Hunter sat on a ground covered with moss, watching his prey play.
Names were liars, he thought angrily. His pack’s alpha wolf had named him Hunter due to his strength, great eyesight, and speed. He used to be able to catch anything, even wind itself.
Now a squirrel scurried under his nose, unafraid. It bounded away into the underbrush. Hunter desperately wanted to chase after it, to feel the wind ruffling his gray fur, to use his paws and teeth to secure the creature, then bite down hard, to drop it at the little pup’s feet. A kill that small would only feed them.
He stretched and leaned against a tree. In this part of the forest, the trees grew dense and moss was springy beneath his paws. The sun dappled the ground, making everything glow with a gold light. Natural formations in the rocks and trees provided shelter, and easy prey abounded.
It used to feel like a paradise, an oasis.
Now it felt like a prison.
Hunter sat up, groaning with the difficulty. The squirrel had brought a friend, and they were rolling around, one clutching a nut. He licked his muzzle. They were 2 paw lengths away, he could snap them up easily. But he had learned 1 thing that made him restrain himself.
You couldn’t catch anything with only 3 paws.
That didn’t make you a hunter. It made you hunted.
He licked at his stump, where there used to be a back paw. It used to be strong like the other. But now only a stump remained, leaving Hunter to hobble around. He could run, but not fast enough. His back leg couldn’t balance it all. His missing leg was gone, like a memory.
Something crashed through the forest, breaking branches on the ground. The squirrels ran away, startled at the noise. Hunter imagined they were running away from him.
A tall figure moved around the trees, walking with a purpose. As the figure moved closer, Hunter quickly stood up, or as quick as he could. A human! He licked his nose nervously. The other wolves in his pack told him to beware of them, they were dangerous. But this human was small. Surely a human pup couldn’t be scary?
The human pup made a little gasp when she saw Hunter, blue eyes sparkling in amazement. No – her eyes were gray, like fog dancing through the trees on a cloudy day. Her wispy blond hair was in a braid, and she adjusted her glasses. Hunter sat as still and quiet as a rock. If he didn’t make any sudden movements, nothing bad would happen.
The girl pup sat down and pulled out a small black book and a stick Hunter knew was a pencil, then started scratching it on the pages of the book, brow furrowed in concentration. Hunter watched her with rapt attention ; he had never seen a creature pay this much attention to something. Wolves’ attention was fleeting, ever changing. And humans were new territory.
‘’Done!’’ she whispered, and held up the book for Hunter to see. Right there on the page was him, from his light green eyes and pointed ears all the way to his fluffed tail. ‘’You are a handsome wolf,’’ she murmured. ‘’Pleasure to draw you. I’m Accalia. And who might you be?’’ she murmured.
Hunter stepped closer. The girl – Accalia was not a threat. Her eyes flicked over to his back leg. ‘’Not a matching set. That’s okay.’’
Hunter suddenly felt sad, the despair crashing into him like a brick wall. He whimpered. Back legs were essential to running. But he had a back leg. Not 2.
Accalia smiled. ‘’I’m not gonna hurt you.’’ Her smile was as warm as the sun. She held out her hand, softly but steadily, and Hunter couldn’t resist. He got closer. Accalia petted him, her small hand scratching in between his ears. Hunter sighed and leaned against her. He could stay like this forever.
Do you like me? For real?
Hunter’s head snapped up. Whose voice was that, melodic and as clear as the bubbling stream flowing through the woods?
Hunter knew who ‘’me’’ was. Accalia’s voice.
Hunter concentrated on making his words appear in her mind, his voice deeper than he meant it. He knew he had succeeded when Accalia squealed in surprise and delight.
You can do it too? That’s amazing!
How can we talk in our minds? I’m a wolf – you’re a human – I don’t know much, but I’m not sure this is normal.
It’s not. It’s called telepathy, where you talk in people’s minds and stuff. Humans are fascinated by it – as they are with anything abnormal – but no one’s been able to really do it, not like this. I think I know why. I was born like this, and it’s definitely abnormal.
Accalia rolled up her sleeve, and on the back of her wrist was a black tattoo shaped like a crescent moon, standing out against her light skin. A crescent. Why, that was the moon phase on the night where everything went wrong. It was also the moon phase on the night where his mother, Ash, gave birth to Hunter.
Hunter licked the tattoo, as gently as he could. It tingled his pink tongue, like licking something electric. Or at least, that’s what he thought it would feel like. His littermate, Destiny, licked a lightbulb once. She had told Hunter it had been a bundle of fun.
Destiny had been going through a phase where she had been very sarcastic. It drove Hunter’s other littermate, mild-mannered Aurora up a tree.
A deep howl pierced the air. Beside him, Hunter felt Accalia shudder. His fur stood up on end. The howl was from none other than Hunter’s father, Alabaster. Alabaster hated humans with every fiber of his being. Alabaster was not a wolf you wanted to cross.
Alabaster was the alpha. Alabaster started it all.
I don’t want you to go, but you have to. Some more wolves are coming, and they may attack you. They’ve gone out to hunt, and they don’t want you stealing their prey.
I don’t want to leave. For goodness sake, I’m talking to a wolf!
And I’m speaking with a human currently. Wonderful. Joyous. Amazing.
You’re absolutely hilarious. Who taught you to be sarcastic anyway?
It’s a long story.
I’m sure it is. The best stories are never quick. They need to have thought put in them.
Have you heard a lot of stories in your lifetime? I’m assuming your lifetime has been a bit short up to now?
I’m 12 years old. And I read a lot. Stories fill my head. How old are you, anyway?
I have survived 4 winters, soon to be 5.
Wait, can wolves count?
Hunter heard pawsteps quickly approaching. He smelled fresh meat. If the pack found Accalia, this was not going to be good. Hunter wasn’t scared of her, but the other wolves would be. And when a wolf felt a threat, they didn’t exactly talk quietly.
Listen, young-ish friend. You. Have. To. Go. Now. If you ever want to see me again.
Hunter tried to infuse his words with as much urgency as he could. Accalia seemed to get the message, because she sighed deeply and removed her hand from his ears.
Fine, I’ll go. But mark my words, I will come back tomorrow. Same time, same place. I. Will. See. You. Again. My wolf friend!
And come back she did. And the next day, and the next. Hunter began to appreciate Accalia’s tenacity, and her insane nerve. He filled her mind with pictures and sensations of hunting. Running fast, with his pack at his heels. Gaining on the prey. Living on skill.
It’s beautiful, hunting, like your name. A dance with nature. Hunter. I want you to do it again.
I can’t. I’m not strong enough.
Anything’s possible if I can think of it.
Your mental strength is astonishing.
You can’t go a day without being sassy, huh?
Isn’t a wolf allowed to have a personality?
Hunter liked to talk to Accalia. Unlike other wolves, she didn’t stress about the next hunt or how the pups were doing. Unlike Alabaster, she didn’t rule by fear. She didn’t push him to be something he wasn’t.
Be vicious. Alabaster’s deep growl echoed in Hunter’s mind. Stop, he said to himself. Accalia doesn’t need to hear that. She’ll just get scared.
But Accalia didn’t seem to be scared of anything. She never flinched anymore when she heard the wolves in the distance, she just quietly left. Hunter was scared though. Yesterday, when he was playing with Destiny, she asked him, Why do you smell like human?
Hunter had made up a sloppy response that he had wandered on a human hiking trail, but he felt Aurora’s and Alabaster’s stares burning through him. They both shared a perceptive nature. Hunter shared his father’s hunting prowess, Alabaster’s protege.
You ok? Accalia’s voice had notes of concern in it. Hunter licked her hand appreciatively.
I’m fine. Now come with me, I want to show you the best glade for hunting.
Hunter and Accalia explored the forest together, until the pack came back, or until the pups who couldn’t come on the hunt woke up. The pups would tell everything in a heartbeat, but they could also sleep through a forest fire.
The summer stretched on, with Hunter and Accalia balancing on the thin ice that is secrets. One little mistake could ruin it all, but they weren’t going to let each other go so easily. With Accalia, Hunter now had a purpose. He wasn’t dead weight to the pack anymore. He wanted to show her the forest and keep their unexplainable connection.
One day, in the time Accalia called July, Hunter was hard at work transmitting images of his pack for Accalia to draw them. Her hand holding the pencil moved swiftly across the page of her drawing book, forming a snout, ears, and tail when there was only white paper. It was fun to watch the pencil glide across paper, her brow furrowed in concentration.
He was in the middle of transmitting images of a pretty white wolf named Rain, one of Destiny’s friends, when he heard angry sirens on the edge of the forest, coming closer.
Accalia sighed. ‘’Why today? Those little-’’ She muttered a string of angry words. Hunter was taken aback ; now that they had gotten comfortable with telepathy, he barely remembered the slight sharpness of her spoken voice.
What’s with the sirens? Do you know something about it? The noise is making my ears hurt.
I’m sorry Hunter, but I have to go. I’ll see you tomorrow, hopefully –
‘’Stop right there!’’ a rugged male voice called out. Accalia lept up from her position on the ground and walked backwards from the voice, the drawing forgotten. A team of 5 people in official-looking uniforms stalked toward her, a pack. 1 man was in the front, leading them. An alpha.
Hunter smelled his own pack, distressed from the sirens. And on top of that, humans were in their woods. Accalia was careful to not leave footprints or broken plants out of respect, but the humans did not care.
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🌸 Nay 🌸Mar 3, 2023