I look at the small pink blob in front of me. Pathetic. Fat. Twitching its leg, these weird muffled sounds coming from its mouth. Long held notes face down in the dirt. Blood around its neck where it had been grabbed by teeth, blood down its leg where it had been dragged through the sand and over rocks. Grabbed and shattered and shaken.
I look at the small pink blob in front of me. I cock my head. It smells of shit and grime. I nudge it with my nose on the fabric of its ripped jumpsuit and touch its side. It’s light, it’s weak, I nudge it again and roll it onto its back. It wails. I can hear its clenched throat, I can hear its pain, I can hear it dying, and I can see it freezing.
I look at the small pink blob in front of me. I step forward and stand over it with my legs on either side of its body. I catch its eye. The crying stops for a moment. And looks back at me. It’s not happy but it is distracted, looks at me as something familiar. And it reaches out and touches my nose and runs its fingers through the fur on my face, and I lean in and take another sniff.
I look at the small pink blob in front of me. I’ve seen bigger versions of this. But they’re always fighters and loom over me. This is different. This is just a baby. This is no more than, I don’t know, three months old. Two. What would I know. Not old enough to stand. Not old enough to think. Just old enough to cry when it’s hurt, cry when it’s cold, cry when it’s hungry and stop when it touches something soft.
Hungry. I lick its face and it cries again. Hungry? I can’t give it anything. I have nothing for it. Just water. I lap some from the puddle in the den, store it in my mouth and let a few drops dribble onto its lips. Its tongue doesn’t come out, it just drops right in. But it’s hungry. And it cries. And it cries again, more like a scream now than ever. Rasping. It’s chin waggling, willing for more water. Be quiet, or the others will hear you.
And they hear you.
They hear you and the light from the front of the den flashes, and I look up to see the silhouette of my comrade and I hear a growl. No time for this. He smells the shit and sees the meat. A few steps in and bares his teeth and gums at me. Saliva dribbles from his mouth and onto the floor. Barks at me. Yells at me.
I look at the small pink blob in front of me. It wails. Defenceless. Open. Ready for the taking, to be ripped to shreds by us. But we don’t need it. Not now. Pathetic. Nothing. I’m still standing over the body. I look up at my comrade. And I stare. And it cries.
Another growl. I growl back.
A bark. I bark back.
He takes a step forward and opens his mouth, pointing towards the crying sack under me. I react, bend my knees suddenly, pull my ears back, bare my own teeth, stick my tail out, and step forward. Putting myself between my comrade and this small pink blob. It’s mine. My comrade barks. I bark back. It cries. I step forward again. He’s bigger than me but my teeth are sharper. There’s no need for this. No point in this. Just blood. That’s all. Just blood and nothing. I took it. And now I don’t know what to do or what I’m doing, but it is mine. I will defend it. I will growl for it, bark for it, scream for it, fight for it, kill you for it, I will pierce your gut with each of my claws and step on your organs, and pile them in the corner under your bones. You may want it, but this pink blob is mine. You will leave. You will find your own. Go chase your tail. Go sleep in the sun. Go suck the fuck off your own corpses. This pink blob is mine and you will not touch it. Go.
My comrade is not happy. But my comrade huffs. He breathes in the dirt. Turns his neck, and slinks out. A flash of red as the sun hits it at the front of the cave.
I stay in attack mode, ears pointed, for a few seconds longer, just in case. Just me in the dark with an echo of cries. It’s loud. It’s cold. It’s scared. It’s hungry. There’s a pool of blood under its head now. I pull myself up and pull it onto fresh dirt. It’s getting dark. It’s getting cold. I cuddle around it. Envelop it in my fur, and it huddles up like I am a blanket. It is still in pain but it is distracted and full and weak and empty.
It won’t survive the night. It will freeze. I will wake to find it is no longer a small pink blob, but blue, and stiff, and nothing. There will be no more cries. It will just be. I will just help it through. Get there without pain. Just rest on me, little one. Fall asleep and give up. I can’t help you any more. I will wake, and this will be over and I will forget you. But for now, just breathe in time with me. Breathe like you will never stop. Breathe like everything is okay. Breathe like you will see your mother soon. Like she is on her way. Like she is here. Like she cries for you. Like she is me. Breathe until you have nothing left. Breathe, you small pink blob. Breathe.
- Scott Sandwich