Some days are darker than others. Even now as the sun dives deeply into the underworld there rises a darkness that never rests, dreams, or bleeds. Every man has his burden to bear, and a darkness that he can never escape. It is as much a part of him as his soul. If he is wise he will claim it like a crawling chaos, for that which he does not conquer shall one day conquer him. Such is the nature of existence, and the flowering shadows of primordial chaos.
Wilson Lhup tucked his grandson Tommy in tightly, and gave him the mandatory peck on the cheek. It was a cold autumn night; the dried, dead leaves tossed and tumbled in the twisting winds like feral pups. Even as the chill sharpened in the dimming daylight there were omens drawing portents of something darker than the night falling. There was something in the air, and Lhup could feel it sliding down his spine like a cold, dull razor. The signs were there...it was just a matter of instinct.
"Grandpa, tell me a story," Tommy said. He fidgeted under the blankets, squirming and splashing in the sea of quilts his Grandpa had buried him in to keep him warm. "Just a short one, please, please, please!" Tommy hated bedtime. He wanted to learn and play, to grow stronger and fiercer. One day this hunger would serve him well.
"Well," Grandpa said taking a slow, deep breath, "In a little while. Grandpa has some work to take care of outside first. But until I get back, you can count sheep. Stay in bed, and I'll be back soon. Okay?"
"Okay, Grandpa," Tommy said. He was clearly disappointed.
"As soon as I get back in, I promise that I will tell you a story," bending down and kissing the little boy on the forehead. "Now, close your eyes and count," he said, closing the door behind him quietly. As he hurried down the stares he heard a soft, little voice mumbling, "One, Two, Three, Four..."
The old man had heard him outside; the uninvited guest had made no effort to conceal his presence. He might as well have rung the klaxon and had a flourish of trumpets, but Wilson had been preparing for his arrival for a long, long time. His arms swung wide as he quickly put on the heavy coat. It would cut the chill, but little else. He'd have something else for the rest...
He was out the door and down the steps in a dead run. The barn door was open. It was never open.
Every step that he took was silent, swift, and carefully places. The dust did not stir, but his heart did. Each pulse pounded and grew like a rising tide behind his heart. With cold anger he stared into the burning darkness and saw oblivion.
And the darkness stared into him...
His fingers wrapped firmly around the faintly lit edge of the door, and he walked in. Several lanterns were flickering dimly, but there was no one there. Under the howling winds he heard a low growl, like ambient noise in a song. It was low, hollow, and barely perceivable. But he heard it.
"You're getting slow, Old Man," a voice from outside whispered.
Wilson spun around, seeing a long shadow stretching across the ground as the full moon fully illuminated the night sky. He stood in the glow of it, casting a halo around his body like a fallen angel. The man was like a shadow cut from the stars, afire with their glory. He seemed to be one with it, the night his brother in chaos.
"Older, not slower," Wilson said. "That's a hell of a lot more than I can say for you." He stretched his fingers, the sinews tightening in readiness. Muscles stiffened, as he gnarled the tip of his slightly as if to bare claws for attack.
"Where's my boy?" the man asked angrily. "I want him back. He belongs to me."
"You chose your road. And it'll be a cold day in HELL before I let you ruin his life too. You ran with trash, forsook your kin for scum. You'll have him over my dead body."
"That can be arranged, Old Man," the growl in his throat deepened and his eyes began to glow a faint, bloody red. Muscles twisted, bones reformed under changing skin. Jagged, razor-sharp teeth glared in the light of a distant stalking moon.
Old Man Lhup lifted a sawed-off shotgun from under his coat, and leveled it at the man.
"Afraid to fight me?" he growled. Breathing heavily, he reached for the sky. Claws slowly exposed from taunt fingers the scratched at the canvas of darkness strewn overhead.
"Who ever said that an old dog couldn't learn new tricks?" Wilson said, pulling the trigger and blasting him with both barrels. There was a growl and a yelp, followed by a waning howl. The volley of shot had practically torn his body in two. Gore and blood spewed, covering the tree's trunk, leaves, and the gravel surrounding it. The dirt soaked it up, becoming a thick, sludgy mud.
Blood flowed from the mangled remains of what had once been Wilson Lhup's pride and joy. But times change, and people change. Not all changes are for the better.
He knelt quietly over the body. Tears filled his glowing eyes, as the moon slowly rose in the sky. "How do you think that I have stayed Alpha Male of this pack for so long? It wasn't because I was soft. Some blood was only meant for bleeding."
He covered the body with a tarp, and went back into the house. When dawn came he would properly dispose of the body. It would be done in the old way. Flames would consume it as tradition demanded. The wind would then carry away the ashes as time would carry away the memories. Then the pain would be no more.
Wilson slowly walked up the stairs to Tommy's room. All was silent within. He opened the door and peeked through the crack. His eyes saw a sleeping little cub, pleasantly dreaming of the quarry and the chase. The door closed silently.
Someday he would tell his Grandson of his father, and the glory of his promise. Eventually the leadership of the pack would fall upon his shoulders, if they were strong enough to bear that burden. Years would first pass, and the Old Wolf would have to teach him the ways, but that time would someday come.
Until then there was no rest, just a wary watch for the Alpha Male. He loved the little cub, as he had loved his son. But any love has its limits, no matter how great it is. There was a natural order to all things. That fate could not be denied. It was survival of the fiercest, not the fittest.
Blood is thicker than water, but some blood was only meant for bleeding.
Written by W.B. Vogel.
Copyright © 2000 A.D.
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created by W.B. Vogel.
May 15, 2001 A.D.