nodded.
“If the virus doesn’t kill you, don’t give up on living. No matter what, live as long as you can. And if anyone else survives, find…” I looked up and saw her empty eyes. I checked her pulse. Not a single beat. She was gone.

I felt something wet slide across my hand. I looked to my side the pups and the mother wolf looking down at me. For a second, I could’ve sworn that they smiled at me. Then I remembered the white wolf that was lying on top of me. Without delay, I pushed the brainless corpse off of me.
Just as I was about to stand up, the two pups pounced on top of me. Their smelly breath made my nose cringe as they licked my face, happy to see that I was alive. Even the mother wolf licked my face. Laughter burst out of my lungs.
“Come on, you guys, let me up,” I sat up and wrapped my arms around both of the pups, pulling them close to me. The mother wolf sat down in front of me and bowed her head. Then, she raised her head up to look at me then to the ceiling and began to howl proudly. The pups joined in with her. It was as if they were accepting me as a member of the pack.
Not knowing what else to do, I howled with them, arousing their energy. Maybe I was the last human in the country. But that didn’t matter to me anymore. This was all the family I needed.





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