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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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Mac Tire, the Son of the Countryside

 

by Steve Wade

 

 

 

        Too many moons had awoken and given way to the Great Fire in the Sky since Mac Tire, the last wolf in Ireland, had allowed his hunger for a mate to lead him to the man-cur’s trap. Sharper than newly formed canines and more penetrating than the Great Fire in Big light were man’s invisible teeth that brought him to the earth.

 

        The scent memories and fractured images stayed with him: the wolf’s first real encounter with man. Although the sky greyed over his eyes, forewarning of the Long Sleep, he awoke in the man-cur’s filthy lair, his freedom ripped from him like the throat of a seized hare.

 

        Fed on filth, Mac Tire sensed his bones weakening for want of fresh meat. His own scent too, once rich and sweetened by the warm blood of creatures that had displayed great courage and dignity in their flight for freedom, was replaced by a milky sourness, the scent worn by the man-cur. Everything about Mac Tire had changed, except his hunger. A hunger that clawed at his heart and howled from his throat. But this terrible hunger for familiar scents, worn tracks and big spaces he voiced only when the man-cur had left him alone and dragged his own living carcase off to his putrid lair.

 

        Never once did the wolf howl in the presence of Milky-Flesh, his captor. Although Mac Tire knew not the meaning of the man-cur’s growls and snarls, he sensed the other’s purpose. He wished to have the wolf howl before his eyes. This, Mac Tire knew, would grant Milky-Flesh the delusion he hunted: the belief that he, Milky-flesh, was an Alpha.

  

        Sometimes, deep in darkness on nights colder than a frozen carcase, Mac Tire heard through his own howl the thundering footfalls of Milky-Flesh trying to creep up on him. The Wind, too, would shift and whisper to the wolf Milky-Flesh’s stink. Mac Tire would then silence his heart and close his eyes. From a good wolf sprint beyond some trees, the wolf could see in his head the man-cur as though he were in front of him in the Big Light. There Mac Tire let him remain in the hard-water darkness, Milky-Flesh’s growls and snarls to himself feeding a fire in the wolf’s stomach.

 

        Finally the man-cur would give up and retreat to his stinking den. The wolf’s signal to break again into his lament for all that had been taken from him.

 

        Tonight was one such night. Mac Tire waited for that instant when the man-cur’s last footfall crashed from afar. The wolf raised his muzzle to the moonless sky above his enclosure and let pour from his heart a low tone that gradually became a shift-pitch, which filled the night and every creature that heard it with fear and sorrow. Except, that is, the creature that took from Mac Tire his freedom. The creature he knew he would soon have to kill before it killed him.