When you’re dead, little things like talking animals just don’t bother you as much as they used to. That’s not to say that talking animals aren’t impressive, mind you, but the novelty of an angry little blue jay following you around and chirping your ear off wears off a bit sooner than it might otherwise.
He hopped overhead, flitting from branch to branch, following me and breaking my sense of quiet.
“What are you doing here? Why are you still here? When will you stop wasting time and get on with it? Who do you think you are, lazybones? Where do you think you are? How do you expect to get anything done lazing about like this?” And so on and so forth, hour after hour.
The long string of screech-like chirps followed me everywhere, at all hours of the endless days and nights. For the first time, I began to ache for the sleep I didn’t need.
But when he at last fell silent, I didn’t feel relief. Instead, I looked up into the reaching branches, searching for my angry companion. I saw him perched a little distance away from me, staring toward where the foothills began to rise from the plain.
There was a speck of gray and brown that stood apart from the gray and brown of the hillside. It shimmered and stepped forward, and I saw that it was a wolf.
We held each other’s gazes as it walked slowly toward me. It was the biggest wolf I’d ever seen, the size of a healthy colt and colored like cinnamon and slate. It stopped and sat before me, looking up at me with eyes that seemed too smart to be human and too wild to be wolf. At length, it spoke to me.
“Are you ready now? We’ve been waiting for you.”