The Nissan was old, and I yanked so hard on the handle it got stuck in a popped-up position without actually opening the door. This had happened plenty of times before, and it always took a few minutes of jiggling the handle and coaxing it to go back into the correct position. I had no time. I glanced over my shoulder, again, frantically jiggling the door handle. The Ostriches had not moved.

In the distance I heard the sound of an approaching automobile. Thank God! I began to shout long before the car reached me, frantically shouting and waving my arms.

It was a Protector car! I was saved.

They pulled to a stop beside me and I ran forward in relief. Two Protector Wolves leaped from the car, and just the sight of their fierce faces, sharp teeth, and powerful bodies gave me a sense of well-being. All my life, we had been protected by the Wolves.

The Ostriches stood so still in the deep shadows of the trees, I knew the Wolves had not yet seen them. I stumbled toward the Wolves, stuttering with relief,

“Thank God, you came in time!”

With black lips drawn back over glistening teeth, the Wolves circled me, growling low in their throats. I felt a momentary chill.

“I - I need help. . .” I stammered, confused by their aspect. Without answering, one of the Wolves crouched low, as if he were about to leap.

For the first time, the Ostriches stepped out of the shadows and onto the road behind the Wolves.

“Look out!” I screamed, “the Ostriches—“

The crouching Wolf turned around, snarling and staying low to the ground. Both Wolves crouched behind their car, facing the Ostriches who had now all come to the edge of the road. The Ostriches’ black eyes glittered without expression, their long lashes catching sunlight. But they weren’t looking at the Wolves. They were looking at me. They wanted me. I shuddered with fear.

The sound of another approaching vehicle made the Wolves pause in their barking, snarling, and (truth be told, some whimpering). It was the Channel 9 Media van.

They pulled to a stop behind the Wolves’ Protector car. A TV anchor, desperate for fame and glory, leaped out of the near side of the van with a camera guy close behind.

*“Live from the Forest Pass, our brave Protectors stand between the prey and the predator: the diabolically violent White Ostriches!. . . The potential victim cringes, speechless with fear, as we wait in breathless suspense. Will she survive to tell her story? Stay tuned for updates, this is Malory Smith with Channel 9 Media. . .” *

The situation was surreal. Were we actors on a stage? I looked from the News Anchor to the Wolves and then at the Ostriches. One of the tall white birds tilted his head, looking at me quizzically for a moment, just like the little bird on the road had—a lifetime ago.

“Get in the car,” one of the Wolves barked at me, opening the Protector car’s closest door.

I don’t know why I hesitated. I think it was because my brain hesitated, or perhaps it had stopped processing data altogether. I felt confused, bewildered with all the unexpected events of the day. I couldn’t make sense of it all.

“Get in,” the Wolf almost whined, licking his lips as he glanced nervously from the Ostriches to me.

I got in.

The Wolves leaped into the car as soon as I was inside. The Channel 9 guys also jumped back into their van, still filming and talking as they went. The Ostriches just stood there watching — watching me, as we drove away.