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"Eight pairs of wolfish eyes flashed at me, several human eyes following a second later. ... There was a sharp sound of ripping fabric as one of the boys transformed. He growled in my direction, the timbre of an alpha. My timbre."

Years have passed since the third wife's sacrifice, and Taha Aki's still running.


2. Soaps

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I don’t believe that they knew what to do with me now that I was here. I do, however, believe that is why they ignored my presence so completely. They dressed me, cut my hair, bought me all the things that they thought were ‘necessary’ while I wondered why they cared so much. I rolled out of my bed and rubbed my cleanly buzzed head in what was continuous wonder for me. I couldn’t recall the last time my hair had been so short, and subsequently so fuzzy. Smiling to myself, I got dressed in the clothes provided for me. I was in the middle of painstakingly buttoning my shirt when she interrupted.

“Good morning, Taha,” she greeted, smiling warmly at me as she walked past me to strip the bed like she had done every week without fail. I grunted in reply. I still didn’t have a full grasp of the language. I knew the basics, yes, no, a name here and there, and tone was just as universal as ever. Other than that, she and I were better off speaking to rocks than to each other. Her name was Emily, though. I knew that much.

She laughed. “C’mon now, cheer up. No one likes it when you’re grumpy.” Gibberish. She wrapped the blankets and sheets into a cocoon around her arms to carry them off to be washed, grumbling as she did so. “No one likes it when you’re grumpy, either, Em.”

I wasn’t listening to her, though. I had gone back to buttoning my buttons again, the task getting progressively harder the longer I tried. I could almost recall a time when I was good with my hands. But now, post run, I was clumsy. After much concentration, I finished and left the room. I sat down at the table and waited on Emily to come back, knowing that when she did she would promptly feed me like I was a child. And she did.

I was aware I ate like a barbarian. I had eaten wolf for so long, it was difficult to remember the food was not going to run away. A few minutes after I was finished, Emily took the plate and then returned for me.

“C’mon, Taha. You know what’s next,” she said with a giggle. I made a face at her and she laughed, leading me to another room and pushed me into a chair. Emily pressed a few buttons, and it began. Hours after hours of watching people in a box, speaking that strange and soft language. I watched as they laughed, cried, yelled, comforted. It was strange and oddly mind numbing, these things that Emily called her soaps.

We had been watching close to an hour and a half of soaps when the alpha and some of the pack returned. I watched them lazily as they walked past me, one quirking an eyebrow at me strangely. The alpha took Emily by the hand and took her into the next room. I stayed but, but listened in to be sure they didn’t step out of line. Tone was still universal… and I wouldn’t tolerate them speaking in the wrong tone to an imprint.

“Why is he wearing a collared shirt and sweat pants?” one of the wolves accused, surprising me when I understood about half of his words.

Emily was only amused. “He dresses himself. I think it’s cute. He’s like a oversized toddler.”

“Well when you’re done playing house, mommy,” said the alpha, “why not explain why you’ve got our greatest forefather watching soap operas?”

I shook my head and smiled. I was following their conversation. My smile grew wider.

“That’s how lots of people learn English when they’re older,” Emily said defensively. “Don’t you remember when Leah and I learned Spanish watching the Spanish soaps?”

“Don’t bring her up,” the alpha groaned.

“I’ll bring up who ever I want to, Sam Uley,” Emily said heatedly, causing me to laugh. Let him have it, little imprint. Let him have it. There was a sound of grumbling from the room and Emily came back and sat down, and we watched more soaps, and I kept the fact I understood them to myself.