Pack

by Teia Bouganim, age 10
Pack Teia lives in the Bay Area and goes to a Mandarin immersion school. She constantly annoys friends of hers by speaking a language they don't recognize.

“I am Storm, a lone she-wolf. I am traveling with my much younger brother, Cloud. Before we talk about anything, let me tell you my backstory.”

Chapter One

I am Storm, a lone she-wolf. I am traveling with my much younger brother, Cloud. Before we talk about anything, let me tell you my backstory.

“Go to sleep, darling,” Lola, my mother, whispered.

“I can’t,” I protested.

“Your brothers can. And you’re much older than them. If they can sleep, so can you,” Lola whispered again.

“Tell me about dad before I do,” I pleaded.

Lola sighed, giving in. “Doobie was a brave wolf. I met him when he was hunting for our pack… ”

“Run! Run! Cloud, run! Storm, where’s Sticks?” Lola yelled.

I woke up with a start. Why was she yelling? Then I saw the golden-red branches that radiated heat. Then I recalled something from Lola’s stories. Fire. The thing that had killed my father, Doobie.

“Run,” Lola repeated.

Then we heard a voice: “Mommy, Mommy, help!”

Then that gray stuff that floated around the sky — smoke, I recalled — cleared, and I saw my brown-gray younger brother who supposingly looked like Doobie.

“Help!” Sticks called, a panicked look on his face.

Lola glanced at me and whispered, “Find Cloud, then run. Please.”

I couldn’t do anything but nod. I ran to the other side of the large cave, which was filled with sickly, small-looking trees that were already catching flames. It was where our pack used to hunt. But now the fire will kill all the prey, probably the hunters, too.

Anyway, as soon as I found my white-furred brother, Cloud, I grabbed him by his neck fur and, against my mother’s will, turned to find her. At last, I saw her. Sticks was in her jaws, and she was trying to run past those evil flickering red branches.

“Leave!” she yelled.

I shook my head. No way was I going to leave her! I took a running leap towards her, trying to push her away from the flames, but it was too late. A large birch tree, perhaps larger than the rest, was staggering down as flames burned away at its roots. The fallen tree landed in front of my mother, startling the somewhat elderly Lola. The grayish-white she-wolf scrambled back, trying to get away from the flames, but she was surrounded.

“Mother! Sticks!” I yelled.

Cloud was trembling by now. I curled my tail around his eyes, which were navy-blue in color, like staring out at a lake at the darkest time of night, so he couldn’t see our mother, well, die. And here I was, unable to help my own family without killing myself.

“Go,” Lola whispered. And I did, though I made the mistake of looking back. The last time I saw my mother was her gazing at me lovingly, with Sticks perched on her head, tiny brown paws on Lola’s ears, grabbing on in any way he could.

That was the last time I saw any of my pack, unless you count Cloud as a pack, but I don’t, so… Oh, and FYI, I don’t react well to pity, so please don’t sympathize with me. That just makes it worse.


Chapter Two

So, now that you know my backstory, it’s best if you know my future — or at least, the future I want. And judging from my luck, this isn’t going to happen. Basically, Lola, Sticks, and the rest of my pack are supposed to be fire-resistant,  then me and Cloud find them, and we all live happily ever after. Like that’s going to happen.

“Hey, Stormy!” That’s Cloud, calling to me. No, my name is not Stormy. It’s Storm. He just adds a “y” to annoy me.

“Yes?” I said.

“I have a brilliant idea!” I was about to say that his version of “brilliant” was about as brilliant as a snail’s brain, but then he said, “Let’s join or create a pack!” and I just stared at him, jaw hanging open that it was even possible for such an annoying, not-so-brilliant wolf to say something so brilliant. Cloud took my mouth’s floor-magnetizing as a bad sign and mumbled, “I mean, we’re just so lonely right now, and I can’t even hunt yet. I mean, your okay, but — ”

He trailed off, and I surprised him and myself by saying, “Cloud, that’s brilliant. Three howls for my brilliant, brilliant brother!”

We did howl, but way more than three times. It’s a wolf habit, howling. I don’t know why, but it just feels… right.

Anyways, that night, as I curled up with Cloud in our den, I wondered, I know getting a pack is a good idea, but is that possible?

So, I said something about my den, so I’m getting the feeling I need to describe the appearance. It’s this small cave with a low, narrow entrance made of thick pure black stone. Tall spruce trees, which my brother calls “Spricey trees,” were littered above our cave, like several stars fell down and became trees. One of those spruce trees must have fallen over, because long branches of dark green hid our cave from sight, like a warning: Do not enter, or us leaves will slive you into shreds and leave your remains so a vulture can eat you.

Yeah, okay, maybe that warning was a bit intense, but whatever. That is what it looked like.

I remembered a brief dream about Cloud and Sticks and I running in the snow, as I taught them how to hunt snow hares before I woke up.

“Cloud,” I yawned once I nudged my brother away, “What you said yesterday, about getting a pack, I was considering it last night.”

“And?” the white wolf pup asked, shaking the sleep from his eyes in a cute-ish way.

I responded with an, “It’s okay,” but Cloud — annoyingly– stared at me with those big, water-during-the-middle-of-the-night eyes, as if he was was repeating the question “And?”

I sighed. Wolf pups tend to have more control over us older wolves, with pure adorability, and it’s so tempting to just say yes, accept anything those pups want to do.

“It’s an idea we can try out, okay? I mean, if we join a pack we don’t like, we can always leave, right? But let’s go get some wolfish friends tomorrow, and play in the mud today, ‘kay? Yes? Good,” I said, just to get his mind of the topic so I could think about it in solitude.

I was right. Cloud’s mind floated away from packs and stuff like a, well, like a cloud.

I splashed around in the mud with Cloud for a bit, changing my fur from silvery-gray, like the moon, to deep, rich brown. Meanwhile, I was thinking, on one paw, Cloud’s right, and we’d be safer in a pack. But on the other paw, wouldn’t taking a pack mean I would be saying that I was done with Lola and my former pack? Ugh, Storm, stop making this decision harder for yourself.

But in the end, I didn’t really make the decision. It turns out it was someone else made the decision for me. He had cornered us while we were walking back to our den.

“Why, hello,” he hissed. “I heard you were looking for a pack. So, would you like to join mine?”


Chapter Three

“Who are you?” I howled, curling my tail protectively around Cloud. The other wolf grinned in amusement at my anger.

I studied him. The wolf looked like an ordinary brown wolf. He was the color of mud, like what we had just rolled in (I double-checked to make sure it was his actual fur color, instead of being mud-covered). He had broad shoulders and his leg muscles — I wasn’t sure I wanted to face those. He had long, sharp, wickedly curved claws that glinted almost as dangerously as his eyes. His eyes, speaking of, were a beady, malicious black balls that glinted with greed. Deep red-pink scars were scattered among his brown pelt. Hmm. I wasn’t sure I should trust this wolf.

“Why, I’m Claw, leader of a pack of wolves. And don’t be scared of me. I only fight to protect my pack.” The strange wolf studied us. “And you don’t seem like much of a threat.”

“Well, he may not be, but I definitely am,” I informed him, pushing Cloud behind my back.

Claw smiled in such an odd way. It seemed more like a smirk.

“The bond that connects siblings. It’s always so … adorable,” he said. “Do you want to meet the rest of my pack?”

I was going to say no, thank you when Cloud did his annoying impulsive little brother thing and said, “Sure!”

I sighed. Broth-ers. But Claw led us — well, led Cloud and I followed — through the forest, until we reached a wide clearing. It was this light shade of grassy green with this really tall sort of tree I had never seen before. One of those trees had the largest branches, spread out. The trunk was so wide, it took up at least have of the clearing. And scattered among those branches, or on the trunk, was at least 20 wolves. I mean, a few were on the ground, but they were mostly on the tree.

“Emily! Keelin!” Claw called.

Two small, female wolf  cubs who looked around the same age ran up to us. They both had short snouts, long tails, and fluffy fur. The only difference between them was that one was the exact same color as Claw, while the other was a shadowy color of gray-black. The brown one was slightly more wiry and had a playful expression and rather tall ears. She looked like she didn’t have a care in the world, constantly chasing her tail and pouncing on some fallen leaf. The gray-black one was large, with a thick, furry scruff and a thoughtful expression.

“These are my twin daugh — Emily, get your tail back here! — daughters. Emily’s the jumpy one, and Keelin is the smart one. Emily, give me that leaf! Stand here like a proper wolf, for once! Ugh.”

Keelin looked at us with an apologetic smile. “Sorry about that. Emmie’s not normally this annoying.”

Emily appeared at her side. “That’s ‘cause I’m never annoying!” she said innocently — though I saw through the act, because she said it with a smile. “Dad, can we give them the tour?”

Claw sighed. “If they’re staying, go ahead. Are you staying?”

“Yep!” Cloud shouted.

“We are?’ I asked.

“Yes, we are!”

“Yay!” Emily cheered. She bounced off — literally bounced — with Cloud following, equally jumpy. Claw sighed, than slithered away.

Keelin regarded me, now that we were alone.

“We’re facing the same problem, I suppose.” She didn’t say it as a question — just a statement, clear and true as day.

“Yeah.”

Emily and Cloud swooped back to us.

“Guys! Are you coming?”

Keelin and I nodded, simultaneously. Emily and Cloud beamed, simultaneously. And at that moment, I realized that this pack was a great pack — friendship, happiness, and trust.


Chapter Four

“Storm! Storm! Help me!” Cloud called.

“Why? What is it?”

“The Pack of Dark Wolves is chasing me!”

I shuddered in my sleep. The Pack of Dark Wolves was a wolf pack so evil, their hearts were darker than the shadows, their claws as sharp as a splinter. If they caught you, even if you didn’t do anything, they’ll kill you in the slowest, most painful way possible. There was a very understandable reason I was having these dreams: it’s because The Pack of Dark Wolves are the most scary, deadly pack in the world. I mean, they’re mostly a legend, but they always manage to creep themselves into your nightmares, and it’s just so easy to believe in those myths.

A small paw woke me up from my dreams, then said the most coincidental coincidence ever said.

“Uh, Storm, we really have to leave,” Cloud mumbled.

“Why? This is a good pack. We’ve been here for over a month, and nothing bad has happened to us,” I grumbled.

Then Cloud told me the most horrifying thing in the history of this forest — and trees live a long, long time.  

“I woke up early, and so did Emmie, so we went outside, hoping the sunlight would warm us up. But then Claw wanted to talk to Emmie, alone, so when Emmie talked with him, I eavesdropped — ”

Brothers.

“ — and found out they were the Pack of Dark — ”

“Wolves. Yes. Good for you. Guards, take them out and kill them, where my offsprings can see them,” a voice interrupted. He said the word offsprings like they were distasteful. Claw stormed (not my storm, different storm) into the den, with at least ten bodyguards — not like he needs them — behind him.

The bodyguards grabbed us by our scruffs and hauled us out into the open — though my guard’s teeth were slightly too deep, and it really hurt.

“Keelin! Keelin, help!” I shouted at the top of my lungs.

Two small shapes, one brown and one black, came to help us, not like that would help us very much.

Fighting broke out, and I could feel a wolf’s claws on my spine. I kicked out with my hind paws and winded the opponent.

Then I saw Cloud… being cornered against the tree we’ve called home for a while now, blood leaking from a gash in his shoulder. Then I heard Keelin wail in pain, and I glanced in her direction. Claw was towering over her, claws poised at her chest — but he was glancing in my direction, like he was waiting for me to chose — my best friend… or my brother.

I can’t believe I did this, and I’ll regret it for the rest of my life. I chose Cloud. I lunged toward the wolf standing at Cloud’s throat, and I heard heart-shattering wails of pain at the same time. Knowing I couldn’t change my mind now, I slashed my claws across that wolf’s heart and… you know what? I’ll not go into the details. Let’s just say that I killed him.

Claw snarled at us, “You’ll live for now, you annoying wolf pups. I’ll swear I’ll kill your family one day!”

“Good luck, since my family’s dead,” I said.

“But feel free to kill yourself,” Emily said, tears staining her eyes, and I had a quick estimate why.

Claw snarled, then ran away.

Then I spotted the body.

The body of a fluffy, bloody wolf. Keelin.

“No!” I sobbed, lifting my snout to the sky with a wailing howl.

For around a minute I sat there, swallowed by my grief, barely noticing Emily until she spoke.

“Stormy, you should help with Cloud’s shoulder. I’ve tried to stop the bleeding, but… ”

I nodded.

“Be there in a moment. Oh, and Emily?”

“Yes?”

“I’m sorry for choosing Cloud.”

She brushed her fur against my shoulder.

“It was the right choice. I mean, I’ll miss her, but still, it was the right one. I bet Keelin is watching us from the Pack of Starry Wolves.”

The Pack of Starry Wolves was the pack dead wolves joined when they died, so that they could watch over their family and friends in peace.

I ran over to Cloud. His shoulder was bleeding like crazy, so it was rather obvious he’d lose so much blood he’d die unless we stopped the endless red river sprouting from Cloud’s shoulder.

“Emily, can you get me some moss?” I asked.

She nodded, then she was off.

While she was gone, I cleaned off his wound with gentle, careful strokes of my tongue. Cloud sat up blearily and gazed at me with his midnight-blue eyes.

“I’m sorry for being the other option,” he apologized. I tilted my head. That made no sense.

“If I wasn’t here, Keelin would still be alive,” he continued.

“And you wouldn’t be,” I said, continuing to gently lick the blood of the wound, “Listen to me, Cloud. We don’t need another pack. You’re the best pack anyone can wish for.”

“Uh… can I join the best pack anyone could wish for? Wow, that needs an abbreviation. BPACWF?” Emily interrupted.

I chuckled.

“Of course, Emmie,” I said with a smile.

Emily tossed me the ball of moss, and I caught it with my jaws. I set the ball on the jagged cut on Cloud’s shoulder and spread it around until it soaked up all the blood. Then I nudged the moss aside and helped Cloud up.

“Come on, pack,” I grinned, “let’s find a place to stay the night.”

And maybe all nights, living together… as a pack.


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