I couldn’t move.
I felt the wrought-iron fence dig into my back where I stood, pressing against the immovable obstacle. I pushed against the soft earth, trying to take backwards steps that moved me nowhere. I was only ten feet away from the white-haired wolf in front of me. Ten feet that either represented freedom or me being slashed into fleshy ribbons. A low-pitched rumble escaped his throat. Thick saliva fell in slow motion from his quivering chin.
He lowered his stance by an inch, his muscles coiled, ready to pounce.
I quickly looked around the cemetery. I’d been caretaker for two days. There was nothing but decaying headstones, rolling hills, and black, leafless trees.
And a wolf. A white, almost florescent wolf, having appeared practically out of nowhere.
I noticed two large stones at my feet. Exactly what I needed.
I started crouching, but the wolf—head lowered, hair bristling—crept forward a foot. I froze, except for my hand. It wouldn’t stop trembling.
“Nice, wolf,” I whispered. “We’re old buddies, right?”
The wolf answered with such an enraged and ear-splitting string of snarls and guttural barks that I almost soiled myself. Without thinking, I grabbed a stone and hurled it at my opponent, connecting squarely against his forehead.
It bounced off harmlessly.
I grabbed the other rock and threw it with even more velocity, hitting the wolf right on the snout with a crunch. He did nothing but lick his nose.
And take another step forward.
Sure, I wasn’t worth much—never had been. Dropped out of high school, hadn’t gone to college, couldn’t keep a steady job. But here I was, turning things around now. At least trying to. I hardly deserved this wolf.
And then he leaped. His massive front paws hit me in the shoulder, knocking me sideways. I scrambled away through the crunchy, dry leaves. One step, two steps, almost three— Until the wolf jumped on my back, ramming me into the soft earth. I felt his claws sink into my flesh and a scream of pain escaped my lips. I suddenly twisted, knocking him off me.
I clamored away onto a low concrete slab and the wolf was on me again. I turned and a claw slashed my cheek. He backed me up against the fence again, this section low, its sharp, metal tips only reaching the small of my back. I kicked out desperately, somehow managing to land a blow that threw the white wolf away. I noticed a speck of my blood above his lip.
The wolf landed on his feet and didn’t waste an instant. With a running start, he launched into the air like a cannon, ramming me into the fence again. The force of the impact caused my feet to fly high and for a terrible moment, I swung up and over, feeling the metal tips rip chunks out of my back. My body toppled outside the cemetery.
I hit the ground, turned over, my back red-hot with pain. I saw a blur of white fur near my face—and then the wolf froze, not two feet away, hanging in mid-air perfectly centered over the black fence, as if someone had freeze-framed a projector. With a rush of cool moisture, the entire animal evaporated in a burst of white and disappeared.
I turned away, never to enter a cemetery again.