“There’s no such thing as no man’s land to me…” Mallex sings his favorite song from a Dr. Pepper 10 commercial as he stretches the corners of his tent in the Floridian wilderness. “A man just needs a place where he can be…wild and free…” Mallex’s voice echoes through the Everglades as he hammers the first stake into the ground. Cresting the hill behind him is a Florida Black Wolf, thought to have been extinct for many years. The wolf and Mallex exchange a knowing nod.
“Gonna be eatin good tonight,” Mallex says to no one. He instinctively reaches for his phone to check the time, then laughs. There was no phone — he had left it far behind. “This is a radiation free zone, Mallex” he reminds himself. He is out here in this wilderness behind his mother’s house with purpose. No distractions. Just life. Just breathing, and listening to everything breathe around him. In the distance, the wolf howls. Mallex has finished the tent. He picks up a spear he fashioned on his way into the wild. “Time to hunt,” he says, again to no one. He disappears beyond the tree line.
The wolf had seen men before, but not like this one. This one seemed…untethered. The wolf was not afraid of him — no, she respected him more than any human she had ever encountered. This was an anxiousness unlike anything the wolf had experienced. A result of the disbelief that a man like this could still exist — a man who did not want to go home. With all the other men she’d seen, she could tell. Even in the ones who enjoyed it here, there was fear. But not this man. She looked down and began to rip the flesh from her kill.
The two squirrels were not as filling as he had hoped, but it was enough. Out here, you don’t get to be greedy. You only get to be grateful. The fire burns bright, and Mallex loses himself gazing into the dancing flames. It’s not needed for heat — there’s plenty of that in Florida already. But it is helping to thin the herd of obnoxious insects.
He snuffs the fire out, and crawls into the tent. Soon this will be over. Soon he’ll be playing baseball, in the middle of a pandemic. “Unbelievable.” He shakes his head. But that’s not important right now. Right now, there is only air, and sound. The nightlife is vibrant. Exploding. A constant wall of sound, all around him. Nature’s answer to the radiation and wifi we’ve sent bubbling up from beneath our cities, he thinks to himself as he drifts off. I wonder if I’ll see the wolf again.