By sean mcnulty
Footsteps stay footsteps when humans are involved. The thunderous stomps that approached them started out like footsteps, maybe a rugby player-type of human footstep, or a wrestler’s, but now they resounded heavy in that darkness, and the rhythm was non-human.
The sun still shone. And at that moment, it seemed to focus its attention on the little intersection in the hills as a creature emerged from the mouth of the cave and stood coughing there in an arriving yellow haze.
It was a wolf – about the size of a fully-grown racehorse with sharp black fur and red-orange eyes like bloody wounds in its head. If it had been a real racehorse, you might have actually stuck a bet on it.
‘I knew it – it’s a lion-headed penguin, isn’t it?’ exclaimed Stinson.
‘No, it’s a big dog.’
‘You’re just going to use the word big to describe it?’
‘Okay, massive, then. And what do you mean by penguin? Don’t you know what a penguin looks like? That’s nothing like a penguin.’
‘I’m blind in the way of seeing colours – remember.’
‘It’s a wolf. We used to have them in Ireland. But nothing like this. This is quite a...massive one.’
‘I always thought we had wolves in Ireland. Where did they go?’
‘We killed them off. They were a nuisance back in the day. The last one was killed by a Donegal man who apparently got a commendation from the King of England as a result and left the country to go whoring across the western world. A heel of a hero. But what a life!’
‘At least it’s not a bear.’
‘Well, I don’t know. I’ve always wanted to see a polar bear. But this will do.’
And then the wolf howled; and it was a howl so loud it could probably be heard around the world and one wondered why people from Shannon to Shanghai weren’t talking all the time about that frightful howl in the sky. There was agony in the sound it made – like the grievance of a worldless monster –for it sounded like no earthbound anguish. It was the sort of howl other monsters spent years studying until they realised nature beat nurture in the argument and they gave up and went on with their own measly howls.
‘Why is it coughing?’
‘Sure, it’s a quare tickle it has. The air must be bad.’
‘Why aren’t we coughing then?’
‘I don’t know – you’re the fuckin priest with all the education – I should be asking you.’
And poor Stinson’s Curriculum Vitae vanished in that instant. It was like he had never even existed.