Wolf Vein, Brothers

August 17, 2010
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The feeling of the hunt was irreplaceable. The smell of the air drilled through my nose added to my excitement. I looked to my right and saw Xack close to my flank. I
smiled to myself, the kid had potential. Even though he was young, he was a pretty good hunter. I’d been watching him since he came to us as a kid, and I knew a hunter when I see one. To the left of me was Ray, his brown eyes were affixed ahead of him. He was just as determined as I was. That was to be expected, we were brothers and the same love for the hunt ran through our veins.

Finally, I smelled the fresh blood. We had attacked the caribou earlier before but the bull escaped, we’d been tailing for almost twenty minutes and he was getting weaker by the second. At last, I saw the large bull staggering. Farther up was his herd. They stared at their companion as his fate began to close in. We surrounded the caribou; Danny took the back, K.C. and Xack took the sides and Ray and I took the front. The caribou was staring death in the face. The bull struggled to stand. Ray took a step and the bull backed up. K.C. growled and snapped at its hinds. As we closed in, the bull took flight.

There was a small gap in our formation and he slipped through it. We scrambled after it. The bull staggered toward his herd. They ran toward the woods, not wanting to be our next victims but still wanting to see what would be happening to their friend. He tripped and fell with a loud thud. Ray got to him first and grabbed his throat. I followed and helped him. The others grabbed other parts of the bull to keep him from escaping again. Ray offered me the throat and I sunk my teeth into the jugular. The blood spilled out and onto the snow. It was dead. I looked up and saw that its companions had fled the scene. These were the rules of the Alaskan wilderness: eat or be eaten.

We dragged the carcass to home base. There waiting was Anthony and Kaleb. To make traveling easier, we cut the bull into large pieces. We greeted our friends in the usual manner, a light head butt. We dropped the carcass pieces on the ground. Anthony looked at us all, anyone follow you? He said.

Ray looked toward the mountain we came down from and shook his head. Not that we could smell.
Anthony nodded. Good.

We all stood up on our hinds and the transformation began. The feeling of Changing felt like my skin was being boiled off of me. But then afterwards, there was a cooling sensation set in. I looked at my brothers and there was tension in the air. They were all going through their Change in their own way.

Anthony would quiver in a far off corner mumbling to himself. K.C. went into a type of trance that couldn’t be broken until he was fully transformed. Kaleb climbed a tree and stayed there until he was changed. Because Xack was still young, he still screamed in pain and would faint from the pressure. Danny convulsed. Ray stayed completely still. As for me, I tried to ignore it, waiting for the cooling sensation after. The Change only took a few minutes but the pain it bought felt like a life time.

I looked at my less furry self and smiled. I was human again. Being human had pretty good perks. For one, I had less of a chance of being shot. Another one would be that no one would suspect seven teenage boys of being the Yukon River Wolves. We were called that because our territory was the east part of the Yukon River. We were pretty famous around these parts. There were about fifteen news articles about the YRWs. They called us a “success story” because we’ve thrived here so long without losing any pack members, in fact, since the last article we’d added two more members.

I looked at Xack and K.C., our two newest pack members. Xack, fourteen, is the youngest member we’ve had, ever. K.C., seventeen. They came to us wounded and bloody; Xack was ten and K.C. was thirteen. They’d claimed that their pack was killed by a rival pack in Canada.

“Hey, Jay. You gettin’ in on this cari? Better hurry up!” Danny said.

I looked up at him and grinned. Even though as a pack we treated each other like brothers, Danny to be my best friend. I’ve known the kid since we were learning how to walk, we were litter mates. I jogged over to the circle and grabbed a flank. In the middle of our feeding circle was a nicely built fire. Near the fire were large cooking chunks of caribou. I laughed quietly myself. I looked at the raw meat in my hand and shooed the flies off of it.

Unlike some of my brothers, I liked the taste of raw meat.

“Eww,” Anthony remarked. “there were flies on that.”

I looked at him and grinned. I put the meat near my mouth and licked every corner of it. Anthony made a fake gagging noise and shoved me.

“Jay, that’s disgusting!” Kaleb bellowed.

We all laughed and I continued eating. My blood brother, Ray walked over and put his arm over my shoulder and shook me.

“Hey, don’t be picking on my lil’ bro like that! Someday he’ll be ruling all of you and maybe even me!”
They all laughed except Kaleb. He was supposed to be in line to be alpha but because I was Ray’s brother, he got bumped to third.

I looked up at the sky and yawned. Almost nightfall. “We goin’ into town tomorrow?” I asked Ray.

He looked up at the sky and stretched. He plopped himself on his back with his arms behind his head. “Dunno. Maybe. We are running out of…uhh…everything. So yeah, I guess we are going into town,” He closed his eyes and continued to talk. “we still got salt, right?”

I looked to the left of me and in a small buffalo skin sack that was barely full, was salt.

“Yeah, enough to put on the rest of the cari meat.” he laughed softly at me and opened one eye.

“It’s not gonna put the salt on itself.” He said lazily.

I picked up the sack and tossed it on his stomach. “Yeah, your right.” I shot back.

He smiled. And without looking, chucked it at Danny. “Dan, put this on the cari, before it rots.”

Danny scowled at Ray but did what he was told. He placed the salt on the meat with little effort and laid back down in his sleeping spot.

I went to my own sleeping spot, too. It was close to Ray, but not too close that I was under his nose.

I closed my eyes and the face of my mother appeared. The only problem was, I couldn’t remember what she looked like. So, I made up my own image. She was a light brown and she had soft brown hair. Her eyes were soft and attentive. Although she had the appearance of someone who had never worked a day in her life, her hands were rough because of the many times she changed into a wolf. As a wolf, she was pure white with brown eyes. When she spoke her words wrapped around me like silk.

“Jay, wake up!” I sat up bolt right and groaned in pain. Someone punched me in the stomach. I opened my eyes and Danny was standing over me with his fist in the air ready to strike again.

“Arrghh! Dammit, Danny!” I wrestled him to the ground and choked him.

“Alright you two, break it up,” Anthony said. He pulled me off of Danny and stood me up. He sniffed me and crinkled his nose. “Jay, you stink. Go take a shower, we’re leaving in a few.”

I walked over to the small makeshift pool and splashed water on my face. I looked up at the sky and squinted. Where the hell did the night go? I dropped my pants and my underwear and sat in the water. I closed my eyes and sighed. I held my breath and dived into the water. I stayed under the water for a good two minutes. I almost lost consciousness but I felt a hand grab my hand and pull me up.

“What have I told you about doing that! One day your gonna kill yourself!” Ray shouted at me.
I coughed up water and rolled my eyes. “I was about to come back up.”
Ray growled at me and threw me my clothes.

“We’re leaving.”
I put my clothes back on and followed my brothers. I caught up to Danny and shoved him. “Jerk.”

Danny grinned and shoved me back “Why do you say that?”
“You know damn well what I’m talking about.”
“Yeah, ok.”

I tried to make myself hate Danny but it was hard hating someone who you grew up with was hard. I shoved him again and kept walking.

I walked toward my brother, who was in front and tried to make conversation.
“So, where we going today?”

He looked at me and kept his mouth in a straight line, “Where do we always go?”
“Depends on what we need.”

He scoffed. “We’re going to Fairbanks.” I looked at Ray and then the distance we had to walk.

“You know, it’ll take us a pretty long time to walk these one hundred and fifty miles to Fairbanks…but a wolf, could scale this whole thing in maybe…three hours…?” Ray turned around and growled.

“No. You know the rules. We only Change for hunting, and when we’re out of our territory.” I rolled my eyes at him and walked beside him again, still talking.

“C’mon, Ray, can’t we break those dumb rules, once?” He narrowed his eyes at me and shook his head.

“My dumb rules are meant to keep us and our secret safe.” My brother was a pretty chill guy but when it came to things like this, he never broke the rules. I huffed dramatically and kept walking. My brothers walked in front of me and for awhile, I was alone. I looked at my brothers who were a couple of feet ahead of me.

They looked so bored. I looked down at the icy ground and saw that our feet made no tracks. I stopped and shoved my foot through the icy snow. My body convulsed from the cold. I shoved my other foot down there and dragged my feet through the snow.

I wasn’t planning drawing any attention but I did. Danny was beside me and stared at my feet. He gave me a funny look and smiled.

“Exactly what are you doing?”

I looked at him and kinda gave him the I don’t know look. Danny shook his head and chuckled. “So, how bored are you?” I asked him.

He looked at me and smiled. “No comment.” We both laughed. I looked ahead of us and saw that they were about a hundred feet away from us.

“You know, we’ve been out of our territory for about an hour. And ray said he doesn’t want us changing unless we’re hunting or off our territory…” Danny looked at me and smiled cynically.

To prove I was a good leader, I morphed first. Then Danny followed, he went from a black man to a black wolf. His yellow eyes smiled at me and he took off.

C’mon slowpoke. He barked at me. I chased after him.

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