Strolling along the ancient farm path, the loch to her right was bathed in moonlight as the midsummer sun began slipping behind the mountains. She got her mobile out to check the time – just after midnight. She’d be back in her hotel room by half past at the latest.
She was surprised to feel happy as she savoured the embers of a fun evening. Smiling, she thought back to the meal, her mouth watering as she remembered the tender lamb cutlets, perfectly prepared.
Walking slowly, hoping to defer her return to the real world and work, she breathed in the smells of the countryside, wild garlic mixing with the tang of damp moss. She’d possibly regret her late night in the morning, but that was then, not now.
A howl came from behind her.
She’d read that they’d started reintroducing wolves into the Highlands, following the success with sea eagles. The land was creeping back to its pre-human times, and it pleased her to think that it was another step on the way.
She heard another howl, this time much closer. A few answering calls came from the field to her left. She couldn’t tell how far away they were. Quickening her pace to match her pulse, she stumbled in a pot hole she hadn’t spotted.
A howl emanated from right in front of her.
She stopped dead, unable to see anything, and waited, swallowing hard. Nerves jangling, she focused on blocking out the distant car noise, listening only for the movement of wolves. She didn’t know if they would kill someone but she didn’t want to put it to the test.
Three more howls rang out from in front, much closer this time. She caught sight of a wolf appearing through the hedgerow, brazen with its attitude, its fur an unusual shade of bright orange, almost like a fox but much larger.
Turning back towards the island, she started to run. Glancing behind her, heart pounding, she saw the wolf trotting slowly, keeping a distance. Hurrying, she was intent on increasing the gap between them. She was covering the ground she had sauntered down in mere seconds, berating herself for not being quicker getting back to the hotel – maybe she would have avoided the wolves.
Breathing a sigh of relief, she closed in on the gatehouse that sat across the small expanse of water leading to the island. She quickened her pace as she approached the edge. She stopped dead and climbed down the ladder onto the flagstones, now submerged. The ford through the loch had been just about passable when she left.
Launching herself forward, the water soaked her jeans up to her thighs, making her progress slow. She slipped and caught her knee as she landed, sending her sprawling under the water. She struggled up and started wading through, continually looking behind at the pair of green eyes looming over the edge. They were keeping a watching brief. She climbed up the steps at the far side.
Through the pain, desperately trying to catch her breath, she told herself she’d made it.
She was safe.
Looking up, her heart sank as she noticed that there were no lights on in the castle.
And then she saw a wolf approaching from the castle gates, flanked by another two.
She could only stand and watch as they slowly changed shape – the canine forms gradually stretching and contorting until three human beings replaced them, each with sharp talons emerging from the ends of their fingers.
Hope you enjoy it…