Missing Days

I sat at the edge of the forest in a pile of torn clothing and howled. Long moments of silence answered my call and then, in the distance, I heard a response. I felt heat rush through my body, burning away the foggy haze that surrounded me since awakening.  A sense of belonging settled over me.

The ground melted away beneath me as I ran deeper into the forest as I followed a familiar scent on the wind. I could catch faint whiffs of them on passing branches. I flung my head back and howled. The response came much quicker this time. My stride lengthened.

Excited yips greeted me as I came into the clearing outside a den. Home, a whisper came from the back of my brain. Tiny pups slammed into my sides, all teeth and claws and fur. Mine.

More sedately a tawny wolf ambled out from the den. Mate. The pups quietened enough for her to twine her neck against mine, releasing a soft whine. I breathed deeply, letting the emotions of the wolf rush over me. Smelling her. Smelling pack.

My nose twitched and my ears flickered in the direction of the clearing. Deer. Dinner. I nudged my mate and together we turned. A low, throaty growl silenced the pups and with a last whine they vanished into the cave. My mate and I ran, our strides even and matched.

Tonight we would feast.

That night I spent curled around my mate, our pups between us.

With the break of dawn on the third morning, I could feel the shift take hold, a sudden tension in my bones. I grit my teeth together, willing it away. Just one more hour. I just wanted one more hour with my family. With each passing second the pain sharpened. I gave a last lick to my mate and staggered out of the cave.

I woke naked under a fern. My body showed the telltale signs of distress. Scratch marks I couldn’t quite remember, aches in every joint. The first time it happened, I thought it was a prank. Half a year later, I had accepted something was wrong. Now I planned my life around the missing days. Somewhere around here, I had a campsite stocked with changes of clothes. I only had to make my way to it and I could return to my life for the next twenty-seven days of freedom. In the distance I heard the lonely howl of a wolf.

Original title: Whose Woods These Are

At the age of six, Eliza was certain of two things. The first was that she had stories to tell. The second was that she had no talent for illustrating them herself. Talent or no, she still wrote and illustrated her first book, one that should be located and locked away if only to prevent her parents from embarrassing her terribly by showing it off alongside baby pictures. Now she spends her days writing stories that she isn't embarrassed to show off after a little bit of polishing.

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