"Eight pairs of wolfish eyes flashed at me, several human eyes following a second later. ... There was a sharp sound of ripping fabric as one of the boys transformed. He growled in my direction, the timbre of an alpha. My timbre."
Years have passed since the third wife's sacrifice, and Taha Aki's still running.
1. The End & Understood
Rating 5/5 Word Count 937 Review this Chapter
I’ve been running longer than I would like to admit. I’ve tracked myself over every surface of land imaginable. Across desert and tundra alike, continent to continent as if it were nothing. I’ve been on this earth longer than I have an honest right to be. I cannot let go. I cannot leave. More importantly, I cannot change. I don’t remember what it was to be human, it’s been so long ago, now. My life is a hazy recollection of horrors, small joys remembered idly in between trying to forget. I think I used to have a man’s body, but I have been in this one so long I don’t recall. I have forgotten so much that I would like to remember, and I remember so much I would prefer to forget. I can still see her perfectly. I can still see her die in my head. That’s the worst thing about this form… there is no one but you. No one to distract you from what is destroying your mind, slowly but surely.
So I was going back. Back to my home, where my family was. It had taken a long time to come to this decision. After all, my children would be either old men or dead… or worse, they could all have died in my absence. But what was decided was decided, and I flew on flight feet home. My muscles would have ached if I had ran like this in the beginning of my self-imposed exile, but by now my endurance was beyond what was normal and I ran the miles, hundreds, possibly, without so much as a single stop. No sleep, no food, no water. Just wind rushing by me as my feet thundered across the ground in stride.
As I approached home, I closed my eyes and inhaled sharply without breaking my pace. The air here smelled different from anywhere else in the world. Was it because it was the one place I called my own? Perhaps. Or maybe it was the lingering scent of all the wolves of the years perfuming the radius, an inexplicably strong woodsy smell that had nothing to do with the forest that encroached from all directions. Lithely, I shot between the trees toward the beaches. The scent grew stronger in that direction, and I knew whatever wolves were formed must be gathered there. I broke out of the forest and onto the sand, running recklessly toward them where they sat, circularly around a fire.
Eight pairs of wolfish eyes flashed at me, seven human eyes following a second later. I ceased my run and approached at a walk, my head held high despite my knotted hair and dirty appearance. There was a sharp sound of ripping fabric as one of the boys transformed. He growled in my direction, the timbre of an alpha. My timbre. I all but roared back at him, instantaneously announcing my identity.
I, Taha Aki, have returned.
Communication. Something this vital cannot be ignored. And we could not ignore the fact that wolfish growls and snarls were the only way I could communicate with those around me. I didn’t speak their language, and its sounds played trickily on my now untrained ears. They spoke with soft sounds, each word fading into the next until the context of what they were saying was even more impossible to understand than before. I shook my great and shaggy head at the wolves before me, my silent thought penetrating the air with no hope of being grasped for lack of comprehension.
I shook my head again as their thoughts invaded my head as an angry sound, the rest of the boys having phased at some point of my inattentiveness. A scarred girl glanced at me nervously and recorded the happenings, I assume. My eyes rested on her a moment too long and their alpha roared at me again. I took a tentative step back, realizing I had over stepped some sort of boundary that these wolves had set for me in their alien speech. I took a second step back, and in a split decision abandoned the form I had become accustomed to over the years.
It was discomforting to have two legs again. Most awkward, I might even say, but that would be a lie. More awkward yet was the giggle from the humans sitting towards the fire who, apparently, thought my nudity was humorous. My gaze darted in their direction, my hair a matted mess down my back and over my face, surely making me look scraggly and wild. My eyes flashed at the wolves before me who were slowly transforming back into their human forms as well. They were slack jawed.
The largest boy said something to their alpha and he nodded. The recording girl looked down beside her at the tattered remain of the alpha’s clothes and took up the blanket she was sitting on, bringing it to him where he sat across from me and draping it over his shoulders in a way that clearly screamed she loved him. I became embittered. She was his imprint.
He said something to me again in his strange, soft language. I tried to recall how I dealt with those who spoke a language other than my own in the time before my run. Symbolism had a place in communication then, every action with a specific meaning and usually an equal double one. It would be confusing, and I didn’t want to result to that. I squinted, bringing the alpha’s image into focus. I spoke to him in my own language and realization washed over his face.
Finally, someone has understood me.