Diana swallowed nervously as she made her way home. Although she usually enjoyed living far out in the countryside, it was becoming increasingly difficult to get home. That was because, every day, she would cross paths with a large, black wolf. Typically, it would only leer at her from the trees, growling and showing its fangs. But sometimes, it would be bold enough to emerge from the trees and almost chase her.

The reason it felt like an "almost" was because there were a few times when she'd needed to sprint to avoid the wolf's snapping jaws, but it was wolf! Surely if it wanted to catch her, it could! So the implication was that the wolf was toying with her, consciously letting her go every time.

"Oh god, oh god, ohgodohgodohgod!" Diana panicked as the wolf suddenly came sprinting out of the trees. She turned tail and fled as fast as she could. But the savage, sadistic creature easily kept pace with her. It would even snarl and nip at her heels, as if trying to remind her that no matter how fast she ran, it was always right there, and it could easily kill her if it wished.

"No, no, nononono! Come on, come on, comeoncomeon!" she continued to run, casting her bag aside, except for her keys. She finally reached her property, but rather than beeline for the door, she tried to maneuver around the house to see if she could put enough distance between herself and the wolf that she would be able to get inside without it following after.

She darted and weaved through her own property like a criminal trying to break in. As faithfully as always, the wolf gave chase, mirroring every step she took. For a brief moment, Diana wondered why the beast didn't just jump and end things quickly, but she wasn't going to complain. Instead, while the wolf zigzagged through her yard the same way she had, sometimes getting caught on tripwires she'd intentionally laid out for this very purpose, she returned to her porch.

"Comeoncomeoncomeon!" she panted and panicked, shaking hands fumbling with her keys as she struggled to get the correct one positioned. The other keys jangled loudly as she, after missing the lock several times, finally managed to shove the key messily into the door.

Through shaking hands, she twisted the key and managed to open the door right as the wolf rounded the corner. The moment it saw what she was trying to do, it finally lunged. Diana gave one scream before simply darting inside and slamming the door shut as hard as she could.

Yeah, her keys were still in the lock, but oh well! She wasted no time in locking the door from the inside, but the wolf continued to snarl and claw at her door. She could see its wild, desperate, hungry face leering at her through the glass windows surrounding the door. Its eyes were wild, its nostrils flared, its lips were pulled back to expose very long, thin, sharp fangs. It continued to bark at her, loud and threatening. She whimpered and backed away, but she didn't dare take her eyes off the door in case something happened.

The wolf stared her down, clawing at the door and glass, leaving terrifying scratches in both. It continued to snarl and snap, sometimes butting its head against the door and windows, too. What terrified Diana most of all, though, was how hateful the wolf seemed to be. Maybe she was just crazy, but the wolf genuinely looked angry at her, like it wanted to kill her, not just because it was hungry or anything, but because it held some sort of personal hatred for her. But that was impossible, right? It was a wolf!

But one look in those savage eyes and Diana couldn't help but feel as if the wolf was staring into her very soul, condemning her. Those eyes wanted to kill, and not for survival or territory, but for pure spite. What she'd done to deserve this ire, she had no idea! All she knew was that this wolf had been tormenting her for months now. But every time she tried to call people out to help her, they found nothing! Even people trained to hunt and kill wolves bothering local communities never managed to find a trace, even though a wolf that big surely must've left something!

In fact, even the scratches on the windows and doors should've been a clue that Diana wasn't lying about anything, but she already knew that if she were to bring someone out tomorrow, the scratches would either be gone, or they'd look different, and they'd chalk it up to something else entirely. The possibility of a wolf attack would be dismissed, even though it was happening right now! And pictures and videos also didn't work, they never sent and they never saved. There was no way for her to capture these moments to share with anyone else!

In the past, Diana had even contacted a priest, thinking perhaps the wolf was of supernatural origin just because nothing else could explain its seemingly supernatural powers. But even that wound up being fruitless because the priest could sense no demonic or spiritual presence anywhere in the area. And Diana had tried other religious figures, exorcists, witches, ghosthunters and more, yet still nobody knew what to make of it.

"I must be going crazy, I must be going crazy, I must be going crazy…" she panted and shook, still only able to stare back at the large, frightening eyes glaring at her from the window. Sometimes, the eyes almost looked human…

ooo

But for better or worse, the wolf never killed Diana. As proven earlier, it certainly had the physical capability, but it would let her go every single time. Tonight was no different. It stayed around her house for about two hours. Even after she found the strength to go do something else, everywhere she went, those eyes would be glaring at her through a window, accompanied by a nightmarish smile of jagged white fangs.

And even if she went to a higher floor, the wolf still seemed to know where she was at all times, because it would still find the nearest window and simply glare up at her from the yard below. In moments like that, its eyes seemed to glow. Even when Diana would shut the curtains, she was still always aware of that hateful and condemning stare, burning into her very soul…

But after those two hours, the wolf departed. Diana didn't see it leave, but she felt the tension and anxiety seem to seep out of the air.

"Thank god…" she heaved a sad, tired sigh and sank onto her couch. Tears immediately began to burn her eyes. Why her? Why did she have to go through this? Why did she have to combat a wolf that knew how to erase all traces of its existence after every attack? How did she make it stop!?

The weight of having to deal with such a monster night after night, with nothing but the vague thought of death to offer her any sort of help or support, was chipping away at her. She was sure that if the wolf didn't kill her, the stress of living with it surely would. More than once, she'd considered moving away, but she didn't have the money. That was even another part of the stress that was slowly eating away at her.

On top of the wolf, she had to deal with the stress of being alive. College, work, friends, family, money, spirituality, relationships, societal expectations… It felt like she could never catch a break, a poor student living alone because her family wouldn't support her. That was even why she'd chosen such a remote house. It was the only place she could afford! But that made life even harder because then it meant she was totally cut off from the rest of the world. It was just her and that evil wolf…

It did not visit her again until the following night, but she saw its crooked and toothy snarl in her dreams, and its eyes were human.

ooo

But there finally came a time when the attacks stopped. Or at least, they lessened. It was as if things were going back to the way they used to be, when she and the wolf first met. In those early days, she would only see it, but it would never draw near. And even after it began tormenting her, it wasn't always a nightly occurrence. Sometimes, she could go a week without even seeing it! Although they weren't quite back at that level yet, there came a time when Diana could go half a week without seeing the wolf.

But even more bizarre, even on nights when it would appear and attack, the attacks felt… different. This time, it felt as if the wolf was aiming to kill. But it was also as if the wolf's strength and skill had been much depleted, like it was weak or injured. It would still give chase and snarl and bite, but it was no longer as fast or vicious or aggressive. Diana wasn't sure what caused the change, all she knew was that it felt better and worse than when the wolf would taunt her every single night.

"What game are you playing?" she whispered as she peered out her bedroom window. The wolf was right below, staring up at her with eyes that seemed to glow like the moon. It didn't blink, which made its endless staring all the more unsettling. But this time, it didn't even move. It didn't pace or bark or claw at the house. It almost looked like a statue!

"What are you doing?" she continued to whisper at it. Normally, such an eerie and ominous pose would've sent her anxiety through the roof, but this time, she felt… almost desensitized. It was still disturbing to see a wolf staring up at her, unblinking, but it she was so used to such things that staring at the wolf now made her feel… nothing.

She simply stared back with a blank expression of her own. She wasn't trying to intimidate it or see how long before it would leave. She just couldn't take her eyes off of it. She couldn't even be bothered. It wasn't fear, paranoia or aggression driving her to stare back. She just… couldn't not! So, unblinking, she stared back at her motionless predator.

ooo

It was as if she and the wolf had entered a new phase. From the beginning, to the most vicious, to whatever… this was. One day, she caught a glimpse of it while walking back from college. It stared at her through the trees, but it almost looked more like a dog than a wolf. Was it just her, or did it seem smaller? Less… human? Like, there was no more malice radiating from it. It just… was there. And it almost didn't even seem interested in her. It watched her, yes, but no longer with the same piercing, knowing gaze it used to have.

Diana even stopped to stare at it. It held her gaze, but for once, she couldn't read it. No hate, no contempt, no condemnation. Nothing! And when she finally resumed walking, although it did trail after her a little bit, it stopped and walked away halfway through. She caught it staring up at her from the front yard later, but just like last time, it did nothing except stare. What was going on here? But the next day, everything came to a head.

She was returning home later than usual because she'd picked up an extra shift at her job. It was nearly torture, but she needed the money. But funnily enough, what wounded her more than being forced to take that extra shift was what her boss said before she clocked out.

"Diana, we've received several reports from customers that you've been irritable and disrespectful, and some of your supervisors have also reported a drop in your performance. I'm only telling you this so that you're aware of it."

His voice had been grave and slightly distrustful, as if all he saw when he looked at her was just another irresponsible college student. Diana had wanted to burst into tears. Even though what he was saying was true, it certainly wasn't without good reason. She was stressed! She was struggling! With school, finances and relationships giving her no peace, how could anyone expect her to be perfect at her job?

"We aren't asking you to be perfect," her boss replied, tone rather condescending. "But you're not meeting the acceptable bar either."

More tears burned her eyes, but she refused to let them fall in front of him. Instead, she only bit her tongue hard enough to almost draw blood before giving him a tight nod and all but fleeing from the property. After working a double shift only to be told that her work was so poor that she might get fired for it, she wanted to just quit everything. Not just her job, but life itself!

School was stressing her out. Classes were hard. Grades were dropping. Her parents were still not talking to her. Her friends didn't quite understand. They were often too busy with their own lives to really care about her. Work was stressful. The job was physically demanding. She didn't always have enough food or sleep. Of course it was going to take a mental toll! And all the while, she couldn't help but blame herself for it.

"This is all my fault," she muttered darkly as tears finally flooded down her face. "I'm such a pathetic, worthless loser! I'm a waste of space and I can't do anything right! No wonder my parents hate me, who could ever not?! I'm too stupid for college, I'm too stupid for my minimum wage job, I just ruin everything I touch! I'm never going to make enough money to get out of here. It's over for me. So why even try?"

Fury, self-hatred and despair battered her back and forth the entire trip home. But right when she got to the start of the forest that ran parallel with her road home, she heard a very savage growl. It awoke the survival instinct in her and she whipped around with wild, terrified eyes. She gave a shriek to see the wolf literally right behind her. Its nose was barely an inch away! How had it snuck up on her so fast?! She didn't even have time to think before her legs were suddenly carrying her in the opposite direction. That was the spark that started the fire and the wolf immediately snarled and barked and howled before giving vicious chase.

It was the most savage encounter yet. Several times, the wolf actually tackled Diana to claw and bite at her. It tore chunks of flesh and left very nasty cuts. She screamed in pain as the blood flowed freely from all of her wounds.

"NO!" she sobbed, trying to shield her face, only to feel sharp fangs crushing down on her hands and arms. Then, as soon as the wolf's mouth moved her hands out of the way, its claws went to work on her face, its humanlike eyes staring at her with savage glee. It was just dumb luck none of its claws raked out an eyeball. But after she had several nasty cuts on her face, one that even tore the corner of her mouth, it suddenly fled.

For a moment, she could only lie there and scream and cry, but the wolf never came back. So eventually, she managed to drag her way to her feet, sobbing and clenching her teeth the entire time. It was pure agony to even roll over, let alone try to stand. But once she got shakily to her feet, she managed to slowly limp forward, every step sending pain shooting through her entire body. She moaned, lightheaded, struggling to stay upright and to walk without staggering like a drunkard.

She managed to make it about 100 feet before she heard a telltale growl behind her. Her eyes widened and she gave one despairing sob before lurching forward. Once again, her legs carried her without her brain's consent. She continued to gasp and moan in pain, but the moment she felt something nip her heel, she surged forward with renewed desperation. Those human eyes still stared deep into her soul.

This carried on four more times before Diana finally gave up. When the wolf returned for yet another round, she only stared at it and threw her arms open in defeat, sobbing and almost laughing mad.

"YOU WANT TO KILL ME?! HUH?! WELL FINE! THEN JUST… FINISH ME! Kill me… Please…" she fell to her knees and hissed as pain shot up through them. Her arms were still open wide as the wolf slowly bared down on her, frothing at the mouth. She wept bitterly, terrified, shaking, but she made no further movement. She only looked down at the ground and awaited her death.

But it never came. The wolf sniffed her hair, she felt its nose, but that was all it did before simply staring at her.

"Are you going to wait for me to try to run again?" she sobbed. "Well, I'm not going to. I'm not going to play this sick, twisted, stupid little game of yours anymore. If you want to kill me, just do it!" her voice was breathy, shaky and weak, but she continued to weep. The wolf still did nothing. So eventually, she hauled herself to her feet again. Then she slowly turned around and began to walk towards her house.

"I don't care what happens next. If you want to kill me, just do it," she whispered, but she didn't look back.

ooo

Almost exactly 24 hours later, Diana was in fetal position by the front door, sobbing helplessly. Even though she'd survived the previous encounters, all the wounds mysteriously vanishing the next day even though she was still very sore all over, that didn't mean this night was any better. Walking away might've worked last time, but this time, the wolf was insisted. It didn't use fang or claw, but would step on her and headbutt her, and it was so big and strong that those attacks still did damage.

Likewise, even though the wounds from last night were physically gone from her body, again, the pain still lingered, so then be literally pushed around by a huge wolf only hurt all the more. Even if this attack was unusually tame, Diana's spirit was so broken that as soon as she made it home, she collapsed. Even though the wolf was still leering at her through the windows surrounding the door, she did nothing but lie there and cry.

But about half an hour into this, she was suddenly aware that the wolf outside had changed its tune. It wasn't snarling anymore. It was… whining! Whimpering! It sounded so sad, so lost and scared and helpless. It almost sounded… small. Diana slowly raised her head and rolled over.

"What the?!" she whispered. She was surprised to see that wolf almost did look smaller, and… cleaner! And… more scared and lonely… It continued to whine and whimper, tilting its head almost pleadingly. Was it asking to be let in? What sort of trick was this?!

But Diana was unable to look away. She could only stare into the wolf's eyes, there was so much pain and grief in them. It moved her heart in a way she didn't expect, and she began to cry again, but this time it was with sorrow rather than fear or despair. Outside, the wolf seemed to echo her cries, still whimpering and howling piteously.

At last, Diana decided to let the wolf in. She knew that it was a dumb idea. Maybe it would even be the death of her! But at this point in her life, she honestly couldn't say that she cared. If death was going to follow, well, that was no longer such a bad thing to her, was it? So she slowly dragged herself to her feet and unlocked the door.

As soon as the door was open, the wolf lunged, but not to attack. Instead, it immediately ran between her legs and began nuzzling them almost like a cat. It continued to make pathetic little whimpers, but it nuzzled her leg fiercely. She let a hand dangle near its face and it began to lick her hand fervently. But its tongue tickled, gentle and soft and smooth. What was going on here?

Diana felt as if she were in a daze. She even staggered a little bit. The wolf suddenly pressed up against her, as if supporting her. She caught herself on its back, burying a hand deep into its fur. It felt unusually soft for a creature that supposedly lived in the wild. But Diana's mind was no longer completely present. Instead, she only straightened up again and looked down sadly at the wolf. It looked back up at her, its eyes equally sad.

"Guess you're lonely too, huh?" she asked softly. For a moment, the two only continued to hold one another's gaze, then Diana slowly looked towards the kitchen. "Are you hungry?"

ooo

It was a truly incredible thing, but only two hours later, the two were curled up in bed together. The wolf, which looked more like a dog now than it ever had before, was dutifully lying near Diana's feet. It was fast asleep, breathing slow and even. Diana, meanwhile, could only stare at the ceiling, mind still somewhat numb. One of her hands was still buried in the dog's fur. What was going on?!

But in time, as she would come to realize, the wolf was something halfway between imagination and reality. In one way, the wolf was all too real. The proof was right here! And all the times Diana had fought with the wolf, even if the scars would mysteriously vanish the next day, those events were still very real. But at the same time, the reason the scars were able to vanish, and the reason the wolf was able to do so many fantastical things was because it was, in a way, nothing more than a physical manifestation of Diana's own twisted psyche.

As it was obvious by now, she'd been going through a lot lately, and it had worn away at her mental stability. And perhaps the most intense of all of her newfound thoughts was her self-loathing. It was so strong that it became a wolf. That's what the wolf was. Her self-loathing incarnate. That was why it was always so unpredictable and fluid and eerily human. That was why, sometimes, it would fly into rage when it saw her and try to torture her. But on other days, it would completely ignore her! Or it would go easy on her. Or not.

Whatever Diana felt on any given day, that was how the wolf would respond. And at last, Diana had reached the very edge of defeat. When she'd collapsed before the door and simply wept, paying no heed to angry wolf outside, her spirit had been so thoroughly broken that all she could do was grieve and mourn. It was infectious, and the wolf had begun to weep and wail as well. It hadn't been created to be a creature of violence. It was just that Diana's own head was so full of violence that the thing she called forth was equally wild and brutish.

But once sorrow overwhelmed Diana's system, truly so beaten down that she was again praying for death, the wolf underwent the same change. Suddenly, all it wanted was love. It wanted a loving touch and a loving owner. It wanted a home. It wanted warmth, safety and rest. It was hungry for food and interaction. It was tired of the fighting and bloodshed and suffering. So that was why, when Diana finally opened the door, the wolf ran to her like it was coming home. Because in a way, it was.

Diana was finally embracing that side of herself, literally and metaphorically. And that gave the wolf the power to do the same. It ran to her, teary-eyed and uncannily human. It mourned with her and comforted her, taking it from her and giving it to her in return. Old enemies became each other's only support that night, and when Diana welcomed the wolf into her home and broke bread with it, it made peace with her in return. It felt in perfect harmony with her, which was why it felt comfortable enough to sleep by her side.

Now at last, Diana understood. She had no idea if the wolf would be there by morning, and whether or not their shaky friendship would last, but at least for that one night, Diana no longer felt so alone, and hope felt possible once again.

AN: Always wanted to see a monster that reflected a human's psyche only to befriend them once they realize it and learn how to control it.