The snow crunches beneath her paws as she laboriously pushes forward in the storm. Forest trees surround her in the dark, her silver fur glints under the crescent moon, her eye sharp and gray, cunning like the edge of a blade, cruel, like the taunting glint of a diamond one cannot have. Marred flesh cover the spot where her other eye used to be, a reminder of the past that never seems to go away. She is blinded by the ice cold rain, slicing into her back like a million tiny hooks piercing through her skin. She stumbles in the snow, her stick-thin limbs unable to hold her own weight, and the hooks on her back pull, yank, dragging jagged lines across her back. She focuses her eyes on the village she is heading to, pushing through the pain and fatigue and slowly, painstakingly, making her way towards the brightly glowing dot in the distance.
She turns to look back at where she came from, her pawprints already disappearing in the snow. Once again, she starts to doubt her decision, glancing at the empty spaces beside her. If her wolf pack were here then they would help her up when she stumbles, lend her a hand and lead her to safety. Together. If her wolf pack were here then they would help her up, only to push her back down, harder, lend her a hand with a gentle smile and lead her to the edge of a cliff. They would watch with a wicked grin as she topples over, plummeting into the welcoming arms of death, down and down until her body hits the jagged rocks below, her bones splintered, her scarlet blood splattered onto the slick rocks. And then the ocean would do its work and the waves would wash her away, cleaning up the mess, already forgotten.
At least this is what she would do. Push yourself up so you can push others down. Rise before they rise before you. Rise, and to rise alone. The whispers giggle in her head, tiny claws sinking into her brain, poisoning it with a shade not quite black. However, the whispers are the only voices she has heard in days, and their invisible presence is a burden that lifts her up instead of weighing her down.
Nearby, a frozen bush rustles. The white wolf swivels her head in that direction. She hears the sound of snow crunching under paw or feet, and the soft, panicked breaths from her victim…or are there more than one? Her sharp gray eye twitches, and she silently stalks towards the bush. Her hind legs bend, ready for action.
A blur of animal skin darts away from the bush. The desperation for food gives her a burst of energy, and the wolf strikes. Aiming for the neck, her sharp claws piercing through the layers of leather and into its soft skin. She realizes that it was a young girl hiding behind the bush, now skewered by her claws, her screams echoing through the dark, silent night. The girl has silver hair that shines under the moonlight, shifting like the shadows. But what surprises the white wolf the most are the angry red scars covering the skin where her left eye used to be. She looks just like me.
The girl’s friend, the other noise from the bush, manages to get away, desperately running and screaming back towards the village, already forgetting his dying friend. This is what friends do: They leave you behind and cast you out when you need them the most, the whispers giggle excitedly, Go on, finish the job!
The white wolf looks into the girl’s dull gray eye, already draining of life, filled with terror and stupid hope that she will live. The wolf steels her heart, flicking away the silver of vulnerability that had claimed her earlier, then sinks her fangs in the soft flesh of the girl’s neck. She feels the veins and arteries burst as she bites, the sweet, warm trickle of blood running into her mouth. She can’t deny the satisfaction, the delicious smell of blood in the middle of ice.
The white wolf watches as the girl’s bright blue eyes go vacant, their luster dimmed. She could feel the girl’s heartbeat slowing until there is nothing but silence in the dark night. She is once again alone. Good.
The white wolf then drags the body out of the woods, towards the village. Yessss, you did it. Now you can show them who is in control, the whispers say. The wolf grins, and the vengeful darkness in her heart churns, the chittering of the whispers louder, pushing her forward, as she takes step after step, each one closer to ultimate justice revenge.
Once upon a time, a white wolf had a family, a lover, and a pack of friends. Then they betrayed her, and she destroyed them all. The white wolf stopped before the village, let go of the body in her mouth, tilted her head back and howled, long and great and filled with hatred and fury. Now the villagers know. Know she is the enemy, the beast let out of its cage. She is the White Wolf, and she is not afraid.
* * *
Once upon a time, there was a little girl and a little boy who were best friends forever. The little girl once had golden hair and blue eyes before they took it from her, stole her left eye and gave her silver hair. The little boy was unmarked, smooth and beautiful and normal. They grew up together in a cozy village surrounded by the great forest in the South, and the unfathomable ocean in the North. They would always pretend to be magical hunters in the woods, running around, giggling with their sticks as swords, their stones as fireballs. On one unfortunate night, the girl and the boy were playing in the woods, but this time it was different, there was a colder chill in the air. Something was wrong. They hid behind a bush, hoping whatever it was, it would go away soon. For a second, it seems as if their hoping had worked, but then the beast strikes, sinking its claws into the girl’s chest, her screams piercing through the night. The attacker was a huge white wolf with a shining silver coat and one eye, it’s vicious fangs gleaming under the moonlight. Out of terror and disbelief, the little boy got up and ran, too afraid to meet his friend’s dying pleading gaze. Later that night, the wolf emerged from the forest, with the dead girl with silver hair and one eye in its jaws, its eyes two veiled storms of hatred and fury. The wolf drops the girl carelessly to the ground before the village, tilts it’s head up and howled, long and great and filled with hatred and fury. Now the villagers know, know the white wolf who killed the monster marked girl. Now they will build a wall around the village, to keep the monsters out, and the children in.
-The Wall Around the Village, an ancient folktale
The reflection of a whole moon flickers and rolls on the glassy surface of the ocean, sifting with the gentle waves. The night is without stars, the utter blackness of night overwhelming. Dreary clouds drift lazily over the moon, leaving only the outline visible. Stray fragments of light peeking out from the clouds color the night a hazy gray. A lone wolf sits still on the rocky seashore, her glazed eye fixed on the hidden moon. Her silver coat gleams under the light, ever shifting in a million shades of gray.
Deep inside her mind, darkness rises and pools on the clean white tiles of the floor. It is a dark liquid, not quite black, but in-between the shades of gray. The darkness slowly rises, the puddle quickly turning into a river, flooding the hallway. Rings of water expand on the surface as the whispers pound on the doors, their hushed voices taunting: Let us out! Don’t let them in! The doors quiver. The whispers chitter excitedly, waiting for the moment of release. They keep going. Why do you care about them? Fool. We were here for you when they were not. We encouraged you when they pushed you down. So let us out! Let us out! The door splinters, the whispers are almost free. Their screaming overlap one another, the noise bounces off of the walls, every door in the hallway breaking, giving in to the whispers’ demand.
Meanwhile, the darkness flooding the hallway still rises, threatening to drown their screaming. The hallways are now filled with screeches, a mix of wailing and moaning and the anguished sound of suffering. The soundtrack of old memories meant buried deep in the hallways, lost with the turns and dead ends, sealed up tight with 3 doors and 13 locks, now reverberate off of the walls, roaming free in the hallways that were meant to keep them in. The whispers claw at their doors, screaming, crying, begging to come out. With a final crack, the doors burst and the whispers finally break free from their rooms, plunging into the cold darkness, free at last.
Back on the seashore, the white wolf stays still. The waves creep slowly towards the rocky shoreline before running away, the water beating peacefully against the jagged rocks. The clouds pass over the moon, no longer obscuring it, and full moonlight shines on the water, awaking something deep inside. A low rumble shakes the shoreline, and the waves beat against the jagged rocks with crushing force, the rhythmic sound like drums of war pounding in the dead of night.
A soft breeze shakes the white wolf’s fur, and a long, low whistle travels through the wind. Voices rise from the black ocean, carried by the wind. Tears not quite black, but in-between the shades of gray, fill the white wolf’s glazed eye, still fixed on the moon. Tendrils of darkness swirl inside the teardrop, and soft hisses vibrate from it. The tears drip from her snout and fall onto the rocks, bursting when they hit the ground, turning into a small puddle that has its own voice. They hiss and chitter, speaking nonsense or order, but whatever they are saying, it had caused the wolf to stir. She moves. Gets up and leaves her perch on the rocky seashore. She walks towards the ocean, closer and closer still. The voices and whispers grow louder and louder, cheering her on. Her paws touch the water. The coldness seeps into her fur, leeching onto her bones, it’s small claws gripping and stabbing, never planning to let go. The white wolf steps deeper into the ocean, eye still fixed on the luminous moon. The water rises to her chest, the voices and whispers screaming for her to go on. The water rises to her snout, to her unblinking eye. She goes under. And stays. The voices and whispers stop, the waves once again gentle, the moon less bright, the air still. The night resumes back to its hazy gray.
But wolves can’t breathe in the water.
* * *
Inside my mind, darkness rises and pools on the clean white tiles of the hallway. It is a dark liquid, not quite black, but in-between the shades of gray. It turns from a puddle into a river, chasing me as I try to escape. The darkness touches my bare foot. It is ice, cold like the whispers that haunt you in your sleep, like the monsters hiding under your bed, like the vicious darkness within that waits with open jaws to swallow you whole. The darkness rises to my ankle, my knees, my waist, my shoulders, and finally it pushes me under. I try to swim up, but already I am drowning. The walls of the hallway disappear, replaced by an infinite blackness. I realized I am in the ocean and the waves are dragging me down, and the hands of darkness are claiming me and all the life boats are deflating and all the buoys are sinking and I can’t swim and I won’t swim I am sinking… I am dying in the never-ending hallway of my own mind, swept up in the chaos of darkness. I will not die I will die. Because they have bound my wrists and ankles together, threw me in the ocean to drown. Because I am trapped in a rusty metal cage 204 meters down, and I can’t break out. I’m plummeting into a dark place, an empty world. I’m a feature in the current, submerged until I’m all gone.
* * *
When will I be free? I often wonder this, sitting in the middle of my glass cage bubble with a porcelain mask over my face. People walk around my bubble, ignoring it because I am invisible because they have other things to attend too. Occasionally, a person or two would stop by and peer into my glass bubble, smiling or just simply curious at what is inside. But for most of the time, I am left alone with my thoughts, with the doubt and hatred creeping up, stepping out of the shadows when the sun goes down.
Why am I such a coward? Why can I shatter this glass cage? Why do I always live in the fear of hurting myself when I break out? That the glass will slice my skin and I will bleed and die? Because there is always a thief, a thief who will steal all the stars that light up your sky, until you are surrounded by darkness, forever alone. The whispers battle with their words, stabbing and hurting, waging war with the bit of light in my being.
I stand up from my seat in the cage. Today is the day, where I will not back down and I will not let the whispers empower me ever again. I walk towards the glass and pound on it with all my might, each blow of my hands creating web-like cracks on the glass. It’s stupid really, to think this 1 cm piece of glass is separating me from a life. I pound and scream and kick for days, until I lose track, until my throat is parched and raw, hands red and bloody, feet swollen and oozing…But I will not give up; I will break free.
At last, the prison shatters, the glass that seemed so menacing and sharp, now a glittering confetti shower, catching the light from the setting sun. I breathe in and out, and step over the threshold.
Outside is an unfiltered world. I don’t see it through the glass, not ever again, but I see the truth. And it’s breathtaking. Beautiful. I try to take another step forward, to savor the precious moments of freedom, but I can’t.
It starts with a tingling in my heart. Then a numbing cold seizes my body, captures me in its frozen embrace. I can’t move, my feet stuck on the ground just outside of my prison. My heart feels like it’s turning into stone, hardening and cracking before finally splitting in half. Then sensations come flooding in. A whole river. An ocean, bursting into my body. Pain grips my throat, choking me, strangling me until I can’t breathe. My body turns colder. I claw to stay in the warmth of my conscious mind, my nails digging and scratching and finding purchase, but I lose my grip and plunge into the depths of my callous heart…And then a burst of a blackness so dark and vicious jolts me awake, blowing up from my chest, and into the approaching night beyond.
It was the darkness that saved me at the end. The darkness that is now part of the night, the shadows, the darkest corners of the universe. My mask shatters, falling from my face and breaking into a million pieces. They catch on fire as the sun disappears, the last bit of warmth fading away. I stand alone, with the shattered remains of my mask, the last embers winking out of existence. I look back at the prison that once held me in fear, now broken, the glass a harmless pile of confetti at my feet. For once maybe I am free. I am not afraid to break out of my glass prison. I am alone I am an individual. I need help to break free I am strong, and I will rise. Alone.
* * *
Somewhere in the night, a white wolf howls, long and great and filled with joy. She is alone in the night, silver fur shifting with the shadows. She is alone, and free.
Somewhere in the shadows, a darkness not quite black, but in-between the shades of gray, slithers down the rocky beach. Whispers call at its wake, a trail of moaning and suffering waiting to infect someone else. The darkness slithers to meets the wailing ocean, calling for its lost child. It gingerly sinks in, finally, ultimately, returning home.
Somewhere in one of the rooms in her mind, or a rusty metal cage 204 meters down, she is continuing to fill her paper with breathings of her heart. She is still fighting the whispers coming from the other rooms, banging on the doors to be let out, still trying to swim when the hallways are flooded. She is trying to be oblivious to her peer’s protests about her writing. But she is trying. Trying to not hide the scars that make her beautiful, the vicious darkness within. And sometimes, trying is all that matters in this bleak world. She could be the weak little girl with silver hair and a lost eye, or the ferocious white wolf—but she still doesn’t know. And perhaps that is the beauty in living a life.
–By Christina Ma