The Ones Who Remained

Some of you have left your kind, Some of you have betrayed us You thought you were earning a better life, But all you do is grow weaker...

It was a time when the Earth was still young and the gray wolves in Alaska had just begun to notice a change in their world. Loud, two-legged animals were appearing from the land across the ocean, and the wolves were sparked into curiosity. They soon lost this feeling, however. Every time the wolves approached them, the two-legged animals would shoo them away, making odd noises and brandishing sticks and tusks. Thus the wolves learned to avoid the two-legged creatures, and sometimes to fear them.

Little One, an adult male wolf, and his pack were eating well one summer. The caribou were amazingly abundant, and moose could be found at nearly every river. The alpha female, Soaked Paws, had already given birth, and all of the other seven pack members were eagerly finding food for her. The alpha male, Owl Chaser, rallied them together every night to hunt, calling them to him with low wails and high squeaks. The pack sang, then went off to hunt. Little One, as the omega male, trailed along at the back of the pack.

Little One was especially curious about the two-legged animals. He saw a herd of them as Owl Chaser led him and the pack out of the forest and onto a bare plain, which was covered in short, twisted grass. He wanted to venture just a little closer to the two-legs, but Owl Chaser made the pack keep a quick pace. His mate had hungry pups. There was no time for curiosity towards the two-legs. He gave Little One a sharp growl and led the wolves onward.

A caribou was caught, and the wolves ate well from it. Owl Chaser then led them back to the den, carrying a slice of meat in his mouth. He placed it at the mouth of the den, and Soaked Paws snatched it up gratefully.

That day, as the sun began to rise, the pack lay down to rest, all but Little One. With a glance at his dozing family, he stood silently and crept towards a nearby camp of two-legs. From the safety of the trees he could see them, milling around and making weird noises. There was no malice or hunger in his eyes, only innocent curiosity. He would be ready to flee at any moment if the two-legs spotted him. None of them did, and he ventured still closer.

The two-legs were packing their things--animal hides, spears, food, etc.--onto a sledge of bone and hide, on which their cubs sat. A few male two-legs were holding ropes with which to pull the sledge. When all their supplies were aboard, they started off quickly. The majority of the herd trailed behind the sledge.

Little One silently followed, his curiosity mounting and his fear ever present. When he became a bit too hasty in his excitement to follow and strayed within viewing range of the two-legs, they shouted at him. With wide eyes he stopped in his tracks and sped the opposite way from the two-legs. He did not stop until he was back where he had left his pack. Owl Chaser did not wonder where he had been; it was customary for the omega to run off sometimes. When the whole pack had woken, they rallied and sang, then went off to hunt.

Just like the day before.

Little One lived with his pack on the plain for a long time, but never lost his curiosity of the two-legs. One day a new herd of them was traveling through the wolves' territory, and when dusk settled Little One went to investigate.

Some two-legs cubs were frolicking around a campfire in the presence of a few adults. Little One watched them for a time, then became bored. As he went off to find his pack one of the two-legs cubs strayed into the forest nearby. Little One became rock-still. The child's parents would probably come after it.

But they didn't.

Little One watched the cub, amused, his tail swaying. The cub was holding a stick in its fat little hands, chewing it. Little One approached, and the child did not look afraid. It pointed at him and laughed. Startled, the wolf backed up a few paces, his eyebrows twitching. The child got on its hands and knees and imitated a wolf, crawling around, then sat down and looked at Little One. The wolf was highly amused, and decided to take a poke at the two-legs cub. Slowly he meandered closer until his cool, moist nose met the child's forehead. He sniffed, and the cub laughed. He became even more startled, and dashed away into the shadows of the forest.

Little One kept returning to the same camp day after day. None of the adult two-legs chased him off even though they knew he was there, and did not seem concerned in the least by his presence. Finally Little One decided to take the food they kept offering him. It was raw, and just as good as anything he could catch himself. He was eating from an array of meat on the ground that the two-legs had offered, when he noticed something. Another wolf was nearby, sitting close to one of the adult two-legs, who was watching it. Little One looked at the other wolf, whose name was Wind Feather, and cocked his head. Wind Feather wagged his tail, but kept a watchful eye on the two-legs nearby.

Little One and Wind Feather were soon eating from the two-legs' hands, and allowed themselves to be touched. They found that eating from the two-legs was much easier than hunting the food themselves, and that they had a much higher chance of surviving. Little One had not abandoned his pack completely; he still ran with them and hunted with them. Yet he felt himself becoming less needy of them. he would live well with the two-legs.

Yes, he surely would...

As summer faded away and the snows of winter hardened on Alaska, the caribou became scarce and rodents were impossible to find. Many of the two-legs starved or froze to death, as did many wolves. Little One was sleeping in camp one day when he heard a shrill yelp and the shout of the two-legs. He opened his eyes to see Wind Feather struggling, a rope around his throat, and many adult two-legs plunging their spears into him. Wind Feather bit and snapped, but the two-legs would not relent. The wolf was the only food they could find.

In shock Little One stood and fled the camp, his heart beating fast. His tongue was soon hanging from his mouth, and he was sprinting as fast as a caribou. He closed the gap between his pack and himself.

He found Owl Chaser, Soaked Paws, and five of the original pack members. The three of Soaked Paws' pups were now full-sized adults, and they faithfully followed their parents as the pack travelled south. Little One caught up with them and ran with them once more. He would never trust the two-legs again. They only wanted him because of what he could do for them. He, too, would probably have ended up in their stomachs. A free meal was not enough to live with them for, not if he would live only as long as they let him.

As he ran with his pack he lost his horror and confusion. Soaked Paws began a game of "catch-my-tail" as the wolf family came to a rest site. They milled around in the dimness of the winter sky, finally beginning to howl. They sang of their freedom and their wildness as the sun disappeared below the horizon for the winter.

by Wind Cloud

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