Family is a word that invokes warm feelings, such as comfort, safety and caring for one another. Family is the wrong word to describe the Veld Phalanx. This large war-based pack of Mexican Grey Wolves with conquering all territories in mind was the ‘family’ in question. Located somewhere in Mid-America, they are ruthless, and in their twisted and malignant eyes, power only comes from the males of their species. Females are treated terribly, used purely for breeding purposes. They are not even allowed names, simply given letters as a feeble moniker. This is also the case with the young, whose names are their mother’s letters and a number. However, wolves in this clan are given full names when they come of age through a ceremony. Hunting. Wolves hunt for food such as rabbits and deer, which become easy prey after a while. A wolf in this clan can only earn their name after they manage to kill the hardest prey of all. Their fellow brethren.
Just over three years ago, one of the breeding mothers with the given name ‘F’ was giving birth to her third set of pups. She had four in this litter, named F11 through 14. She was able to personally care for them for up to 3 months, until they were snatched away from her. But this no longer fazed her. She had been through the strife twice, and she knew it was bound to happen again. Most pups wouldn’t be able to remember their mother at that age, but as they were being taken away, one of them looked back, and never forgot the face of his mother. He never forgot the silent pain in her eyes, watching her pups being stolen from her. This pup was her twelfth, F12.
F12 grew up to be relatively strong and fast, and could have easily been a part of the main pack. However, he had a different outlook. He didn’t see what the clan was doing as great or powerful, he saw it as treacherous and evil. He did not think to keep these ideas to himself and quite often he would talk about his feelings with his sister F11. Then someone finally overheard them. When the hunting ceremony came around, F11 and F12 were chosen as the prey. They would have to outrun all the wolves their age, all thirsty for their blood. No ceremonial prey had ever escaped.
The day of the hunt arrived, pouring down with rain, matting the wolves’ fur to their skin. As F12 and his sister were being dragged to the starting point, F12 saw an elderly mother in the distance. He recognised her eyes, full of silent pain. He tried calling out to her, but the mother did not respond. She just stared, immune to the knowledge that her fellow species was travelling towards their death. The two traitors were held, ready to release. A few seconds of quiet. Rain drumming on the ground. Visible breathing in the cold. The rustling of trees.
As the leader’s howls pierced the silence, F11 and F12 were released and starting sprinting for their lives. They had only a few moments to run before the chase began. Heading straight for the forest, they weaved in and out of the trees, low branches cutting their legs and bodies and mud coating their undercarriages. F12 looked over to his sister, who had tears streaming as she ran. He wanted to comfort her, but he didn’t know how.
Then they heard another howl. Stopping for a moment, they waited and listened. Aside from the sounds of a large amount of young wolves starting from behind them, there was also an ominous rumbling from in front of them. Willing to take a risk on what lay ahead, they continued running.
A few more minutes passed. The rain fell harder and the wind swept more powerfully. They were struggling to keep their eyes open as the drops battered their faces. Suddenly, a snarling wolf leaped at them from the brush, baring its teeth. The duo dodged its attack as it landed in the scratching earth face-first. They looked back briefly to see many of their once pack mates gaining on them. The first attacker finally raised its head, now covered in bleeding cuts and glared at them with pure hatred in its eyes. They took this as a sign to continue running, now faster than before.
As they continued, more, seemingly endless, attacks were dodged and weaved. Suddenly a large crack was heard. Lightning struck a treetop above the chase, illuminating the area. F12 noticed a smouldering branch fall to the ground a bit away from them. Another crack of lightning blinded the two wolves for a moment. As F12 slowly regained vision, he opened his eyes to see fire. And it was spreading fast. He looked back to see some of the hunters turning away, frantically running from this natural disaster. But one figure remained. He continued to give chase, even through all the burning trees and lightning. He was determined that F11 and F12 were going to die.
The fire kept spreading until the whole forest was a flurry of red and orange. Whole trees were falling around the chase; smoke filling the wolves’ lungs and embers singeing their fur. The final hunter had not let up one bit. He kept gaining on them, and was now close enough that F12 could recognise him. His brother, F13. F13 reached a prime point of attack and leapt once more. His teeth snapped shut on F11’s tail, yanking her to a sudden stop as she fell to the ground. F12 managed to stop ahead and looked back at his brother and sister, scrambling and scratching at each other. A lashing of blood was seen in the chaos of snapping teeth and flailing limbs. F12 shouted out to his sister and started running back to save her, but another shard of lightning struck a tree above them. F12 recoiled at the blast. The brother towered over his unmoving sister. F12 screamed for revenge. The tree began to fall. Everything came crashing down.
The storm had subsided as dawn broke the next day. F12 walked out from amongst the trees. His fur was scuffed and burnt, his lungs were in constant pain as he coughed up blood and his voice was permanently damaged from the smoke. But worst affected was his mind, and how it was never going to be the same after witnessing the horrors he now had to call his ‘life’.
This didn’t feel like freedom.