We were wolves, basking in the glow of the moonlight. Chasing autumn’s heels as winter froze our game. Hungry bellies that ached beneath the warmth of our fur, our smoking breaths, our hopeful howls. We huddled through the cold, cobbling warmth together with beating hearts and heated blood. When spring came, we were the first to greet it. Singing praises to the melting snow and the blooming life. All things renewed in our meadows, filling us to the brim with new scents, new trails. And we stayed through summer as well, panting through the sun’s burden of heat. Powering through so that we might blend with the colors of autumn once again.
We were wolves.
And things were beautiful.
It was not perfect.
It was not easy.
It was life.
And it was good.
We were wolves. Together under the gaze of the forgiving moon. Hidden along the trees’ shadows, watchful and hopeful with every passing season. Looking forward to the future together with our eyes looking past the skies.
Now I’m unsure.
The foreign scent brings me grief. Filling me to the brim with something akin to summer’s heat, yet, it leaves me empty like winter’s bared teeth. This strange, familiar shape I see…
This change brings a season I’ve never heard of before. Winds that jar my senses with the foreign scent it brings.
And I don’t know anymore.
If we are not wolves…
Who will we be?
I watched the fur shake from your bones. Watched your tail shrivel to ash. Watched as your ears split, taking new shape. Bringing you a new form as the moon shook its fist, helpless at the loss of one of its number.
As the world howled around me, I remained silent. Apprehensive.
It was new to me, this form you took. Skins I’d shed long ago. Forgotten under the duress of the ever-changing moon, the turning of tides. I watched as you took the shape I once knew. That shape I had forgotten, but, as I saw you change, I understood what was to come.
What you would be.
Lights that flicker and dim against the night. Boxes that scream with faces, with noises that sound false to these meticulous ears. Days spent in noisy machines. Burping and coughing and wheezing as they chug along, rubber burning against hard, sticky ground. I saw the days spent in boxes, in cubes, in machines. I remember the walk down the hall to the loud one, the quiet one. I remember hearing the alpha wolf yell from his room sitting behind the cut tree, and I remember the pain there.
A debilitating lack of “pack” in that place.
That place where it’s wild.
Every wolf for themself.
I saw the path you would take, the scents you’d forget. The things you’d leave behind.
The things you wouldn’t remember.
Leaves falling against the breeze, burning the forest floor with a different sort of fire. Bringing an ethereal kind of warmth. The kind that can only be felt by wolves—treaded with soft paws, and ears poised to listen.
I remember that place. The ache it brings. Those yelping beasts. Those demandingly long nights.
And I know.
I know it will take you.
And you won’t make it back.
As I watch you cough up those sharp, jagged teeth, I feel mournful. White that patters uselessly against that burning forest floor. The last cries of our filling seasons. You spit your wolf teeth out, reminding me of the decay that leaves us all empty-bellied. Ferocious.
I watch you watch me—your eyes scrutinize as you cough. Callous already, aren’t we? Ignoring our burns in the hopes that they’ll heal. Forging ahead, forever forgetting where we’ve left our tails. Madly pushing forward, never stopping to lick at our wounds. They’ll heal with time, we always assume.
But I know.
They most certainly won’t.
Winter is such a dreadful time for a lone wolf.
I can only hope we’ll survive it.