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Old 03-25-2009, 05:35 AM   #1
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The Howling Wind - Chapter 17 (25/3/09)

I'm back... and because I've been up and more-or-less awake for something like 2 days now, and by the way LAX sucks and whoever decided that transit passengers need to queue up to go through customs and all that shit needs to be shot with blunt rusty razor blades... um. I'm sure I had a point...

Anyway, Diane convinced me to mash the next two chapters together, so you're getting a whopping great 4000 words today. Huzzah! Well, I guess it's a good thing. Not that it's hard to convince me of anything right now.

Disclaimer: Nothing could be more a load of rot than this, pay no attention and take nothing seriously. Apologies to small Canadian towns I may have appropriated.

** Oh, by the way; about two and a half years have passed (since Chapter 16, in which Edge ran away from his life), when we commence this chapter. **

Onwards...


----------

17 June, 1990 – British Columbia, Canada

The wolf pack had paused to sniff the two parallel indentations that came out of the forest and crossed the plain. The lines had been there for as long as any of them had roamed this territory, and sometimes, like this time, they scented the recent passage of some strange-smelling creature. It smelled utterly unlike anything else in their territory, but it was a scent that made them all instinctively wary. It smelled dangerous, but whatever had made the scent was gone now, so after a few minutes, the pack dismissed it from their minds and continued on their way.

The newcomer – the stranger among them, however, sniffed for longer. He was still the stranger, despite having run with the pack for over two seasons. Despite his having hunted with them and defended the den with them and taken care of the cubs with them, he was still only tolerated, never fully accepted. He didn't smell quite right, and there was something about him that made the other wolves wary, although not in the same way as the strange scent from those two lines did. He was not the omega wolf any more, precisely, but he seemed to exist a little outside of the pack's hierarchy. That, as much as anything else, made the other wolves uncertain of him.

Like any other wolf pack, that one was a tightly-knit family unit. Newcomers were accepted rarely, and never easily. Especially not strangers like this one.

The stranger kept sniffing at the unusual scent, even as the pack moved away. The alpha male turned back to watch him, his golden eyes meeting the green-flecked yellow of the strangers'. The stranger made no move to follow the pack, and the alpha turned away and continued on.

The scent had resonated with something at the back of the stranger's mind. It seemed familiar, but he had no clear memory of having smelled something like this before. Certainly not in this territory.

He had roamed for some time before finding this pack, he remembered. That had been a long time ago. It was strange to think of things so long past.

The scent fascinated him, even while the things it stirred in his mind confused him. Naturally inquisitive, he wanted to find out what the scent was, and why it was causing such confusion.

It was strange to think about 'why', too. Wolves were usually content that something simply is, or is not.

--

The stranger followed the scent, which followed the parallel lines faithfully, as it moved out of the pack's territory, growing gradually stronger. This creature must have been running very fast.

As twilight fell, the sound of the pack howling in the distance made him stop, ears pricked, staring back the way he had come. He raised his head to howl too, his solitary voice sounding thin and lonely without the others nearby. Instinctively he started to trot back towards them, but then that scent caught his attention again, and he stopped. Curiosity overcame his instincts, and he resumed following the trail.


It was full dark, the crescent moon overhead, before he found the source of the strange scent. The twin lines led directly to a scatter of trees, and a square shape sticking out of the ground, with patches of light shining from it. There were other large, odd-looking things lying around it, and the stranger's instincts told him to stay away. He had found where the scent had come from. He should roll on the ground here, gather the scents of the place and return to the pack, so they could smell the scents on him and know what lay at the end of the lines. So they would know to stay away, too.

The lights in the square shape went out, and the stranger's eyes adjusted, seeing much more clearly in the dim light, free from the glare. Nothing had moved between the odd shapes in all the time he'd been watching, and once again his curiosity overcame his caution, and he came closer. The strange scent he'd been following was mingled with many others now, all eerily familiar, but he still followed it to the strange thing that made it. It smelled a little like burning, and other things he couldn't identify.

Those things were still prodding odd feelings in his mind, however. Images and sounds and thoughts he hadn't remembered for a very long time. He didn't understand any of it, the confusion was growing more than he could stand.

He returned to inspecting the thing the scent had come from. The parts touching the ground were round and black, and slightly chewy. He couldn't get a good grip on them with his jaws, and they tasted bad. The other parts of the thing were much harder, and he didn't want to chew too hard on them. They tasted bad too, in a different way. There was a small flat bit at the back, with odd markings on it. 'BWW-353'... The markings brought even more confusing thoughts to the surface, triggering a strong memory from another life, a memory of more markings like that. A series of markings that he'd once known almost better than his own name.

011... 353... 1442...

Name?

The wolf circled, whining. He didn't know what it all meant. It was familiar and strange, wrong and right. It was Why and Who, instead of What and Where.

The wolf bolted, running into the trees and away from the strange shapes. Away, too, from the lines leading back to the pack's territory.

--

A chain reaction was taking place in the stranger's mind. The scent had started it, the numbers had turned it into an avalanche of jumbled memories. It was too much to take in, too much for a wolf to understand. Images of his family and his pack came back, but they were not images of wolves.

Humans. People. Family.

Images, too, of odd things like the square shape and the thing with the markings on it, but many many more of them, all together in a place with no trees or grass or dirt or green. All covered in light, even at night. And he remembered masses of human people, all together in a big round place, and he was above them, in front of them, and they were all howling. He was howling too, he and his pack.

No, not howling. They were cheering, because they liked the sounds he and his pack were making.

Singing. And… and… music.

He'd left them all. He'd run away.

He remembered his mate and his cubs again. But they weren't cubs, they were… children. And his wife. He'd abandoned his den. His home. He'd hurt them, somehow, even while he was protecting them. That made no sense to a wolf, but he was remembering that not all pain is physical.

Names came back to him.

Aislinn. Hollie. Arran.

--

The wolf had run until he entered a clearing, seeing more lights through the trees; a whole collection of square things and lights.
Town.

He stopped, panting, his mind engulfed in chaos.

He circled the clearing, trying to shake the disturbing thoughts from his head, shake free the emotions and the heartache that a wolf wasn't built to feel. These were human things, and they required a human form.

It hurt. It always hurt, changing to a larger shape.

"Aaaaaaaaah!"

For the first time in two and a half years, The Edge returned to his human skin. And with that shape came the full impact of everything he'd been remembering and feeling, the shame and sorrow and desperate longing. He'd run away from his family and friends, just because he couldn't handle the pressure, couldn't resist the temptation to shake it off and escape as a wolf. He'd left Aislinn to raise their children without a father.

Shaking with cold and misery, huddled around himself in the clearing, The Edge cried out his broken heart until there were no tears left.


---------

18 June, 1990 – Bloedel, BC, Canada

The sky was turning grey to the east by the time he remembered that there were such things as clothes, and that he should be wearing them to keep the cold off. He could have become a wolf again and re-joined the pack, but now that he'd remembered, he felt compelled to do something. To find his family again.

The number was the only language he remembered at first, burned into his memory as it had been by constant repetition. He knew that somehow, that number led to his family.

He found clothes hanging on something, next to one of the square things.

Houses.

He tried to pull them off with his teeth before he remembered what his hands were for. Then he had to remember how to hang the clothes on himself. Finally he thought he had his arms through the right holes, although there was a nagging feeling that something still wasn't quite right.

----

Elaine Wilson had always been an early riser. She'd seen a lot in her 57 years of waking with the dawn, but she'd never seen anything quite like this before.

The man had been wandering behind the houses that backed onto the reserve, sporting a short, straggly beard and a mass of long, wavy, grey-streaked hair, where he wasn't bald. He looked half starved and confused, the impression heightened by the floral nightgown he was wearing inside-out. Skinny legs with bare feet stuck out the bottom.

He didn't seem dangerous. Elaine had approached him cautiously, her maternal instincts wanting to help someone who so clearly needed it.

"What's your name, stranger?" she'd asked.

The man had stared at her with odd, yellowish green eyes, cocking his head as if trying to understand, or remember. She'd had to ask twice more before he'd rattled off a string of numbers, and then added, "Aislinn."

"I don't think that's your name," Elaine had said, but he'd just said it again, and in what sounded a lot like an Irish accent.

How on earth had a barefoot Irishman in a nightgown ended up out here? He didn't look particularly dirty, but he smelled as if he hadn't had a bath for some time.

"How about we get you cleaned up and in some decent clothes, Mr Aislinn? It's a long walk from Dublin."

His eyes had widened at that, and he rattled off the number again, and repeated "Aislinn". Then after a pause, he tried the word for himself. "Dublin." Then the number again.

Elaine realised it was a phone number, probably for someone called Aislinn in Dublin.

---

It was more effort to get him clean and dressed than Elaine had expected - he didn't seem to know what to do with a bathtub, or trousers and shirts and sweaters. Lucky thing she still had some of her husband's clothes tucked away.

"They're going to a good cause," she told her husband's memory.

It was also a shock to see the man's skinny frame, and the scars that covered him. Most looked old, completely healed, but it was something else to add to the whole mystery.

He tolerated Elaine's attentions well enough, even responding to her smile with one of his own, once he was presentable. She felt somewhat reassured at this sight, even obscured as it was by beard. He seemed a gentle soul.

"We'll have to give you a shave, I think," she said.

The man said the phone number again. He'd hardly spoken since she'd first seen him, and his voice still seemed rusty and rough. She didn't know what he would, or could say to whoever this Aislinn was, but he seemed determined to reach them.

"All right, we'll make a phone call first," she said, going into the kitchen and picking up the telephone. The man followed her, becoming more animated at the sight of the telephone. He reeled off the number yet again.

"I know! I've almost got that memorised now," Elaine told him. "I'm going to have to put in a reverse charge call. I hope this Aislinn of yours doesn't mind."

The man watched her intently, absorbing everything she said and did. He didn't seem stupid, exactly. A real mystery.

The reverse charges were accepted, and the operator put her through. Elaine handed the phone to the man.

"There you go, she's putting us through to Aislinn's number. Go on," she added, when he seemed to hesitate at the last moment. But he took the receiver, and hesitantly put it to his ear.


"Ais--?"

There was some sort of beeping on the line.

"Hello?" A male voice. That didn't seem right.

"Aislinn?" he tried again. His voice still felt rough, the words awkward in his mouth.

"Sorry, she moved out some time ago," the male voice said. "Can I pass on a message?"

Confusion. "… Aislinn."

"I'm sorry," the voice came again, patiently. "Aislinn doesn't live here any more."

Beginning to grasp the meaning behind all these words, finally, the man frowned, cleared his throat, and made an effort. "Aislinn… not? Where she?"

The tone of the other voice had changed. He got the feeling the voice was unhappy, or uncomfortable.

"She's not here, I told you. If you want to get in touch, try her parents. I'm not going to give out her number to a total stranger."

The voice was triggering memories, connections re-forming in his brain. A scent went with that voice, he remembered.

"… Smoke. You… smoke. Adam!" That was it. With the name came more memories, and the constant smell of cigarette smoke. "You… you're Adam."

Shock was nearly audible on the phone line.

"Edge?! Is that really you?"

That name brought back even more. He felt like his brain was speeding up after a long sleep.

"Edge… yes, Edge… It's me. It's me, Adam."

"My god! Where are you? Where have you been…" Adam's voice trailed off.

The words were coming back to him more quickly now. "Why are you in our house?"

"Look, it's been a long time…"

"Are you sleeping with Aislinn?" More curious than accusatory.

"No! She waited a year, Edge, and then she moved out of here and back with her parents. She waited! She's with someone else now."

Edge thought about that. She had been one of the first memories to surface, that truck's number plate reminding him of the countless times he'd called her at home, before… before everything had happened. She was his wife, the mother of his children. He had abandoned all of them, and now she was with another man. Her memory had propelled him back to humanity, and now he was remembering why he'd fled from it in the first place. But he was also remembering their wedding, that ill-fated honeymoon to Sri Lanka, the births of their daughters.

How long had he been gone? More than a year? Two?
He'd forgotten all about Adam and the telephone.

"Edge?"

"What?" He started.

"… Are you okay?"

"Fine thank you, how are you?" Edge said automatically, some sort of pleasantry reflex kicking in. He was still thinking about his family.

Adam was flummoxed. "Well, you know, can't complain…"

"My wife left me."

"No, you left her, for a pack of wolves." Adam couldn't quite believe those words had just come out of his mouth. He couldn't believe he was speaking to Edge again, after all this time. "She waited. You disappeared."

Edge was remembering how things had been shortly before his disappearance. "I don't think it was working."

"Well, it certainly didn't work after that."

"Is she happy? And the kids?" That was important.

"I think so, yes."

"Good."

"Look, where are you? Are you coming home? Everyone thinks you're dead, Dave…"

That name carried a whole host of associations, too. Edge blinked and remembered the question.
"I'm a day away from the river where the salmon run between tall pine trees that cover the mountain on the west side; I crossed the plain with grey rocks where deer break their legs to get here. From the north."

"… What?"

"Oh. Um. I think this is Canada. Western Canada."

"That doesn't help much."

Another memory jogged loose in Edge's brain. "Bono… How's Bono? And Larry? Is the band still going?"

An exasperated sigh crossed the Atlantic and most of the North American continent. "No, Dave, the band broke up when you left. We're still making music, but not together so much. Larry and I are mostly doing sessions, Bono's done a bit of solo work and a few collaborations."

Edge had lost focus again under the stream of words, and was distracted by a bird outside the window. "That's nice."

"Dave, please come back. I don't know what it'll do to Aislinn, but your kids need to see you. Your parents were wrecks, and they knew you were alive, at least then. And… well, we've missed you. Everyone misses you. Don't you want to come home and have a beer and a hot shower?"

"I… I would like to see you. But I don't think I can go back to that life. You come here, see my home." The thought of resuming the routine that had driven him into the wild to begin with made him want to bolt again. But he had to at least see his family, and his friends…

"What, the river with salmon and trees and broken deer legs?" Adam was getting angry.

"No, the plain with the gr--"

"Who cares! You have CHILDREN here, Dave! I suppose you've had a litter of puppies out there or something?"

Edge was shocked. "Of course not. I wasn't alpha."

Adam sighed again. "Dave, you need to come home."

"It seems like everyone is managing without me. I can't go back, Adam."

"The life you left doesn't exist any more. Everything's changed. But we're all still here, everyone will want to see you."

"I know. But…"

"Where are you calling from, anyway?"

"A woman who smells of powdery flowers gave me clothes and let me use the… telephone."

Elaine had been in the next room, trying not to eavesdrop, but she had still heard everything, on this side of the conversation. She'd gone to a cupboard and pulled out a record with a black-and-white sleeve, peering at the four grim faces on the back of it. Hearing him talk about Bono had confirmed it; hearing herself described like that made her blink. Powdery flowers? And what had he meant about not being alpha? Almost despite herself, Elaine got up and went back into the kitchen, pausing in the doorway. The man, The Edge, was standing exactly where she'd left him.

"Uh," Adam was saying. "Is this woman there? Can I talk to her?"

Edge turned to Elaine, holding the phone out. "Can he talk to you?"

Surprised, Elaine took the receiver. "Hello?"

Adam was relieved to speak to someone with their wits about them. "Hello, ma'am. Thank you for being so kind to my friend… Can you tell me where you are?"

"Bloedel. We're 160km northwest of Vancouver. My name is Elaine Wilson, by the way."

Adam had jammed his phone between ear and shoulder as he scrambled for a piece of paper and wrote it down. "I'm Adam. Thank you…"

"Is he who I think he is?" Elaine asked. "He walked out of the forest wearing something he must have pulled off someone's clothes line. Has he been walking around the wilderness, naked as a jay bird, all these years? He's skinny as a rake and all covered in scars, too…"

"Jay birds have feathers," Adam heard Edge say in the background. "I don't have feathers. I don't have fur anym--"

"He's a friend of ours," he cut in hurriedly. "He, uh, he decided to get back to nature a while ago…"

"I remember what the news said," Elaine said, refusing to be deterred. "He was in that band, U2. You were too… Adam Clayton, isn't it? You all said he'd retired from public life, right in the middle of a tour. Then no one saw hide nor hair of him ever since. Until now, I guess. Everyone thought he was in rehab."

"He was not in rehab," Adam said wearily, having become thoroughly sick of hearing that speculation. "No drugs, no rehab. You can be the first person to ask him that, if you like," Adam added, wondering how Edge would react.

"I guess I'll take your word for it," Elaine said. "What did he mean, about the alpha?"

"You'll have to ask him that, too. No one here has heard from him since the tour." Adam wasn't going to explain everything to Mrs Wilson. "A lot of people think he's dead."

"Well, he's not dead. I'm not sure he's all there, if you know what I mean, but he sounds a lot better now than he did when I first saw him."

Another sigh. "Once upon a time, he was the most intelligent person I knew."

"Huh."

Adam shook himself. "Look, how big is that town? Is there a hotel there? I have a feeling a lot of Irish people are about to visit the area."

"Well, there's not much room right here, but there's a hotel in Campbell River. I reckon you can get here easy enough from there. I've cleaned him up a bit, but I reckon he still needs a shave." The scruffy apparition, who had once been a rock star, had wandered into the next room.

"Thank you. One more thing… do you think we could keep the media out of this? Besides everything else, Dave has young children, you see…"

"I hear you. I don't want to see the place swarming with reporters any more than you do. Is that his real name, then? Dave?"

"Yes, that's right. Please call him that, or Edge if you prefer… I think the more he hears his name, the more he hears someone talking, the more he might remember. I think he must have been on his own for a long time." Well, away from humanity at least, Adam thought.

"I'll do that."

"I'm in your debt, ma'am… we all are. Could you put Dave back on the phone, please? We won't be much longer."

"Sure thing." Elaine muffled the phone, peering around the door frame. "Hey, Dave! Yeah, you know your name. Leave the cat alone, your buddy Adam wants to talk to you again."

There was a pause, and Adam heard the phone being handed over.

"Dave?"

"I don't like these foot things."

Adam had lost count of the sighs he'd expelled since picking up the phone. "Shoes. They're called shoes."

"I don't like these shoes." Edge shook one foot, trapped in the clumsy object.

"We're coming to visit you, Dave. Try to remember who you are before we get there, all right?"

"You make that sound easy."

That had sounded like the old Edge, and Adam allowed himself to hope that their friend would return to them, after all. "We'll be there in a week, at most. Will you stay there? Do you want to see us?" Will you stay human?

"Yes, I want to see you. I will be here… The moon is a crescent, going dark. I will stay until the half moon. That's more than a week, isn't it?"

That sounded more like a wolf, and Adam suppressed yet another sigh. "I think that's closer to a fortnight. I'll see you before then."

"All right."

"Goodb… See you, Dave."

"You too."

Adam smiled, wondering whether Edge had said that deliberately, and hung up. Probably not, he reflected with another sigh.

He had a lot of phone calls to make.



------------
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Old 03-25-2009, 09:44 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alisaura View Post
The man had been wandering behind the houses that backed onto the reserve, sporting a short, straggly beard and a mass of long, wavy, grey-streaked hair, where he wasn't bald. He looked half starved and confused, the impression heightened by the floral nightgown he was wearing inside-out. Skinny legs with bare feet stuck out the bottom.

He didn't seem dangerous.

*******

"Is he who I think he is?" Elaine asked. "He walked out of the forest wearing something he must have pulled off someone's clothes line. Has he been walking around the wilderness, naked as a jay bird, all these years? He's skinny as a rake and all covered in scars, too…"

"Jay birds have feathers," Adam heard Edge say in the background. "I don't have feathers. I don't have fur anym--"

"He's a friend of ours," he cut in hurriedly. "He, uh, he decided to get back to nature a while ago…"
I'm new here, but I've been reading this story and I absolutely LOVE it!! Those two segments above made me laugh. The thought of Edge in a floral nightgown...
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Old 03-25-2009, 02:43 PM   #3
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The image of Edge in a floral nightgown is bloody hillarious!


Great chapter Ali, it'll be interesting to see what happens if he sees the guys again. He might feel the need to run again!
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And if U2 EVER did Hawkmoon live....and the version from the Lovetown Tour, my uterus would leave my body and fling itself at Bono - for realz.
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Old 03-25-2009, 05:26 PM   #4
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i like it.
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Old 03-25-2009, 05:31 PM   #5
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great chapter. next.
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Old 03-25-2009, 07:22 PM   #6
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Edge in a nightie still makes me giggle like mad.

I still think you should have kept Randomville as a town name..hehe.
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Old 03-26-2009, 06:18 AM   #7
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Thanks guys

And welcome, Smitty Jo! Comments are always appreciated

Just for the record, I appreciate constructive criticsm as well... I'm glad people like the story, but don't hesitate to tell me if you don't like something or how I could improve it, etc.

Randomville will always have (be?) a place in my heart.
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