After a joke or two, he asked, “Can you come to the house right away?” His voice had changed.
Concerned, I replied, “Sure, Tom. On my way.” I hung up the phone and run for the front door as I told Mae bye. I never heard her response when I went out the door and to the car in the driveway.
It had begun to rain when I rolled into the driveway and parked, finding both Tom and Mac outside with Jason in rainsuits. I hopped out, then sort of skipped over to see what was going on. Tom seemed angry when he turned around and saw me.
“Damn it,” he swore, looking up the road while shoving his hands into his front pockets.
Stopping at the corner of the porch, I asked Jason, who was pacing, “What’s up?”
He stopped pacing without looking up, moaning, “Willa called me this morning and said Daniel didn’t come home last night.” He glared down the road before pacing again.
Confused, I asked, “Does that mean what I think it does?” Jason nodded yes and nothing more.
Thoughtless, I grabbed Tom by the arm and swung him around in a jerking motion to face me.
Gritting his teeth, he said, “Yeah, Luke. It does.” He coughed, pulling a cell phone from one of his front pants pocket. He dialed a number and waited for only a second or two, then said, “He’s on the loose. Get Ben and the boys together.” He puts the phone back in his pocket.
Mac stepped in, asking, “Do you two want to join the hunt? We’ve got to find him ASAP, Luke.”
“Is this for real or a test?” I grunted.
Jason stopped pacing, grabbed me by the arm, and said, “I know you don’t know him like I do, but he’s in trouble right now. I know I joke but not at times like these. So please.” His eyes watered and his grip tightened.
Gulping hard, I asked with a shaky voice, “Can we find him in this rain?”
“We’re sure as hell gonna try. Y’all cumin’?” Tom contested, stepping toward Jason’s Ford.
I saw Jason motion yes when he released my arm. Tom turned, going to the passenger side of the truck, grabbing the handle. “Well, let’s go, boys. Jason, your truck was built for this,” he said, opening the door. Mac left us and went inside. Jason shook his wet head and scurried over to the driver side while I jumped in the back just as the engine came to life.
“Okay, Jason, let’s ride,” I yelled, slapping the top of the truck with the palm of my hand. He put the old Ford in gear and began to drive in the direction that Tom had mentioned.
The rain stung my face and arms, but my mind was on why Daniel had ran off. God, I hoped he wasn’t doing that call-of-the-wild thing. “Please, Daniel. Don’t, my friend,” I prayed in silence. Jason was right when he said ”’I didn’t know Daniel as well as he did,”’ but I had come to like both as welcomed friends. I braved the stinging rain as we sped along in search of any trace of Daniel while thunder rolled off in the distance. It didn’t take long for the rain to become heavier, with a storm building and lightning striking in the sky. When a clap of thunder awoke, the truck vibrated, making me sit down with my back against the cab, listening to the wet pavement under the tires.
I wiped water from my face when I noticed two other trucks rounded the bend of the road behind us. They kept their distance, but I could see several heads sticking up over the cabs. I slid over to the passenger side and leaned over to the window.
Tapping on the glass, I asked, “Where we going right now?”
“Up over the mountain,” Tom replied,grinning and pointing his finger toward the windshield. “It’s going to be a hell of a ride, so settle in.” I nodded and faced the rear of the truck in thoughts of why, how, and when it happened.
My thoughts were trying to reason why Daniel would do such a thing when I heard the commotion up front. I half turned to look through the back glass and windshield to see a large dog run across the road heading north.
I heard Tom almost scream at Jason, “That looks like him. Floor it, kid!” I watched Jason hands grip the wheel while he stepped on the pedal, and the truck picked up speed. Grabbing the side of the truck bed, I rose to my feet and glared over the roof, ignoring the stinging rain. I tried to get a glimpse of the animal when the other two trucks roared past us. They split up just at the next fork in the road. I slid down with my back to the cab in thoughts of Daniel and me when I first met him and Jason on that chilly morning.
My mind was clouded when Tom opened the sliding window, startling me. I half rose in a turn to stick my head inside.
“He may go to the park first, then up to the Hollow. We’ll start there.” He turned back to face the road.
“Where’s Mac?” I kind of yelled.
Tom widened that smile. “You’ll see him in about…now.” His grin widened when he looked over Jason toward the driver door. My glance followed his finger, and in that instant, around the curve ahead of us was a wolf hauling ass like it had fire on it. Not realizing who it was, I stared.
The brute was so quick that it didn’t stop when it came sliding around the rear of the truck, losing its grip and falling into a roll. But in the same instance, grabbing a hold with its back legs, it leaped up, covered in red mud, and plowed through it up along Jason’s side of the truck.
Jason rolled down the window for Tom. “Looks like he’s headed for the park first,” he said with a point of the finger. When the wolf sort of growled, it turned toward the woods and was gone. I watched Jason’s eyes, knowing he too was in dismay.
“Why is he running anyway, Tom? He needs our help right?” I stuttered.
Tom turned around in the seat, looking me in the eyes. “As we talked about it at the fort, when you first became fully changed, you felt this need to run with the wild in you. We told you three that we refer to it as ‘call of the wild.’ You are carefree, and there’s a hunger that pulls at your senses. It tells you to come and see, to be as free with it always; it’s soothing to you, but you have to fight the dark hand of temptation.”
“This temptation, Tom, is it stronger than the deer at the fort?”
“Much more than you can dream of when it leads and you follow, like if you lead a horse to the water when it is thirsty. Better yet, a drug. And if we can’t catch him soon, he’ll become savage with little or no way of turning back.” Dropping his glance, he turned back in his seat, facing the road.
I felt my heart sink as a lump came into my throat. I swallowed hard with the thought that I could possibly lose a friend to the need. Bitter with anger, I whirled around and sat down with my back to the cab and lightly cried out, “Great Spirit, what’ll happen to me? If I’m this huge thing they have raved about, how will they stop me?”
Out of nowhere, my head cried, “I am your companion, and they aren’t.”Shaking it off,I thought of Jason and quickly looked back in the window into the rear-view, seeing his eyes water. He must have thought the same thing as well. We spent the day searching for Daniel but coming up empty.
Night found me with my wasted mind scattered when the truck came to a sudden sliding halt that threw mud up over the side. Grabbing the side rail, I leaned over to see several wolves guarding one over another along the north side of the road. In the distance, I felt others watching me from the trees, waiting.
I placed a hand on the necks of the two wolves at my sides as I stared at the young man in the truck. He was, as father had said, magnificent. We stepped back, fading into the dark when he glanced our way.
Tom yelled for me, getting out of the truck, “Get the rope.” I got up, retrieving the rope I had been sitting on and jumped over the side.
Jason came to my left as we walked toward the animals. “We have visitors out there.”
“Yeah, I noticed them too.” I never looked over my shoulder, feeling my back being bored into.
There were many others, I gathered were clan members, that I could see on our approach to the animals when some began to change back to human form the closer we got.
Written by Patsy Deppe, author of Waya’s Chosen