Chapter 13 - Pack

I slept for what felt like days. I awoke to the sound of howling dangerously close to me, but I felt like I couldn't move. Every inch of my body was on fire. It felt like jumping into a pit of lava. After falling asleep again, I awoke to a bite on my neck. I thought finally the pain was over, I would die just like this, to become the flesh of a wild animal. A part of me found this to be so beautiful as my vision swam before me. I closed my eyes and clenched my teeth, whimpering with the breath I thought would be my last.

The large, grey she-wolf biting my neck loosened her grip slightly. I felt myself lifted off the ground, limp in her mouth. I didn't move a muscle, I couldn't have if I wanted too. The pain was immense, and I quickly passed out. When I awoke, I was suffocating. My head was under freezing cold water face down, and with all the strenth I could I rolled over. Coughing up the water from my lungs, I began to drink, vomiting as I did so. I swallowed and vomited, swallowed more and vomited. Water. This was what I needed. I could lie here in the shallows and drink, but the water was too cold. The wolf who had carried me here was nowhere to be seen. With all the energy I could muster, I pulled myself out of the water and onto the shore. Crawling on my hands and knees like a baby, I lurched forward and hit my head. I vomited again, and quickly passed out from the pain.

It was nighttime. I had no idea how many days had passed, but when I awoke, I could see a blurred grey and black shapes in front of me. I was engulfed in fur. At first I thought I had died and been reincarnated as a wolf, but I quickly realized this wasn't the case. Instead, I was sleeping next to one. I held still, petrified. I began to feel nauseated again, and I realized I needed more water. I couldn't even crawl, but I managed to push and pull myself to the riverside several meters away and plunged my head into the water. Looking to the side, I saw the she wolf get up, heard her make a sort of yipping grunt, and trot over to the water next to me to drink. As I drank I watched her out of the corner of my eye. She was beautiful, a true treasure of nature. Her long, grey hair faded to white around her belly and to black along her spine. I drank until I vomited again. I couldn't seem to hold anything down at all. I kept drinking and vomiting until I couldn't anymore, and I fell asleep with my feet in the shallows, unable to push myself any further.

Sunlight beat down upon my eyes as I awoke. I felt much better, but my entire body still burned. I felt like I was going to implode. But I had bigger problems. I was cornered on the edge of a river, and I could now make out the shapes in front of me in the day light. Standing before me were four wolves. I could see the she wolf who had carried me to the river, a much larger male wolf, darker in color than her but just as toned and muscular, and two pups no more than a few months old and no larger than me. The pups were much lighter in color than the adults, and they yipped and whined like hounds. I began to retreat slowly to the river on my hands and knees. I drank as much as I could, still vomiting up liquid. My neck was bruised and maybe sprained, but I wasn't too worried. There was little I could do about this anyway.

As I sat back on the riverbank the pain was immense. I could feel my body healing from the thirst but I was still starving. I couldn't walk, so I crawled to the nearest tree and tried to pull the branches down over me. I wasn't successful. Sleeping again, my nightmares showed me visions of the wolves viciously tearing me apart. But instead upon waking up again, I found I was once again surrounded by the furry mass of the she wolf and her pups, who were nursing from her. I couldn't imagine how few people had had this experience. Being so close to a wolf felt so daring, and yet I hadn't even approached her - she had come to me. I had no idea how evolution or some miracle had prepared us for this, but I was sure of one thing. If I had come this far, I would have to survive. I had to find food somewhere.

Retreating slowly and carefully to the water, I proceeded to commence the usual drinking and vomiting. The wolves did the same, lapping up the silty ice water much faster than I ever could. I wished I was a wolf, with their slender bodies, sleek warm pelts and powerful jaws optimized for hunting. I would have to snare more rabbits in order to survive, whereas the wolves could simply chase down their prey and eat it. Crawling down the river bank ever so slightly closer to safety, I looked for rabbit holes, blueberries or anything I could eat. I ate lichon and moss near the trees. I found a patch of blueberries and gorged myself, eating my vomit as I did so, eating every last blueberry until I felt like I was about to explode. I couldn't be more than a few dozen miles from saftey. If I could eat like this, I knew I would survive.

Quickly exhausted, I could feel the immense damage I had done to my body. The wolves followed me downstream along the riverbank, ignoring the blueberries but barking and growling at the rabbit holes. They growled at me too, especially the male wolf as I looked him in the eyes. I turned away and whimpered, fearing I would be eaten. I dug up more spruce roots and severed them by pounding the base of the roots between two rocks, and tied snares along the rabbit holes. Managing to stand before a few trees, I harvested a few spruce branches for a makeshift shelter again. The weather was getting colder. There wasn't any frost yet, but I knew that it wouldn't take long before I would no longer be able to survive the night.

In the morning I was in luck. A small rabbit darted out of the hole and was caught in the snare, quietly screeching eerily. The wolves quickly found it and tore it apart to my dissapointment, leaving nothing but drops of blood behind. I tried to drink the blood, but there was little I could recover. I decided I had to move on, I couldn't snare rabbits with the wolves around. But the wolves followed me, down the riverbank as I walked and crawled along. My hands and knees were bloody and raw from crawling. I was starving still despite the blueberries. I thought maybe I could build a raft, but the water was so cold I realized even if I could surpass the rapids I would be hypothermic in 30 minutes. I knew what hypothermia was. I knew I had to make the right decisions or I wouldn't survive.

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