Originally written as a short story for Garrett Monroe, one of my dearly appreciated pledger on the ONE MAN AND HIS DOGMA Kickstarter. Garrett provided me the title and the challenge was to write a bespoke short story up to 5000 words.
The Great Wolf was stalking around inside my head for some time... I hope i unleashed him as he deserves.
Dedicated to Garrett Monroe – With eternal thanks for your support.
Every time Daniel opened the door he saw the shadow and he heard the growl, before the same padded, heavy-footed lumber could be heard on creaking floorboards approaching the door.
The rumble and terror of the glottal in the animals throat growing like an approaching motorbike.
But, like, a motorbike with froth dripping from the exhaust that was red with blood and had teeth the size of a candy bar.
A furry motorbike, with legs instead of wheels, and deep green eyes that had a distance awe and horror hiding within them instead of headlights, and was a wolf - and indeed – not a motorbike at all...
Daniel was not very good at metaphors.
He shut the door with a sighed breath of fear.
He rested against it and cradled himself and rested his head back against the dark stained wood.
He could hear the creature beyond striding backwards and forward, and – for a moment – could hear it breathing, snorted breathes under the wooden doors half-inch wide gap between door and floorboards.
He span backwards and rested wearily against the wall opposite the door, reached up and flicked off the light in his hallway.
He was there alone now, in the dark, watching the shadow stood behind the door, the light between the floorboard and soft dark fabric draft excluder painting the shadow of the giant creature into the dark hallway, the shadow moving as the animal strode back and forth.
Occasionally stopping to sniff the floor, snorting steam and smoke under the crack like some demented hell beast.
Daniel whimpered in anxious terror.
He shimmied and slid further down the corridor, holding his potato peeler out in a defensive prod before him.
What damage he thought he could do with this ridiculous weapon, he had no idea, but – it was all he was brave enough to yield against the ghostly horror that stalked his corridor and was stopping him from getting out into the real world.
And – thus – kept him trapped inside this apartment day after day after day.
Clinging to whatever fragile and tenuous threads of reality and sanity he had left.
They were fast running out and he was on an accelerated decline into severe mental health breakdown and a prolonged stay at shady acres.
Daniel knew this. But what could he do to remedy the situation when the Great Wolf stopped him from leaving his home?
And so, potato peeler in hand, he made occasional forays into the hallway to see if there was any escape route yet available, and he smoked.
Twenty or thirty cigarettes a day. Enough his lungs were black charcoal slabs that wheezed and moaned and gasped endlessly.
Daniel liked the heavy breath and shrug of his chest when he was forced to take deep lumbering chugs of air to escape the noise of the animal behind the door.
He had tasted fresh air once and it had damn well made him heave into a bush, puce streams of vomit that cascaded from his mouth and nostrils and made him unable to smell for a few days.
He was happy with being an in-doors time, well – until recently – when cabin fever had set in…
Often, when running away from the growl and stomp of the Great Wolf outside his door, Daniel would lock himself naked in the bathroom, hiding in the tub, under duvets he had dragged in from the bedroom – which he was certain was being monitored by his boss at the insurance call centre, from which he was on an extended leave of absence due to personal reasons.
Daniel would hide under the duvet, the damp porcelain of the bath under his back soaking him and making him cold even as the blanket tried to keep him warm, and he would write journal entries by torch light explaining his quandary.
The wolf is outside the door again today.
He sounds bigger than ever.
I woke this morning to his heavy breathing and the snorted venom of his lungs blowing under the crack, dust and disease blown high into the altitude of my flat, mixing with my oxygen. Polluting my breathing air…
He is trying to flush me out by making my atmosphere unbreathable.
I am onto him.
The four legged bastard.
I am going to try and escape this afternoon – I think I will have the best chance around tea time, when he gets hungry and realizes he cannot break into the flat, he will inevitably go stalking for meat elsewhere…
This is when I will run to the elevators, take the express to the lobby, sprint to the revolving doors (everyone knows wolves cannot operate revolving doors) and then make good my escape by taxi to the grocers…
And there – I will feast like a king.
I am so bored of pasta and water.
And so the entries went.
39 days inside the apartment had sent him stir crazy.
But – really – Daniel was no better outside.
The people made him edgy and twitchy. The city made his skin feel like he had allergies. The traffic scared him in ways the Wolf could never touch.
Daniel was a panophobic mess.
Yet, here he was, master of his own destiny, wanting to get out and breathe the unique city air again and feel granite and concrete under his toes, rather than splintered wood and dusty linoleum.
If only for that bastard Wolf.
He crawled out of the bath, and gripped his potato peeler tight in his hand, edged nervously toward the door in the darkness of his apartments hallway. A short conduit between his lounge - which was a pizza box strewn warzone full of full ashtrays, half drank cups of coffee (in the middle of becoming ecological growth pens, cultivating several different strains of mold and fungus, some of which had names) with journals scribbled on scraps and folds of paper, littered and thrown on every surface and his bathroom, from where he made his exit.
In between was a small open gap, which lead to his kitchenette, a tiny box room with an oven and a fridge and little else, that smelled of damp and garbage.
As he walked down the hallway, he turned off each light, quietly.
When he got to the door, the shard of light crept into the dark passage from the corridor beyond, under the crack by the floorboard.
There was silence.
No breathing or low rumbled growl.
It was quiet and still.
Daniel put his potato peeler down and gently and as calmly as he could he put on his torn and soiled Converse, he reached over to the shoe rack and resting on top was a fur hooded anorak which he put both arms into, and shrugged it on, he reached for his beanie that was resting on a hook by the door.
He pulled up the hood and tentatively he reached out for the handle of the door, turned his key gently as calm and silently as he could.
The click-clack of the door was amplified in his mind by a billion percent – and he felt sure that the entire complex could hear the mechanism turning and unbolt.
But – importantly – there was no reaction from outside.
The Great Wolf seemed to be conspicuous with his absence.
This made Daniel nervous and eager in equal measure and with panicky, sweaty hands, he turned the brass handled doorknob, opened the door the faintest of cracks, the noise of the creaking and sighing door was like cannons going off in the middle of the night, like a million critics tutting at a bad movie.
But the Great Wolf was not there…
He allowed himself a smile, and poked his head out of the door gently and slow and looked up and down the corridor, scanning the hallway for traps or the telltale shadow and huff of the beast.
Daniel removed the key and closed the door as softly as he could and stood flat against his door.
He began to shimmy against the wall edging toward the elevators.
Once opposite, and still with no sign of the Great Wolf anywhere, he bounced from the wall with a push and took up a flat position on the wall opposite the two art deco elevator doors, his index finger angrily and incessantly pushing the CALL button.
The elevator made the BING noise that marked its arrival at each floor.
Daniel looked at the hallway left and right and could not see where the noise came from. He bounced off the wall and faced the two elevators, his potato peeler tight in his right hand, his keys – in case of emergency reversal of this plan – in his left.
The elevators carried on their journey.
Daniel was sweating heavily now.
He looked down the corridor and could see his door, two hundred meters or so away and outside of the door was sat, massive and shaggy, dark furred and foamy mouthed, red eyed and with steam rising from it like some demented Baskerville hellhound that was on the verge of flame – the Great Wolf.
It looked at Daniel with hungry intent, Daniel looked right back – his eyes wide and terrified.
How stupid he was to think he could escape and it to be so easy after 39 days of terror and harassment.
He fumbled for the potato peeler and instead raised his key in a threatening stab motion. His brain and his body were arguing with each other in clumsy handed dread, he looked down at his hand and realized he was holding out his key…
he fumbled to put the key in his pocket and hold out his peeler with threatening intention, but it was too late, the Wolf was already on the move.
Daniel froze to the spot and could feel the first spot of warm urine on his khakis as he pissed himself with fear.
As the Great Wolf was upon him he reflexively threw both key and peeler at the beast and then wondered why on Earth he had done something so stupid.
Both things bounced off the leathery skin under the blood stained matted fur like Daniel had thrown a ball of paper. There was no damage; no sign the monster had even registered the gesture.
As the Great Wolf was ready to pounce, his teeth bared and his glottal growl building to a violent crescendo in his throat, the BING sound went loudly in Daniels left ear, and the elevator door opened, he jumped in and the Great Wolf just missed his right shoulder in the leap. Daniel could feel the displacement of air as he fell in a fumbled jump toward the elevator portal.
Daniel smashed on the floor and threw out his hand onto console and pressed every button he could his fingers on to get the elevator moving.
The doors slowly closed with a jarring stagger, Daniel huddled with his knees tights against him against the back wall below the mirror and he saw the Great Wolf turn and face him snarling as the doors closed.
He had escaped…
As the doors began to shut, and the Great Wolf was unable to make any move to get him Daniel allowed himself a victory gesture, raised a single middle finger to the Great Wolf as the doors finally closed and mouthed a silent:
The Great Wolf saw it.
He would remember it.
Daniel did not care.
The elevator was moving and he was on his way to the ground and daylight.
Finally free… Finally safe… Finally…
The elevator shook, huge clunking noises and the sound of grinding gears and machinery. It gave a violent shake and then stopped moving.
The console lit up, every button illuminated and then suddenly, the whole box went quiet and dark as the electrics were cut.
It shook one last angry time, and then stalled, motionless.
The sound of creaking, groaning and the feint sound if tapping could be heard.
Daniel looked up at the roof of the elevator, and a small red emergency light came on. He stood, nervously and cautiously. Holding onto the rail around the mirrored walls tightly.
He opened the emergency phone panel.
All that was inside was a bare cable with exposed wires at the end.
There was a piece of paper with scrawled black writing it read:
IOU 1 PHONE
He screwed the paper up in his hand and threw it ineffectively against the mirror and slammed the panel shut. He looked up at the small LED camera and waved frantically, but, the light was not on and it was a dead feed.
So he sat back down again and he put his head in his hands.
Sighed and then nervously chuckled to himself.
“At least there was no Great Wolf in here.” – he thought to himself.
“Small mercies.” - He added.
And then the scratching came.
Every panel. Every surface. Every wall.
Chittering noises, and flapping.
A violent swell and shake of something flapping and beating the outside of the elevator - with it - a high pitched screech, the cawing of several hundred, possible a thousand or more, birds of prey.
Daniel threw his arms out to steady himself, he crouched, and stared at the surfaces of the little prison he found himself in and he heard and felt the whole cube was surrounded by the birds of nightmares.
Flapping and pecking and cawing and screeching and screaming for his bones and blood.
Daniel realized then that maybe - just maybe – there were worse things than wolves.
And he closed his eyes, pulled his hood over his head, and lay fetal, hoping that the sound would end, that the lights would come on and he could just live his life in normality again…
But he knew, deep down – even as the birds pecked and clawed and dug their way through panels of thin metal that presented no barrier or problem to their razor sharp beaks and talons. Even as he heard the first beaks chip and break through the faux wood panels and the mirrors surrounding him broke and smashed with the flutter and craw of Ravens and Crows and birds a dozen times bigger – that he would was doomed.
This was his curtain call.
The Great Wolf was always followed by the Carrion birds.
That though he had escaped the tooth, he would never escape the beak.
And as the birds burst through the paneled wood and thin metal and flooded the elevator and dive-bombed the poor broken man inside.
Daniel realized that with birds flying and swooping and taking stabs at his eyes, he would never see normal ever, ever again.