Spreading It Thin
Robert returns to the den and finds the pack waiting for him. Shauna has arrived from her trip over the mountains to the west, and the tale she recounts is the most harrowing of anyone’s. The wolves are shaken by the tale of humans laying siege to the town, killing over territory.
“And now Robert, what news?” Lark asks, after each of them have had a chance to digest Shauna’s report.
Robert tells the story of the jogger, the people in the truck, and the two who rode away toward the Flat Mountain Ponds. By the absence of its chopping din, it is clear the flying beast has been still for several moments.
“We’ve learned where they’ve been hiding, and the extent of their brutality. Whatever these humans are up to,” Lark says, “they’re closing off all the routes from the valley, not just the road.”
“We know they brought in a tanker for their rolling machines, so they mean to keep control for awhile,” says Wheat.
“But for how long can they maintain this without supplies?” Shauna asks.
“That’s a good observation,” says Lark. “They’re setting up bases in every pass. I propose we do the same.”
The wolves look at each other. “What?” Wheat asks. “Sorry, Lark, but aren’t we spreading ourselves thin?”
“We’ll need to eat, and rest, and figure out how to intervene against these men,” Lark says. “We can’t do all three from here.”
Wheat speaks up. “Lark, I’m with you, no matter what, but it seems these people are only acting against other humans. Is it our place to get involved?”
Lark looks at all of them. He knows this feeling is popular among the pack. In fact, he isn’t convinced that wolves have any business bothering to thwart the humans.
“Do you remember the tales of what it was like before this town was peaceful?” Lark asks. “Men were here to cut down every tree and build their long stretches of steel through the mountains.”
“We know it was like this, Lark,” says Wheat. “Those men tore out the woods. By all accounts, the place was a wasteland. But our kind survived that. We’ll survive this.”
“We almost didn’t survive that,” Marcella says. She steps down from the ledge just above the entrance to the den. “Tis true those men took to the woods to build their smoke-belching machines and clog the rivers with trees, but their firesticks were turned on our fathers. Our survival depended on retreat. Hiding. Like dogs, not wolves. We are not dogs. Are you?”
Wheat backs away at this. “No. I suppose not.”
Marcella stands before the pack. “What’s going on down there has never happened in our lifetimes, but it has happened. As surely as these men have turned their weapons on each other, they’ll begin to notice us. And our comrades.”
As if on cue, the pack can hear the crack of a firestick somewhere in the distance. Then another.
“If there is a time to stop these humans, it is now,” says Lark. “Shauna, your recollection is still fresh, and should be heard by the packs outside the valley. Go to the settlement beyond Flat Mountain. If the humans are headed that way, that may be how they plan to keep themselves stocked. Set up a den and get some rest. Wheat, join her.”
Wheat lowers his head at this. “Got it, Lark,” he says.
“The rest of us will rest here and set out tonight. We are spreading our pack thin. But so are they. Their success relies on a network, a supply line, and constant communication. We know how to do that. Better than they do.”
The wolves nod and consider Lark’s plan. This is the first time he has led the pack through a crisis. It seems possible that his plan may escalate the situation for them, or it may be the best course of action to resolve it.
There is no way to know. It seems the only way out of this, is through it.