The wolves circled through the woods in the dark of a winter evening beneath a heavy black sky, the moon a cold icy sliver, an afterthought of silver light. Trees creaked, moving stiffly with the cold, snapping and cracking in protest. And the voices rose around the house, a chorus started by a sonorous, distant howl like Murdoch lost in the woods and joined by rising yips and a high pitched sweeping song.
A swell of voices upon voices put a stop to our puttering in the house. We stared at each other, a flicker of a question in our eyes. The dogs are inside?
It filled up the dark spaces between the trees, approached the house as though the pack were right outside, right there, with their giant paws and long legs, just on the edge of the ring of light spilling from our windows. And then the voices receded again as though part of a current, or the ebb and flow of a tide washing through the woods.
We stepped out on to the snow-packed deck to listen, fighting past the dogs at the door, telling them to stay put in their stiffened, agitated state. Outside, cold settled heavily on our bodies as we stood silently listening to the snap and creak of tree limbs in the rising breeze, straining to hear the sounds of dozens of feet padding swishingly over the snow, of the whispering glance of furry bodies weaving around trees, angling shoulder-to-shoulder through the black of the woods. But there was nothing. The voices were gone as suddenly as they had started. The night fell heavily, silently, around us. At our backs, behind the closed door, Murdoch’s voice called steadily, a deep, forlorn howl.