They lay with front legs splayed outwards, dry nose pressed into the tiled floor, tongue drooping and heaving. The smells of the monster swept through every room where they lay, all over town. Sunblock slathered into wriggling, shrieking children. Dropped ice cream cones, instantly crawling with ants. Paddling pools with mildew and mosquito larvae encroaching.
The humans, sprawled on plastic sun loungers with heads in hats and faces in books, did not notice when the new pack cleared the garden gates and slunk off down side streets. Shadow, then gritty fire on their paws, then shadow again.
The security guard who noticed the first one of them furled his brow and tried to shoo her away from the cool air and back into the fire. The others came behind her: a hundred or more. The walkie talkie dropped from the guard’s fingers and he reached for the fire alarm instead. The sound didn’t come. A low snarl. The guard turned and ran, and the pack rippled into two parts to let him go
In the days that followed, the pack let the humans leave, but did not let them enter. We have slipped back down the two steps to be the wolves who became your friends, human. We mean you no harm. But this den, untouched by the fire, is ours. We cannot live in the fire any longer.
They liked the section with the troughs of frost and meat. They tore through cellophane and ate their steaks half frozen. They drank and played in the fountain. They jumped and wriggled through neat piles of cashmere sweaters, cascades of fuzz in fuzz. They chewed the shoes, bolted up and down escalators and howled at the skylight.