December 3rd, 1937
I wandered the wilderness in wolf-form for fifteen years after Aki left me. I hadn’t bothered to track her down because she obviously didn’t want to be found. As much as it hurt me, I knew I had to let her go in order for her to be the happiest she possibly could be. Once I left my home, I shifted and hadn’t turned back since.
I survived off the land, using my animalistic instincts to guide me through. I released my humanity and became one with nature. It was the only way I could let go of Aki. I simply had to turn it all off. To not feel anything except basic needs and instinct.
I spotted a deer in the distance and crouched in the snow. My black fur stood on end as I crept slowly toward it. The deer glanced up and to its left, away from me. It turned to run, and I sprang after it. As I leaped, a shot rang out in the distance, and the deer fell to the ground. I hit the ground and skidded in the snow as I attempted to turn myself around.
I heard another shot and saw a pile of snow explode beside me. I took off running, zig-zagging between the trees. Another shot fired off, and a tree splintered in front of me. I dashed to the left and into a thicket of brush. Crouched down on my belly, I panted.
I slowed my breathing and quieted my panting as I heard footsteps running through the forest. Then came the voice I hadn’t heard calling my name in fifteen long years.
“Sani!” I heard her call. How did she know it was me? Surely she couldn’t have seen a wolf and thought it was me. “Sani! Come back!”
I had to go to her. She was my love. I came out of the brush to come face-to-face with a young Native American boy carrying a long rifle. He shook his long black hair. It reminded me of mine. He didn’t have much height to him at all, barely standing two feet taller than me as a wolf. The boy was likely Ojibwe, though, if I had tracked my distance correctly over the last few years.
He pointed the gun at me, and I froze. His dark obsidian eyes looked into mine. “Your pelt is going to be beautiful hanging on my wall,” he laughed.
“Sani!” she screamed again. The boy jerked his head and pulled the trigger on his rifle. The bullet hit the ground next to me, and I attacked the boy. I dug my claws into his chest and used my weight to push him down. Once I was on top of him, I reached down and swiped his chest. He screamed as a chunk of flesh came out with my massive claws. I reached down and bit his throat with my jaws.
He struggled to push me off of him as his eyes grew wide. I could see the life leaving the boy’s eyes. I reached my paw up to swipe the boy one more time when I was hit from the side by a rock.
“Get off him, you foul beast!” she shouted at me. I turned and looked to my left. There stood Aki.
I slowly backed off the boy and away from his body. Once I was about twenty paces from the body, I snuck back into the brush and hid. I lowered my body to the ground and looked from under the brush.
Aki knelt over the boy’s body as she stroked his head. Tears were streaming down her cheeks as she cried over the loss of the boy. “My poor Sani,” she whispered as she placed her head against his bloody chest.
She looked up with her blood-stained face and screamed into the sky. “Why would you take my only son?”
I shifted for the first time in fifteen years back into a human. I crawled my way to Aki, trying to relearn how to walk on two legs. Attempting to stand, I collapsed again. Frustrated, I pushed myself up and clawed the ground. Pulling myself slowly out of the brush, I called out for her. “Aki!”
She looked over at me, tears creating passages down the crimson stains. “Sani…”
I pushed myself to my knees and slowly began crawling on my hands and knees toward her. The cold ground was turning my hands and legs a darker shade of purple as the frostbite set in on my naked body. “I’m so sorry, Aki,” I stammered.
“You did this?” She screamed at me. “He was my son!”
A tear slipped down my cheek as it froze against my face. I pushed myself to my feet and took one slow step after another. My arms were outstretched as I moved toward her. “I’ve missed you, my love.”
“Sani!” she screamed a blood-curdling scream. “He was our child!”
My heart sank as the realization hit me. Not only had she named her son after me, but she had a son with me. I had killed my own son. Soon, the world went silent. My heart drumming against my chest was the only thing I could hear. The image of the boy flashed before my eyes. The image of my son.
I collapsed to the ground on my knees, clenching my fists. I roared to the sky as emotions swamped me. I had never felt guilt like this. I had never felt pain like this. Even after Alo’s death, I hadn’t felt like this.
“Why?” I shouted, turning my attention to Aki. “Why did you keep him from me!”
“Because I was afraid of what he might be, Sani!” she screamed back and stood. She pointed at me and began walking. “I had to have my child in a secure place in case he was a skinwalker. We had shamans in the village that would be able to cure him, as I offered to you so many times!”
I hung my head. She was right. We should never have been able to have a baby. “How did it happen?”
“Likely a side effect from the potions I created to help soothe your beast,” she said, looking down and away. She wiped the back of her hand across her cheek, further smearing her dead son’s blood across her face. “I left because I was scared, Sani.”
I nodded. “Then come with me now. Let’s try again and start a new family.”
“I can’t…” she said as she trailed off.
“Why not?” I asked, struggling to stand. “Why can’t we be together again?”
“Because I’m married with children, Sani. One less child now,” she snapped at me, not sparing any venom in her tone. “Get out of here. Go away and leave me alone, Sani!”
I hung my head and shifted back into a wolf. With my tail between my legs, I retreated. Taking one last glance at Aki with tears streaming down her face and the back of her hand covering her mouth, I disappeared into the forest.
My phone buzzed, waking me from my slumber. I rolled over to look at the screen, blinking a few teams as sweat dripped down my face. I threw the blankets off of me and shot up as I read the text from Val.
“Hey, sorry I have been absent. Work has been crazy. With everything happening in the Gulf in the last year, Guardians had really stepped up their campaigning. And Aces has been terribly busy. Thankfully, I look like I will be getting a few days off this week. I am taking the Tide out and anchoring somewhere far away from the coast and will spend my time out here. Let me know if you care to swing by.”
I smiled as my worries about Aki were swept away, even if only for a moment.