A Non-fictive Fairy Tale by Zane Johnson
An aging boy of unhindered wit lives in the some-man’s-land where the desert and chaparral exchange the spoils of riverbed and shrubbery. When it rains, the boy wears old shoes and a duster the color of dill, and in sunlight, the size of his frame fills the coat with a sense of something sinister. His lover, still very much a girl, scrunches her nose and banishes the duster when the sky is clear. The wolf does not care.
Bobbing in a sea of yarn, the girl weaves. Ancestors of those living on the reservation a mile south once told histories on the loom – culture in cotton rivulets – and recorded great events, and they passed. Now, the girl tells epic tales of lines as they conquer other lines, marking the immortal milestones of plaid.
She sighs, stretches, and sinks, wondering if the women of tapestry weave in silence, or storytelling at the loom is as ancient a pastime. One woman of Greek myth peddled tales of self-grandeur, woven silks that could thrill the gods. She trailed this particular yarn to a goddess in disguise. Now, the only yarns she has to weave are of her own sticky spider silk. Probably worth it, the girl decides, with the running price of yarn.
A short wall behind the boy’s mother’s apartment complex, built to separate the wild from the civil, wilts at the first hint of storm. The once blue sky breaks into dingy cotton quilts and leaks, and after only a moment, water topples over the wall to replenish the some-man’s-land. The small Mexican Gray wolf sips from the new stream, and then takes the wall in a bound. He shelters himself in the duster and licks the remnants of puddles from his paws.
Strings trail about the room. The girl feigns consciousness as long, thin fingers pluck at the fabric, fixing spirals into cotton rays like a carpenter affixing shelves to studs. She straightens, loosening a burgeoning hunch. In this motion, she does not notice the pain, the shallow pin-prick in the small of her back, the slackening twitch at the edge of her eye. Unconsciously, she scratches her side, and presses the wisps trailing from her fingertips into the new yarn.
She glances toward her side table and remembers the wolf. It has been a short while, and she recalls its tiny paws padding against the pavement, its little snout, ruffled and roused by appetite. She remembers the yips as she first held the boy’s hand, how persistent they were, how daring. The girl smiles to herself, picturing the wolf pup, forgetting how quickly dogs grow.
By the time the boy takes notice, it has cleared a decent hollow in his back. The wolf’s snout rests in a wolf-bitten crevice. The boy rocks his hips from side to side, adjusting the creature. The boy straightens and starts toward work.
At the theater, the boy removes his coat and examines himself in the bathroom mirror. He looks no different with the protruding hind legs, so he hangs his jacket and begins. When he clocks in, the wolf withdraws and nips at the time sheet. The boy shoos him, and begins setting up concessions. The wolf withdraws and nips at the cash drawer. The boy shoos him, and finishes sweeping the floor. The wolf withdraws and nips at the popcorn. The boy shoos him, and closes up the theater. His stomach’s growl plays bass to the wolf’s howl and the refrain bellows all the way home.
The cold tiles lick the girl’s feet as she enters the kitchen, awakened by the thought of the wolf. She thinks of feeding the pup, the clicking of tiny paws on concrete as it retreats into the wilderness. She sends some words to the boy, a short message, a bit for the wolf to lick from her lips, not knowing it’s only a taste for such a creature.
There’s something like a nerve pain in the girl’s lower back. She looks around the house for someone to take a look. The house is empty. The pain is deep.
The girl feels something connecting herself and the boy – something inside her, and it always has been. She has known about this something for such a long time that she’s learned to use it, like scaffolding. She wishes the boy could do the same.
Over days, an ache grows as the wolf devours more of the boy. Paws and snout enter the boy’s abdominal cavity, trailing a furry belly withered by abstinence. The wolf hears the sucking insistence of the boy’s heart. The boy, wearied by the wolf’s pestering, gives, and the wolf enters the meat suit with pleasure and excitement. The wolf, unused to such long legs, staggers at first, but makes its way to the laptop in time. It takes a seat as it has taken the boy, narrowly missing the wagging tail. The wolf summons a site and solicits an accomplice.
The girl persists, reveling in the joy of the holiday season. Family surrounds her, and the ache fades. The girl misses the boy, but she speaks to him, and the pin-pricks in her abdomen fall dormant. She likes the boy, his sweetness and wit. She likes him, and she thinks she can make him happy.
Climax approaches, and the boy and wolf pant. The wolf steers the boy, now, throwing the boy’s hips harder into the accomplice, ignoring the money on the dresser, the cracks in the wallpaper. Both the wolf and the boy train their focus on the petite blonde, the wolf clenching the boy’s hands around her hips. On the drive home, the boy scolds himself. He hadn’t even cum, so it wasn’t even worth it.
Months pass, and winter becomes summer. The girl’s pain subsides, and she feeds the full-grown wolf. The two tend to the wolf as best they can, and without warning, they fall in love. The girl leaves for the summer months. The boy remains, bouncing between his father’s and mother’s, trying to cope without his girl, a means of escape, the sustenance for the wolf.
The boy’s back is nearly healed when the wolf returns. It sniffs the closed wound, searching for weakness. The boy feels the wolf’s teeth rake over the fragile skin, and a ribbon of warm blood runs into his sock. The wolf finds room for his head and paws. Pain blossoms through the boy’s form like petals on Mesquite, and he pants. He wants to lie down, to sleep, but the wolf won’t let him. Carnivorous teeth gnaw and chatter, clinging to his entrails. As the teeth find grip on his pelvis, the boy contracts. He tries to call his love, but there is no answer. He tries again to no avail. He wants to fight the wolf – he needs to fight the wolf – but the pain is too great, and as he falls forward onto hands and knees, the wolf becomes him.
The girl lies prone on her bedroom floor, arms flailed to either side. She wants to stand, to do, to make, but she can’t. She would need assistance for that, and assistance requires another. Fingers invoke a last bit of strength to travel along her back. The hole is not big, but the smell of necrotic flesh billows from the wound, filling her nostrils. Tears and sweat mingle down the bridge of her nose as her hand presses into the slit. She knows, so she doesn’t retreat when two-dozen pins skitter across her palm. She knows, so she doesn’t question the emptiness within her core or the cushy something gathering beneath her nails. She knows, so when she withdraws her hand, wrapped in woven webbing made opaque by abundance, she doesn’t shriek as brown recluse spiders scatter and disappear into the carpet.
The boy and wolf shudder and moan in climax. The wolf retreats and finds its way back to wilderness while the moon is still high. It licks the blood from its paws, nose, and gums. Content, the wolf disappears into the vast night and waits.
The boy reclaims his clothing and thinks of the girl, of what he’s done. He shambles out of the hotel to his truck, mindful of the chasms in his back and wallet, wondering when either will heal. The pale youth of his face sags with thought, and he joins the wolf in the desert’s cool dark.
Zane Johnson is one of the few black fifth-generation Arizonans. She is a student in Creative Writing of Nonfiction at the University of Arizona. She reads a lot of comedy and watches a lot of horror movies, and has been told on many occasions not to use the word “interesting” in lieu of “horrifying and terrible.” This is one of her first publications.