By Gray Winsler
Art by Dave Danzara
Published Issue 091, July 2021
The fire crackles before me, more captivating than any screen.
Beyond its light, only night, and the noises of things unseen.
A playground for the imagination,
And fright, its primary creation.
But the wild never scared me, not like the city,
Millions of people hell-bent on their own way,
Prone to wrath if a tourist steps in their path,
With only “Fuck off” to say.
Not here, in the wild,
Nature is cruel but fair.
Calm it offers,
A reprieve from the city’s chaotic despair.
I sat for hours,
By the fire,
A cool breeze,
Wind through the leaves,
Was all that I heard.
In the distance there came a growl, or perhaps a howl,
The wind can play tricks and offer illusions to the ear …
Besides, I thought, wolves haven’t lived here for years …
Maybe the howl was only an owl and my overzealous mind,
Reasons for anxiety it is always desperate to find.
But there is was again!
An unmistakeable howl …
The guttural reaction,
Of an animal on the prowl.
Closer this time than before,
Yes, it felt far too near …
But only a moment had passed?
My thoughts filled with fear.
Only the wind through the leaves.
And the sound of myself, trying to breath.
My mind trying to calm itself,
Twigs snapped in succession beyond the fire’s light,
my eyes drawn east, nothing but darkness in sight.
Fixed, my eyes remained, to the spot from which the sound came,
Then, my gut drained, as its twisted snout broke firelight’s plane.
Closer, it stepped, carefully placing paw by mangled paw,
It felt like ages! Dreadful ages!
As I stood there,
Matted with blood of the dead.
Its ears torn like leather worn,
Standing upright in the firelight,
Snarling with scorn,
Its fangs I saw dripping, dripping yellow bile to the forest floor
As it pulled back it lips and bared the tips of teeth like daggers
Sharp, splintered, and staggered
Ready to sink into fresh flesh and wholly devour
“Run!” was all I could think, my heart on the brink
The Thud! Thud! Thud! of blood in my ears the only sound
Yet my feet could only sink, sink further into the ground
From its ribs came a growl, a primal expression of death, now
the creature dropped to the forest floor, on all fours
Rushing at me, my feet as immovable as before
Drawing closer by leaps, dirt heaving behind it in heaps
Death sure to come
My innards soon undone
Until a sound rung
The shot of a gun
And a screech of pain
Emanating from the creature’s wretched mane
Followed by a yell shouting only, “RUN”
And so I did.
Never looking back to the wood where I once stood.
Not when there came the screams of a man gripped by jaws, innards ripped by claws.
Not when there came the moans and aches as many bones at once break.
Not when his marrow was mashed as the creatures teeth gnashed.
Not when it ate and ate and ate the man who saved me from the same fate.
Trying not to think about the man.
Running until I reached the edge of the wood,
Where the moonlight glinted of my car’s hood.
And felt no peace, no sigh of relief as I drove home.
Fear, deeply rooted in my mind for years to come.
Gray Winsler is the first ginger to be published in Birdy Magazine, Issue 091. He loves living in Denver despite his allergy to the sun. He spends his mornings with his dog Indy by his side, writing as much as possible before his 9-to-5. If you’re curious about Normal, IL or why TacoBell is bomb, you can find more on his site.
Dave Danzara has spent most of his life creating art. Born and raised in California, Dave won a scholarship to Laguna Art Institute of Southern California in 1994. His influences can be found in pop culture, sci-fi, fantasy, film and music. Graphic design and digital collage art have become Dave’s passion and signature. Thanks to social media, Dave has attracted the attention of musicians worldwide and has created album artwork for several bands of various genres. From Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to Los Angeles, California, Dave’s art has been featured in many art galleries. He has 10 years of experience as a freelance videographer and is the Director, writer and Producer of “The Video Craze” documentary film. He is the owner of Vector Invader Productions. He has been involved in numerous freelance projects and short films. Dave enjoys the challenge of creating art; for him, it is a lifestyle. Find Dave’s work on Instagram.