by Max V. Carp
“They should have left him there in the glacier, where they found him. But they dug out the body and made a circus of it, sent it to labs and museums, and within months everyone involved was dead, one strange accident after another,” he said. “You don’t mess with things like this. There’s a curse, always a curse,“ he said.
“Why do you think that is?” I asked. He was talking about the body of an ancient man found frozen in some Alps. A hunter-gatherer from thousands of years ago preserved in a man-sized lollipop and now I’m supposed to believe he had a curse on him that killed all the people he came in touch with? I’m not a cave woman. So, no.
“A man’s death is sacred,” he said. “You don’t know what happened, the reason he came to be there at that moment. I wonder what he was thinking, what gods he was praying to?”
He’d been regressing even before I asked him for a divorce. I don’t mean he was turning into a primate, though judging by his reaction you’d be forgiven for thinking so. His headspace seemed to reshape according to a time and place during his childhood, growing up in a remote village at the outskirts of Europe. We’d been married for nine years and I maybe heard him talk about his early days once or twice, stories about hunting in the woods or fishing, all ending with some dead creature. Can’t recall the details. I figured he’d willfully forgotten those days because he was an orphan. He still looked normal on the outside but his mind was now living in the middle Neolithic. Every day now was some kind of celebration. Always something to do with Nature and its cycles or, worse, animals. Not the fuzzy kind either. No to cats and bunnies and squirrels. Yes to bears and wolves.
The weekend after Thanksgiving we holed up in a log cabin up in Spokane for a last hurrah and it didn’t go well. He walked up, stark naked, to the window and opened it, letting the cold air own the room. “Tonight is a special night. The wind carries them. Can you hear’em?” he asked. I laid there shivering and took a guess, “Coyotes?” He shook his head, “Wolves, Cali girl. It’s wolves.” I tossed a log into the fireplace and felt the rush of heat on my face. “What’s so special about tonight?” I asked. He was staring in the distance at something only he could see. “It’s a magical night. The holy ones take rein over the chaos and a New Year begins. They pull the veil between the worlds and the packs of wolves, hear’em out, they howl at the holy ones to give them the names of their prey for the year to come. Nothing is happenstance.” He reached into his backpack and pulled a sprig of basil out of a ziploc bag. “Put this under your pillow tonight and in your dream you’ll see the face of the man you’re supposed to be with.”
“New Year’s not for another month,” I said. He tossed a coat over his bare shoulders, his only protection against the elements, then stepped out into the cold night and said, “Tell that to the wolves.” Like many times before, he was gone before I had a chance to stop him.
At last I fell asleep. While under the influence, I dreamed I was a lone wolf, old and tired and hungry, wading through snow up to my neck, searching for a pack but none would have me. I fed on carcasses hoping to last the winter and one night, a full moon in the sky, I laid down at the foot of a giant sycamore tree. I could see my breath in the cold air, getting fainter by the hour until I could feel a presence near me and I instantly knew who it was. They were telling me that no more names were given me for prey and then, as if for the first time, I awoke to the rattle of the icicled pine needles just outside my window, clinking against each other in the morning breeze, sounding like wind chimes.
Max V Carp resides in Los Angeles, where he is currently shopping his first novel. His short fiction has appeared in several publications including, most recently, Sunspot Literary Journal.