—The Dawn Of Big Paws—
© 2011 All Rights Reserved
No portion of this story may be reproduced.
Edited by James Massaro
Published by Shakespir
This story is a work of fiction.
A hunter entered into the woods, crushing the fallen leaves with his brown boots. He looked like a lumberjack in a green flannel and jeans.
He walked past a cluster of red bushes. They were aside an oak in front of a trickling stream. He knelt down and checked the metal trap he had set up, but it was empty.
He looked confused about it. He looked like he couldn’t understand how the trap hadn’t worked. The trap was a rectangular metal cage. It had been set up to catch a rabbit.
When he heard a sound like a twig breaking, he quickly pulled his rifle off his shoulder and popped up and turned around and aimed it at the bushes where the sound came from.
In the distance, a gaggle of snowgeese abruptly arose into the sky near Black Coyote Canyon.
The hunter kept his eyes on the bushes.
The winds shook the oak’s headdress and loosened her tangerine, plum and pear colored leaves. They slowly settled down.
After some time, the hunter let up, thinking the sound was nothing, placing the rifle back on his shoulder.
He walked away in the direction of the canyon.
When he was out of sight, Kathleen Brookwater appeared from behind the bushes. She took another bite off her carrot, or the one the hunter had set up in the trap. It sounded like a twig breaking.
Kathleen was wearing a light blue baggy sweatshirt, blue jeans and white tennis sneakers.
She had a long brown ponytail.
Kathleen was a college student on break for Thanksgiving weekend, visiting her grandfather at his lodge. She was nineteen.
In her left arm, she was cradling a brown rabbit. The rabbit hadn’t put on his white coat for the winter, yet.
Kathleen’s grandfather was in a canoe on Gray Owl Lake. He was barefoot in rolled up tan pants and a tan shirt. His short hair and scruffy beard were both gray. He had a lot of freckles and pale blue eyes.
The waves were rocking the canoe back and forth. The tip of the fishing rod was bending into to the water. Kathleen’s grandfather was reeling the line in at a strenuous pace. He had gnarled forearms and defined veins in his arms like he had labored with his hands all his life. “Just wanna see what you look like,” he mumbled, glancing about and taking in the lake and the woods. His natural manner was an inquisitive one. He was effortlessly studying the landscape like he was a seasoned detective.
From afar, looking in, the scene looked like a painting, like he was just a man in a canoe, among the wide expanse, an expanse of dark waters and colorful trees and the gray sky.
An osprey dropped out of the overhead mist and flew past a blue heron and grabbed an olive toad on a floating cluster of twigs and leaves, ascending up into the sky, the toad in his talons, leaving the heron, croaking and sailing across the dark waters of the lake, inches above it, her reflection, like blue magic, quickly disappearing.
The old man’s facial expression tightened. He continued reeling the line in at a strenuous pace. Green and red swirls arose from under the dark water and a rainbow trout jumped up! He was two feet in length and thirty pounds in weight, thereabouts.
A white Cessna appeared from overhead and landed on the choppy waters of the dark lake. It sailed across it and drifted up to a log dock. The dock was extending fifty yards into the lake.
The Cessna’s propellers stopped and the one door popped open like a Delorian’s. Kathleen’s uncle stepped out. His name was Patrick. He was a middle-age man. He had dark hair and was dressed in a black suit and was wearing dark rimmed glasses for seeing. He placed out his hand like he was asking a woman if she’d care to dance. He helped out his fiancée. Her name was Shannon. Shannon had short brown curls and green eyes. She was dressed in black slacks and a white blouse and an over-sized shiny black belt.
Kathleen’s grandfather was holding the trout up over his head like a hockey-player raising the Stanly Cup.
“What’s he doing?” Shannon asked.
Though this snake was flying his own plane the tone of his speech was reserved. “I guess he wants you to see how big it is.”
The old man lowered the fish, placing him back in the water.
On the laketop, the reflections of the trees were dilating like flames.
Not far from the lake, chugging along on Old Indian Trail, Kathleen’s boyfriend Christopher was on his black WWI motorcycle.
A mouse in a muddy pothole popped her head up. She was looking around like a periscope. She scampered her pink tail off the road into a patch of grass. She was met by a leaping red fox! He pounced down on her and chewed her up like gum, waving his bushy tail back and forth like a happy dog chewing on a milkbone.
Kathleen’s boyfriend made his way up to the entrance of the lodge. He turned off the bike. It made a dying sound for some time before it completely turned off.
He took off his helmet and goggles. He had short dark hair and brown eyes.
He was dressed in a peacoat and blue jeans and black boots.
He slipped through a log gate with a sign on it that read The Brookwaters.
Maples and pines and weeping red bushes and scattered yellow lady’s slipper orchids were crowding the winding driveway.
At the top of the driveway, there were Crimson Maples and King Maples and Athena Maples and Inferno Maples and Purple Mary Magnolia Hybrids and Pastel Pear Hybrids.
The lodge stood on stilts like an elevated beach house. There was a sign by the front steps that read Welcome to Woodhaven!
Christopher stepped onto the wraparound porch. He slowly walked by several antique rocking-chairs. They were crafted out of either wood or twigs or metal.
He made his way to the rear of the lodge. He stood there like a king on a balcony, ruling over his people. The lodge looked down on a mountainside full of trees and the lake at the bottom of it.
The other lodges and cabins in the area were few and far between, all empty.
Christopher sat on an aged maple stump like it was a toilet-bowl. He pulled out a cigarette and lit it up. He looked like the Thinker, smoking a butt.
The landscape settled Christopher’s mind like a syrupy played violin is known to soothe a wild beast.
Kathleen wasn’t far away. She was by Red River. She was dragging a canoe over to the river’s bank, walking backwards, past a troop of hissing mushrooms, their spores stirring up in the breeze, settling all over her clothes and exposed skin.
The ancient inhabitants of the land used to use the spores for medicinal purposes. Some of the side-effects were drawn out time and amplified awareness and askew visuals.
The yellow leaves from a nearby birch were falling. Some were blowing away in the breeze and others were spinning away in the currents like horizontal pinwheels, spinning and spinning and spinning.
Kathleen sat in the canoe, transfixing on a school of tiny black fish, swarming around in the slow moving currents.
She was unconsciously fiddling with the rings on her fingers. She had a silver Claddagh ring, an oval shaped mood ring and a platinum ring with crosses etched all around it.
Her hands were a bit flush like it was cold out.
Her fingers were fragile and slender. She had perfect egg-shaped nails with faded red nail polish.
She was now unconsciously fiddling with the mood ring. It was a green hue, matching the color of her eyes.
Her gaze was smoldering like a person born in a never ending state of reflection.
Across the river, something brushed through a row of junipers.
Kathleen fell out of her daze and peered for quite a while, sitting there, like a sitting puppy, being pulled by the leash, the leash of curiosity, nudging her to come on, not sure if she should get up and go or just stay put.
The winds leapt up and the river spray kissed the sky, settling like falling veils.
Overhead, high up in the mist, the eagle’s scream was distant and faint, but recognizable.
Kathleen arrived on the other side of the river. She dragged the canoe out of the water. She pulled out a can of bear mace from her front pocket. She cautiously walked over to the bushes and brushed them aside. A dizzying amount of animal tracks appeared in the dirt. Each one was of four roundish digits each. Claw tracks were extending out of them.
Felines hardly ever leave paw tracks with claw tracks extending out of them. They weren’t any type of big cat; and big cats in America don’t hunt in packs. They looked like canine tracks, the tracks from a pack of wild dogs, except they looked much larger. In the Adirondacks, there are no wolves. The last one was killed over one-hundred years ago in the 1890s. They weren’t fox or coyote tracks. The tracks were too large. Bears would have left tracks of five digits each like the impression of the five toes on a human foot. The bear’s cousin the wolverine, like the fox and the coyote, would’ve been too small to have left such big tracks.
Kathleen was staring at them. She was puzzled at the size of them. She was placing her hand close to one of them, measuring the scale of it. It just wasn’t making sense to her. She was like a dog owner, like having seen your dog’s prints on the ground in the frontyard or backyard at one time or another, and then on a kind of rainy day, letting your dog out, letting him go in the backyard, he wanders about near the trees all the way in the back, sniffing around, you pull out a cigarette, smoke it, take in the gray skies, some time goes by, you finish your cigarette, you call for him to come, he doesn’t come, you go see what he’s doing, you don’t see him, but you notice pawprints in the mud, and at first you don’t think anything of it, until it clicks in your mind that those prints look three times larger than his normal prints, and then you start to think what’s going on, and if you have a really big dog where there’s really not too many breeds bigger than it, say a Rottweiler, like if you had a hundred pound Rottweiler, and you saw prints three times larger, what the___?
An endangered Karner blue butterfly appeared. It drew in Kathleen’s attention. It was blue like the earth seen from outer space. The edges of its wings were gilded black. It floated under a semi-barren purple tree like an ash. It landed on top of a cluster of globular barberries. The barberries were changing colors like a fake blond having her roots dyed at the hairdresser. Kathleen noticed a piece of red fur by the butterfly. She picked it up and looked at it.
She wiped her hand clean down her sweatshirt. She noticed the tracks led away from the river’s bank and into the woods. She followed them inward.
At the bottom of Black Coyote Canyon, the tracks appeared again. They were in front of a cave.
An expression of concern surfaced on Kathleen’s face. She peered around, but the sounds of a busy swarm and the humming of the woods fell on her like a thrush’s song in a mid-afternoon daze.
It’s rare in America that wild dogs attack humans. Wild dogs will usually keep their distance. If a person was to hear the clamor of the pack, without doubt, they’d be cautious and keep their distance, too. Though the tracks were much too large to be wild dog tracks, for Kathleen, knowing the area, to attribute them to anything else wouldn’t be likely.
Kathleen headed towards the main road. She hopped over the metal partition that was separating the road from the woods. She noticed another dizzying amount of tracks in the dirt by the side. She stood there and looked them over. They were calling out to her like a thousand pieces of a jigsaw-puzzle on a table.
There was a rundown gas-station. Kathleen walked over to it.
An old Indian woman appeared. She was in ragged black garments. She had long gray hair and thick black circles around her eyes. She looked like the embodiment of death. She locked the gas-station door before Kathleen was able to walk in. She just stood there, behind the glass door, staring. It was a strange situation. It was like the woman had no social skills at all.
Behind the gas-station, thousands of whistling chickadees abruptly ascended from the woods!
Kathleen thought it best to just call it a day.
She walked away from the gas-station and hopped over the metal partition and walked into the woods in the opposite direction.
At times, Kathleen was looking back, and instead of walking, she was jogging.
Not far away, the Indian woman who owned the gas-station walked into the woods.
She peered up the mountainside into a mass of balsam firs and blue spruces and other trees like Christmas trees.
In the short distance, a vast section of land had been cleared. Signs were sticking out of the ground. Foreclosed! Property of the Federal Government! No Trespassing! Violators Will Be Prosecuted!
Across the grounds, there was a three thousand year old sequoia. It had been cut down. Its branches and bark and headdress had been stripped clean like a fish is filleted, a skeleton of its once magnificent presence. When the old Indian woman arrived, she reached out in the cold damp air and touched it gently like a person would use care in holding a dying friend’s hand in their last hours.
Yards away, embedded in the ground, its monstrous trunk stood like the entranceway to hell!
The old woman knew. She knew what was beneath. It was a den. There was thousands of tracks in the mud.
Kathleen now heard a chorus of grunts, barks, yelps, growls and howls!
She forged ahead and entered an old Indian trading-post. It looked like an igloo made out of twigs and branches. The windows were broken. The inside of it was no bigger than a high school classroom. The counters had fallen apart from time.
Kathleen quickly looked around and saw nothing of real use.
She turned around but the chorus was getting louder.
It was like she had taken a wrong turn in a maze and cornered herself off.
She grabbed the top of one of the counters and wedged it in where the front door was supposed to be and grabbed a one-legged rocking-chair and threw it by the entrance, too.
She hurried behind the counter. She crouched up next to a nest of rats.
Kathleen didn’t look terrified but she had a look on her face like she knew how serious the situation was.
The spores of the hissing mushrooms were taking effect on Kathleen. Unbeknownst to her, she was now attuned to the spiritual world. She had extrasensory abilities.
Out of the corner of her eye, in her peripheral vision, on the ground, in the wet leaves that had made their ways in, there was an old black and white picture. It was of a young Indian girl. The girl was dancing around a campfire at night. She had white feathers around her waist and chest. There were a few white feathers intertwined in her black ponytail. Her back was against the fire. Her left foot was off the ground. Her arms were open and up to the heavens. She was seemingly chanting a haunting melody, warding off any evil spirits.
The chorus disappeared.
Kathleen got up and moved the rocking-chair and the counter-top away from the entrance.
She walked outside.
The leaves were falling and landing in a nearby brook and spinning away.
Past a wild ginger patch, there was a sliver of light. It was slanting through the treetops. It was transcending into a muddy waterhole, lighting it up like the inside of a ruby.
Kathleen wasn’t able to wrap her mind around what was happening. She just took off.
Kathleen forged up a long wide incline laden by jagged rocks and boulders called Rockslide Slope.
At the bottom of the slope, a whistling host of white breasted sparrows flew out of a red spruce colony!
The bushes and the smaller trees were shaking.
There was the chorus of the pack again.
Kathleen tripped and fell backwards down the slope, ten to twenty yards, dislocating her left shoulder!
She stood up, inhaling and exhaling several deep breaths, tightening her lips and jerking her left shoulder and left arm forward and snapping it back into place! She screamed, but held the reins back on it. It wasn’t loud.
She hurried up the slope and sprinted into a narrow vale. She climbed over a jagged boulder, between several others, scrapping her right knee against one of them and cutting it open.
She jumped over an uncoiled, non-venomous, black and red garter snake.
She ran into a dying meadow of wild sarsaparilla, black-eyed Susans and cherry Indian pipes.
There was a humming kaleidoscope of flies and moths and out-of-season white Queen Victoria butterflies.
Kathleen sideways hurdled over a cobblestone wall like a soldier in training. It was three feet high and mossy and alive. There were caterpillars and worms and other insects in it.
She trampled over a clump of purple flowers and entered a woodsy veil of thin white trees with molting bark.
The sounds of running water emerged.
She sprinted along the river’s bank and through the shallows and leapt up to several mossy blocky boulders, jumping from one to the other like a girl playing hopscotch.
The rapids splashed up and soaked her bloody jeans and she wiped a sheet of spray away from her face with the bottom of her sweatshirt.
She jumped up on a fallen tree. It was extending to the other side of the river.
She placed her arms out, maintaining her balance like a surfer getting up on their board.
Out of the woodsy veil, a high-pitched jar of gray pumpkin-breasted nuthatches abruptly flew up into the sky!
Kathleen kept her arms out and stayed focused on the tree like a gymnast on the beam.
Another sheet of spray soaked her face.
On the other side of the river, coming out of a blueberry bush, a huffing black bear appeared, swinging his left paw at her and shaking the fallen tree!
Kathleen’s arms resembled an out-of-control airplane’s wings, trying to get back to even altitude!
The bear jumped up on the tree, growling louder, white scum emanating from the corners of his mouth, hanging down like long drool!
The mace was in the canoe.
There was only one option!
The swirling water dragged Kathleen under. She was fighting for breaths of air. She was tossed over Beaver Falls.
The feet of the falls eventually smoothed out.
Kathleen floated to a muddy area and clawed her way out and flipped over on her back, dazing in and out.
In the short distance, there was a Bicknell, singing her song, like soft drawn out whistles, inadvertently summoning the pack closer, like a combination of a flute making a cobra rise and a dinner bell summoning the dogs.
Kathleen’s hair was drenched. Mascara was drizzling down her cheeks.
Kathleen dragged herself out of the muddy water. She hurried into the woods into a misty bog. She trudged through knee-high water. There was a trail of withered green oar-end leaves. They had fallen from a cluster of out of season aster.
There was a gray owl. His rhythmic call broke the bog’s chattering. It enticed a lemming. The lemming popped his head out of a clump of peat moss. The owl swooped down from his perch, talons open, to grab the lemming, but the lemming quickly burrowed down again.
Not far from where Kathleen was trudging, a knot of king toads and a bale of red snapper turtles were leaping and diving into the water off the remains of a fallen decayed tree.
Kathleen made it to the end of the bog.
High up in the trees, there was a woodpecker. He was working the day shift, hammering away.
Kathleen ran out of the woods and arrived at a windmill farm. She climbed over the metal fence surrounding it. There were a hundred and forty-four windmills. They were standing in rows of twelve. They were all spinning.
On the other side of the windmill farm, somewhere in the woods, Kathleen heard an asylum of loons and a pack of coyotes. They were singing in unison. Both loons and coyotes sound like howling wolves. Kathleen couldn’t believe her luck.
Kathleen hurried down a metal trap door and closed it. It was like she was in a bomb shelter. Everything went silent. She slowly walked down a dimly-lit stairs and arrived at a room as big as a warehouse. Cages upon cages upon cages were open. Everything was a mess. There were vials and needles and blood everywhere. Dead wolves and dead people were everywhere. Kathleen arrived at an office. There was a desk. She looked around and picked up papers with all types of government seals on them. They were doing genetic-testing on the wolves. They were trying to wean out aggression. There were other papers. They said if things become exposed, attribute the program to reintroduction, trying to reestablish the wolves to the area. The surveillance televisions were playing static. There were about fifty of them. Kathleen fiddled around with the main controls. The pictures became clear. They were from the past few months and leading up to several weeks ago, according to the dates on the bottoms of the screens. The old man in charge had a long, electrical, metal rod. He was prodding the wolves and taking notes on the effects, researching what levels of pain they could endure. Some of the wolves were crying in pain. Others were curled up in the back of their cages in fear. Others were exploding in a savage display to attack him. On another television, there was a young woman about Kathleen’s age. She had been hired to work there. She must’ve not known what was going on. She and the old man were at odds. Several arguments took place over the months. In one argument, the old man threatened her career and told her about everybody he knew and what else he could do. She wasn’t to be trifled with, though. She destroyed the switchboard for the cages. All the locks opened.
That’s how the wolves came into existence.
The last wolf of the Adirondacks was killed in the 1890s.