**contains scenes of explicit sexuality and language**
KRISTINA, CHILDHOOD MEMORIES
Shifters once roamed in vast numbers, free of persecution and left to live their lives freely, alongside humans. One day, all of that changed for reasons still unknown to shifters when the humans turned on us and attacked, slaughtering shifters by the thousands world-wide. They were indiscriminate, they didn’t care what species they killed, they fought with a single goal in mind: elimination. Since those days so long ago, shifters have been forced to live in hiding, keeping our true selves a secret in order to survive.
“Or so the story goes”, my she-wolf Bella inputs. I have to agree – I’ve been listening to the story for so long and have heard it so many times, it has almost lost meaning at this point. Almost. My pack has lived its’ life based on the original legend since its’ inception and many take it as gospel. We live extremely remotely – humans don’t even hike through this part of the countryside it’s so treacherous to reach so we’ve been alone for years. The most recent ‘sighting’ was nearly two decades ago several hundreds of kilometers south of our home camp – some lost hikers on the extreme periphery of our territory. Some helpful directions got them back on track and we’ve been alone ever since, just as everyone prefers it. Fairly sure if I went to apply for school, a driver’s license or… anything I’d be shit out of luck because I don’t currently exist in any government database because my birth was never registered. None of ours out here were – again, just as the pack prefers it.
But with anonymity comes freedom.
While that sounds great and it is – it’s only wonderful to a degree. It also depends on your definition of both great and freedom because if you’re a male in our pack it means a lot different things than if you’re a female. As a female – there are very few freedoms, despite what we’re led to believe.
Because we only have freedom from the government – we don’t have freedom from ourselves. Within our own pack we have our leadership and they’re the ones in charge, so even here we have rules to follow, roles to fill, obligations to fulfill. The higher up in the pack you are, the more freedoms you have. The lower down you are, the less you have.
It is even worst if you’re a woman.
Women exist for one reason and one reason only – to procreate.
We are our vaginas and beyond their entertainment and reproductive value – we are nothing in this pack. Once a she-wolf reaches the age where she can no longer have pups, the men categorically dismiss her as useless – practically garbage. They would be left to starve to death if the remaining women didn’t sacrifice their own portions to ensure they got something to eat.
I am grateful for one thing in this nightmare that is our pack family – the women aren’t shared. I know that happens in other packs because they believe it increases genetic diversity but our pack disagrees. We very carefully follow our lineages to ensure there is enough generations between family couplings to prevent inbreeding which we believe makes for stronger wolves. Because of this – couples are pre-arranged at birth so we grow up knowing who our life partner is. True love has nothing to do with it and on the off-chance someone in the pack is your true bond mate – you can plead to the elders to be an exception to the arranged couplings but in our history that has never been successful. In both of those cases the true bond mates were forced to reject one another and couple with the ones pre-selected for them, simply because genetically it was determined to be the best thing for the pack.
Freedom comes with a high price tag.
My destined is Lincoln Larson. Lincoln is three years older than I am and has been impatiently waiting for my eighteenth birthday. The day I turn eighteen we won’t have a birthday party, instead there will be a large celebration for the entire pack to participate in because I’ll be not only turning eighteen – I’ll be ‘becoming’ a full she-wolf. As an adult, I’ll be of age to accept my preselected partner, Lincoln and we’ll be ‘wed’ on the spot.
Odds are, I’ll be pregnant before the day is over.
This is the way it has been done for generations of she-wolves in our pack and will continue to be because it is successful – we’re still here, thriving without humankind being aware. That is all the proof the pack elders need to continue with their primitive and barbaric lifestyle of treating women as nothing more than breeders, as disgusting as it is. I hate my life – I hate everything about it. I hate how women are treated as incubators and are forced to endure pregnancy after pregnancy after pregnancy, until their bodies are ravaged by their traumas of repeated childbirths – usually multiples.
I hate that this is my future.
The woods surrounding me are beautiful, peaceful and serene. Mother Nature couldn’t shine any brighter than she does throughout the four seasons of change yet these past few years I haven’t seen the spectacular shades of yellows and reds in the fall, or her pinks and purples of spring – gilded indeed but bars of a cage, nonetheless.
I’m trapped in a life not of my own making and there is no way out. My future is laid before me and every day looks worst than the one before it – seventeen years old and all I feel is despair and hopelessness.
My birthday is just days away and instead of being excited about it or looking forward to it – my anxiety has my body so riddled with tight muscles I’m in agony. Not even Bella’s steady presence is enough to calm my nerves because she is just as upset as I am – when my life of freedom comes to an ‘end’, hers does as well. Bella believes in bond mates and has always dreamed of us finding ours, the likelihood of which is slim to none unless they’re already here in our pack. In our pack we’ve evolved to find our mate around the time we turn eighteen – late in life because we disregard it’s importance in the grand scheme of things.
Even if we do find our true bond mate, it doesn’t matter.