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Here's to the pack

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Charias

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Once upon a time, I was a wolf. I had fur, paws, pointed ears. I lived in the snow and killed for food. I didn't think about myself, or about the world. I didn't think, but I felt. I felt so, so much. And most of all, more than anything else, I felt love. Love for my pack. They weren't just some animals that happened to be genetically related to me. I didn't follow them because I needed them to survive. I loved them. Pure, simple, unquestionable. Everything I did, I did for them. They were my purpose. They were my heart. They were my soul. 

I say I have vivid memories. I do. I have a lot. But I don't really know how accurate those memories are. It was so long ago, now. I've been a human thrice as long as I was a wolf. My mind is biased and it makes its own worlds. Its own realities. I can't stop it. Same way I can't prove what I say.

I remember my brother was black. I remember his pale eyes. Was he really black? Not many Eurasian wolves are black. And how would a black wolf survive in a place that was coated in snow for most of the year? I remember him as being black. I don't think he was really black. But I don't mind. I don't care. What he looked like doesn't matter. What matters is the feeling that wells up in my chest when I think about him. What matters is that my love for him, and my loyalty to him, survived my death. Survived death and two decades of life as some other thing, with another family and another home. And it still burns just as strong. And I still miss him. I don't miss him as that black wolf that I remember from another life. I miss him as my brother. I miss him as the one I trusted most, the one who always had my back. I miss him as a packmate. I miss him as family.

And the others. His mate, who I used to bicker with. We'd tussle over dominance. She was his mate, but she wasn't the boss of me. Our fights weren't for fun. But we'd still curl up together when the snows were at their most bitter. We'd still hunt together and share our food. I don't miss her like I miss my brother. But I know he loved her. And that was enough for me.

And the pups. They were his and hers, of course. I don't know why I didn't have pups myself. Maybe I couldn't. Or maybe I didn't want to. I don't know if wolves can be like that. I know I'm like that now, so maybe. They weren't my offspring. I wasn't their mother. But I was a very good aunt. I loved them so much. As much as I loved my brother. I looked after them sometimes. And I played with them a lot. More than their parents did. I was the fun one. I would pounce around and chase them. When they got older I wrestled with them. I would've done anything to protect them. Their mother didn't like me, but I think she knew that. I think she knew I'd look after them. That I cared for them like they were my own.

Then I died. I never got to see them grow up. And my brother died. Just before me. I remember it as... chaos and fear. A big noise and running, then my brother's blood. Looking at him as he bled into the snow. Then I guess I died. I don't remember it hurting. It should have hurt. Maybe it did. Maybe it's just that no physical pain could compete with what I felt as I saw my brother dying, right in front of me. It still hurts. It really hurts. This pain in my chest. Heartbreak, I guess. It's hard to make out what really happened. I think we were shot from a helicopter, but I don't really know. It was so confusing. It must have been humans, though. Nothing else makes so much noise. Nothing else makes things just die like that. With the blood and the pain. Out of nowhere. It didn't make sense. How could I fight something I couldn't see? Protect them from something I couldn't understand?

But I never saw the others die. I saw them run, and run, and run. I think they made it back to the treeline. I hope they did. I think they did.

It was years ago that these memories came back to me. It changed me. A lot. It's hard to explain. 

The first memories came back in dreams. Later on, I started meditating. Trying to figure out what it all meant.

My memories are probably not "accurate". Just like how I know my brother probably wasn't black. Maybe there's other blanks my subconscious mind has filled, without me even knowing about it. But there's one thing I do know is real - and that's the emotions I feel about all of this. You can't make up those kinds of feelings. You can't simulate that kind of love, or pain. I know I had a pack. I know I loved them with all my heart. That's all that matters to me anyway. 

The strangest thing though, is... back in August, I had another dream. Like the ones I used to have, years ago. It was strange. For a while I didn't even remember it. It was during the day, it suddenly popped back into my head out of nowhere.

In the dream, I was in a forest, just like the one where I used to live. I don't know if I was a wolf or a human; I don't think it mattered. My mind was a wolf. I wasn't thinking about me. Wolves don't do that. And in the forest, there was other wolves, but not my pack. There were so many. Over a dozen. A lot more than were in my pack. They all looked vaguely similar. Some of them looked a little like me. In most dreams where there's wolves, I get this feeling of conflict. Like they're a threat. But there wasn't any of that here. It was like we were all one big pack. I spent the dream walking among them, meeting them. And halfway through the dream - you know how sometimes in dreams, you just know things? Well halfway though the dream, I realised they were my family. But not a family I'd known. They were my relatives. Except, of course, in a wolf's mind it's not split into how they're related to you, categorised into nieces or nephews or anything like that. It was just this pure, simple knowledge that they were my family in some way. 

That was all that happened. I guess the scene just naturally faded away at some point. I don't remember anything else.

I don't know why I had that dream. But maybe it means the pups survived. Maybe some of them had pups of their own. Maybe I didn't fail as a packmate. If they survived, then it wasn't for nothing. Maybe my family's still out there now. I hope so. I hope they're happy and healthy and eat lots of reindeer and have lots of pups. I know I could never meet them. Some part of me wishes I could. But they wouldn't know me. To them, I'm just a human. And to me, now... I guess they're just wolves.

But they're not. And they never could be. Because there's a feeling in my chest that tells me - even if they're not real, or even if they wouldn't know me, I still love them. Because that's just what it's like to be part of a pack. It doesn't need to make sense. Because they're me, and they're my brother, and they're his mate I used to fight, and they're the pups we raised. If they live, then we run with them. In a way.

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