I was heading to Emma’s on what appeared to be the gloomiest day this year. Thick, black clouds blotted out the sky, threatening to send a torrent of rain down upon me, and yet there wasn’t the faintest breeze to give hope that the clouds would ever part. There was no thunder booming to give me a sound other than my footsteps nor streaks of lightning to lighten the street before me. The usual brightness of Emma’s home was smothered in the gloom so completely that the lawn ornaments, which typically struck me as jovial, now seemed dark and twisted. There were things darting around me, barely caught by my peripheral vision as I approached the door. I hurried into the house, not even bothering to knock, and called out to Emma the moment I was inside. She didn’t answer.
I rushed to her room, hoping to find her smiling face waiting for me while fearing far worse. A sense of dread had gripped me like nothing I knew before, even compared to being chased by wolves through a city street. When I ran through the door, I found Evelyn tied to a bed that I didn’t recognize. Looking around the room, I realized that I was in Evelyn’s home and wondered at why I thought I had been rushing to Emma. I tried untying Evelyn from the bed, but the knots were firm and she was struggling in her panic. There was a crash somewhere in the house followed by a deep growl that seemed to shake the room. I looked to the doorway to find a wolf nearly the size of a man standing there, baring its teeth. I only had one of Evelyn’s hands free and no time to finish untying her. Jumping from the bed, I grabbed a wooden chair and turned to face the beast.
The bright blue eyes of the beast were startlingly human and its breath smelled of decay. I was trying to force the creature out of the doorway, but it moved with such speed that I was barely avoiding its teeth as they came closer and closer to my legs with each of its attacks. I felt almost as if the thing was playing with me, waiting for something. A scream from behind me caused me to turn, a fatal mistake that allowed the wolf to bite deep into my shoulder. As my scream joined Evelyn’s, I helplessly watched her catch fire, burning alive from no apparent source. I never really imagined dying before. If I had, this would be the last possible thing that would have occurred to me. To think that I once had admired wolves for their beauty and ferocity now seemed a bitter irony. The creature held me still in its grip, forcing me to watch the room burn while Evelyn’s body fell to ash. The ceiling tore away, and above the inferno that was searing my flesh were the heads of house-sized wolves, looking down at me with a hunger that surely sealed my doom.
I awoke in a cold sweat for the third time that night. The glass of water I had gotten after the first nightmare still sat on my nightstand, so I took a drink from it and checked the time. Nine o’clock in the morning was majorly sleeping in for me anymore, and I was glad my parents had let me. I took a shower and got dressed. The only job I had planned for today was walking dachshunds for Ned Hill again. He was an elderly man in a wheelchair who had hired me a couple times already for two of the most uneventful nights at work I’ve had so far. I was looking forward to another boring night out after what had happened this week, especially with all of the nightmares last night. I really needed to talk with someone about last night. My parents would surely believe that something had freaked me out, but a story that seemed outlandish would lead them to believe I imagined an enemy for a frightening night in the city. Jarod was the only person who would likely buy into the idea that actual wolves were chasing me through the streets.
After scrambling some eggs which I ate with toast and orange juice, I headed off to Jarod’s. Mr. Davis greeted me at the door, apparently on his way out, and said Jarod was in his room like normal. When I entered his room, Jarod was in a heated battle with Emma on Mortal Kombat. He didn’t even bother looking up to see who had entered, but I couldn’t blame him with Emma beating him down. He was swearing after losing, but he realized I was there in time to stop himself from throwing his controller in my direction. “James! How do you ever beat this girl!?” I laughed and shrugged before telling him “I get lucky here and there.” He conveyed a greeting from Emma after shaking his head at my comment, saying, “She wants her man-slave to know that you should’ve told her you didn’t work this morning. She would have taken care of that.” He mouthed the word “man-slave” to me while making a rather vulgar gesture to which I could only shake my head. Jarod would always be Jarod.
Emma logged offline shortly thereafter, saying a friend of hers was coming to visit. I stole Jarod’s headset long enough to expound upon how much it hurt to know she was only teasing about wanting me around, bringing about a lengthy bout of farewell teasings which ended with her making comments about the ways she and her friend could use me. “Dude, what did she say? Why are you redder than a ripe tomato?” I told Emma goodbye one last time and told Jarod that his room must be hot. “Riiiiiiiight. I’ll have to see if she’ll tell me next time I catch her. So what brought you over this morning? Not that I mind your company at all, but you have been wanting something each time lately.” He accented the comment with a suckerpunch to my arm. “Well, I actually am wanting your help again. Sorry. I swear I’ll make time to just hang out sometime soon.” Jarod went to his closet and started digging around. He donned a white dress shirt and put a pre-tied necktie over his head, probably one of the ones I tied for him.
“Ok. Had to get my business mindset working before I could sit down and discuss things with Mr. Professional.” Yes, Jarod would definitely always be Jarod. “So James, what do you need?” How after this ridiculous display was I going to make anything I needed to talk about sound even remotely serious? I tried hard to take on a serious expression, but Jarod’s grin was truly contagious. With a smile on my face, I told my best friend what happened to me last night. To my surprise, the smile actually left his face by the end of my tale. “I’ve read about things like this,” he said as he sat down at his computer. “People using wolves as attack dogs is common?” Jarod shook his head and brought up some articles he had saved to his computer. “No, but people being attacked by wolves in a city that shouldn’t have a single wolf keeps coming up. Every time it’s written off as someone mistaking stray dogs for wolves.” I was surprised that there weren’t even wolves in the zoo here, but he brought up their webpage and showed me. “I haven’t found any evidence of someone even finding something that’s part wolf.” This wasn’t promising. Coming here, I was hoping to spend a few hours searching and find some evidence. Jarod had apparently been looking for a while with no luck.
“I can’t believe you were lucky enough to see some in person! This will definitely work to our advantage.” Maybe Jarod actually did have a screw loose. “What about me nearly being eaten is a good thing?” Only after the words came out of my mouth did I realize from where Jarod was probably coming. The guy had mentioned Evelyn, so he had probably been trying to scare me away from her. She might be able to tell me who he was. “By the look in your eyes, I think you’re catching on my friend. We can set a trap for them!” That hadn’t been what I was thinking. “You want us to trap some guy and his wolves?” Jarod shrugged. “Not necessarily. All we really need to do is get evidence of them existing. If we setup some of those motion activated cameras people use for wildlife pictures and then arrange for your next dance session with Evelyn, we could tell the police about it without you coming off as a complete nutjob.”
“Thanks, I think. I believe Evelyn might know who this guy is, so I’m going to ask about it when she gets around to emailing me.” Jarod rolled his eyes and said, “Only you would have girls asking for your digits and not get theirs in turn. Why did you just give her your email?” I shrugged and replied, “This is business. I don’t really want my business and personal life getting mixed together. I’ve never heard of such a pairing turning out well.” Jarod laughed. “Dude! You’re practically rolling in hot girls and won’t even try something. If it were me, I’d have all of their numbers on my frequently called list.” I held in a sigh and inquired how things were going with Laura. He cleared his throat and said, “Good. Good. Laura and I are good. She wasn’t thrilled about not doubling with Regina, but I think she’ll still go with me if things come to that.” We talked for a while about who might loan us the motion sensitive cameras Jarod was crazy about, and then played some video games until I needed to get ready for work.
Ned Hills was as talkative as ever when I showed up to get his dogs. The man loved telling me stories of his life, which was becoming a large part of my “dog walking” jobs for him. I really felt sorry for him. The man had no children and most of his friends already had passed away. His two dogs, Bentley and Porsche, were each only a few years old. One of the kids in his apartment complex usually took them for a walk, but I filled in now when the kid knew he wouldn’t be able to come. The walk was fairly relaxing as the previous times, but I couldn’t help looking around far more than normal. My recent experiences were really getting to me, and made the city seem far less safe than ever before. Running my own business was changing me in ways I couldn’t have foreseen, and I felt as if I was only at the beginning of the journey still. One of the many things I learned from my father was that people don’t get what they want in life by quitting when things get difficult. I had more business than I ever thought possible this soon, and I wasn’t going to back down due to a scare.