Chapter Nine – Sakura

58* F

From the distance beyond the trees, the scream came again. For a second I thought it was a howl, and then the cry resolved itself into words: "Help! Help!"

I swore the voice sounded like Garra Subaku's.

But that was impossible. I was just imagining it, remembering it from the cafeteria, where it had always seemed to carry over the others around him as he catcalled girls in the hallway.

Still, I followed the sound of the voice, moving impulsively across the yard and through the trees. The ground was damp and prickly through my sock feet; I was clumsier without my shoes. The crashing of my own steps through fallen leaves and tangled brush drowned out any other sounds. I hesitated, listening. The voice was gone, replaced by just a whimper, distinctly animal-sounding, and then by silence.

The relative safety of the backyard was far behind me now. I stood for a long moment, listening for any indication of where the first scream had come from. I knew I hadn't imagined it.

But there was nothing but silence. And in that silence, the smell of the woods seeped under my skin and reminded me of him. Crushed pine needles and wet earth and wood smoke.

I didn't care how idiotic it was. I'd come into the woods this far. Going a little farther to try to see my wolf again wouldn't hurt anybody. I retreated to the house, just long enough to get my shoes, and headed back out into the cool autumn day. There was a bite behind the breeze that promised winter, but the sun shone bright, and under the shelter of the trees, the air was warm with the memory of hot days not so long ago.

All around me, leaves were dying gorgeously in red and orange; crows cawed to each other overhead in a vibrant, ugly soundtrack. I hadn't been this far into these woods since I was eleven, when I'd awoken surrounded by wolves, but strangely, I didn't feel afraid.

I stepped carefully, avoiding the little streams that snaked through the underbrush. This should have been unfamiliar territory, but I felt confident, assured. Silently guided, as though by a weird sixth sense, I followed the same worn paths that the wolves used over and over again.

Of course I knew it wasn't really a sixth sense. It was just me, acknowledging that there was more to my sense than I normally let on. I gave in to them and they became efficient, sharpened. As it reached me, the breeze seemed to carry the information of a stack of maps, telling me which animals had traveled where and how long ago. My ears picked up faint sounds that before had gone unnoticed: the rustling of a twig as a bird built a nest overhead, the soft step of a deer dozens of feet away.

I felt like I was home.

The woods rang with an unfamiliar cry, out of place in this world. I hesitated, listening. The whimper came again, louder than before.

Rounding a pine a tree, I came upon the source: three wolves. It was the white wolf and the black pack leader; the sight of the she-wolf made my stomach twist with nerves. The two of them had pounced on a third wolf, a scraggly young male with an almost-blue tint to his gray coat and an ugly, healing wound on his shoulder. The other two wolves were pinning him to the leafy ground in a show of dominance; they all froze when they saw me. The pinned male twisted his head to stare at me, eyes entreating. My heart thudded in my chest. I knew those eyes. I remembered them from school; I remembered the fro the local news.

"Garra?" I whispered.

The pinned wolf whistled pitifully through his nostrils. I just kept staring at those eyes. Hazel. Did wolves have hazel eyes? Maybe they did. Why did they look so wrong? As I stared at them, that one word just kept singing through my head: human, human, human.

With a snarl in my direction, the she-wolf let him up. She snapped at his side, pushing him away from me. Her eyes were on me the entire time, daring me to stop her, and something in me told me tha maybe I should have tried. But by the time my thoughts stopped spinning and I remembered the pocketknife in my jeans, the three wolves were already dark smudges in the distant trees.

Without the wolf's eyes before, I had to wonder if I'd imagined the likeness to Garra's. After all, it had been two weeks since I'd seen Garra in person, and I'd never really paid close attention to him. I could have been misremembering his eyes. What was I thinking, anyway? That he'd turned into a wolf?

I let out a deep breath. Actually, that was what I was thinking. I didn't think I had forgotten Garra's eyes. Or his voice. And I hadn't imagined the human scream or the deepest howl. I just knew it was Garra, in the way I'd known how to find my way through the trees.

There was a knot in my stomach. Nerves. Anticipation. I didn't think Garra was the only secret these woods held.

That night I lay in bed and stared at the window, my blinds pulled up so I could see the night sky. One thousand brilliant stars punched holes in my consciousness, pricking me with longing. I could stare at the stars for hours, their infinite number and depth pulling me into a part of myself that I ignored during the day.

Outside, deep in the woods, I heard a long, keening wail, and then another, as the wolves began to howl. More voices pitched in, some low and mournful, others high and short, and eerie and beautiful chorus. I knew my wolf's howl; his rich tone sang out above the others as if begging me to hear it.

My heart ached inside me, torn between wanting them to stop and wishing they would go on forever. I imagined myself there among them in the golden wood, watching them tilt their heads back and howl underneath a sky of endless stars. I blinked a tear away, feeling foolish and miserable, but I didn't go to sleep until I every wolf had fallen silent.

Well there you have it! Chapter Nine is up and done for you all to read. LOL. If you have any questions, concerns, or comments don't hesitate to send me a message or something. well until next time folks!

P.S don't forget to R&R. thanks a bunch! And if there is any mistakes please let me know a.s.a.p.