As the howling of the wolf pack died down, the trio hastened to gather their things and get on their way. Andrea took the lead. Ethan still felt drained and a little weak in the knees. He brought up the rear, not wanting the others to see him struggling to keep up. Andrea said a silent prayer under her breath that she would be able to find the car by moonlight. Everything looked the same to her, draped in shadow. She had been so focused on looking and listening for ominous sounds that she walked in circles, heedless of direction.
Andrea stopped in a clearing, to catch her breath and get her bearings. Janet halted and took the opportunity to slip the heavy backpack off for a few moments. Ethan caught up to them and they exchanged concerned looks. He was sweating profusely and appeared to have a stitch in his side. If he couldn’t keep up, there was no way they could prop him up and run. Ethan saw their worried expressions and hastened to reassure them. Janet was about to argue when she became cognizant of the stealthy sounds of the pack’s pursuit.
“I don’t want to alarm anyone but the pack is right on our heels. How much further is the car Andrea?”
“I think it’s just over there a ways.”
“We’ll that sounds iffy. Do you know where the car is or not?”
“Don’t start with me Janet. I just needed a minute to double-check something.”
“We’ll I suggest we get on with it,” panted Ethan.
They heard a twig snap and looked in the direction of the sound. Tiny silver fireflies appeared to be floating through the vegetation. They gasped collectively as the faint glowing grew into five pairs of eyes, when the wolf pack emerged. A silent moment passed as the two groups eyed the other warily.
The biggest wolf ended the standoff, by stalking towards them slowly. Janet tried to quash the alarm beginning to chase her thoughts in panicked circles. She kept losing her train of thought, unable to tear her startled eyes from the hypnotic flicker of the lead wolf’s smoldering gaze. Janet felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up as the will to run drained out of her. She felt menace radiating from the wolves and desperately wanted to run, but suddenly felt so small and helpless that her feet seemed rooted in place.
Lost in terrified thought, Janet couldn’t hear her sister urging her to run. Andrea grabbed Janet by the shoulder, turning her away from the wolves, and was frightened by the unfocused look in her eyes. Andrea shook her and she awoke from a daze. Wordlessly, they turned and ran. Andrea reached into her pocket and pulled out the key fob, holding it out in front of her in anticipation of unlocking the car doors for quick entry. The sound of all those paws drumming the ground, as they streaked towards them sent her heart into her throat. She nearly wept with relief at the first glimpse of the car. She heard Janet cry out and turned to see Ethan running in the opposite direction.
“Where is that idiot going?”
“His book fell out of the back of his pants,” explained Janet.
“What? Tell him to leave it. Ethan! Ethan, forget the damn book and come on! You’re gonna get eaten alive!”
Ethan continued heedless of the snarling wolves rushing towards them. Andrea and Janet hesitated. The first wolf caught up to Ethan and they screamed, certain that the creature would rip into him. They were astounded when the wolf and two others ran right past him. Then it dawned on them that the pack was not interested in Ethan because he did not have the talisman. They turned on their heels and ran for the car. Andrea pushed her sister in front of her and took off her own backpack to swing at the nearest wolves. Janet followed her example and for a few moments, they kept the wolves at bay.
They continued to shield themselves with the packs. Suddenly their path to the car was effectively cut off, as the wolf pack converged in front of them. One of the beasts latched onto Andrea’s backpack. Andrea tugged at the bag, freeing it in time to swing it at a wolf that had crept up behind her. She turned towards her sister and saw the lead wolf lunge at Janet, knocking her to the ground. Andrea screamed and tried to run to her aid only to find herself surrounded by the remainder of the pack. Janet was using her backpack to push the animal gnashing teeth away from her face. Andrea watched in horror as the fangs of Janet’s attacker snapped closer and closer to her face. The weight of the bag and the enormous beast were beginning to strain her arms.
Andrea pulled the stun gun out of her pocket and used it on the wolves that lunged at her. With three of them backed off, she was able to run to her sister’s side. Andrea used her foot to knock the lead wolf unbalanced as it stood on its hind legs with its forepaws pressing down on the backpack in Janet’s hands. Janet pushed the beast off and clambered to her feet as Andrea kept it backed off with her pack. They heard a yell and turned to see Ethan rushing towards them with a big tree branch, swinging it like a bat, clearing a swath to the car.
Ethan stood guard, swinging the tree branch as the women dove into the car. He was climbing in when one sank its fangs into his ankle and tried to pull him back out of the vehicle. He let out a startled yell and grunted in pain, trying unsuccessfully to shake the beast off. Andrea leaned over the back seat, took aim with Ethan’s gun and shot the wolf between the eyes. Ethan wrenched his ankle free and fell into the car. Janet reached back, pulled his door closed and then anxiously peered over the seat at his leg.
“That thing really did a number on your ankle. It left a big gash.”
“Look through the backpacks. I’m pretty sure they gave us a first aid kit,” ordered Andrea.
The remaining wolves continued to try to gain access to the car, lunging at it repeatedly, rocking it back and forth. Andrea started the car and pulled off as one of them jumped onto the hood. She floored it, jerking the wheel until the beast slid off, scrabbling uselessly at the metal with its claws. Janet found the first aid kit, then climbed over the seat to clean and dress Ethan’s wound.
“We should probably get you to the hospital for a rabies shot.”
“I’ll be fine. Just patch me up.”
“Are you sure that’s wise? You don’t want to risk infection and get really sick,” cautioned Janet.
“Nothing about this entire experience has been wise. I’ll take my chances. We’ve gotta keep moving.”
“Andrea, will you tell him he needs to go and get the shot?”
“He’s a grown man. If he doesn’t want to go then we can’t force him. Tell you what, we’ll keep an eye on him and if he starts doing poorly we’ll take him to the nearest hospital.”
“I guess we have no choice,” Janet said reluctantly.
“Can we talk about what just happened? I’m having trouble wrapping my brain around it. What the hell did we just see back there,” asked Andrea.
“I dunno. It couldn’t have been a psychic attack because what we experienced was real. Ethan has the wound on his ankle to prove it.”
Andrea smacked her hand on the steering wheel. “Those assholes set us up! They knew good and damn well that we would have no chance of beating this guy! His magic is too powerful. The most we can do is distract him for a day or two. Maybe that’s all they really wanted us to do…buy them some time.”
“Jagathy is a good man. He would never stand for something so underhanded.”
“My sister the optimist. Still seeing the best in everybody. When are you gonna wake up? Have you forgotten that your precious Jagathy is the one who blackmailed us into taking part in this lost cause? What we just saw back there couldn’t have been a psychic attack or a spirit possession. How could five wolves all be possessed by one person at the same time? That was some…some kind of voodoo or…or…I don’t know what the hell.”
“I agree sis, there was something other than simple possession operating back there. How do we fight something like that? We’re all three of us a bunch of newbies, still wet behind the ears as far as magic goes. We need help,” said Janet.
“What we need is a spell caster,” murmured Ethan between grunts of pain.