He stood with utmost silence, his expression ominously blank. His eyes, empty and lacking pupils, showed no emotion as they stared straight forward in her direction. He was several feet away, standing beneath a burly oak tree which littered dark scarlet leaves across the forest floor, canopy slowly thinning.
You don’t scream, he said soundlessly, mouthing out each word with exaggerated slowness. Quiet hesitated for a long moment before shaking her head, replying soundlessly with Cannot.
Mute? He asked, understanding what she mouthed within seconds. She nodded, which received her an emotionless smile as he slowly stepped closer. She stayed rooted, though stiffening her legs in case the need for fleeing came. He stopped a few inches away, his dry, ancient-looking nose hovering just above hers, close enough that she could smell his hot, sour breath on her face. Me too, he uttered finally, still fixing her with that deadly smile. Quiet blinked slowly, staring into the white pools of his eyes, feeling a chill zip through her veins.
Finally, she breathed, What is wrong with you?
He didn’t respond, instead turning and away padding into the trees. Quiet started after him and then delayed herself, pausing with one paw up in the air as he padded slowly through the brightly-colored leaf litter and then disappeared from sight all together. She stared after him for a long moment before ducking her head and sprinting back to her home.
As she arrived back in camp, her aunt Soft found her. Soft had two daughters, both of which were considered perfect; their fur was extravagantly colored, dappled with gray and streaked with black and blonde. They could both see, hear, and speak perfectly well, and Quiet knew that her mother had great envy towards her sister’s offspring. “Quiet!” Soft exclaimed the moment that she stepped out of the bronze-colored underbrush. “Where have you been? Captain wants every wolf accounted for to ensure that no one else is sick.” Her voice was scathing, her tone shameful. Quiet felt a surge of rage towards her aunt: could she not see the worry in Quiet’s eyes? Could she not feel the anxiety that rolled off of her like waves? Why did no one care?
Hiding the anger that she felt bubbling within her as best as she could, she followed Soft over to where the rest of the pack had gathered, nearby the elders’ den. Captain, their alpha, was making his rounds and giving a good sniff to every coyote, inspecting them to ensure that they were healthy. Quiet sat, sighing through her nostrils, and awaited her turn.
The black wolf appeared in her dreams the next following nights. He always repeated the same thing: Angry, angry, angry you are. I will help. Let me help. His voice was nonexistent, sounding like the breathy wind itself, and yet without even seeing his lips move to form the words that he repeated, Quiet knew that those words were what he was saying. And it scared her.
The longer that the ominous wolf hung around in her mind, the more frustrated she grew. No one would try and listen, try and read her lips or watch her motions to try and decipher what she was saying. Not even her own mother. Her perfect cousins, Elegant and Grace, barely acknowledged her existence, much less wanted to sit while she flailed around and tried to mouth the words of her anxiety. The black wolf was the only one who listened, the only one who was willing to wait patiently as she worked out how to mouth the words properly so that others could understand. And he had the very same problem, lacking a voice so instead needing to speak entirely through body language. It was hard to think about anything other than her mysterious acquaintance. She knew that it was wrong to speak with him, to seek him out when she went on a walk through the woods. And yet… although she knew that it was wrong, it felt so, so right.