“Hey, you can do it” said Javier to Julio holding his head in his palms. “We’ll make it hermano, just like we planned, get up! Please get up!!!”
The third one, Jesus, didn’t talk, he just listened. They were crossing the Chihuahuan Desert in Mexico after breaking out from prison through the tunnel they dug, a feat that took them almost two years. It seemed to work out well- they were golden. They were working with a cartel called “Coyotes” in the past and were planning to come back to their normal routine as soon as possible and after they were done with the current obstacle. After breaking out and until this moment there were no tails behind them, new lives in front of them, and the only thing they had to do, was to make it out alive through the desert and into the forest. They were heading to the town of Linares, south east of Monterrey. It was a long walk and the desert wasn’t a happy environment. They went through one desert storm losing one of their back packs and duffle and according to the conditions they were currently facing, another storm was coming. “I can’t feel my body” said Julio with awful smile on his face, “my stomach hurts and estoy orinando sangre” he added in such pain prompting Javier to look closely into Julio’s pupils. Javier slowly turned Julio’s head from one side to another looking into his eyes, searching for the answer. “When did you first notice that you were peeing blood?” Javier asked in a doctor like tone. “Hoy en la manana” Julio answered through his clenched teeth. After examining his friend for few minutes, Javier asked Julio to lie down on his back and with fingers on his right arm pushed his stomach down in few places like a doctor. Julio screamed at first and silenced him self quickly, breathing air through his teeth with little saliva bubbles appearing in both corners of his mouth. “Ah! Me duele!” Julio cried in excruciating agony, cold sweat appearing on his forehead. Julio’s face and almost his whole body turned greenish yellow in front of Javier’s eyes. “Déjenme solo, por favor” said Julio with his eyes closed. “No” cried Javier “no, no, no, no, no- I will never leave you my brother, you will be ok, and we will be ok. I know it hurts. We are a little bit lost, but we will find our way, we always did, remember?” Javier smiled looking down at his friend. “You call it a little bit?” said Jesus quietly into Javier’s ear. “Are you out of your fucking mind my friend, don’t you see what’s going on? We are coming back to the same place for the fourth time now, we are fucking lost”.
They had planed it for month – details of how it would all work out, and calculated how much food and water they would need. They calculated wrong. The Chihuahuan Desert is the third largest in the western hemisphere and to cross it, you must be ready for anything. Jesus wasn’t talking much as he knew something bad was coming their way and he knew they were not ready for it. “Get up cabron” said Javier with irritation in his voice. “We need to move, don’t let us hang here” he added.
In the prison they had escaped from a week ago, everyone called them “threejays” (as number 3 and letter J). They were always together for many years. Stealing cars and reselling them, trafficking people to the US. That was how they made their living and what they were known and recognized for among their towns. They were the best, on top of the list, professionals with experience you can’t lose or forget. Making money then and now landing them in this extremely fucked up situation. It was their eighth day in the wasteland. Their food was almost all gone now and they had just a little bit of water, gullets and one flask filled with tequila. Just enough to keep them going. They were crossing the mountains now and they expected to come across some highways if everything went well and according to plan. This mountain area of the desert they were crossing was especially dry and cold in the evenings and it was hard to predict when they would reach a little pond or even a puddle to restock their water supply.
The three of them were stocky, well built, and had that dying to punch in the mouth look and aggressive attitude of a boxer. Nobody in prison dared to give them a hard time, after they taught one of the inmates a lesson. In the morning, prison guards found the inmate made a lesson of in his bunk bed covered with a blanket, his body disjointed. They had cut him up with glass and knives made from spoons.
“Get up, let’s go hermano” Javier said gently now, almost whispering. “I think we need to move, and I have feeling we are being followed” Jesus added looking at his friends and then far in the distance. “Mierda!” exclaimed Julio trying to get up.
The last job they had completed was for a cop and they didn’t know they had been dealing with a cop until the last minute when a S.W.A.T. team showed up, breaking down their studio apartment door. They were renting an apartment just for meetings. The break in was loud, with the door flying in like a butterfly, three of them sitting around the map they had to analyze and study. The S.W.A.T. team rushed in with a sudden burst after the door came down and pointed guns at them. They took them, but not for long. In Mexico with money or talent, even better with both, you were all set in Mexico. They had talent and everything that comes with it. They were now out of prison, but it looked like they had entered another one, much more dangerous and incomparable to the one they had escaped from.
Julio was between them, hanging on them for support, trying to walk with the help of his friends. His hands were on Javier and Jesus’ shoulders; he felt weak and not himself. “We have to stop, I can’t do this anymore” said Julio. “I don’t want to be a fucking anchor slowing you down, please leave me” he cried. “You are not an anchor, you just have a stomach virus, it will go away eventually” Javier replied. “Remember, we agreed on some terms before escaping?” Julio asked and added “we have to stick to it, no baggage, no tension among us, we are strong and we have a plan”.
~ 2 ~
She gave birth to her five puppies a few weeks ago. The fifth one made her mad, she thought he was dead. She almost left him out of her den, holding him by the thick neck skin when his eyes suddenly opened and he started to move. She brought him back in and performed the same ritual as she had done for his four other sisters, licking him and making him beautiful. He was clean and fluffy now, sleeping after taking a dose of milk. The whole pack was moving now from the mountains down to the valleys of the desert, in search of water and food and to be in warmer climate when they sensed the presence of blood and an easy prey. They were watching them now trying not to make a lot of noise and sounds. They were following them, keeping a distance, howling at night fall.
~ 3 ~
“I heard wolves or coyotes” said Jesus. “But I am almost sure that they were wolves, as coyotes sound slightly different. I am telling you, we are in a big trouble if we don’t do something about it, as there could be hundreds of them” he exaggerated. “I rather be drowned, fall from a cliff or just put bullet into my head” he continued. “You know what the worst part was when I was reading about those fucking animals? They hunt and eat in packs and when they are ready they will rip you apart. I was reading about them in prison, while you were laughing about it, remember you pendejos. I was reading specifically about the desert and its climate, predators and a bit of survival or practical skills to remember. We have to have a fire going no matter what at sun down and take our shifts as we always did previously. We have to be on alert because they could become desperate and attack. Packs can range from 2 to 36 wolves. Pack sizes depend on the available prey and territory. And that’s fucking us, since we are the prey. At one point they will become fearless; it could take time while they will follow us. They would sense our fear at one point as well, they are good stalkers and they will take their time measuring their chances and probabilities. They will take their time trying to wear us out by introducing their presence, making sure we know we’re being watched or aware of them.
Those fuckers are vicious when they are hungry” Jesus continued “and you know what else? They can go weeks without food, but when they get something to eat, they will eat until they vomit and if they see more left they will stuff themselves again and continue on doing this, vomit and eat vomit and eat, until nothing is left.” Jesus was explaining his findings with such a passion and knowledge, gesturing with his hands. Javier and Julio couldn’t believe that it was their friend talking now. Jesus in Javier’s eyes wasn’t genius. The three of them were buddies back in their school years, but now as he heard him talk about his knowledge of wolves, he felt that his opinion of Jesus had changed dramatically and he actually felt impressed. They grew up in the Tabalaopa area of Chihuahua, ended up in prison in 1950 and now, two years later were out and free, but for some reason they didn’t enjoy this freedom and started to get angry and irritated being around each other. They had one gun, a 9mm Makarov PM with 8 rounds magazine and one close combat knife, items that were magically placed in one of the hiding places in the tunnel they dug.
Jesus and Javier started the fire and laid Julio down close to it. “Descanses mi amigo, rest my friend” Javier said resting Julio’s head on a rock partially covered in a blanket. “I want to pee” said Julio with such a desperation and pain in his voice that the two others turned and looked at him with no obvious expression on their faces. “Just turn on your other side and do what you have to do my friend” Jesus added with a smile. “It’s a fucking desert, and we are in the mountains, no seas una niña, just turn around and do your shit.”
~ 4 ~
They were watching, two of them, an alpha and a little cub beside him. They smelled the familiar scent of blood. They saw two creatures walking upright and another just laying on the ground, sick. The scent they registered was coming from the one on the ground. They were behind a rock, stalking, the big one signaling out to the small one places and possibilities to get to their prey if they decided to proceed to attack. He was still small but willing to learn. When you are in a pack, borne as male, you have responsibilities almost since day one. He was beside his father laying down, watching, and taking everything in. The father looked at him and focused back on the sick one laying on the ground, by the fire. The father howled and looked at his son pressuring him to do the same and soon the little one obliged and howled too. The father laid his head down on his front paws and just stared in the distance. The little one did the same, in his behavior he had complied with the father’s expectations and now felt like a big wolf after receiving a nod from his father. He jumped in the air with satisfaction and pride and was met with a serious pairs of eyes looking at him, calming him down. He went down and stayed down watching in the distance and then turning his head towards where his father stood. His father stood up and with his eyes motioned for him to follow. They went around in circle with the little one behind his father, looking at the creatures below. He did exactly what his father did; lowering his head down to the ground, looking to his left side, prowling, searching for his next victim. He had been taken on his first real hunt, a precursor to a bloodier one, the night before. His father was proud of him with the way his pup could handle himself. They were trapping a rabbit and he went in a direction his father would never have thought about.
~ 5 ~
He felt that what he was about to do next would most likely upset his father, but he disengaged and went away from him, bowing in a D curve kind of way, arriving at the same spot. The rabbit didn’t have a chance. It came straight at him as he waited for it behind a tree. As soon as he saw slight movement, he charged with lightning speed and knocked his prey down on the ground sinking his teeth into the rabbit's neck. They caught a few more rabbits in the same way that night and his father was proud coming back to their pack with something substantial. He learned quickly and wasn’t bitten like the other pups in his pack.
His father stopped and stepped out of the path letting the young one pass him further, watching him from behind. He continued just as his father; he was light on his paws, avoiding anything that would make any sound, staying close to the ground as he moved silently, tail between his legs. He looked in the distance and watched two legged creatures by a shiny red glow. He did one more passage around showing his father that he was capable and perhaps ready even though he was still a pup. His father looked at him, pushed him and howled waiting for his son to join. He joined and howled back trying to make his father happy, and after a while both of them started to walk back to their hiding place.
~ 6 ~
“Creo que oi algo, I think I heard something” said Jesus to Javier. “I did too” Javier replied. “Oh, shit, it’s a lobo’s, listen, you hear?” Jesus continued.
Julio moaned and started to relieve himself. Julio saw two pairs of eyes glowing in a distance but he wasn’t sure whether what he saw was real or if it was just his imagination and he was just being paranoid. Finally, Julio spoke. “Hey guys, can you look where I am pointing- do you see anything?” Jesus and Javier looked into the distance trying to concentrate, they felt that they been followed and imagined who their followers were. “Please, leave me here tomorrow and go, just fucking go” Julio continued. “I am fucking dead meat anyway, and it will save you some time while they enjoy me, but please kill me first, please.” It was surreal for Jesus and Javier to listen to their friend begging for mercy and relief to go to god’s place and be there under his strong arms. “We can’t do that, leave you here, it’s too delicate and your mother would not approve” Javier smirked, shaking his head looking around and focusing on the obvious, wolves. They were the enemy now.
They moved away from Julio walking away from him so he could not hear what they were talking about.
“We have to move hermano; we can not risk our lives and just sit here watching him die, you know that he is fucked, he is peeing blood. It smells when he does it and he attracts anything that likes the smell of it”. Jesus was in rage, talking a little loud now, waving his hands in the air gesticulating and trying to make Javier understand what was at stake now.
“We can’t just leave him here; you know that, we are friends for life, almost brothers. Remember when we cut our palms and mixed our blood together by shaking our hands? Icimos un pacto, remember, we would never leave each other’s side? How can you forget that? Didn’t we survive so many times because it was the three of us? You do not have enough fingers to count the many times, not even if you included your toes. How many times he saved us?” Javier pointed at Julio in a distance and continued. “You think I don’t understand what’s going on Jesus? Please, don’t think I am chapete, you know” Javier made a circle gesture with the pointer finger of his right hand around his right ear, whistling and bulging his eyes at the same time. Jesus took one step back, startled with Javier’s sudden behavior and in a protective gesture, took a step forward to his right and pushed Javier in the chest with his fists. Javier straggled on his feet taking a couple steps back, almost falling down on the ground not understanding what just happened, and recuperated quickly regaining his balance.
“Estas loco, culon?” Javier shouted in fury breathing heavily, arms down by his sides, hands clenched into fists making his knuckles go almost white.
“What did you just do? Talk to me, you scumbag, eres un cabrón” Javier furiously walked towards Jesus.
Jesus was ready, and when Javier sent his first blow with his right hand, trying to hit Jesus in his throat, Jesus stepped left and fell on his rear with his hands behind his back. Javier missed brushing the air in front of him where Jesus had just stood a split second ago. With his two legs together Jesus pushed into Javier’s right knee. The ground slipped away from under Javier’s feet and he fell down hard with his body, not even able to use his hands for protection.
“You think you are a saint? You think I give a shit in this situation?” Jesus yelled into Javier’s ear sitting on top of him now, taking Javier’s hands and securing them behind his back. Javier groaned, tasting the ground with his mouth. Javier moved up with his lower back and to the side causing Jesus to lose his balance and shaking Jesus off of him. Javier turned around on his back in a circle, opposite his friend’s body, counterclockwise, moved on his left side and landed a vicious kick to Jesus’s head with his right foot by bending it first and than releasing like a whip before Jesus could recover from the fall. Jesus’ head snapped back and he fell backwards hitting a rock behind him. The sound of his scull cracking on a rock was distinct. Jesus felt a warm, sticky liquid oozing down his spine. He tried to get up, pushing himself up with his arms off the rocks, but it was no use, his body wasn’t responding as it was supposed to. He saw black spots in front of him flying around his eyes mixing with silver spots from time to time. He heard cicada like sounds in his ears buzzing unbearably loud. He saw Javier coming towards him and put his left hand out with palm up trying to stop him and protect himself, trying to tell him to stop, but his lips moved silently or perhaps he couldn’t hear.
Javier was on top of him now, brushing Jesus’ hand to the side with a quick motion. “You are asking me to stop now, coño?” Javier hissed through his teeth with anger. Javier heard Julio mumbling something in the distance, but he didn’t pay much attention to his words. With his right fist Javier punched Jesus straight in the face. Jesus’s head hit the rock again and he slid down falling on his right side, like a doll, in an awkward position with legs straight and his upper body twisted to the right revealing his busted skull. Only then Javier stopped. He came to his mind in a moment, staring down at Jesus’s unmoving body.
“¡Dios mío. Lo siento cabron. Oh shit, I am sorry.” Javier was talking to the void. Only Julio could hear him now perhaps and whatever creatures were around.
“You estúpido!” Javier cried “why would you make me do this to you Jesus? Why? I love you man, tu eres un hermano para mí” Javier was holding Jesus’ head at the same time trying to stop blood from flowing out from his cracked scull. Jesus’ eyes were rolled up in their sockets when Javier moved him into a more dignified upright sitting position, propping his body up against a rock.
“Habla conmigo…talk to me, talk to me please, look at me hermano, don’t die on me. Oh man, please don’t die on me” Javier was begging, standing on his knees in front of the lifeless body of his friend.
“How could you do this to me?” Javier sobbed, rubbing his friend’s hands one by one, shaking them, then moving to Jesus’ shoulders squeezing them and moving back to his palms, repeating this motion again and again. Only after a little while did he realize that Julio’s voice called him from a distance. Javier stopped abruptly, put his hands on his knees and looked at Jesus. Jesus’ head was resting on his chest, his lower jaw shifted slightly to the left, with his mouth open and tongue hanging out blue and long. Jesus’ hands were arranged beside him on the ground palms facing up, feet a little bit apart from each other. He looked like a dummy that flops all over the place until the ventriloquist takes control of it. Javier stood up and looked at Jesus once again before turning and heading towards Julio’s screams.
~ 7 ~
Julio had been shouting his lungs out for as long as Javier and Jesus were fighting. He couldn’t believe what had happened. Three friends, with a history behind their friendship throughout the years, now were separate objects. Julio turned on his other side after trying to relieve himself and saw Javier and Jesus walking away from him, whispering. He could barely hear them now but he watched anyway. He saw them exchange words in a little aggravated tone and in a split second the fight had started and now he thought shit had hit the fan so hard that this was “it” and all was done between them. He didn’t know what to do, his body wasn’t responding properly after he was put down. Julio tried to get up several times but it was unsuccessful, he felt very weak and lightheaded perhaps after all this blood he was losing as he peed every time he wanted to go. He knew something was wrong with him and it wouldn’t be easy. Julio remembered his last doctor visit before they bust out of prison. He didn’t understand a lot of what the croaker (prison term for doctor) said since he had spoken in very medical terms and he had asked him for a summary, a layman’s version of his diagnosis. He remembered a little, but most of it he wrote down on a paper. It was his body and the first thing that would be on his mind when they reached Linares was to get help from the best professional he could find.
“I will repeat again, you are suffering from kidney stones Julio” the prison doctor said standing in front of Julio, who stood cuffed to a chair, with a table between them. He was flipping pages on his pad stopping on Julio’s or at least that’s what Julio thought. “Kidney stones typically leave the body by passing in the urine stream, and many stones are formed and passed without causing symptoms. But, if stones grow to sufficient size (usually at least 3 millimeters (0.12 in)), doctor made a little circle connecting pointer and tomb fingers together, they can cause obstruction of the ureter. Ureter is the duct by which urine passes from the kidney to the bladder, doctor explained. Urethral obstruction causes distension and dilation of the renal pelvis and calyces, as well as spasm of the ureter” the doctor continued while Julio was writing down key points on a piece of paper, trying not to miss anything, rolling the tip of his pencil between his lips before he would write every other word. “This leads to pain, most commonly felt in the flank (the area between the ribs and hip), lower abdomen, and groin (a condition called renal colic). Renal colic can be associated with nausea, vomiting, fever, blood and pus in the urine and painful urination. It typically comes in waves lasting 20 to 60 minutes, beginning in the flank or lower back and often radiating to the groin or genitals. You cannot play with it Julio, it’s very serious. I will submit a motion on your behalf so you can have necessary blood tests before any potential next steps.” Julio remembered asking if he could die from it and received his answer without any qualms.
“Kidney stones can cause many difficult consequences. One of them is death Julio. If you get some urinary infection or bleeding, or if the kidney stone causes damage to your kidney, then there is possibility of death. I haven’t experienced a patient like this, but just think about if a stone blocks the urethra and you cannot urinate. Yes, that can be deadly.” The doctor’s face was very serious; he looked into Julio’s eyes, while holding his pad with two hands in front of him down at his crotch with his head tilted a bit to the right. The image of the doctor’s in that position, for some reason, stuck in Julio’s head every time he was trying to pee and saw blood in his urine.
“Shit” Julio thought, now I could even smell it. “Mierda” Julio whispered and looked in a distance in front of him.
He saw his two friends struggling on the ground and in the next instance Javier was crying and screaming as he held Jesus’ head while talking to him, but Julio couldn’t hear from where he was what Javier was saying. “Javier!” Julio called several times until Javier turned his head to him and looked at him for a moment. Julio saw Javier getting up and moving in his direction, his hands bloody and his face white as a fresh canvas without paint.
~ 8 ~
“You don’t look good hermano!” Julio exclaimed when Javier got close to him. “Look at yourself!” Javier replied. “I took him out. I killed Jesus” Javier added admittedly with no hesitation in his voice, not hearing Julio. “He did it to himself, I didn’t plan it and I was just protecting myself from the loco that he became. Just so you know” Javier continued brushing his hands on little patches of grass that he could find as he walked around Julio, bending down and talking to himself. “Stupid son of a bitch” Javier was repeating again and again. Julio started to think that Javier was the one with issues. Julio started to feel uncomfortable around Javier and said “Listen; just leave me here in the morning and go. I will not be able to cover the distance we had planned to cover anyway; I am sick man, really sick.” Javier kneeled in front Julio and looked at him for a long moment in silence. “I’ll go give him some kind of burial. I will cover him with rocks so he could have something close to proper. Since we don’t have shovels, I can’t put him six feet under” Javier said in sad tone as he abruptly stood up, startling Julio. He added few more logs to the fire and walked around the perimeter of where they had settled adding logs to the other fire pits. They were enclosed with eight fire pits around them and the ninth burning in the middle.
Javier was with his back to Julio when he heard “Just pray for him and I’ll pray for him with you hermano. Make him comfortable going to another world.” Javier got close to Jesus’ body and went around looking for the rocks. This task was not easy considering the weakness they felt from their lack of food and water. For the past five days they had to watch how much they ate and drank. Thirst and starvation had started to build up, slowly at first, but now progressing very quickly. Anger and irritation was definite and visible and Javier could not believe what he had become in what seemed like ages, but was actually just these last few days. Even in his shithole prison he didn’t feel the way he felt now. Yes he was angry and aggravated, but not to the point of killing his buddy, his friend for as long as he could remember. While he was gathering stones together with which he would cover Jesus’ body, he was thinking how and what had happened to him in this short period of time after their prison break. He propped up Jesus’ body on the ground and started to cover it with stones, saying a prayer at the same time.
~ 9 ~
He and his father were coming back to their den when his father took off suddenly. He ran behind him and when he got closer to the place where they were staying he heard it- Low barks, howls, growls and chattering. His father was in front of him with a little distance between them, changing from running into his dominant posture: head up high, ears forward, eyes secure and direct, and tail raised straight, level with the spine. He also tried this posture, just to see how it felt, when he was with his brothers and sisters. He saw his father walking into their den and suddenly the sounds that were there before, now dissolved completely, just as suddenly as they had materialized. He ran quickly to the opening to see what was going on and what would happen next. When he entered, he saw two regular adults one on top of another with one pinned to the ground in a disadvantage. The wolf on top was big and older than his father. His one eye was totally foggy white as a result of injuries suffered during numerous hunts and fights. He lost his eye to an alpha before his father and now was trying to regain his credibility and strength by pushing around other subordinates including females. His big paws were on top of the chest of one of the yearlings, jaws open exposing sharp white teeth. He was snarling; ready to do what seemed unavoidable to the other ones watching. He was poised to kill the weak one. The weak one was totally submissive, his front and back limbs bent awkwardly, paws pointing towards his body, ears down to his head, and eyes wide open, with his tail between his legs. The weak one relieved himself and yelped. What he saw next was totally unexpected.
His father walked slowly towards the scene, lobos around him stared and got quiet. It seemed like everything stopped moving and was silent for a moment and then resumed itself. His father’s facial expression changed. He was bearing his teeth, ears pulled forward, eyes wide open, fur up on his back and neck, and tail up in the air. He continued to walk slowly towards the intruder in his pack’s hierarchy, sneering from time to time, ready and challenging. The older one stepped over the yearling and went towards his father. His ears were down, eyes half open, teeth exposed, with his tail slightly down. He was defiantly afraid but was trying his best not to reveal it. They met half way and stared for a moment at each other. His father walked around the older one and in very quick glances, searched for his son. He found him in the crowd and their eyes met for a moment. And then he charged.
~ 10 ~
The squealing sound that came out from the old one was deafening. The old one moved his body down when his father’s teeth gripped his neck. His father slipped and fell over the older one’s body not letting his neck go. His father hit the ground, exhaled through his teeth and stood up quickly still holding the old one’s neck in his teeth. He bared his teeth even more, ripping a part of the old one’s neck. The light yellow fur of the old lobo became crimson with blood. The old one twisted and tried to disengage from his father, bearing his front paws to the ground as he prepared to regain his position and jump. However, his attempts proved unsuccessful. The old one’s neck suddenly opened wide where father protruded his skin with his fangs and a red stream of blood came out the old one’s neck with a hissing sound. The old one tried to make a sound but nothing came out from his jaws except his tongue. His father let the old one’s neck go and watched him fall into oblivion, his muzzle covered in blood. The old one convulsed and trembled on the ground, air coming from his lungs rapidly with no air entering them any longer, feet shaking, eyes rolling upward. The old one’s chest moved up rapidly a few more times before settling down, with the last whiff of air from his mouth coming out with a dull growl before he slid into the nothingness of death.
He had watched it and after all was done he came up to his father and stood beside him inhaling the scent of victory. His father thought otherwise, he didn’t think it was victory, for him it was simply teaching a lesson. His mother, the alpha, came out from the pack and made her way to his father. She came up to him close, their bodies touching slightly. Her ears were pinned back and she started to lick his father’s mouth, lips and under his chin. Her tail tucked low, head held lower than his father’s, he heard a slight whimper coming out from his mom’s mouth. She was submissive, but only to his father. She disengaged from him as quickly as she came and went a few steps forward holding her tail up and to the side, flagging him, looking at him from behind and leading him out of the pack. He looked at her and before they left he found a spot where the older one he just killed had marked his territory. His father rolled in that spot of dirt, reclaiming his status by marking his territory once again and he was gone, with her in the lead, leaving his son wondering. As soon as they left, the whole pack started to cover the old one’s body with dirt standing with their backs to the dead one, pushing their back feet towards the body rested on the ground. Eighteen of them worked for some period of time in packs of three. After they were done, the body was covered enough to resemble a burial.
~ 11 ~
His father and mother were back shortly, she was beside him but a short step behind. He looked at his pack for a short moment and then at the pile of dirt. His father turned around leading his pack to find another den, another place for them to stay. The whole pack took off slowly following their leader.
It didn’t take them long to find a new spot to stay overnight as it got dark. The whole pack settled down in a circle and started to mourn for a dead lobo. They were howling for some time before they went to sleep. He was also howling as he looked at his father and mother from time to time, stopping and resuming after each gaze. This was his first ceremony since he was born. The whole pack went to sleep and he waited for a little while and then walked away from where the pack had settled. His father saw him leave and followed him in the distance.
He went straight to the fresh burial and sat down in front of it. His gaze focused for a long moment on the pile of dirt that covered the old one’s body. He wanted to make a sound, but he was afraid his pack would hear him and he wanted to postpone the pack hearing him howl for a while longer. When he was ready to howl, something caught his attention. He turned his head and saw his father beside him. He hadn’t heard him coming; his father was very quiet on his feet. They sat for a while with a little distance between them. A few more lobos came to join them and as soon as they got comfortable in their positions they started to howl again. They stopped abruptly and sniffed the air around them. The very familiar smell of blood was present in close distance and made them all quickly shift from mourning their dead to feeling alarmed and alert.
~ 12 ~
Javier was exhausted after moving a few dozen rocks on top of Jesus’ body. He got up from his knees and stood a little while in front of the man made burial, looking at it, placing it in his head, realizing now what a big mistake it had been to escape from prison. Javier stood there remembering how the three of them had been friends. Shit, they had a shared history and memories of smoking pot, sniffing coke, fucking random women, even being in jail.
“Fuck you Jesus” Javier hissed with madness and rage in his voice. He turned around and went to Julio. He sat beside him, searched in their duffle and took out one galettes pack to eat. He shuffled around with his hand inside and pulled out a flask they were keeping with tequila in it. He didn’t like this particular brand, but for now it would do. He took a few sips and offered it to Julio. Julio didn’t answer.
“You know Julio; I think it’s not that bad. I think we will manage our way out. Like I said, I didn’t want this to happen”. Javier spread his arms, shaking them, pointing in the direction of Jesus’ burial. “We were always like brothers, no, we were brothers. We are still brothers.” Javier took another sip from his flask and lowered his left arm onto Julio’s shoulder. All this time Julio hadn’t said a word. He was lying down with his back turned to the fire and out of Javier’s sight.
“Hey man, are you ok?” Javier asked Julio shaking his shoulder again. Then he turned him around and gasped in disbelief.
Julio’s throat was cut open from ear to ear, black now; blood saturated his body like an apron. Lifeless eyes turned all the way around in Julio’s sockets were staring at Javier like two white eggs. The familiar smell of copper was all around in the air. Julio’s hands were bloody, one still holding a knife. Javier noticed that Julio’s left hand was punctured with knife wounds exposing a few bloody lines.
“He was trying the knife on his hand first” thought Javier “that’s exactly what I would do.” Javier didn’t even have the power to say anything; he just sat there shaking his head, hands on his knees, flask in his right hand. He started to laugh. Javier got on his knees in front of Julio’s lifeless body, his laugh subsided and he started to cry.
Javier wasn’t crying because of the loss of his inmates, so called brothers. He was just too tired and worn out by these surroundings and situation he was in. The temperature changed from one hundred twenty during the day and then below freezing during the night.
“Don’t worry pendejos, below freezing at night will be only hundred times on average a year” Javier remembered Jesus spewing his knowledge and random facts while Julio cursed him.
The first dust storm after breaking out from prison had disoriented and almost separated them for some time. The sky got dark, even though it was afternoon. He remembered looking at the “wall” of dust about two miles high and he couldn’t grasp or see the magnitude of it. It had been closing in on them with awesome speed. If it weren’t for Jesus, who was kind of prepared for their “hike”, they probably wouldn’t have survived. They had face masks and they were able to partially cover themselves by hiding behind a big boulder. Julio wanted to jump in a ditch, but Jesus was persistent and talked him out of it. After the storm settled, they had stood around that same ditch which now was all covered in sand and debris up to the top. Jesus walked over the ditch without even sinking an inch.
“You are fucking dead meat hermano, but wait, you are still here” Jesus was laughing punching Julio in the ribs at the same time.
This was just like a dream to Javier now. His friends were gone and he was by himself. He heard howling not far away and looked around. In the distance he saw several pairs of lit dots moving from time to time. Javier went around adding wood to the fire pits surrounding him. He went around getting more rocks to cover Julio’s body. After he was done, Javier felt more exhausted than ever, even though he had to do less for Julio’s body since he found a ditch suitable for Julio’s size and covered him with fewer rocks he used to cover Jesus’ body. He said a prayer and swatted something that was bothering him on his stomach. Javier pulled his shirt up just to see what was it, when he noticed how skinny he was and he compared his shitty life in prison to these few weeks in the wilderness. Even in prison he was much fatter and healthier than now. He dropped down powerless on his back by the grave he just filled with rocks, looking in the dark, starry sky. He was trying to find the big and little dipper “and some other shit he didn’t know the names for” when he passed into his other world, more blessing and forgiving, more friendlier, more colorful and sometimes vivid- his world of dreams. Javier felt good now and happy, a little tear came down from his right eye to his ear, leaving a moist trail.
~ 13 ~
He was walking with his father to their den after they stopped their ritual by the old one’s grave. He felt tired but he still went on a watch, with his father and a few wolves from his pack, later at night. They were walking towards the smell that had interrupted their death ritual. For him the smell was a little different and more appealing than anything before, it was making him excited and energized. He walked all the way behind four wolves led by his father out of respect to the others. He knew he could walk behind his father, as he was his son, but the age and hierarchy prevented him from doing that. They came to the point where they could see them from the distance, yet his father didn’t want to do anything until the right time came. They looked at the creatures below them in the safe distance moving around from time to time. They saw little sparkles surrounding the creatures and they didn’t like it.
His father had once shown him these same sparkles coming out of a tree that had been knocked down by lightning. He remembered his father was sitting close to the tree watching while he was trying to sniff or taste it. It had burned his tongue and nose; it was very painful he remembered. His father guided him away from it to their den and he never got close to these shiny sparkles since. Now they were walking around, stalking these creatures for some time. That was his father’s plan; follow the creatures and show them the pack’s presence from time to time to make them weary and weak, scared and exhausted. His father would give a signal to attack these creatures with all the force they had. No one could do anything without his father’s permission - no attacks, no fights, even no hunting. The whole pack was in close proximity, no wolf would leave the alpha’s sight. Rules were rules and if you broke the rules, you were out for good. He learned and got used to these rules since he was born.
They made their rounds one more time, to show their presence and headed back to their den. Tomorrow, early, would be the best time to strike. His father judgment was always right, so he didn’t doubt or question him. He thought these creatures they had just observed had the same fate in store for them as the old one they had just buried. These creatures seemed slow moving and vulnerable. They had nowhere to go and nowhere to hide. Tomorrow they would each do their part - each wolf in the pack deliberately assigned a specific role in making their next meal from these creatures near the sparkles. They wouldn’t have to go in the valley to hunt after the task in front of them, as the hunt they were about to commence would provide food for a considerable length of time.
~ 14 ~
Javier woke up with the feeling that somebody was watching him. He heard wolves’ cries and yells late last night and he thought it sounded from very close distance, different from other times. Jesus had warned them that lobos were following them, but at that time Javier couldn’t recognize it and place it in his head as significant as he could now. Without making any sudden movements he slowly opened his eyes just a bit to see what was out there. He knew something was out of place and prison life had taught him to be alert at any point in time. A combat knife was in his left and pistol in the right pocket of his jeans. His head rested against one of the duffle bags and the second duffle bag was under his knees with a blanket covering him from his ankles up to his shoulders. He looked carefully around without moving his head, just shifting his eyes. At least six of the fire pits were producing a white fainted smoke plume. That’s all he could see without moving. In the distance he saw shadows, some of them standing still and some moving but not getting close. It was dawn and the sun wasn’t out yet. The sky was embraced in heavy clouds, gray on top and golden red on the bottom where the sun was about to rise. He could also see heat lightening projecting from the sky far in the distance. He got control of his senses, opened his eyes completely and tried to concentrate on the living things in front of him, which stood about a hundred and fifty yards away. Now he understood it was a pack of about twenty or so wolves. He could see them all, but he didn’t care to count, he knew he was about right. In the first row were two and in the second row of about six wolves stood motionless, just standing, staring at him. Behind the second row all others were walking from one side to another looking in his direction from time to time. He noticed that only the first two rows had wolves of bigger size, the rest were mixed.
“Shit, it’s a whole family, a whole pack, or whatever Jesus meant” whispered Javier to himself. Ever so slightly, under the blanket, Javier pulled out first the knife with his left hand and after he succeeded in this task, he took out his Makarov with his right hand. Years on the streets and prison later had taught him to be calm and patient before any fight. Javier sensed what would happen next. He looked into the deep, still heavily clouded sky; he saw the sun rising far away behind a gorge. He wasn’t afraid. He was disappointed not knowing how long he could last with his knife and pistol, but he knew that he would put up a hard and diligent fight, fighting with all he had and he would use his teeth and hands without hesitation.
He was awoken by a push and through his being singled out, sensed that he was more important than any other cubs in his pack. His father was staring at him, standing, waiting for him to wake up completely. His father sent a few signals to him and he got up and followed him. His father walked him around the sleeping pack, pointing out each of the members. He couldn’t understand what his father was doing until later, when he saw him on the field early the same morning in what was about to happen. Finally they stopped by his mother. She was waiting for them and was sitting watching them approach. His father came close to her and licked her on the nose slightly, and she licked him back. The three of them took off in the same direction out of the pack site just to be alone.
The whole pack took off in the early morning and went down the mountain in the direction of the prey. When they got to their destination, each of them was prepared to take on their assigned roles. He was in the last row, walking around just like yearlings were expected to, causing destruction. He was ready and prepared to prove himself to his father when the time came. He was definitely nervous, but wasn’t afraid like others he saw with the obvious signs of fear- ears down, head close to the ground, no, it wasn’t him. The copper smell was overpowering and soothing, and he liked it. He walked like anybody else in his pack for as long as he could and after a while he approached his father and mother and stood beside them. His father signaled to him with his muzzle and he went back to the last row. He went a little at an angle just to see and learn what his father and mother would do. His father and mother started to growl and made chattering noise with their teeth. Their noses were wrinkled, upper lips perked up, white snowy teeth visible, fur on their necks was up and eyes wide open. They were trying to make themselves as small as possible, that’s what most predators did before getting close to their prey. He saw all this and got ready, imitating his father’s posture. The whole pack became alert and concentrated on the prey. His father and mother started to move very slowly in the creature’s direction.
~ 15 ~
He watched them slowly approaching towards him. Javier closed his eyes and recited a prayer in his head, slightly moving his lips in silence. Everything in his head was moving fast now; mother, father, his sisters, fuck, his whole life was rushing past him like an eighteen wheeler, loud and annoying. When he opened his eyes again he saw them running. There was no time to think now. He tossed the blanket aside and revealed his weapons, showing his opponents that he was ready. Everything was going fast now. The world was going round in his head, little trees, rocks, ground, sky, rising sun, everything around him was so insignificant and unclear just like the objects swirling within the tornado in the wizard of oz, he thought. He jumped on his right knee and moved his left hand with the knife under the handle of his gun. Javier had something in his sight for a moment and he pulled the trigger. The shot was very loud in the morning, even a sand storm wasn’t that loud, he thought, and it startled Javier. He forgot to prepare himself for this sound and now he was opening and closing his jaws trying to swallow air in order to unclog his ears and stop a buzzing sound in his head. He thought he saw one lobo going down, red mist of blood coming out on top of his back. There were seven to go if he got lucky. Javier counted his bullets. As wolves were getting close to him, he started to squeeze the trigger again, and again and again. Javier was in a rage. First two wolves in front of him spread apart as soon as he pulled the trigger and his two shots were a miss. He cursed and moved his hand around pulling the trigger wildly, trying to kill anything now that was moving towards him. He was kneeling and felt something biting at his ankle, dragging his foot out of him. Javier turned around and hit the wolf with his knife right in the nose. A terrible sound came out from the wolf’s mouth. Javier turned around again, just in time to kill two more wolves in front of him, but it was about a dozen behind, gaining up on him. He was able to squeeze one more shot and kill one more before his hand was snatched at his wrist. Javier looked at his hand in disbelief, red and white matter around it. Strangely at this moment he remembered thinking that his hand resembled a bloomed flower. When he moved his hand up, he was met with a couple of muzzles trying to devour his face. With his left arm still working and holding knife, he moved wildly hitting faces, throats, bodies around him. He was good with a knife, he remembered, but not to this scale. He couldn’t believe how unprepared he was for this.
They were all over him now, biting his body frantically and violently. At one point he was able to see his gun on the ground, before sharp incisors dug into his face. He screamed but was instantly silenced by another pair of jaws tearing his mouth. His lips were ripped away, jaws broken and hanging on both sides of his head, nose was eaten away, tears in his eyes.
He searched with his left hand desperately in the direction where he last had seen the gun. Javier dropped the knife in order to pick up the gun. He was able to do it even though one of the wolves was trying to chew on his arm violently. The coat that he had on, saved his arm, but not for long. With all strength left in him, Javier pulled his left hand with the gun under his chin and pulled the trigger, thinking how ironic, he was the one that suppose to live.
He watched his father and mother when they were about to attack the creature, going from a slow gait to a sudden and aggressive pace. He started to run after them. He was ready and prepared to tear anything and anyone apart, crash and rip anything and anyone in his way. He was very angry and caught up in the excitement of the hunt. He saw his father and mother in close proximity to the creature when something stopped him for a moment with a swooshing sound he had never heard before and in a split second it pushed him back. He felt something hard hit him in his shoulder and penetrate his body. The bullet entered him in the shoulder popping it out from its socket, went through half of his body until it found his spine. It crashed one of the discs in his thoracic vertebras, completely paralyzing him and then whatever it was exited straight up out of his body, leaving a spray of red mist in the air that came down on him a second later. He collapsed on the ground and tried to move, tried to stand up but he couldn’t. He wasn’t able to move any parts of his body at all. He was staring in the distance, where the pack was ripping the creature apart, breathing quickly. He saw his mother and father going down in front of the creature and tried to get up again, but it was unsuccessful again.
He felt his life slipped out of him as fast as his blood left his body. He groaned effortlessly and opened his mouth once again to take in the last scoop of air. He felt weightless now, pain was gone, his body light. He closed his eyes and went into heaven, perhaps that’s where all the dying wolves were going.
Slava P ©