Chapter 33: Follow Your Gut
I pack my things, roll up my furs, and eat some of my dried meats as I encase them in large leaves to
get ready to go. Binding and tying everything in and to the backpack with vines I corded yesterday, and
drag it all on my back, bouncing the weight up to adjust the straps, and reacclimatizing to the weight.
My sneakers are getting scuffed and worn and soon I might have to start finding tree sap to make
minor repairs to make them last, or venture towards the human spots in time, to use what money I have
for something longer lasting. I didn’t expect them to start giving out quite so soon, and in hindsight, I
should have brought boots and not these when going off grid. That’s the only downside to all this. The
human part has certain requirements that nature won’t provide unless I get creative. Shoes are not in
my skill set, and I’m not sure my human feet could handle the debris of forest floor without them. I
would have to turn to go any distance and probably pull a thousand piece of grit and broken wood out
of my feet every night.
I fill my belly with meat and water and head off, leaving no trace behind me after scattering the
remnants of my fire and burying the ash. It’s something my father always ingrained into me, that when
you leave a camp it should bear no evidence you were ever there. We should respect nature and leave
it as untouched as we found it. I’m always careful to bury or burn the carcasses of my kills, clean the
blood from where I skin them or eat them and keep everything neat and clean. It’s served me well so
Mentally I feel lighter, not that any of my previous wants and desires or heart break is forgotten, but I’m
getting better at handling it. My dreams they vary, but always around the same things and I’m still
dreaming of Sierra most nights.
I thought it would have faded onto something new by now but she’s persistent, and since I started
turning east, it’s almost like the dream becomes more prominent, the vision stronger. Last night, I
swear I could smell scent in the white space around me, smell her, and it had a familiarity I couldn’t
quite put my finger on. Like a long-lost distant memory, always out of reach, and it gave me a
headache trying to claw for it when I woke up in the night, at the utterance of her same old two-word
command. If I didn’t know better, I would think I know how she smells, but maybe it’s from distant
memory when she used to read at the library when I was very little, and I somehow retained it. And her
voice, like Colton’s yet not, which lingers hauntingly, so equally known to me.
“Save us.” It’s only ever that, nothing else.
The weirdest thing I’ve started to notice about the dream, is in it, I’m not as I am now. I’ve looked down,
seen my own hands while in the white room, when she clasps them in hers. My hands are that of a
child, small, delicate, dwarfed in hers, which makes even less sense to me. I guess though, like the lost
almost forgotten sense of familiar smell, and sound, maybe the dream too is a nod that this all comes
at me from way back as a child and I’ve forgotten. Confused into a senseless moment, reminding me I
did once upon a time know who she was. I have all but given up trying to dissect the meaning though,
as there doesn’t seem to be one.
I come to a relative clearing in the wood on my path, hot and achy from covering miles of ground in fast
mode and stop to catch my breath. I drop my bags, by sliding them from tired shoulders with a heavy
thud and stretch my body out with an amazing amount of crunching and cracking in the depths of my
skin and bones. It feels good, despite the worrying noises. Extending my arms fully and stretching out,
extending fingers and limbs to full capacity, making an ‘argghhh’ sound as I do so, relieved to lose that
weight and able to straighten up without it. I curve my spin and bend my neck from side to side glad to
be free, cracking it satisfyingly.
I roll my shoulders and pace around the clearing to make sure it’s a safe spot to stop, eyes darting,
ears honed in. I can hear water nearby and walk into the tree line by a few feet, until I find a tiny
shallow bubbling brook heading downhill. I take my fill quickly, still cursing the fact I broke my water
bottle a week back and have no way to carry any, and head back to my bags, pulling out my smoked
meat and slump on the floor while chewing on it to take in my surroundings.
The sun is really high, so it must be around noon now, the heat of the day at its strongest. There are
birds circling in the sky above, adding a pleasant peaceful calm to the not so quiet of the day. Rustling
wind, so gentle it’s barely there, as it sends the leaves swaying on the branches around and above me.
Small forest animals chatter busily, sing and chirp in the distance around me, while the nearest remain
silent as they watch me and try to second guess if I’m a threat. I can almost hear and feel the wildlife
paused in their tracks, eyeing me up, little hearts beating fast to see who this stranger is among them.
That’s the one good thing to come from all of this. My senses, my instincts, my wolf side, she’s growing
and developing fast and I couldn’t ever have come this far so naturally if I was still back in the Santo
pack house. I know I’m changing, becoming self-dependent, so sure of myself as the days roll by. Less
convinced I’m a failure and afraid of my own shadow now. I feel like this experience, it’s doing
something for me that no time in the valley could have. It’s taking my wolf and bonding us as one,
instead of just being another part of me that occasionally shows up. I guess I’m finally seeing and
feeling what it is Colton mastered in his own abilities and embracing my other side. No longer two
halves battling for one space, but instead merging together to fluidly flow from one to the other in the
blink of an eye.
Maybe I had to lose Colton to find myself. To learn what I was capable of and harnessing it alone.
Maybe that was always the fates plan. Teaching me a lesson and setting me on a path. Maybe, right
now, he has his own new direction, his own new strengths that came from our brief crossing of paths.
Maybe he was always meant to lose me to find himself too. Like somehow this is some small detail in a
bigger plan, and our hearts may have been broken but in the bigger scheme of things, it was necessary
for something else. Maybe Carmen was always his destiny, and they gave him the strength to betray
our bond for that reason.
Who knows? I don’t think I ever will. I don’t think I will ever find the ability to forgive him for it either,
even if it was all in the fate’s crazy masterplan.
Maybe I’m trying to find a reason to justify all of this because I was always taught that the fates are
never wrong. They always have a purpose for everything they do, even if we can’t see it. Even leaving
lonely little girls as unseen shadows in homes for unwanteds, and then showing her a light of hope
before crushing it in her face and throwing it far away.
I don’t dwell for long. I know if I do, the bitterness, the sadness, and anger, it starts to consume me and
destroy my mood. I have to move and find somewhere to settle tonight, before the dark moves in, and I
want some hours of daylight to properly set up my bed, find leaves and dried grass to pad it first. It’s
become a ritual daily to help keep me sane. One thing I’m finding is instrumental to my mental
wellbeing, is taking the time to make my camp comfortable and a little homely and have some down
time before dusk. I sleep better, which helps my overall emotional state.
I get up and gaze around, slightly disorientated from walking in circles and going off to find water, and
deicide to check my directional progress before I keep moving. I’ve covered some distance and want to
keep that huge dark mountain in the far distance as my central point to aim for. If I have a plan that I
don’t sway from it helps me stay focused.
I look up at the trees, walking clockwise in my clearing to find the tallest and thickest of them to climb.
It’s better to have one with a substantial trunk right up to the top so I can get above the canopy and
peruse my land. It’s not hard to climb when you have claws and super strength to aid you, and a
complete lack of aversion to heights, that I didn’t know I possessed.
I pick one and waste no time kicking off my shoes to turn hands and feet into sharp climbing
accessories and scale all the way to the top in the blink of an eye. Lycanthrope have many skills that
natural wolves don’t, and this is one of them.
I push my head up through the leaves, breaking through easily, and even with this beast swaying as I
scale to its terrifying height, I cling on and look out over what I can now see. The trees up here form an
almost solid carpet surface that looks like you should be able to step out and walk across. All swaying
in waves and dips on the wind up here, like a mass moving green surface on water, with more texture.
It’s definitely not as gentle when you’re this high and it’s almost mesmerizing to watch. The lay of many
shades of greens, moving to browns, and some yellows, the peeks of the odd rock formation or small
hill and the sporadic clearing. It’s a sight that’s not comparable to anything else and I revel in its beauty
for a moment, the sun fully warming my head and face.
The mountains in the distance are so faint they almost look light grey, and as I turn to see where I
came from it’s weird to note my own mountain is now also of a similar color and distance away, but also
surrounded by a fog that makes it almost invisible across the large expanse. I get that same aching
quench of gut twist when I look at it and shake my head, bringing my focus back to my new destination
in a bid to combat those feelings. No time to dwell on where I’ve been, when I should only focus on
where I’m going. Gazing back at my new mountain thoughtfully, something catches the corner of my
eye and makes me turn instinctively.
The sun dazzles a little speck, a tiny flicker of white spark which seems to bounce at me across to the
right, but when I turn to look properly, I can’t see where it came from. The trees sway, covering any
chance of seeing it at first. I wait with held breath for the sway back again, wondering if I imagined it,
but there it is, a little flicker of reaction in a pop of clearing, almost like a light, shining Morse code
sparkles at me, and then it’s gone as the trees sway back again. The organic flow of their movement
closing and opening the gap where it peeks out.
I focus on it, waiting for the movement of wind to show me it again and this time I hone my eyesight on
what it might be. Holding myself as steady as I can on my own moving perch. I catch the tip of what
looks like some sort of pole or mast, and when the wind kicks a bit harder, the leaves part wider for a
second and I catch the top of something flat and dark grey, just below whatever is catching the light,
and then it’s covered again. No matter how long I perch here watching it’s the most I can see, and I
start to wonder what it is.
It’s manmade for sure, but I don’t know if it’s a mast, a building, or some sort of rural construction used
by power companies, or maybe something else. Curiosity is peaked for sure, as it’s not far from the
path I plan on taking and now I want to know if I’m straying into human territory, in a place that seemed
idyllic and people free.
I sigh in exasperation, looking towards the mountain then back to my little flashing light, head forming
so many questions and doubts and try to see something I just can’t. It might be a supply post, seeing
as we are well off the beaten track and people do that. I’ve heard of it, seen it on Tv, and saw them in
the books in the school library. Rural buildings sat lone and open, filled with survival kits for lost hikers,
injured campers, especially in winter. I mean this place is nestled in a real dense part of the forest,
absolutely miles into the center of a massive overgrown part of the area. It could be a supply hut, with
dried foods, supplies, maybe even shoes and water bottles.
I look down at the ground far below me as though thinking about the possibility of what I might salvage
there, something in my gut urging me to go investigate. It wouldn’t be a bad thing to pick up items I
could use if that is what it is. I can’t imagine it would be anything other than a hut, or a mast.
It couldn’t hurt, I mean, I’m not exactly on a schedule and if I get close and it’s not occupied, or not a
supply hut, and just a mast or something pointless, it’ll remove any suspicion of people running into me.
It might be nothing more than an unmanned power plant building, and I might gain nothing more than a
few hours wasted on a detour. If it’s manned, then I get the hell away from it, change path and head for
the mountain at a faster pace and hope they never venture the way I’m going. It might still be a source
to swipe some essentials though.
My gut says go, and without stopping to debate it any longer, something inside of me egging me on, I
slide down the tree to go recover my things and see what is out there in my new discovery.