The wolf behind my house

By Indianna Cosgriff

First published in Capital #75.
Read more Summer Short Stories here.

Sweat soaks through my top, pooling on my lower back. Two more bends in the path, a short sharp uphill climb and then I’ll be home. Less than a kilometre to go. Relax, breathe. In-and-out through the nose. The air is thick under the trees. Still. The branches form a temporary shelter from the Wellington wind, baking in the lingering heat of the day. Blink. I’m adjusting to the soft blue twilight. It’s beautiful. If I wasn’t already heaving it would take my breath away.

There’s a path behind my house that leads up the hill, at the top is Spinnaker lookout. The view stretches all the way out over the inlet, across to Pauatahanui.

It’s my favourite track to run. It’s quiet. The little wheels on kids’ scooters don’t fare too well up here.

I used to run under a red sky, along a flat, sandy road. But I had to move and start over. New beginnings and all that jazz. A futile exercise, really. We just carry our history with us. It’s in our skin, our eyes, in our feet. If you’ve ever had a reflexology massage then you’ll understand that everything is connected.

So now I’m out here, in the burbs. In a neighbourhood lined with square houses and pretty trees and big cars. On warm afternoons, families sit on white plastic chairs outside the dairy on my street and eat melty, overpriced ice blocks. No one recycles the sticks.

My new beginning.

Usually I bring my dog with me when I run and let him roam free. Unleashed and unbridled, as God made him. But I haven’t brought Jack up here in a while. Not since it happened.

That strange scene that lingers in my mind like a bad dream. I know it’ll sound farfetched, but I’ll tell you anyway, and let you judge the peculiarity for yourself.

There’s a werewolf roaming the hill behind my house. Now, I don’t mean a shirtless Twilight-type werewolf. I mean a beast with fangs and fur and eyes as grey as a midnight cemetery.

It all started three weeks ago, on a Monday evening at eight o’clock. Jack and I were on the pathway. He was dashing off into the trees and crashing through the brush, following along with me as I jogged. Pure freedom. Then, I heard footsteps.

I couldn’t tell whether they were ahead or behind me, but they were out-of-sync with my own. I whistled for Jack. The steps got heavier but still I could see no one. When the sound started echoing loudly in my head I stopped on the path and put my hands over my ears. I was afraid I was having some sort of episode. I scrunched my eyes tight and then reopened them in panic. Silence.

The sound suddenly ceased and my eyes refocused. I saw something on the path 100 metres ahead. Jack returned faithfully to my side and together we advanced.

After a few steps, I began to make out the object. It was a pair of dirty, worn, sneakers; white, with blue laces. Jack sniffed around furiously. One metre ahead laid a pair of sports socks.

I could see by glancing up the path that there was a trail of clothing, scattered like breadcrumbs. I was curious as to whether this was a man or a woman’s belongings. Eventually I found a bra; a woman. Clearly running clothes. Just enough to cover the important bits while still allowing the body to breathe in the summer heat. The last item trailed off into the trees to the left of the path.

I took two steps into the bush. “Hello,” I called. There was no response. Jack bounded away, off into the dense green.

I took one more half step forward, a twig snapped beneath my foot, breaking the eerie silence. That’s when I saw the wolf.

A muscled bulk advancing towards me through the trees. Six paces away. The grey eyes glowing in the failing light. The fur sticky and matted with sweat. It was staring straight at me. The eyes were focused, intelligent.

I took a slow step backwards. “Good doggy,” I said.

In the re-telling, it does seem like I responded rather calmly. This was not the case at all so let me be frank in saying I was scared shitless. My breath caught in my throat and my heart beat so fast I thought it was going to explode out of my chest.

From somewhere off to the right, Jack crashed back into the frame, tongue out, panting happily. It took him a moment to register we weren’t alone.

The wolf bared its teeth and let out a low, grumbling snarl. Jack stood close to me, tucking his tail and whimpering, submitting entirely to the clear Alpha. Sook.We were in a dance, the wolf and I. Our eyes were locked, adrenaline coursing through our veins, poising our limbs for action. Fight (the wolf) and flight (me).In the moment, a subtle shimmer caught my eye. The wolf was wearing a crystal pendant. It didn’t make sense, but nor did anything about the situation. Who was I to question the ornamental choices of a killer animal?

I had barely registered the presence of the necklace when something instinctive inside me came to life. It was now or never. I clicked the fingers on my right hand in the hope of securing Jack’s attention, and bolted.

Once on the path, I checked over my shoulder, only Jack was in pursuit. We ran all the way home without stopping.

That was my first sighting of the wolf. And, at that stage, it did seem to be a mere wolf. It wasn’t until the next day that I truly understood the nature of the beast I had encountered.

I was at the supermarket, reading the grocery list on my phone, when a pair of white sneakers with blue laces walked through my frame of vision.

Normally I wouldn’t register such a detail, but the events of the day before and the objects strewn across the path were fresh in my mind. These were the same sneakers. Worn, marked with the dry December-dust from the track up the hill.

I followed the wearer; a woman. I kept a safe distance, hoping to catch a glimpse of her from the front as she perused the shelves. Eventually she turned around, reaching back for something she’d forgotten to put in her trolley. She was wearing a crystal pendant.

This was no coincidence. I knew the woman was involved.

I went home and dumped my groceries. Grabbing a couple of ice cubes to suck on, I set out up the path behind my house to retrace my steps from the day before, feeling safe under the cover of daylight.

I made it to the same spot. The path was empty, save for a couple of tui waging war in the treetops under the patchy sunlight. No sign of any clothing, or any werewolves. I was alone.

So here I am, researching. My nocturnal self sitting alert in the darkness. A balmy breeze blowing through my open window, bringing with it the faint smells of evening BBQs. Familiar, but not tantalising for a vegetarian.

It turns out that the night I saw the werewolf there was a Blue Moon. In “moonology” (technical term), a Blue Moon signifies a time to pay attention. Unsurprisingly, Google knows a lot about moons and werewolves, and my coincidences stopped seeming like coincidences.

I believe there’s a werewolf roaming the hill behind my house. A woman with a white sneakers and a crystal pendant goes up the path under a Full Moon and strips off her clothes, transforming into a huge, hairy beast with grey eyes.

What does she do? I don’t know yet. But, there’s another Full Moon in six days’ time, and I intend to find out.

My Pyrite necklace will protect me. Never underestimate the power of crystals.

Indianna Cosgriff

Indianna Cosgriff is a creative writer and aspiring actress. Her day job is as a public servant. Indianna studied creative writing at the University of Canterbury and while studying published a number of articles in New Zealand university magazines. After a hiatus and a move to Wellington she is rediscovering her creative side. Indianna is currently working on a dystopian novella inspired by Covid-19.


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