Eric gets lost on his way to Gran's house and has a strange encounter.
Summary: Written for the prompt(s): The many-colored leaves carpeted the trail This made it hard to determine which way to turn to reach the road before dark.
The many-colored leaves carpeted the trail. This made it hard to determine which way to turn to reach the road before dark.
I don’t know what had possessed me to take the so-called short-cut to my grandmother’s house, but I’d given up trying to hike through the woods to find it hours ago, and was now just looking for the road that lead directly there. The road I usually took, which went practically from my front doorstep to hers.
As always when I had made a questionable decision, I could hear my mother’s voice in my head, nasally and nagging: Oh, Eric, what did your father and I always tell you about short-cuts? That they make for long delays! Especially on the path to your grandmother’s house. Never leave the path—that’s the way to stay safe.
Sighing, I muttered to myself, and to the mother who lived perpetually inside my head. “Well, maybe I don’t wanna be safe all the time. Maybe I want an adventure, for once.”
After a few minutes of fruitless walking, in which it seemed that the sky grew even darker, and the basket I carried grew even heavier, I had to admit that this adventure wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
I hunched my shoulders, pulled up the hood of my bright-red, Bloodmayne hoodie, and walked on.
Just then, a high, lonely howl went up in the distance behind me, and I froze.
According to Gran, there hadn’t been any wolves in this forest since she was a girl. That my grandfather Eric, for whom I’m named, had killed the last wolf in these parts, in the process saving my grandmother, and my great-great-grandmother’s lives.
Then what, I wondered, breaking into a light jog as another howl went up, this one markedly closer. What the hell is that?
My jog turned into a flat-out run as the howls continued, always sounding a bit closer than last time. As I ran, the contents of the basket jostled and thunked against the sides—I don’t know why I didn’t just drop the damned thing, it was only slowing me down—and my hood flew back off my head to trail behind me.
I ran for I don’t know how long until I noticed the howling had stopped.
Out of breath, my lungs burning and my sides in stitches, I stopped, too, in an empty glade, and listened:
Nothing but leaves rustling in the chill fall breeze, and the night’s chorus of crickets getting into tune.
Relieved, I leaned against a tree and panted, hoping that no howls meant that whatever had been chasing me had given up. That—
Just then, another howl went up, loud and almost triumphant, not from the direction I’d come, but from the direction in which I’d been running.
I bolted up, ready to pelt off in any of the other three directions, road and grandmother forgotten, when there was a violent rustling from the tall bushes across from me.
Backing away, basket held in front of me like a shield, I was blocked by the tree I’d been leaning on. I started to skirt it and tripped over a root, falling back onto my ass.
“Ouch! Damnit!” I exclaimed, scrambling backwards, basket left where it’d fallen. I managed to get to my feet just as something large erupted from the bushes.
I screamed, turning and preparing to run my ass off—preparing, in essence, to be chased and run down by a let’s-not-mince-words wolf—when I glanced over my shoulder to see what my untimely death would look like.
I stopped running, mid-lope.
It was a . . . guy. A hairy, naked one.
He was approaching my dropped basket, nostrils flaring. When he reached it, he stopped and knelt, righting it before picking it up and standing once more. His eyes, as yellow as a jack-o-lantern’s, flicked to mine and he held out the basket.
More surprised and bewildered, now, than frightened, I automatically reached for it, stepping toward him. As I got closer, his nostrils flared again, and I caught a whiff of him: sweat, forest, and . . . wet dog.
When I was within basket-grabbing distance, I did so, and stepped back, clutching it to me. The naked guy grinned, showing sharp white teeth. His messy, tangled dark hair hung in his face, partially obscuring keen, sharp features. He was broad and muscular, built like a boxer, hung like a stallion and, I decided, he’d probably clean up nice.
But that’s neither here nor there, I told myself. For while I was busy looking him over, he was doing the same to me, nostrils still flaring. He was still grinning that vulpine grin and his lit-from-within eyes seemed to gutter and flare in time to the trip-hammering of my own heart.
“Wh-who are you?” I asked, still clutching the basket to me and backing away quickly. At the sound of my voice, the man stopped grinning and cocked his head at a listening angle. “Who are you and why are you n-naked in the forest?”
I very determinedly kept my eyes above chest level as the guy seemed to ponder this question very seriously. For all of ten seconds, before he shrugged all over, like a dog shaking off water, and approached me with long, purposeful strides. I matched him step for step in backing up, only to be halted by another tree.
My eyes widened as the guy marched into my personal space and really gave me a sniff, leaning in to press his nose against my neck, his large hands settling on my hips and pinning them to the tree. “Hey—let go of me, man! Stop . . . smelling me!”
He snorted and huffed, and leaned back, but didn’t let go of my hips. No, instead he pulled them forward and into his own. He was hard—or getting there—and grinned again, darting in to nip my cheek playfully.
Beyond shocked and startled, I stood there while he nuzzled my cheek and neck and throat, making rumbling, contented noises to himself while he began grinding against me. I wouldn’t lie and say it felt terrible. It actually felt kind of—
“Get off of me!” I demanded, finally coming to my senses and pushing him away from me with the basket. Or I tried, anyway. He wouldn’t budge. He was both taller than me and heavier—and apparently a lot stronger—and had better leverage to keep me backed up against that tree.
I was really starting to hate trees.
“No!” I began shouting and trying to thrash. “I said: NO!”
The guy started, and actually took a step back, his yellow eyes wide with surprise and a complete lack of comprehension.
Oh, Lord, now I’m going to have to explain that no means no to a naked wild-man who lives in the forest. How is this my life?
“Look,” I began, taking a deep, calming breath and letting it out before I went on. “You seem like a nice guy, but I don’t know you, okay? And certainly not well enough for you to be doing—that to me. Okay? Understand? Hello, in there? Speakee English?”
When the uncomprehending look on his face didn’t change at all, I sighed and tried again. I pointed to myself, jabbing myself in the chest for emphasis. “Eric. EH-ric!”
The guy frowned for a moment, then brightened, and pointed at himself. “EH-ric!”
I facepalmed. Then I looked back up at the grinning wild-man and tried yet again. “No, no,” I shook my head. “I’m EH-ric.” I jabbed myself in the chest again, then pointed at him, without jabbing him. “What’s your name?” I said really loudly, because, as everyone knows, if someone doesn’t appear to speak English, talking at them really loud does the trick every time.
The wild-man frowned again, seeming to give that some furrow-browed thought before squinting at me and reaching out to jab me in the chest. Hard. “EH-ric,” he said, and I nodded. Then he pointed to himself and opened his mouth. Nothing came out for so long that I sighed again, and waited for another EH-ric to come out in his low, rasping voice.
Instead, he said: “Wolf.” And grinned at me. “Wolf. Wolf. Wolf!” he exclaimed, then jabbed me in the chest: “EH-ric!” Then he jabbed himself in the chest. “Wolf!”
Though to be honest, it sounded more like Woof!
I tried to take another step back but there was the tree. . . .
Wolf, meanwhile, had ventured almost shyly closer again and was reaching for my hips again. I tried to evade his hands, and he froze, looking at me questioningly, hands still held out, almost as if in supplication.
The look on his face was that of a whipped puppy.
I sighed yet again. “Look, I get that you’re really into humping me, but I’m not going to let you hump me . . . no matter how much you pout,” I told him firmly. He clearly didn’t understand a word I said, however he didn’t try to touch me again, instead, dropping his arms to his sides and looking glum.
“I don’t suppose—“ I started, then realized it was worse than pointless asking him what he supposed. So, after a few seconds of mulling it over while Wolf gazed at me longingly, still hard, and sticking straight up like a flagpole, I came to a decision. I stepped away from the tree and held out the hand that wasn’t clamped around the handle of the basket.
Wolf looked down at my hand and up at me, questioningly. Then down at my hand and up at me again. I leaned closer to him, him shaking my hand out a little, like a fisherman shakes a lure to get the attention of especially dense fish.
Wolf stared at it for nearly a minute before looking at his own hand—dirty . . . like, really dirty. Beyond-the-help-of-Purell dirty—and holding it out near mine. Shuddering, I silenced my not-so-inner germaphobe and took his hand. It was warm and calloused and strangely gentle as it closed around mine. He looked up at me surprised and questioning.
“I’m taking you with me to my grandmother’s house. She’ll know what to do,” I said decisively, tugging on his hand to get him to walk in the direction I’d been walking in before the howls had started.
The howls. . . .
As Wolf and I started walking, I glanced at him, wondering if he’d been the one who was chasing me and howling—I mean, I’d thought it was a wolf, but what if it’d been, well, Wolf? He had, after all, come bursting out of the bushes from whence the last how had come. . . .
He looked at me and grinned. “EH-ric.”
“Were you. . . ?” I began, then shook my head. What would be the point of asking? He either wouldn’t understand or wouldn’t be able to answer. And even though he appeared to be some wild-man, how likely was it that he’d been chasing me and howling like a wolf? “Never mind. Just . . . come with me.”
“Come,” Wolf agreed, his eyes flickering as he looked me over, nostrils flaring, and I blushed, thinking he couldn’t have just made a double entendre, right?
“Grandma’s house,” I said flatly, hurrying our pace. Once we got to the road, it’d be easy enough to find my way there. And once there, my Gran could help me solve the problem of Wolf and what to do with him.
“Gran house,” Wolf agreed once more, licking his lips, and grinning and grinning. And I shuddered, wondering and wondering. . . .