It’s colder when I come to. How long have I slept? A shriek impales my ear drums as an elephant stampede might overwhelm a bridge of glued popsicle sticks.
This feels familiar.
I snap alert, but I’m not leaning on the horn this time. The wail silences for a moment and resounds again. I wince as my right ear pops and desperately swing my head around to the source of the noise.
I feel my blood turn to ice in my veins. It's a child. My God! I flip on the dome light, praying the illuminated interior will somehow make it disappear, revealing it a harmless mirage carried over from my subconscious. No such luck. The boy squirms like a worm on a hook in his blue snowsuit and rubs his eyes with fat fingers.
What kind of parent can’t remember having a baby? He hollers again and I fight the impulse to snap his small neck.
Liquid fire pulses through my side and abdomen as I tear through the car. Food! FOOD! Where is his fucking food? I paw over gift boxes enclosed in green wrapping paper. Worthless. I toss them outside. I can’t remember who they are for anyway.
Finally, I find powdered formula and a clean bottle and grin at the boy, thankful for the small measure of good fortune. No water, though. I step outside, scoop fistfuls of snow into the bottle, and warm it against my skin inside my shirt. He cries again. I slam the car door shut behind me. Why should both of us be miserable? That’s not logical.
The cold air bites at my face. Outside, the snow-covered wild earth looks peaceful. The crumpled Buick seems strange here. It doesn’t fit; it disrupts the serenity of the natural world. I know I should be evaluating my predicament. Yes, the art of deduction may not be beautiful or alluring, but in the end it will get me out of this nightmare so I must surrender myself completely to it.
The ride is in perfect condition aside from the flat front tire and engine-turned-accordion, I muse. But, my levity is short lived: something more concerning draws my attention.
I know they cannot not my own. They travel along the side and rear of the car, where they trample on top of each other, as if pacing back and forth. Then they turn the corner, and trail off into the dark woods, come back and trail off again. Come back and trail off.
It’s the man. And he’s not here to help me. Fear seizes hold and my irrational mind compels me to run away. I start to. I lean on my bad foot, but it crumples beneath me. I fall hard on the snow. The pain is too much and I cry out. Warm tears flow down the sides of my face and into my ears.
Idiot! Stupid, STUPID!
It feels as if it takes me forever to return to the car. If he wanted me dead, he would have done it already. I try to comfort myself, but I don’t believe my words.
The radio interrupts my thoughts.
“- for Sedgwick County. Be on the alert of a recent escapee from our local hospital. He is male, 6 foot 4 inches and Caucasian. His name is Robert Sands, also aliased as the Wolf Man.”
Rapt, I notice that I’m holding my breath.
“This person is considered extremely dangerous, known for his violent, random attacks on women and families in the area nearly fifteen years ago. Sands was last seen at 10:15 p.m. in his hospital room.”
I hear the wolf cry again in the night. It rattles me to the core. Tears follow and I let them. What could be the harm now? I know what I have to do. I must kill The Man.
I feed The Boy from the bottle now dirtied with my blood. His rhythmic sucking reminds me of a steady drumbeat. I watch him slide a pale hand over the bottle and through the wet, red ooze. Back and forth, back and forth, as steady as a heartbeat.