Another bright-time. I uncurl from my sleep-den and trot around the broken Master’s cave. It is many movements past the dark-time—not long till my least favorite, when the hot ball burns bright and I have to breathe the heat out.
I used to be with the Master, he would touch me gently and give me nourishment that was easy to eat and did not cause pain later. I was warm, but not too warm, and I could avoid hot-time if I wanted. My sleep-den was soft and had no Biters or Suckers, and Rabid Masters did not bother me then.
Now it is not so easy—it hurts to move because my sleep-den is not soft, I am either too hot or too cold, and Biters and Suckers take energy from my skin, all the time. My food hurts later and is hard to find—most dead Masters that do not have sick-meat that can make my jaws foam are gone—I ate them all.
I checked all caves near me, except the one across the dark flat, the one I saw Little Master call “school”. I never checked it, because when the Masters first came for me I tried to follow Little Master, thinking him the pack leader, but he gave me pain and sent me back, and I now know it is not allowed, after Bitch Master yelped and growled at me.
I sat in the dark spot near my sleep-den and breathed the heat out. It was hard to think in the hot-time, but I needed to. I had a choice—find a new sleep-den and scavenge other caves, or stay and scavenge school-cave. Both were bad, but I did not know which would be worse. It was so hard to choose, and my muzzle felt dry and my eyes so fuzzy…
I woke during the dark-time. My belly growled louder than the Master when he was angry. Behind my fuzzy eyes I thought of how he touched me tenderly behind my ears and how he poured Bad Stuff on my haunches to get rid of Biters and Suckers. I did not know where he went, for I never found his meat in his cave, nor did I find Bitch Master’s meat. I wanted him here, to give me cold-wet and nourish me like before…
I blinked away some of the fuzz. That would not happen. I needed to find meat and go to the large wet-cold and drink my fill—I was weak and if I did not eat soon, I would become meat, just like the Masters that died before the Rabid Masters got to them.
I looked at school-cave and uncurled myself from the tree where Little Master would throw sticks for me. I remembered how Little Master would get pain from Master from breaking sticks off the tree for me, but how he did it again. I would do the same thing by trotting to school-cave and getting meat.
With great pain and trouble I trotted to school-cave and snuffed the door. I scratched it with my paw. It moved a little. I reared up on my haunches and pawed the flat-metal in the middle like I saw Little Master do before he saw me follow him, and the door opened.
The inside was dark, darker than most caves I saw. That made me feel weak again, but I trotted forward through the pain and snuffed around.
There was blood, Master’s blood, all around the cave, but it was dripped many bright-times ago, soon after the Rabid Masters attacked. I kept trotting forward, wishing for meat, or wet-cold, or a scent to either.
Instead I heard something I never thought I would hear.
Master’s voice, and voices of other Masters from other, much deeper, parts of the cave.
I trotted faster and faster towards the sound, around the cave’s corners, and I saw bright, but not like bright-time, but like bright from Master’s old cave. I stopped outside and wagged my tail, then trotted back to my sleep-den. I would give him something to make him leader of my pack again, to show him what a good hunter he was. I grabbed Little Master and dragged him there, and scratched on his door, my tail wagging so much it hurt.
The door finally opened, and Master’s flat muzzle looked down on me and I heard him bark my name.
Then he saw the gift I brought him, and he made a sound I never heard a Master make—whimper and yelp, but louder and more time. He raised an object I never saw before, and it made a sound that hurt my ears and made a hole in the cave. I yelped and scampered in, knowing my gift had upset him, but not knowing why. I was showing him my respect for him as pack-leader by bringing him part of my meal. Why did he growl and make noises at me with the thing in his hand?
I kept scampering around the room until the thing in his hand made a sound like a talon hitting hard ground. My hackles rose as he trotted near to my hiding spot under one of the hard-flats like the one he used to use to eat his meat on, and where sometimes he would share his kill.
He had rejected my gift. He was no longer pack-leader—a pack-leader never killed his pack-mates after a gift. My belly growled again, and as his hand reached under the hard-flat, I thought about how I needed meat. Master tried to kill me, he was no longer pack-leader. If I did not eat meat, I would die, and would never mate and have pups. The trick was to think as if Master was dead already, like Little Master and Next-Cave Master were.
It was hard, but so was everything else.
I licked my muzzle and bit down into salty, living meat.
If I could not live, I would survive.
Written by Noughtshayde