Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer
Jack stood a few feet to the side of the station wagon, the door hanging open, the engine having just rattled and coughed into silence.
Ahead, bathed in the yellow glow of the headlights was Celine, barefoot in the jeans and tee she’d been wearing when she disappeared. Head tilted to one side, arms stretched out, not quite above her head.
Jack heard himself chamber a round into the rifle without really registering the decision to do so.
“Don’t you move,” his voice broke, hands shaking, “don’t you fucking move.”
Celine didn’t move, she just hovered there, in the road, toes pointing down to the oil sprayed gravel without actually touching it.
“It’s alright, Jack, everything’s going to be ok.”
Her voice was calm, and it soothed him, as it always did when things seemed out of control. She was ever the rock on which he could anchor his tenuous grasp on reality.
“It’s not alright,” his voice carried easily, all other sound seemed to have been erased around them. “It’s not bloody alright Celine, I saw that thing, saw what it did to you. I saw what you…”
He couldn’t finish the sentence, but instead took a tighter grip on the rifle and fought to steady the barrel before him.
“I’m still the same, Jack. I’m still Celine, I’m still your wife, I’m just something else now too,” she straightened her head and smiled, “something more.”
His mouth opened and closed noiselessly as memories flooded through him, the lights, the smoke surrounding her, penetrating her, consuming her where she stood hanging the washing.
Now here she was, a hundred miles away in the road like nothing was the least bit wrong.
It wasn’t natural.
Movement just outside the range of the headlights brought him back to the moment, and his aim wavered slightly as a pack of wolves crossed the road far beyond her, their silhouettes just barely visible in the fade of the artificial light. Their eyes shone as they paused and looked before continuing on their path into the woods on the other side of the road.
One didn’t turn away, and instead the curious creature padded slowly into the circle of light, ignoring Jack and his rifle, the car and its headlights to circle around Celine, sniffing the air around her legs.
When it had completed several revolutions, it raised itself up on its hind legs and placed its paws on her shoulders, its body equally as long as she was tall, and rubbed its head against hers, before dropping back to the ground and wandering nonchalantly away in the direction the rest of the pack had taken.
She didn’t move, didn’t flinch, and even though she clearly wasn’t anchored to the ground in any way, wasn’t stirred in the slightest by the bulk of the massive animal.
Jack heard the rifle hit the road this time, without really registering the decision to drop it, and he staggered forward, taking slow halting steps with tearing eyes until he stood within inches of her.
“My Celine…”, his voice choked off.
Celine reached out and cradled his head in her hands, staring down into his upturned face and searching eyes.
“You know, Jack, you’re not a wolf,” she smiled, and with a quick twist snapped his neck, letting his lifeless body drop at her feet, “you’re just a man.”