I awaken to the sound of howls and screams. All about me there is fire, there are people running through the fire, and my mother is gone. I crawl away slowly to a corner and begin to cry. I cry for a long time, and when the screams are long gone, a tall, bandaged woman comes to me. She tells me she has been looking for me, that I am going home. She smells rotten, but she feels warm, and she is all that is left in this town to comfort me. I awoke to the sound of howls and screams. The strangeness of my dream gripped me suddenly, and then in a moment was gone, lost forever with the many that came before it. I rose quickly, and heard it again: wolves howling and people screaming, the sounds never far apart, pulled tight like knots. It continued on and on even as I went to grab my sword, as I rushed outside, even as I smelled the strange smell of death. It struck me, though, as I had smelled death before, and even as the cries of death still rang throughout the village, the smell of death was old, old and rotting and lingering. Yet I had no time to think, I thought still that sound could be saved, that I could save them. I ran on towards the sounds and before me there was my mother, surrounded by many wolves. She cried for me to leave her to her fate but as her son how could I? What fate was this, that had so cruelly descended upon us, what fate was this for anyone? I reached her and quickly struck down a wolf with my sword. Yet as soon as I did, another took its place, and another, and another after that; each wolf I killed was replaced with another, so that the number was always nine, though I could not see from where they came. Finally, three of them pounced upon us and though I struck down two, the third reached my mother and ripped out her throat, swiftly and clean. I cried out but she did not, and as I lay down my sword to hold her, she whispered to me through bloodied lips, “Whatever they may say, I always loved you, as best I could,” The wolves did not attack me, they simply circled slowly, and so there I stayed, crumpled and broken, holding the body of my mother, and I cried, even as the smell of old, rotten death began to surround me. I cried until at last the silence was broken; a young girl, no older than twenty years, approached the circle of wolves and yelled, “Hold!” The wolves obeyed her, and they stopped their circling. I looked at her, in her ragged clothes and her unkempt hair, and she looked upon me, holding the body of my mother. Her face was full of disgust and pity, and slowly, the wolves began to disappear, one by one, until there was nothing left but her and myself, and the body of my mother. There were no more screams, and no more howls.