Alex started after the wolf girl but somehow couldn’t close the gap between them. She tried to call out, but the moonlight and the sound of the sea stifled the words in her throat. The air was still and the lights of the city shimmered, curving around the bay, reflected in the water. Alex chased the girl through a black weightless void full of points of shivering light. The girl continued to bumble purposefully along, always out of reach. On impulse, Alex sped up, and suddenly her quarry ducked into a gap between two market stalls. Alex was sure she was right behind the young wolf but somehow missed her and stopped short, blinded by the sudden darkness, on the threshold of a dank, empty underpass that she didn’t remember seeing before. She sighed and stepped into the black square, feeling the way one step at a time with her throbbing feet. Away from the lights of the city, she could hear echoing footsteps but see nothing. The smell of urine emanated from the floor.
Gradually a pale patch at the end of the tunnel became discernible. Alex walked cautiously up graffiti-covered steps, emerging into a tiny park. The grass, lined with flowering trees, shone in the moonlight. Buildings stretched up around the patch. A few lights still flickered from open windows. Muffled gunfire from an action film drifted down to where Alex stood. A siren wailed, far away. The wolf girl had vanished. The trees were in full bloom. Clusters of ghostly petals hung suspended in the sky, while slim trembling branches and gnarled tree-trunks cast strange wavering shadows in the moonlight. The combined effect was eerie but beautiful. The soft smell of blossom filled the air, and Alex breathed deeply, filling her lungs with its sweetness again and again. A breeze suddenly stirred the branches, loosening the flowers and flinging them into the air; All of a sudden, the air was filled with fragrant spinning snowflakes. Alex gasped and then laughed aloud.
Looks like I got a white Christmas after all, she thought. As the branches were tossed by another and yet another puff of air, the summer snowstorm billowed. Alex spun around in circles, danced over the grass, fell over and made snow angels in the fallen pale heaps. From where she lay, out of breath, she could see the moon smiling down, and she realised it must be after midnight. Merry Christmas, Wolf Girl, said Alex quietly.
Story by Badger
Illustration by Zijun Li