Vengeance of the Wolves

by Wade J. McMahan

The Spirit Wind stalked the barren tundra, bringing with it a soft, pungent perfume, the promise of another brief arctic summer. The treeless desolation extended to the edges of the earth, while overhead, a solitary eagle soared, suspended within eternity under the cobalt sky. A narrow column of smoke spiraled upwards from her fire, an expectant, towering fusion of white and gray – a lonely beacon summoning the presence of evil.

It was her second day at this far-off place, a place of fasting, and magic. She never doubted her presence here, for had she not been inexplicably drawn here, and was it not here that she discovered the eagle’s feather? A feather deposited by the bird soaring overhead, perhaps? Yes, of course, it must be so.

She was alone, as she was always alone, whether within the small cabin in her Pehdzeh Ki, First Nations village, or like now, a tiny, solitary figure pasted against the remote wilderness landscape of Canada’s Northwest Territories. She was Valeeta, the medicine woman, the shaman, and as such, destined from birth for a life of unconditional solitude. Yet there were rare times, such as this, when the people of her village called upon her to provide a service, one suited to her singular abilities.

The village elders had sent a representative to her cabin. A young girl had been found on the outskirts of the village, she had been raped, murdered, her throat slit open. There were no clues, no suspects, nothing that pointed towards the assailant. The elders demanded justice, the girl’s parents wailed into the night.

Valeeta spent two hours at the scene of the assault where she invoked the memories of the stones and sparse vegetation that bore witness to the grisly events. The vision that arose failed to provide the solution she had anticipated, but rather, sent her to this distant place, to sit beside her beckoning tower of smoke. She waited patiently for the moment she knew would come.

The long hours passed, until there came an awareness of sound, the sound of an engine on the horizon. The smoke thickened as her eyes flashed once, like golden, electric embers. Valeeta tensed, a grim smile crossed her face.

Soon, she could discern the source of the sound, a single individual astride an approaching ATV, drawn onward by the smoke column. As the bike rolled up to her, she saw that the rider was a stranger, a heavily clad man, but she remained seated, waiting.

The man stepped from the ATV, a white man. A huge, hulking, foul-smelling brute of a man, his thick growth of beard streaked with the juice of the tobacco held firmly in his jaws and grease from the meat that reposed in his bulging belly. 

He eyed her cautiously; his cruel, wary gaze sweeping about him, unconvinced that he had found her here alone. He looked upon her again; she was young, slender, lovely, and her glistening hair, black as Satan’s soul, cascaded to her waist.

“Well now,” he grinned, revealing a broken line of rotting teeth, “looky what we have here. What brings a pretty thing like you to such a lonely place? Lucky for you I happened along. A girl like you needs a man with her, to keep her company, sort of.”

The mournful, far-away howl of a wolf echoed eerily across the untamed tundra, as Veleeta responded to the vile man with an icy, evaluating glance.

“Oh, you’re going to be like that, huh? Little girls shouldn’t act like that with a man, not if they hope to make him happy, that is. I found a young girl a lot like you near a village a few days ago. She didn’t want to make me happy either, but the little bitch did, oh yeh, you bet she did - for a while.”

Once again, golden embers flashed within Valeeta’s eyes, and her tower of smoke began to swirl, swirl faster and faster as it transformed into a roaring vortex of fire!

The man staggered back, staring, the first suggestion of fear crawled through his stomach. He turned his back, rubbed his eyes, and turned again to face her. Valeeta was sitting calmly, as before, alongside the placid column of smoke towards which he had been riding for the past hour.

“You’re some kind of witch, maybe, is that it? You can make me see things that aren’t there?” He removed a knife from his belt; sunlight glinted off the long, razor-sharp blade as he held it forward in his left hand. “Well take a look at this,” he hissed, “it’s real enough. I ain’t worried about witches, so now witch, it’s time for you to make me happy.”

Without further warning, he lunged, seized Valeeta’s wrist - and was standing alone in a wooded glade in the bitter cold. Blood was splashed across the surface of luminescent white snow, his own blood streaming from his mangled right hand, firmly seized in the snarling, gnashing jaws of an enormous arctic wolf!

A dreamlike image of dark, snow-covered trees and a multitude of wolves skulking nearby flashed through his consciousness, but the surreal revelation was overwhelmed by agonizing pain radiating up his arm from the grip of the enraged wolf. Instinctively, he swung the knife still clinched in his fist and felt it smash against the wolf’s flank. With a yelp, the animal released its grip, and the man turned to run. He slipped and fell in the snow, felt a wolf grab his trousers at the back of his thigh, then clumsily wallowed to his feet and ran again as the cloth tore away.

He could not outrun the wolves. They bore him down as they leaped upon him in a snarling pack, horribly ripping, violently tearing at him. Wielding the knife, he slashed at them, and by a Herculean effort, staggered to his feet while hurling a wolf through the air before it could sink its salivating fangs into his throat.

His mind reeled in terror and confusion; where was he, what was happening to him? Wait! The ATV, it was there before him. Stumbling, he fought, kicked and carved his way through the howling, frenzied beasts, and somehow reached the bike. 

The wolves leaped warily aside as the engine bellowed to life, but approached again, preparing another attack. Horrified, he straddled the seat, accelerated, and drove wildly through the trees for a hundred yards, and then two. The sound of the wolves receded, yet he drove blindly on. Around him the snow evaporated, the trees fell away, he was in the open, he was free of that terrible place. 

At three hundred yards, the man stopped and glanced over his shoulder; there were no wolves, no trees, no snow, the landscape was entirely empty, the beckoning column of smoke and lovely native girl had vanished as though they had never been. He was alone on the open tundra. “It was only an impossible nightmare,” his mind screamed, but his excruciating pain was real, as was his life’s blood flooding from his gaping, ghastly wounds, soaking his tattered clothing. 

His view of the horizon began to shimmer, his head reeled, and he collapsed weakly to the ground where he rolled over onto his back. His massive strength waned and his brutal eyes dimmed, the unearthly howl of a wolf resonated across the arctic stillness. 

© 2010 Wade J. McMahan. All rights reserved.

A certified forester, Wade J. McMahan has completed one novel, and writes short fiction spanning a broad spectrum of genres, from action-adventure, to speculative, to mysteries, to Chick-Lit. Wade and his wife live in Tennessee, where they enjoy an active life filled with family, sports, three spoiled dogs and many friends.