Flash Fiction by M.J. Fitzmaurice
The vibrations in the horizon signal change in her. She whines and paces, wanting to put off the inevitable as long as she can. She knows that she is supposed to howl.
It is time.
Her pack has brought her to this sacred crag, where so many of her ancestors have brought the year in with their change. Felicia has been told over and over that it is an honor for her to be the Bringer.
She blinks and shakes her head at the horizon. It’s nearly bursting with the potential of First Moon. The lake below trembles in anticipation of the soft light.
She knows she should just throw her head back, close her eyes, and give voice to what is expected, what she has trained for all her young life. The instructions from her mother and Aunt Dory are etched in her memory. She knows exactly what to do.
She knows that not doing so will mean wasting all her potential. If she turns away now, it will ruin her people and bring about the end of the world. She’s never believed that to be real. Everyone tells her to have faith, but faith seems to be something she can only pretend.
She has never told anyone about her doubts. They’d either be horrified or pitying. Her lack of belief that the change brings the moon any more than sleeping brings the morning is a denial of a truth that everyone knows. Or claims to know.
No Bringer has ever refused, so no yearling moon has ever failed to appear, that anyone remembers at least. That is supposed to be proof of some kind, but as much as she wants to believe in her heart, it is her mind that refuses the truth.
Can she refuse to perform the howl-song? In her dreams, she runs into the deep woods and never returns. She wonders what that would be like. Making her own decisions, being her own person. Running down a stray deer or a rabbit when she gets hungry. It will mean freedom, but also loneliness. Plus, there is always that small itch in the back of her thoughts—”what if all of them are right and I’m wrong?”
Her training reminds her that duty is the glue that holds the world in place. Without her compliance, she will bring about the end of her people and their lands.
The horizon quivers, but thoughts of the deep woods continue to seduce her. She remains indecisive, not wanting to let go of this last chance for freedom.
The trembling now hums low in her ears. She doesn’t want this; she doesn’t want to leave them all behind. She whines softly, the knowledge that she must do as she is told making her sadness even more pronounced.
She could wait, putting off the change and holding on to herself as long as she can, but she will only feel more miserable if she does.
She paces away from the horizon, still whining. Then she feels resolve. She turns to face the horizon and stands straight, her muzzle lifted to the sky. She fills her lungs and sings the howl-song just as she has been taught.
She sings it sadly and defiantly. As it is with her line of wolves going back more than a hundred generations, she is obedient to the pack and to the mother of them all, Earth.
As the moon rises, her fur turns to skin. Hair grows from her head. She leaves the wolf behind and becomes human. She wants to howl her despair, but all that comes out are strangled noises.
It’s done. She is alone. She feels naked. A new sensation for her, as in wolf form, nakedness is a foreign concept. She stumbles a little in her new body and walks down the crag’s path towards the village, away from her forest and her family.
She can’t imagine ever feeling happy in this body with its dulled senses and lack of fur. But she is human now, and the wolf is an already fading memory. Without knowing why her eyes leak, she stumbles toward her new home.