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Rated: E · Short Story · Contest · #1178072
what happens to little red ridinghood when dementia sets in...
SANCTUARY



         I awake again from the same dream, soaked in sweat, moonlight pouring through the bedroom window. If I catch the dream now, write it down, it will be there for me in the morning. If not, like most of my recent memories, it will vanish with the dust motes as they rise with the coming sun. The dream is the same, wolves, howling, and me at the head, running with the pack. I know this because I have written it over and over now for months. But because of my early dementia, the images will never connect, never process, and every night the visions return fresh and new. I turn my pillow over, flip of the light, return to sleep and wait for morning.
So clear autumn's skies
without leaves, skeletal trees
puncture the frost moon


         When you come to the end of a fairy tale have you always supposed that happily-ever-after continues to eternity? Sadly, that's not the case. When I was young, traipsing unsupervised through the woods, blithely bringing sweets to my granny, I never imagined that I could end up just like her: old, befuddled, deluded into believing any smelly creature that came along with a good tale to tell. Yet here I am, memory failing, stuck in the daily tedium of an old folk's home.
         Habit and boredom carry me through my days, now. The daily routines and ritual help me to feel real--even as my sense of person and place continues to slip away. What is most real to me are my dream journals, written night after night, images of the wolf and the pack. I sense that there is a freedom there, a freedom from routine, freedom that rides with primal instinct and doesn't depend on memory and intellect.
         The therapist at the facility believes I suffer from post-traumatic stress disease. She believes the ordeal with grany and the Wolf scarred me for life, and that my dreams reflect that. It is true that after all that happened, I never married and spent my life caring for grandma till she died. Money wasn't an issue as I'd been left a small inheritance and lived frugally in the woods. But as I began to age and memory started failing, leaving the stove on, that sort of thing, the people in the village felt it prudent to place me here at the Sunnyview Retirement Facility. So much for happily-ever-after.

a hunter's moon peeks
through parting clouds, starless skies
a masquerade ball




         Today there is something new on the activity calendar... a field trip to a local animal sanctuary! Better than bingo and sing-along in my book. As the facility bus pulls into the parking lot of the sanctuary and we descend I feel a ripple of excitement course up my old, arthritic spine. Wolf song, wild and plaintiff, carried on the wind. The administrator of the sanctuary explains that most of the animals here are wolf dogs and have been abandoned or abused by their previous owners. She cautions us to not approach the animals directly, but allow them to come to us. It is a grey, cold, November morning, and I can smell the coming rain mingled with the delicious, earthy musk of wolf scent.


autumn thunder drums
a rustle in distant fields
wolf song in rain time



         We are allowed to enter some of the cages and I find myself drawn into the eyes of a large female red wolf. Montana is an old wolf, rescued from a local zoo that was forced to close. Ignoring the warnings of our guides I reach my hand to her. She licks and sniffs and quickly, playfully, nips my fingers. She has drawn blood, but it is so slight, I lick it off without a thought. Too soon it is time to go and we are shuffled on the bus back to the retirement facility.
         Later, at dinner, I notice odd puncture marks on my hands and fingers but cannot recall how they got there. I scrape off the bits of dried blood clinging to the skin and wonder if tomorrow night I can order a rare steak for dinner.

         I go to bed early, unable to bear another evening of Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. I sleep fitfully, tossing and turning, shaking with fever, tormented with dreams of running, running through forests and dense thickets of pine and oak. As I run, I notice all my senses unusually alert, I feel graceful and light, unencumbered with stiffness and old age. The wind flattens my hair against my neck and I feel the soft carpet of pine needles padding beneath my feet. The moon is bright through the canopy of trees and I lift my voice to speak my name. But I cannot recall my name, and my voice is deep and paintiff, "AWHOOOOO....AWHOOOOO!" Instinctively, I know I have come full circle.


a world without names
no memories, no pity
my sanctuary




wolf image


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