Sunday Things: The Circumstances Under Which I Became Acquainted With the Wolf



Photography, The Wall, by Annette Marie Hyder

Advice the Autumn Crone Gave Me On Climbing the Wall
By Annette Marie Hyder
(from the Night Fairytales series)

Continued from previous installment.

The wolf. Gnar by name and a great friend of mine. But not at first.

It was almost like cheating at cards, the
thrill I felt in knowing I shouldn’t be talking to him but doing it
anyway. I wanted to best him at his own game, mark his territory with my
scent, give him a wolf-pants wedgie supreme, one he’d never forget.

I
found him when I finally got to the other side (in what was by my
accounting) a full week later. I couldn’t detect the rising and the
setting of the sun while I was climbing the wall. It seemed a place or
thing out of time’s path — impervious to its flow. I counted the days
by my periods of rest in which I wrapped myself tightly in the kudzu and
tied my waist to the branches covering the wall with some of the
spiderweb stories I’d gathered. The spiderweb stories seemed to have the
strength of ten men if not more and to be near unbreakable. I ate berries which appeared fortuitously as I climbed, drank from the cold
clear rivulet that meandered down the wall and ate sabmel from my hip
pack but remained hungry and unsatisfied. I attributed this to some
property of the wall and its influence on me.

Finally reaching
the top I found the eagle of actuality there just as the Autumn crone
had predicted. This eagle was a thing of shadow, an insubstantial bird
of prey whose lack of definition filled me with pity. I don’t know why
it’s blurred edges and murkiness affected me so but there it is. I felt a
compelling need to give the eagle not just one story, not just the
right story, but every single story I had on me.

It was at this
point that the eagle spoke to me in a slurry whisper and said, “Choose
well, child, for your choice will sharpen me.”

At those words the thought came to me of sharp talons and blade-like beak and the image of those well-defined and next to me gave me quite a healthy pause in my
deliberations. Maybe a nice soft spiderweb story, one to blunt the
eagle’s talons and dull the dangerous razor sharpness of his beak?

I had the perfect spiderweb story for such a thing. It made my fingers feel numbed when I brushed them up against it.

I
reached for what I thought of as the blunt-numb spiderweb story but
found myself, against my own feelings for self-preservation, closing my
hand around its opposite.

The web I chose bit my hand as I
touched it, bringing quick tears of pain to my eyes and sending a buzz of
shock up my arm that fluttered my heart. A sharp spiderweb story, a
wounding one too, at least for me, but the one that felt right for the
eagle’s needs. And that is why I chose it. I wanted to choose the right
story — not something to serve my own desires (safety, a lack of sharp
things in my general vicinity) but the spiderweb story that would see
the eagle’s true potential met in actuality.

And I must have
chosen wisely because immediately upon giving the eagle the story, I
found myself standing on the ground on the other side of the wall.

And
not only did I find a dragon (a small one as dragons go, about the size
of a pony, but don’t let something like size fool you) waiting there
for me on the other side of the wall but a great wolf sitting there as
well, his fur dark black but shining bright to my eye. Yes, it took me
aback, a dragon and a great wolf sitting side by side, most
companionably.

“I’m Gnar,” said the great wolf. I didn’t reply
with my name as I have always been taught that the giving of such is the
giving of too much power into the hands of another.

Instead, I
pulled golden leaves tied with worsted wool threads from my hair. I
approached the dragon with a small hoard of leaves, gold coinage in this
realm, and prepared to give them to him.

“You won’t do as the Autumn Crone said and let him eat them from your hair?” said Gnar.

“No. I don’t want him to eat a strand of my hair with the leaves.” I said.

“Even though the Autumn crone said it would be ok?” Gnar said.

“Yes. Even though the Autumn crone said it would be ok. I can’t feel at ease with that and so I won’t do it.” I said.

I
watched with satisfaction as the small dragon flicked his tongue out in
dainty fashion and snagged the whole hoard with one swipe.

“I
see you are a girl with a mind of her own. I like that about you,” Gnar
said, with his big wolfish tongue lolling out after he said it as
though he were having a laugh.

“Well,” he continued “if the
dragon had eaten a strand of your hair it would have given him the
power to find you no matter where you were.”

“Horrible!” I said.

“Ah, but what if he were to be trying to find you in order to help you in your darkest need?” He said.

“Well….” I said feeling crestfallen. “But then, why would he?” I said.

“Who can tell with a dragon?” Gnar said. “But all is for the best,” he added with a sly sideways glance at me.

“Why is that?” I asked.

“Because,”
Gnar said, “now instead of a possible dragon on your tail, because of
the choice you’ve made, you have — me.” Gnar tried, unsuccessfully, to
look modest as he said this.

To be continued.