Its voice cracked and rolled like thunder. A gust grew around us, then faltered as the echos died away.
“I’m not sure I understand what you mean,” I said when all was still again.
The wolf blinked its too wise eyes at me, and for the first time since my death I felt that almost forgotten emotion of embarrassment. It was being very patient with me, I knew.
“What did you learn from life?” it asked me in a low rumble, like thunder in the distance. I wanted to squirm under its gaze; however I answered would be wrong, because I’d learned nothing. I knew it, the wolf knew it, the damn bird probably knew it too. But I answered anyway. There were rules, – I knew this now that I was dead – and to answer was one of them.
“I learned my ABC’s, I guess. And some US History, but I never got much use out of that.”
The wolf laughed one sharp peel of thunder that cracked and resounded in the woods. The wind kicked up again, gently at first but growing in force a little at a time.
“Exactly! All you have to offer is the paltry knowledge of the apathetic. You have the tools to learn, but you never put them to use. You cannot move on because you have learned nothing. You barely know enough to recognize your own ineptitude, and so you are still here when others are well on their way to the nirvana of this realm.”
I stared, frightened, confused, and a little insulted. “I’m not sure I understand.”
“Few do, at first. Some never do.” The wolf sighed and shook its head; it sounded like the heavy fall of rain in a sudden spring torrent. “This is a place is a haven, a port of rest and rejuvenation between the last life and the life beyond. Many come here to assess and recover from the lives they’ve left before joining their whole selves. Some, like yourself, have not learned enough, and travel through this world, making up for the lives they wasted.
“But you begin to linger too long. The apathy you fostered in life makes it difficult for you to move in any direction; the sheer amount you have not learned but must know to proceed weighs you down and leaves you not only incapable of picking a path to start on, but of even seeing the paths at all. You can’t be released until you can bring knowledge and growth, the accomplishments of your spirit, to the greater you that is eternal.”
The wind was a constant force at my back, pushing me forward, toward a beginning, an ending, a second chance.
“Yes, a second chance. Are you ready?”
“I always thought we had only one chance,” I shouted over the rushing gale. “One opportunity to get it right, and then it’s off to the judgment to be sorted.”
The darkest night I ever knew fell on me then. It was so dark, I couldn’t see the trees an arms length in front of me. But I could see stars; stars, millions of them, streaking past at the speed of light in their rush to live their fullest. And brightest of all was a star the shape of a wolf walking ahead of me into a chasm of blackness.
“There is always a second chance at life, if we are only willing to take it. Will you take yours?”