The Boy Who Cried Wolves

It began with a growing sensation in the lacrimal sac. The boy’s name was Daniel Ledbetter. His peers called him Bed Wetter—not due to any actual or even perceived incontinence on his part, simply because of the sound of the words. Nonetheless, the teasing of the children caused him heaviness of heart, as well as stomachaches, migraines, a recurring and violent revenge fantasy, and a muttering tic.

After some years of this treatment Daniel’s tears became lupine. The wolves were microscopic, dogpaddling in his superior and inferior canals and exiting through the lacrimal ducts like the ramp at the end of a waterslide. Those that survived being wiped from his reddening cheeks began to grow, forming tiny packs in the plush carpet. It was a difficult life for the wolves, but still many persevered. When they grew large enough to be visible to the human eye, they stayed hidden in the back of the pantry behind a long-forgotten box of falafel mix. They fed on a box of dried beef bouillon for protein. They bit a hole in a large water jug, stopping it up with hair and sucking at it when they needed hydration.

Eventually, they were fully grown, the size of field mice. Only four of them had managed to live through the endless trials of being a tiny wolf born from the tears of a 9-year old boy, and they made themselves known to Daniel, declaring their allegiance to him in the best lupine pantomime they could manage.

Daniel kept them hidden for a few weeks, feeding them bugs and grubworms. Then one day, he brought them to school in a shoebox with holes poked in the top. Telling the teacher he had something to show the class, he opened the box and the wolves burst out, rampaging through the class, biting several children on the ankles and making them cry. The teacher seemed frozen in confusion. Daniel called the wolves back. He knelt down, and they pounced back into the box in his arms. Daniel laughed.

Everyone remained stunned and left him alone the rest of the day, which he found quite satisfying. Later that evening, his mother entered his bedroom, round and ubiquitous, with her hair piled in a bun the size and color of a Louisiana yam. She had spoken to his teacher on the phone, something about him bringing wild animals into the school.

He showed her. The wolves were sleeping, curled up together like finger puppets in a fist. She said he shouldn’t bring the wolves to school anymore. But Daniel ignored her.

He kept the wolves with him everywhere he went. They snuggled into bed with him at night, and they leapt into their shoebox first thing in the morning. At school, nobody called him “Bed Wetter” or even spoke with him for that matter.

Then came a day when the wolves began to feel the walls of time collapsing in. Their life spans were coming to a close and soon their species would be extinct. Their own conception having been immaculate, they instinctively knew that the traditional mammalian methods of progeneration would not apply, and weren’t even sure which of them were male or female, if they had any sex at all. And so they devised a plan, though it was repugnant to them all at first, to torment their benefactor, to collect and harvest as many of his tears as possible in hopes that the miracle would repeat itself. Then, perhaps, they could take charge of their own destiny and the destiny of their race.

Nipping at Daniel’s toes and ankles made him irritated and angry, but no tears came forth. Next, they tried ignoring him, and instead of curling into bed with him at night, they curled up in his shoes in the closet. Instead of waking him up with a lick on the nose, they let the alarm clock wake him. Instead of loyally taking to the shoebox when he got ready for school, they hid under his bed.

Nevertheless, the boy was stoic and dry as a stone. In the absence of affection from the wolves, he returned to long forgotten playthings—the television, the internet, the Nintendo Wii. He was beginning to grow bored with the miniature wolves, and they in turn were growing weary of their service to him. The wolves began to suffer from a stifling malaise, which then metastasized into exhaustion.

But beneath that malaise and exhaustion, deep inside of each of them, a single photon of light yearned to be released, and, in due time, it was released. In the middle of the night, the boy was stirred awake by a growing light that soon filled the room, consuming him.

M. David Hornbuckle is the author of The Salvation of Billy Wayne Carter (Cantarabooks, 2007). His short fiction has appeared in over a dozen literary magazines and anthologies. He is also a songwriter and bandleader. Hornbuckle lives in New York City.