He set the trap and waited.  He knew it would come.  It was just a matter of time.  The moon smiled smugly overhead, spying on him through the thick undulating clouds.  Why was it taking so long?  He was certain this was the spot.  He fingered the soft metal band clutched in his grasp as he waited, fixated on its smooth surface.

It was only just a month prior that he and his partner were hiking in these woods, when they were attacked.  He was bowled over by the beast, knocked unconscious at the edge of the path, his partner’s eyes staring back at him like saucers wide with surprise.  He’d blacked out in slow motion staring into those eyes.

The moment that he came to and looked down the trail to the ravine was forever etched in his mind, the scent of blood hanging heavy in the air.   His partner’s body was rendered and strewn about the chasm where the path dips down, blood flowing into the stream that trickles through the valley dividing these woods and partitioning the living from the dead…

The crime scene investigations yielded nothing.

He’d walked these trails before and heard the howling wind in the distance.  It was a haunting sound that circled around from afar, impossible to pinpoint.  The moon had always hung heavy here, wide, like the yawning maw of a lazy abyss that can’t be bothered to create a proper void or entrance.  And yet, it had always beckoned, drawing him into its embrace like a warm and welcoming hug…

Bits of tattered yellow tape encircled several trees.  Samples of dirt and fabric scraps and other detritus of the weekend hiking trip were still strewn about, still yielding nothing.  Why couldn’t he remember?  Spinning the ring from thumb to fingertip and back bore no further answers.

The moon skirted the clouds and stared down at him.  He heard the distant wind howling around and through him.  His body rippled from an unseen terror; his consciousness faded as the transformation took hold.  He leapt forward, out of the way of the ravaging beast, aware again of its presence, its hot breath making the hairs at the nape of his neck stand on end.  A sharp snap wracked his wrist and his hand let loose its treasure.  The pain engulfed his remaining consciousness and the world around him went silent and fell into darkness.

The next morning…

The woods were abuzz with activity as the park rangers and game wardens descended upon the scene.  They’d expected it to return as was typical.  They always came back to the scene of the crime in the following month. But they’d never seen such a large one before, its heavy paw the size of a human hand shattered within the snap of the thick metal jaws.  These “dogs” were usually smarter than this and knew to avoid these sorts of traps, which is why the rangers didn’t bother to set them anymore.  The victim’s partner had been lucky it seemed…  The hulking beast must have been attracted to the faint shimmer of a small circular gold band half hidden in the moss, perhaps an engagement or wedding ring.  Its face was wrought with distracted helplessness as if reflecting the pain and anguish of love found, lost, and found again.

A black wolf with black mascara tears streaming from its eyes caught in a wolf trap surrounded by spattered red blood
Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.