Pt. II

I wander the graveyard. I know I cannot stay here. Like Father does. Like Mother and my brothers will. But where will I go? I am the fear.

I go back to the tall grass. Where Mother raised us, my brothers and me. But without them it is the black and the silent, too. The whole world seems to be.

I sleep in the place that was named home. But tomorrow I must leave. It is not safe to be alone. Not with the threat of the big around. And me being the last chance. And not a very big thing at all yet, not really. Tomorrow I will be the hunt again and catch the small in the valley. They are not much, but they will nourish me.

And then... then I shall search. For what, I don't know. A new pack? Perhaps. But strange families have a way of hating their adopted. I am the fear that some might consider me no better than the small.

I lie alone in the tall grass as the world closes up. I want it to stay that way. All I have now is my picture sea...

...Loud sounds bring the world back. They are a different loud than the black sounds that took Mother and my brothers. They are rumbly sounds and the world shakes with them. My eyes search for what makes them, screaming fear as they do. I rise and scan the tall grass. There are things coming from away. Big things.

I tense muscles. I am the fear, but I am the bright also. Not the red, but the sharp, too. I am ready if the big come for me. I will become the kill.

"I am the bright!" I yell out. "I am the sharp! I will not be food to big things!"

The rumbling slows, then stops. I can hear whispers from away. Then laughter. I am the red for a moment. Why do the big things laugh? Do they mock before they hunt? I will not become the black by them so easy.

"I will not be food!" I repeat. And the rumbling begins again. The big things get bigger, make more sense to my eyes. I try to remember what Mother taught me. Be still. Look strong.

Remember, she once said, you will be a big thing, too, one day. Act big now and you will live to know this.

I am still. I remember Mother's words. I am the last chance and the last chance is strong. My names are big, bright, sharp, red. My names are hunt and kill. No enemy takes me without suffering these names.

And then I finally see the big things in full. And they are me. My kind. A different pack. They are migrating. Why, I don't know. They circle around me, curious, and all their eyes say stranger.

"Looks like the dim to me," one of the pack laughs.

"There's no sharp to him! Where are his claws? Where are his teeth? Those little thorns couldn't cut small-flesh!"

I am the red. Strangers taunting me. Who are they to come to my home, to laugh?

"Leave!" I snarl. "This is not your home."

"Be calm, little stranger," an especially big one says and moves away from the group to tower over me. "We only pass through. The north has become the black. We go south, to better things."

"The north? Black? Silent, too?" I ask.

"Always together, they are," the towering big says, "like siblings out to hunt."

I am reminded of my brothers. Oh, how bright they were...

"Does it come this way?" I ask.

The towering one looks to its pack. The others mutter to themselves. The towering one's eyes say sad, say loss.

"It does. Little stranger, when they come back, tell your pack to go south, too."

"I have no pack," I tell the towering one. The others gasp when they hear this and dozens of eyes all say pity.

"No one at all?"

"I had Mother and my brothers. But they are gone. Black and Silent took them."

"Poor thing! No wonder he is the dim!" one of the pack says.

"We cannot leave him to the big, to the black and the silent," another says. Others agree.

"What is your name?" the towering one asks me.

I look away. I have no real name. Only the borrowed ones, the shared ones. Bright, sharp, red. Hunt and kill. But nothing to call my name and mine alone.

"I..." I begin. And then, I remember. Mother's eyes... they called me the last chance. It is not a true name, no, but the closest thing I have.

"I am Last Chance," I say.

The towering one stares down at me, curious. But finally he nods and says, "Come with us, Last Chance. We will be your pack now."

I don't know much about packs. Mother and my brothers and I always lived on our own. Rogues, Mother called us. The only survivors of a dead pack that lost a row. But one of the things I do know of them is that they have leaders. And that the leaders are the ones who decide if a pack will add a new member.

"Are you leader?" I ask. The towering one says nothing, but the others laugh.

"Of course," one says to me. "What else would he be? He is the best fighter, the most wise, and the biggest of all the pack. Great is the only reason our pack still lives. He saved us from the black and the silent."

My eyes grow wide. I imagine they must say awe. The towering one, so bright and so big that they name him Great? Only twice before have I heard that word, and both times it was when my Mother spoke of the One All Around.

"The world has many faces, many names," she told me. "Some of them are kind. Others are cruel. You know these words, little one? You know their spirits?"

And I said, "Yes, Mother, I know them."

"But there is something that climbs over all of the world's faces and names."

"Something big, Mother?" I asked.

"Bigger than big, little one. Great. Do you know this word's spirit?"

"No, Mother, I don't know it."

And she held me close and pointed up, where the sky hung, big and black in the night. I feared it, but Mother said, "That is great, little one. That is where the One All Around watches. World in Its arms, It watches."

So Great is like the sky? Or like the One All Around? I don't know. The spirits of Mother's words are hard to know now. The sharp in me is the strong still, and when I remember, my eyes start to drown.

Great sees my eyes weep and his big head lowers down until it meets mine. I feel one of Great's strong paws settle on my shoulder. I look at Great and his eyes say follow.

"We will take care of you," Great says.

I stare up at him and the others. I think back to the graveyard, to when I faced Black and Silent. Those devil brothers. The tall grass around me is suddenly just tall grass. Home is a pack of strangers now. But I am a stranger, too. I would try and know them better, but danger comes. We must go south.