Because I Am Different.A Story by brit
A short story about a wolf who is alienated and outcast from his pack due to his strange behaviors.
I had never really fit in with the rest of my pack, despite being raised in the exact same way as my siblings. I guess I was just…different than them. I was not your typical wolf, so to say, and I was alienated by my father for it.
Whereas my siblings were the perfect offspring, I was not. I did not enjoy going on hunts and I absolutely hated learning the various stalking and killing techniques that my parents deemed “vital”. I even complained over having to eat rodents for dinner; instead I ate “deer-food”, as my mother called it, which consisted of different berries and herbs. I disobeyed my parents’ rule to not talk to other species, and instead of joining in on the tackling games of puppyhood I sat on the sidelines and watched. My siblings rolled around and nipped each other, building their strength and learning how to establish dominance, and I only observed.
I was a gentle creature, and they were killers.
From a young age I had been schooled on the proper ways of canine life, but I never gave in and followed those rules. It just wasn’t the way I wanted to live life…sadly, my father could not understand that.
He’d always been rather cold to me, and today he was exactly the same. His fur was bristled when he approached, and he made sure to hold his tail extra high as if he wanted to flaunt his authority. I only looked up at him, my gaze steady and impassive. I didn’t know what he wanted, but I doubted it was friendly.
“Ryvan,” He barked at me, and I held his gaze to indicate I was listening. “I need to talk to you.”
For a moment I looked behind him at my mother, who was glancing in my direction from a few meters away. Her visage betrayed sorrow, and when our eyes met she looked down.
“Alright,” I woofed quietly, standing up and shaking the debris from my pelt. My father led me away from the rest of my pack, and once they were all out of sight he stopped. I sat down in front of him and waited for him to begin.
“You are not a wolf,” he said to me. I winced. “I have watched you grow over the past moons, and that is the only conclusion I can reach.”
He paused, but I said nothing. It was unwise to interrupt my father before he was finished speaking, and I wasn’t about to do so. Growling softly, he began to pace in front of me.
“You do not hunt and thus you are not providing for this family. You go off and collect berries and similar crap to eat, talking all the while with prey species and calling them your friends.” He looked right at me, his gaze violent and harsh. “Wolves do not do these foolish things.”
I hung my head at this part, pretending to be apologetic so as to appease the wolf in front of me. It didn’t seem to work.
“Don’t fake your shame, Ryvan. I know very well that your behavior will continue as it always has, and so I have no choice but to disown you. This is a wolf pack, and its members are expected to act like wolves. You can go off and join a deer herd for all I care, but you are no longer welcome here.”
I was…shocked. My eyes widened and I stared up at my father, but he was turned away from me now. He wouldn’t actually outcast me, would he? Where was I supposed to go? This was my home…this was where I had been born and where I had grown up.
“F-father?” I stuttered, “Are you serious? I " no! This is where I belong, Father, it’s "“
“Don’t call me your father,” he commanded, looking at me again and growling. “You are not my son. Now leave.”
I stood there, still in disbelief and just waiting for him to start laughing and telling me that he was only joking. He snapped at me.
“Leave!” He yelled, and I quickly scrambled to my feet.
“But...” I protested quietly, but my father only snapped at me again and flashed his teeth in an angry snarl. I turned around and trotted a few feet away, pausing only once to look back at the wolf that had brought me into this world. His expression was marred with hostility and carelessness, and so without another word I did his bidding and left.
I wandered for several days without coming across much wildlife. There were birds, of course, and various other small animals, but none of them were willing to talk to me. That was the thing " even when I tried to talk to other species, they did not want to talk to me. I was a wolf, after all, and in turn I was their natural enemy.
My spirits were low as I trekked on through the forest on the dawn of the sixth day, and so when the scent of another wolf crossed my path I was nothing less than surprised. I stopped walking and I glanced around, looking for the other but knowing perfectly well I would not see him. Slowly, I pushed my nose to the ground and inhaled. The scent betrayed that there were two other wolves, and from what I could tell they had crossed this place no more than a day ago. Eager to find companionship, I began to follow their trail at an increased pace.
They took me deep into the forest " deeper than I had ever been before. The canopy overhead thickened and the light became much sparser, casting the forest into a premature nighttime. I came across all sorts of unfamiliar plants and fungi, and the unfamiliar smells of foreign creatures mingled with the damp soil. This place was almost magical to me.
Past owl nests and badger sets I trotted, tracking the other wolves in a way that would have made my father proud. I stopped occasionally to search for some kind of fruit or plant to eat, but for the most part I simply pressed on with vivid determination.
Eventually that determination paid off. I first saw the others from atop a small rise " they were below, lying next to each other and casually conversing about something. Anxiety tickled across my spine, and for a moment I feared that they too would reject me like my pack had done. Nevertheless, I hadn’t come this far for nothing.
Finding my bravery, I tucked my tail between my legs and slowly padded down the hill. I kept close to the ground in a very submissive pose, indicating that I came in peace and ensuring that they would not attack me. As soon as they noticed me they jumped up and bristled, tails lifting over their heads and ears pressing back onto their skulls.
I wasn’t worried; this was the natural way that strangers greeted each other in the lupine world. My parents had explained it all to me when I was younger, and so I knew not to worry quite yet. I meant no harm to them, and so they had little reason to harm me.
“Who are you?” One of the two demanded, her voice softer than expected.
“Ryvan,” I answered, still cowering below her, “I come from the borders of this forest. I mean no harm.”
Both of the other wolves seemed to relax a bit, able to sense my honesty from my tone. The male sat down and the female’s ears angled forward, curiosity taking over her expression.
“The borders? You have come far,” she pointed out.
I sat up at this point, although I was careful to ensure that my head was at a lower level than hers. Respect was the key factor in earning these wolves’ trust.
“I have,” I admitted quietly. “My pack cast me out.”
Both of the strangers tilted their heads sideways, almost as if on cue.
“You were exiled?” Asked the male, sympathy etched into his words.
The female sat down beside the other and woofed, “What for?”
I hesitated. “I…didn’t quite live up to their standards, I guess.”
Both of the others were silent, their eyes apologizing for my misfortune but their muzzles closed. After a moment, the female changed the topic.
“I am Ikeri,” she introduced, “and this is my brother, Reubal.”
Reubal nodded his head and smiled in greeting.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you both,” I spoke, and Ikeri smiled as well.
“As it is to meet you, Ryvan,” she responded. “You’re welcome to travel with us if you’d like.”
Hearing those words brought an intense joy to my heart. Of course, they didn’t know about my quirks quite yet, but I wasn’t concerned about that at the moment. All that mattered now was that they had invited me to join them. I had companions now.
Sending a silent prayer of thanks up into the heavens, I eagerly nodded in acceptance of Ikeri’s offer.
“Really? I…I’d love to,” I admitted, and she wagged her tail gently across the floor.
Reubal was just as kind, his eyes glittering with true friendliness as he said, “Welcome then, Ryvan.”
I had a family again.
Over the next few weeks I became quite close with the siblings, and I began to realize that I was developing a certain fondness for one of them. They were both attractive creatures, but there was just something different about Reubal. Every time I looked at him I found myself admiring the gray patterns that stretched over his dusty white pelt, and every time I met his gaze I felt shivers scatter across my body.
I didn’t really understand it, but I knew that it wasn’t right. My affections should have been reaching out to Ikeri, not her brother. I was a male, and males belonged with females. Nature reminded me of it every day.
Eventually, a day came that I was confronted about it.
“Ryvan, can I talk to you?” Ikeri’s voice pulled my gaze away from the sparrow I had been watching, and upon noticing the concern etched into her expression I became worried.
“Of course,” I responded, standing up and padding closer to her.
“We’ve known each other for a couple moons now,” she began, looking aside.
I nodded and smiled halfway. The two moons I had spent with the siblings had been the best of my life.
“Well, I was thinking…” She sounded hesitant. “I was thinking that maybe its time to let our pack grow.”
I didn’t quite get it right away, and so my response consisted of wagging my tail and woofing, “That’s a great idea!”
She looked at me, still quite serious. “Really? You think so? …I know it sounds silly, but I almost thought you wouldn’t be interested.”
I paused at this, realizing for the first time just what exactly she meant. Me, interested? In…Ikeri? She wanted pups. That’s what she meant by “letting the pack grow”. What was more, she seemed to want me to father them.
My tail stopped wagging as realization dawned on me. “Oh…” I barked quietly. “You mean…you want…”
“Yes, Ryvan. I want to raise a litter and I want you to help me. I care about you, Ryvan, I’ve cared about you since we first met..” She smiled shyly at me and her amber eyes shone with confession. What was I supposed to say? I couldn’t tell her about Reubal…I couldn’t reject her. This was nature’s way of trying to correct me, and I couldn’t fight against the will of nature.
“So?” She prodded innocently, maw still lit with a soft smile.
“I…I care about you too, Ikeri.” I felt ashamed for doing this, but at the same time I felt that it was the right thing to do. I did care about her, after all. Not in the way that she apparently cared for me, but that wasn’t important. I was doing what I had to do.
Her tail began to wag and she stepped forward, licking my cheek tenderly. I closed my eyes, faked a smile, and pretended that I was receiving such affection from her brother. A stab of guilt pierced into my heart, but I couldn’t help it.
Ikeri and I spent a lot more time together after that day, always going for walks in the woods and discussing the future. I showed her various berries that were good to eat and she always laughed at me, joking about how I was hardly a wolf but never really seeming to care. She accepted me for who I was, and that was all I could ask for.
I taught Ikeri about healing herbs, and she taught me about the past and told me stories of when the Wolf Gods were alive. We chased each other beneath canopies of stars, pounced on top of the fireflies, and lied next to each other during the nighttime. She really became by best friend, but I never stopped thinking about Reubal.
Every evening, when Ikeri was lovingly grooming down my fur, I glanced over at her brother who rested a couple meters away. He never acted like he felt lonely, but he always looked it. I wished so much that I could just go over and lie beside him, but I knew very well that I couldn’t. There was no way.
One night, when Ikeri had gone off alone to hunt, Reubal and I were lying alone beside the river and he began to talk to me.
“So,” he began quietly, “I heard that my sister is expecting.”
I looked at him to read his expression, but I did not find any anger behind those eyes. He trusted me, I suppose, and he trusted his sister.
“Yeah,” I nodded, thinking about the puppies that were growing inside her. They were mine as well as hers, and it was strange to think about.
Reubal smiled vaguely. “Congrats,” he woofed. “You’ll be good parents.”
I wasn’t so sure about his last statement, but I accepted the compliment nevertheless. “Thanks.”
A moment of silence ensued, and then I looked back over at the male whom I felt so unreasonably drawn to. He was amazing. With Ikeri gone, I felt it more than ever and I even thought about saying something to him. Just something small. My muzzle opened and I was about to speak when his words cut my thoughts short.
“Do you love her?” He asked me, and I hesitated.
“She’s a beautiful wolf,” I replied, glancing back down at my paws.
“But do you love her?”
I wasn’t exactly sure how to answer him, so I attempted to skirt the question. “I…I care about her a lot..”
Reubal looked at me. “So you don’t then. Not in the way that she loves you, anyway.”
“I…” At a loss for words, I instead only fell silent.
“Why not?” He inquired softly. “Shes your mate, Ryvan. How come you don’t love her?”
A deep sigh rocked my body. “Because…” I looked at him, and my unsure expression meshed with his curious one. “I know this is going to sound ridiculous, but…I love….you.”
Reubal was quiet for a long while. When he finally spoke, he sounded angry.
“That doesn’t make sense,” he growled softly.
“I know,” I replied, “but I can’t help it..”
Nothing more was said between us that night.
Life went on in a normal manner, the only difference being that Reubal didn’t talk to me quite as much. He gave me weary glances every now and then and avoided being alone with me, and since there was nothing I could do about it I hardly tried. That’s what I got for trying to disobey nature’s demand, I suppose.
We wandered the forest for several days in search of a den, and when we finally came across a suitable location we settled down again and waited. Ikeri was coming close to the time when she would give birth, and moving around put unnecessary strain on her.
Eventually the day came.
Ikeri disappeared into the den and I waited outside with Reubal for many hours, neither of us saying much. It seemed like forever that we sat there, and it was really only when Ikeri came out that we did as much as move.
When she did, the mood immediately lightened as she told us about the pups. There were three, two boys and a girl.
It was a couple days before Ikeri let us meet the new pack members, and a couple more before we settled on names for them. The female became known as Aya, and the boys were called Zaku and Ezrel. In the pups’ first few weeks of life, the entire pack was joyous and carefree.
Nobody had been expecting anything bad to happen, and so when something did the consequences were tragic.
I saw it before I could even scent it " a full-grown grizzly bear coming straight at us. I yipped with fear, alerting Ikeri and Reubal to its presence, and launched myself in its direction. I had to protect my family.
The pups were out playing in a nearby clearing, and frantically Ikeri tried to rush them back into the den. They weren’t quite fast enough.
The bear took notice of the young wolves and bounded toward them, swiping me away repeatedly with its huge paw as I continued to bite and distract it. Reubal was at its side as well, sinking his fangs into the creature’s flesh and trying to block its path.
The bear’s mind was set, however, and we could not stop it.
It caught up with Ikeri and the pups just as they were disappearing into the den, and with a mighty bellow it shoved its claws into the entrance and pulled out one of my sons. For a moment everything seemed to happen in slow motion.
My eyes widened and adrenaline pumped through my veins, urging me to move faster as I hurled myself at the bear. Ikeri leapt from the den after ensuring that the other two pups were safe and latched her fangs onto the bear’s arm. It roared, dropped our pup, and whacked Ikeri to the side.
Reubal and I were on it now, but it completely ignored us as it reached again for the whelp and dug its claws into his flesh. My baby screamed, yelping and whining in a tone that broke my heart. Everything became a blur as I continued to attack the bear in a wild frenzy, determined to save my pup.
Soon, it became impossible for me to fight back. My side was torn and bloody, I felt like every bone in my body was broken, and I couldn’t even see out of one eye. The bear gave another angry roar and threw me aside.
And there I lay.
I could hear the continued sounds of the fight from where I fell, hoping and praying that the others were all alright. I was so worried about my son; I wanted more than anything to know that he’d gotten safely back into the den.
My eyes closed and I felt myself getting dizzy, so much that I didn’t even notice when the sound of the battle died down. I think I must have blacked out, because the next thing I knew I was opening my single functioning eye to see Reubal and Ikeri looking down at me. They both looked injured, and I released a soft whimper of concern.
“Shhhh,” whispered Ikeri sadly. “Don’t move. You’re gonna be alright.”
I whimpered again. “The pup?” I asked hoarsely, and Ikeri bent down to lick my forehead soothingly.
“It was Zaku,” she revealed. “He…he didn’t make it.”
What? …My son was…dead? I let forth a pained noise, feeling completely and totally lost. I had failed to protect my pup. I was a failure as a parent.
Closing my eye again, I felt myself slipping away. My instincts screamed at me to fight this odd sensation, but I didn’t have the strength to do so. Zaku…my poor little Zaku. I had let him die…
“Ryvan,” whispered Ikeri softly, “Ryvan, wake up. You’re alright; you’re going to be fine.”
I smiled weakly, but my eyes remained closed.
“Don’t leave us, Ryvan. We need you.” Ikeri’s gentle voice seemed almost surreal to me now " like it was coming from somewhere far, far away. I heard her cry out and say something more, but I couldn’t understand it. All I could focus on was the warm, comforting feeling that seemed to be pulling me into nothingness.
“Ryvan!” This time the voice was different, louder, and I felt like I was spinning back into reality. I opened my eye to see Reubal standing above me, licking my cheek frantically and looking quite concerned. Ikeri was beside me now, her body pressed against mine as she repeatedly said something to me that I could not distinguish.
“Reubal…” I whispered, and his worried gaze met my own. I smiled, closed my eyes again, and felt myself sinking into the ground. I love you, I thought with difficulty. I will always love you.
My muscles ceased to ache and the sounds of the forest disappeared completely, leaving me somewhere that was peaceful and silent. A second passed where I worried that I might be dying, but in an instant that fear vanished and I realized that I was more alive now than I’d ever been before. Nothing seemed to matter anymore.
I stood there in that perfection and nothingness, completely detached from the world I had been in only moments before. Then, as if it was seeping in from another universe, a melodic whisper broke the silence of my perfection.
“I love you too...”
© 2010 brit
Shelved in 5 LibrariesAdded on September 6, 2009
Last Updated on June 28, 2010
Los Alamos, NM
About"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes." -Marcel Proust Heyy, I'm Brit. There's not a whole lot to say about me, but I do love art and wr.. more..
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