In the Stairwell

Sean Denmark

Wolves in the stairwell, they clamber, they clamber. We live on the fifth floor; hear them scratch at the door. Up and down they pass along — don’t their knees tire, as once did ours? — as though five flights is nothing. But perhaps there are even more on floors below. We cannot see them from the peephole. Once we opened the door.

Just once.

Sometimes, we think, their fur flashes from the windows across the street. Surely it’s not just our building? The streets are empty, neither peopled nor wolved. Are they on the roof? Do their claws click in the apartment above?

When will they take to the fire escapes? We don’t speak it, but always an eye is cast towards the windows. Never have we seen a wolf outside, though, and we also do not speak of this hope.

Footsteps once fell above us. We told stories about them. A father, mother, child. In the silence we’ve stopped telling stories. The radiators, they bang oftimes, but we don’t know the code. It’s too late to learn it, or invent one.

Do we hear their claws strike the pipes? They burrowed to the basement, into all the basements; this is the explanation we’ve selected. They chewed through all the wires, but the world still does exist.

To keep going so, up and down, they must have called on several apartments. Even then, a tenant can only support so many wolves for so long. There are only so many units. They must have begun to turn on one another.

We’re hungry too, you know. We wonder what wolf tastes like. We’ve taken to eating each other, but that only lasts so long, and seems such a waste when to ourselves we taste bitter and wolves relish us so.

SEAN DENMARK is a current MFA student at New York University and former New York City school teacher. He was a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon and hails from Alabama.

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