So this is a piece of flash fiction I wrote for Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction writing competition. I discovered he ran competitions when me and some Star Wars nerds were geeking out about the release of his new book Aftermath: Empire’s End… which you can find on his blog, terribleminds.com, along with, warning, possible spoilers.
Anyway, I found an interesting competition. So, here’s my entry, with the title created by the user powerjacob. Hope you enjoy.
(Picture from Pintrest. Description: Two wolves meet face to face.)
Wolves of Sorrow
His mother was named Sorrow, and she’d asked his siblings to kill him. The survivor of the battle would lead the pack, the losers would die.
The pups had been given similar non-names. His was Fear and he hated it, if only because it felt like a self-fulfilling prophecy. He hid in the dark forest, afraid his once-littermates would catch up. His brother, Anger, much stronger than he was, could easily overpower him, but even he was often outmatched by their sister, Hate.
Fear hated Hate. He hated that she thought becoming leader was her right. Fear didn’t much want this title – didn’t believe she should get it either.
He sniffed quickly into the depths of the dark forest to check she wasn’t stalking him right now.
Hate hated everyone, including her brothers, – unless they worked with her. Or needed her.
Once Hate had even helped Fear, back when they were just learning to hunt, and a pack known only as the Others had attempted to invade their pack’s territory. Hate- seeing Fear cowering back as the attackers snarled through the forest, disrupting hunting parties and battling pack members – had gathered some of their strongest wolves and lashed out, eventually driving them away. Hate had saved them that day, and she never let anyone forget it.
Fear had heard they were trying to get to their mother, to kill the pack’s leader so it would crumble and submit. Sorrow would have been in her den- as always, mourning over the sister they never got to see alive. She had died, a couple of months old, the day that the milky blue haze vanished from the pups’ eyes and they stopped drinking their mother’s milk. Sorrow had searched for her in the swirling blizzard of the harshest winter, to no avail. Suffering- as they named her later – was gone.
Their mother also chose a new name that day and blamed herself for letting her smallest pup out of sight. Her three remaining pups were also renamed.
She mourned every day, alone. Sometimes she would say that she was Suffering, in solidarity with the pup who had died. The pack still recognised her as leader, but not any longer. Feeling that no-one could help her, she’d grown sick and unable to hunt. Other wolves had brought her prey which she’d turned down. Finally she’d given up. Now Sorrow, too, was dying.
Hate hated that their mother wasn’t with them enough, hadn’t been strong enough to fight off her new namesake. Anger was angry that she seemed to waste away on her own, not accepting help nor helping herself out of her situation. Fear was afraid that whatever fate had befallen Suffering would happen to them. And he was equally scared that this fate wasn’t limited to dying in a furious, blinding snowstorm.
He’d heard rumours. ‘Lies’, Anger had called them. ‘Conspiracies,’ Hate had hissed, but they were there. Some wolves had been positive they had seen a young pup being carried off into the mist of the night. They said Suffering hadn’t died – she’d been stolen by the Others. Either way, he shuddered at the thought.
Fear’s ears pinpointed the crack of a twig in the gloom. An attacker- behind him? He spun, coming nose-to-nose with the dusky yellow eyes of Anger.
“You!” he yowled, teeth bared to bite. “Hiding away like the wimpy little pup you are.” Without warning, Anger slashed a paw over Fear’s head, following with a sharp bite to his brother’s cheek. Fear tried his usual battle tactic- to get away as fast as possible, but Anger had already grabbed him by the shoulders and was trying to force him to the ground. Too weakly, Fear tried to snap at his brother’s front legs that held him, and succeeded in giving his shoulder a nasty bite.
“That all you got?” Anger shoved Fear to the ground, attempting to snap out his throat. Fear instinctively raked his back legs along Anger’s underbelly, making him yowl out in pain but even more determined to finish the job.
Anger, injured and enraged, knocked Fear aside. He collapsed, the pain overwhelming him. He could hear heavy breathing, both his brother’s and his own.
“Weakling,” Anger growled, his battle-wounds throbbing blood even as he heaved himself up and made towards the broken body of the wolf cub Fear. “You don’t deserve to lead… nor to live.”
Fear’s head throbbed, yet he thought he could hear something in the distance that wasn’t the rushing of his own blood or the pounding of his heart. Like pawsteps in the leaves. A whisper of a snarl.
“You both deserve nothing.” It was Hate, her tail swishing low, preparing to pounce.
And yet there was another crackle in the forest. Fear tried to locate it, dropping his guard as Hate ran at him, biting into his powerless body, leaping away to finish Anger. Fear’s mind clouded over as the mysterious thing in the forest came closer.
“Stop!” A cry from the darkness. Hate let go of Anger, turned to Fear. “What was that?”
“Whatever it is, it wants me to forgo my chance of victory!” growled Anger.
“Drive it out,” Hate rasped, even as it came close enough to scent- eventually, to see.
It was a wolf. Their height, their age… and possibly their strength. Fear inched his injured body back as she came near, scented her out.
He hadn’t smelt that scent since he was a pup.
“Suffering?” he breathed, though breathing hurt.
She had some of the scent of the Others, yet some instinct told Fear not to be afraid. Even though she too, would try to kill him.
The wolf laughed, a tinkling sound. “Suffering… no, I have been through too much. I now call myself Hope.”
Anger broke the stunned silence. “Don’t care. You’re too late.”
“If you are our sister…” Hate snarled, unable to believe. “Our mother, Sorrow, is dying. Because of you. Where were you when she needed you?”
Hate never gave anyone a chance to answer, and Suffering/Hope was no exception. She might have said, “Stolen” or “Freed”, but it was hard to tell amid the yowling of battle. Initially, Hope gave as good as she got, lithely sprinting away from Hate’s outstretched claws, dealing her own blows that sent Hate reeling. Anger tried to tear Hope off his sister, to which Hope slashed back at him, freeing herself but knocking him back to the ground.
Exhausted and gasping for life’s breath, the wolves of Sorrow broke apart and glared at each other. Hate’s yellow eyes gleamed with longing to destroy anyone who got in her way. Anger growled with frustration at the thought he might be the one to lose. Fear crouched in terror, hoping he could at least be banished and live the rest of his life alone, but alive. He wouldn’t last long but at least no-one would call him a coward as he died.
But Hope – she stood, staring at them all, and wondering if they had suffered too much to be helped. If she had been away too long and could do nothing.
Who would lead the pack?