Wolves by Stefan Emunds

Wolves

We flee through a wintry forest. The snow is high, has an icy crust, and scrunches under every step. The weight of my son Moon Face bends me. Red Feather runs ahead of me. What a runner! Our daughter Silent Laugh clings to her neck, strangles her. I glance back briskly, worried to stumble. The wolves are twenty yards away … they’re eight, nine, or ten. Merciless hunger reverberates in their huffing.

Fear flashes in Red Feather’s eyes. Not the fear of her own death, but that of her children. Our legs are tiring out. Shall we run further or make a stand? The forest is merciless, only spare trees and deep snow. I swing around, Moon Face claws into my hair, his legs around my waist. I take a firm stand and shoot an arrow into a wolf. The pack wails. 

Red Feather runs back to me. The pack reaches us in seconds, forms a large circle. Moon Face and Silent Laugh slide into the snow. Red Feather and I face the wolves, back to back, knives and tomahawks ready. Wolves and humans measure each other, puff small clouds into the cold winter air. The wolves take their time, growl and probe. This is not the first time they hunt humans.

A young she-wolf leaps at me. I raise my arm and let her bite. We fall backwards. I stab a knife into her belly and cut it open all the way to the heart. Her gut spill over my belly and into the snow. The smell of their sister’s blood drives the other wolves mad. Two charge at Red Feather. She smashes her tomahawk into the head of the first where it gets stuck. She rolls with the second. She pins him to the ground with one hand and stabs him frantically with the other. I jump to my feet. A wolf leaps on Red Feather’s back and sinks his teeth into her neck. I scream, leap too, and ram my two knives into his body. Before I know it, two wolves are on top of me. I let go of my knives and throw myself away from Red Feather. She swipes at them, misses, her knife ends up in my arm. She snatches a leg, pulls one wolf towards her, and cuts his throat.

The other wolf is on top of me. I grab his neck to keep his clicking fang away. He scratches my face and neck with his claws. Hot saliva drops onto my face. I try to strangle him, but my hands find only thick fur.

Red Feather keeps the last three wolves away. Moon Face yanks the tomahawk out from the dead wolf’s skull and joins his mother. Silent Laugh is clinging onto her mother’s leg and cries voicelessly.

My arm bleeds badly, I feel how the knife cuts into its tensing muscles. “Finish him or I won’t let you touch me for three moons!” Red Feather screams. That gives me the push I need. I grab the wolf’s lower jaw with my right and let him snap. Sharp pain cuts through my hand. His teeth scratch my bones. With my left, I grab his upper jaw and jerk his mouth open. Arms against jaw. We tremble and growl. I summon the Sacred Spirit and rip his jaw apart. The wolf screams and let’s go. His lower jaw dangles helplessly as he retreats. I shall hear his whining in my dreams.

The other wolves withdraw too. In a distance, they mourn their lost kin. We drop on our knees, embrace, and push our heads together. Blood and tears drizzle into the snow. All for one, one for all. We thank the Sacred Spirit and make amends to the dead wolves.


Picture attribution: public domain pixabay.com

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