Wolf Pack I: Food Chain | Tobias Madden

The wolf pack are sharpening their claws.

Wolf Pack I

Food Chain

By Tobias Madden

For the Wolves I Award

Rain pelted against the windows of the bus in thick sheets; wind howled through the air vents. The rest of the students were chatting and laughing raucously, but Penny sat in silent obliviousness, her eyes locked on the empty seat in front of her.

Where was Caroline?

Caroline hadn’t missed a single day of school in Year 12—‘Every day is too important,’ she’d always say—and now she’d been absent for three.

Penny frowned, tracing the edge of her bottom lip with her teeth.

At the next stop, Chloe burst up the stairs of the bus, hair dripping, and plonked herself down next to Penny, panting.

‘What is this weather?’ she said, squeezing water from her rain-soaked ponytail into the aisle. ‘I almost missed the bus!’

Penny stared at the vacant seat in front of them.

‘Pen?’ Chloe said, nudging Penny with her elbow.

‘Caroline isn’t here,’ Penny said.

Chloe bent down and fumbled with her shoelaces. ‘These never stay tied when they get wet,’ she mumbled. ‘I’ve already had to do them up, like, five times since I put them on.’

‘Did you hear what I said?’ Penny asked Chloe, whose head was still between her knees. ‘Caroline isn’t here. Again.’

Chloe sat up. ‘People get the flu, Pen. She’s probably in bed—still studying of course, but in bed.’

Penny sighed. ‘Yeah, you’re probably right. I just…’

Chloe let out a snort. ‘You just… what? You just thought maybe the wolves got her?’

‘Shh, someone might hear you,’ Penny snapped. ‘And don’t laugh; they’ve been relentless lately. What if she’s left school—or town? What if they did something to her?… hurt her?’

‘Pen, come on.’

‘We don’t know what the Wolf Pack are capable of,’ Penny said, her eyes wide.

‘Stop calling them that; what if they find out?’ Chloe whispered, smirking. ‘You’ll be next.’

‘Not. Funny.’ Penny said, ‘Girls like you and I are exactly whom the Wolf Pack usually target.’

‘You mean, girls who know the difference between “who” and “whom”?’ Chloe laughed.

Penny rolled her eyes. ‘To each other, we may seem wonderfully intelligent and quirky, etcetera, etcetera… but to the rest of the world—’

I know,’ Chloe interrupted, ‘“bottom of the food chain”.’

The bus juddered to a stop in front of Kingsford Grammar. Through the window, Penny saw the familiar row of five BMWs parked at the school gate, and groaned.

‘Honestly, what teenage girl needs to drive a BMW to school?’

‘Wolves usually drive sports cars, right?’ Chloe teased, as she skipped down the aisle of the bus and out into the torrential rain.

‘Can we please talk about something else?’ Chloe said, feigning pantomime exasperation.

Penny had been hypothesising about Caroline’s absence—and who’d replace her as the “sacrificial lamb”—for the entire lunch-hour.

‘Caroline has the flu.” Chloe said. ‘And there is no “sacrificial lamb”.’

‘You don’t—’

The bell rang for third period.

‘Can’t be late for Chem!’ Chloe sang, grabbing her takeaway coffee and jumping out of her chair.

As they started down the main corridor together, Penny’s stomach tied itself in a self-conscious knot when she noticed the entire Wolf Pack striding towards them in perfect unison: models on a linoleum runway.

Julia. Petite, blonde, never seen without some kind of bow on every part of her body.

Olivia. The redhead. But not the nerdy kind; the Julia Roberts kind, with a smile to match.

Andrea. Exotic, copper-skinned, on her way to becoming Miss Universe.

Eve. Gorgeous, obsidian-haired Eve. A girl of very few words (most of them insulting).

And Lulu. The Alpha. Blonde, statuesque, breathtaking. No-one—boys nor girls—could look at her for more than three seconds without dissolving into a sweaty mess. She was the sun, and the whole school revolved around her.

‘Shit,’ Penny said under her breath. ‘Don’t make eye contact.’

Both Penny and Chloe keep their heads down as they approached the five tartan goddesses.

‘Act. Natural,’ Chloe whispered.

At that moment, Penny saw it: Chloe’s untied shoelace, flicking dangerously between her feet. “These never stay tied when they get wet.”

Penny opened her mouth to warn her, but it was already too late: Chloe stepped on the stray lace and teetered off balance, arms shooting straight out in front of her—which would have been fine, had it been the floor and not Eve that broke her fall.

Chloe’s squeal rang out through the corridor as her takeaway cup exploded on Eve’s chest, dousing them both in hot black coffee. Eve looked down at the enormous coffee stain on her pristine white school shirt, and let out a revolted shriek.

‘Coffee is a drink for adults,’ Lulu said sweetly, stepping out from the pack. Keeping her eyes focused intently on Chloe, she commanded the other girls to take Eve to the bathroom and get her changed.

Chloe froze, red blotches spreading over her neck and face. ‘I’m…’

‘Sorry?’ Lulu prompted. ‘Sorry isn’t going to dry-clean Eve’s shirt, is it? Sorry isn’t going to help you exert basic control over your own limbs. Is it?’

Chloe was dumbstruck, mouth twitching as she tried to form words. It was like watching a car crash—if a car was crashing into the human embodiment of self-worth, razing it to a pile of sweaty, pubescent dust.

Suddenly, Mrs Hughes, the school nurse-cum-counsellor, burst through the small crowd that had formed around them, looking rather harried.

‘Penelope. Chloe. I need to speak to you both, please.’ she said, already waddling off towards her office.

‘Girls,’ Mrs Hughes began, as soon as the door clicked shut behind them, ‘I have some…very shocking news. I wanted to make sure I informed you personally, before the rumours started spreading.’

Penny swallowed, and it felt like she’d sculled a glass full of liquid lead.

‘I know she was your friend… I’m so sorry… I don’t really know how to say this, but… Caroline Green is dead.’