run. We all run. Feet pound the earth, bodies steam, tongues out and pant hard. We are silent. The forest moves aside but not for me--it gets in my face, my skin, tearing and stabbing and making red run.
A howl to the east. Stop. Raise noses to the crisp night air: Mother. Full moon guides us to where she sits by fresh kill, with sour smell and warm wet under foot from running red. Hungry, hungry we crowd around.
"Wait your turn!"
Brothers and sisters growl at me. I try again but jaws snap at face. Crawl to Mother, feel her warmth and soft fur. Nuzzle, find nipple and suck but there is no more! She growls too and pushes me away. Stomach hurts. I cry.
Wait and wait. My turn but it is no good. Still so much hunger and pain. Cry again, but still no more from Mother. Warm bodies circle, move in, lie down and on and around. Curl up with family, close eyes and rest in inner-dark.
Early rise in low light: no birds sing yet, family still down. Up, stretch, and walk some distance to leave wet mark. Thirsty. Hungry. Walk on sore feet to brook, crouch and drink. Stay on front feet too and walk some, but then more pain. Up on back feet and try to smell food: wet ground, family smell and old red. Walk on with nose in air, must stop hunger pain. I cannot smell food like Mother or brothers or sisters. But I smell ...
I smell something. Hunger feeling twists inside and I drop and wet, burning sour comes out my mouth. More twists, but nothing coming out. Cry lots.
Smell still there, and hunger twists still there. Walk to smell and not far see low, wide tree. Holes in the tree with smell coming out. Wet now dropping from my mouth. Run to hole and see ... something. Reach up: hit it to floor. Sniff. Hunger twists! Take bite and another and another and it is good!
Jump back and snarl. Tall creature in big hole that wasn't there before, looking at me. Crouch down.
"Mine!" I growl, "Stay back! Wait your turn!"
"Oh my, oh, oh! You poor dear, poor little--"
Goes back in big hole and then comes out with more of my kill with good smell.
"Oh you poor love, you look half starved. Come in out the cold and let grandma feed you."
Don't like the noise, but like the smell. Want my kill. Creature going back in hole.
I jump forward and snatch kill and growl warning that it is mine and to stay back. Take kill to corner and eat and eat some more. It is a strange kill with no red running--but it stops the hunger twists.
Creature moves and makes more noises.
"I must fetch some water and wash the poor dear, find some old clothes that might fit her - who on earth does she belong to, I wonder--oh and I must send Jack to call for the doctor to make sure she is not ill--"
Stop listening to creature noises because I hear Mother call. I raise head and call back:
"Mother! Come! Fresh kill! Feed!"
Creature looks. I growl at it to back off. Mother will make creature go and leave our kill.
"Jack! Jack, get up, I need your help, love."
Mother comes, she comes! Hear her running, hear her feet on earth! She yips and I yip and then she is there, through the hole in the strange tree and I call:
"Come, Mother! Fresh kill!"
And the creature screams and Mother pounces, and the creature is on the floor and the red is running and running and I run to help Mother, but then there is another creature and it screams, and it picks up something sharp and shining and it jumps at Mother and then ... then there is Mother's warm red running all over me too, and I cry and cry but Mother doesn't move, and she won't because I know what the red means.
The creature drops the Mother-killer and pulls me up and pushes me through another hole that then disappears and I am alone. And I cry and I cry but there is no howl. No one hears.
"It's alright, lad, take your time."
"I just ... I heard her calling, said she needed my help so I got out of bed but then ... I'm sorry--"
"Don't be, don't be."
"Well--ah - so I got up and then I heard the most awful scream. I ran out and saw ... I saw ... it had its jaws around her neck .... I didn't think, I just picked up the axe ... but it was too late."
"Deep breaths, son. You're doing fine. Do you think you could tell me about the girl?"
"I ... I don't know. She was there, screaming and crying when I came out; cloaked in blood from head to toe she was ..."
"Frightened out of her wits I should imagine. Poor love. A blessing the wolf didn't kill her too I should say."
"I've never seen her before in my life."
"Don't worry. We'll find her family, and we'll make sure you get the care you need, son."
"Thank you. Oh ... oh God!"
I am in small spaces. Strange noises all around, and strange feelings. They push and pull my body and don't back off when I growl my warnings at them. I howl for help. I cry for my brothers and sisters but they don't come. So many noises, so many creatures, I don't like it, I don't like it!
But I am trapped. I cannot run. I cannot run.
A.L. Loveday is a writer living in Brighton, England. She is inspired by the wonderful, the fantastic and the magical, and her stories have appeared in Mirror Dance, Scheherezade's Bequest, Unsettling Wonder and beyond. You can find her at http://alloveday.blogspot.