I go out into the dark desert all the time now.  I still keep track of when it should be her time, la loba‘s time, just as the sun begins to fall deeply behind the mountains, taking its rest.  But when there is no sun anymore, what does it matter?  I go, and I go, and I go.

No supplies, no packs, no animals for this traveler.  Stepping from the scrub out into the cutting wind that howls across the desert, seeking invisible prey, I go.  I pray that if I am lost enough, desperate enough, last enough, la loba will hear my cries and take pity on me.  If I am lucky, she will sing me back together, so I can be a whole creature again.  If I am very, very lucky, she will sing flesh onto my bones, so I can be what I once was; so the wind will be forced to keen around me, not through me, and I can go home.

Because, of course, I can never go home unless I am a person again.  Everyone knows this.

 

I have gone out of the safety of the forest and into the desert a thousand times, a million times.  Every time I wake, I gather legs underneath me and walk.  It is the only task I have left.  I must find la loba, or convince her to find me, so that I may be whole again.

Sometimes I find creatures, torn and left naked and fleshless in the sand.  They are sad, pitiful things, and if I do not help them, the sand will eat even their bones, so nothing is left.  So I will hold myself this way and that, making the wind sing through me, and let them come together again, and be something whole, if not quite the same.  They say thank you, la loba.  I tell them, over and over, that I am not la loba, and please will they put in a kind word for me if they see her.  And they put their heads to the side, thinking I am crazy, and say yes, yes, of course.

I have not found anyone to help for a very long time.  It is lonely and alone, in the desert, but I pass the time learning the song the wind is screaming.  Maybe, if I can find la loba, she will give me ears to understand the wind.  Will I warn its prey, or help it hunt?  I do not know.

 

There is a place, on the far side of the keep, where the wind is loudest and nothing grows.  The sand is bold and carefree there, lapping right up to the foot of the sharp mountain stone.  I twist my ribs, my arms, and convince the wind to sing  a little fire onto the sand; just a few flames, to warm me and to tell the dark where I am.

Soon I hear footsteps in the dark sand, and a sliding noise.  Who would be out here, in the barest part of forever?  Who would come here but me?  I only spend time here when I have almost given up, and I am thinking of letting the sand eat my bones where no one will find them.

“Come, child,” rasps a voice like two wooden sticks out of the dark, “let an old woman share your fire.”

Shocked is not the word for it.  There is no word strong enough.  “Of course, lady,” I say politely, bobbing my head.  “What is mine is yours.”

She comes shuffling out of the dark, dragging a canvas sack that is gray with age and almost empty.  She is chuckling, a hollow sound like water in the back of a cave.  “It seems to me that what is mine is yours, also.”

“How do you mean, lady?  I would take nothing from you that was not given freely.”  I am afraid, now.  This search is all I have left; her mercy all I have to hope for.  What have I taken from her?  “If you think I have taken something of yours, please, have my apologies.  I will give it back, if I can, and do anything in my power to make amends.”

“How does one make amends for the theft of a name, child?  They call you la loba in the wild places, now.  They hope for your mercy in the dark.  You did not take it, but it is yours now, and no argument.  They know me not, hope for me not, but your mercy is their prize.”  She chuckles again, full of merriment.  “You are the only one left who hopes for me, and I came to see you to find out why.”

“Well… well, because, la loba, that is why!  Because, I beg you, sing me to life again, so I can be free and whole!”

“Who teaches the sand to shift?  Who teaches the wind to sing?  Not I, child, not I.  I came to find you, and to seek also your mercy.”

“M-mercy, la loba?  What can something like me do for you?”

“SING, child!  You know the way of it.  You see these bones creaking together, and you know how to build me a new life out of the sand that eats everything.  Sing, so you can have my sack, and we can both be free.”

 

There was nothing to say.  What to do when la loba, keeper of my dreams, comes to me as the keeper of hers?  So I twist my bones, careful, careful, because the wind cuts wild and high in this place.  She sighs like an old tree falling to rot, and collapses flat on the sand.

I am petrified, terrified that I will get it wrong, that she will be trapped and I will have no hope left.  So I keep bending the wind, squeezing it up between my ribs and out my mouth, forcing it up to a wild ululating wail of freedom and pain.

La loba‘s bones shift, and her flesh runs like water over the new shape.  A wolf, black as sand and glinting in the stars, shakes itself all over.  It dips its head to me, and lifts its muzzle to howl along with the screaming descant that the wind and I are creating together.  I feel strange, powerful, raging at the death of the world, for just a second.  Then the wolf’s howl dies away, and it runs off into the dark, invisible and soundless.

 

I do not go back to the scrub anymore.  There is no need to hide to sleep.  The sand covers me well enough when I do not want to be seen.  They still thank me, the creatures I find.  They call me la loba, and praise be to her singing.  I bid them welcome, and tell them that they owe me only one thing for rebirth.

“Tell the mountains,” I tell them.  “When you see the mountains, warn them that the wind is coming for them.”

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