Read Wilderness Online

Authors: Dean Koontz

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Horror, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Thrillers, #Suspense, #Romance, #Fantasy, #Fiction

Wilderness (4 page)

BOOK: Wilderness
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Apparently he had been a hiker, one who loved nature and the mountains. He dressed the part, and he carried a large backpack. He might have been in his late twenties, a curly-haired man with a well-trimmed beard. His eyes were open wide, but as grotesque as I might be, even I couldn’t frighten the dead.

I had seen just two living people in all my eight years, and this was the first that I had seen dead. He hadn’t willingly offered his life for mine, but fate had spared me by taking him. Perhaps he’d heard the hunter’s voice but not his words, or if he had heard nothing, then he might have come into the old house for no reason but curiosity. Each life is a spool of thread that unravels through the years, and it is by a thread that we are so perilously suspended.

I thanked him and closed his eyes and could do nothing more for him than leave him there to the attention of Nature, that she might take him unto herself and be one with him again, which is the way of all flesh.

If the hunter had lingered, he would have by then attacked me. Nevertheless, I didn’t walk boldly through open grass, but returned to the woods and circled the meadow with caution. Clouds masked the entire sky, and in the dismal light, the trees no longer blazed with color but seemed to have faded a bit more to brown than they had been when I’d set out that morning. The sycamores, quicker than some other species to drop their foliage, were nearly stripped, black-limbed and stark against the sky.

By a somewhat different route, I hiked toward home, wondering if the hunter would indeed return and take the forest from me, so that I would belong neither in my mother’s house nor in the wild. I decided not to seek sadness by dwelling on that prospect, and soon I felt as welcome in the woods as ever.

When I found the wolf waiting on the rimrock as I crested the ridge, I felt certain that he was the same one who had warned me of the hunter.

We stared at each other for a long moment, and then I said, “If you would like some chicken, come home with me, and I’ll give you a nice dinner.”

He cocked his head to the left, then to the right, as if I were a puzzle to him.

“Shall we be friends?” I asked, crouching and holding out one hand to him.

Perhaps because he was of the true wilderness and I was of two worlds, he didn’t approach me. But when I rose and started down into the trees, he followed. Eventually we came to a stream different from the one that I had walked earlier, a lively one that chortled over a stony course. I knelt at the water’s edge and drank directly from the flow until my thirst was slaked.

The wolf stopped to watch me. Only when I had finished and had gotten to my feet did he go to the water and lower his muzzle and drink upstream from me, as if he understood the health protocols of refreshment in the wilds.

We set out once more. Although the day was cooling and lacked sunshine to celebrate, birds sang us toward home. After a while, when I glanced back to see if I still had a companion, I discovered that a second wolf had joined the first. Their heads were high, and they wagged their tails, and their smiles in no way suggested that their intentions toward me were the same as those of the storybook wolf toward Red Riding Hood. I had no fear of them, and I continued on, and when next I looked back, they were three.

By the time we reached the tree line beyond which lay the yard around my mother’s house, the pack had grown to five. Now they loped past me and onto the grass. One of them executed a play bow before another, and the bow was reciprocated, and soon they were tumbling together and pretending to bite, chasing this way and that. One of them turned a hundred eighty degrees on one leg so that the
chased became the chaser, and they displayed with every move a grace that enchanted me.

I had never seen anything like this before, and I felt that it was a performance for my benefit. I stood watching with delight and knew intuitively that I was not invited to participate. After a while they tired themselves and retreated to the edge of the forest and stood there staring at me, their eyes warm yellow in the dreariness of the day. I believed their play had a purpose greater than mere frolic, but I had no idea what it might mean.

Tongues lolling, flanks heaving, they turned away from me and faded into the trees, quite like the wolves of sleep might wither into the vaporous forest in a dream. I stood alone.

I intended to go directly to the weathered building that served as a garage and see what my mother had left there for me in a picnic hamper, but then I saw the flag—the dish towel—hung from the hook on a front porch post. My banishment had come to an end much sooner than I expected.

In spite of the terror of the day and my sorrow that the hiker had come to his death that I might live, elation swelled in me. My mother suffered from anxiety in my presence and sometimes became so despondent that even drink and drugs were slow to rescue her from depression. But in the end, however, I was her child, and she loved me in her way. If she could seldom bring herself to touch me and even more seldom look at me directly, she nonetheless made a place for me in her life.

To that point, my greatest fear had been that my mother might grow ill or die by accident, leaving me alone. Even a freak such as I could dread solitude in a world of wonder made for sharing. As I headed toward the small but beloved house, I would soon begin to learn that our greatest fears are seldom realized, because the world is a machine that produces endless surprises and mysteries layered on mysteries—and shocks that either temper or shatter the spirit. My life was not to be this house or this forest, but instead the wilderness that is any city and the world beneath the city, where we few, we hidden, live in secret.

B
Y
D
EAN
K
OONTZ

77 Shadow Street • What the Night Knows • Breathless • Relentless • Your Heart Belongs to Me • The Darkest Evening of the Year • The Good Guy • The Husband • Velocity • Life Expectancy • The Taking • The Face • By the Light of the Moon • One Door Away from Heaven • From the Corner of His Eye • False Memory • Seize the Night • Fear Nothing • Mr. Murder • Dragon Tears • Hideaway • Cold Fire • The Bad Place • Midnight • Lightning • Watchers • Strangers • Twilight Eyes • Darkfall • Phantoms • Whispers • The Mask • The Vision • The Face of Fear • Night Chills • Shattered • The Voice of the Night • The Servants of Twilight • The House of Thunder • The Key to Midnight • The Eyes of Darkness • Shadowfires • Winter Moon • The Door to December • Dark Rivers of the Heart • Icebound • Strange Highways • Intensity • Sole Survivor • Ticktock • The Funhouse • Demon Seed

ODD THOMAS

Odd Thomas • Forever Odd • Brother Odd • Odd Hours • Odd Interlude • Odd Apocalypse • Deeply Odd

FRANKENSTEIN

Prodigal Son • City of Night • Dead and Alive • Lost Souls • The Dead Town

A Big Little Life: A Memoir of a Joyful Dog Named Trixie

About the Author

DEAN KOONTZ, the author of many #1
New York Times
bestsellers, lives in Southern California with his wife, Gerda, their golden retriever, Anna, and the enduring spirit of their golden, Trixie.

www.deankoontz.com

Correspondence for the author should be addressed to:

Dean Koontz

P.O. Box 9529

Newport Beach, California 92658

Addison’s journey continues in
INNOCENCE
, available soon in hardcover, eBook, and audio.

In a dark world, they light each other’s way
.

He lives in solitude beneath the city, an exile from society, which will destroy him if he is ever seen.

She dwells in seclusion, a fugitive from enemies who will do her harm if she is ever found.

But the bond between them runs deeper than the tragedies that have scarred their lives. Something more than chance—and nothing less than destiny—has brought them together in a world whose hour of reckoning is fast approaching.

In
Innocence
, #1
New York Times
bestselling author Dean Koontz blends mystery, suspense, and acute insight into the human soul in a masterfully told tale that will resonate with readers forever.

Learn more about INNOCENCE and Dean Koontz’s other books at
deankoontz.com

Join Dean on Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/deankoontzofficial

Follow Dean on Twitter
https://twitter.com/deankoontz

BOOK: Wilderness
6.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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