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Close Encounter


Best of the Net Nominee 2023

Image by Lukasz Szmigiel

        At the edge of darkness where shapes are grey and shadows black, I walked toward the beach, moonlight faintly illuminating clam shells lining the trail. Suddenly, he leapt in front of me onto a log. At eye level, we stared at each other, unmoving, for several moments. Tail thick as a bottlebrush and curled into a crescent, fur washed blond by the rising moon, I knew he was something primal and dangerous.

        Instinctively, I stepped backward, and he startled, jumping into the brush and disappearing deep into the forest.

        Breathlessly, I ran back to the campfire, where I asked our guide if dogs were allowed on the island. “No!” he answered, then jumped up and ran toward the beach, calling over his shoulder, “Which direction did he go?”

        “Toward the spring,” I answered, stumbling after him as he ran down the trail, flashlight barely penetrating the thicket of old growth cedar, red huckleberry, and salal on either side of us. When we reached the spring, we stopped and listened—nothing but soft waves washing the shore, leaves rustling in wind, the cry of a loon. By then he was nothing but a memory.

        Back at the campfire, I learned from our guide that I had come face to face with a seawolf, rarely seen except by a few kayakers and only from a distance swimming from island to island. The Canadian Wildlife Service had been monitoring a den with pups on Gilbert Island for over a year and tracking a male wolf’s movement through Barkley Sound. Except for a few prints along the shoreline, he had not yet been sighted on Clark Island, until now. I was lucky to be the first to lock eyes with this wandering wolf, to feel for a brief moment the thread of connection that ties wild to tame.

Shirlee Jellum is a retired English teacher living on a farm in the middle of nowhere. She occasionally publishes fiction, nonfiction and poetry.

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