Issue No. 19, Winter 2016

The Little Girl and the Wolf
or
Selva Oscura

AJ Cunder

Once upon a time, I strayed from the beaten path. I couldn’t remember why, and didn’t know exactly how it happened. Only that it seemed as though the forest itself had led me astray, calling to me through the whisper of the dying leaves withering upon the branches, crackling around me as a gust of wind lifted the dry and brittle carpet from the woodland floor, strewing it before me, hiding the ground. Selva Oscura, the natives called this part of the forest for the darkness that consumed it at nightfall. Oftentimes, they would lose their way along the path for a moment or two before stumbling across it again, the trees toying with the villagers as one dangles a thread in front of a cat.

Never before had I gotten lost, though, and my feet moved by muscle memory, my arm sweeping away a snagging branch, pushing away the underbrush. This was the right way, I was sure. I’m going the right way, I told myself as I clutched my basket closer to my breast, a withered flower wilting over the rim, the last of the year, I knew, the final remnant until the spring sun smiled upon the forest once more and the dormant buds burst from their hibernation.

Through the skeletal fingers of the trees that groped for the wisps of cloud high overhead, the orange sun sank in the western sky, its bloody light spilling through the woods as the squirrels scurried for their burrows and bowers, leaving me, in those moments as the forest melted from day into night, alone. Standing there, I looked around, straining my eyes in the dying light as I struggled to find the path. I kicked up the leaves, but found only loose dirt. I spun around, turning back, trying to retrace my steps. The trees all looked the same, an undecipherable maze. I pressed my back against a sturdy oak, the scarlet cape my grandmother had given me catching on the rough bark as I slid to its feet, its knotted, gnarled roots breaking through the crust of the ground, snarled and intertwined like a heap of vipers petrified as they prepared to overtake the world.

I gripped my scarf with weakening fingers as I tried to remember. Was this the right way? North, I knew, I had to go to reach the village, but the path twisted at one point, bending eastward to avoid a swamp in which, the legends said, a wicked witch lived who emerged from the muck to bedevil unwary travelers who missed the bend in the trail. My stomach grumbled, and my throat burned, skins and furs replacing the food in my basket after my visit to grandmother’s cottage. She had devoured the loaves of bread and pies of meat; a dribble of wine leaked from the corner of her mouth as she chewed, quivering from the tip of her whiskered chin. She made me promise to bring more the next day as she lay in bed, her fingers barely deft enough to peel back the skins of the animals caught in her traps. I tossed her a silver coin, though I never knew what she did with it, whether she hoarded them or ventured to town on occasion—her recompense for the furs I sold outside the city walls, avoiding the eyes of the watchmen and the merchants who paid their dues and taxes. A small girl, my grandmother argued, would never attract undue attention, and so she bought my services as a courier and fur trader.

My mother always warned me about the path, worried about sending me alone despite my grandmother’s reassurances, concerned that such a black business as this would corrupt me, poaching from the king’s forest. Though some said that the Selva Oscura didn’t truly belong to the king—haunted as it was by nightmares and darkness, only the devil held dominion here. And I had made the trip so many times before, never losing my way, always returning before dusk. Never before had the forest turned against me, the trees bending my memory, some familiar, some foreign, some friendly, some alien to a girl alone in the woods. They grew close together where they should have spread apart, where the trail should have sliced through the white trunks. The scent of autumn—of decaying foliage—intoxicated me, blurring my vision, my heart beat quickening as the daylight dwindled. I felt the lurk of predators awakened for their nighttime hunt prowling in the distance, my skin prickling as darkness swallowed the earth, a thin sliver of a silver moon slicing the inky veil like a harvest sickle.

Pulling my hood over my head and squeezing my arms around my chest, I shivered as fingers of cold caressed my cheek. “Little girl,” the wind seemed to whisper. “Little girl, away from home. Lost in the woods, all alone.” I plugged my ears, and my basket tumbled over in the breeze, my wilted flower swept away. I imagined my mother beside me, her arm around my shoulder, my shield against the whims of nature. But of course, she was nowhere near.

“Little girl,” a voice said more clearly from the blackness, slithering to my ear from behind the tree. I covered my face with my hands, though in truth, if I had opened my eyes, I wouldn’t have been able to see my fingers through the darkness that saturated the forest. A patch of fur brushed my arm—could it have been one of the skins from my basket?—and I squirmed, shrinking in on myself, curling into a ball as the leaves crackled around me, the fragile fragments shattered by footsteps. “Why do you recoil?” the stranger asked, his voice smooth and rich like honey. “Have you lost your way?”

Something about his tone calmed my pulse, and the words erupted from my gut like bile. “Mother told me to stay on the path, and yet the forest seems to have hidden it from me.”

“Ah, the forest,” he said, “such a cunning place. It cursed me, you know, for I did not always wear this skin.”

I slowly brought my hands away from my face. Not far away, the shiny glimmer of two yellow eyes peered back at me, though I could not discern a head or body. “What are you?” I asked.

“How can I describe what I am with mere words?” The sparkle of white teeth appeared below the eyes as the creature howled into the night.

“So you are a beast, then,” I said, beginning to realize my doom.

“I would not say beast,” he said, padding closer to me. “Animal, perhaps—but then aren’t we all?” He circled around me, his hot breath moistening my neck. “I have watched what your kinswoman does to the innocent creatures unwarily trapped outside her cottage. Ripping off their heads and skins. She has tried to catch me too, but I know the ways of men, having been a man once myself. Never has she been able to match my wits. One day, she will receive her due.”

“She’s nothing to me, you know,” I said, trying to use whatever leverage I could. “She tricked me into helping her. I don’t even want to do it.”

The moon suddenly seemed to brighten, a shaft of light piercing the patchy foliage to land upon the wolf eyeing his dinner. He was large, though scrawny, his snout long and pointed, his ears broad and cocked, his fur scraggly and matted, his eyes large and bright.

“Are you going to eat me?” I asked, preferring to know my fate rather than guess at it blindly.

“What need have I to eat one such as yourself?” His lips curled in a grin. “I’ve had my fill of flesh and blood this night. I would much rather play a game with you—a riddle, I’ll call it. If you should win, I will help you find your way. But should you lose, you must remain here in the woods as my companion until your death. What say you to this bargain?”

My mind reeled. What choice did I have? Could I refuse, and hope to wait out the night until the sun rose again? But even with the aid of daylight, would I be able to find the path I had lost during the twilight? Could I trust this wolf? If he had wanted to harm me, surely he would have done so by now. But I had not yet angered him. If I refused his offer, surely such cordialities would end. “Very well,” I answered finally. “I accept your proposal.”

“Then answer me this, little girl: If I tell you this statement I speak is a lie, is it true or is it false? Give your answer and give it quick—you have until I round this tree three times.”

“But there was no agreement as to how much time I would have!” I cried.

The wolf warmed my face with his breath, filling my nose with the stench of fresh death. “Such an easy answer, either one or the other, why should you need more time than that? Guess, if you must.” He began his walk—thankfully at an easy pace—around the perimeter of my earthen pillar.

If I tell you this statement I speak is a lie, is it true or is it false?

Could it be true? But if it were true, then it must be a lie. And if it were a lie, then it must be false. But if it were false, then it wouldn’t be a lie which would make it true. What was this wolf’s game? My heart suddenly crashed against my chest as my hands tightened into fists. The hairs prickled on the back of my neck as an idea percolated in my head, the wolf completing his second circle around the tree. “Little girl, little girl,” he sang, “thinking hard upon the ground. Quickly think and reason quickly, for your time is running out.”

My sweat cold upon my brow, I said, “You only ask me this question because you do not know the answer yourself. You need a little girl to solve the riddle for you.”

The wolf paused, his tail swishing from side to side. “You think such an insult as yours will somehow trick me and allow you to escape the conundrum in which you’ve found yourself?” He inched closer. “Does this mean the answer eludes you? Shall I take you now to my den as the loser of our game?”

I sighed, as if every mote of hope had left my body. “I suppose I have no choice but to go.”

His giddy snarl sounded almost like laughter. “Then put a hand on my back, and stay beside me.”

With a tremble, I grasped a handful of his wet fur as he stepped into the forest, my basket left behind along with my grandmother’s poached trappings.

The hoots of owls accompanied us as we crossed through the darkness that clung to the woods—a blackness so complete it stifled my very breath. I stumbled, once, nearly tripping over a loose rock, but the wolf paused, letting me steady myself upon his back.

“Where are we going?” I asked, trying to gain some sense of direction.

“Did you not listen when I told you?”

North, south, east, west—my attempts were useless as a broken compass, my orientation as misguided as a spinning top. “Your den, I know. But where is it?”

A wretched cry tore through the night, and the wolf stopped. I felt his body tense, and I could imagine his ears bristling. “What is it?” I asked, crouching beside him.

I heard him smelling the air, sharp, quick intakes of breath. “Remain here,” he commanded. “Wait for my return.”

“Where are you going? Do not leave me!”

“You have no power over me, girl, save for what I give you. Do not presume to tell me what to do.” He soundlessly slunk off, padding in the direction of the woeful moan. Moments later, a throaty gurgle filled the air, the final wail of a dying animal.

It seemed as though half the night passed as I waited, though in truth it was likely just a brief span. When the wolf returned, and I reached for his back, my fingers brushed his wet and sticky mouth. I knew, then, what he had done. “I thought you already had your fill of flesh and blood.”

“I cannot pass upon a good opportunity. I will not lie, I feasted upon a crippled deer, her leg already broken—she would have died anyway. But enough. Come. We cannot waste the night.”

My stomach grumbled, but from hunger or fear I knew not. As we walked, I thought about the wolf’s riddle, still puzzling over it. I thought and thought, trying to work through the logic, until the sun began to fill the sky with smoky light, and we crossed into marshy ground half-frozen by the night’s frost. “Are you taking me to the swamp?” I said as my heart jumped to my throat. “Are you giving me to the witch?”

“Are you that foolish to believe in such legends?” the wolf mocked, snickering. “Only creatures of the forest frequent these parts.” Sheets of frozen water covered the ground like glass, and the wolf took me delicately around these, staying on solid paths until we reached a hollow at the base of a dead tree. The black hole gaped like a hungry mouth in the autumnal hillside, and the wolf nudged me toward it.

“Is there any light in there?” I asked before I realized how silly such a question must sound.

“Why don’t you sleep, girl? You must be tired.” He pushed me to the edge of the burrow, loose threads of roots hanging from its ceiling like the hair of an old hag. I tried to resist, to back away, but my feet slipped on the slick ground, the leaves coated with a layer of frost. The wolf pressed his snout against the small of my back, and I tumbled into the den, a shower of dirt covering my face. His silhouette filled the irregular circle of gray light above me for a moment, and then he disappeared, leaving me alone in the small, empty space.

All the while, the riddle tickled the back of my thoughts—If this statement I speak is a lie, is it true or is it false? I crawled up the slope of dirt, muddying my once scarlet cloak until it was no longer recognizable. I found the sun through the bony fingers of the trees—their leaves falling ever more rapidly, plucked from the branches by even the slightest breath of wind—and tracked it westward across the sky. The marsh extended north and eastward from the base of the hill atop which the wolf’s den was situated, without any discernible path. Although, if I skirted the edge of the swamp and passed its easternmost reaches, I could then turn north and should, eventually, come to the forest’s border and the grasslands that separated it from my village.

I knew that I must take advantage of the opportunity the wolf had given me. I didn’t know when he would next leave me alone, or even how long I’d have before he came back. My suspicions worked against me, though—why had he left? Did he not think I would try to escape? Perhaps he believed I would be too afraid to brave the forest myself, that I would lose myself in the woods and die of starvation or cold. These possibilities were very real, and haunted me, too. But I would not let myself succumb to them. I would have rather died free than live as this wolf’s captive.

And so I sprang from the burrow, slid down the rocky hillside, kept the marsh to my left and ran through the trees, through the leaves decaying on the ground, worried that each crunch my boots made would rouse the wolf from his current preoccupations and bring him down upon me, his claws ripping into my back, his teeth sinking into my throat. The mud of the swamp threatened to swallow my feet as it sucked at my boots, each wet thwuck a reminder that I must remain as silent as possible. I found what I imagined to be the remnants of a woodland trail, a beaten path through the trees, and my heart skipped a beat. Could I have found my escape route? I ran faster, always making sure to keep the swamp to my left and the sun before me.

What happened next, I’ve often thought back on, wondering if, had I responded differently, somehow I could’ve changed my fate. But then, I’ve often wondered if what I saw was simply a combination of hunger, thirst, sleep deprivation, and a weakened mind. Because, surely, the girl couldn’t have been real, when she jumped across the path, holding her hands up, her hair braided but dirty, her youthful face marked by what appeared to be soot, and her fingers soiled by candy sugar. She couldn’t have been much younger than I was, and her eyes were wide with fright or amazement at finding another human in such desolate reaches of the woods.

“My…my brother,” she stammered, pointing in the direction from which she had come. “Please. Please help us!”

I blinked, but the girl refused to disappear. “Who are you?” I asked, stepping towards her.

“Come quickly, please. He’s locked in a cage. You have to help him!”

“What are you talking about? What’s your name?”

“Please, we haven’t any time!” She wrung her hands, wiping them on her apron. “Will you help us?”

“Where…where is he?” I scolded myself for entertaining this apparition, but curiosity got the better of me.

“This way!” she said, her face brightening as she stepped off the path into the woods—south, in a direction that would certainly cost me precious time and at worst return me to the clutches of the wolf.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said. “I really must go the other way, though. My grandmother’s sick, you see, and I must tend to her.” I bit my lip as the lie rolled off my tongue. “I’m sorry… I’ll send help once I reach the village.” I knew I wouldn’t, though.

Her face darkened, and she flitted off without saying more, vanishing among the trees like a waif.

I paused for a moment, pondering whether I should pursue her and see whether her claim of an imprisoned brother held any merit, but then I reasoned that it was probably just my own visions and delusions playing tricks on me and that the risks involved in leaving the path would outweigh any aid I could offer this strange little girl, being just a girl myself. If a woodsman—for I could only imagine such an adult frequenting these parts—had trapped her brother, then nothing I could do would set him free. He would just have to resign himself to his fate.

I ran again along the path, but not so quickly as before. My mind kept returning to the girl, wondering who she could be—if she really did exist outside of my mind—and when I once more took note of my surroundings, I nearly ran headlong into a tree. The wolf’s burrow gaped open before me, and I collapsed to my knees in the muck, brown mud coating my hands, my arms, my legs, my feet. How had I gotten turned around? No, how had I managed to go in a complete circle, when I made sure to keep the swamp always to my left and the sun in front? For I was still facing east, the sun ahead of me though now higher in the sky. Could the strange girl in the woods have had something to do with it?

I wiped my arms but only smeared the muck. Resigned to my newfound coat, I once again set out upon the narrow trail, the woodland creatures hissing at me from their vantage among the waving treetops. I licked my lips, throwing sidelong glances to my left, making sure the sun was still in front of me. Once I felt that I had regained my bearings, I quickened my pace, hoping to avoid any future encounters with the pitiful girl. I passed the area where I had seen her, and my chest just began to relax when a sudden rustle of leaves overhead stopped me mid-stride—a sudden voice calling out, “Little girl!”

At first, I thought the wolf had discovered my escape and was now about to recapture me, but the voice sounded different. Younger. A girl’s voice. I looked up and noticed a pair of human feet kicking from the side of a branch, a young girl sitting above me and peering down with a sallow face, her hollow eyes surrounded by dark circles, though her skin was pale as a cold moon. A different girl than the one I had seen earlier. “Little girl,” she called again. “Have you lost your way in the woods?”

“Why do you call me ‘little girl’ when you are but a girl yourself?” I answered, relaxing slightly but still alert for any of the wolf’s tricks.

“In appearance I may seem young, but if you knew how many seasons I’ve passed within this forest, you would call me a woman.” Her voice sounded as light as snow, her body delicate as a leaf. I was afraid a sudden gust would knock her from her perch and send her tumbling to the ground.

“I’m sorry, but I haven’t time to chat. There’s a wolf who’s after me, you see. If I don’t reach the edge of the forest, he’s going to make me his dinner.”

The girl on the branch only laughed and swung her feet more vigorously, shaking her jet black hair entangled with sticks and leaves. “Little girls should not tell lies,” she said, her dark eyes peering through me as though to my very soul. “A lie is what trapped me here. When I was a living girl, lost in the woods, fleeing my stepmother. I asked a huntsman for directions, and he answered me with a question of his own. ‘Which way do you think you should go?’ he asked me. And when I pointed, he simply nodded and said, ‘Yes, that’s the way. Now run off, I can’t be bothered by the likes of you. If I don’t return with the lungs and liver of this boar before sundown I’ll lose the coin I’ve been promised by the Queen!’ Those were his words, but they were a lie. The direction in which I had pointed was not the way I needed to go. The direction in which he sent me led me to this very swamp where I’ve remained ever since.”

Her story intrigued me, but, convinced that she was yet another apparition from hunger and thirst, I told her I had to go, for I too had to find the edge of the forest. “Do you know the way?” I asked, on the chance that she might offer assistance.

But she merely laughed, all the while kicking her feet, and replied that no one could show me now. “The huntsman received his due, and so shall you,” she kept repeating in a whimsical, sing-song trill, nearly a heathen chant that seemed to echo and follow me even as I ran, preoccupying my thoughts and haunting my memories.

When my legs began to fatigue, I again looked to see if I had passed the swamp and, for a second time, I had somehow returned to the wolf’s den! But how? I had been so careful to keep track of my direction. Only after the girl appeared, when my mind slipped and drifted to other things, did the forest lead me astray. I tore at my hair, scratched at my blackened skin, rolled in the dirt, rent my garments, wailed without a care for whether or not it would bring the wolf. I crawled to the burrow as the air chilled, the sun sinking, the muddy coat on my body keeping me warmer, at least, than bare skin. In the recesses of the den, I curled into a ball, hugging my knees to my chest and rocking back and forth. I thought I would cry, but no tears left my eyes, my insides dry and shriveled.

Where could this wolf be? This man who wasn’t a man, a beast who wasn’t a beast, an animal on the outside, a man on the inside, both human and creature at the same time. Both human and creature, neither one nor the other. Or perhaps both? Two natures in one vessel. Could that be the answer to the wolf’s impossible riddle? A statement both true and false at the same time?

My mind grew muddy as the answer became clearer. Ravenous hunger consumed me from within, and I thrashed in the dirt, gnashing my teeth. My stomach’s growl bubbled up from my gut and sputtered from my mouth like a beast’s snarl. If I didn’t find food soon, I feared that I would lose any shreds of sanity that remained. An owl’s hoot made me think, for a moment, that I could hunt the creature and feast on it for my supper. But the thought was so fleeting, gone like the warmth of day as night overcame the forest. If only I had saved some of the bread I had brought to grandmother. If only her cottage were nearby, I could enjoy a meal and a fire and find the path home again. If only…

“Little girl!” the wolf called out from the mouth of the den, slick as molasses. “Have you slept at all?”

“Where did you go?” I asked, my voice hoarse.

“What business is that of yours?” he answered, pacing back and forth before skidding down into the den, stooping over me, nuzzling my body as he sniffed, as though he wasn’t sure if it was actually me. “Have you been in the forest?” he said. “Your scent is different.”

“From the mud,” I suggested, scratching at my arms, pulling at the thick muck that had caked to the hairs on my skin.

The moon was brighter tonight, spilling into the burrow. I could see the wolf as he watched me—grinning, if I didn’t know better. His shoulder blades poked through the flesh of his back as he looked down at me, a dribble of saliva stretching from his mouth. He looked as hungry as I felt, and if I were in his place, I couldn’t say I wouldn’t eat the girl before me. But for some reason he didn’t. Only watched, unblinkingly.

“We will join together, now. You are my companion until death; your word is your bond. And we will hunt this night as one.”

Wetting my lips, I said, “I’ve discovered the answer to your riddle. So I am no longer obliged to remain here.”

He snorted. “Your time to answer has long since run out.”

“But you’re wrong,” I said, gathering courage even as tremors racked my body. Sweat dripped from my hands and trickled down the soles of my feet. “You said that I had until you circled that tree three times. You never did. You only circled it twice, and now I’ve realized the answer to your riddle, so you must abide by our agreement.”

The wolf snarled, baring his teeth as he crouched. He snapped at my face and whipped his head side to side. “So you think you’re clever, do you? Very well. Give your answer, and we’ll see if it’s correct.”

My throat nearly closed and sealed the words in my chest, but with a deep breath I said, “If you tell me your statement is a lie, then it’s both true and false at the same time. That is my answer.”

The wolf licked his lips, his body quivering. I could smell his fury like the musk of deer, as clear as I could smell the wet earth, or the woodland animal scavenging outside the burrow, his scent sharp and potent. Quietly—I braced myself for the impending storm—he seethed, “If you have the strength to stand, follow me.”

With a racing heart, I struggled to rise. But I couldn’t keep my balance and kept falling to my hands. Finding it impossible to walk, I crawled alongside the wolf as we left the den. Soon, I fell into a rhythm, hand, foot, hand foot, and we seemed to fly across the ground. “You are taking me to my village?” I asked, but the wolf would not answer me. “Or at least to the path so I can find my way?”

“You still believe you can return, do you?” He quickened his stride. “I’m taking you to the only house you’ll ever see again.”

“But you promised me!” I cried, straining my watery muscles to match his pace. “You said you would help me find my way.”

“And so I shall.”

I panted as we ran, the cold air filling my lungs with invigorating breath as a distant lupine howl echoed through the forest, the calls and cries of animals hunting and feasting reminding me of my own hunger.

The wolf glanced back at me. “You will eat soon,” he said.

Was he a diviner as well as a wolf? “What shall I eat?”

He merely growled, and my mind drifted into the realm of fear and speculation about what fate would befall me. Strangely, I felt connected with the woods as my bare hands and feet dug into the soil, the life of the forest seeping into my body, absorbed into my flesh and blood. I knew this place, intimately, as though I had been here before, lived here my entire life. That tree with the hollow, I recognized; that mound of dirt with the sapling struggling to survive the coming winter; that fallen oak, long dead, crooked like a bent elbow. Then I realized I had been here before. Grandmother’s cottage was near.

“Are you taking me to grandmother’s?”

The wolf paused. “Do you know your way from here?”

Instinct drove me, and I bounded off through the trees. I smelled the smoke from her fire, the fresh blood from whatever animals she had killed, their skins prepared for me to take back to the city. “Grandmother!” I cried out. My ears twitched as I heard the door open. I ran towards it, leaping swiftly over the ground. “Grandmother, help! There’s a hungry wolf hunting me,” I cried.

“Dearie!” she called. “Where are you?”

“Here!” I said as she stood in the doorway surrounded by the glow from her fire. The brilliance nearly blinded me, my eyes dilated from the darkness of the forest, and I shook my head. I heard my grandmother’s heart pound as she screamed. The wolf must have been behind me, for grandmother’s curdling cry ripped through the air as she collapsed, clutching her breast, her cap askew, her body convulsing.

“Your…your eyes…and mouth…and…” she croaked.

“Grandmother?” I crouched over her, and her face contorted as though in pain. Or perhaps concern for the way I appeared, disheveled and blackened, my eyes wide with hunger, my ears dirty and bent, my lips pulled back from the dryness of my mouth.

She hissed something unintelligible, holding up her arms to shield her face.

A few moments later, I no longer heard the thud, thump from her chest. I waited for a few moments to see if she would move, and when she didn’t, I slunk into the cottage and searched for food. Finding none, I returned to her body and noticed the wolf peering upon the scene from a distance. “You were not beside me?” I asked.

“Are you still hungry, little girl?” the wolf asked, padding closer, his erect tail swishing.

“Of course, wolf. Grandmother has eaten everything.”

“That wasn’t very considerate of her, now was it?” He sniffed her body, licking his lips. “She is well-fattened, is she not? It would seem such a shame to let it go to waste.” With a snarl, he tore into grandmother, and I recoiled. But as the smell of blood hit my nose, the barrier holding back the animal within me ruptured, and I joined the wolf in his feast. I sunk my teeth into grandmother’s stomach, shredded skin and flesh, pushing my face and mouth into the wound, deeper, deeper, gorging myself. And as the raw meat filled my mouth and the blood of my grandmother slaked my thirst, I lost myself in the thrill of death, embraced the sticky, wet carcass, and the Selva Oscura consumed me. My grandmother’s body stripped down to the bone, her eyes bulging open, her head cocked to the side on a broken neck, I howled into the night, joined by the wolf who reared back his head and wailed away any remnant of our humanity, becoming fully, and completely, animals of the forest.


AJ Cunder graduated from Seton Hall University with a Master’s in Creative Writing after receiving his Bachelor’s in English and Philosophy. His published work includes academic articles in The Oswald Review and Momentum and creative work in Seton Hall’s Literary Magazine Chavez. He is currently working on a co-authored Medieval Literature volume under contract with Routledge as well as numerous other writing projects spanning a variety of genres and forms. He has served as a volunteer fire fighter, a police officer, earned a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and has advocated for those with disabilities, living with Type I Diabetes himself since the age of seventeen months.