“House of Wolves” by Gillian Daniels

The wolves moved in down the street at the end of summer. At least a dozen of them were crowded into a four-bedroom house. They ran around the yard, panting clouds into the winter-frost air. They ate sleeping chipmunks, rabbits, and squirrels. The neighborhood watch complained when they all gathered under the moon and howled three nights after they came.

Mrs. Vasquez down the street had talked about sending canned pears but didn’t, so Mom sent me to their house with a tuna fish casserole. I told her they would hate it, they were wolves, I didn’t even like it, and she said, “Too bad. If they don’t eat it, you will.”

At their house, four wolves stopped to smell my hands at the same time before I was allowed inside. Their noses were wet and cool.

They took an immediate liking to me and I to them. They liked the same TV shows that I did and played the same game apps. Mrs. Wolf asked me back again and, from a couch where all of us were sitting, I said yes, please.

Two months later, Mrs. Wolf and her husband asked if I wanted to join their pack.

“I have a family,” I told them. “I don’t think I’m allowed to leave them.”

My parents were alone at the intersection of Aspen Road and Greenlake when their car stopped. The police told me Dad must have gone to the nearest gas station for help. I could imagine him doing that after snapping at the car for not doing what it was told.

When he didn’t return, Mom left soon after. The police could tell by the dried wad of gum she had left on the dashboard. She did this often, claiming she was “saving it for later” but often forgot.

My brother and I would have been lost without the wolves. They’ve been so kind. I get to stay up as late as I want at night. They encourage me to skip school and say that I should just sleep in every day.

My brother doesn’t like that very much. He mostly stays in his room, headphones clamped over his ears, and doesn’t like to come out.

Of course I’ve wondered if the wolves did it. I’m not an idiot. The police insist there were no bodies, no bites, and no blood. Mom and Dad are just missing people. I trust the police; I trust the wolves.

Once a month, we gather to howl. We sing sorrow and sadness out of our bodies and into the moon, where it’s kept safe. Then we all huddle in the den and fall asleep.

Sometimes, people invade our property when they’re not invited. Neighborhood kids. Mere humans.

When that happens, it’s a lot of fun.

The world is a head full of teeth, Mrs. Wolf says. Some aren’t as sharp as others, but all of them are made for chewing. Mine aren’t as sharp as the wolves, but they can bite hard.

Gillian Daniels writes, works, and haunts the streets in Boston, MA. Since attending the 2011 Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Workshop, her poetry and short fiction have appeared in Strange Horizons, Apex Magazine, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and Flash Fiction Online, among others. She can be found at your house party, petting your cat.