Happy Halloween, everyone! Let me know what you think of this piece: Trick? Or treat?
I sit on the porch and wait. The sun sinks below the horizon, stealing away the pink clouds and blue skies, until only darkness remains. My callused fingers catch at the knit of the afghan as I pull it tighter around my shoulders, a futile effort against the bone-chilling wind. Only the creak of the rocking chair keeps me company as silence descends on the mountain. There will be no hoots of the barred owls, no singing frogs. Every living thing knows to be still on this night.
A month ago my evenings were filled with so much sound that I sometimes longed for silence. How foolish I was. My husband. My children. My neighbors. I’ve dug so many graves.
And now the monsters come for me.
A revolver sits heavy in my lap and I tap trembling fingers against it. How long do I have? Will I be able to do what must be done?
I strain to hear a twig snap, listen for a snarl or a growl, but no sound alerts me. It’s the smell that comes first. Wet dog and musk and the metallic tinge of blood. Golden eyes shine with the reflection of the moonlight before they emerge from the woods. Part human. Part animal. All beast. Six of them, teeth bared, muzzles stained with the blood of a fresh kill. A whimper escapes my lips. “Please…no…not me…I don’t want to…oh, God.”
I steel my nerves and grip the revolver. These monsters murdered my family and left me alive with barely a scratch—but a scratch is all it takes. I press the gun to my temple and scream at the full moon above, begging God for the strength to squeeze the trigger. Every night I’ve tried and every night I’ve failed. I’m out of time.
“Why didn’t you just kill me?” I want to know. I need to know.
As if answering me, the wolves raise their heads and howl in unison, a hauntingly beautiful sound that echoes through the hills and valleys and fills the caverns of my broken heart. I feel warm…happy…loved. I am one with the pack. The pack is everything. We throw our heads back and howl.