There were wolves under Stacy's bed. They spoke to her in the night, whispering stories about their forest home, where the trees sparkled gold and the ground was made of silk. She listened with rapt attention, dreaming of the day when she could walk down the sunlit paths, to the worlds beyond, where castles grew from pods and fairies wove dresses out of spider silk. She only ever saw the wolves eyes, grape sized balls of glowing gold that danced up and down when they laughed.
The wolves told her she was special and that no other person was graced with their presence. Stacy wasn't sure if that was true. Her friends talked about creatures under their beds, though most of those were monsters and not friendly wolves. So, one day, she decided to ask her mother, since Mommies knew everything.
"Mommy, do you have wolves under your bed?"
Stacy watched her mother put down her coffee cup and smile gently at her. "No honey," she said. "But I had bears under my bed when I was your age."
"Maybe your bears can play with my wolves!" Stacy reached over and grabbed her special bunny cup. Her mother just smiled and ruffled her hair.
The wolves didn't like Stacy telling her mother about them. We are for you only, they said, their eyes glowing brighter as the spoke. You must never speak of us to anyone. That will make you a bad girl and you don't want to know what wolves do to bad little girls.
She never spoke of them again, to anyone. They became her little secret, story tellers who filled her head with magical worlds that went beyond their forest. They told her of the land of shadow, where people only spoke in whispers and never went to bed, and the world under her feet, filled with hungry gnomes who ate any dreams that happened to trickle down the ears of sleeping children.
One day, her father brought in a tiny puppy, that he had found in their front yard. Stacy was sure it was one of her wolves children, lost and unable to find its way back under the bed.
"Daddy," she said, careful not to mention anything about her wolf friends. "Did you find the puppy near my window?"
"No sweetheart," he said. "I found it near the gate." He looked confused at her question and Stacy didn't press further.
"It's a pretty puppy," she said. "I hope its Mommy and Daddy aren't worried."
"That's why we're going to find out who its Mommy and Daddy are," her father said. "So he can go home."
That night, Stacy snuck the puppy out of her parents room and brought it under her bed.
"My Daddy found a puppy," she said. "Is it yours?" A paw reached out and pulled the puppy towards the shadows, causing it to yelp. The yelping continued for a few more seconds and then stopped, leaving the room in silence.
Thank you, the wolves said. He wasn't ours, but he will be much happier here than he was in your world.
"Why was he crying?" Stacy peered into the darkness, trying to catch a glimpse of the puppy.
He was afraid, the shadows replied. Most creatures fear the unknown. But he's happy now. Can you hear him laughing?
She strained her ears and thought she could hear a tiny little laugh. She smiled and pushed her head further under the bed. "When can I go in your world?"
Soon, little one.
Stacy didn't like the wolves' stories anymore. They never spoke of castles or gnomes any longer. They spoke of blood and twisted things that she didn't understand, nor wanted to. Stacy learned of people who cut up the bodies of their neighbors and hid them in swamps, of little children who starved to death in basements and closets, and fields of bodies where whole families were left to rot. They told her how one day her mother and father would rot from the inside out and slowly start to fall apart, how her parents would leave her and become one of the bodies left to rot, only stuffed underground in the dark. And one day, she too would join them.
They forced the stories into her head, until images formed in her mind's eye, like a movie that would not turn off. All day long she saw twisted bodies and twisted people, calling to her, singing to her, pleading with her to join them in their game of death.
"What is death?" she had asked the wolves one night, after they spoke of a young prince dying in one of their stories. The wolves laughed and one of them stuck its head out of the darkness, showing itself to Stacy for the first time. It had long course fur that ran down its face and muzzle, but the golden eyes glowed in front, as if they were floating in front of the fur.
We will show you, it said and the next night the stories changed.
Now she knew what death was. It was a monster, lurking around corners, waiting to strike. Death lived in everything. She could choke on a pea and fall into endless dark, or she could fall ill and never get better, no matter how many cold compresses Mommy put on her head.
And death could be wielded, like one of the weapons now swimming through her mind. People poured death over others, stomping those that got in their way. They slaughtered for sport, for gain, or just to see the life drain from one's eyes. Most people killed all they could find. The wolves showed her the truth.
She clung to Mommy and Daddy. They weren't killers. They were islands of safety, perfect protection from the terror of the world and her own mind. They calmed her fears with cookies and hugs and she knew that no matter what, she was safe in their arms.
"Your stories make me cry," she told the wolves one night, as she crouched down next to her bed. "I don't like you anymore."
The wolves laughed and stuck their heads out of the shadows. We're sorry to hear that, they said. We were just showing you the truth. But we have one more story to tell you and it will make everything better. We promise.
"O-okay," she said, ready for a story that would take away the horrors crowding her head.
Listen little one, the wolves crooned, and be free.
Stacy knew the truth. The whole world killed, locked in a game that pitted neighbor against neighbor, each trying to draw the blood of the other. They never spoke of it, but all participated, teaching their children the joy of the blade.
Her parents didn't murder. They never came home covered in blood, giddy from the hunt, and they never brought wounded children for her to practice on. They were weak, the dregs of society, poor deluded souls who most looked upon with pity.
She refused to pity such useless creatures. It was her duty, her right, to join society's game. No one would fault her for cutting the blight of her parents from her life. They were robbing her of humanity's greatest pleasure and would pay the price.
Mommy and Daddy sat at the breakfast table, eating their eggs and toast. Stacy stepped over, holding the long black blade her wolf friends had given her. Daddy looked up and smiled.
"Good morning! Sleep – " He stared in confusion at the weapon clutched in her small fist and his eyes quickly clouded with concern.
"Stacy, where did you get that?" he said, and her mother turned around and gasped.
"You'll cut yourself!" She sprung from the table and rushed over to Stacy, but Stacy jammed the blade into her mother's side.
"You are the one I'll cut," she said, watching her mother stumble back, eyes wide and clamped to her wound.
Her father ran forward, but Stacy leapt up and jammed the blade into his chest.
"Foolish," she said, taking the knife from his skin with a pop. "You should have run."
"Stacy," her father croaked, as he fell to his knees. "This isn't real… it's a dream… wake up…"
"It's not a dream," she said, stepped around her father to get to her mother, who slipped on her own blood. Stacy grabbed her mother's hair and lifted her head, the strength of wolves pumping through her heart.
"Honey," the woman sobbed, but Stacy ignored her and ran the blade across her neck.
"Pathetic," she said and dropped her to the floor. "No wonder you never played the game."
Stacy made her way back over to her father. He continued to kneel and mutter, worth less and less with each sobbing word.
"You shouldn't have robbed me of the game," she said, holding the tip of the blade to his throat.
"What… what game?" He looked up at her, watery eyes glistening with cowardice.
"So, you deny it even with your last breath." Stacy sneered and gripped the blade tighter. "You deserve death." She jammed the blade into his throat and twisted the handle.
Her mind exploded in a blast of blackness and Stacy stepped back from the scene, her body twisting into something… powerful. She was shadow, pure and free, and she shed everything; her skin, her mind, her name.
Well done, her brethren said, rising up from the ground and surrounding her, their glowing eyes bright with approval. She looked over at the two human bodies. She would remember them, her first kill.
Let's go home, she said. The other wolves nodded and they all faded into the shadows, leaving only the smell of breakfast and death behind.