Packs of Shadow

By Emma Y., Iowa

2022 Write Now Winner - Grades 3 & 4


The prairie burned as they looked on in silence.

Phantom, the alpha of the pack, watched as the smoke billowed into eerie shapes and shadows. Shadows of a time long ago, when humans had not yet come and the wolves ruled the land. When trees flourished and springs ran freely.

But then the smoke stung their eyes and brought them back to the present. The wolves continued to gaze at the flames, red and gold tendrils reaching for the moon.

Phantom howled to the stars, and her pack joined in.

For, after all...

Who said wolves howled at the moon?

Why couldn't they howl at the stars?


Far away, yet not far enough, in a house in a small town, a girl woke with a start. She looked out her window and thought that, in the distance, she saw a pack of red, flaming wolves running across the horizon. The scent of ash filled the air. Her father and mother burst into her room, panicked.


On the prairie, the wolves kept watching the burning for as long as their eyes could bear it. In the smoke, each member of the pack thought they saw the eyes of a friend long gone and long loved. But the memories brought only a fleeting moment of joy.

Phantom struck up another round of mournful song. The wolves howled for the grass. For the flowers. For themselves and their lost companions.

And the prairie flamed, slowly, before them.

The wolves turned and retreated to their dens.

They returned, however, with the pups. They stayed well back as the young ones looked on with wonder.

Foxes emerged from the other side of the flames. Their leader nodded once to Phantom, and Phantom nodded back.

The new arrivals' fur seemed to blend with the wall of fire. There was no end to it; the foxes were fire. Fire in solid form. Or was it solid? They melted with the light, rippling through the waves of heat.

Another pack of wolves emerged on Phantom's left. They gave no nod, however, and soon left.

Phantom's wolves and, across from them, the foxes, watched over the burning.

Were they predators…

Or protectors?


The foxes stood in silence, watching the flames erupt around them.

Their leader, Autumn, gazed alongside her pack and thought of the sky.

Foxes do not worship the moon. They worship the sun, and the fiery glow it gives off, not unlike their own fur.

But when they are surrounded by golden light, they start to wonder.

What of the clouds? The clouds, which bring shade and send rain pouring down? The clouds, that can block out even the sun in the sky?

Autumn pondered which was more powerful. Warm light? Or cool shade?The fire grew and spread. The heat stung Autumn's face. She retreated with the others but kept a watchful eye on the blaze.

But one eye was not enough. The fire moved in the direction of the human town. It picked up speed, and the foxes ran with it.

Phantom's wolves rejoined them, following the flames.

They traveled to the edge of the town. It was deserted, the residents having fled. Luckily, they'd had time to escape with their possessions. But the town was never again inhabited by humans.

The packs were not saddened by the humans' departure. In fact, they were delighted. For they had a new home now, in the ruins, where the shadows sleep.

Iowa Magazine
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