Wolf: The Vulpine Challenge
You certainly didn’t expect to be given a challenge like this out of the blue, not when you’d only really planned on just asking some questions. And yet, you can’t say you’re opposed to it - the idea seems fun, after all, and besides, what have you got to lose?
You focus on seeing the time and find that of the two hour time limit, almost the first hour has passed - you’re right around the fifty-five minute mark, so you’ve got plenty of time to kill. That spurs you on into your choice.
‘Sure,’ you reply. ‘I accept your challenge. What do you have in mind?’
Ali’s tail swishes around as she grins at you again. ‘Awesome. Well… do you know this area at all?’
‘Yeah!’ you say, and you smile, too. ‘I’ve been here a lot, so I’ve got a good sense of the layout.’
‘Excellent,’ Ali replies. She nods her head to the right, your left. ‘Then you know where the river begins not far from here, and how it leads into a lake? Here’s my challenge: it’s simple… we have a race. If you can beat me to that lake before I make it, then you’ve won, and I’ll gladly answer whatever other questions you might have for me. No strings attached, I promise.’
You pause to ponder this. ‘Why do I feel like you’re being crafty on me to live up to the fact you’re in a fox’s body right now?’
She snickers. ‘Clever joke. But, hey, you’ve got a good point.’ She eyes you then, and her eyes are filled only with sincerity. ‘I promise it’s the truth.’
“She doesn’t lie,” Shira says. You almost forgot the genies were there.
‘Alright, then,’ you say. ‘A race it is.’
‘Shira, could you maybe serve as our starting point, please?’ Ali asks her djinn.
“Ha! Gladly, my dear, gladly,” Shira replies. She beams and immediately floats over to stand on a spot a few feet away from all of you. She stretches her hands to her sides, and, in a flash of purple light, there are now two small but thick lines engraved into the ground. “There we are. Your starting lines.”
You and Ali both walk over to the lines and stand directly behind them.
‘Hope you don’t mind losing,’ Ali says, and there’s a playful flicker in her eyes.
You scoff. ‘I was about to say the same thing to you.’
‘Pffft, sure, sure you were,’ Ali says.
There’s a pause. You look forward, and you think about the quickest path to get from where you are to the lake that the river leads into - if you were human and walking, it would be about twenty minutes from this area, you feel. But with the body of a wolf on four legs, you feel like you’d be able to cut that time down considerably - especially since your legs are bigger, and you can likely cover more ground than a fox can in that amount of time.
‘Alright, then… on the count of three…’ Ali says.
You nod and let in a slow, deep breath through your nose, then you exhale.
You dig your paws into the ground beneath you to test the ground’s strength, since you don’t want to overshoot or trip yourself up. Though you feel the grass get crushed as your claws spear into the soft dirt, it isn’t enough to where you’ll have trouble taking off in a run, which you’re content with.
You tense your body in preparation for this little race you and Ali have agreed upon - you can feel the excitement bubbling up in your chest and spreading to the rest of your lupine body. It’s a surge of energy, and you feel that energy sparking at your paws. Even though you aren’t a human right now, you do assume the closest thing to a runner’s position that you can in this form, if only for the sheer spectacle of it - and because it’s kind of a habit, too.
With that, you take off, and you push yourself forward with all your might.
Moving on all fours isn’t foreign to you anymore - and moving at a high speed, the fastest you can move, is no issue, either. Your legs kick up dirt as you charge down the grassy plain, running not over the hills in the immediate area directly up top - which you know would force you to move slower given the fact running uphill is harder than downhill - but around the sides since it’ll allow you to cover more ground faster. You know where to go.
Of course, Ali is no slouch, and you immediately notice when you start to run that the vixen is definitely faster than you thanks to her smaller size.
She rockets past you by going directly up the hill unlike you; except when you’re dashing around the side of the hill, she flat out leaps over the top and seems to literally fly through the air for a good few seconds before landing lithely on her feet and picking right up at the same speed.
‘What the?!’ you think aloud.
Ali cackles. ‘I’ve been doing this for a lot longer than you!’
She sprints on ahead like a bullet, but you snap out of your brief daze and charge on after her, and though she continues to run up hills, you keep your speed and keep your practice of wrapping around the sides instead.
The hills won’t last for too long; within minutes, the mounds cease, and it turns into a pure flat ground that only slightly slants downwards. You use that to your advantage and pick up your speed, pressing down into the ground with your larger paws and pushing your legs to their utter limits.
Despite the initial lead, and the smaller frame with a higher speed, your wolf body persists, and you’re able to pick up the distance between you and Ali.
It takes a moment once the hills have ended, but, you eventually manage to bridge the gap enough to where you’re nearly directly behind her. Yet despite the fact she’s beating you, that doesn’t register much in your head - you’re feeling the energy pulsating through your bones, through your muscles, and your heart is thundering from the motion - but also from the sheer excitement.
You’d be smiling if you were a human.
You aren’t even a huge adrenaline junkie, really, but the sensation of freedom is just overwhelmingly good, and it pushes you to do your best in this race.
Yet as the seconds fly by, and as you and Ali make it to where the river starts, you realize something: within minutes, you’ll come to a spot wherein you’ll be able to actually pick what direction you want to go. Not quite a fork in the road, no, but, there are two ways you can take to get to the lake, your destination.
Right or left.
Going right, you know you’ll have smoother ground to run through, but there are more trees that direction. The grassy field breaks up around that point, and beyond some clumps of grass and weeds, it’ll be dirt, which means dust and rocks and debris. The downside is that while this path is faster to get to the lake, for sure, it’s also going to be harder to navigate when you’re not small.
Going left, on the other hand, will be elevated, and though it will also be dirt, there are less trees. It’s basically a sort of cliff that you’ll be running on, one that will dip back down again, yet there’s a bit of a vertical climb for a four-legged animal to move up that’ll cut your speed down. Yet, even though it’ll be slower, you know it might be better for a wolf.
Which do you pick?
Written by Hollowpages on 23 July 2020