When my pack left me, more than anything else I remember the chill. The cold of the wind and air between the trunks that came in their ghostly wake. A steady stream of desolation. A harsh battle upon my unblinking gaze through the evergreen spires, into that fore of impenetrable mists. My nigh frozen snout flared and buffeted that coldness back, rushing through those biting flows with anxious fury against the dooming realizations as they fell. Those gales passed over my fur, but through my soul.
They left me in the vastness, where the roots were moonbaked and blades iced with ever-present dew. It was just before dawn; right after a rest within makeshift warren, two watchers for every two sleepers. I was the last to wake, naturally. A good sleep. I awoke ready, with a fullness not felt in many suns. Revitalized, but alone. At first, there was fear. Then, confusion. Finally, came desperation, the chase, with all its franticism and its existentialia. Awoken midway pitched in a battle for my life, I followed the path they lay for a while, just out of the copse, past the warren and into glades we’d never traversed before. I followed my brethen’s nascent wake into the morn. Until it too went cold.
Together up to then, we were on our way to nowhere. So, in catching up, in following my instincts, finding no purchase upon their collective trail, I assumed the worst. Killed. No bones. No booms. Consumed, then, by a cousin. Prey to a larger pack of killers.
So I outlived my pack. Forsaken by fate. Every cub’s first nightmare. But no, perhaps not. As I venture now through the trees, hunting lonesome, straggling prey to match my own past and present countenance, eating only what I need and making for a hellish pace, padding only where thou may — ‘thou’ as the harsh fate and folly of time’s wayward work… I embody other struggles. As I make my way through this forest, I now come to sniff upon the buds of possibilities.
They fell a different way. Their earlier instincts led them down a disparate path, one so separate from my own tracking sensibilities as to lose me forever within the trail they blazed. As the day’s rays shed onto me even now, loping through the uneven shade of the elders, I understand the workings of fate’s casting. Or, I believe I do.
With such singularity, formerly of a pack’s cohesive collective wayfaring through the icy grips of death among all these leaves and branchwork and towering spectres of the cycles, there comes disconcert. A modicum of disorder within the wider chaos means death for all that chain themselves to such organized projects. Hunting, playing, mating as one. Any outsider brings with them a bridge not over, but into abyss. With such stark disparity within our instincts — my own versus my pack’s — comes this understanding of fate’s deal to a wanderer such as me.
A wanderer upon the rim, outside of the consistency of center that any long-lived pack’s need, beyond the fringe of the medicine that an alpha must become capable of conjuring in the dire hour.
Not fit for a pack. But aware of my lackings, accepting of the eventuality. And yet, on this lone path, still urged to drift and watch and hunt and patiently put at play that which illustrates my species’ theses. So I am a wolf. But I am also something different.
And now comes the plaguing question. The one that should not deliver me such pains as it does, considering my acknowledgment of everything else… yet very much does.
Were they conscious of their abandoning procession? Did they, down to a rising mane upon the spine, know that they left me? Or was it merely the world’s turning as it may, the purest play of instincts upon the arbor, the natural outcome of our disparity, the only endgame that this life in these woods was ever going to offer me…
Could it have gone any other way?
I do not know.
Over my final season now, as I haunt the tangles upon this floor, nose down and eyes up, teeth bared for foes around every frosted corner, ever-searching for their trail to spell the minutia between the solitary hunts, I wonder such worries as I wander. ~