Roscoe was beginning to worry- a lot. The hike had been his idea. The back woods of Kentucky were beautiful and rugged, but they weren't hiking that far from human civilization, only about ten miles or so. But in which direction? He glanced back at his wife and four year old son. They were being troopers about this, but they couldn't keep walking all night. His wife, Sheryl, had begun to sense trouble and had sent him expressive looks, but he hadn't wanted to admit to being lost. Now, he knew that she knew, but there was nothing to be said about it. What could she do? She had never been the outdoorsy type. He thought guiltily about how he'd coaxed her into coming and bringing their little boy, Hunter (not so aptly named, since neither of them could teach him how to hunt, ever). He'd told her of the beauty of the forest and how educational it would be for Hunter to experience nature. She'd still hesitated. “Hon, you don't know much about hiking,” she'd argued, “what if we get lost?” Even while just remembering the conversation his face flushed a dull red. He'd been so sure. How hard could it be to walk? He had a compass and everything! He looked at it helplessly. No one had told him you had to know how to take a reading and utilize a map. He'd just thought, hey, walk west then turn around and walk east back. Yeah. Feeling like a fool, he trudged along, trying to lead his family through the disaster.

Finally they decided to rest for the night. They had brought water in, and snacks, but no sleeping bags or other camping gear. They hadn't been planning to stay all night. Sheryl snuggled Hunter up close to her on a hastily piled bed of leaves, occasionally pulling an errant twig out from under them. He was grateful she hadn't given him a hard time in front of Hunter, but he knew it would be years before he heard the last of this- assuming they made it out. He tried to squelch these thoughts. He needed to rest and get ready for the following day- the day they would leave this beautiful yet confusing tract of land. Roscoe's eyes began to drift shut. He wouldn't sleep long. Forest nights are neither peaceful nor quiet and he eventually gave up and watched over his innocently sleeping child and very tense wife. A lone howl echoed and his wife raised her eyebrows at him. There were no wolves in Kentucky. He was almost sure...

Trotting at a travelers pace, the young male wolf responded to his mate's call and then zeroed in on her, meeting her halfway. Her body language conveyed her distress and worry. He licked her face to calm her and watched her eyes as they directed him to the source of her concern. Together they padded silently through the forest, sniffing the air and following the scent of fear. They at last found the cause of the older female's call for help. A family of people were huddled under a tree, a long way from other people. The adults stank of fear-sweat and frustration. Were they outcast from their pack? If so, why with such a young one? Wolf cubs would never be sent away, but of course with wolves cubs belonged to the alpha pair only. But they knew that people had young and even let their own young have young, without ever sending them away to find their own territory. People were strange, but not completely different. Maybe they could just look after them a bit. See what they were doing.

Stiff from a long night on the hard ground, Roscoe and Sheryl stretched and groaned. Sheryl gently woke their son and soothed his crankiness while Roscoe considered their next move. He was horrified to find that he wasn't sure which direction they had been heading when they'd stopped for the night. All the trees looked similar and the hilly ground didn't provide good visibility. He knew they could wind up going back the way they had already traveled or worse, going in circles. Wishing he had never even seen a tree, he kept his secret and motioned for his family to follow him- God help them.

It confused the wolf pair to see the humans backtrack. They'd sniffed around last night to see from where they had come and now they were going back the same way, but in a slightly different spot. Being lost was a foreign concept for a wolf, so they concluded that these people must be sick. Sick animals were known to wander in circles, sometimes for days. Sometimes they got better, sometimes they died. Sometimes the wolves took them as easy prey. The male cocked his head, considering this last option, but the female growled at him softly. She liked these strange people. The little boy was much like their own young cubs, gamboling around carelessly, fully expecting the adults to watch over them and keep them safe. She wondered if she could help them in some way. Shaking her ruff of course hair, she trotted after the people, keeping a slight distance and flanking them.

“Don't look, but we are in a world of, you know, s-h-i-t!” Sheryl whispered frantically, covering Hunter's ears.

“What?” Lost in his own thoughts and worries, Roscoe had been steadily moving forward, not paying attention to much of anything. It didn't matter. He had no clue where they were, so looking where he was going didn't exactly help.

“There are these really big dogs out there. Do you think they're feral? I read that feral packs live in places like this and learn to hunt. They don't fear humans, Ross! Look! I see them once in a while. Drifting through the thick stuff.” Sheryl gestured out to whatever it was she saw. Roscoe was amazed she could see anything beyond the thick undergrowth. She was likely just dehydrated and scared, he thought. “There aren't any feral dog packs out here. If there were, wouldn't they bark? If they were aggressive, wouldn't they have attacked already?” He tried to calm her. “Honey, even if there are dogs, that doesn't mean they're feral. It might just mean we're close to someone's land. They are probably pets. Are you sure you saw dogs?” He got excited from his own argument. “That's it! We must be close to getting out of here! There's a cabin or a house around here! I wonder if the dogs are friendly? Maybe they'll lead us out!”

Cheryl looked askance at him but didn't argue. She knelt down facing the woods, looking at something he couldn't see. “C'mon sweetie, c'mere. I won't hurt you, beautiful.” Cheryl had always been good with animals. They sensed her calm, gentle nature and Roscoe hoped these dogs would see that and come to them. She spoke in a soothing, low tone. She had once told him that you should never use a high squeaky voice with animals. It unnerved them and made them anxious about you. He followed her example and sat down, murmuring to the dogs he couldn't yet see.

The female wolf cocked her head. Exasperated, the male huffed at her. Surely she wouldn't go to these creatures? Humans were known to attack without provocation and they had their own cubs back at the den to care for. But she turned to him, her tongue lolling in a wolfish smile, and crept forward, tail waving uncertainly. The male watched, then with a deep sigh, he followed his mate.

“See?” Sheryl murmured? “Here they come. Such sweet doggies you are.” Her voice was still calm and soothing and the two “dogs” stepped into full view.

“Yikes!” her husband screeched, yanking her back. They both tumbled to their backs on the ground.

“What. The. Hell.” grumbled Sheryl. “Are you trying to scare them away?” She glared at him and tried to get up but he grabbed her by the arm. “What is it?” she hissed.

“Not dogs,” Roscoe gasped. “Wolves.”

“Nooo- you said there aren't any wolves in Kentucky, right? So. Not wolves. Besides, why would wolves come to me? Look at them. They aren't attacking.” Roscoe looked. She was right. Both animals were standing right where they had been, although the large male looked like he was amused by the fearful response he'd gotten. His grin showed off some really big teeth, though, so Ross was willing to overlook the disrespect.

“Er, um. Okay. So they must be really huge dogs. Well, Dog Whisperer? How do we convince them to lead us out of the wilderness and back to somewhere with a roof and indoor plumbing?” Roscoe looked to his wife for guidance, but she simply shrugged her shoulders.

“I'm not sure. Maybe just-” his brave wife slowly approached the smaller wolf, the female. She carefully extended her arm and, when no bite came, gently placed her hand on the dog's shoulder and began to pet her. Huge brown eyes rolled with pleasure. Convinced of the doggy status of the two hairy brutes, Roscoe agreed to follow them when they started down the trail- back the way they'd just come from.

Ignoring his mate's smug looks, the male had to admit these people weren't so bad. The little cub, er, human young, had even scratched his belly. It had been disconcerting to show his belly to these creatures, something he would never have done to the pack he dominated, but it had felt really good, and it seemed to set their minds at ease. The humiliation was offset by the memory of the ridiculous one, the adult male, who'd squealed like a rabbit and fallen down, showing his own belly, when he'd seen the alpha pair. Maybe he could at least take them to other people. Proudly leading this odd little group, he wound his way through the forest, picking paths that were easy for the clumsy two-legged people to follow. An hour later, he stopped in triumph, glancing back at his mate for approval. There were buildings ahead. The sick people could find their own kind. His mate wiggled at him joyfully and licked his jowls. The people made their own little happy sounds at each other and then turned to the wolves.

Neither was sure what the people said, but the meaning was clear. They were pleased and grateful, as they should be. They gave the wolves wonderful petting and scratching and then turned to go their own way. Satisfied, his female turned to go home, but the male hesitated. She turned to him and whined, cocking her head in question. He wasn't sure, but part of him seemed to belong with that strange family. He thought only a small part, however, as he turned to lead his mate back to their comfortable den, to rejoin their tiny pups and greet the grown pups that had been caring for them while the alphas roamed. This wild land was his.

May 09, 2020 20:03

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Crystal Lewis
17:11 May 16, 2020

I loved this story. I also love wolves so that helped. But I think it was well-written and a good idea to do it from the two different perspectives. And just as a side note, if you also love wolves, make sure to read "The Sight" by David Clement-Davies. He's absolutely amazing at getting into a wolf's head, or any animal's head.


Laura Austin
15:47 May 17, 2020

Thanks! I'll check David out.


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