Breaking my usual habits, I spend day after day until there’s little sun left where the tall ones live to get a glimpse of the one who relentlessly draws me near. Sometimes I sneakily walk among their bare trees to see if I can follow the scent. Whenever my curiosity is too much, or I get too close, I run away, sometimes by force.
Even now, when the sun is not as high in the sky, I find myself restless enough to wander. My paws detect the slight vibrations; something bigger than me is close. I follow the sound to see a group of females gathering the sweetness from the plants. I inch closer and closer, knowing she is among them. Something about her has to be unbalancing my senses because just as I notice she isn’t there, I hear something behind me.
The first thing I see are those eyes staring right into mine. I’m not sure if I should run away or not. She’s not moving, only looking. I don’t want to pass up this opportunity, so I sit up, ready to run if needed. Seeing me take a new stance, she crouches down and slowly makes her way toward me. She has her cub with her on her back. When she gets close enough to where her eyes are taking up my entire view, she reaches out, and I take a sniff of her odd-looking paw. She must take this as a sign to come closer because she puts it on the side of my head. I feel warmth, a warmth more soothing than the sun after the long nights.
Her breathing is steady and is as cold as the air around us. Her gaze never wavering, she pats my head, and I close my eyes in delight. Her cub stirs, and she slowly stands up, and before leaving, looks back to me and gives me an expression only rivaling the warmth I still feel on my fur. After she leaves, I mark a nearby tree and go to one of my nearby burrows to rest.
I head back to that same spot regularly. The other ones don’t dare come near me, and I’m okay with that. Even if I don’t see her, I find sweetness and other things left by my tree. Darkness is coming sooner as time goes by, and I have to soon resume my nighttime activities.
I go about ensnaring my more mobile meals and occasionally lurk around to find what I can near the tall beings. They aren’t out as much in the night now that the air and ground are cooler. But catching her scent is enough to satisfy me. I step back into the woods to do more catching and burying to prepare for the bleakness to come.
The ground that had dampness has now been replaced with a slight crunchiness. The beings that would gather the sweetness are no longer around. I don’t have much luck venturing deeper and deeper into the woods, well beyond what I have marked as mine. I’m also not out wandering as much, usually to hunt as the sun sets.
Once the dim shine from above becomes scarcer, my eyes adjust. I haven’t been this far before. My instincts tell me that’s for a good reason, but my curiosity betrays me, and I soon get my satisfaction. I come across a clearing surrounded by rocks, and in the center are gathered trees, unlike the ones the beings live in.
Concentrating on the ground, I can tell one of them is in there. Stepping closer, I sniff out anything that will give me a clue about what this is and what’s inside. Once I get closer to the rocks, they start to look hot, and I hear a hissing sound. I turn and see something way bigger than myself, almost as big as the beings, only walking like me. I let out a low whine and back up slowly.
It doesn’t immediately attack, only locking eyes with me as I backtrack, and it advances. Just as I reach the edge of the clearing, what I came here to see appears. A female appears and calls the frightening creature to her. She isn’t too dissimilar to the ones I’ve seen gathering the sweetness or chattering endlessly, but she still looks entirely unlike them.
I don’t sense a threat as she nears me, keeping that killer behind her. She’s saying something. I don’t know what, but I know that I shouldn’t be scared. She doesn’t try to pet me, not that I would let her anyway, only looking at me with a similar warmth I’ve grown accustomed to. Being in her presence is comforting. I almost forget about that thing behind her, which is now sitting at her feet.
I turn back toward home just as she steps forward to give me a gentle pat on the head. I’m not sure what it did, but the next thing I know, I’m back to one of my closest burrows. I don’t even bother trying to hunt anymore. I immediately go into my den and wait to greet the next day.
The different colors around me, from what I could tell, are all gone now. I’m too lazy to hunt right now, so I go to my favorite place to see if I can find some leftover meat. As I sneak among the grouped trees, I notice that something’s missing. The scent that always calls me to this place is becoming fainter. I go to where I know it to be the strongest, and it is faintly lingering. I listen for life inside, and there’s nothing. I perk up my ears and notice that I don’t readily sense anyone nearby.
I hear distant noises and follow. Luckily, I also pick up the scent. Sound and smell guiding me, I inch toward the water. But why? There’s a gathering near the edge, and I think I hear some whimpering. I catch the eye of some of the females I’ve seen in the woods, and I see something in their eyes that tells me that I shouldn’t be here.
They slowly move to the side, and I can see where the scent stops. There she is, only it shouldn’t be her. She’s lying there in some type of hollow of a tree, and I can tell from where I am that she’s not breathing. I don’t think I’m breathing now either. She is covered in flowers and other items with dark markings on her skin. I hear whining, and it’s me; others start to realize it too. Before I give them a chance to come after me, I run away toward the tree line. The last I hear is something plopping into the water.
I’m wandering aimlessly. My own territory or not, I don’t care. Something that I’ve held so close to me, something that surpasses my own existence, is gone. The further I walk, the less I remember what time of day it is. I trust that my legs know the way to where I’m going. When I look up, they do as I’m back in this same clearing.
I don’t care if I get eaten or shredded to pieces. I see her sitting out in front of some heat that I’ve seen the other beings create. She meets me with a familiar look and warmth, and all I can do is go to her and curl up next to her. She reaches down to rub my back until sleep finds me.
A few cycles of light and dark follow. She brings me some meat, it smells like the small furry creatures I usually hunt, but I can’t bring myself to eat it. I felt a dull pain everywhere for a while, and now I feel absolutely nothing. I don’t want to be here anymore, not just where I physically am, not anywhere. I want to be wherever she is. I don’t know where they took her, and even if I had the strength, I wouldn’t know where to look.
Through all of this, she has stayed by me, putting meat before me and petting me. I think we all have something within us that lets us know when our time is near. It is not to be feared or run away from. It is a sweet welcome, whether it is swift and painless or slow and agonizing. And now I want nothing more than that lovely welcome.
She is sitting on the ground near me, speaking low. With the last of my strength, I walk up to her. She turns her head and looks at me. It’s almost as if she knows what is about to happen, even everything I’ve ever thought and felt, and she leans her head towards mine. She quickly buries her head in my fur then guides me down by her side, slowly rubbing my coat.
My breath is slowing. I almost can’t feel her touch anymore. All I can see now is the only one that I’ve ever wanted to see. Not as I last saw her, but as she held her cub, picked the sweetness with others, as she petted me and looked at me with those eyes.
Those big, kind eyes.
They are the last thing I see as the tiniest bit of daybreak comes through from above, blinding me before I am no more.
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