The Invitation

August 2, 2008
By Lauren Harrison, Sebastopol, CA

The Invitation

Aura shifted onto her other side, groaning sleepily. Moonlight had slid through a gap in the curtains, blinding her for a moment, its light an un-earthly glow on her pillow. Thunder rumbled, drawing her attention to the ever-darkening sky. A storm was coming on pitch-black wings. She watched its approach from a sliver in the dusty pale lace: the colour of bleached bone. Her eyes flitted across the line of trees on the near horizon, and she felt as if there was someone out there, watching. Mist had gathered in the pasture, pooling around the trees, stretching ghostly arms into the shadowed grass. By day, the view was quiet attractive: a meadow of waving gold flecked with Queen Anne’s Lace and Bachelor’s Buttons. But when the sun set and the moon rose, the scene changed into one of strange and mysterious happenings. The electric wind picked up, bringing with it bruised clouds and more thunder that roiled and churned across the sky. The wind whipped through the dead grass as it rushed up the gentle slopping lawns and met the smooth brick of the manor house. Lightning flickered as the slate grey clouds won over the moon and covered its ethereal glow. Big spots appeared on the window pane, and she could hear the rustle of the broad maples leaves under the onslaught of drops. Aura sat up straighter as the shadow under the maple’s spreading branches moved of its own accord. A lithe black shape detached itself from the inky dark, and she could barely make out its form as it came loping across the wide lawn. It slowed ten feet from her window.
The animal rested on its haunches, tense and coiled. Aura froze, eyes locked with his tawny gold ones. Lightning broke through the gloom, illuminating the sight. He lifted his muzzle to the clouds and howled: a mournful, passionate sound that permeated the swiftly cooling air. She jumped at the sound as it rose and fell, weaving itself into the fabric of the night.

The wolf was huge; an alpha of its kind -- jet black, the only flecks of brightness: the whites of its eyes. Aura stared right back, eye for eye, white-gold hair spilling down her back, green eyes intent on the figure outside her window. She leaned forward, willing it to come closer. Its outward appearance was calm; the brush of its tail was curled smoothly around its midnight forepaws. Disregarding the rain, she got to her knees and crouched on the window sill. She ran her work-worn fingers down the flaking paint of the window frame. Finding the latch, she lifted it and unlocked the widow. With a furtive glance over her shoulder, she tugged. It opened with a muffled screech of swollen wood. Rain speckled her skin, and goose flesh rose on her forearms. The wolf stood, its massive paws planted, ready to bound away. Her tattered nightgown slid up past her knees as she pushed herself through the gap, tentatively finding her footing. Knees tucked to her chin, she crouched to spring. He was the first to break eye contact, turning from her to look towards the forest. It seemed like he was beckoning; inviting her to join him. Without thinking, she pushed off the window sill and sprang through the cool air. As she reached out for the damp spring grass, a silver pelt rippled over her back and shoulders. Paws met the ground instead of feet and hackles rose along her spine as she landed behind him. He sprung playfully, and their nose tips touched for a moment. Both animals froze at the contact, then, seemingly of the same mind, they leapt away into the dark—moving together. Their shadowy forms flowed over the lawn, nails digging into the earthy softness, forelegs eating up the ground as they ran. The danced around each other, weaving their way through the rain-plastered stalks, nimble as swallows. Only her penetrating green eyes had remained the same. She sprang through the air, relishing in the freedom her new form gave her. Letting out a joyful howl, she gave thanks to the moon that had burned its way back through the clouds. The rain had stopped, bringing with it the scent of beginning. Their supple forms flowed like water over fallen logs and rocks, through brush and thorn-covered brambles. They moved together, almost touching as they ran side by side, black and white wraiths flying through the trees.
He pulled up abruptly in a moonlit clearing, and she stopped a moment later, looking back impatiently. He was calm again as he paced towards the opening in the trees. She watched as he raised his muzzle to the sky for the second time and called out, singing of his love. Love for the earth and sky. Love of the hunt and the freedom to roam where he willed. She listened to all these things he spoke of, and found that place within her own body where that passion had lay smothered by duty and routine. She let it ring free, joining him in the chorus.

Across the forest, more voices added to their song, rising and falling under the pull of the earth and moon and the open sky. They pointed their noses to the star-spattered heavens and sang deep into the darkness: their love song.

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