Wolf: The Vulpine Challenge, II
‘Having fun eating my dust?’ Ali asks.
You scoff internally. ‘You talk a lot of trash for someone so small.’
‘I’m only small right now, silly mutt,’ Ali replies.
You have to resist the urge to roll your eyes.
She’s definitely got a sassy edge to her, but you can keep up with it just fine.
Still, you have a choice to make, and as you near the point where you’re able to pick between the right path or the left path to end up at the lake, you rush through your thoughts as you weigh them both down. It’s not exactly an easy feat to ponder over two big choices when you’re racing against a snarky vixen, but somehow, you manage to decide what way you’ll go: you choose left.
‘We’re almost there,’ Ali says. ‘If you can’t pick up the pace, I’ll be there before you, Fido!’
‘Yeah, yeah, keep trash talking!’ you reply. ‘It’ll make my victory sweeter!’
She laughs internally. ‘Is that your best attempt at talking back? Really?’
You don’t respond; you’re thoroughly amused by her, naturally, but you’re also a wolf on a mission, and you don’t want to end up getting distracted right now!
Seconds zip by.
You and Ali make it to that point where the grass starts to splinter into normal ground, but the left path that leads up into a small cliff maintains some of that grass. You go left, while Ali goes right, both of you following the river.
‘Good luck down there!’ you say.
Ali’s laugh is her only response to you. Fine by you; time to push yourself!
Moving left is what you expected it to be: you end up climbing a little bit up with each passing second as the ground begins to elevate itself, and with those passing instances, the grass fades into dirt instead. Yet it’s devoid of rocks or cracks or puddles - nothing mars the path, because it’s used by humans for hiking. The other path? Running, jogging, and cyclists go that route, and dirtbikes, too, from time to time. Not this way.
‘Judging by the time of year, I bet there’s probably tire tracks,’ you muse to yourself as you feel the dirt beneath your paws. The earth is soft and malleable to a degree thanks to your claws digging in and out of the ground. ‘She may have a quicker path, but she’ll have to take the time to bob and weave a lot around all the trees, and if she’s not careful…’
You can imagine mud puddles spread about, and probably the remnants of cyclists from the morning, perhaps even joggers or runners rummaging through the area. Regardless, you’re counting on nature to be on your side with this, because while you’re not super competitive, you don’t want to lose this race - you want to win so you can appease your curiosity.
You’re focused purely on the end result at the moment, on getting to that lake, which is about five minutes away from you going by your best guess.
‘C’mon, wolf body, don’t fail me now,’ you think.
The ground is only rising at fractions with every few steps you take. You use this to your advantage and slow your speed a little since you have to push upwards a bit, but your legs are big and strong, and your paws kick up only little spurts of dust and dirt. It feels cool to be kicking up the dust with four legs like this, and you’re glad it isn’t wet since that would slow you even more.
‘Once this cliff starts to dip down, I’ll have to pick up my speed,’ you think.
The cliff winds down to a few different spots where you can drop off to get back to where the river is directly; there isn’t much of a difference besides where these are located, beyond the fact that you recall there’s a bit more of a drop for the nearest ones for someone on four legs, rather than on two.
‘I can handle it,’ you think.
And as you barrel over the path, time slips past you, and you can tell you’re approaching the point where the cliff dips back down to the river. You don’t know where Ali is, or how far she’s gotten, but you try not to let that distract you - your main goal is to get to the lake, and with your heart and body brimming with energy, that’s not going to take much longer by this point.
At last, the dips start to appear, but you bypass the first few, and instead, you aim for one of the later ones - it’s a few feet away from where your position is, and when you reach it, you can’t help but leap forward when that dip arrives.
Your body is briefly in the air - you pushed yourself off like you were jumping with two legs, and for a brief instant, you’re a little freaked out by the fact you leapt so high up for a wolf. But then you feel the ground beneath your paws, which throb for only a handful of seconds from the impact they took.
You manage to shake this off, and you keep your pace. Except now, the river is beside you, and you can spot the lake in the distance. You’re close.
You don’t see Ali, not at the lake, nor behind you. But you push yourself to the fullest again, and you speed up, working those four legs until your muscles start to groan in protest from the effort being exerted from them.
Closer… closer… closer…
Only then, when you’re mere feet away, do you hear movement, and out of your peripheral, you spot Ali zooming out from a row of trees. She’s dangerously close to overtaking you, but you grin at this, and you keep going with the same momentum.
Your paws dig into the ground, your heart feels like it’s about to burst from your chest to try and get to that lake before your body does.
And then, finally, you’re there.
‘Aw, dammit!’ Ali shouts.
You leap into that lake bed and feel the water embrace your furry body, and literally a heartbeat or two after you’ve made it, Ali’s smaller vixen form does the same.
You let yourself relax as your heart begins to settle itself, and you float there in the lake, turning your attention to Ali’s form. She paddles away from you, out of the lake, and you gradually make your way to do the same. Your legs are beat, and they protest every step you take, but once you’re out of the lake, you let your body drop onto the ground. You’ve achieved victory, and it feels… nice.
Ali shakes herself off, and plops down across from you. ‘Well. This stinks,’ Ali says, but her tone retains the mirth she held earlier. ‘Congrats on winning.’
You start to pant without even thinking about it to try and cool off - or were you panting sooner? You can’t recall, mostly because you weren’t even thinking about it until now that you weren’t running. The cold water from the lake helps this, and after a stretch of quiet, you feel much more at ease.
‘Thanks,’ you say. ‘That was pretty fun, though.’
‘Yeah,’ Ali says. She chuckles internally. ‘You won, fair and square, much as I hate to admit it.’ She shakes her head, and you notice she’s panting, too. ‘Alrighty, victor. I’ll stand by my promise - I’ll answer your questions now.’
You smile inwardly, pleased. ‘Alright then.’
Where to start?
Written by Hollowpages on 24 July 2020
Wolf: A Tale of Tails