Ruth is a specialized biologist in the behavior of wolves. She received a scholarship to write a book about these animals. Ruth argues that through the howl communication can be established between our species and theirs. The secret of the wolf is the title she intends to give the book. This is the reason to meet alone in a cabin in the woods. After her second divorce, and having no children or close family, wolves became her only passion; to a colleague she confessed that she prefers their company to that of humans – “Wolves do not lie,” she said.
She got up at five thirty in the morning, had breakfast and went to the forest with a camera, a tape recorder, a compass, and supplies in a backpack. There is a fog that covers the sun and seeps through the trees submerging the forest in a vaporous mass that reminds her of a dream. Ruth moves without fear of the unknown territory as if she walks in her garden.
It is now nine in the morning and Ruth can barely see a foot ahead. However, she remains calm, despite feeling tired. Suddenly, in the distance, she begins to hear howls of wolves. Ruth connects the recorder and moves in that direction. Occasionally she howls too, convinced that she can already communicate with them. However, after a few minutes she stops hearing the animals and decides to have a rest. She leans against a tree, drinks water and eats a sandwich. A little later, she is taken by sleepiness and lies down.
Ruth is now a three year-old girl, blonde, with blue eyes. She wears a green dress and rose shoes. She moves through the forest as if she were playing in her parents’ front yard. She’s not afraid of anything, because she knows that animals, like people, are good and friendly. Suddenly she hears a howl and replies in the same way with her childish voice. The howl increases in intensity and Ruth feels it getting closer and closer.
Then, from the fog a wolf appears. It is a male of gray fur and orange eyes, with sharp teeth and a woolly tail.
The wolf sits down two meters from her.
“Don’t approach. It is very dangerous to walk alone in a forest,” says the wolf.
“It’s not. Everyone likes to play with me,” says Ruth.
“You are a defenseless girl and I can eat you.”
“Wolves don’t eat girls, only lambs.”
“And you are a lamb.”
“I’m not, I don’t have fur.”
“There are lambs without fur and those are the ones that wake up a large appetite in hungry wolves.”
“I don’t believe you, wolf.”
“Wolves don’t lie. And there is a kind of wolf that attacks you sweetly. He tells you it’s a game and you believe it. Those are the most dangerous.”
“If any animal attacks me, I would tell my mother.”
The wolf laughs, too.
“Are you sure? Sometimes girls attacked by wolves become so ashamed, so frightened, so lost, they aren’t able to tell anyone. They keep the secret to themselves, and because they are very young, eventually they forget.”
Ruth shakes her head.
“I don’t understand anything you’re saying. Let’s play?”
The wolf rises and starts prowling her.
“No. Listen carefully, girls attacked by wolves can forget what happened to them, but are left with a wound inside.”
Ruth is rattled and she doesn’t know what to say. For the first time, she’s afraid of the wolf.
“I don’t want to play with you anymore. You are bad.”
And she screams for her mother.
“Not worth calling for your mother,” says the wolf. “She’s at a motel with a friend. And as for your father, he’s in a business meeting. You are alone, Ruth. Another wolf will appear and catch you. Now you are lost, but one day you may heal the wound if you have the courage to face it.”
Ruth opens the eyes. The fog has disappeared and the forest shines in the sun. She looks at her watch and it is eleven. She doesn’t know if she slept, if she hit her head on some tree and passed out or what happened to her. She can’t remember anything. However, she’s anxious, with a pain somewhere deep in her chest. For the first time since she arrived, she feels alone and lost. She gets up with difficulty, consults her compass and starts back.
As soon she enters the cabin, she locks the door and grabs a knife. She goes to look through the window for some time as if a threat is hidden in the forest. Only then she turns on the computer and tries to start the book, but she can’t concentrate and gives up. She spends the day doing nothing, walking back and forth. Suddenly, she starts crying. When she calms down, she prepares dinner, eats quickly and takes four tablets to sleep. Then she throws herself into bed.
Ruth is again three years old and is in the nursery waiting for her mother to pick her up. She wears a green dress and pink shoes. The teacher comes to tell her that she has received a call from her mother to say that she can’t come. In turn, her godfather, Mr. Gabriel, will come. Ruth doesn’t care, she likes him very much. In ten minutes, her godfather appears, gives her a kiss and takes her to his car.
“Ruth, your mother is working and asked me to stay with you until dinner. Let’s go to my house.”
“Are we going to play?”
“Yes. Today we will play a new game, but it’s a secret. We won’t tell anyone. Do you promise?”
“Good girl. Look, I brought you a gift.”
Ruth opens the box that is offered to her.
“A stuffed lamb. Baaah.”
The car enters a fog and for Ruth everything turns gray.
João Cerqueira is the author of eight books. His works are published in The Adirondack Review, Ragazine, Berfrois, Cleaver Magazine, Bright Lights Film, Modern Times Magazine, Toad Suck Review, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Hypertext Magazine, Danse Macabre, Rapid River Magazine, Contemporary Literary Review India, Open Pen Magazine, Queen Mob’s Tea House, The Liberator Magazine, Near to the Nuckle, Narrator International, The Transnational and others.