I drove Kara to the E.R. where she left me hesitantly to go with a kind-faced nurse. As soon as she was gone, I looked around to find a Wolf I’d never seen before waiting to ask me some questions.

“What happened out there today?” The Wolf asked with a disarming smile.

I had no idea what was at stake, I couldn’t have known at that point, but years later I was to look back on that moment with amazement at how much hinged on my answer.

The Wolf waited, his eyes watching me with wary politeness. My mind was racing through all the events of the last 24 hours and finally, I found my answer. It had been drilled into me by someone I couldn’t remember clearly, just the night before.

“Our heroic Protector Wolves rescued another poor human from the violent talons of the White Ostriches,” I said slowly and clearly.

Even in my own ears, my voice sounded expressionless. But the Wolf smiled a bright white smile and nodded enthusiastically, patting me on the shoulder.

“That’s right, miss. That’s exactly what happened. God bless you for your faithful support and loyalty. Have a nice day.”

And so I ended up at work only two hours late, and a lifetime later.

Everything was the same. Nothing had changed: The coffee was burned, the lights gave me a headache, and restroom was out of toilet paper.

At break-time I stood by the window, looking at the sunlight glinting off of windshields, remembering the Wolf dragging the arm of one of Kara’s parents, the Ostrich doing his strangely happy and fierce dance, and the deeply fake voice of Malory rejoicing in the drama of someone’s else’s horror.

I also remembered something else I had never understood before: the spray-painted messages in an alley behind my apartment. Suddenly, I was burning with the necessity of reading them all again. This time, they would make sense.

By the time I got home I was in desperate need of a shower and a meal, but instead of going up to my apartment, I walked around the building and found the alley that had puzzled me for years.

With far more interest than I’d ever had in a museum exhibit, I began my journey down the alley, reading every faded message aloud and rolling it over in my mind.

Reality is not seen on TV. . . They are watching you. . . Bright Ostriches saved me. . . Wolves no longer wear sheep’s clothing. . . The Last Refuge (over a rough painting of the forest). . . We The Sheeple. . . Poverty Is The Red Pill. . . What are you waiting for?. . . A victim of Wolf violence was here. . . Do yourself a favor and go camping. . .I came back for my sister, if the Wolves get me, please look for Kara Huan and get her out—

Here I stopped. The paint was fresh. It couldn’t be more than a day old. There was no doubt in my mind that I knew the same Kara. But what had happened to the person who had spray-painted her name?