I am a survivor.
I had the sharpest claws and the quickest feet, but I was the runt in my pack.
That day was like any other. The tusked men, the ones with skin the color of the sea, were unruly and aggressive.
Like most days I hunted on my own, stubbornly ignoring scraps left by my kin. I wanted fresh blood, from a kill I dragged to the soil myself.
It had been three days since I ate last, a meager meal of fish. I hate fish— it tastes like failure.
The sun blared heat down upon my crimson hide, stung freshly earned scars from a fight with my sister the day before. She was a biter. Thankfully, I have little meat to get hold of. I caught scent of an island boar, a rare treat for any of my kin.
Part of me wanted to surrender to my usual strategy, find the scraps ignored in favor of the feast. That part of me was not my stomach. That part of me was not my pride.
I hurried across the island foliage, careful to avoid patches of stone among the soil. A stray clack of my claw would spell ruin. The seamen may not hunt me, but they would kill a fellow hunter if they wanted a quarry.
The scent of spoor filled the air. The boar lounged in broad daylight, unconcerned for any attacker. For good reason—this boar was huge. Long blood stained tusks jutted from his mouth, muscular legs gave hint to speed and power. It didn’t matter. I would not settle for a meal. Instead, I would feast.
This was no island boar, rather a stray from the mainland. I ground my teeth in anticipation of battle. Every beast had an exploitable weakness, and I had no doubts I could take it down. The instant the scent of blood hit the air it would only be a short time before his kin would find his prey.
I knew what I needed to do, despite the risks.
I approached, letting out a low clicking growl. The boar stirred from its slumber, opening an eye size me up. It snorted and went back to sleep.
I hate few things, but ignoring me is a death sentence. I gnashed my claws, holding back the instinct to tear into the boar. Even a single bite from his hide would fill my belly for a time. Failure would let me live another day.
I backpedaled, clenched back my growling belly and charged. I lowered by head and slammed into the boar. Unfortunately it outweighed me, and I bounced away uselessly. IT answered my ‘attack’ with a noisy fart.
I lay on the soil, exhausted and annoyed. My body ached, atrophied from hunger and I knew then I didn’t have the strength to start a fight with a small boar, let alone this monster. For a brief moment, I considered giving up and letting the land take me.
That was until I caught scent of another hunter.
I stood up, glancing around the isle inlet and spied a seaman, crouching low with a strange device made of wood. I had seen them before, a weapon able to launch claws lashed to wood and feathers.
This was my prey though. Mine.
I moved to charge, but I could only limp. I had nothing left. I moved on pure stubbornness. The seaman lowered his weapon and considered my actions. His apparent dismissal filled me with rage, allowing me to reach deeper insider myself for energy that shouldn’t have existed.
I ran, growling the whole way, bared my claws and pounced.
The seaman protected himself with a naked arm, I bit on sheer instinct tearing into his flesh and tasted his blood. It was bland, skinny and worthless— just like me.
He showed no sign of anger, offered no resistance. His lips curled upwards around his smallish tusks and put a two fingered hand on top of my head. We had that in common, even if he didn’t have claws.
He spoke in a gibberish I recognized from the other seamen. This one seemed different, more deliberate and lazy.
I hate laziness. I bit him harder, hearing the satisfying crunch of bone under my teeth. He didn’t so much as flinch. It made no sense. I hurt him, tasted his blood. I could have torn out his throat—but I didn’t.
I pulled away, his blood still fresh in my mouth and challenged him with a growl. It came out more as a squeak. It sickened me.
The seaman shrugged, reached into his pack with his good arm and pulled out a chunk of undecipherable meat, dripping with grease and fat. It looked absolutely disgusting— but I snatched it away and ate it in a single bite.
The flavor was unusual, not boar, not bird, not jungle cat. Something else with hints of flavors I didn’t know existed. I wanted more.
The seaman pointed past me, to the sleeping boar then pointed at his mouth. He pantomimed eating. I understood that much. I responded with a defiant roar, fueled by the odd meat.
Undaunted, he held an invisible object in his hands and pretended to split it in half. Then offered one hand to me. It was empty, but I got the message.
I glanced back to the boar, filled again with bravado and the strength of food. I wanted that beast dead. I wanted to hunt. I wanted to feed. I couldn’t eat a whole boar by myself though, I just wanted the first bite. The seaman could have the scraps.
I relaxed, and clicked my claws on the ground. The stupid seaman couldn’t communicate properly, but maybe he could see the worth of a partnership. I would lead the pack, he would follow. That would be the only way it would work.
He readied his weapon and nodded. A voice inside me told me it was the right thing to do. That voice told me to attack and not fear my siblings coming to steal my prey. Now I had a weapon. Now I had a pet. I felt invincible.
I let out a triumphant roar and charged the sleeping boar, leaping at the perfect range and dug my claws and teeth into his thick hide. I savored the surprise squeal as it echoed through the salt air.
The first bite was delicious.