Excerpt from A Shift in Perspective
Nom de Plum Publications, LLC
©2016 intact. Absolutely ALL rights reserved.
A Shift in Perspective
“Mother, this is absurd,” I protested, staring over the back fence into the heart of the woods behind our house. Even in the middle of a bright spring day, they were dark and foreboding. “I’m fifteen for heaven’s sake. I am old enough to go collect a few berries on my own.”
My mother shook her head and laughed. “As if the creatures in the woods care about your age, Justin.”
“The creatures, right.” I shook my head. “If there are such fearsome creatures as you would have me believe, why don’t they just come here?”
“Hush your mouth!” Mom snapped, her eyes wide with horror. “You would invite the evil in?”
“Sorry, mother.” I rolled my eyes in disbelief. “You’re so weird sometimes!”
“You should let the boy go,” Grandmother spoke softly from her spot shelling peas in the shadow of the enormous oak tree that dwarfed our small house.
“Mother.” Mom’s mouth twisted into a grimace. “You know better than anyone what lurks in the darkness.”
“I do.” Grandmother’s hands never paused as she stared up at her daughter, her blue eyes watery with age. “You can’t protect him from the world forever. One day we’ll be gone, you and I. Then what’s to become of Justin with no knowledge of the true world around him?”
“Fine.” Mother’s sigh was deep and heavy as she handed me a willow basket. “Be careful and remember that there is more to this world than can be seen by disbelieving eyes.”
“Right.” I agreed, fighting the urge to roll my eyes again at her ominous warning. “I’ll be back in a jiff.”
Latching the gate carefully behind me, I walked purposefully to the east, toward the patch of wild blueberries that I knew should be ripe. The ancient trees rose on all sides, their scarred limbs stretching hopelessly to the dim patches of sun that slipped through the thick forest canopy above. The berry patch was large and I waded eagerly through the sea of glossy green leaves and pale purple mottled berries that stretched long and wide in the little sun that shone in the clearing.
I was filling my basket and my mouth alternately when a deep growl pulled my attention from the berries. Less than ten yards in front of me hulked the form of a bear. It snorted and growled, appearing unwilling to share the berry patch.
I dropped my basket and backed away slowly, my mother’s warnings of fearsome creatures echoing through my mind. When I bumped into a solid form, I froze and my already racing heart picked up the pace, trying to literally beat out of my chest. I had not had to traverse around any obstacles on my way to the berries. How could I now be backed up against one? Unwilling to turn my back on the angry bear, I swiveled my head slightly and caught sight of a very large wolf in my peripheral vision. I swallowed my gasp and tried to slow my racing my mind. I might have been able to outrun one of the predators but the was no way I would escape them both.
My body shook with fear, tears pooling in my eyes as I envisioned the horrific state my mother would find my body in. If, that is, any trace of me was ever found. As I stared at the wolf from the corner of my eye, it suddenly struck me that he had yet to look at me. His hostile gaze was trained solely on the bear. As that thought registered in my mind, the massive white beast took one large sidestep that placed him directly between me and the threatening mountain of black fur.
The bear suddenly seemed indecisive. It dropped from two feet to four and then rose back to two, growing and snarling the entire time. The wolf stood his ground, the occasional backward twitching of his ears giving the only indications that he was aware of anything beyond the agitated bear in front of him. The odd showdown carried on until, finally, the wolf took a single step forward. That step seemed to make up the bear’s mind. It dropped to all fours and lumbered off in the opposite direction from me.
My relief was short lived as there was now nothing to distract the wolf’s attention from me. To my surprise, he walked away without sparing me a single glance. He jumped up on a large boulder that overlooked the berry patch, stretching his body out in a broken patch of sun and his eyes drifted closed. Cautiously I took one step, then another, and another until I reached my half-full berry basket. Watching the wolf for any sign of agitation, I continued to pick the berries. There was no sign of life from the beast until, my basket full, I turned to leave. I braced myself for the attack when it jumped off the boulder and once again, the wolf surprised me, taking a place to my right and walking along with me as I returned to our small cottage.
The wolf stopped at the edge of the woods, his intelligent gold eyes meeting mine.
“Thank you,” I took a chance and held my hand out to the animal, not as surprised as I should have been when he rubbed his face against the palm and pulled back, chuffing softly at me in what I guessed to be an acknowledgment of my appreciation. I latched the gate behind me and peeked over the top for one last look at my protector but he was gone.
“The boy’s back safe and sound, Jeanette,” Grandmother said, her hands finally still and a full bowl of peas settled on her lap.
“Thank the Goddess!” Mother exclaimed, lighting the torch of sweetly scented herbs that she burned in supplication to the Pagan Goddess that she worshiped.
“You had an adventure,” Grandmother observed from the shadows.
“I..I did,” I admitted, struggling with how much of the story I should tell them if I ever wanted to be allowed outside the fenced yard again. “There was a bear who didn’t want to share the blueberries.”
“Oh?” My mother’s eyes were wide as she took in the overflowing basket and the blue streaks on my mouth and fingers. “I’ve not seen a bear around these parts.”
“A wolf chased it off.”
“A..wolf?” Mother’s voice was incredulous. “You’re sure?”
“Yes. It was a huge; a white wolf. It followed me home after the bear was gone.” I held my breath and waited for my emotional mother to explode, to call down the wrath of the Goddess on the killing machine lurking just outside the safety of our small patch of land. Instead, she sighed; long, deep and relieved and a laugh tinkled out of her lips.
“Did you hear that, Mother?” Mom asked, her lips arching into a smile.
“I did.” Grandmother rose stiffly and carried the peas into the house. “It’s been many years that the white wolf has been missing from the forest.”
Just like that, the restrictions that I had lived with my entire life were lifted and I was no longer forbidden to enter the woods. When I pressed my mother for an explanation, she simply murmured something about a guardian and gave me a peaceful smile.
The same smile graced her lips when we began to find fresh game left on our back step every few days. First, there was a wild turkey. Then, several large, fat rabbits. Only I was surprised by the sudden influx of gifts, both my mother and my grandmother acted as if it was to be expected.
Our benefactor lost his anonymity early one morning when I couldn’t sleep. I was propped up in the porch swing, sketching the edge of the forest bathed in the early morning light when the white wolf cleared the fence, the body of a small freshly killed doe gripped carefully in his powerful jaws.
“You’ve been providing for us,” I said softly. “That’s very kind. Thank you.”
His body tensed, telling me that he hadn’t known I was there.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.”
He laid the doe gently on the porch and turned back to the fence.
“Please, can you stay for a few minutes?” I asked softly. “You’re very handsome. I’d like to sketch you.”
The wolf turned to me, his gold eyes conflicted and he gave a very human sigh as he settled down on his haunches.
“Thank you.” I sketched until the sleep that I had been chasing suddenly overtook me. When I awoke, I was covered against the early morning chill by a soft but unfamiliar blanket and my wolf and my drawing were both gone.
A Shift in Perspective coming soon….
(As always, this excerpt is cmpletely unedited…read at your own risk!)