Battle of the Wolves

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I stand in the middle of the line, front and center. My fists are clenched into thin fingers and bloody knuckles. I tuck my chin into my chest and shut my eyes, concentrating carefully, reviewing my strategy one last time. All of a sudden, I hear a loud boom. I spin around to find the culprit, snarling and spitting in the process. I see no one. I hear another boom, this time louder, and I spin around again. Another boom quickly follows, this the loudest, and I realize that the booms are coming from voices—ones I’ve heard before but can’t quite pinpoint. I hear a final boom, and realize the sound is laughter. The voices are beginning to become more distinct. I close my eyes tightly again, and I see many faces: tan and wide-eyed, petite and innocent, brown and powerful. They look at me like they know me, but they don’t know my name. I stumble and fall backwards, losing balance. Another boom. They’re laughing at me. I look up at them, confused. I begin to stand up, when my shoulder is pushed backwards, and I fall again. I look at my shoulder to assess the injury as it begins to seer with pain. I notice a handprint. Confused, I survey the rest of my body. Thirteen Handprints. Angrily, I stand up and begin to run forward when I am stopped by a loud buzzing—
“Tess, it’s 6:50 already! You NEED to wake up!”
I roll out of bed, don my tan combat boots and my royal blue uniform; I’m ready to fight.
I’m on a mission; I have to proceed as if nothing is wrong. I walk in and survey the pool of patriots; some sitting and chatting lightly, others blatantly rambunctious. Each soldier is unique in her own way, sharing with the others one common goal of victory. I notice myself wandering around. Finally, I find where I am supposed to be and take a seat. I take out my materials, and we are taught to prepare. We are trained to work hard; to apply vast amounts of self-discipline and respect. We learn that now, everything matters. I proceed through another specialized lesson, and mentally prepare myself for the combat to follow: the ultimate test. Each soldier is scrutinized carefully; any miniscule mistake could cost her the entire battle. I choose a harmless-looking table and engage in casual conversation. I hear of medals and battle scars, when I turn to my left and see them. I hear the cackling and piercing tones in their laughter, and I am afraid to let my mind wander into their discussion. Unaware that I am staring blankly, I make eye contact with the tan one. She immediately alerts the rest of the pack, and they follow, all staring directly at me with beady eyes. I look away quickly, but it is too late. I swallow my salty tears, and find myself surprisingly full.
The worst is over; I can make it through the rest. I am almost finished. I prepare myself for my final lesson of the day, and take a seat. I am the first one there. I begin to take out my materials, when the brown and the petite take seats right behind me. My jaw tightens, but I must not react. The material we are learning is relatively simple, but takes much concentration. I hear them whispering behind me, talking of things only they can comprehend. I reread the assignment multiple times as they continue to discuss pack secrets. My blood pressure begins to rise, and I find it impossible to concentrate. I hear the brown one laugh. It sends a jolt of pain throughout my body. Her laugh is so familiar; one that used to coexist with my own. This laugh sounds out of place, as if it has come at the wrong time, in the wrong setting, from the wrong body. Her laugh, which used to be harmonic, has become an off-key melody. I feel something on my hand and realized I have snapped my pen in half. I clean up the ink with a few tissues as we are dismissed and leave hastily.
I am free; I must focus on applying what I have learned to various situations. I wait just an hour or so before I am allowed to leave for good. While I am walking around, I see one. She stares at me for a few seconds, then smiles. I am confused by this gesture, but find myself smiling back. I get my stuff together and return home. I recall the day’s events, and find myself overwhelmingly unsettled. I flop down on my bed and begin to relive more positive memories to cheer myself up.
I am running with my hands in the air and my eyes closed, screaming and laughing, surrounded by people who love me. I am holding her head to my chest, as she cries of love and family and trouble. I am pushed to the side, and standing uncomfortably with one wet foot and one dry. I hear that out of place laugh and a wave of melancholy washes over me once again—
I stand on the edge of the Bay Bridge, covered in blood and tears, when I hear a loud boom. They howl and roar and mock my fear. I wait, bloody in the middle of Northern Parkway, as a rush of cars is about to pass through. Boom—they hoot and giggle as I struggle. I lay unconscious on my kitchen floor with an empty prescription pill bottle in my hand, when I hear the biggest boom of all. They laugh, and point, and giggle, and snicker, and chuckle, as I lay on the ground cold, without a pulse.
I stand in the middle of the line, front and center. My fists are clenched into thin fingers and bloody knuckles. I tuck my chin into my chest and shut my eyes, when I hear a voice calling my name.
“Tess, it’s Okay. I Promise you Tess. It’s okay.”
I open my eyes and look behind me. I look to my right and left. I turn to the front. Emerging from a cloud of white dust is a girl, who is smiling. I take a step closer to the girl, as she takes a step closer to me. She reaches out her hand, and when I look down to my own hand, I see that it is already raised. I look into her wispy hazel eyes, and a tear falls down her cheek. I reach to wipe it away, but when I try to touch her, she melts into the wind. Before she is gone, I hear her whisper but one phrase:
“You are what you need.”





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