Barefoot

Lupa sat very still at the end of a long table. The floor was sticky under her bare feet. It was lunchtime. In her mind she was a silver wolf, running. Words weren’t needed. She continued running over flat prairie land. Soon she would leave this place, but for now the buzzer on the hot-plate sounded and the others shuffled in for lunch. The hot-plate’s timer bleeped until a nurse removed the chilli-con-carne.

 

Lupa would eventually put her shoes back on and walk along the pavements like people do. She would conceal the year in this place as though she had lifted the curtain of the afterlife and knew something others didn’t. It was both a burden and enlightening to have glimpsed the terrain beyond suffering. Here, this was solely endurance.

 

One of the others was able to take leave and buy newspapers on her behalf. During the day she sat pretending to read them. But the prairies would always call. She stared blankly at the print in front of her whilst peeling one toe at a time off the floor. Her paws, with their black claws, sensed the meadow grasses, rocks or sods. The urge for the chase, to run, and feel the cold air passing over her fur, ignited a longing, like love or hunger, hard to contain. Her head bowed to the newspapers, only her bare feet moving slightly.

 

Her husband and young son visited one morning, dropping off some snacks. They couldn’t stay long as he had to get to work. As her husband said goodbye, Lupa’s eyes burned through him, scorching fury into his heart. She loathed herself for being angry and against her will her brow furrowed. She stopped herself from snarling. She was separated from her pack.

 

Lupa consoled herself by pawing the ground; she disappeared through the woods into the darkness, mounting the rock face where she could howl from her bones. The wind was fresh in her fur and she sank her cries into the bright face of the moon. Lupa was aware of being watched, and was careful not to be tracked. Once, she had been caught and a violent struggle ensued. She had felt the hunting knife sting and pierce her skin. Then true darkness set in. She learnt to howl silently.

 

After a year confined in this place, and in order to leave the long table, the sticky floor, the hot-plate and those who watched, she put on her shoes to walk the pavements again.