My eyes first fell upon her when she was walking home from school. Her brown hair was swaying in the autumn breeze. Her brother held onto her hand tight. I sensed the protectiveness beating off him, like Honeysuckle drifting in the air. I knew then; she was special.
A month later I went into town. There, my love was playing in the schoolyard. I wished to join her. She was having fun at her eighth birthday party; the class threw for her.
Suddenly, I sensed fear. I watched her run to a boy. What I overheard through the yelling, was that a scorpion had stung him. I wanted to help, but something stopped me. I couldn’t move toward her, but I could walk away from her. I turned and raced back to the tribal land.
I wanted to meet her, be near her. So, I begged Ayhse to let me go with her to my angel’s birthday celebration at her home. After I promised Ayhse I will cook for the tribe for a week; she let me go with her.
I stood in the barn with everyone, waiting for her to arrive. I felt her presence at the barn doors. When they opened, her small body froze, and her eyes grew big. Her lips parted into a smile. The little brown-haired girl ran in and hugged everybody.
Small for a girl of eight, she showed up and stood before me. We both smiled at each other. I held out my right hand and gave her a gift, a white stone with black markings forming a heart. I told her I discovered it at the river’s edge. She smiled at me and kissed me on the cheek.
When the party ended, she smiled at me and gave me another kiss. She thanked me for the stone. I hated to leave. I didn’t want to go, but Ayhse snatched my arm after she said her goodbyes to my love’s brother, Christian.
A day later I talked to Elder Pay. He told me a tale about my brown hair beauty. How she was born at the river’s edge on All Hallows Eve under a Full Red Moon. He said time stopped. When her mother gave birth, she was still in the sac. A pack of wolves emerged from the darkness of the forest towards the pouch. The mother and midwife are frozen in fear. The Alpha tore at the sac, exposing the baby inside. A cry let out. They turned and fled back into the dark forest. The midwife leaned over the mother and peered at the ground where the sac once lay. There, a baby girl was cooing.
I found this hard to believe. There have been no wolves in Illinois for many years. The White Man killed them off, or they fled for safety. I scoffed at Elder Pay and returned to my tent. There, my parents scorned me for disrespecting the Elder.
In the following months, weird events developed. People reported missing children and adults. Farmers reported their animals slaughtered. Elder Pay said a war was brewing, and it’s not with the White Man, but an ancient force. The tribe geared up for a fight. A fight, Elder Pay said, we won’t win.
A few months later, it happened. Supernatural forces wiped out Acre, Illinois. So was my tribe. I found a horse in the forest and rode to my love’s homestead. I hoped to find her there, alive.
When I arrived, those creatures burned her home to the ground. I traveled to town, and it too was gone. There were no signs a town ever existed.
I turned my horse around and headed out to what was once my home. Halfway there, my horse paused and dropped to the ground. I slithered out from under him. I checked him, still breathing, but in a trance. Then I felt it, hot breath on the back of my neck. A low growl penetrated my ears. I turned, and I saw him. This was no wolf, but a Dire Wolf, and an Alpha one at that. The last thing I remember was my head in his mouth.
Now, hundreds of years later, the darkness faded. I saw above me a blue sky, white clouds, and birds fluttering. I took a deep breath but gagged on it. The air was different, heavier, dirtier. I stood up and walked a hundred feet. There, horseless carriages zoomed by me.
I found clothes hanging on a line, and hid in the forest, a stranger in this unfamiliar world. I climbed a tree and stayed. Looking out over the plains I tried to make sense of my new surroundings. I must’ve fallen asleep, for screams of terror opened my eyes. At first, I thought I dreamt it until I heard them again.
I stood on a branch. What I saw, was what was once Acre Bridge, a Hell Gate, hounds, and Kassandra, my lady love. I know it’s her. I recognized her scent even though it was off. She’s fighting those hellhounds, slaughtering them one by one. The fire gate closed, and she is speaking to two people. I moved, breaking the branch.
I rose, shook the dirt off me, and turned. There she stood, my love. Both of us were not eight-years-old. But, neither of us were sixteen even though we looked it. Then it came back. That night, with the Alpha Dire Wolf.
I’m meant to protect her. I was reborn as a shapeshifter, a Dire Wolf. Created by the Dires to safeguard Kassandra, to help her achieve her objectives.
“Idiots opened a Hell Gate.”
She stared into my eyes and smiled. She held out her right hand. Her fingers peeled away, one by one revealing a stone. The white stone with the heart, the one I gave her for her birthday.