Choices

This 2500 words story I wrote for the NYC Midnight competition.

  • Genre: Drama
  • Character: Carpenter
  • Theme: Loyalty

Synopsis:

The story is told by a wolf who was demoted when he returned from abandonment by his family after he was trapped, but rescued, healed and set free by a carpenter.

Years later, when food is scarce, his Father decides to hunt the carpenter and due to the choices the wolf makes regarding his loyalty to the carpenter and his family his life comes to a dramatic end.

 

Choices

 

I just finished licking my genitals when Father called. It was the call to gather for the hunt. As I looked around I saw that Mother was already carrying one of her pups into the den. She wouldn’t risk keeping the young pups outside when we, the adult males of the pack, went out hunting. The winter was very harsh and long and there wasn’t a lot of prey about anymore. Bison herds were dwindling and the two-legs were claiming more and more territory. Neighboring packs of wolves were now hunting beyond the fringes of their territory, as were we.

I nudged a pup towards the entrance of the den – the cute little rascal was still trying to kill my tail. Playtime was over though, it was time for the big boys to hunt for real. When Mother returned to pick up the last of her litter I lowered my head and gave the corner of her mouth a quick lick. Her subsequent glance told me ‘bring back food this time.’ There was neither love nor hate in her expression, just the dire need for meat. She was the only adult in the pack that didn’t treat me with disdain, as long as I showed her submissiveness.

I turned around and as I trotted away to the meeting place I heard my two brothers join Father in the howl. The biggest was a strong one, and now preferred by Father. As I entered the clearing they abruptly stopped the howl. Father raised his head and tail to me, moved his ears forward and made a soft growl. I whimpered as I lowered my head and tail to apologize for my tardiness. As soon as I sat down Father turned and moved away. Father hadn’t always treated me like this, but ever since I returned from my ordeal he was never letting me forget that I was now the limping runt of the litter. My brothers imitated Father, with soft growls and signs of irritation towards me. They had not been very pleased when I had returned and a few fights had settled my demotion. My strongest brother had taken my place as second in command. The three of us followed Father with my big brother last in line, tailing me. As if I really needed protection.

We were running for a long time through the snow and I was wondering where the hunt would lead us today. We loped along, following Father. Father knew best. Even though we were getting further and further from our den the forest started to look familiar. Suddenly I realized where we were going. ‘Oh no, we’re going to Two-legs!’ My thoughts jumped back to the time I first met Two-legs.

 

Two summers back I had been a very young and unexperienced wolf when I got caught in a trap with my hind leg. The pain was excruciating and getting worse with every move I made. I thought it was the end of me. I howled with fear and Father and the rest of the family came to find out what was wrong with me. However, after a lot of sniffing and biting the contraption, there was nothing they could do. My leg was stuck and probably broken. After what seemed too soon in my opinion my family gave up on me and left. Never did I feel so utterly alone. As I lay there panting, tired from the struggle to free my leg from the cold, shiny contraption and my head filled with despair, this strange, tall creature on two legs came up to me. I was so afraid! I had never seen an animal like this before. It was like a bear, but skinnier and less hairy. I tried to warn the creature off; I was growling, showing my teeth, snapping at him, and making myself look bigger. Every movement made pangs of pain shoot up my leg. To my surprise the two-legs didn’t attack me. The cruel creature just sat down, out of my reach, and waited there patiently for me to die from my wounds or exhaustion. I struggled to stay conscious, but after hours I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore. Every time I heard a noise I lifted an eyelid and saw that the two-legs had moved closer. I knew the end was coming, but there was nothing I could do. My leg was throbbing, I was stuck and so very, very tired. Eventually I fell into a deep sleep.

At first when I woke up, I didn’t know where I was. I was surprised when I realized that I was in what appeared to be the den of the two-legs. My leg had been freed, but now there was a trap around my neck, which tied me to the wall of the den. This trap didn’t hurt though, but prevented me from escaping. I did try, many times, without success. My injured leg hurt a lot and I wasn’t able to bend it; the two-legs had attached a stick to it. I had tried to bite and shake it off, but also failed at this. It made me very frustrated. For days the two-legs fed me and took care of me and after a while I wasn’t afraid of him anymore. When I stopped growling and snapping at him he made my tie longer to give me more space. Eventually we established a mutual agreement. I didn’t try to attack or escape and in return Two-legs would take me, on the lead, with him wherever he went. Two-legs would usually work on his wood and I would lie next to him. When the days were good we were outside, if the weather was bad we would stay inside the den. Two-legs used strange, shiny things on the wood from the tree trunks that he had cut down. He would carve bits away and put pieces together. He made strange contraptions to sit on or put things in. They didn’t make sense to me. Sometimes he used the shiny things to carve pieces of wood for no purpose at all, but Two-legs seemed very proud when he finished them. Once, Two-legs cut himself with a shiny thing and I had tried to lick his wound. In return he angrily cut me on my nose to stop me and I realized that the shiny things were very sharp indeed.

Then the day came that Two-legs sat down next to me and whimpered to me for a long time. He often whimpered when he was working on his wood. Somehow though, I knew that this time it had more meaning. Two-legs was whimpering directly at me and he seemed upset. I was slightly afraid when he put both of his front legs around me. Father had only done this when he thought I was threatening his position as leader of the pack. It was very hard to read Two-legs’s emotions, with him not having a tail and his ears not able to move. I had learnt that when Two-legs showed his teeth he wasn’t angry; in fact, it would seem he was quite the opposite. Two-legs wasn’t growling or showing his teeth now, but I saw his eyes leak and I wondered what that meant. All of a sudden Two-legs removed the trap from my neck. I didn’t know what to do. Would he finally let me leave and go back to my family? My leg had healed and I was sure I could run. I looked at Two-legs, who did his confusing show-of-teeth again. I couldn’t believe my luck; Two-legs was setting me free! I licked his face, turned around and ran a few paces. Still not sure, I stopped and looked back. I saw that Two-legs had stood up and I heard him make sounds that encouraged me to leave. I waved my tail, barked once with delight and ran off like the wind, exulting in my regained freedom. I was never going back to Two-legs and the trap around my neck again! At least, that was what I thought then.

 

The further we ran after Father, the more convinced I was that he had picked Two-legs as target for the hunt. We never went to this part of the forest, the part where two-legs lived. Prey was even scarcer here, so Father must have been desperate to want to kill a two-legs. I didn’t want to kill Two-legs, the creature had been good to me. Yes, he had put a track around my neck, but he had also saved me from certain death and eventually had set me free. As we neared Two-leg’s den, the smells brought back memories. They were mixed sensations of pain and frustration, but also of care and trust. I had this incredible urge to turn around and flee, to avoid the trap around my neck again, yet I couldn’t. I wanted to warn Two-legs that my pack was coming for him, that he should get away.

While we were going in a large circle around the den to get below the wind, I thought of Mother and her new litter. They were hungry and needed food. We all needed food. The last time we all had eaten a decent meal was many days ago and the only prey we had caught since had been given to Mother. We were reminded on a daily basis by our grumbling stomachs that we needed to catch food and it seemed to have driven Father to this madness of attacking a two-legs, my Two-legs.

We approached the den through dense bushes. Two-legs was sitting outside, carving some wood. I looked left and right and saw Father and my brothers preparing themselves for the attack; they were crouching with ears forward and tails straight. I did the same. We all crept forward slowly. I couldn’t stand the tension anymore and I was the first to jump up and run into the clearing in front of the den and gave a mighty bark. Two-legs stood up, I saw his initial fright. To my surprise he quickly regained his composure and bared his teeth as he seemed to recognize me.

I kept my distance, waved my tail once and barked again, trying to warn Two-legs. Instead of running, he started whimpering and took a few paces towards me. All of a sudden he stopped and there was fear in his eyes. I turned my head and saw Father and my brothers coming up behind me. They didn’t look happy. Father was closest and I could sense the anger radiating from him. His ears were moving from side to back, so he had some doubt, but his tail was straight, slightly upwards. His teeth were bared, lips retracted, and his eyes were full of hate. Part of his anger was directed at Two-legs, part of it at me.

In the split second that I was studying Father, I saw my younger brother’s attack coming from the corner of my eye. He was always looking for ways to take our strong brother’s place. Stopping me and killing Two-legs would certainly earn him that position. Even though I saw him coming, I was knocked off my feet by the sheer force of the attack. We rolled over each other and my brother managed to grip my throat before we came to a halt. We both tried to get up again, but my younger brother was a lot stronger than me these days. I realized I didn’t stand a chance and so I rolled back onto my back, surrendering myself to him. My brother wasn’t letting go though, he didn’t trust me anymore. My eyes sought Two-legs, I needed to know if he had gotten away. I felt mortal fear grip my heart when I saw him still standing there. Why didn’t he get to safety inside his den? I saw him pick up one of his sharp things. It glimmered in the sunlight. I looked up at my brother and tried to warn him by whimpering more intense, but he was busy trying to get Father’s attention. He wanted to know if he should kill me or not. There was a soft whirring noise and my brother dropped to the ground, his jaws letting go of my throat. I felt the blood rushing out of my wounds and I knew that they were more severe than my brother had meant them to be. I got to my feet and the snow underneath me turned red. Father and my strongest brother had stopped in their tracks by the commotion. They were staring at me and my brother. I sniffed at his motionless body and the sharp thing sticking out of his chest. I realized that Two-legs had killed him! My mind was racing and my heart was pounding. This was not what I had wanted. Two-legs was supposed to be a wolf-lover, not hurt us! I jerked my head up towards Two-legs and with fear I saw him raise another of his tools again. This time he was aiming at Father. Without a thought and with my last remaining strength I took an almighty jump to try and stop Two-legs. As I was in mid-air I heard the whirring noise. I felt a sharp pain in my chest and a warm wetness spread over my belly as I fell to the ground. The pain disappeared. Two-legs ran up to me, whimpering frantically and his eyes leaking. I tried to get up, to get away from this traitor, but I couldn’t. Two-legs pulled the sharp thing out of my body. I was shivering and felt cold. I knew it had nothing to do with lying on the snow. Although it was a bright morning, my surroundings turned dark. I shifted my head and attempted to find Father. My eyes went in and out of focus, but finally locked onto him. Father’s ears were pricked forward and he was wearing his tail low. He was whining. I had never heard Father whine. I wished I never had as it was a sound that pierced my soul. Our eyes met one last time. I saw despair and pain and confusion. I licked my lips to show him that he was my leader. He turned and trotted off, followed by my big brother.

Two-legs cradled my head. I understood that he hadn’t meant for this to happen. He whimpered and patted me, but I knew that he couldn’t save me this time. I started my journey to the forever-hunting-grounds when I heard Father’s howl coming from the forest and from the lamented sound I knew that I was still his son.

 

Copyrighted by Jacky Dahlhaus

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