Wanageeska

Wanageeska

For my darling Diesel.

The story starts with a very young girl, a lonely child lacking the confidence to make friends with her peers, not that they wanted to be her friend, she was what one might call a strange child. She often preferred her own company to others, but life can be hard on ones own. She had no siblings to squabble with and no friends that actually cared, she was a play thing to most, someone to laugh at on a rainy day. Being so big, it was difficult for her to fit in you see. From a young age she was tall, broad and tall. Of course it was comical to her peers. Why was she so big? Some would ask. Others didn’t bother with any curious questions, they went straight to the snide comments and the painful looks. As they all grew older, you might say it got worse. Natural cruelty became aggressive brutality. She was the weak link that people liked to take their rage out on. And why shouldn’t they, someone had to take their pain.

She knew things about people, she knew their deepest troubles without ever being told, it was a gift and a curse. She could feel other peoples pain, sense their emotions like they were her own. Because of this, the dead seemed to surround her, drawn in by her sensitivity. Not only could she sense the feelings of the living, she could sense those of the dead too. For a long time she kept it secret, it bubbled under the surface and on the occasion, she would let it out, let others see what she could. All the emotions became hers to bare, and it would show. It showed on the skin, the small and large fleshy scars told her story.

Growing older was both the worst and the best thing to happen to her. On the one hand, she learnt that her size could be of benefit, for example people stopped trying to openly hurt her. She’d always thought the truth behind it was that they secretly feared her, she hoped so, they certainly didn’t respect her. However she did become more aware of the multitude of horrors that she now faced. It’s safe to say things had gone from pretty bad, to awful. If it wasn’t the bullies or her mental monologue of other people’s tragedies, it was many horrible life events . Pain seemed to follow her like a black cloud, maybe it’s because she was so very aware of this that things kept happening.

Many a time she would call for some kind of release, one of those unbelievable moments that you read about. A mystery to be solved, a friend to be made, a fear to be conquered, anything at all. That’s what we all want really, that something that we feel has the power to save us. It’s almost comical really, half of us don’t even recognize what we want saving from. We say it’s just life, just life that’s the problem. But it’s not life, life didn’t do anything except wake you up and push you into this world. It’s the things in this world that make you feel as though you need saving. People change you, events mold you, and moments break you.

Love came and went. Filled her up with a poisonous passion, then filtered her out like a used teabag, leaving nothing behind but its stain. The emotional stain that can never be scrubbed clean, she tried to of course. There was a chill in her chest, as though her heart had been dumped into a bucket of ice and once the cold left, it ached. Ached as though she’d been beaten into the earth until nothing but bruises and emptiness remained, a lonely numbness. She started to miss the pain she felt because at least then she felt something. She no longer felt human. And like with the majority of the traumatic experiences in her life, she saw parts of her soul leave, just one of her many peculiarities. These little pieces appeared out of nowhere, and however much she tried to reclaim them, they laughed, ran and skipped out of her grip.

On one occasion, it was joy that left her. Her smile cackled at her from a distance, the little sparkle in her eyes danced about it. The softness of her cheeks slid away and became part of the sea she tried to free herself in. In their place was a harshness no one had before witnessed. The once rosy cheeks had paled, the glittering eyes appeared dry, maybe even a darker shade of blue. And the smile well, nothing but a sharp line remained, no longer rosy red but a dark purple, like a strange long bruise stretching across the bones of her face.

If people hadn’t felt unnerved by her previously, they certainly did now. She liked taking midnight walks, because in the darkness, no one could see the pain that choked her throat. People left her alone at night, to see a young, gangly female with cruel features and a menacing look in her eye walking around past midnight on her own, people get the general gist that she should be left alone.

When it was her heart that broke, she witnessed as it slowly turned itself to stone. Her hand moved without her knowing and plunged into her chest. It ripped out the infested organ and as she held that lump of coal, the last drops of blood dried and turned to chalk in the palm of her hand. A tear dropped from her eyes, the last tear she was to shed for a very long time. As she held the thing that had weighed her down for so long in her hands, she aimlessly tried to figure out how to wake it up and make it beat once more. This contemplation circled her thoughts for some time, then along came a sharp wind, and as the life giving oxygen beat against the stone-like heart, it dripped through her fingers like acidic rain. She fell to the floor, trying desperately to scoop it up and put it back in her chest, but it was gone, dissipated into the earth beneath her feet.

Another thing to leave was her courage. The very thing that had kept her together without her heart and her kindness. It took a lot to beat out of her, I’ll give her that. She clung on to it, as though the world depended on it. But once it had been beaten from her, it flaked off her skin, that thin layer of armor that had so protected her. However much she tried to keep it in place, more and more fell away in ashen flakes. Life moves like this, an observer might notice the change, but only those who pay real attention will see.

But things didn’t end there, wouldn’t that be a miserable waste of a story, time continued to pass as it will. Then he came.

She’d waited for him for so, so long. And as all things are, it was quite by coincidence that he arrived in her life. She met him out of the blue and he looked into her eyes, and in an instant, they both forgot that this was their first meeting. They shared a moment of complete unity. Now don’t get ahead of yourselves. It wasn’t love that she saw buried in his dark brown eyes, rimmed with coal; it was understanding. Of course that’s quite uncommon for a four legged beast with a double coat of fur.

People often forget the importance of animals. People think them irrelevant, there is always something more important than an animal right? But animals are equally as important as humans, because we too are animals. We once shared the same land, food and water as they. And yet we think because we invented nuclear weapons, brick houses and the government, that we are smarter than them. But in all this building, and all this advancement in technology, did anyone stop to think what would happen when it fails, when it stops? Because it undoubtedly will, all things do in time. How many will die? How many will suffer? Who will be there to keep us safe, warm, loved, protected, fed? Well I shall tell you, the only creatures that will still be living perfectly happy lives, if not better lives and those would be animals.

Now I can tell that you’re thinking about stopping what you’re doing. Oh it’s another animal protest story, I can’t be bothered with anymore of that. Or maybe it’s one of those, cute animal love stories.

No. That is not what this story is. This is a fantasy story for crying out loud. Get a grip.

Anyhow, the girl took this new, curious lupine friend home with her. What I mean by lupine is simple. This was not just your ordinary household pet canine. This my dear friends, was a wolf. Not just a wolf. This was a beast. Fur the color of freshly laid snow with a stretch of pure silver, so thick you could lose your hand in its depths. Sharp ears as soft as silken velvet. A nose as black as the hidden side of the moon. Shoulders broad enough to carry more than one forsaken persons burdens. Paws to pound the earth and make it shudder. A tail full of childlike wonder, spraying out in a fan of joy. Eyes as dark as forest oak, as captivating as a butterflies wing, rimmed with a dark line of shadows. And last but certainly not least, a fork. A fork on his forehead as light as a flame. From one angle one might’ve mistaken it for a strange Y, but for those that really looked, it was more like an L.

That night, she didn’t expect much from her new companion, but he seemed to know exactly what she needed. In to bed she got, as usual she pulled the covers right over her head so she couldn’t see the world and the world couldn’t see her. Moments later she heard a slight scuffle at her door, a nose sniffing at the cracks. Out of bed she got and opened the door. In walked the wolf, head high and mighty, annoyed that he had been left outside. He jumped onto the bed and curled up on the opposite side, he seemed to know which side was hers, stealing all her covers as he went. With much pulling and general distasteful remarks, she realized she was not going to get the large creature to move and she would have to go with little covers that night. This was the first night in as long as she could remember, that she hadn’t hidden under duvet. Through the night, she became braver and braver. No one would harm her that night or any other whilst he lay beside her.

As time went on, the two became good friends, soulmates in many ways. He was large, just like her and people were often wary of him. On the occasion that he didn’t fancy sleeping in her room, he would curl up outside her door, a promise that no one would bother her that night. He was protective of her, any that came near her with suspicious intentions were soon disposed of. When people tried to hurt her, they soon knew the wrath that such a beast could hold. And so gradually, her courage started to come back to her, piece by piece her armor was re-built and she finally felt safe.

They did lots of things together, she took him to her favorite place, a little clay pool on a cliff that looked out over the sea. Together they sat there and she would tell him all her secrets. Then he took her to his favorite place, a large hill in the middle of a forest that looked out over the marshes. Together they grew.

When she was sad, he would tickle her with his tail or burp in her face to make her smile, his burps always made her smile. He’d often steal her food or demand a stomach rub. And so, in this way, her joy found its way back to her face and her eyes started to sparkle again.But most importantly, he was there for her when she needed him. There were times of severe pain, shadows of the past and present clouded in the girls mind and no matter what she did, the pain wouldn’t leave. On these occasions, however rare, the wolf would always find his way to her. His head might rest on her lap or he’d sit very still for her to lay her head upon his side, a beautiful embrace in which her hands always tangled into his fur. So many tears were soaked up by that beautiful fur, his scent made her feel like she was home. And although the wolf wanted to make his owner smile, he seemed to know that she needed his still, calming presence. In this way she let her emotions go, dripping into his fur through her tears, never to be seen again.

For years he pieced her broken soul back together, a slow task it was, but he never stopped and never failed. He showed the girl how to love again, something she had long forgotten. The spirits of those moved on no longer bothered her, she had a guardian that kept them away. You might say he taught her how to live again, and in return, she loved him more than life itself, something eternity couldn’t break.

One not so special night he curled up to her in the bed they shared and they both went to sleep. Sometime later into the night when the moon was full, beaming through her curtains, something nudged the girls shoulder. At first she thought it was her furry friend, and put her hand upon his head to ease his weariness. But moments passed and it happened again, this time she realized it was not him, but a human hand.

She opened her eyes slowly, warily. Before her stood a tall, broad, monster of a man. He peered down at her through a thick set of black lashes, his eyes reminded her of someone she could not recall. She sat up slowly, frozen in her fear, a fear that crawled up her spine and into her heart. But tanned man looked at her with an emotion that could only be described as pure, untainted love. He made her feel at ease immediately without even a word. His hair flowed over his shoulders, long and dark except for a few strands among his fringe. These strands were as white as a dove’s wing and they rested on his head, tucked behind his ear. He appeared Native American, feathers seemed to be tucked into his hair at awkward places. Strangely, his hands appeared dirty, as though they had just come from the earth.

She gazed up at him and asked whom she was speaking to, all rational thought seeming to have left her mind. In a low, gravelly but quite transcendent voice, he replied:

Hello, I’m glad I can finally talk to you and tell you the things I have been meaning too. I don’t have long but I must speak before I go. I have guarded you, just as you have guarded me. I am your guide, my name is Wanageeska, although some would know me as white spirit. You have been so brave child, so very brave. You’ve recovered what you lost and you must never lose yourself again, promise me? The girl nodded.

A gift was given to you, you know. The gift to feel. You know pain as though it was a person sat beside you. But with this gift, you can help so, so many, and not just the living. You bring people hope, a hope for something that they see reflected in your eyes, and you will succeed. I have been by your side for a long time, and together we have grown. But as all beautiful and good things do, it must end and I must leave. You no longer need my guidance. We both have the chance now to help more people and we must take it.

If you ever need me, do not worry, I will be by your side always. You will know me by the rustle of the trees and the smell of the earth. You will see me in the candlelight, dancing around the fire. You will hear my call under the moonlight.

Do not fear for you are strong, a warrior of life, if only you believe it. Goodnight my beautiful girl, we will meet again.”

The strange man touched the girl’s cheek as a tear slid down into his palm. He pulled his long hair round his side and used it to wipe away the remains of her oncoming sadness. And just like that, he was gone.

Seconds later, the girls lids drew heavy and she couldn’t help but fall asleep. She awoke in the morning to complete silence. She looked over to her wolf and curled her body around him. Pressing her hand into his thick fur, she noticed that the steady movement of his chest had stopped once and for all.

Weeks later the girl started to realize what had happened. Was it a dream she had seen the man in, or was it real? She couldn’t tell, but what she did know was he had said goodbye, her Wanageeska had said goodbye. From then on, she knew she had to start again. Life was never going to be the same and so she had to make it good. She had promised him after all. And so she did, she made the changes she needed to, and although some were harder than others, she knew he was by her side, guiding her to make the right choices.

A guide may not come in the form of an animal, or a person. Sometimes it can be an event, a moment of complete clarity. Enough to change a person’s course for good. And these moments may not always be the nicest, or the most positive. But it’s important that you never forget them, to remind yourself of what you can do and what you can survive. The last thing I’d like to say is, never forget yourself. Sometimes in an ever changing and growing world, we don’t have people to guide us, tell us what is right or wrong or pick us up when we fall down. And so we might just have to be our own guide, and remind ourselves of who we are and what we believe.

By Lauren Victoria Noding

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