The Wolves of Dark Wood Forest
By: Mike Nagoda
The dew was glistening on the leaves as Silver Tail walked through the forest in the early hours of the morning. The grass bent to the pressure of his paws as he eyed his surroundings The squirrels were scattering through the trees, the morning fog still having not lifted from their canopy. They were probably arguing about who was best to mate with, as it was that time of year. Spring was always a time for activity, full of energy. Grey Eyes hated it, but then again Grey Eyes was cynical about everything.
A movement of red caught the corner of his right eye and he shifted his nose in that direction and sniffed. Dew… dirt… a sense of fancy… yes, most definitely a fox. He saw the tail run back and forth through the bushes as the bugger scampered about for what was probably going to be its last meal… that is if it got the chance to have it.
Silver Tail quietly made his way towards the bushes, the sparrows darting above him through the trees. His paws softly padded themselves against the grass as he took care not to make a sound. He stopped and looked through the bushes in front of him, past the shrubs and into a little grassy area under some maples. The fox was there, munching on a small mouse. Bastard, Silver Tail thought, that was Mrs. Regger’s son. Although the rest of his pack often didn’t care, Silver Tail thought it best to look out for the rest of the inhabitants in their territory. The others thought him strange for it, but he paid them no mind. He quietly made his way through the shrubs until he was directly behind the fox.
The fox, who was still eating the son of Mrs. Regger, turned as soon as he saw the shadow around him grow. He gave a yelp when he saw the wolf: a slender, lupine figure covered in glistening, silver fur. Bright yellow eyes stared back at him, a look of disgust in them… perhaps even a sort of metaphorical fire. The fox took a step back as Silver Tail growled and cleared his throat.
“Drop the mouse.” Silver Tail said and the fox did so without protest.
“I’m sorry… I was just… um…” the fox began to try and find words to lie with and the wolf took a giant step forward.
“That fellow there,” the wolf growled, pointing to the dead mouse with his nose, “was the son of a good neighbor of mine. She’s going to be heartbroken to find out that her son is dead.”
“I-I d-didn’t know! Honestly!” the fox stammered.
“Shut up! I know your kind, you’re liars, all of you. What the hell are you doing on my turf? You’re supposed to be further down south, where the meadow is.”
“Answer me, vermin!”
“Well…” the fox began uneasily, “I was curious…”
“About what?” Silver Tail asked.
“I heard… I heard there were humans in the area.”
“Bullshit. There haven’t been humans since the fire two years ago.”
“But the crows were saying-“
“You never listen to the crows. They’re liars, just like yourself.”
“But, I’m not a-“
“Shut up and listen to me,” Silver Tail said, “if there are humans in the area, you stay out of their way. You want to end up as a pelt? Go ahead, be my guest, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. Now get back to the meadow, I don’t want to see you or your kind around here again! Beat it!”
The wolf let out a bark and the fox turned and ran through the trees. Silver Tail watched him for a moment and then turned his attention to the mouse in front of him. He picked the half-eaten corpse up gently with his teeth and turned eastwards.
The mouse hole was large, with enough room for the children to run around in. The morning light filtered in from the top of the hole, shining on the three children of the Reggers, their little brown forms sleeping peacefully on the dirt as Mrs. Regger came down from the entranceway and into the hole. Her round form scurried across the floor to where her husband slept. She gave a nudge with her nose and Mr. Regger’s eyes shot open. He looked at his wife and yawned.
“Phyllis, what is it?” he asked and suddenly noticed that she was crying, “What’s wrong?”
Phyllis Regger wiped a tear from her eye and said, “It’s Bronson… Silver Tail found him.”
“Oh thank God! Is he all right?”
“Stan… he’s dead.”
Mr. Regger stood up, finding it hard to speak. His whiskers twitched and when he did finally manage to say something, his voice was strained.
“I saw him, Stanley! I s-saw him with m-my own e-eyes… Silver is out there waiting for us.”
“All right… oh… oh God… what do we tell the kids?”
“That he’s gone to a better place, dear.” Mrs. Regger replied, nuzzling him, “C’mon, we don’t want to keep Silver waiting.”
The two mice made their way slowly up the tunnel and out into the forest. They saw Silver Tail, his slender grey form waiting for them a few feet away from their hole. Mr. Regger saw the corpse of little Bronson at the paws of the wolf, and broke down in tears. He ran towards the body wrapped his arms around the half eaten face of his son, his tears falling on the dried blood that matted the boy’s fur. Mrs. Regger came up beside her husband, putting a paw around him. When Mr. Regger managed to compose himself, he looked up at Silver Tail. The wolf’s yellow eyes peered down at the two mice and Silver Tail wished he’d been able to stop the fox sooner.
“Who… who did this?” Mr. Regger asked, his voice cracking.
“A fox, about a half a mile from here. He was in my territory, claimed the crows told him that humans were around, wanted to take a look. I’m sorry Stan, Phyllis… I got there too late before I realized who it was that he was-“
“It’s all right, Silver, you did the best that you could. We understand.” Mrs. Regger said, taking the body of her son into her arms, “We’re just glad that you got Bronson back to us.”
The wolf nodded silently.
“Do you believe him, the fox, about the humans?” Mr. Regger asked.
“It’s unlikely. The humans have stayed away from the Wood since the fire… but you never know. Besides, I don’t trust the crows.” Silver Tail said, “I’m sorry for your loss, but I have to get going and let the pack know about the intrusion.”
“We understand, Silver. Thank you, thank you… is there anything we can d-“
“Don’t even think about it. I’ll see you around. Once again, you have my condolences.”
“Goodbye, Silver.” Mrs. Regger said and watched the wolf as his grey form turned and bounded off through the trees.
The two mice looked down at the body of their son.
“C’mon,” Mrs. Regger said, “we should burry him before the kids wake up.”
“I still can’t believe it… this… humans…”
“He said they were unlikely, Stanley.”
“Do… do you believe him?” Mr. Regger asked quietly.
Mrs. Regger turned her head upwards to the canopy of the trees, watching the sky as a crow flew by overhead. She squinted as the sunlight hit her eyes.