The Freedom Fighter

Snarling, a thunder erupting through the depths of his chest. The wolf twists back, landing on four legs. Ears flattened to the skull, lips lifted to reveal pointed white fangs, he warns the dog back. One chance.

"Go on, Mackers."

Mackers doesn't take it. On short legs, he wobbles forwards. The wolf hisses, danger lifting his fur away from his skin. He looks larger.

The crowd roars. The two-legs make a lot of noise, annoying loud noises that prick at the wolf's ears and scary away prey and alert predators. Sticks enter the ring to jab at the animals. Mackers laughs, his tongue flapping from a corner of his mouth, huffing as if this is his territory. Snapping at the sticks, the wolf slinks back against the walls. The wrinkles on his muzzle deepen, his teeth flash in the meager light.

"Oh, he's angry," Slavering, greedy, grins say. Their hands curl over the butt of a club, and the wolf shoots a worried amber glance. He hates the Big Claw.

"C'mon, wolf, show that you're good!"

But the wolf doesn't hear; nor does he understand. Because all he knows is the blood gushing past his ears, like the roaring of the Big Bangs which felled his family. The blood that urges him to fight, to bite, to kill. He leaps forwards. His jaws expect to find a patch of fur. His claws scratch against his opponent. Easily breaking skin, finding nothing for protection. This is a strange dog. He's never seen anything like it before. No fur to buffer the blows, so the wolf's teeth and claws pierce the skin easily. What annoys the wolf, is that there's nothing for his fangs to hook onto, either. So he can only slash, bite, and retreat. Double that. Then again. Mackers takes the punishment quietly; he doesn't whine or cry or whimper like others the wolf has fought. Instead, he laughs, his tongue lolling from his open jawbones. The wolf snarls back.

Blood trickles down Mackers' forehead, down his eyes, his flattened snout. His body's a bloody mess, but his trainer isn't worried.

"Finish that mutt off, Mackers." The command comes almost lazily. Mackers understands, but not the wolf. And the wolf rushes forward to deliver a final blow, to catch onto the dog's neck, drag it down into the dust, and claim victory.

Mackers squats. His neck is too short, his chin protecting his throat. Instead of burying his fangs into soft flesh, the wolf finds himself meeting a mouthful of teeth. Dog's teeth. And it sinks into his neck. A yelp fights its way past the wolf's jaws as he struggles, his hind legs scraping the rusty, blood-caked floor. Jeers and laughs from the crowd anger him. His front paws gash Mackers' body, opening cuts everywhere, but the dog doesn't let go.

Fear sets in, with panic. The wolf knows he's caught. He tries to get free. He tries to fight. But Mackers' jaws bind together in a vice grip. A strangled cry rises from the wolf.

"Police!"

"Hey!"

"Freeze!"

He hears many two-legs' cries, but that means nothing to him. He's slipping in and out of the Darkness. It feels like when the master bites him with the Big Claw on the head. It hurts, but the pain is numbing. Fuzzy.

"Police!"

"Move it!"

"Mackers! Enough!"

But Mackers squats where he is, teeth grinding into one another. Light floods into the arena. The wolf gives a bitter snarl. A last one before he slips into the Darkness.

A female two-legs' voice buzzes against his ear canals, like the bees in spring that get too close. The wolf issues a growl as warning. She keeps on speaking, her mouth opening and closing. His eyes narrow, and he keeps his growls as long as she keeps her voice. But afterwards, he's too tired to growl any more. His throat's still sore and he lies there, eyes watching warily.

Her hand lowers to where he can't see. Then lifts with meat which she places carefully in front of his nose. He sniffs, though his stomach tells him to devour it. Common sense tells him to be wary. The meat could be bad and send him into bouts of agony even though it smelt okay. The wolf sniffs again, assessing the food. Then, attentively, he bites down on it.

Three more times she places meat in front of him. Then the fourth, the wolf sees her hand rising in the air. His ears flatten by instinct, a growl breaks out, quickly escalating into a snarl.

"Sh, it's okay. It's okay."

The hand doesn't move. The wolf fixes his glare on it. It descends, slowly. Lips scrunch up, teeth flash. But he misses deliberately because if he bites a two-legs, the punishment is unthinkable. Probably the Darkness for a few days again.

"Whoa, you're okay boy, you're okay."

The female two-legs doesn't sound angry, well, so the wolf thinks. At least she isn't yelling the unbearable noise that shreds at his ears. The wolf stares at her. She's a lot slimmer than most two-legs, another build, like how dogs smell like dogs but can still look different. But then she smells differently, too – not the sweat mingled with hate and rain smell.

"I'm Christie, right? And you're…" Her voice trails off and the wolf lifts his head to see her face properly. His ears strain forwards, trying to catch that soft, soft sound. "A wolf?" The words drop unexpected. The wolf associates it with disgust, loathing, and he drops his head, his ears flat.

She laughs gently. The wolf starts up a growl. No one laughs at him. She holds her hands out like shields in front of her. "Okay, boy. I won't call you that."

The wolf grunts and stares at her with one eye. The other, he closes. He's tired.

"Guess you're tired, huh." She backs away slowly. "Come back tomorrow." When the wolf blinks, she's gone. He takes the rest of the day, and most of the next to study this funny two-legs. She moves like the waves of the Big Wet when it's happy. Graceful and pretty. Not like other two-legs. But deep down, he's scared that she'll be ugly and hurtful, even more hurtful than other two-legs, like the Big Wet when it's angry.

She comes back. Many times. Most times the wolf ignores her. She talks, makes a lot of sounds, her mouth opening and closing like a fish without the Wet. He studies her. One time she talks about "fight", and he bares his teeth. But there is nothing to fight.

"You don't need to fight anymore," she says, "You're free."

Another time she comes in, she's holding something white, like large leaves, only they're pale and they don't smell like leaves. His eyes narrow suspiciously, nose wriggling in the air. But it isn't Big Claw, and it looks too flimsy to bite. She glances at it, and speaks again. Sometimes the sounds are familiar, the names, the words.

He growls every time when the sounds are, "Dog", "Boy", "Fighter", "Luck", "Winner"…

"And…" She pauses, steels herself for his reaction. "Mackers?"

He snaps at the air. Angry.

"He's dead. He didn't survive." And she leaves the place softly, like a deer disappearing in mist, in the forest, and the wolf sleeps, dreaming of home.

She comes in again, and crouches down in a corner. He stands, curious. He's never seen a two-legs go down before, not unless she's hurt. She's still speaking, that soothing tone, like the rustle of the forest this time, so she isn't Bad Cold, like the dogs that fought him and lost. Not Bad Cold, like his litter mates after a lynx got them. She's talking, too, but her sounds get smaller and smaller, and he has to lean forward to hear. His ears strain forwards, his eyes drop to her mouth, examining it, then her body, curled, defensive, like she's hurt. The wolf patters closer, partly wanting to hear her sounds, partly wanting to see what she was doing. Perhaps she'd give him meat, like the days before.

"You like that name?" Agonizingly slowly, she placed a strip of meat between them.

He cocked his head, sniffs the meat, and eats it. Then lays his eyes back on her. Inch by inch, she extends a hand and his ears flicker back for a moment. His muscles tense, taut like hind legs of a rabbit. But the two-legs isn't moving, and her face is hidden. Concerned and curious, the wolf stretches his neck and smells the hand, the bumps on the back of it, the fingers – which could hurt – all scrunched up together.

"Good boy," she praises that tone of voice he's learnt to like, "good boy, Zealot."


A/N: This one's for the Gossip Forum's Writing Challenge: (the fictionpress website)/topic/4244/1529131/1/forums/genereal/gossip