The man and the wolves had come down together out of the fastness of the Santa Cruz mountains whence they had been several weeks ranging. Running silently amidst the lonely gaps in the redwood groves the pack had pulled down black-tailed deer or flushed gamey raccoons from their dens. If anyone had been there in the cool air swirling about the base of the mighty sentinels in the long watches of the night they would have spied lithe shapes loping along the ridges in the liquid spilled from the moon’s decanter and they would have heard the fell voices of wolves singing the primordial songs of their giant forebears. But there were none to behold them. They flitted like winged things through the fog and the rain and the long brakes. They did not contest with the coyotes or the lean foxes in the wet folds descending from the high chaparral. It was as though they slipped from dream to dream along the selvage at the rim of the world’s waking light.
Legends about them ranged along the coast from the hamlets near the Mendocino headlands all the way to the stinking canneries of Monterey. A pack of wolves who leave no tracks and eat their young. Who cannot be killed with guns. Interlopers sprung from the dark maw of a hidden cave linked to some other world. Maneaters. The stranger was purported to have been raised by the pack according to versions of a story in which he was either abandoned to them by heartless progenitors or taken from the arms of his mother as she was torn asunder by their rabid jaws. In a strange paradox, these stories of terror were often accompanied by some notion of a purpose which guided this strange parliament of man and beast—a long horizon bending toward some unknown end. Whether an end soaked in blood or gilded in righteousness none seemed certain.
It was as though the citizens of that countryside wanted to read in the leaves of these legends trace elements of a biblical autograph verily pungent with dark smoke, electric fate and inescapable reckoning. They would will into existence a jeremiad wherein a counterweight leans against the unspeakable fears of the world which man has created. It was almost as though they wanted to believe that that which they did not understand was a harbinger not of darkness but of justice, the fell executioner, the visitation of love’s most terrible form—the finger of God possessed of swift and silent means. That the stories were convoluted only served to grow the legends. So few had actually seen the wolves as to render any objective analysis hopeless. As with all myth perpetuity generated a misty shroud of hearsay and conjecture in which fact blended with fear and the wondrous call of the heart’s eye to create a ship of legend tacking keenly into the wind of the fireside hour when men speak of doom and fell deeds.