- Allison Baker
Wolves in Suburbia
Art by Paul Rios
I would have done anything for her. Even if it meant following her to our graves. She was all I had, and without her I would have died anyway. So when she asked me if I would leave the comfort of our home to escape into the beyond, it really wasn’t up to me.
We didn’t know where we were at the time since we grew up largely in captivity, but the place we had spent the last five years somewhere outside suburban Sacramento. Not a place you would typically find a pair of wolves. Not literally, anyway.
We were raised by a man and his son, but our origins remain a mystery. The pair of them weren’t altogether unpleasant, but they made Lana uneasy. And though I was complacent living there, fenced in but well-fed, Lana was keen to make her escape.
One night, after threatening to leave for the better part of the month, she finally told me her plan. I knew she meant it this time. The younger one had teased her with her dinner and spoke unkindly and she’d had about enough. I knew there was no reasoning with her. And so I agreed to her plan.
It really wouldn’t have been hard for us to leave if we’d had the will to pull the trigger. The lower portion of the fence was high enough that if we dug for a few hours, we would be able to wriggle our way out of our makeshift home. So that night we took shifts and about 3 hours later, we were free.
I was terrified. Lana, on the other hand was exhilarated. Almost in a manic way. She had fantasized about that moment for so long that she hadn’t even planned what she was going to do if it actually happened.
After bounding toward the open space beyond our former home, she grew tired and sat beneath a tree, just panting. The thought of infinite space seemed to have paralyzed her. We both sat silently for a few moments. Although I hoped she would announce that we’d return and go back, I knew she wouldn’t let that happen.
She was afraid, but she refused to show it. I knew her too well to not see past her bravado.
She stood up and began running again. She turned around to make sure I was following. We followed what appeared to be a path that eventually came to a river. As soon as she spotted it, she bounded after it. And I, her.
Even though she had never seen a river before (at least not to her memory), she didn’t hesitate to jump in the water and leap from rock to rock, lapping up the river water as she went. I had never seen her so happy, and if she had looked back up at me, she might have seen the same in me.
But I was calculated and careful. I didn’t trust recklessness or risk. I didn’t like her being out in the open, exposed like that. I didn’t know what kinds of predators were out there, and I suspected the thought didn’t even cross her mind.
I turned my head quickly when I heard a rustle in the bushes behind me. I called at Lana to warn her. She stopped playing and froze. We both did.
Out of the bushes stumbled a fawn. I didn’t hesitate to leap at its throat. Not because it posed a threat, but because I knew that dinner had just been served. We were familiar with deer because every once in awhile our captors would throw us a wounded deer and watch us tear it to pieces. The way they watched us do it made it feel wrong, but it was instinctive for us.
Lana lept to share my catch and rewarded me with a lick on the muzzle. The fawn was either injured or lost because it wasn’t followed by anything of its kind. Not that we would have had room in our stomachs for it.
We moved on along the river as the sun set behind us. I didn’t know where we were going, but at that moment I didn’t care.
As we made it past a bend in the river, we suddenly heard a loud din coming from above. There were clinks and shouts and general sounds of ruckus. Not before I instructed Lana to run into the shadows did I make eye contact with a man, who when he finally got his friends’ attention, was just pointing at an empty beach.
And so we decided to travel inland. Not much fuss was being made other than the softening of voices as we traveled away from the loud pack. Soon, it was just Lana and me again, the way I wished it could have remained.
It was quiet, hushed even, when I heard the blast from behind us. I knew before I even blinked what it meant. I turned around to see Lana, her eyes still sparkling as a pool of blood grew from the side of her head.
My eyes met our attacker’s and I saw in them my own fear reflected back. I wonder if he saw it too. I wonder if he saw it replaced with pain even before he pulled the trigger.
I don’t remember the bullet making contact with my skull, but just before it, I remember Lana. As her life drained, so did mine. It wouldn’t have taken a bullet for me to have died that day. I was gone long before I took my last breath.
And when I did, I was finally free. We both were.