I’d a dream we traveled out to a local fall event and my eye was immediately drawn to a peculiar petting zoo. There was an average woman in distinct employee garb and to her left was a male lion. Mane swaying in the breeze, deep orange and tan fur only a foot or so away from the edge. You kept trying to reach your fingers across the fence to pet him as I looked into his eyes,
Odd. They would never put a lion in a cattle pen.
It wasn’t long before the woman noticed us, arms stretched out across the fence. She lassoed him, gently so, but it still broke my gaze. She shook her head in warning and let an assortment of sheep out next. It was clear what she deemed her property.
‘Sorry about that, it’s dangerous to pet the lion. Rescues and all.’
You started up a careless conversation, loud voice boisterously ringing in my ears. I felt sour, so I ignored her as a whole. She seemed to take to your conversation, but I drifted back off towards the building they’d walked him into. So slow, so languid, so tamed was his walk. Like a drunken misery, or a stumble into sedation. His composure seemed empty, as if there was no roar brewing in his belly anymore.
I almost turned around and walked the other way, off to find a drink or something to ease the familiar aching that was developing in my brain. Then out came the wolfhound.
He followed her shadow to the fence lining but no one seemed to pay any mind to him.
Deep shoulders stalking forward, head leaning down and bright yellow eyes glancing up. You two were busy conversing about the seasonal events and where the best location to get a good bite to eat was.
He had a tortoiseshell coating, deep black mingling with ebony and hints of auburn. It reminded me of the withered maple leaves or caramel.
He came to my post by the fence and sat down slowly. I looked towards the both of you to see if the attendant was paying any attention, she was not. I stuck my hand through the opening and got a good grasp of his fur. Wiry, lengthy and wild, but smooth. He did not draw back from my touch.
At first I merely gave him a nuzzle behind the ears, but those brooding eyes kept locking onto mine. I’d really no choice. I crouched down, he rolled onto his back almost instantaneously. He kept his gaze locked on mine, large paws encircled around my forearm. I couldn’t decipher what it was he wanted.
You were sitting at a table, watching a rather boring show that gathered the crowds of humanity like the sheep in the pen, while I was weaving through the herds on the outskirts of dusk with the wolfhound cradled in my arms.
He was heavy, but not heavy enough for me to lag. I remember my grip was like iron. I wasn’t going to let anyone else touch him. I wasn’t even sure of where I was taking him, all I knew is I couldn’t let him go. Not now, at least.
I don’t remember feeling panicked, as most would, but I couldn’t remember my purpose for being in this predicament. Nor where I was or how I’d ended here. I knew they’d either think I stole him, which I wasn’t entirely sure if I had or just planned to. Or they’d thank me for finding him after he ran off towards whatever it was he’d chased.
I kept trying to mull through my options. I could take him home with me, I could save him from this brutish lifestyle. But what if he belonged with the sheep? Someone had to herd them, right? His eyes were like looking into the moon, and it was getting darker by the minute.
I’d find a way to spin it either way but I settled on finding you, first.
I never found our purpose, me and the wolfhound, but I assume that was half of the point. Perhaps it was just to get out of the confines of the fence. Perhaps he saw another of his kind and no longer wanted to herd the sheep. Perhaps I didn’t, either.
He’d followed me.
That’s what had happened. I was certain now, the recollection clear as the path before me. He’d followed me and I’d turned around and felt a shiver hit my spine.
He never wriggled or writhed from my grasp. He laid still as baggage, the longer I held on, the easier he was to carry. Passerby’s would smile and gawk, they were faceless to me but I could hear the fluctuations in their tones, and I’d smile back but I wouldn’t meet their eyes. I wouldn’t decipher their features. This trek would stop for nothing and no one.
It wasn’t long before I rounded the corner to the fence line. The array of familiar tables sprawled out, the crowd had dwindled but the show had continued on in repeat.
Two more steps was all it took, to round the corner, my sight now visible beyond the trees masking the seat you’d chosen in the far back corner.
You were gone.
I set him down within the confines of the fence and told myself it was only momentarily, and he stood stark still, watching me with hooded recollection.
I called you, I believe, or perhaps I only heard the long, lost echo of your voice. I’d assumed to hear a bit of concern, or perhaps just confusion.
‘I went home,’ you muttered on the static end of the realm.
‘You didn’t bother to look for me?’
‘Why would I? You’re always wandering off.’
‘It was the hound. He followed me, I couldn’t just leave him out there.’
I’d no idea why I was trying to validate the chain of events to you, but perhaps I was just trying to make sense of the whole ordeal myself.
The line went silent for a moment.
‘_______, what are you talking about?’
‘The hound! For god’s sake the hound, the giant looming guy in the cattle pen? With the sheep? You didn’t see him?’
‘No… There was never a hound.’
I looked back towards the fence, a breath of night chill whistled through a now empty terrain. I peered into the darkness but there was no sight of the moon, nor the hound.
I stood there for a while, in the stark night, and I think I knew in that moment why wolves howl.