On June 12th 1996, the Government of Canada and the United States Military formed an exploratory commission to investigate what remained of the silver mines of Alaska. The group lost contact with mother base, and was never seen again. Concerned by the outcome of the exploratory commission, Canada and the US collaborated once more on the construction of the Silver Zone, a landmass extending from the Seattle/British Columbia border to Alaska bookended by security outposts White Teeth and Black Belly.
This zone would ensure no one without proper clearance would venture into restricted areas of Northern Alaska, but most official close to the project would suggest that it was used to keep what had intercepted the exploratory commission well within its borders.
–The Wolf Historia, 2014
Chapter 13: No Chance of Escape
Tehmot delivered Char to the prison entrance shortly after meeting with the Chief. Simone had granted Char access to the holding cells with a small white envelope sealed with red wax. The seal depicted an “R” between two wolf faces staring in opposite directions. Was this a reference to her sons? thought Char. Jan and Garas shared a withered body no larger than an infant. The poor things’ head sprouted two faces–never to see the other.
I didn’t want to gasp, thought Char. They’re still Simone’s children, and she loves them no matter what they look like. Char wondered if she could do the same with her own children, uneasy that the answer had not come more quickly. She caressed her enlarged stomach, reaffirming her devotion and pondering what each child would become.
Char had always envisioned a tiny Doogan with Gator’s bushy black hair and beguiling eyes, protecting his brothers and sisters from bullies at school. This, like many of her life’s goals, would never be. Danny was handsome, certainly, yet she had not considered him an ideal example of manhood. I would have better luck with daughters, thought Char with a smirk. If they didn’t take after Danny, she hoped they would take after their aunts. Char recalled her sisters had been striking when she was a girl, saddened she knows no other vision of them.
“State your business,” said a hoarse voice.
Char glanced up, startled by the warden. He looked like a volcano of black hair with only the skin of his upper face and forehead peeking from the crust.
Char had lost herself in daydreams before confronting the sinister reality.
“Howard Fettel,” said Char as she handed him the envelope.
The warden took hold of the envelope to get a closer look at the seal before giving it back. “The Genocider,” mumbled the warden.
“Did you say something?” said Char. “Would you like to repeat it to my musher?”
The warden leaned over to find Tehmot standing in the sled with his head obscured by the treetops.
“Was only the wind, Mistress,” said the warden. “Right this way.”
He didn’t even read it. Char slid the unopened letter into a pocket on the inside of her fur robes. Guess I’ll hold onto this.
The stairway spiraled into a dungeon held together by brick and frost. She followed behind the warden, still unsure of his loyalties. Leek Denaa had a burgeoning civil war of sorts, and Char was hesitant to choose a side. Dad will make the choice clear, she assured herself. Conviction had become unsteady over the past few weeks. Thoughts like these provided surer footing than the stairs of the prison.
The warden unlocked a rusted gate at the base of the steps. The room below led into a brazier-lit passage with metal bars forming a narrow path down the center. Captives paced their cages on both sides while some writhed on the floor with iron helmets bolted to their heads.
Guards began to round up the prisoners and ordered them to march into a corridor to the west, illuminated by the sun’s reflection on fresh snow.
“Does that corridor lead outside?” said Char.
“A naturally formed cliff protruding out the crater wall of Leek Denaa,” said the warden, “with no hope of escape.”
“Has anyone tried?”
“Not all prisoners are Lek, Mistress, and the amount of time needed for a wolf to recover from a fall that deep would require hours if not days.” The warden took hold of a lantern at the far end of the passage and turned to Char. “Your father will need to find another way out.”
Beyond the main prison cells held a different kind of prisoner. They approached a wall of iron bars far from the sounds of anything living. Darkness waited beyond its border, the light of the lantern helpless against its patience. The warden stood in place as Char approached the abyss.
“Is he alone?” said Char.
“Ring the bell when you are done,” said the warden as he shut the door behind him.
“Dad?” Char called out meekly. “Daddy, are you alone?”
“Char!?” said Howard in a voice more raspy than usual. “They told me no visitors would be allowed down here.” His approach was announced by the sound of limbs dragging across concrete. Char knelt down and gripped the bars. Her father’s head came into view, gray and gaunt. His facial hair thickened; his skinned paled. Gone were his collared shirt and suspenders, replaced by a robe one would find in a sanitarium.
“What did they do to you!?”
“They took away my cane –nothing more.” Howard reached his hand to cup Char’s face. “Don’t look at me like that. I’ve lived in worse.”
How could they do this to him? Don’t they see how fragile he is? “I can bring you warm clothes and blankets and whatever else you–.”
“No, you’ve other things to worry about.” Howard laid across the floor on his side, resting his weight on his elbow. “I don’t know how long I’ve been down here, but I’ve spent every second thinking of you…the guard is gone, yes?”
“He is, but you should whisper anyway.”
“I see you spoke with Simone,” said Howard.
Char pulled out the letter Chief Reka had given her. “She’s still on our side. Look. Only her seal could get me this far.”
“In the name of her sons.” A smile began to spread across his face. “Have you had the pleasure of meeting them?”
“The radiation from the bomb blast is the reason for their deformity–same goes for Simone’s eyes. You have nothing to worry about with your babies, not that it would matter. You’d love them all the same.”
“It feels good to hear someone say that out loud,” said Char.
“I know your heart. You’re capable of loving anyone.”
“Are you referring to Gator?” said Char in a slightly irked tone.
Howard shook his head. “I was talking about me.” He passed his hand along the brick floor as if trying to flatten out the edges. “Do you remember the night I asked you to come away with me? Away from your mother and sisters?”
“Do you remember?”
“Yeah. I remember.”
“You didn’t hesitate. You looked up at me with your big innocent eyes and hopped into my arms.”
“We were alone when you asked me,” said Char. “It was the only time I had ever seen you cry.”
Howard nodded. “What kind of man burdens their child with such a decision? Now look at us.”
“I never regretted my choice.”
“Don’t lie to me, Charlene. I know your heart, I know your mind, and I know your soul…I failed you.”
“That’s bullshit! I know who I am and I regret nothing!”
“If you truly believe that then I poisoned your mind far worse than I imagined.”
“What is this!? Why are you saying these things?”
“Have you followed The Warg’s instructions as I told you to?”
“He’s the one who put you here! Why would I ever listen to him!?”
“Because he’s the only one that can give you what I took away!” Howard’s fist snapped as he pounded the floor. The spirit of The Bedlam returned to his eyes as he began to stand on his own.
Char followed his example and climbed back to her feet. She watched her father as his mania strengthened him.
“As The Bedlam grew, word had reached Leek Denaa. They wrote to me–expressing their joy for what we had achieved on the mainland. Each letter signed by Chief Simone Reka, sealed with that very crest. We continued correspondence, and she detailed experiments–intriguing ones; vital ones! She attempted to undo the damage the bomb had caused her people. She resorted to mysticism bolstered by the expertise of The Warg. Failure after failure until one day they made a breakthrough.”
“You need to get out of this cell!” said Char. “It’s rotting your brain.”
Howard gripped the bars with both hands and pulled his body against them–his face framed by pillars of cold metal. “The medicine they designed was like nothing I had ever seen! We began to live longer–not just long for wolves, but long for humans!!”
“You need to calm down!”
We were on the precipice of becoming gods!! The medicine only needed one rare ingredient.
The answer lied…in our bones.”
Char realized what her father had done. Her legs weakened as she lowered herself to the floor, nauseated by the ramifications of his actions.
Howard described the rendering process–how tenants had their limbs severed, flesh dissolved, and bones ground into a fine powder. Shipments were sent to Leek Denaa through underground channels used in drug trafficking. In exchange for the ingredient, The Bedlam received millions of dollars and sacramental drugs, cut with the bone dust of her friends and family.
“The medicine had begun to make us stronger, even against wolf attacks and silver exposure. We began to live longer as we eliminated the lingering weaknesses of our blood. And The Warg soon made other important discoveries, such as the potency of adolescent subjects.”
“How could you do this to your own people?” said Char.
“We used sedatives when available,” said Howard, “and the resilience of youth allowed them to recover far faster than the adults! The parents were made well aware of the procedures and risks involved, and in exchange they received free housing within the greatest stronghold in the continental US! When we exhausted our tenants’ children I made my own! Nothing would have stopped us from reaching this point! I had to give you your life back!!”
“Don’t put this on me!! After all this time you are still as much a coward as you were the night you turned me–hiding behind a little girl instead of taking responsibility for what you’ve done!! It was ALWAYS for you! Jesus Christ, they were just children!”
“Say what you want about me, it’s too late. I already succeeded. The revised formula has been pumping in your veins for weeks. It may have killed off one child, but you and the remaining litter will become a catalyst to the survival of our species!”
“My remaining litter,” said Char as she shook her head in disbelief. She rung the bell for the warden to escort her back to the surface. “In the name of my unborn child, I will kill every single one of you.”
Howard turned around and proceeded into the void. “I don’t doubt you, my dear. I don’t doubt you.”