A howl rose over the lake. It could have been human, but as it went on and on, that seemed less and less likely. It was vaguely electronic, but the options for technology in rural Alaska are limited. A night creature responded — an owl? A wolf? I never did learn my wildlife when I lived here. Too busy making my body into a science experiment.
Julie woke up mid-way through it. She fumbled for her flashlight, didn’t find it until the noise had started to fade. Silly girl, if she had just paused to listen, she could have heard that it was too far away for a flashlight to help.
It came again, shorter this time. Can I say otherworldly? Is that too trite? But it was otherworldly, and the night was so dark that as I listened to it, everything seemed to float a little, turn just the slightest bit. High on noise and sensory deprivation.
Julie checked the car locks.. She didn’t seem to be enjoying it as much as I was. Always cautious, that girl. It was a horn, maybe? Some sort of ghost ship? As it started again, the third time, a flock of birds flew away from the tree closest to the car, squealing and cawing in protest, unnatural in the night. Julie stared at the lake through the car window.
It moved too, like me, just glimmers of light as the moon reflected in small waves, and as the treeline just barely started to brighten, she turned the key and the engine over. I might have told her to drive carefully, but I was never that kind of mother. We didn’t find any sign of other humans until we reached the next town, 110 miles away.
Prose from Savannah Naffziger,
Residency participant, 2015