Run After

by Mikhail Strannik

Run After

When the road passed along the edge of the woods, thirteen-year-old Gerda heard the crack of a branch behind her and turned her head back. She almost fell off her bike as she saw a lone wolf. The animal made a strange impression. It was too graceful, its fur was too smooth and shiny. Gerda could even notice the wolf’s resilient muscles rolling under its skin. Moreover, the predator seemed really cunning and sly. At least its sleek face certainly looked like that. And the most mysterious thing about the wolf was that it did not seem a wild animal, but it definitely could not be domestic.

The predator shifted from foot to foot, and Gerda began pedaling faster. The wolf did not hesitate for long and rushed after her. The girl sped up and raced at full tilt. However, the wolf had no intention of stopping and slowly but surely approached her, despite all her efforts. Finally, the predator caught up with Gerda, ran forward and blocked the road, forcing her to hit the brakes. She fell on her side and ended up under the bicycle.

“Well, where were you going in such a hurry?” the wolf asked indifferently.

The girl did not believe her ears. How could the animal talk?!

“Are you serious?” Gerda said in surprise. “I tried to escape from you!”

“Oh, so that was it!” the wolf yawned absentmindedly, showing its terrible mouth full of sharp teeth.

Noticing the girl’s frightened gaze, the predator assured her, “In fact, I don’t really need such teeth. I hardly ever use them.”

“How so?!” Gerda exclaimed.

“I am an artificial organism,” the wolf yawned again. “That’s why I don’t need food. Though I still have hunting habits. But what can I do? Anyway, I don’t consider people as possible prey. This is one of my core settings.”

“Maybe you can also speak different languages?” the girl asked.

“Yeah,” the wolf confirmed. “And not only that. I’m not even a robot, but something more advanced. An experimental model.”

“What if some hunters shot at you?”

“I’d just have to eat their guns,” the wolf reassured her. “By the way, I didn’t introduce myself. Nero-1 is at your service.”

“Gerda,” the girl responded.

“The very one from the fairy tale?” the wolf grinned.

“Unfortunately, no.”

“That’s a pity,” Nero-1 sighed. “We could be friends…Are you injured?”

“I guess not,” Gerda answered.

“Then ride back home,” the wolf advised. “Just don’t say a word about me. There is no reason to attract attention.”

She nodded.

“Well, I have to go,” the wolf gave her its paw and disappeared into the nearby thickets.

It took Gerda a long time to come to her senses.

August 2, 2023.

Translated from Russian by Maxim Sviridenkov.

About the author

Mikhail Strannik

Mikhail Strannik is the pen name of Mikhail Dymshyts, a Russian poet and fiction writer. Born in 1969, he graduated from the First Moscow State Medical University in 1995. His first book of poems On the edge of reality (Na grani realnosti) appeared in 2010. Since then he has published more than a dozen books of poetry and fiction for children and adults. Mikhail is a member of the Writers’ Union of Russia. For his literary work, he was awarded several Russian prizes, including Nekrasov Prize and Chekhov Prize. He lives in Moscow, Russia.

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