WOLVES ARE COMING
By Mauri Orr Stone
when the alarm went off.
a moment of
astonished disbelief, everyone’s recognition of the situation kicked in.
began. It had been so long since the last attack that no one remembered the protocol.
Clear the people? Secure the doors? Turn on the floodlights? Close the gate?
Set the traps? Which step came first in the prescribed process, which second?
the alarm would stop shortly. Certainly, this had to be a false one. But it wasn’t.
had grown lax
in these intervening years and had carelessly let our defenses down.
deafening, contributing to an increasing sense of panic, and everyone’s agitation
grew. It compounded panic with confusion. Where to go? What to do? Where are my
constant blaring drowned out everyone’s words. I was expecting our leader’s
announcement over the loudspeaker. To hear his voice give an authoritative
command would calm everyone. But it didn’t come, and chaos continued.
called out to my
group of guards, but to no avail. The alarm was drowning out all sounds, so I
signaled to them with my hands. It was still light enough that Kal and Zeb saw
me and came running.
we’ve got to
get out there,” I managed to make myself heard over the blaring alarm. ¨We’ve
got to get the traps set and secure the gate.¨
require more than the three of us, but time was of the essence, and too much
time had already passed. The wolves would be nearing the gate in a matter of
was a young
child when they last attacked. I still remembered it. Because of that attack. I
have dedicated my life to protecting our people from another.
got to get
to the gate. Now!¨ I cried out to my guards, and when we began running, a band
of four Minervi guards joined us. Any help they could lend would be appreciated.
Their smaller size, though, would keep them out of any contact fighting we might
engage in with the wolves.
I called out to them over the alarm.
to you,” the guard who seemed to be their leader snapped at me, slighted, I
imagined, by my referring to her band as ¨ladies.¨ True, we had suppressed
gender terms in the Guard and had been calling the female guards ¨Minervi¨ for
some time, but in a situation as dire as this, whose mind could negotiate all
the rules our current governing body had imposed on us?
running in toward the protection of the compound as we ran out against them
toward the gate. We encountered a band of Anyi, dressed in Guard uniform like
us, but clearly identifiable by the symbol Anyi wear to indicate their
ancestral heritage. They were congregated in a huddle and, I presumed, would
join us. But they hesitated. They waved for us to stop.
guards,¨ I cried, but the Anyi insisted. We slowed our pace to hear them out.
their group directed himself to me and asked, ¨What is in this for us? Why are
we going to protect you who brought us in only to serve you all those years
of the way!”
was all I could respond, incredulous at his absurdity before our impending
danger. He caused us to lose precious time. I motioned to my men and the
Minervi to continue toward the gate.
coming!¨ I called out our long-unheard rallying cry, and as we continued to the
gate, I couldn't help but think, ¨Ingrates! You live well here. The wolves
would never accept you as members of their society.¨
gate. It appeared to be unmanned and wide open. Why had no one already closed
it? There certainly must be guards on duty here. Through the gate, we could see
a dense evening fog forming at the tree-line beyond the clearing. This was not
good, since fog only refracts the floodlights. It would be hard to see
distinctly when the host of wolves emerged from the woods.
hear their howls as we finally reached the gate.
alarm. Turn on the floodlights! Minervi, get the traps! Zeb, find the control
to close the gate!¨
be falling into place, until I heard Zeb yell, ¨The control isn’t working!¨
waste more time, I ran through the gate frame to pull on the door manually. I
was surprised to see two guards there already pulling on it with all their
looked up at
me, faces sweaty from exertion, and said in unison, ¨The door won’t close!¨ Their
voices betrayed a tinge of panic.
assessment, I still could not resist giving it a try myself. The three of us
pulled on it, but the massive door was stuck in place.
been serviced properly?¨ I could not help asking, but was really just thinking
replied. Then one of them said, ¨We close and open it on a daily basis. It
worked earlier today!¨
barked out and ran back through the gate to the control panel.
was there and
looked up at me when I entered. ¨Chief, I’ve managed to set it to close, but it’s
inoperative. Something’s overriding the control panel.¨
we be able
to close it?¨
demeanor made me realize why we had been working so well together all these
he replied, as he continued to push buttons.
picked up the
transmitter that communicates with the main compound, but it, like the gate,
was not working.
howling interrupted us. It was growing ever louder. I had to think quickly. The
wolves would run through the open gate. Because we had always had traps set before
the gate, I surmised the wolves would suspect as much and simply leap over them
through the opening. We could trick them, though, if we set the traps right
inside the gate so that at least some of the leapers would fall.
walked out of
the little control room to find what had shaped up to be my charge.
traps!¨ I belted out, as I left the room, but the Minervi had already taken it upon
themselves to start laying them before the door.
There was no time for scolding anyone over a major chain-of-command breach.
the door," I shouted. The authority in my voice led them to follow my order
without any hesitation or expectation of an explanation, and they immediately
started picking up the traps they had laid out.
growing louder and louder, was nerve-racking, especially emerging as it did
from the darkness before the gate. I was starting to worry that the lights,
like the door, wouldn’t work.
floodlights on!¨ I hoped the fog was far enough away to allow us some visual
range of the clearing. I went back into the control room to find out what was
taking him so long.
a cubicle next
to the control room, Kal was standing before a panel of innumerable switches.
As I came in, I heard him turn on at least three before he found the right one,
but when he did, it only made things worse. The dispersed light created an
eerie white wall of fog.
the wolves approaching through it.
The first attack.
gathered all but one of the traps. Their leader rushed out through the gate to
get the last one. A disconcerting lull then fell over the howling, and the
Minervi leader paused. Suddenly, like a bullet, a formless streak shot out of
the white wall, knocking her to the ground. Her throat ripped out in a
microsecond, she literally did not know what had hit her.
were pulling on the door were well trained for such fighting and dispatched the
attacker almost as quickly with their lance-clubs.
I commanded. It was what had led this wolf directly to our guard.
scout,¨ I observed. ¨I don’t know if they can see that the gate is open or not,
but we need to finish setting those traps and get back to the compound. There’s
nothing more we can do here.¨
finished setting the traps inside the door, and in the darkness, we began our return
to the compound. The wolves had stopped their howling, and a somber silence had
fallen over my charge.
troublesome things occurred almost simultaneously. First, we heard at least
one, maybe two of the traps engage. The wolves were entering. Second, the
compound’s floodlights came on. They were blinding, and I wondered who on earth
would do this to us. Surely they knew the danger those lights put us in.
the door to the compound, a group of people was standing before it.
wolves are here!¨
the group didn’t
move. It was the Anyi.
of our way!¨
I cried out to them, and they did make room for us to get to the door. Each
member of my charge passed through—the three Minervi, the two gate guards, and
Kal and Zeb.
questioningly at the Anyi when it was my turn to enter.
are going to
negotiate with the wolves,¨ their leader explained.
was at a loss to
reply and said simply, ¨You can’t negotiate with a wolf.¨
that point I
beg to—¨ I slammed the door on his misguided explanation.
thought, or thinly veiled ambition? What kind of a deal could they negotiate
had passed when we heard the first scream. Then a thud against the door and
more screaming. I could hear a faint ¨Let us in¨ through the heavy door, but it
was too late. Their deluded ambition sealed their tragic fate.
were greeted by other guards. The civilians were already ensconced in the
announcements has our leader made?¨ I asked.
I asked in
disbelief. ¨What’s wrong?¨
The door to his command post is locked, and no one’s responding when we knock
and call at the door.¨
no one called
him over the intercom system?¨
had. The guards are not remiss in their duties.
is dead,¨ the guard in command said, ¨and when we listen in through the
intercom, we can only hear muffled sounds, like someone’s holding a hand over
got to get
in there. Someone might be holding him hostage,¨ I replied.
then, a loud
bang on the outer door jolted us all.
blow had been
so hard that it seemed to have shaken the door loose. That door was impenetrable,
or so we all believed.
talking. We were all looking at the door when, in the hushed atmosphere, we
heard a creak. Could it be? The door was bolted mechanically, but it was budging!
It wasn’t clear how, but it was beginning to be opened.
loud, impatient bang, followed by another loud creak.
¨keep the door protected and be prepared to do battle. My band, follow me.¨
ran past the
guards coming to the door and headed toward the main hall, the one that leads
to the commander’s post. We had to reach him, had to protect him. He’s the
leader of our civilization.
reached the long
hall and ran towards the commander’s post at the end of it. We tried the door.
It didn’t budge.
looked at me
and observed in his calm way, ¨Curiously, the emergency seal has been activated.
That should make it all but impossible to open.¨
there were ways to get past the seal. I still remembered when they constructed
the commander’s post. I was a nosy child who hung around the site and listened
in on the builders' conversations and instructions.
noises start to echo down the hall. Had the wolves gotten through?
need a lever.
There’s a spot on the door where the seal can be broken. Once broken, the door
can be pushed in.¨
scrambled to find some kind of device that would serve as a lever, Zeb and I
stayed at the door, feeling for its concealed Achilles’ heel. The noise in the
hall continued to echo.
would have been
a waste of breath to tell everyone to hurry and put undue pressure on them. We
were all in the same situation.
a couple of
minutes, one of the Minervi ran up to me with some type of metal bar. It looked
like she had peeled it off a door frame. It was perfect.
minute, Zeb found the spot. Between the two of us, we slipped the corner of the
bar into the indentation. It didn’t quite fit, and I had to stay my impulse to
hammer it in, which would surely have failed.
the day. He nudged the corner in ever so slowly until we heard a barely perceptible
escape of air.
declared with a bit more emotion than he usually displayed.
which side the hinges were on and pushed, three people at a time.
but only very slightly, so we stopped for a second and forced the metal bar
completely through the broken seal, between the frame and the door. The door
gave some more, but it still felt incredibly heavy, and the echoing noises in
the hall grew louder.
can do this,
crew! Push with all your might!¨
added two more
pushers, and the door gave, but still not enough for us to get in. I looked
through the opening, hoping I’d see our leader safe, but expecting to see him
possibly deceased on the floor or held by some enemy force.
couldn’t see him
at all, yet despite the echoing noise in the hall, I could hear sounds somewhere
in the room. It was like a muffled whispering, but I managed to make out what sounded
like someone saying, ¨They’re entering my room. What should I do?¨ But these
words seemed illogical. Our leader shouldn’t be communicating with anyone but
us. Who was saying these things?
opening!¨ I cried out jubilantly. We managed to open the door another foot or so,
enough room for me to squeeze through. Zeb was close behind.
leader was not
deceased on the floor. In fact, he was nowhere to be seen. The chamber appeared
to be empty, except that we could still hear the muffled whispering we had heard
when we first pried the door open. I had never been inside the post after it
was completed all those years ago, so we would have to locate the whispering—and
fast. It was a large chamber with six side doors, each ajar.
noise in the
hall was growing louder. I hoped it was our people because I couldn’t hear any
growling or howling. Still, things were moving so fast that if it weren’t our
people, those of us here would soon have to fight to the death.
ran to one end
of the doors, I ran to the other to find the muffled voice.
had been no
violence in the chamber. Everything was arranged neatly, as would have been
expected. I looked through two doors and found no one. Then Zeb came to me with
a peculiar expression on his face, one atypical of his usual calm.
went to the
first door Zeb had checked. He said nothing, just pointed.
his face and the silence that had fallen over the chamber were unnerving. I
approached the door cautiously.
the doorway I
could see someone inside. It was our leader. His back was to me, and he was
holding some type of communication device in his hand. On the control panel
before him, books had been piled haphazardly over the intercom. This led to
only one interpretation: Our leader was trying to prevent anyone outside the
chamber from communicating with him.
stood there and
observed, not yet comprehending the situation. It felt like time had stopped.
He had to have heard us, yet he seemed oblivious to our presence. He was huddled
over the device in his hand, trying to muffle his words with his other hand and
speaking only as loudly as he needed to in order to be heard by whoever was at
the other end.
whispering into the device, ¨Just tell me what to do, and I’ll do it.¨
interrupted. He turned halfway around to see who had spoken.
want to come
in,¨ he told me in a confidential and almost conspiratorial way. I had not seen
our leader for years and never up this close. His decrepitude took me aback.
His eyes were glazed over, and there was a far-away, disconnected expression on
his face. Turning his squinty eyes toward us, he showed no glint of recognition
as to who we were.
they’re telling me to do,¨ he explained.
saw the intercom
covered with books to prevent us from hearing him. The control panel was at his
disposal. There was no one else in the chamber. He had been the one who
overrode the gate. He had turned the floodlights on as we approached the
compound. He had allowed the compound’s door to be pried open. He had sealed
off the command chamber. He was responsible for getting our Minervi guard
killed. He was responsible for the massacre of the Anyi, who, despite their
misguided idea, had long served honorably as guards.
as calm a
voice as I could muster and holding back with all my might the anger growing in
me, I asked, ¨And who are they?¨ My face started burning, and I could
feel the hair on the back of my neck prickle.
anger welled up
uncontrollably. I could see all my years protecting our people, who had forged
a civilization like no other. We were the envy of all the others, who futilely
tried to emulate us and always wanted to come live with us. We had advanced
more than any other civilization ever had. And this sad excuse of a being
before me, this age-addled imbecile—a perfidious idiot who had projected to his
people the empty image of a . . . leader—had brought it all crashing
looked back at
Zeb. He looked strangely different—eyes reddening and whiskers sprouting on his
face. I looked down at my own hands and saw bristly hairs emerging from the pores
laid bare by imposed body shaving under this leader’s rule, denying them their
true gender function. My fingernails were forming thick, sharp points. My
vision was transforming, too, and focused sharply on this sorry shell of our
going to do, Chief,¨ Zeb asked. My reply required no thought:
Mauri Orr Stone,
soon-to-be-retired teacher from Louisiana, has been on a writing hiatus for too
long. His last published work—the poem
“The Dead Days”—was published here in Black Petals.