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Aeaea Street

by Angela Slatter

They ran on all fours, pausing only to sniff the air and howl.

Sometimes they were men, sometimes wolves, always grey though, always hungry. The moon lit their way as they slipped like shadows along the streets. Sometimes they got distracted by trash cans ripe with enticing rot, but the other pulled them on, so they didn’t stop for long. Nipper, Gnasher, Grinder and Bob.

They had her scent, warm on the cool night air.

Some way after 5th Avenue they caught the sound of footsteps, the click of her heels on the pavement. Familiar and strange, enticing. They followed, kept her in sight, but hung back and stayed in the deep shadows the tall buildings dropped in their wake. She moved from the expensive cantons of the city to the less well-kempt, and finally crossed that invisible barrier into the place where slumlords held sway.

Whenever she passed beneath a streetlamp, they could see the red hair and pale skin she flaunted. Long-legged and slim, she was graceful and unaware. The building she approached was dilapidated, seeming to decay before the eye.

A man sat on the stoop, huddled, wrapped in stinking garments as if the stench might keep the cold away. She smiled and he looked at her, surprised. The woman did not belong.

‘Soup,’ she said, handing him a thermos she’d fished out of her coat pocket. ‘That will warm the back of your soul.’

He sniffed at the opening suspiciously. Rich, meaty odours wafted up and made him salivate. He’d have preferred booze, but figured he’d take whatever he could. Lifting the container in toast to her, he took a mouthful. It was delicious and he made short work of the contents.

The pack crept close. Surely she could hear rush of their breathing, but she gave no sign. One of them gathered his strength and sprang.

She ducked and the wolf sailed over her head.

‘Gnasher!’ Her voice was stern. ‘All of you. Sit!’

All four of them sat shamefaced at her feet and whimpered. Each one gave a contented sigh when she scratched behind their ears.

‘That’s better.’ They pressed themselves against her legs, vying for attention. ‘Now, say hello to your brother.’

On the stoop, a sleek wolf sprawled, looking bewildered. He gave a burp and a rich meaty scent thickened the air.

‘Come, Ulysses. Time for home.’

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