This is an unpublished short that inspired my first novel.  I like the story but clearly, something is missing.  If you agree, let me know.  I am open to ways of making this a better short story.

Liam had never seen a wild wolf before.  He had always imagined them being the size of a Malamute, yet this one looked more like a small bear. About 20 yards behind the beast were other wolves pacing nervously as if they knew what was about to happen.  However, as the helicopter drew near this enormous wolf remained still like a giant tombstone made of white marble.

Shouting over the thundering props was Jonas the pilot.  “He’s begging to be shot fella!  What are you waiting for?”

The young hunter looked over to his pilot and shrugged. “You said we were going to wear him down first.”

“That’s the usual plan but this wolf isn’t playing by the rules.  We’ll take another pass on him and when we near the ravine……get your rifle ready.”

Liam nodded, his heart pounding.  The chopper rolled sideways on its second pass drawing lower and closer to the pack.  The youth’s arm shot out, grasping an overhead handle for support.  He fumbled for his gun, thinking through the check list Jonas had briefed him on.

“Get your ass ready,” the pilot said. “He sure is a big son of a bitch.”

Raising the rifle, Liam peered through his scope in search of prey but turbulence made it difficult to find any target. He glanced up from his sight as Jonas bellowed orders.

“To your right! Take the shot fella! Take it!”

Liam returned to his scope and quickly found the wolf staring right back at him. He centered the cross hairs and squeezed the trigger feeling a jolt against his shoulder.  Instantly the white wolf disappeared from view, collapsing to the snow.  In a frenzy the remaining pack scattered in all directions.

The young hunter pumped a fist and looked down at his prize.  It was the most magnificent wolf he could ever imagine killing.

“Wait now!” Jonas cautioned.  “Be ready for his mate.  She’ll circle back to be with him.  Just wait for her.”

“Are you serious?”

Stomach churning, Liam watched the frozen earth rise towards him.  Several seconds passed before he noticed a smaller wolf slinking back towards the fallen alpha. She crept forward, her body low to the ground and nuzzled her fallen mate.

Jonas slapped his thigh.  “There the bitch is!  I told you she would be back.  You believe anything being that dumb?”

Liam checked his rifle and quickly prepared for a second shot. Even though their chopper hovered less than forty feet away, the female wolf ignored them.  She carefully circled her mate several times before curling up beside him, laying her head on his back.

The young hunter had never felt this mixture of adrenalin and disgust. He had hunted everything from grouse to elk, yet something was different this time. Liam easily centered his sites on the alpha pair and shot his second wolf of the day.  More rifle blasts erupted over the landscape as the female wolf spun around wildly, spraying red mist across the snow.

“Hold your fire!  I’m gonna bring us down.”

Liam searched for his targets through the swirling snow which kicked up like waves of white mist. They landed in a matter of minutes, gently touching down about forty yards from the kill site.

“I would have landed closer if it weren’t for that damn ravine!”  Jonas called.

Liam barely heard the pilot.  Instead he fumbled for his seat belt and was reaching for the passenger door when a meaty arm lay across his chest, holding him fast.

“Wait a second there fella!  I need to clear the area first,” Jonas said with a humorless grin.

Liam threw the arm aside.  “Come on Jonas!  My father paid out the ass for this!”

Jonas narrowed an icy stare at the hunter and spoke softly.  “I don’t give a shit how much your daddy paid. You think papa is gonna look the other way if his precious son gets hurt?”

“Come on Jonas!  What could happen?  I have a gun for chrissake!”

Jonas took a few slow breaths.  “I’ve been running these hunts for over 10 years now….and in all that time I have NEVER seen a wolf act like that.”

The youth crossed his arms. “So you’re saying I was lucky?”

“Not just lucky fella.  No, what you did today was like hitting the damn lottery!  Wolves don’t just sit there and wait for you to shoot, especially wolves in these parts where they are heavily hunted.  I don’t know why a wolf would act like that unless it was rabid.”

Liam raised his eyebrows.  “If it’s rabid can I still keep the pelt?”

Jonas didn’t answer.  He flipped a few switches and took off his headset before jumping out of the cockpit and into the snowy landscape.

The props died down quickly until only the ringing in Liam’s ears remained. Maybe next time he would listen to his father and wear those damn ear plugs.  He sank back into his seat and thumped a fist to his chest.  Liam’s family had been totally against him taking this trip. With his father being in a tight senate race, they all thought it was a mistake this close to election time. But dad had promised him a wolf hunt and daddy was ALWAYS good to his word.  Of course only his father had known Liam was going aerial hunting.  Had the family known that, they probably would never speak to Liam again. Aerial wolf hunting had been outlawed several years ago and if the press caught wind of Liam’s escapades it would destroy any hopes of his father being reelected.

Suddenly the young man heard a sound that snapped him out of his mind, chilling the marrow in his bones.  It was a low moaning howl that filled the hunter with dread.  His first thoughts went to Jedi.  He hadn’t thought of his beloved dog in years, yet when the mournful chord surfaced it instantly brought back the death of his lovable husky.

The passenger door swung open causing Liam to jump in his seat.  Standing beside him was a thick bearded man with sun glasses.  He smiled as if he knew a terrible secret.

“What the hell was that noise?” Liam asked the pilot.

“What do you mean?  That sound should be music to your ears. The dumb bitch will bleed out before long. We’ll just let her whine herself to death.”

Jonas slapped him on the back.  A hearty laugh filled the cock pit. Liam felt pride swell up in his chest.  Nobody had given him any chance of shooting a wolf let alone killing two in one hunt.  Today he had shown them all.

“Pretty exciting eh?” Jonas said.

“Nothing like it,” Liam agreed.

Jonas straightened up and pointed back towards the wolf. “Well he’s over there.  I made sure he was dead.  I mean we don’t want the poor son of a bitch to suffer do we?”

Liam snickered as he stepped out of the chopper.  It took him a few moments before he could gain his footing in the snow.

Jonas shook his head.  “I told you those boots of yours were crap.”

The pilot then trudged across the frozen earth, quickly making his way to the crumpled wolf.  Liam watched as Jonas bent over the great animal.

“Biggest damn wolf I’ve ever seen,” the pilot announced.

Liam continued to stumble off the helicopter platform before walking towards his kill. He noticed he was trembling and thrust his hands into the pockets of his coat.

The pilot let out a long whistle.  “I have never seen anyone come close to bagging such a prize.”

The young hunter finally reached the kill site feeling the night air biting his ears. At his feet lay the giant alpha male with pools of blood trailing from his snout like red snakes.

“So what happens now?” Liam asked.

“We haul this fella back to the lodge and you can either have us take care of it or do it yourself.”

A thought surfaced in Liam’s mind.  “What about the alpha female?”

“If we don’t find her soon, she’ll make a good meal for her friends.  Did you know these vermin will eat their own kind?”

The youth shook his head, entranced by the dead wolf.

Jonas continued, “You’ll also hear wolves don’t attack people but that’s absolute bullshit.  If a wolf is hungry enough, she’ll—–”

The pilot’s words broke off.

“—-LIAM! BEHIND YOU!”

Before Liam could turn around, something rammed into his back knocking the wind from his lungs and slamming him to the frozen ground. The hunter struggled to get up yet he was pinned down by powerful jaws which crushed his neck in their grasp.  A throaty growl echoed over the tundra as fangs sliced his scalp with relentless precision. He heard the pilot screaming hysterically from a distance but couldn’t make out the words. His arms flailed useless as the wolf remained locked on him like a bear trap grinding his face into the snow and draining his body of blood.  His neck seemed at the snapping point when a familiar sound fired overhead. The rush of relief was immediate as the wolf released him and hit the snow like a side of beef.  Unable to move, Liam lay like a corpse feeling warm liquid seeped into the gaping wounds across his scalp and neck.

From far away the pilot’s voice cracked as he spoke, “Don’t worry fella. I’ll call for help. I’m staying with you….”

Death swept over Liam and his world slowly became terrible blackness…..

When Liam awoke, the moon hung bloated in the night sky.  He took a deep breath feeling the crisp air flow through his lungs.  The hunter sat up and was surprised to find that he felt no pain. He rubbed his neck and scalp where the alpha female had mauled him, yet everything was intact. Only his coat, caked in frozen blood and spit bore remnants of the wolf’s attack.

Where the hell is the pilot?

“Hey!  Anyone here?” Liam’s voice echoed out over the lonely landscape. Rising above the silence came the mournful howl of a wolf.  Liam’s tongue grew thick in his throat. He looked back to the helicopter, dead in the snow.  It was only forty yards away yet it seemed like miles.  He began to hear crunching movements closing in from all directions. Liam made a dash for it, his feet scrambling through the moon lit ice.  The chopper loomed ahead looking like a steel coffin.

Please!……Please!……Please!

He reached the passenger door and jerked it open causing his feet to slip under him.  The hunter glanced back and saw shadows closing in. In a flurry of desperation he dove into the cock pit and slid the door closed.  A sigh escaped his lips revealing smoky puffs of air as he collapsed into his seat. But Liam could feel he wasn’t alone. From the corner of his eye he caught a glimpse of someone else sitting in the pilot’s seat.  He turned to face the figure and felt a mixture of relief and rage.

“What the fuck man?”  Liam screamed.  “Didn’t you hear me yelling out there?  I thought you were gonna radio for help?”

There came no reply from Jonas.  Instead his dark silhouette sat motionless against the frosted glass of the chopper.  The hunter’s anger quickly died inside him like a bad joke. He reached for the overhead light and switched it on. There grinning back at him was Jonas, his flesh torn apart revealing rows of broken teeth. His tongue lay like a giant snail across the pilot’s chest while one eye dangled from its socket.

“JESUS!” Liam screamed and jumped back from the corpse.

Outside, the howling returned sounding as though the pack was gathering around the chopper. The young man braced himself before making his next move.  Carefully he fumbled for the radio headset which lay atop the dead man’s head. Once in his grasp, Liam yanked the headphones towards him causing the pilot’s head to cave in like a rotted pumpkin. Liam felt as though worms twisted under his skin.  Every sense screamed at him to run from the chopper, but the wolves were holding him prisoner.

Stay calm…..have to stay calm here….THINK!….THINK!….THINK!

Liam searched over the maze of dials and quickly realized he had no clue how to power up the chopper.  He began hitting anything his hands could touch, frantically slapping the instrument panel as though he were drowning.  In a rage Liam slammed his fist into the panel causing the outside lights to switch on.  What he saw sucked the life from his chest as twelve wolves surrounded the helicopter, their eyes glowing like iridescent flames. Liam froze, then remembered there was metal and glass between he and the pack.  But was it enough? Liam decided he wasn’t going to take any chances and tore through the cockpit, searching for a gun.  Reaching behind his seat he found a rifle with several magazines. He grabbed the weapon and stuffed ammo into his pockets. He loaded a shell into its chamber and glanced out his side window expecting to see the pack, yet only desolate fields of snow surrounded him now.  He continued searching out the fogging windows but saw no signs of life. The hunter was reminded of a story Jonas had told him on their flight. 

“There were these pack of wolves that waited five days for some wounded moose to weaken before killing it,” The pilot had said with a chuckle. “Now that’s determination!”  

Liam held the rifle closer to his chest and looked over at his dead friend who sat like a crumbling mannequin. In his mind he could hear the old pilot’s voice whispering,

“Kill yourself fella….it’s the only way out….”

Liam returned to the instrument panel and was tinkering with various switches when a cold sensation shot through his spine. The young man tried ignoring the pins and needles as they rose up through his back and neck until a piercing pain crumpling him in his seat. In a matter of seconds, Liam lost all reason within himself, his actions ruled by desperation. Unable to control himself, the hunter thrashed through the cockpit and spilled out into the arctic night. He convulsed wildly, twisting in agony until the torment abruptly ended leaving Liam terrified and breathless on the frozen ground.  The hunter’s heart churned like a ravenous monster yet his body remained still.  For several long seconds he lay in the snow, waiting for the seizures to resurface. Liam was about to return to the chopper when the patter of paws filled his ears. With the wolves closing in, Liam had no choice but to run.

The hunter knew his chance of survival was bleak. He envisioned the pack catching up with him and ripping open his bowels as he screamed helplessly into the frozen void.  But then a plan suddenly  flashed through his mind….

The ravine!

Liam had noticed a steep gorge near the kill site.  If he could outrun the pack to the ravine he had a better chance of losing them through the rocky terrain. Liam raced back to the kill site, praying the pack was not already waiting for him. When he reached the ravine, snarls were approaching from every angle sounding like laughing demons.  He plunged down the slope ignoring the jagged stone that rattled his limbs.  Growls echoed down from above with the pack following close behind.  At first he thought he might have a chance, his feet somehow finding all the perfect crevices as he slid past stone and ice like an extreme skier. But midway down the slope, Liam’s seizures returned sending the hunter toppling until he met the frozen earth with a sickening crack.  Unable to control his body, Liam convulsed as spears of agony tore through his flesh.

Slowly the pack of twelve came stalking towards him. Liam’s mind begged for action yet his body could only tremble in spasms. The wolves crept closer until they made a large circle around their prey. They stood silently until a white shape came lurking through their ranks untouched. The other wolves immediately fell prostrate at their leader’s feet, shaking their heads from side to side and groveling in overt signs of respect.  He appeared almost twice as large as the others, his white coat glistened in the moonlight revealing several red gashes near his throat.  When his yellow gaze fell upon Liam, the great wolf bared his fangs with a menacing snarl.

But I shot you!  You died!

The alpha bounded onto the young man, clamping his mouth around Liam’s throat. In an instant the entire pack went berserk, mercilessly ripping into the hunter’s chest and stomach.  Liam screamed in horror while his intestines lay spilling across the snow.  Dozens of hungry mouths tore through his flesh violently stripping his skin with guttural sounds of contentment. It was in this moment of terror when the hunter noticed something strange—-although his body lay ravaged by the pack, he felt no pain.  And while the wolves fed greedily upon him, Liam remained aware yet detached as though the scene were playing out on some giant movie screen in the sky.

The feeding went well into the night with each wolf taking turns to feast upon Liam’s carcass. Through it all Liam cycled between terror and apathy begging God to release him from this madness.  Although the hunter was in no physical pain, he watched helplessly as his body was eaten alive. Not a single part of the hunter was spared until his torso resembling a gutted canoe. Finally, the pack began to disband, leaving Liam’s dismembered body strewn across the ravine. Only the great alpha wolf remained, standing silently over Liam’s corpse.

A calmness began to permeate the young man chasing his fears away like a mother’s kiss.  Suddenly, a pull like thousands of tiny magnets began to tug at Liam, jolting him from his disassociated state. The surge of attraction grew stronger drawing him closer to the enormous white wolf. Liam’s physical world began to awaken once more as his senses poured back into him. In an instant thousands of scents and sounds flooded his awareness bringing gravity to his being. Then Liam felt a surge of vibrating energy animate his new form and propel him like a rocket through the snow.  Right away the young hunter noticed a euphoric freedom and grace that he had never experienced before.

Meanwhile, the white alpha sat transfixed, his fierce yellow eyes growing black as they bore through Liam. The hunter quickly obeyed his new impulses and fell upon his back exposing his stomach in a gesture of submission.  He braced himself for fangs to sink deep into his bowels yet the alpha only growled before turning his back on the hunter.  The great alpha took one more look back at Liam and snarled before trotting off with the rest of the pack.

Liam lay still, waiting for the wolves to return yet only the soft sounds of rustling pines filled his presence.  Slowly he rose from his back and peered over to the mangled corpse laying in the snow.

I must be dreaming….but how can a dream be this real?

He pushed the thought aside and turned away from the body, treating it as a forgotten acquaintance.  Feeling more alive than ever before, he tested out his new form and found each movement exhilarating. He broke into a sprint, bounding up the ravine with ease, making his way through the jagged crevices with sleek precision. The dull tundra surroundings were now transformed into millions of new sensations, sites, sounds and smells.  If this were a dream, then Liam never wanted to awaken from it………

Officials have issued a “critical missing persons alert” for 19-year-old Liam Meeks, a local teen who disappeared during a hunting trip. The alert follows the grizzly discovery of pilot Jonas Steele, whose mutilated remains were found Friday evening when snowmobilers stumbled upon his downed helicopter.  Although police have not confirmed cause of
death, reports indicate a possible animal attack.     

“It could be an animal, it could be a hunting accident, right now we don’t have anything conclusive,” authorities told News 5.  

 Meanwhile Liam Meeks is nowhere to be found. The son of political giant Harold Meeks had been taking part in the fly out expedition to celebrate his 19th birthday. 

“He was so excited about the trip,” Liam’s mother told News 5.  “He left before saying goodbye.”

Police are currently combing the wilderness for Meeks who has been missing for over 72 hours. 

………Three days later.

It was approaching dawn as the star lit night was replaced by a whitewashed blue sky.  In the distance, the first glimpse of sun began to creep atop a mountain peak. From his makeshift den amongst the bristly pines, Liam awoke to the familiar sound of chopper props.  He stood and shook the snow from his body as a dark shape approached from the horizon. Instinctively, he ran towards the growing shape, his steps feeling light across the stiff terrain.  Soon it hovered above him like an arctic tornado stirring clouds of swirling snow. Confused, the hunter tried to stand his ground and wait for the helicopter to land. Instead the chopper dove towards him, nearly clipping him on its pass.  Liam sprinted for an escape but his attempts were cut off by the charging chopper that grew closer with each pass.  Repeatedly the young hunter was made to run for his life until his limbs grew weak and he became trapped in a deep snow bank.  Liam frantically fought to escape the mounds of snow until something ripped through his chest. The hunter tried screaming yet only a pitiful yelping escaped his throat. A few hundred feet away the helicopter began to descend until it came to rest in a thunderous roar.

Soon, two ghostlike figures approached dressed in bulky white snow suits.  Each carried  rifles and donned masks which resembled giant skulls. They moved cautiously as though expecting trouble.  The smaller of the two walked in front, his eyes and rifle fixed on the fallen Liam. Close behind him, his companion whirled a rifle in ever-changing positions as though sweeping the area for danger.  As soon as the pair were within 30 feet of Liam, their posture quickly changed from caution to curiosity.

The smaller one knelt in front of Liam and spoke to his companion, “You got the bastard Charles!  But he sure don’t look much like a man-eater. You really think he’s part of the pack they’ve been searching for?”

Charles shrugged.  “Who knows?  With their chopper this close, I would say it’s a good possibility.”

“Wouldn’t there be a body?” the smaller man asked.

“Not necessarily, “ Charles said. “I’ve seen a murder of ravens eat 90 pounds of moose meat in one sitting.  Now give a pack of wolves a few days and there wouldn’t be much left. We can check around the chopper again, but if the boy isn’t there, gutting this wolf is the ONLY sure way to tell.”

“Oh God!”  The smaller hunter squawked.  “Old Harold’s not going to like that!”

“I can see the headlines now,” Charles said thrusting his arms out in front of him. “SENATOR’S SON FOUND IN WOLF’S STOMACH!”

Both men chuckled reminding Liam of the dead pilot Jonas. A few days ago Liam would have been laughing right along with them, but now every breath brought agony to his lungs.

“He sure is a stunning creature,” the smaller man said.

Charles stepped forward and scowled down at Liam.  “Ahhh don’t let him fool you.  Wolves kill everything.  Why do you think they’ve been hunted to near extinction? Bastards don’t know when to stop killing!”

The smaller hunter smiled. “Sure is beautiful though—-especially through my cross hairs!”