They say when the days get colder than the hearts of man, and ice freezes to the cheeks of newborn babies, you will start to see things. Shadows, moving quickly just beyond your vision, and monstrous things howling like the crying of beggars at your door. I am not one to believe in such fairy tales, but many of these beggars’ chapped lips utter words of creatures, whose souls still linger in the wind that wanders through forests. They say, in the high mountains that are flagged by an impassable boundary of snow, the wolves make their home, free to wander without the fear of the pointed spears and arrows men bear piercing their hearts. Sometimes hunters do not return to the village, but that is only due to their careless rejection of the murderous cold. Even when they don their rabbit fur parkas, that reminds me of the bear hugs of my grandmother, but welcome beads of sweat whenever I wear near the fire.
My grandmother was always one to believe in folklore, but I'm sure her mind was just as old and feeble as the beggars that knock on our door. That would surely make sense because she died one in the end. Her hands were old and worn, and I loved when she would hold them tightly when she explained something to me. Her grasp was firm, yet soft and welcoming, I never felt at home in my own house more than I did with her. Once my father caught her telling me her fantasies however, he quickly gave her the boot out the door. I loved them both very dearly, both for different reasons. My grandmother had that spark of creativity in her, that had me convinced she was some sort of voodoo witch. She could enchant anyone with her stories, and make them believe them for at least a moment. My father, on the other hand, was a cold hard bearer of truth. He kept his children out of the clouds, and I honestly preferred his truth over my grandma’s imagination. It is vital that we stay out of Dixieland in my times especially, where mothers do not wish for their children to go play outside anymore.
In my town, my house is situated at the very end of the spiral of houses that sweep around to the center. This way, one window of my house displays the cold bright whiteness of the winter, while the others show you the warm bright lights of the city. The people who live next door say the city always stays warm because the hearts of the citizens are all full of hope, but they are surreal optimists. I know the truth about the greed of humans, always searching for more to benefit themselves and honoring those who have more power than them. No, they do not dare to look below them, at those who give more than they receive and struggle to fight against this wicked game of life. And these people, who carry far heavier loads than kings, have far less to fight with.
As I sit near the spitting fire, the window that showcases the unknown fogs over. The fire is sparing me the grief of seeing what the world truly looks like. My father and older brother have gone foraging, and I patiently await their return, anticipating the special password that alerts me to the door. When my father is home he will knock seven times on the door, wait 5 seconds, and then I will hear three more knocks. The door is often littered with the banging of solicitors, beggars, and the occasional wandering bohemian, and sometimes I wish I could open the door to my grandma’s warm embrace again.
The chimney often fills the house with noise, with the chatter of the town, as well as the sound of wind pushing snow through the trees in the frigid unknown. This time, I can hear a beggar whimpering by the alleyway, and I cry with them. I can imagine their nose is running like a leaky faucet, and hands paralyzed, almost like statues. I cannot go out to help them however, my father would be able to tell I left the house. My father is not a psychic, however, so I can imagine in peace sometimes. When I'm sure my blatant fantasies will not harm me, I let them go wild. I remember my grandmother’s story about the wolves, how she said the beggars’ cries sound just like these mythical creatures. How sometimes, in the dead of night, you can suddenly hear the sad chorus of the howling of the pack. That they leave tracks meandering between tree stumps, only to be lost in the morning by what seems like an eternal blizzard. If wolves were real, I'm sure they would be as sad as the beggars, suffering under the fist of knife bearing men. And yet, they have formed a family, that incorporates their entire kind, the pack.
I shift my weight towards the whiteness of the outward facing window, curious of the world in which I have shielded myself from for so long. My brother’s shirts often become mine when his muscles become too pronounced to be supported by the soft material, so I can unravel the sleeves down far past my fingertips. The cloth suits the window nicely, squeaking away the dewy moisture from the window. Distracted from my task, I hear seven knocks, and in a hurry, I peer outside into the cloudy white abyss. The long dark branches of trees are strong to carry the snow that falls on them I notice. And when I gaze farther into them, I can make out snowy like figures darting the tree stumps, and I know those tracks will be covered up by the snow in moments. Brown eyes pierce into my soul, as they share their secrets with me. Heads cock up, singing their songs for me in harmony. And as I gaze farther, they turn and disappear just as the window turns frosty with dew once again.
I hear the sound of the wind whistling through the chimney, and the fire crackles away. My father is clearly very upset as I can also make out muffled shouting from outside the front door. In a daze, I run towards the door and clumsily unlatch the three locks that secure me from the outside world. I must use both of my arms and all of my strength to hoist that door open and let the swooping cold in. My father and brother walk in and act like another mythical creature my grandma would call Elephants. Stomping snow off their boots, it quickly turns into puddles when the door is latched closed. I am thankful my father is tired, as he lumbers into his den like a big grumpy grizzly bear. My brother and I sit by the fire, in meditation. The fire calls him, as his eyes already reflect the fire inside his heart. They say, in the high mountains that are flagged by an impassable boundary of snow, the wolves make their home, free to wander without the fear of the pointed spears and arrows men bear piercing their hearts. And my heart? It lies where my home is, far from this house, and far from this town. Because even though this house tries to hide them from me, my heart will always lie with the wolves.