The wolf sniffed as she moved stealthily amid the rock huts. A hare was still gasping in her blood stained mouth. Her pup Luna led her through the rock lanes moving from one corner to another. They knew what the humans did to the intruders, especially if they had fangs and claws.
Not all humans are bad, she thought. Like not all wolves are bad. The boy who helped Luna get out of the iron cage proved her point. She was wary though, enough not to make as small a noise as her breath. Her hind legs stepped where her forelegs did, and she kept well away from the stones that shone red in the straw pits. She saw the red things eat wood whole, not leaving as much as a small bone. She heard the humans call them Fire.
“Here,” Luna whispered at the door of a hut, a dwarf even to the other huts. The wolf placed the hare gently at the door and stepped back. Not dead yet. She liked her kills fresh and their blood warm. A beautiful thing, she thought before turning back to the bushes. Most beautiful of all.
The boy woke up the next morning as he had on countless mornings before. The sun was not up yet but it would soon. Just the right time to catch some fish and pick some fresh mushroom before the other folk staked their claim. His father was still snoring like a giant bear but his mother lay still as if she was dead. Her bruises were fresh from last night. The father had beaten the boy too. “The wolf bitch escaped,” his father cried that entire day. He did not know what the boy did. For if he knew, the boy would have not risen at this time of the day.
The boy picked his sickle quietly and opened the door. He thought his father had shifted and stood affix for a moment, but he was only snoring. So he tucked the door gently behind and poured the oil in the lantern. As he turned the knob, the light fell on the white bundle sleeping at his door, it's milk white fur stained by blood. He let out a low shrill as his mother rushed out. She too jumped at the sight but her shriek was loud enough to make the father storm out.
The father's curses turned to mad cheers as he picked the hare and tossed it in the air. “For one moment in life you did a damn thing right,” the father kissed the boy. The boy looked in cofusion. Where did the hare come from? he wondered.
More hares lay at his door for other days. The father rejoiced those days while on the other he donned sullen faces. It was odd to find dead animals at one's door, but the father did not bat an eye. The boy did not know what his mother thought, for she became more and more cold these days. He would keep the stone window opened just enough for a ray of moon to seep in. He would keep a watch on the outside, so vigilant that a mere brush of leaves against themselves woke him up. He would watch and listen to them all. To the owls hooting in tree caves and even the bugs mating on tree barks. But no hare came to sleep at his door.
Until a quiet thud woke the boy. He rushed to the window and fit his pale eye in its slit. A white hare sat at his door, painted with red patches. The boy gasped in zeal and sneaked to the wooden door in silence. As he poked his head from inside, he saw the beast. Standing under the whole moon with a sheep clutched by it's throat. He recognised that sheep as his neighbor’s. The wolf did not move though. The boy did not dare to move while the wolf did not. The wolf might not have her eyes on him but he knew well that she observed.
Slowly, the wolf raised her forelimb and stepped forward. And swiftly she jumped into the bushes, dragging the sheep with her.
The boy considered alerting the village but the hare at his door was enough for him to not make a scene. The beast brought him a treasure and he might as well enjoy it while he could.
The wolf watched the village from the hilltop every day. She watched the male humans go hunting on the other side and females washing their skins in the small river. She did not have trouble distinguishing them - females covered their teats and males did not. She watched the boy and his stone hut more often. He would come each day to the small river and catch fish and pick mushrooms before the sun and the others rose. Only when the sun came would he turn to his home. The woman in his hut - the wolf assumed she must be his mother - put the fish and mushrooms on fire. The wolf wondered if they did not know how to eat. The father did next to nothing, he did not go to hunt or looked after the boy. The wolf wondered if it was the way of humans for the pups to feed the dogs. They ate the fiery meat, shed their skins when they wanted, and used stone made claws. Most peculiar animal, she thought. And most dangerous.
She knew when the boy woke and she knew that he would be alone at the small river. The boy had seen her but did not call the hunters. The boy likes my gifts, she thought. I should give him more. So she hunted that night. Longer than she usually did. Four hares did she catch. Two she reserved for her children and two she stuffed in her mouth and waited at the small river behind a tree.
The boy came slashing his sickle in the air. He bent on a stone to cut the water grown mushrooms. They were too brittle for a slash so he cut through them gently. As if they were a girl whose smiles would fade if he misbehaved.
The wolf came out from the shadows of the tree on the other side. A stick snapped under her foot breaking the silence the boy was used to. He stopped his breath and raised his eyes from the water. Red blood eyes were staring deep into his pale eyes then.
The boy did not move back, he was too charmed by her eyes. The wolf gently put the hares on the rock and walked back, still facing the boy. Soon, the red eyes receded and turned away from him into the bushes.
He caught the hares by their ears and walked to his home cheerfully. The sky began to turn orange as villagers passed by, with their bows and axes. Women folk smiled and congratulated him for his fortune of two hares. He smiled back proudly. He even gave a hare as a gift to Kaara's father, who happened to just open his door when the boy passed by. Her father thanked him and if the luck he got was not enough that day, Kaara came out while he chatted with her father and she even smiled.
The boy's father took the lion's share as he usually did. His mother hid the tender portions for the boy from her father. She always did, while she only ate the skin and bones.
The boy would see more fortune in the days to come. The wolf often brought him hares to the small river while everyone snored and the boy took them. He was not thankless, he stole a neighbor's sheep once when everyone slept and fastened it to the tree near his stone hut, hoping that neighbour would not notice one missing sheep among a hundred he had. He led the wolf to the tree and pointed the sheep to her.
So the days passed. The boy's family fared well with the wolf's gifts. His father beat his mother less often and beat him never again.
The wolf had no luck that day. No hare came out in the scratching cold of winter and if they did, she did not spot them. She went deeper into the forest, though her heart beat faster as thoughts about tigers swirled in her mind. The deeper she went, the darker it appeared. She hoped she would see a little pig or a calf at the big river.
Goose played in the big river, indicating the absence of crocodiles. The wolf wanted to cry in joy but held back not to scatter the goose. They were not big, just chickens barely of age. An oasis in the desert. So she stepped into the cold water, willing strongly not to produce the ripples that can warn the little goose. She swam gently, stepped on mud if she could. Only a bare foot away. She waited behind the idle goose patiently for a sure chance of kill. When the time seemed right, she leapt high, startling them all. She nipped one in its head and caught another strongly. The others swam away.
She returned to the den dancing. The pups, now larger and more fierce, had been waiting for her and when she returned, they jumped and bit her legs. She scattered them away and dropped the smaller goose in the den. The pups rushed to the flesh, although disappointed at the cold little meal they were not used to. When she turned toward the west to the village, the eldest of the pups pulled her tail. She kicked him gently but he came back to face her. Before she could understand, the pup pulled the goose in her mouth with all his little force. “Go away,” the wolf warned him but he would not listen. He kept tugging at the ball of meat and when the wolf learnt that the pup was not giving up, she struck him. The pup fell like a dried leaf in the wind. It neither moaned nor moved. The other children gathered around their dead brother, but the wolf only kept walking toward the village.
She waited for the boy and the boy did come. When his eyes saw a small goose in the place of a hare, they wilted. The wolf averted the boy’s eyes as she dropped her head in guilt. The boy took the goose though and he scratched the wolf’s ears ever lovingly. “Don’t worry,” the boy said, but the wolf did not understand. There were no fish playing in the small river that day, all went to the warmer sides. So he picked some mushrooms and walked home in gloom. He did not respond to the chatty women or stop at Kaara’s house. His father would be sleeping inside snoring like a bear. His mother waited at the door and she saw no hare as darkness gathered on her face.
The father beat them that day, his wife and the boy, when the mother came with a little piece of meat. Beat wilder than ever he had. He ate all the goose and cursed them to starve as he went to sleep again. The mother and the boy only wept as they bundled in a corner.
“I am hungry,” the father cried in his sleep that day. “I am starving to death,” he mumbled. The boy knew what he must do. “Don’t worry, Father,” he said. “I will go and bring you the kill. You won’t die of starvation.”
“Go in the morrow,” the mother whispered. “ Dark things move in the forest at night.”
“You better go, bastard,” the father growled. “I am starving,” he cried again.
So, the boy rushed to the small river as the other huts slept and snored. He sat on the rock and waited. The wolf would watch the river while it hunted and so he knew she would come. The boy pointed to the village and the wolf knew what it meant. Come with me.
Another sheep then, the wolf thought. It followed the boy quietly to his hut. The silence of no owls hooting and no bugs mating haunted even her. That night would be different.
The wolf hid in the shadow of the tree waiting for the sheep. But she saw no sheep there.
“Come out, Father,” the boy said as he called . “I brought you a kill you like.”
The father came out from the hut, laughing. But as he saw none, he growled. “Where is it?” he asked.
The boy pointed to the tree. The father grinned and reached out to the tree in his gluttony. The wolf understood what the boy meant. Not a sheep, a man.
It waited till the father entered the shadows and slashed his throat first to keep him quiet. She would eat his guts later.
“What is that noise?” the boy’s mother rushed out. She saw the wolf kill her husband. She tried to cry and make an alarm but the boy caught her by the throat. “Hush, mother,” he said as he choked her. “The wolf will die if you shout.”
Air blocked in her nose and mouth as she turned purple. The boy watched not his mother, but his father panting like a greedy bear. “I told you, Father,” he smiled. “You will not die of starvation.”
No owl hooted and no bug mated. No soul would notice the missing man and woman. The wolf dragged the father and the boy dragged the mother to the woods. The wolf led him to her den and they hid the corpses there. For the children of the wolf to feast upon.
The boy woke up the next day as he had on countless mornings before. He went to the small river even before the sun rose and picked some mushrooms gently. He cooked them himself on the quiet fire. There was no snoring of the bear and no bruises to look at.