I was once told that one could find peace anywhere. You only had to quiet your mind, listen to the sound of the world and know that all was meant to be.
I once thought that to be true. But then everything changed. Everything went to hell… and as though in a blink of an eye life was never the same.
Lightning split the night sky. The wooden shack shook with each concussion of thunder. The rain was coming down in torrents. The trees bent and bowed in the wind. Nature was unleashing full force tonight. Fire crackled in the forge and cast the shack in red and yellow hues. But all the young wolf could hear, all he could focus on, the only thing that mattered was the ringing metal as he struck hammer to anvil.
Now, not even the sound of storms comfort me anymore…
…nor the sound of crackling fire…
…nor the sound of ringing metal.
How- Why did things get so bad?
The young wolf paused for a moment between hammer blows. The ingot he was holding was glowing white hot in the center and fading to red at the edges. He barely felt the searing heat of the forge or the burning of his hand from handling the glowing metal. His long grey hair veiled his eyes lending to his sensation of tunnel vision. His muscles ached from the exertion. The scars on his face itched. They were constant reminder of good times long past. His mind swirled. Anger rose in him like a tidal wave. The hammer in his hands grew heavier.
“Why...?” He snarled.
CLANG! Sparks from the metal ingot he worked on flew in every direction.
“Why?” His anger was roiling, writhing, growing. Each hammer blow seemed to add fuel to the fire.
The young wolf shut his eyes. My home. Everything destroyed. What did we do to deserve this? And they called us beasts! His anger erupted into consuming rage.
“WHY!!!” The young wolf threw his hammer blindly. A crash louder than the thunder resounded in the shack. The bent ruin of a pair of forge tongs lay below where it had hung on the wall next to the hammer that dealt its damaging blow.
A single tear rolled down his cheek and dropped onto the still glowing hot ingot.
A familiar smiling face flashed through his mind. He wanted to convulse in agony. The desire to curl up in a corner and cry was overwhelming. The flood of emotions he was succumbing to was unbearable.
Why did you turn on us? Why did you kill them…?
The rhythmic splashing of footsteps approached the shack. The young wolf should have been on guard and ready to fight but he simply stood there. All care lost to his maelstrom of grief.
“Why did they have to die…?” He felt as though he was asking someone already in the room with him. But there was no one. He was alone.
SLAM! The door to the shack swung open violently.
“Ash!? What happened? Ash, the floor is on fire!” The voice of his friend cried out. Her face and words were filled with anxiety and fear.
Ash barely looked down to acknowledge that yes indeed the floor was on fire. The ingot he had been working on had fallen to the ground and set it ablaze. Considering the shack and everything in it was made of flammable material he should have been more worried. His tail hung but inches away from the flame. A few strands of his grey fur were singed black and coiled. But his friend’s sudden interruption of his hurricane of sadness and rage stifled his emotional inferno. It had died down and now a growing sense of apathy was his prevailing state of mind.
“Don’t worry about it,” was all Ash could manage to say. The apathy was the only thing keeping his anger from getting out of control.
Ash’s friend slowly stepped into the shack. The light from the furnace bathed her in soft firelight, giving her tan fur a soft glow. She looked from the fire on the floor to Ash. She knew he was in a state but she was compelled to ask.
“Are you- ”
“I’m fine. Now get out!!” Ash’s anger unwittingly flared. Now a new sense of guilt was added onto his already enormous collection of negative emotions.
His friend recoiled and stepped back. “I- I’m sorry. I was just worried. I heard a loud noise.” The heat from the shack was starting to become overwhelming. She had no idea how Ash could stand it in here.
Ash continued to stand there – staring into the distance. His voice seemed far away when he spoke. “Just leave me be.”
“Are you sure?” She asked – worry mixed with sadness in her words.
“Yes, I have a lot of work to do.” Apathy once again prevailed in his tone.
“Alright, if you need me or if you need to talk I’ll be next door.”
She looked at the fire on the floor again. Her face became sullen.
“Listen… I know you well enough to know when you are holding back from me. I want to help. Please, let me help. You aren’t alone at this. I am here for you when you decide to let me in.” She began to step back out into the storm. “At least put the fire out. I care about you.” The door shut as she finished speaking her piece.
“I know, Mari.” Ash whispered almost to himself.
The fire around him crackled. Almost as though color and depth were returning to the world he began to hear nature’s onslaught outside and feel the heat in the shack. Ash grabbed the bucket he was going to use from quenching the burning metal and splashed on the fire on the ground. It hissed violently as it was snuffed out. Steam rose in faded whisps like incense.
The world began to turn around him. It was almost as though he were having an out of body experience. Like reality struck him and it felt too real. This was not some bad dream. Not this time. He was not going to wake up from this. Perhaps that is because his nightmares were real all along.
Suddenly he could not stand. He dropped the bucket and his knees followed. His knees splashed into the soggy, char-smelling ground. He stared into space seeking out that smiling familiar face in his memory. Kneeling there he balled his fists. Claws bit into flesh and drew blood. Teeth gritted as his rage was rekindled. That face. That haunting face. How evil and twisted it had become.
Ash looked at his fists. “Kaelan, I swear… I’ll kill you.”