Thursday, October 9, 2014

JESSIE TEMPLAR - THE WOLF THAT NEVER WAS

Jessie Templar sat in her car in the Walmart parking lot fumbling with the AC buttons; it was a hot one, but thank goodness the humidity was low and there was a light breeze blowing.  It was the first beautiful day of the summer, one where you just wanted to skip work and go to the beach or park with a few cold ones. She sat there in her tank top, jean cut-offs, and flip-flops letting the cool air blow on her face.

She didn’t have to work today so she was out and about running a few errands, and now that she was done she was thirsty and restless. She pulled out of the parking lot and instead of going home to clean her apartment as she had planned she took a detour to her brother’s place, hoping he was off work today, too.

Jessie lived in a small apartment in Brampton, a suburban city of a half a million people, and getting more populated by the year, but it didn’t seem to be crowded because there were so many trees and parks scattered throughout and with no industrial area. And if you wanted to go into the city of Toronto, it was only a half hour away. Her younger brother, Phil, also lived in Brampton, but across town in a basement apartment. He didn’t drive and never picked up his phone, so she drove over to see if he was home. As she was pulling into the driveway Jessie noticed that Phil’s bicycle was parked by the door. Her eyes lit up. 


“Yes!” she said and went to the door. She knocked and waited.

“Yah, I’m here!” her brother said.

She opened the door and went inside and down the stairs. The apartment was small, but the rent was cheap, and if you wanted to save money, that was the way to go, cheap.

“Wassup, sis,” he said. He was sitting at the table scraping bits of tobacco in a pile hoping to have enough to roll a cigarette. He was wearing jean cut-offs and sandals.

“Not much, man, have you been outside yet? It’s beautiful.”  Jessie sat facing him. 

“No, I just got up and had some breakfast.” He nodded toward the stove for proof; he knew she worried about him.

“Oh, yah, well what are you doing today?” she said, with a twinkle in her eye. 

He knew that she had an idea and he laughed that big hearty laugh, his straight white teeth gleaming and his eyes bluer than blue. “Why, what do you wanna do?”

“Well, ya wanna go get a few beers and go to the park somewhere? It’s too nice to be inside; we can’t waste weather like this, man.”

Phil needed no convincing. “Yah, right on, I’m kinda broke this week though, just gotta enough to get me through to next payday, and I don’t want to dip into my savings.”

“No problem, bro, I just got paid.” She knew he was saving to buy a car.

She got up to leave. “Never mind those butts, I’ll buy you a pack on the way. Come on, let’s go.”

“Alright, now you’re talkin’.”  Phil got up, checked the stove, and grabbed a tank top and his keys. 

Jessie wasn’t familiar with that part of town so Phil told her where to go. They got to the beer store and went inside, both trying to figure out what they were in the mood for. 

“Hey, how about this cranberry cooler,” Jessie said, pointing to the four pack of bottles on the shelf. 

“I don’t think I’ve ever tasted that before,” he said.

“Okay, cranberry it is.”  She grabbed two packs off the shelf and headed for the cashier. Phil grabbed two more and followed. 

When they got back to the car, Phil directed her to the gas bar for cigarettes, then to a park where he occasionally went when he needed to be alone.

They drove farther across town, chatting all the way. After a short drive, he pointed to a small road. She signalled left and waited until the traffic cleared. There was a sign which read: CHURCHVILLE VILLAGE, Established 1815.

“1815 wow,” Jessie said as she accelerated onto the two-lane road. 

“What is this place?”

“It used to be one of those mill towns. At the end of the road there is this really nice park and a trail goes into the woods and along the river. And best of all, it’s so quiet, it’s like you’re in the country.”

Jessie turned off the AC and opened the windows. The posted speed limit was forty which gave her the opportunity to look around.

“That place is huge,” she said, pointing to one of the mansion style homes.

“Imagine living in a place like that,” Phil said.

They passed a few more large homes and a few smaller ones. At the end of the road was the park and just like Phil said, it was very quiet. There were a few weeping willows in the large field and the grass was freshly cut. There was nobody around.

Jessie parked the car and Phil grabbed the coolers from the back seat. 

“There’s a park bench over by the river,” Phil said, leading the way.

The bench was under the branches of a weeping willow tree and right alongside the river. A warm wind gently blew the tree branches and the sound of the flowing river was soothing and mesmerizing.

Jessie and Phil passed the day away, chatting and laughing about old times and childhood days, work and working out, and his relationship with his new girlfriend. Before they knew it, it was nearing dark and they were both pretty tipsy.

“Hey, you wanna go for a walk along the trail before we go?” Phil said.

“Yah, sure,” Jessie said.

They opened up the last of the coolers and headed for the end of the field where there was a trail leading into the woods. It was almost dark and the moon was absent, but neither was concerned. They tripped and fell and laughed about it. When they got through the woods the lights from the traffic on the 407 lit the rest of the way through another field. As they approached the support beams of the bridge they could see graffiti spray painted all over them. 

Phil had his lighter in his pocket and flicked it, both trying to pick out the writing on the beams. They were reading and laughing when rolling rocks came from the far corner joists of the bridge, where the cement met the dirt. Somebody was up there. 

Phil, being the bat-shit crazy person he was, yelled out, “Whoever’s up there better come down before I go up there and get you down.” He took a few steps forward using his lighter as a flashlight. 

The hair on Jessie’s neck stood on end. She stepped back, eyeing the trail back to the woods, getting ready to sprint. 

Phil stepped closer and yelled again. “I said get the hell down from there.”

No response. 

Phil took a few more steps. Fifty feet in front of him was the CP railroad tracks. On the other side of the tracks there was a steep inclination leading to the joists of the bridge. Phil was now on the tracks flicking his lighter so as not to get his fingers burned and trying to focus long enough to pick out who or what was up there. 

He looked back at where Jessie was, but couldn’t see her. “Hey, are you still there?” he said to the darkness. 

“Yes, come on, let’s go.” The adrenaline shooting through her body was making her sober. 

Rocks rolled again and Phil whipped his head around. He kept flicking his lighter, trying to see what was up in the corner. The lighter grew hotter and with each flick something slithered down from the joist toward him. Phil could see red eyes and started to step back. With each step back and each flick of the lighter Phil saw more of the thing’s features. It was hairy and black, with pointed ears and a hunchback. It was cautiously approaching the tracks. 

“Phil, come on!” Jessie said from somewhere in the darkness.

The thing raised its head and began to stand on its back legs. It stood about twelve feet with its ears down and back. The shadowy outline of its face was tilted to the side, eyeing Phil as he slowly stepped away from it. The lighter was now too hot to hold. Phil dropped it and kept backing up. He was too afraid to turn and run, but then he heard voices coming in low and getting louder. He only saw a black shape of the thing as it dropped and took off up the tracks. That’s when he turned and ran toward the sound of Jessie’s voice. 

“Jessie, run!”

That was all Jessie needed. She bolted with Phil close to her heels. 

When she got to the field Phil grabbed her arm and told her to stop. 

“Wait,” he said. “I heard voices back there.”

“What was it, what did you see?” Jessie was trying to catch her breath. 

“I don’t know what it was, looked like a coyote, but too big, maybe a wolf.”

“A wolf! No way! Around here?”

They both turned towards the bridge. About a dozen flashlights were coming up the tracks.

“Shit, we better get outta here. We’re not supposed to be anywhere near the tracks. Come on, sis, let’s go.”

Phil trudged his way through the field heading for the trail. Jessie was right behind him, breathing heavily. Both were now completely sober and out of breath. It was dark going through the woods, but to the right of them brightness from a few street lamps shone through the trees helping them see. Phil stopped in his tracks. Jessie froze. Something big and heavy was plowing through the trees coming up the rear.

“Get down.” Phil pulled Jessie down to the ground. 

They listened. Whatever it was charged by them blowing up brush and dirt then it splashed into the river on the left. They crouched down, listening to the thing as it crossed the river. They heard it crash through brush on the other side of the river and then it was gone. As they stood up they noticed flashlights coming through the trees. Neither one spoke, just made their way back to the car. 

When they got back to the car Jessie started it up and headed for the exit. Locked! The gate was locked.

“Dammit,” Phil said. “I forgot they close the gates at dusk.”

“Oh, no, they’re going to know that I was here.” Jessie backed up and parked again. 

They both got out of the car and started walking out to the main road to catch a bus. They heard voices coming from the end of the field and started to run. Neither one of them wanted to get caught up in the politics of whatever the heck was going on. Obviously, they were hunting something.

“No, they won’t know, they don’t know what time you left the park.” Phil tried to ease her mind, but he knew that they would find her by her licence plate and question her.

“So, did you see what it was?” 

“I told you it looked like a wolf, but when it stood up, it was more like a werewolf. And what ran past us in the woods was much bigger. There might have been more than one. Jeez, I thought for sure it was gonna attack me. I was lucky those people showed up when they did.”

They walked and talked all the way to the main road and caught the bus within fifteen minutes. Phil ended up staying at Jessie’s for the night. The next morning they both got up and went back to the park. The gate was open and her car was still there. They walked back to the woods but all was quiet. At the tracks, Phil found his lighter where he had dropped it. They searched the area, but it looked like all the dirt under the bridge had been raked. 

“Something’s definitely not right here.” Phil said. “That was no wolf I saw. I bet if we search the woods we’ll find some tracks or something.”

“No, thanks, bro, I’m done. Besides they might be watching us.” Jessie felt the hair on her neck stand on end. “I’m going back home, now, I’ve got work in a few hours. Aren’t you on the night shift tonight?”

“Yah, I start at ten.” Phil looked around. It was strangely quiet. “Okay, let’s go, this place is giving me the creeps.”

They walked back to the car and discussed last night’s event. They both agreed to keep it to themselves.

Two weeks later, a man claiming to be from parking enforcement came to Jessie’s apartment to ask about why her car was left overnight in the park. She told him that she had had a few beers and decided to bus home instead of driving intoxicated. When he asked about what time she had left, she told him early afternoon. She hoped that he didn’t have the resources or time to check satellite imaging. The man was satisfied with her answers and left.

Months later her brother Phil decided to move back home, he was tired of the city. Jessie made a habit of going to what she named Phil’s Park whenever she needed to be alone. And sometimes she would feel like something out of sight was watching her.