Naomi nods thoughtfully. “Good. But I know it’s still hard to watch someone else transform. It’s a helpless feeling.”
“Yeah,” I say, “I mean, I’m happy that I don’t wolf out like that any more, believe me, but it’s almost worse, worrying about somebody else. I almost wish it could be me, you know?”
“Survivor guilt,” Cicely says. I had almost forgotten she was there, she has been so quiet. “You feel bad for being the one who isn’t suffering. You feel like it should be you, like you don’t deserve to be the one who escaped.”
I know we aren’t just talking about D.J. any more, and I also know she’s right. Looking at D.J. chained to the wall brings me right back to the helplessness I felt as I watched Cicely die. I can’t save D.J. from turning, any more than I could save Cicely from getting vamped. The irony of it never ceases to amaze me: I more powerful than any human could dream of being, but I’m powerless over this. I’m Super Man, but I can’t save anyone. I’m finally in control of myself, but I can’t control anything else.
Naomi reaches out a hand towards me, then quickly draws it back. I know she’s itching to touch me, to charm me, but she isn’t going to do it in front of Cicely.
Instead, she lays her hand on D.J.’s shoulder, and I picture the energy flowing into him like honey. “Jonah used to read a lot,” she says.
It’s the first time she has talked about her lost love in a while. I don’t want to scare her away from the subject, so I try to sound casual. “Yeah? What did he read?”
“Everything. Research about wolves. Folk tales about lycanthropy. Poetry.”
“Poetry?” It’s hard for me to picture a werewolf sitting around reading poems.
Naomi smiles at the look on my face. “There can be answers in poetry, too, Ander, and we were looking for answers. Jonah loved poetry. But his real love was mythology. Did you know that, in the Norse myths, the cosmic wolf is destined to destroy the world?”
“Sounds right,” I say. “I’ve felt like I was going to destroy the world a bunch of times.”
“Why hasn’t he? Destroyed the world, I mean?” Cicely says. I’m not sure if she’s talking about me or the cosmic wolf.
“Well,” Naomi’s hand moves to the silver plated chains that hold D.J.’s arm. “The gods keep him tied down. At first they tried to bind him with the world’s strongest chains, but he broke them.”
I laugh nervously. “You consider this a pep talk, Naomi?”
Cicely laughs, too. Naomi gives me a look. “They found something better!” she says, “The dwarves told them they needed to weave a rope out of six impossible things.”
“Yeah?” I say, “Like what?”
Naomi’s brow furrows as she struggles to remember. “The root of a mountain, I think? The breath of a fish? Stuff like that.”
I feel disappointed in spite of myself. For a second I had hoped there was some real answer hidden in the myth. “The breath of a fish doesn’t sound that strong,” I note.
Cicely grins. “Strong smelling, maybe.”
D.J. stirs and opens his eyes.
“Well,” Naomi smiles kindly at him, “The point is, it worked. They wove the rope of impossible things, and even though it was as thin and soft as spider silk, it still held the wolf down and kept him from destroying the world.”
“Six impossible things,” I say skeptically.
“Before breakfast!” Cicely adds. We all look at her like she’s crazy. “You know? That line from
in Wonderland? The Queen says she tries to do six impossible things before
Something about her words makes me think of Michael, shuffling around the kitchen after a long night at the bar, trying to make another batch of potion for me before I leave for school in the morning. Trying to hit on the six impossible things that would keep me from destroying the world that day.
“And he’ll never break out?” D.J.’s voice is hoarse with pain. I didn’t think he had been listening. He’s scared, I can tell, no matter how hard he tries to hide it.
“Well…” Naomi reaches out one cautious hand to stroke D.J.’s cheek. I see him relax little at her charming touch, but not that much. “The truth is, they didn’t believe it could hold forever. They believed the wolf would some day get free.”
Cicely widens her eyes at Naomi to say why are you telling him this?
“But the point,” Naomi says quickly, “is that, even if the wolf destroys the world some day, today is not the day.”
Today is not the end of the world. Well, maybe not for all of us, but for D.J. it’s the end of the world as he has known it, the beginning of another life, and no matter how strong he thinks he is or how ready, it’s going to feel like that cosmic wolf has swallowed him whole. That much I know for sure.
Cicely slips her hand into mine and gives it a little squeeze. She looks up at me and smiles her most reassuring smile. It makes me think of all the little things that bind us – the impossible things, the things that shouldn’t be. They may be soft as spider silk – soft as Cicely’s hand in mine – but they keep us from hurting each other, no matter how bad we want to. Tonight we will wrap D.J. in the strongest chains, but ultimately that’s not what will keep him from hurting someone. Cicely has told me about the night of the Fall Formal, when I chased her across the fields behind the school, how I caught her, but then hesitated for just a second when I looked into her eyes. And I let her go. I can’t remember that, of course, and I’m not sure what to make of it, but I know what Michael would say: It’s the little threads that connect is too each other – the little threads that connect us to our real selves - that keep us from destroying the world.
And we’ve just gotta pray they hold.