I slept. Sometimes it felt like days at a time. I had nightmares of being awake while the humans explored my insides, of my body being taken apart, of never ending pain. And I had dreams where I saw Fenrir. He would come to me in visions and tell me that my suffering had purpose. He said that I was strong enough to survive, and that my trials would make me stronger still. At first I thought these visions simply hallucinations that meant my mind was breaking, but they became more vivid, more real with time. But the nightmare continued. I watched with jealousy as others gave up, embracing that sweet stillness of death. But I did not die.
The humans would drag me from my cage and cut into me. They would take parts of me, bits of skin or muscle, and then everything would go dark. I would wake up later in my cage to find more hair shaved and a new incision that had been closed up with sloppy stitches. Once I came to and realized that they had removed a tooth. Yet, the worst day was when I woke and realized that they had cut into my belly. I was terrified for my pups. I could barely feel their movement anymore, and feared the worst.
And then one day, when the humans came for me again, everything went black and cold, and somewhere in my mind I knew that it must be my turn at last. I had another vision of Fenrir. But he told me that it was not my time. I had to survive for my pups. I had to find the others that had escaped.
I started awake from my long sedation. I don’t know how much time had passed; hours, maybe days. I had lost all concept of time. I became aware of my surroundings slowly. There were faint rustling sounds and an overwhelming, foul stench of rot. I felt something hard jabbing into my side, and I could tell that I was not lying on the cold metal floor of my cage. I knew, without even opening my eyes, that I was no longer in that place of suffering.I had survived. I was free.
The humans had finished with my body, believing me spent and dead, and tossed me aside. Though I bore the marks of the humans’ cruelty, complete with a numbered tag in my ear, I was luckier than most. So many poor creatures still remained in the human’s grasp; bears and large cats, and those poor animals so similar to humans themselves. All were used in the humans’ frantic search for solutions to their own degrading bodies.
The first few days were very hard. My body was weak and sore from the confinement, and the strain made me concerned for my pups. I know that it was Fenrir who led me out of the bowels of the city, across that wasteland to find my own kind again. No wolf in my condition could have navigated that barren expanse of land on their own. There was little surrounding the human city besides the occasional solitary scavenger. Not many living things would choose to be so close to humans. They tainted everything they touched. The ground was hot and cracked beneath my paws; neither plants nor water were left to soften the landscape. The wind blew ash and dust into my face, stinging my eyes so much that I could hardly see. The sky above was a yellow haze that made it impossible to track the sun. If it weren’t for Fenrir’s direction, I would have wandered through that desolation until I died.
He was in my dreams almost every night. He became a great comfort, a dear friend in my time of loneliness. But on the nights when I was not visited by Fenrir, the nightmares returned. I would wake up terrified, still feeling human hands on me, and could feel my pups stirring in my belly again as if they sensed my agitation.
But so it was that I found myself beyond their reach, outside of the reeking human city, away from their cruel hands. I did not look as I once had. I had bare patches all over my body and places where the skin had been removed and replaced with something foreign that I knew would remain naked for the rest of my days. An ugly, half-healed wound still showed on my belly where they had opened me up and done Fenrir-knows-what to my pups. I set out with Fenrir guiding me, in search of others that might have escaped before. I didn’t know what exactly I would find, but I knew that it was my only chance to survive. Returning to my old pack was not an option. Others had tried before me, but they never stayed. They came back changed.Not just in body, but in the mind as well. Their hearts were filled with fear and distrust, leaving themunable to resume their life within the pack. They would fall to the outskirts of the group, and then they would be gone. I was not in search of the life I had before, but a new life, with others that had faced the same horrors as I had.
I wandered for some time with little sign of any life at all, but then I began to see evidence of other wolves: markings left to warn off rivals. I knew that I was getting close. I followed the signs and it was not long until I saw another wolf on the horizon. He quickly disappeared, but I knew that I had been seen and that it was only a matter of time before an escort was sent after me.
It was the following day, close to dusk when a small group of males came upon me. None were faces that I recognized, but I knew that I had found the others. They all bore scars, still visible through thin patches in their fur. None of them still wore tags in their ears. They had chewed and ripped them off of one another. The largest male was missing an eye, the gaping wound sewn closed with the same hasty stitches as all the others. They regarding me warily despite the obvious signs I bore of the humans’ mistreatment. They circled around me and herded along me like prey.
They brought me before the Alpha, were I was scrutinized harshly. They could see that I would have my pups soon. They also saw the scar down my belly and were wary of what might actually be born when the time came. It was obvious that the humans had touched my pups as well. I was afraid they would cast me out, but then a familiar face came forward. I had thought my sister dead. I wanted to run to her and lick her face but there were too many wolves between us. She appealed to the Alpha and convinced him that I would be a strong and worthy pack member. When his decision was made, my sister was allowed to greet me. She licked my face, and as gently as possible, and bit the tag from my ear. I was part of the pack.
It was not long before it was time for my pups to come. The previous night I had slept fitfully, my sleep disturbed by more nightmares and visions of Fenrir. He showed me a daughter, who would help to fix us, to heal the scars left by the humans. I woke from that nightmare confused and afraid, not knowing what it had meant.
My labor was long and difficult.The first pup was stillborn. When I saw that he was not moving, my heart sank. The second pup lived only a short time before she passed. I could not forgive the humans for what they had done to my children. A short while after the second pup’s passing there was a third, another girl.
When I first laid eyes on her, I was shocked. She was pale, with little hair. Her ears and snout were stunted, and the toes on her forepaws too long. She did not look like a wolf, and I was fearful that the pack would think that she had been tainted by those humans and reject her. Or perhaps they would not have the chance, and she would die like her siblings had. But she was different. She was strong. Her eyes were open immediately, as if she were ready to take in everything about this world. They were not the typical golden hue that wolves’ eyes have. They were a steely grey, like a stormy sky. I wondered if she could even see. And then she looked straight at me, with those piercing eyes, and I knew that what Fenrir had said must be true. She was not like a wolf, but she was not this way by accident.
Story by: Caitlin
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