[Welcome to the 2nd week of the Hedge Tales. This is personally my favorite of the five stories. I wrote it first, and came back to it throughout the series as a touchstone whenever I was stuck. Enjoy!]
I woke up different. I’m long and lean, covered in soft brown fur, with whiskers and ears that telescope on the top my head. My mouth is elongated, and full of big teeth. My eyes are sharper, with clearer vision, but in a much lower spectrum. Colors are washed out, and bright things look a touch grainy. My nose is aflame with a million scents and textures in the air. It’s like a factory of information and my brain is on overload at the moment. I can’t help but notice that I have four legs, with bends going the wrong way at the joints, and weirdest of all, a tail. I shake myself in a strangely dismissive gesture, and I make a slight chuffing noise. I try to get back to business.
I look myself over in depth, and the closest I can come to understanding it is to think of myself as lupine, maybe a coyote. I hear a weird “meep-meep” in my head, strangely familiar, but terribly disconnected. I don’t know where it’s from. I circle around, getting used to the pads on my feet. I’m more than a little wobbly, confusion hazing my every thought. I rest my head on my paws, smelling the loam and the world around me on their fur. I doze off, a strange cloud of unease and bizarre thoughts running through my head.
I wake, and the world is different. It’s a vast forest, full of life. I spend the longest time drinking in the leaves, the trees, the bushes, the pollen, the flowers, the birds, the rabbits and the many other creatures that dwell here. I catch a whiff of a vole, and I straighten, trying to determine how many strides it will take to catch it. I know it’s not what I really want to hunt, but it’s near, and it’s small; so it will do.
I make a leap, pouncing after the terrified little rodent. I feel the air rushing under my chest, my legs rippling as I tear after my target, my muscles bunching and loosening under my pelt as the earth glides beneath me. My teeth catch the skin behind its little head, my snout all fangs and fury.
I clamp my mouth, and the world is different. It’s an arid desert, dry and empty in the hot sun. The rocks and sand are blazing in the mid day, and all around me is bleached out under the torture of the solar blast. I take a moment to smell the immediate area, and I can sense water, but it’s hidden. I know I won’t last long with my tongue hanging out, panting away my hydration. I head to a large section of boulders, and find an outcropping. I begin to dig a small hole, and wiggle myself into it, using the slight umbrella of shade from the overhang. I rest my head for the slightest moment.
The world is different again. I can’t remember how many times the world was changed. Weeks, months and maybe years of perpetual change passed me by as I struggled to accept this form. This existence is alien and difficult, but a part of myself recognizes its usefulness. I know that I learned to live in each new place, adapting and using the little resources I had every time something is made again. Every time I came close to any kind of solace, or indulge in my primal desires, the world was different.
I encounter others in the lupus families as I make my way through these strange lands. I learn their languages, their ways of communicating. I make some mistakes, to be sure. I quickly learn the many ways to show that I'm not after territory- to keep my tail low, to avert my head, to dig a makeshift latrine, not to howl, and to stay out of the way of alphas marking their areas. I don't want territory, but even if I wanted it, I couldn't keep it. I learned that lesson very quickly here.
As much as things change here, there are some constants. I can easily predict that as soon as I pursue prey, or show interest in an area, or find myself settled, I'll be shaken into a strange new place where I have to learn to adapt again.
Something jangles in my head- a fitting little ditty that seems so close but so far away. "How do we sleep when our world is turning?"
I keep it in my head every time the world is different.