Of Men and Wolves by Bob Krotz

Bird strike. Screams… of terrified men and the dying plane. Roaring wind filled with broken glass and the propellered puree of Canadian geese. The sparse forest, carpeted in white, embraces us at 140 miles per hour. Darkness.

I might be dreaming, but it’s cold. Frigid air burns my lungs. Screaming erupts in the dark, directionless, terrified. A deep growl. A snarl. The scream is cut short. I wish I was dreaming.

Arctic Corp., had flown us home from the tungsten mine dozens of times without incident. Our ten seat Cessna Caravan is cramped, but dependable. The pilot never saw the birds. Now, we’re trapped in its aluminum entrails.

My watch glows 5:10 am. We left Port Radium under a full moon. We should’ve made Yellowknife in four hours. They’ll have been looking for us for a couple of hours. All we need is a little luck.

It’s quieter than I’d have thought after a plane crash. I don’t think that’s a good sign. But, waking up in a wrecked plane, north of the fucking Arctic Circle, in the dark, with a bunch of dead guys isn’t a very good sign either. I giggle, a little hysterically. The growling makes me focus.

I turn my head slowly towards the sound and realize it’s been so dark because I’ve been staring into the black, upholstered seat back I’m wedged up against. Turning my head to the right shows me the hole ripped in the fuselage where the wing used to attach to the roof of the plane. There’s enough moonlight to show me Carl Lindquist. I work with Carl. I like him.

“Carl. Hey Carl, wake up.”

He stirs. I notice his badly broken leg just as he does. His agonized screams echo around the small cabin and take wing into the frigid darkness.

“Carl! Jesus! Shut up. I heard something …”

A huge, black, wolf lunges through the opening and stops inches from Carl’s face. It sniffs loudly and casually grabs Carl’s head in its massive jaws. Carl screams down it’s throat. He goes limp as the monster crushes his skull. The cabin is filled with my screams now.

The wolf yanks at Carl’s body. It bites his shoulder and wrestles Carl and his chair out into the darkness. An explosion of snarling and snapping jaws. Others join the feast.

All I need is a match. A fire will change the equation. I unfasten my seat-belt, slide out of my chair and move stiffly towards the front of the cabin. What I really need is a gun. What I find is the best of both. An orange box has a flare gun and three rounds. I’m holding the pistol and a flare when growling turns me around.

A grey wolf, it’s face bloody to the ears, fills the aisle. It lowers its head, takes a step. I load the pistol and fire.

“Burn you motherfucker!”

It races into the darkness, howling.

Sunrise. I hear a plane faintly. Wolves are at the door.

  • : Drama
  • : Violence, language

Comments

  1. maria delaney

    Hey Bob,

    Again you have done it. This is an amazing piece.
    You started us right in the noise. Bird strike. Screams… of terrified men and the dying plane. Roaring wind filled with broken glass and the propellered puree of Canadian geese.
    After that sentence, I was hooked. I even laughed ;

    “Carl. Hey Carl, wake up.”
    He stirs. I notice his badly broken leg just as he does. His screams echo around the small cabin and soar out into the frigid darkness.
    “Carl! Jesus! Shut up. I heard something …”

    You had me every step of the way…except, the ending. I read it several times and thought perhaps some restructure there.

    I don’t know if this group would be worth without you Bob. You are an amazing writer!
    Maria

    1. Bob Krotz Post author

      Ahhh… my biggest fan. Thank you Maria, for such kind words. I appreciate you hugely.

      Yes, the ending feels a little weak to me as well. I have some tweaks for the story, but I don’t think we can edit a submitted piece.

      I’ll read yours and give some feedback.

      Thanks again!

  2. Amrita Sarkar

    Oh gosh! That was so raw and intense, but unputdownable! That was such a thrilling read from the start till the end. You have created images so vivid and real that I could see all of it taking place right before my eyes. My heart almost stopped beating towards the end. Brilliantly crafted! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Bob Krotz Post author

      Hi Amrita,

      Thank you for your kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I have to admit that I like writing the short, shorts, (300 – 600 words), the most.

      I appreciate your time.

  3. K McLain

    Great use of the limited word count to provide what felt like a ton of action and suspense. The way you peppered the piece with short, taut sentences built tension and urgency. I think the sentence “I like him” probably did the most to humanize your narrator for me. I had no idea what he looked like or where he was from, but I suddenly identified with him and rooted for him because of his camaraderie with his coworker. Just an all-around enjoyable story…

  4. Bob Krotz Post author

    Hello K,

    It’s so great to get feedback on our stories. I never know what is going to capture or repel a reader. I just write the kind of stuff I want to read and chuck it out the door. Some will stop and pick it up. Others will step over it.

    Your point about the humanity of the narrator really helps me see what works, even when I have no conscious idea that it does.

    Thanks for reading.

  5. Michael

    Nice one, brutal and real. Your Canadian geese puree made me laugh… But that didn’t last long as poor Carl got taken. I also love just jumping straight in. Why bother with all the boring stuff when you can go right at it from the start. Epic.

    1. Bob Krotz Post author

      Michael,

      Thanks for reading. I appreciate your time.

      It seems to be what my narrative style is evolving into: Opening paragraph is red-lined at 11,000 RPM and the story roars on from there. Also, 500 words doesn’t really allow for dawdling.

      Thanks again.

  6. ScottHeile

    Karl,
    I like the visceral nature of this story and the immediacy brings about. (Everything seems to be happening in the ‘now.’)
    There is also some great visual writing, where the narrative really helps the reader to ‘see’ what is going on. ‘propellered Canadian geese puree,’ and the line just after it, “The sparse forest, carpeted in white, embraces us at 140 miles per hour. Darkness,” are two good examples.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Bob Krotz Post author

      Hi Scott,

      Most of the time I’m more comfortable writing in the first person. It does lend an immediacy that can really ramp up the tension. My story, “11-99” is an example of this in only 300 words.

      Thanks for your time. I’m glad you liked it.

  7. Riham Gharib

    “… waking up in a wrecked plane, north of the fucking Arctic Circle, in the dark, with a bunch of dead guys isn’t a very good sign either. I giggle, a little hysterically. The growling makes me focus.”

    Bob, I know you are really good with sequences, but this is superb.

    You throw a man in the heart of the worst possible circumstances, and then yank us all inside that frame to watch what would happen to him the next minute. I’m not saying the next hour, because the pace of your stories is that fast. Every second a big thing happens, even the gruesome loss of life is a casual incident we can’t linger on too much.

    I love your word choices in this one, especially in the first segment.

    As always, a memorable story.

    1. Bob Krotz Post author

      Hello Riham,

      Thank you for your kind words and your time. I’m glad you liked this one.

      I like to start as late in the action as possible, especially with such a limited word count.

      Thanks again.

  8. del richards

    Well, you really nailed this! Crisp, punchy writing. no spare words. the drama and awfulness is at the forefront. Excellent use of language. I can’t fault it generally. You summed up the prompt and a superb title too. Well done.

  9. Adam Jeffrey

    Smashed it. Another cracking read. Taught, great description, perfect ending, its all there. And yep “I like him” is such a simple line but works hard in shaping this guy.
    Matthew Reilly would be happy with this.
    If you want any feedback (which you dont really need!), the time descriptions unsettled the flow a little, just trying to work out. Maybe flip them or rework – I get you need it for the ending which works beautifully. And amorphous…I love the word but it stopped me. But hey, small beer. Loved the read. Thanks

  10. Bob Krotz Post author

    Hi Adam,

    Thanks for the valuable critique. You’re right, the time references are a stumble. In the re-write I’ll change it to, “…we left Port Radium last night under a full moon…”
    Also, amorphous is redundant in that word stream.

    Thanks for your time and helpful observations.

  11. Jessica

    Whew…I had to stop and breathe for a second when the wolf got Carl. This story is intense and gritty and atmospheric. I love it. Great job!

    1. Bob Krotz Post author

      Hi Jessica,

      Yeah…poor Carl. I spent some time around Grey Wolves. They are amazing. Much bigger than you’d think. I’m 6 ft 6 inches tall and one big male stood on his hind legs, put his huge paws on my shoulders and looked at me eye level. It was humbling.

  12. Chantel

    Hi Bob
    You really have done it again. You voice is so distinct, which I admire, and yet again, you had me compelled by a genre I usually avoid. You have a wonderful knack with that. Excellent, gripping, and unafraid piece of writing, this is. Well done to you.

    1. Bob Krotz Post author

      Hi Chantel,

      I flattered that I can suck you into my dark, violent, world. Ha-ha.
      I’m glad you liked the story. I’m having so much fun with this group and the prompts.
      Thanks for reading and for your kind words.

  13. Paul J P Slater

    Hi Bob,
    You’ve done it again with another riveting piece.
    Your writing style of Deep POV is a really good example to fellow scribblers if they were interested in attempting this.

    I wonder if you have a little tense hoping with “Others have joined the feast.”
    Perhaps try “Others join the feast.” Just a small suggestion to an enthralling read.

    Thank you for sharing.
    Cheers,
    Paul

    1. Bob Krotz Post author

      Hi Paul,

      Excellent critique. I can see the sense of your suggestion and I’ll use it in the re-write.

      Thanks for catching it and for your time.

  14. Sue Maynes

    I enjoyed the sense of tension that coloured the whole piece moving into terror, then a touch of humour. Well paced and definitely a page turner.

  15. Doug Liberati

    This was great, especially given the limited word count. You started as late as you could and landed us right in the middle of the situation. Every detail provided counts towards the story and any other details are left out. Its just go, go, go. Ideal for this type of story. Good job.

    1. Bob Krotz Post author

      Hi Doug,

      I really like dropping right into the middle of the action. Even in longer prompts it seems to set the pace for me. What I love about the very short stories, i.e., 300 to 500 words, is how it forces me to attack the work with the editing knife, cutting away any extra fat.

      Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

  16. Michael Kurko

    Amazing what you did with just 500 words. Very taut, brutal, and visceral… and effective. The character’s starkness and cynicism are tempered with just enough humanity for us to connect to him. I agree with some other comments that the chronology seemed a bit jumbled which would be easy to patch.

    Some of the explanation for the readers seems to jar against the rest of the slick narrative. “Eight of us flying home after an eighteen day stroke in the Arctic Corp., Tungsten mine.” feels a little too much for the benefit of the reader. Might work better putting it the context of the narrator’s experience, like “Arctic Corp has run this flight form the tungsten mine dozens of times and never hit a bird, much less a fucking cloud of them.”

    Glad to have discovered you and this story. Looking forward to reading more and backup up and reading your previous submissions.

    1. Bob Krotz Post author

      Hello Michael,

      Excellent critique and thoughtful comments. Very helpful. I’ll use that suggestion in the re-write. It works.

      Thanks for giving me your time.

  17. Peggy

    I love your writing style, Bob, the gritty, violent action that gets the heart pumping right from the first sentence as the reader catches up to where they’ve landed and where you’re taking them. You have this craft down so well that I feel like I learn something about the art of writing just by reading your stories. Thanks for that!

  18. Gold

    Love the short pithy sentences and the way you drop right into the scene. An electrifying read. I did gasp at the ‘puree of Canada geese’, I wondered if pulverised might be a better word, as ‘puree’ brought to mind applesauce and I though pulverized might be more gritty and unsettling. But that may just be me. You obviously have many fans on here who like your writing. I will try and catch your work next time. I only joined fairly recently and looking to find writers to follow. Lovely to read your work.

    1. Bob Krotz Post author

      Hello Gold,

      Thanks for reading. So, a twenty pound Canadian goose passing through an eight foot wide airplane propeller turning at 6,000 RPM? Who am I to quibble about what we call the resulting stew?

      I appreciate your time and thoughts. Glad you enjoyed it. Welcome to the group.

  19. Bonnie

    Hi, Bob! I am new to this platform and yours was the first piece I read. As others have mentioned I liked the raw, quick paced action. I, too, really valued the line, “I like him.” So simple, but reveals so much, and is certainly an enjoyably counterintuitive priority for this situation. It reminded me of a grown up version of Gary Paulson’s Hatchet series, which I loved as a child. Well done!

    1. Bob Krotz Post author

      Hi Bonnie,

      Welcome to our group! Thanks for giving me your time to read and your kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  20. Seyi

    Hey Bob. Totally gripped by this story. It’s exciting, scary and believable. I have too many “favorite sentences” to enumerate but I had to go back a couple of times to the scene where your main character notices Carl. For a moment, I thought he was observing Carl through the gap in the fuselage. It took me a moment to figure out that Carl was still stick in the plane. Takes nothing away from an awesome story. Well done and regards, Seyi

  21. Bob Krotz Post author

    Hi Seyi,

    I appreciate your kind words. I can see where it might be a little unclear about Carl’s location, especially since the wolves killed someone outside the plane earlier in the narrative.

    I’ll address it in the re-write.

    Thanks for your time.

  22. Ana

    Hey Bob,
    this is what I was trying to do with my last story, so I write this from a point of admiring envy XD At points it feels like a film script, and a classic horror read the next. Your sense of rhythm is sensational. Way to go, sir!

    1. Bob Krotz Post author

      Hi Ana,

      Such kind words! Thanks for reading. I’ve been told that a lot of my stuff is very cinematic. I just write what I want to read.

      I appreciate you.