The wind was blowing my way, away from the wolves. I knew they wouldn’t scent me. They broke into a lope for a few seconds, slowed and ambled again. When they were no more than a hundred feet from me, I aimed at the center of the lead demon’s skull and slowly squeezed the trigger.
The blast slammed around the hilly countryside and mushroomed back at me with the force of a dozen heavy cannons. The wolf’s head shattered, and he was flung backwards six feet where he rolled over in the snow, leaking blood and dead, beyond question. The rest of the pack turned tail and ran down the valley until the darkness swallowed them. When we had fought them off with pin-guns, there had been no noise; it was the powerful rifle’s retort that had scared them off this time. Indeed, that blast had been louder than I had expected. When it came, it startled me as much as it did them. I waited a few minutes until I heard one of the wolves howl at the sky. I knew, if I lay still, they would come back. And wolves were easier to carry home than elk.
Ten minutes passed before the first of the pack sneaked back along the edge of the ravine, trying to conceal himself in the scanty vegetation there, slinking, visibly trembling, but still full of the desire and the ability to kill. I would not have seen him but for a barren spot through which he had to pass. I caught the dark movement out of the corner of my eye and turned to watch him. I left him alone. Timidly, he moved opposite the body of his former brother and approached the corpse, sniffing it all over and casting wary glances in all directions as if he sensed the presence of the force that had dealt the death blow. He raised his head and smelled the wind, but my scent was being carried the wrong way. He howled.
Shortly, his friends came to join him, prancing a little and trying to look brave.
I raised the rifle and sighted on the largest of the group, then had a better idea. Quietly, I put the rifle down and took out my narcodart pistol. It was smaller, and I had to remove even the thin gloves I was wearing to be able to handle it right. I leveled it at the group, swept them from left to right as I depressed the trigger. All were hit. I swept back again, just to make certain. Some of them tried to run but got only a few feet when the drugs affected them, sent them tumbling into the snow, legs akimbo.
I put the pistol away and walked down to the sleeping demons. They lay with their mouths open, their teeth bare and wet with saliva. They smelled of the dead meat they had eaten. Raising the rifle, I shot two of them and decided to let the others go. Making live flesh into dead flesh did not appeal to me. I wanted to do as little of it as possible.
With cord from my pack, I tied the three dead wolves together and dragged them back to the cabin. The three together outweighed me, and it was not an easy job. I thought, too late now, that I should have brought the magnetic sled at least part of the way. Fortunately, the snow packed in their coats and turned to ice under the influence of their dissipating body heat so that they formed a sort of sled of their own that glided across the spots the wind had made bare and across the places where there was a heavy crust.
When I got back to the cabin, I stacked the wolves on the porch and went inside. I opened the cellar door and flipped on the light which He had not bothered with. I went down the first two steps when His voice came from below, hollow and strange, His voice, and yet not remotely His voice, much different than it had been an hour and a half ago. “Jacob, stay where you are,” He said.