Without any warning, she turned to walk away. Her friends followed suit. I heard the cracking of bones in the distance. If I could smell blood like them, I would have. It was everywhere. Congestion, fatigue, general shutting down–I couldn’t smell anything and I was freezing, slowly freezing, slowly twirling in a net, slowly turning to face her body, to face them walking away.
The two ripped her limbs off delicately and two more had joined them. One looked over at me curiously, but with no commitment to leaving what they had found. All alphas. I know how this was going to go. I had spent my entire life watching kills for fun, watching my cats trap mice under the oven, bring half dead rabbits to the door, and the way a packs forms like a swarm.
“We have to kill them.”
“Why don’t you do it?”
She raised a palm to the bark.
“Oh, god, ok, with your hand?”
Admittedly, I looked down but then back up to see her smash the lantern fly against the bark, one after the other. All five.
“Ok, savage, yeah,” Rayne stepped away.
“Someone has to do it,” Salome was bent over near one that had fallen, inspecting it and then squishing it with the ball of her hand.
I was watching, unable to contribute, unable to picture myself face to face with an actual plague of insects so pretty as these mysterious asian flies that had besieged our trees. Earlier in the hike, I had been taken by a discarded web only to notice the sap dripping from a cut near the bottom. I ran my finger across to feel the moisture. The tree had already uprooted itself due to storm. If only they would seek the fallen trees to suck but why suck something dead and fallen when a growing sumptuous oak is nearby? I twirled there with those women unable to commit to violence watching it become committed towards me.
When the fifth one came, she trotted right past the body, right towards me. This is where the divide begins between alpha and beta so the betas were coming next. She was playful, the comic relief of the pack; black and gray and smiling. Running and smiling and even though everything was blurred from tears that never broke and the sting of chill that hit me with or without wind, I could see her drooling. I had stopped moving awaiting the dog’s arrival.
“I stepped on a lantern fly today. I am not feeling great about it,” I texted the group.
I looked down at the body somewhere between Dickinson and Reed and it was smashed flat into the concrete and I was desolate and growing more abyss than sun every day. Yet, it still took something deep from me to step on it.
“Spotted lantern flies jump more than they fly,” she informed the group.
I saw the light change in my periphery before I heard the ding.
“The trees thank you,” was her reply.
The black wolf was right under me, looking up. My cheek was probably going to freeze to the rope, I don’t know, but my face was smushed against it and I was curled in an upside down fetal position so I could see everything as long as I faced it, but not if the wind, a sadist, a wolf, or a breaking branch moved me. Or God. What I did I wish for? What did I seek? She had asked me. A chance or long sleep. Very gently, the black dog stood on its hind legs so it’s front paws touched the bottom of the net and pushed. I twirled effortlessly in the air like that as the wolf watched. Listening only to my heartbeat, which was slowing, and the creaking of the branch, which was louder than the bones breaking or the distant snarl of the two wolves that had fought over my friends calf muscle. The wolf watched like that and myself, a watcher, understood the game.
I wasn’t sure what the plan was. I was waiting to pass out and I regretted immediately letting the green eyed witch leave my sight but I also understood I was not in control. What I hoped was that, I would freeze to death first and then they would rip me to shreds. What I realized now is that they were trying to get the branch to break to get to me more easily. It wasn’t as easy to pick me apart through the rope, six feet above. Tall, strong, but still spent from the hunt and people say wolves only kill people in folklore and myth, but here we are, the scrape of his claws leaving traces of terror all over my lower back.