The Wolf is Still With Us
Back when the sky was red, in brisk mountains that lay on the heel of temperate steppes, which were padded with dark forests, a band of men and women in primitive clothing strutted about and did their primitive work. They would have been fair, had the fair Sun not envied them and bronzed their skin. Their houses were of stone and mud but not so simply built, and on an outcrop was a larger building, nicer built: a temple, with a smoothed stone altar in the middle. The sun was low but the sky still bright, and a couple of big, brawny men wearing bear skins like Heracles wore the Nemean Lion’s were holding ropes on each side of a gigantic ox, pulling it to the temple. At the altar was an androgynous figure, also in a bear’s pelt but with a deer’s antlers on their head and the feet of a deer and holding an elegantly-crafted stone knife. The sky began to dim as they slit the ox’s throat for the sacrifice. First there was silence, then the beating of a great drum like thunder. Soon after the drum began to beat, it suddenly halted with ambient shrieks swiftly following the stifling silence. The sky was already dim and blackness swept across it like a cloak pulled over the Earth, drawn by a giant shadow of a beast, indefinitely big, with unearthily gleaming yellow eyes. It let out one long piercing, ghastly howl, then growled and the Earth trembled. The shaman-priest gave the ox over to the spectre as if it were the god it were meant for — it was unclear that it was not, seeing as this was not the first time. Then there was silence, and no one could speak, because their words seemed weak and flaccid even in comparison to the beast’s stark silence. Then that beast leapt out and mauled many of the onlookers, the sacrifice not being enough to even dampen its violent and boundless hunger. This continued the whole night through until the Sun rose, although a band of warriors with spears play-acted that they were the reason the creature did not kill them all, rather than its resourcefulness in wanting more unwilling sacrifices later.
A group of tourists sat around a bonfire in the Black Forest at night, with the end of October fast drawing near.
“Well, we’re camping, we might as well tell stories,” said a young man.
“This is the Black Forest, you know that’s the setting of most of the old fairy tales, right?” a young woman replied.
“Fairy tales are stupid!” shouted out a young man who wanted to be much buffer than he was, yet was not doing horribly at it.
“Well, I think we should tell them anyways, just to say we have,” said the first man, and went on to tell a story:
“Once upon a time there was a dear little girl who was loved by everyone who looked at her, but most of all by her grandmother, and there was nothing that she would not have given to the child. Once she gave her a little riding hood of red velvet, which suited her so well that she would never wear anything else; so she was always called 'Little Red Riding Hood…'”
“Ugh, no,” interrupted the second, “this is the most pathetic one of all! We’ve already heard this a billion gazillion times.”
“Actually, did you know that the Brothers Grimm changed the ending of this one? In the original version, Little Red Riding Hood just got eaten by the wolf at the end,” said the young woman.
“Interesting factoid. Now please tell cooler stories.”
“No, I’m going to finish this, and if you don’t want to hear it, you can not listen. Now, back to the story. One day her mother said to her: 'Come, Little Red Riding Hood, here is a piece of cake and a bottle of wine; take them to your grandmother, she is ill and weak, and they will do her good…”
It was about time to go to bed, but she couldn’t sleep, no matter how tired she was and how much she wanted to surrender. She pulled out her smartphone and decided to watch a talk by this up-and-coming scientist. The beginning was so uninteresting that she scarcely noticed what was said, but then it got further on and the words popped out at her:
“…Thanks to the power of science and reason, we have tamed the world, and are no longer slaves to nature. We no longer have to fear the tiger in the jungle, or the wolf in the forest… And we have exorcized the demons of superstition…”
Then she decided that was a worthless thing to listen to, as it had been only either boring or irritating, and reading would be better. All she had brought, however, was some book of Kafka stories that she was trying to finish, so she read the next short one:
Just as one sometimes lowers one's head to reflect, thus to be utterly lost in the night. All around people are asleep. It's just play acting, an innocent self-deception, that they sleep in houses, in safe beds, under a safe roof, stretched out or curled up on mattresses, in sheets, under blankets; in reality they have flocked together as they had once upon a time and again later in a deserted region, a camp in the open, a countless number of men, an army, a people, under a cold sky on cold earth, collapsed where once they had stood, forehead pressed on the arm, face to the ground, breathing quietly.
And you are watching, are one of the watchmen, you find the next one by brandishing a burning stick from the brushwood pile beside you.
Why are you watching?
Someone must watch, it is said. Someone must be there.”
At this moment she was overcome by sleep.
The next day, in the morning, her mother gave her an unsolicited phone call.
“Hello, how is your day?” her mother asked.
“It’s all right. Listen. I’m on a camping trip and I would rather talk to my friends right now. They’re going to eat without me and I’ve just woken up. Could you please call me at a different time? Thanks!”
“Oh, no, I just had to check on you since you haven’t called me.”
This stupid phone is like a tether that goes all the way around the Earth, she thought.
“I’m fine. I’ll text you, OK?”
“How have your dreams been?”
“Oh, pretty usual. Why do you ask?”
“I was just curious.”
“I love you, bye!”
“I love you too! Goodbye!”
Back at home in America, her mother thought about that dream. Her health had been suffering in her waking life, and in her dream she saw that her doctors were all not really human, but wolves in human costumes, who ripped their human faces off before her and then shrieked and howled. Then the head doctor went on to say that all the work of science and technology did not conquer Nature, and that we still lived in the forest, only under a more subtle guise, and the wolf was still with us. Then he pulled off his mask that he was a yet more monstrous wolf with shimmering eyes, and showed that he himself had been part of the plot. Then wolf-men and -women had a gigantic parade, where they showed that all the food was poison, the water was poison, there was poison in the air, and they lead the poisoned to a sort of sacrifice. They showed her images of primordial times, where warriors and shamans alternately vigorously fought against great shadowed beasts and reluctantly gave in to worshipping them as if they were gods. Then through a clouded haze she saw images of wolf-headed men working before blueprints, and monstrous devices being created, some of which she recognized – such as nuclear weapons – and others of which she did not, which were far more terrifying. Then she saw a hazy image of wolves running through the twilight sky as if chasing something. Then she awoke with a jolt in her bed like a whip hit against the ground.
It was evening, and the group of friends on the camping trip who had smartphones noticed together that, after a full day of camping and wanting to wind down, they were getting odd alerts from the news apps on their phone about a war that had been declared between NATO and Russia. There were strange objects flying through the air, apparently.
“This can’t be a recently declared war,” exclaimed the young lady, “if they’re firing missiles already!”
She read the article to see if there was any more information, but it gave none.
Then she looked up in the sky, and saw two gigantic, black masses of dots flying through the air, like some sort of swarm. The Sun set delicately atop the horizon in the distance, and the Moon was at an angle above the East. These masses seemed quite close to both of them, as if following behind, and they started dispersing.
“What is this?” she cried.
“It’s far away, it’s nothing to worry about. Anyways, Germany doesn’t have much of a military,” said the young man who had told the story the other night.
The group chattered amongst themselves, but the young lady bolted, so swiftly as if to make her invisible to them. Then she looked up at the red sky that was swiftly being overtaken by twilight. The two masses were wolves about to swallow the Sun and Moon, who looked like a sister and brother driving in chariots. A spectral beast of indefinite size with gleaming yellow eyes let out a huge roar that shook the Earth as what seemed to be men and some women with ancient armor and weapons tried to subdue him and instead were slaughtered. Then she saw that the wolf who was trying to swallow the Sun finally got her in his snout, and the opening of his mouth looked almost like the shape of a mushroom on the Western horizon, and the light shone out brightly as if it erupted from the fiery depths of oblivion. She could not help herself but stare into the hellish brightness.
This is an old-ish story that everyone seems to either love or hate because of how completely involuted the plot is. Some of it has actually turned out to be pretty prophetic so far, unfortunately. You think you're safe in your house, but it is only the primordial forest by another guise. We have become the monster. The wolf is still with us. It was originally published at about Halloween as a horror story, since what everyone seemed to really afraid of was the political climate.