Fit For Fire

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The Currents of Change


Adeline

Wincing, I tried to stop the world from spinning so I could examine how bad my wound was. The arrow had pierced the upper half of my hind leg, its sharp and bloody tip peeked out at me as I attempted to lift it. Catching the arrow mid-air it had gone straight through. At least the tip isn’t still stuck in me, I thought, reaching for the silver lining through the panic and pain. Your leg has been impaled by an arrow! I screamed at myself ,There is no real silver lining to that. The sound of twigs cracking and footsteps sounding from somewhere above me, muted my inner dialogue. The hunter was still up there, and if he had seen me well enough to shoot me, he would know I was down here.

Looking around I realized that I was almost completely exposed in my current position. The hunter could see all or part of me and he would know I was injured and still very much alive. Attempting to pull myself back up, my whole body urged me to lay back down. Finally managing to stand, I noticed blood dripping from my underbelly, and from my current stance I could see the top of a nasty gash that I must have acquired during the fall. My ears perked up when I heard a soft ‘click’ somewhere overhead, and my wolf urged me forward. Letting her take over, the adrenaline of being hunted coursed through me granting me the ability to move.

Tucking my ears and staying low, I moved as quickly and quietly as I could, dragging my injured leg beneath me. I was aware that I was leaving a trail of blood behind me, but that didn’t matter now. I needed to put distance between that hunter and myself. I needed time for the others to find and hopefully rescue me. The bottom of the ravine curved before me, the incline getting slightly steeper as I realized that the ravine was most likely a path for water to make its way down the mountain during the rainy season. Low trees and shrubs grew from the steep walls and on the rocky floor around me, offering me cover from the hunter.

Turning my eyes skywards I scanned the canopy of leaves overhead for any sudden movements. The action made my head spin. Closing my eyes tight, I tried to shake my head clear of the fog that was taking over. I needed to find a safe place. Looking up again, I saw nothing, and sniffing the air,the most prominent scent was the smell of my own blood. Hobbling forward, I caught the scent of something else. Something closer, the smell of urine. Remembering that I had smelt that right before I had gone over the edge and been shot, I growled. A twig snapped somewhere behind me and I took off, half running, trying to dodge the rocks and branches that littered the ground in front of me. My injured leg hit the outcropping of a branch and I whined in pain as I limped forward.

The pain was becoming unbearable, and all my body wanted was to lay down. My eyes were heavy and sleep sounded amazing compared to this torture. Looking behind me, I saw the trail of blood I was creating was much bigger than I had originally thought. Stopping, I noticed my white underbelly was stained pink from my still weeping wound. Knowing the fatigue was caused by pain and blood loss, I tried to keep myself calm, trying to avoid going into shock. Somewhere in the distance, I heard gunfire and howling. Hoping this meant that Jeremy had sent for back up, I tried to convince myself that they would find me soon.

The tiny sound of a beating heart and the sound of scurrying feet sounded somewhere in front of me. A rabbit bound from one bush to another, and I watched as it startled a nest of sleeping birds. It continued to run forward, moving the bushes and leaves as it ran. Poor thing was probably running from me. Although I enjoyed a good chase from time to time, my mind was solely on the hunter at the moment. The rabbit made it about 20 feet from me, when an arrow whizzed from above and into the bush the rabbit had been occupying. Staying perfectly still, I realized the hunter was still above me, and his vision, impaired by the tops of the short, gnarled trees had led him to believe that I had caused the movement in the bushes. A few seconds later, a terrified rabbit ran from the bush, and the sound of footsteps above me meant that the hunter gave chase.

Moving slowly now, I tried to stay behind and make as little noise as possible, hoping the rabbit would draw the hunter far away from here. Thunder roared overhead, and trying to look up at the sky again, I began to realize that the growing shadows had been caused by storm clouds and not my impaired senses. Still walking, I prayed it wouldn’t rain. Starting to feel safe, my wolf started to relinquish control. Feeling my body shake from the pain, I let my mind wander, trying to block it out. The first thing I thought of was Zach. My wolf yearned for him. ‘He’ll protect us.’ She stated, confident that he would find and save us. I wasn’t sure how she could be so sure of that. We barely knew him. Why would he care about the loss of some rogue? If the hunter got me, he might be relieved. One less threat for him to worry about. Angry growling rang through my head, making me wince. My wolf fought for control again, wanting me to submit to instinct, urging me to let it take me, promising me that once it did I would understand. Shaking my head I fought for control. I needed to resist her. My wolf had been a large part of me after my first shift, but as I got older, I began to suppress her and she had begun to grow more quiet. It wasn’t natural what I was, and despite her presence I often felt alone.

My eyelids grew heavier and my breathing grew deeper, I was literally falling asleep while walking. Noticing a fallen tree propped up by large boulders, I made my way to it. Although the tree was now more of a log, it’s roots still clung to the dirt on the more shallow side of the ravine. The roots were massive, and the boulder it had fallen on propped it up just enough for me to crawl under. Dropping to my stomach, I whimpered as I dragged my bleeding torso and arrow ridden leg under the roots. Once making it, I curled myself up as tightly as I could to make sure I was completely sheltered by the roots. I tried to lick the blood from my stomach, and making sure my left leg was underneath me, I did all I could to avoid snagging the arrow on anything. Another wave of pain shook me, and laying my head down, my eyes began to close. My wolf whimpered, reminding me that she was here, that I was not alone, and I missed her. I thought of her even as I succumbed to the darkness, and my conscious thoughts were no more.

***

My eyes snapped open, and a shaky hand wiped the sweat from my forehead as I pulled myself into a sitting position. Shoving the covers away from me I gasped, feeling like I desperately needed fresh air. My room was dark, and the house quiet as its inhabitants slumbered. My window pane was decorated with delicate patterns made from tiny, glimmering crystals. Little puffs of snow drifted from the heavens and blanketed the world outside. It would undoubtedly be cold but I had an overwhelming urge to be part of it. Blindly, I followed the urge.

I crept down the stairs on unsteady legs, and out the back door. Stepping out into the snow barefoot, and in my night clothes, I journeyed through the trees behind the house. I walked until the house was no longer visible behind me. I was drawn to where a beautiful full moon was reflected on an untouched hill of pure white snow. I walked to it, ignoring the burning of the cold on my bare feet, as I had wanted, no, needed to bath in the golden glow.

Reaching the hill, a sharp pain in the middle of my spine had brought me to my knees. I was momentarily distracted by the frigid chill that bit through the wet knees of my pants before acid burned through my veins.Clutching my stomach I yelled out, as my skin burned so badly I wanted to rip it off. Writhing in the snow, I prayed for it to cool down the insatiable fire that burned within me. As the feeling grew more intense, it was soon coupled by the uncontrollable popping and shifting of my body. It felt like it had gone on forever when suddenly, it stopped.

Opening my eyes, I realized I was no longer cold. Getting up from where I had been laying in the snow, the moonlight felt like a comforting hand on my face, and somewhere in my heart, a silken voice, had said ‘You’re so beautiful’. The voice had resonated deep inside of me, it was familiar and for a moment it felt like a stolen memory had been returned to me. A ghost that had always haunted me that I was just hearing for the first time.

Something about it made me want to cry out. I wanted to pour all the pain and longing that voice had brought on out of me and into the world. Opening my mouth to cry, I had been startled when a long and beautiful howl left my lips. It echoed loudly on this peaceful night, the mournful song of loss and longing, of unknown love and abandonment.

I was scared, I was confused, but a new voice, more like a new feeling filled my head. A feeling of comfort and guidance, telling me I would never truly be alone again. It urged me to run, it wanted to feel the snow under its paws. I ran, only stopping when I heard a howl from somewhere off in the distance. One that answered my call, mirroring my pain. One that promised my song hadn’t gone unheard, that I was not forgotten.

***

Something cool and wet caressed my fur, and for a moment I thought it was the snow melting underneath me. My ears twitched when the pounding of thousands of tiny drums jerked my eyes open. Looking around anxiously, I realized the drums I had heard was the pounding of the rain on the surface of the small river that was forming around me. Lifting my head, I saw the water had almost covered my snout, and my limbs felt numb and cold beneath me. Attempting to get up, crimson clouds surrounded me in the water, and in a moment of horror I realized I was still bleeding. Not wanting to leave the safety of the log, I knew I had no choice as soon, the water would rise over my head if I didn’t reach higher ground. Dragging myself out from under the log, I dragged my bad leg behind me weakly as I followed the water.

The storm was in full force around me. It was hard to see in front of me, and the rain beat roughly against my back, trying to pound me back into the earth and underneath the water. I slowly trudged down the ravine, looking for somewhere to climb up the walls around me. Wearily looking over the area, I must have walked for ten minutes before I found it.

The left wall of the ravine had grown shallow, a littering of rocks ran against it. Giving me foot and hand holds in the muddy wall. Walking up to it, I began to think about how much easier it would be for me to climb with hands and feet. Opposable thumbs seemed pretty nifty about now. Thinking about shifting I looked back at my leg. My human thigh was a bit thicker than my wolf one was. Would the arrow rip through the muscle, worsening the injury, or would the tip become lost in my human thigh? Sighing, I noticed the water was now tickling my chest, and the waters had begun to form a fast moving current. Whatever I was going to do, I needed to do fast. Deciding that the risk of shifting wasn’t as bad as the risk of drowning, I closed my eyes and tried to change back. I felt the change start, but then it just fizzled out. Frustrated, I tried again. This time even less happened.

No! If I could have cried I would have. I was stuck and just attempting to shift had drained me. I guess I should have seen this coming. I had shifted more times these past couple of weeks than in the past few months. Suppressing my wolf to try to assimilate daily to a human life meant infrequent and long waiting periods between shifts. As a result I had lost touch with my wolf. It seems as though I had also lost control. She growled at me, urging me to stay a wolf, wanting to be heard. She wasn’t stopping me from shifting, but she was reminding me that ignoring my true nature, and blocking her out for so long had caused this. Growling at her and myself, I shrugged it off. It was stupid of me to attempt shifting anyways.

Pulling myself from the water, I started to scale the hill in front of me. It took almost all I had to reach the first rock. Panting heavily, I rested. My legs were already thickly coated with dark, sticky mud. After giving myself a few minutes, I started dragging myself towards the rock that was positioned diagonally across from me and slightly higher up. My paws sank into the mud deeply, the hill trying to swallow me whole. I barely made it to the second rock. Stretching myself up to try to get closer to the next rock, I felt the wound on my stomach stretch painfully as it opened a little farther. Trying to launch myself up with my left leg I shoved my paws into the hillside, desperately trying to keep my place. Sliding down a little ways I whimpered , just wanting to give up. I was in the most pain I could ever remember being in, excluding my first shift. I was losing more blood by the second, I had an arrow sticking out of my leg and I was fighting to get back to a pack that was holding me prisoner. If there was ever a time to give up, it felt like now. However, no matter how bad everything felt, I still really didn’t want to die.

Trying to pull myself up again, a loud and angry howl broke through the ever constant roar of the rain. Stopping I listened, touched by the anguish and determination in it. My wolf was practically howling in my head. A few seconds later, a chorus of howls followed, answering the call of the first, offering support. An image of Zach filled my head and my wolf flooded me with the want, the primordial instinct to be loved and belong, and without fully realizing what I was doing, I had thrown my head back and howled, calling for my brothers and sisters, calling for help, letting whoever was listening know I was alive, but I couldn’t hold on much longer.

Pulling myself up again I shut everything out as I slammed my back left leg into the mud. Now that I was rooted in place, I started to work my top paws out from the earth’s concrete like hold. Once out, I stretched as high as I could go before sinking my paws back into the mud. Working my bottom paw out I worked my bottom half up as far as I could before sinking my back foot into the mud and starting all over. I continued this process, ignoring the resistance from my war worn form, slowly inching my way up the hill like a drowned caterpillar. Reaching the third rock I rested, thankful no one was here to witness this as I imagined I looked incredibly pathetic. Before I reached the fourth rock, I heard another loud howl, a closer one. Howling in response, I winced at the sound of my raspy and somewhat muted voice. Reaching the fourth rock, I realized my good leg was starting to go numb again and looking down, I saw that inch-worming up the hill had caused the gash in my belly to go from a drizzle to a gush.

Looking behind me, I saw that the water had covered the first rock and was halfway covering the second. What was once a puddle was becoming a raging river. Turning my attention back to the task at hand, I pulled my way up to the last and final rock. Using that rock to hoist myself up the rest of the distance, I finally found myself back on higher ground. Dragging myself away from the edge, I limped to the nearest tree, collapsing under its branches.

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