Years and years ago, among the abundant life of a large forest, there lived a flock of birds named the wollars. They had small, white bodies with a red crest and black dots on their tails, and their life force was provided by a spirit named Kosa whose beauty was a product of her peaceful nature.
Everyday Kosa nestled on the top of a group of birch trees, watching the wollars forage, build nests in the marshes, and do all the things that made them safe and happy. At night, when she fell asleep, she floated to each family nest, filling her children with love and bringing them wonderful dreams.
One night, as Kosa visited the wollars, loud shrieks burst from her soul, piercing the night air. The shrieks were unintelligible to most of the animals and spirits of the forest, but a pack of wolves could hear them, and they followed the floating spirit to the homes of the sleeping wollars. When the wolves came upon each nest, they attacked and devoured every wollar they could. The wollars awoke and scrambled for their lives, but only a few of them escaped the jaws of the wolves. Eventually, Kosa awoke and was horrified by the brutal death of hundreds of her children.
The next day Kosa was filled with sorrow and images of her dead children played over in her mind. She gathered the wollars together and reminded them of their importance to one another, but a terrible feeling haunted her. That night the wollars were scattered through the forest in new homes and were taking turns staying awake to guard their loved ones.
Kosa fell asleep, for the wollars desperately needed beautiful dreams after the horrors of the previous night. As she slept, she floated to her children and the love she gave them was so intense that the wollars shined, appearing like stars hiding in the forest.
But soon Kosa began to shriek, and the wolves followed her to each nest. They ambushed the wollars on guard, killing them all. A few brave wollars managed to call out and alert their loved ones who frantically flew to safety. The nocturnal creatures of the forest heard the screams of the little wollars and the howling of the wolves, but they were afraid, so they hid, pretending not to hear a sound. Finally, as Kosa visited the last nest of wollars, she awoke, enveloped by the nightmare around her.
Kosa no longer enjoyed the magical things in the forest. Only a few of her children were still alive, and their presence reminded her of her loss. She called to the other spirits in the forest for help, and they felt her sorrow, but they didn't know what to do. Finally, an owl spirit flew to her and said, "I overheard the wolves talking. I'm not sure how, but they heard you shriek, and they followed you to your children's nests."
"That can't be," Kosa said. "Why would I shriek? Did any of the spirits hear me?"
"No," the owl spirit replied. "We were all asleep."
"Why are you saying this?" Kosa asked. "Why didn't the creatures of the night warn us? Why didn't anyone help my children?"
The owl spirit was silent. Kosa tried convincing herself otherwise, but she looked in the eyes of the owl spirit, and she knew he was telling the truth.
The spirits of the forest pledged their support, but they were cautious, for they worried about putting their own young in danger. Kosa was alone, and everything in the world reminded her of her loneliness. She wanted to leave the forest, but her children couldn't survive without her. All she could do was pray to the Great Spirit for mercy.
That night Kosa didn't sleep. She wanted to comfort her children, but she felt the presence of the wolves, who still had the taste of blood on their lips. The wollars were restless because they slept with no dreams or life force. The next day Kosa used all her strength to stay awake, but the desire to sleep was intense, for the spirits needed to be unconscious to work their wonders in the world.
The next night a giant blanket of dark gray clouds spread over the land, retaining the privacy of the stars. Kosa was tired, and she struggled to stay awake, but often nodded off for a minute. After a few hours, she spotted a fire in the distance and went to investigate. When she arrived at the site, she saw a man sleeping next to the fire. She watched the flames dart back and forth, which helped keep her awake, but she thought of how wonderful it would be to be asleep and forget about her worries. Eventually, the fire died, leaving a few red coals underneath a large, smoldering log. As the fire went out, Kosa's eyes slowly became heavier and heavier until she fell asleep.
When Kosa slept she floated to her children, who were relieved to feel their mother's spirit flow through them again. But then Kosa began to shriek, and the wolves ran to her as fast as they could, sifting through the forest like ghosts. They captured the surviving wollars and killed one after another. As the last wollar was killed, Kosa awoke to discover the last remains of her children.
Kosa wept for hours. The spirits of the forest watched, but they didn't approach her. She wanted to fly away and disappear, but her spirit was broken, so she ran through the forest in despair. As she ran her spirit slowly became a part of the material world. She ran and ran until she came to a river and jumped in. She swam upstream and then downstream, and the rushing water filled her with a different type of power. Day after day she swam as the rage inside her burned her soul. Gradually, she began to change. Her body took the form of a serpent, ending in a long tail with small fins; her skin became burnt scales colored dark green with small blotches of red; and sharp fangs and a long tongue filled with razor prickles thrust out of her mouth. She was now a monster, and all the animals and spirits of the forest were afraid of her.
Weeks later a father went hiking in the forest with his daughter and one of her friends. The two girls chased a butterfly, which led them to the river. They stood next to the river and watched the rapids rush downstream. "Be careful. Don't get too close," said the father, who sat down on a fallen tree within sight of the girls.
The girls laughed and tossed pebbles in the river. Then one of the girls slipped on the rocks. "Amber, step back," the father said. "I don't want you getting wet."
The girls continued playing as water rolled on the bank and covered their sneakers. The father daydreamed as he admired the scenery. The monster became aware of the girls and swam near them. It watched and waited. Then it leaped out of the river, snatched the girls, and pulled them underwater. The father looked over, but the girls were gone. "Amber, Jessica," he said. He walked over to the river, but the girls had disappeared.
"Amber, Jessica, where are you?" he shouted. The father frantically searched the area, calling for the girls, but there was no sign of them. Then he jumped in the river and battled the currents looking for the girls, but he didn't see anything. As he climbed out of the river, his worst thoughts tormented him, and he ran through the forest yelling for the children. After searching the forest for an hour, he went to his car and drove to a nearby gas station to get help.
The police arrived, but their efforts were useless. For days hundreds of citizens searched the forest, and the police dredged the river, but the monster swam upstream and could easily escape detention, leaving no clues to the girls' whereabouts. The girls screamed, but they were stuck in the belly of the monster and their cries could not be heard.
After several weeks the search was stopped and the girls were believed to be drowned. The monster kept the girls alive in its belly, trying to turn them into wollars, dreaming of capturing more children.
Weeks passed. The animals in the forest worried about the monster. They needed the life of the river and were afraid to go near it. One day the pack of wolves gathered together. "There is nothing we can do," the chief wolf said. "We don't know the powers of this being, and the safety of the humans is not our concern."
"But we must do something," a mother wolf said. "Some say the monster was once the wollars' spirit, and we are responsible for killing all her children."
"But you ate the wollars and provided food for your pups," the chief wolf said. "What do you care about the humans? The forest is better off without them."
The mother wolf didn't respond, for she had no reason to disagree with the chief wolf, but deep down she knew the forest was in danger. That evening, after the pack went to sleep, the mother wolf left her pups with a friend and snuck off to the river. For hours she traveled up and down the river. Then she met the piercing eyes of the monster. An intense fear swept over her, and the world felt very different from what she knew it to be. As she walked home, she struggled to think of words that expressed her fear.
The next morning the mother wolf called the wolves together. "I saw the monster last night, and it cannot remain here," she said. "The life of the forest and our future is at stake. We must do something."
"No," the chief wolf said. " We have decided to do nothing at this time, and you won't either. You should be ashamed for leaving your pups and putting yourself in danger."
The mother wolf stared at everyone in the pack. "I must confront the monster," she said. "If I don't come back, make sure my pups are taken care of."
"No!" the chief wolf growled. "I don't want to see pups in danger, but you will not leave the pack. If you abandon us, you must take your pups with you."
As the sun set that evening, the mother wolf was lost in thought. She was afraid for her pups, but she knew the future could be worse. She talked to other animals, and many of them were concerned about the life of the forest, but they blamed the wolves for the presence of the monster and refused to help her. "Try Old John," a badger said to the mother wolf. "He is one of the few humans who can understand animals. Perhaps he will help you."
The mother wolf knew Old John. Her pack often had raided Old John's farm, and he shot a few of them to defend his animals. Old John was working in his field when the mother wolf appeared out of the forest. She approached cautiously and said, "I need your help. I know what happened to the two girls, and more humans are in danger."
Old John listened to the story. He was skeptical, for she was a wolf and he didn't know what she was after, but he thought about the girls and wanted to be sure. "I will check the river. Come back tomorrow," he said.
Later, Old John went to the river. He knew every inch of the river, for he lived near it his whole life, and he immediately felt something was terribly wrong. For weeks the forest felt different to him, but he believed his sorrow for the missing girls clouded his intuition. Carrying his rifle at his side, he searched the river for hours without seeing anything.Then, right as he was about to leave, the monster's head appeared above the surface. Old John was distraught, for he had never seen anything so hideous in his life. He stepped in the river and the monster swam closer. Sunlight reflected off the monster's fangs and off Old John's gun.
Old John aimed his gun and shot, but the bullet barely wounded the monster; it dove deep in the river, and then quickly returned to the surface, its body twisting violently in the water. Old John was scared and jumped out of the river. As he quickly stepped away from the riverbank, he knew something had to be done, and he thought of the bright faces of his grandchildren, who often played in the forest.
Old John told his wife Dawn about the monster, and then he went to town and told everyone what he saw. "Why are you making up this story?" the sheriff asked. "Have some respect for the families, you old fool."
"You can see for yourself," Old John said.
"We dredged the river and didn't find anything," the sheriff said. "Stop spreading these lies."
Old John tried to persuade anyone he could, but nobody would listen, and soon the sheriff demanded he leave town. The next day Old John met the mother wolf. "I will help you, but we are on our own," he said.
"I need a favor from you," the mother wolf said.
"What is it?" he asked.
"If anything happens to me, I need someone to take care of my pups" she said. "Neither my pack nor other animals will. I know I have harmed you in the past, but I hope you won't hold that against my young."
"My family will look after them," he said.
That night the mother wolf brought her pups to the farm. Old John gave the pups to his wife and said, "If anything happens to us, I want you to kill these beasts. When they grow, they will become a danger to all the animals on the farm."
Old John and the mother wolf went to the river and hid behind a group of bushes. Before long, the monster felt their presence and popped its head out of the water. Old John, who was carrying a large butcher knife, walked from behind the bushes and approached the river. The monster swam towards the bank. Their eyes met through the darkness, making Old John still. The monster slowly inched closer, and then lunged at Old John. Old John thrust his knife into the monster's neck. The mother wolf jumped out of the bushes and attacked, biting and clawing at the monster's back. They thrashed across the river, their bodies sprawling from every slash. Old John repeatedly stabbed the monster, furiously trying to cut its head off. The monster's fangs ripped into the flesh of Old John and the mother wolf, its head darting back and forth with lightning speed. Cuts and burns quickly covered them, causing blood to splatter all over. The monster tried to force their heads underwater, but they resisted. Finally, the monster caught Old John by the neck and snapped him over, killing him instantly. The mother wolf was enraged and tore open the monster's belly. The children fell out and flopped to shore. Blood poured out of the monster turning the river red. Frantically, it slithered back and forth across the channel, attempting to heal its wound. But the monster lost what was left of its spirit, and soon it was dead, its body curled up in the rapids. Shocked and acting on reflex, the mother wolf swam to a large boulder. She laid down, thinking about her pups, until she closed her eyes and died.
An hour later, Dawn went to the river. When she arrived she saw Old John's ragged body floating in the water, and she knew he was dead. She then saw the body of the monster and the mother wolf. Tears filled her eyes as she pulled Old John out of the water. She fell to her knees, but then she heard a small cry. She looked up and saw bodies moving on the bank across the river. Then she heard more cries, so she swam across the river. When she reached the other side, she was horrified by what she saw. In front of her, lying in the dark, were two beings with deranged claws for fingers and toes, faces covered with grotesque scales, and bodies covered with burnt, hairless skin.
As the beings squirmed, Dawn knew they were suffering and filled with hate. Frightened, she wanted to drown these monsters. But when she went down to grab them, she noticed the eyes of the beings and knew they desperately needed help. She examined the bodies and realized the beings were actually the two girls. Quickly she took them in her arms, and the girl's embraced her. She carried the girls to safety, and the police recovered the bodies of Old John, the mother wolf, and the monster.
Doctors tended to the girls, and after months of love and care from their families they were well again. After burying her husband, Dawn returned to the farm. She lived alone, but her family, especially her grandchildren, visited her frequently. When she looked at the mother wolf's pups, she thought of the violence at the river. Day after day she took care of the pups until they could survive on their own. She then let them go in the forest, never to see them again.