Once upon a time there lived a wolf cub called Arrow. Arrow was a fine example of a bitch and had activated a very easy naming process on account of her having one green and one brown eye. Her green eye was her right eye and it had a small fleck of dark grey in it shaped like a tiny slice of pizza laid at eleven o’clock, which shot as straight as an arrow to her iris.
She was mostly white and light grey, with a small saddle of flecked charcoal fur that grew longer and coarser along her shoulders. She scratched at anything scratch-able at this stage, as she honed her skills and put her life lessons to the test with her slightly grubby but lion-like paws and ever-sharpening baby-white teeth.
At nine weeks she began to surface from the den to investigate the surrounding area, ensuring she stayed close to the exit whilst sniffing and tumbling around in the crisp spring air. She gazed through the tiny particles of lavender and pollen that caught the light like a disco ball throwing sun beams at the insects who drunkenly dance back and forth to their local flowering holes.
As Arrow played with her brothers, she noticed that they were starting to get bigger pieces of food. She realised quite quickly that she would have to find a new way of beating them in competition.
She decided to lie.
One late Summer morning, Arrow was following her three brothers and her Mum on their usual morning scout. Jet was the alpha “mum” of the pack and was covered head to toe in thick black fur which lent itself kindly to her obvious name. Arrow on the other hand, was busy trotting along in a world of her own as usual.
This day was different.
This day she spotted what looked like a young deer out on the ridge beyond the trees which were thick and offset running up the hill to her left. She managed to quench her instincts, and instead of alerting the others as she would normally, she waited, keeping the ignorant deer to her left as she trotted along casually, taking care to keep her peripheral vision locked-on to her target.
She knew she was too young to do anything about this delicious morsel, but she also knew that she had to try something different to have any chance of getting a greater reward.
After several moments she’d decided what to do.
Arrow dashed through the tall grass and hopped up onto a rock which was standing near to the plateaux of the hill they were ascending, and she signalled to her brothers that there was indeed some prey, but she told them, it was in the opposite direction entirely.
Two of her brothers tore off immediately, too old to not take the chance but too young to know any better. Her oldest brother, wiser and full grown was a fine beast indeed. He had a black hood, which covered the top of him like a black coat which stopped short, and his undercarriage, was pure white, so that half of him was black as Jet, and half of him was white as snow. He waited a moment in his wisdom, detecting something, but unsure of exactly what… and looked across at Arrow with confusion. Giving a sigh, he raced away after his two brothers. Having been a little ahead, Jet sprung lightly back around the corner to see what all the fuss was about.
Arrow had laid the lie. Now the numbers were distributed in her favour, and she also knew that the skill of Jet would find and kill the deer without a problem. Her superior hunting skills were on permanent alert, and Jet had already noticed the deer and was looking over in that direction. Jet smelled the air with renewed interest.
She made a start up the hill and Arrow followed eagerly, ensuring to use her mother’s light foot prints. As they scampered together quietly through the wind and trees, she knew that Jet had more work to do, but that she would succeed.
Jet led the attack, keen for her daughter to learn from her own prowess and years of experience.
She waited, lowering her heart rate… not too long… and pounced.
Only way to be sure.
Jet slowly let her weight sink to the floor and allowed her teeth to settle in their new found home.
Arrow crept forward bashfully, completely unable to control her Romulus roots and began sniffing and pawing at the meal which slouched in front of her. She started the preparations. Time was short. She made an initial hole with her young canines and started working around it, nibbling and twisting off as many large chunks of crimson flesh as her stained face could devour.
Jet snapped at her daughter.
She knew Arrow was young, but this meal was for her family.
Arrow cheekily stole three more mouthfuls before her rather tired brothers appeared panting very suddenly from around the brow of the hill through the trees. They instantly joined in the meal, and looked up nervously for competition and threats as they took it in turns have their fill.
Arrow didn’t stand a chance. She’d had as much as she was going to get now that these bigger brothers were throwing their weight around. It didn’t matter. She’d had more today than she’d ever had before. She’d learned how to manipulate, and how to maximise her own survival.
Over the following months she began to employ this tactic whenever she saw the chance. She began to rely on it, and every time her brothers believed her. She also learned to mix *mistaken* identities with genuine prey spotting, to back up her convincing acting. She began to see it as fun, and she got addicted to the game.
As spring arrived again, Arrow turned a year old and was now well-practised in her new skills. She went out once again for the morning scout with her family as a humid mist lay heavily across the valley at the back of tree hill. This morning was different. This morning was a gift.
“What was that?”
Through the heavy and thick forest she was sure she heard a whimper. This was an injured deer.
She laid the trap to the brothers as before and they scampered away as eagerly as ever they had done.
Today was indeed very different. Jet went too.
Arrow had to improvise. She paused after her lie was laid and tried to think of how to extend the plan. It was okay wasn’t it? This was an injured deer, she was sure of it. She could handle this herself, couldn’t she?
Excited, she waited for Jet to escape from view into the dark gloom across the valley floor and Arrow darted deftly up through the mist into the jagged treeline ahead that lay in the opposite direction to her family. Her nose was on super alert and her shoulders carefully and easily pointed her paws into the quiet pockets of the forest floor. Her heart was racing, pumping at the thrill of her imminent reward and feeding off the success of the lie.
She let down her guard. She got greedy.
Arrow danced over the last two stones and leaped across to a fallen tree trunk which was laying a little from the ground covered in leaves. She stalked her way down the length of it, aware now that she was downwind of her prey. Leaning forward cautiously, she peered through the leaves, took one more step, and the trunk suddenly crumbled and she lost her footing. She fell only a couple of feet but it was awkward and she landed fast and hard on her hip, and she yelped aloud in a shock of pain as a sharp rock dug into her young hind-quarters.
She cried. This was the first time in her life that she had felt real pain. She instantly tried to leap to her feet but yelped a second time as she couldn’t move her back-right leg.
Then it happened.
She heard the snap of a stick. It was near. She looked behind her, and her multi-coloured eyes trained quickly and sharply onto the mysterious shapes looming in the murky light.
A small black circle appeared, and then she heard a loud bang.
She had no idea what hit her.
Arrow didn’t feel the man lift her slumped body over his shoulder, and didn’t know of any of the long journey back to his cabin. She had absolutely no idea that she was to lay for the next twenty years, on the wooden slats of flooring directly in front of his log fire.
She didn’t know either, that her brothers and Jet had come back and looked for her long into the evening, and that they had followed her scent and howled after her through the late night air.
Arrow had been young, and didn’t understand the game she had tried to play. She had found the whole thing fun and had got carried away as she had succeeded for a time.
She couldn’t have known that liars always get found out.
She also couldn’t have known that her brothers had found a dead bear carcass not far from where she had directed them to.
The cabin had belonged to a hunter named Jack, who had kept six deer heads mounted high on his cabin wall, and he was a mean shot with a rifle, a scope and a bullet.
Years later on a cold autumn evening, Jack sat entertaining his brother. Tom had come to stay for a few months to make the most of the new hunting season. Arrow lay in her usual spot, sprawled silently in front of the roaring fire, which in turn heated two large glasses of bourbon held in two elephant-skinned hands.
Jack gave a long sigh.
“Y’know Tom… I remember this little thing as it fell off that trunk and landed in my sights…”
Jack tilted his half-empty glass down towards Arrow whilst he shuffled his crossed-feet through the fur on her charcoal saddled back…
“I was tracking a different Wolf up there that day… The finest looking beast you ever did see. I couldn’t miss him, he was covered with a long Jet black coat, but was as pure white as snow underneath. He led me straight to her. Then… he just vanished. It was as if he knew where she was and delivered me right to her doorstep…”
“You don’t say… Well I’ll be…” marvelled Tom.
They both paused to add another sip of bourbon to their bellies.
“The strangest thing though Tom…”
“I found that same wolf a few years later… exact same markings… over by the creek. I couldn’t shoot him, he was so beautiful. He followed me back here. Now he helps me hunt if and when he shows up…”
“I called him… Karma”.
They both nodded in acknowledgement and took another sip of warm bourbon.
This was a short story by Ryan Mitchell-Smith. All characters are fictional. Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.