A few years ago, I had a character that I used as an online avatar. I called him Acerbus Lupi. Here’s one of the first images I ever made of him:
Acerbus Lupi translates roughly to “Dark Wolf,” in modified latin. As you can see from his surrounding scenery, he had a connection to death from the very beginning.
That mostly came from his job. He had a very specific purpose that I sorted out as I developed him as a character over the years. He was a dire wolf – actually, the last dire wolf. Some time between nine and ten thousand years ago, near the end of the last ice age, as his story went, he was separated from his pack which was slowly starving to death due to a lack of large prey items as the ice age ended and the megafauna went extinct.
He lived on for several years completely alone. He would howl, sometimes there would be answers, but most of the time he could tell they were those of the smaller wolves – not his pack.
Eventually, the lone wolf died of a combination of loneliness and starvation, having wandered far from his home. When he died, he met a wolf spirit.
The spirit told him that because he was the last of his kind, he had an option. Rather than passing on across the rainbow bridge to whatever lay beyond, he could choose to return to earth as an escort – the Escort of the Last. He could become a grim reaper who was specifically destined to guide the last of. The last of their species, the last of their family, the last of a bloodline – he would be there to guide the spirit to the rainbow bridge. A bridge that he, himself, would never be able to cross if he chose this path.
Acerbus refused to believe the spirit that he was truly the last dire wolf, and chose to return to earth in a short-sighted hope that he would eventually find his pack – especially with the freedom of being a spirit. He learned within the first century that the hope was futile – but his decision had been made. And, much like the search for his pack had been his purpose, he had a new purpose to guide his afterlife – his place as an Escort.
This back story lead to images of him overseeing the passing of the last Thylacine, among other extinct creatures. But he has been a character near and dear to my heart for a long time.
It took me until my 31st year – over a decade after I created Darkwolf as a character, to realize exactly WHY he mattered quite so much to me and why he’s remained on my mental back-burner as something I wanted to write a book about.
See, I have a special calling that I didn’t want to acknowledge until recently. I too, am an Escort, of sorts. I think I always have been.
As much as I have very little tolerance for the presence of Death – I have never had a problem with that which comes after. With the exception of my own grief, I’ve always been able to help others with theirs – even when I’m hurting – as well as helping dying animals remain calm just by my presence. And when it comes time for an animal to pass on – and even in the months and sometimes even years leading up to the actual passing – the animals seem to grow more and more attached to me.
Like Darkwolf, or Acerbus if I use his original name, my talents of Escort are limited to a select group – in this case, animals. I should have recognized when I began working with Skin Spirits that I had a connection to dead animals. The spirits are always eager to work with me (with a couple of notable exceptions), and those that have wanted to be released to go on, I’ve never really had a problem obliging.
But it was put into stark relief recently with the passing – almost exactly six months apart, of my fuzzy little son, Ziggy, and my best friend Nyx’s cat, Taru. Not to mention the advancing age of the last “old man” cat in the house, who goes by the name of Kit Cat. I’ll be talking about these kitties and probably a couple more in my next post.