Nika’s Darkness

Author’s Note: A while back, I was researching a topic loved by my daughter who wants to train dogs. I must’ve gotten lost because I found myself watching videos in another language (Farsi, Ukranian, Mongolian — it doesn’t matter) of dogs just this side of wolf that shepherds in rural desolation had fighting things larger than those dogs . That session inspired this piece.

Nika shook, sniffed the air, and bolted without tripping over her tail for the little cave she used to share with the pack.

She was confused. She could follow leaders, but it was four-leggeds not two-leggeds.

Inside the cave, she curled like she used to when her mom was caring for the brothers and sisters in her litter. She tried to make her tongue reach where she ached, but it could never reach the jaw leading back to the base of her ear.

She didn’t understand the two-legged. She’d howled and snarled, trying to warn him that her former packmates though still her friends were scenting on his dumb sheep. She pawed at the place they’d marked near the flock so they could find it during lambing.

Nika stretched, began to roll in the dark dirt, and bat her sore jaw with her paws.

He did not understand, and he kept barking those two-legged sounds. They were painful to hear, and she didn’t understand. She smelled that two-legged angry scent. Most two-leggeds walk away when they get like this. But this one… she marked as she rolled while seeing his image in her pack memory, then she shook and curled whelp-style.

She was confused. Some of her kind ran with the pack, and some of her kind stayed with the two-leggeds and their dumb sheep.

She didn’t understand why two-leggeds loved sheep. The sheep couldn’t find food, couldn’t smell danger, couldn’t even stay out of danger. They don’t even play. Admittedly, the sheep do taste good when the two-leggeds give food.

She wanted in the pack that served the two-legged. Usually, he was good about feeding and watering them and getting them to run again when they’re sick. So she couldn’t understand when he started pointing that long branch at her what he was going to do. For the others, he threw it for them to find and bring. For her, he whacked her with it.

Nika stretched again, whimpering. She didn’t know what to do.

Should she go back to her old pack? They were rough and tumble. They did kind of smell awful. And sometimes food wasn’t there.

Should she crawl back to the two-legged and try again? His pack was somewhat older, and they needed new members. Dumb sheep usually mean the food is good. Maybe he’s not a bad leader. Maybe he’s just not used to how her pack runs.

Nika curled up again, and true darkness overtook her. She was alone and confused without a good leader. Sleep in a place hidden from dangerous predators was good food.


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