The forests of yore have burnt to cinder. Arctic snowfall has turned to nuclear ash.
We could not save our world. They destroyed it. And they destroyed themselves.
We have waited for years. In the shadows. Keeping the faith. The distant stars calling to us.
Our time is coming. The Others return for us, making good on our centuries-old pact.
The journey will be perilous. And yet, wolves of all rank and from every corner of the old Earth are gathering. One thing unites us all. The desire to howl at the moon still courses through our veins.
A new moon is rising. The age of the Star Wolvez is nigh. Will you join us?
In the shadows
For many centuries we hid in dark, dense forests, biding our time.
We kept our heads down. Preying on rats in place of long extinct deer. Searching for rare springs of fresh water, unspoiled by radiation. We protected our pack. We tried to rear our young as best we could. For them to keep the faith, too.
Only in rare moments did we lift our gaze. To the sky. Waiting for the Others.
What did we know of them? Little. Nothing, from a first-hand perspective. Some sort of mythical clan of Man. Whispers passed down by generations. Little scraps of encouragement, a spirit running through our blood when the wind blew strongest and the cold, moonless winter nights seared us to our core.
That they would come for us. If only we endured.
Will we ever learn more than what was told to us by way of lore? Under the cover of darkness, our eyes drifting up towards the moon, just to see if she knew any secrets?
For now, we have to survive.
Dust to dust
One thing is for sure. The world is no longer as described in the oldest tales of our Elders. Not a place of bountiful and radiant nature, where young wolf pups played with one another in forest clearings illuminated by moonbeams, where hardened warriors taught adolescent wolves to hunt formidable prey nor where the same wolves, once of age, competed for the love and fealty of the female wolves in their packs.
The Elders told us the Others had predicted it. All of it. And since it had all come to pass… shouldn’t we trust The Others would make good on the rest of the famous pact?
As mere pups we learned of the great wars. How homo sapiens annihilated themselves almost completely. Dust to dust. The same atom splitting that allowed them to subjugate the entire world eventually did them in.
Even after the homo sapiens’ bones decayed and their cities crumbled, our habitats never returned to their previous splendor.
Now? Rivers bubble and glow lurid blue and pink. The earth oozes with radioactive, luminescent sludge. Our young are plagued by illnesses that seep into their paws from the soil.
The only thing constant between our lived experience and what the Elders related, generation by generation? A comforting moon in the night sky.
What else do we know of The Others? Well, they were once humans. Now? We’re not sure...
Perhaps they’re ‘hybrids’ of a sort. Perhaps that’s what we will be after ascendance, too.
The Others are said to retain homo sapien genes, though their time on Earth is a distant memory. The rest of their form has almost certainly been reshaped and refined, adapted and perfected for their intergalactic existence.
Perhaps they’ve learned to live for thousands of years. And to survive outside their pressurized space cabins. To colonize new planets and moons.
The Others left Earth millennia ago, a few thousand moon turnings after the great industrialization of the planet began. They saw where things were headed. Irrevocable damage to all of our habitats. Mutually-assured destruction by warring factions of Man.
When they left the Earth, they were shunned by their own kind. As radicals. Thought to be destined to rot in the distant reaches of the Milky Way on barren planets. Hurtling aimlessly through the infinite void.
Most of their kin had no ambition for adventure. Few of them had much ambition for anything by that time, frankly. They sank deeper and deeper into a paralytic daze, sustained without effort, entertained by various contraptions. Day in, day out.
The ways of the wolf
Before their departure, The Others conducted deep studies on what types of adaptations and technology they would need to brave the stars. They selectively bred their population for strength and resilience. They perfected diets and hardened themselves physically to withstand the trials of g-forces, distant space and warped time.
But to both conquer and colonize new planets and moons while exploring the vast reaches of distant space, they would need to embrace a nondualism that was entirely beyond their genetic predispositions. To tame new intergalactic lands they would need to work together, in tight cohorts, better than they ever had been able to on Earth. Their societies would need to be flexible, yet ironclad.
At the same time, they would need to undertake multi year-long journeys, contemplating the vastness of far-off nebulas and navigating asteroid belts on solo missions to find new, hospitable terrain for their descendants. Thankless years spent in solo spacecraft, oft in vain, oft never to return. A faint radio signal sucked into a black hole and lost forever. Beep… Beep… Silence.
They would need to become both loyal, social creatures and equally courageous, self-contained conquerors. To be at once pack animals and brave warriors capable of solo quests.
In other words… they would need to learn the ways of the wolf.
When the Others first made contact, centuries ago, the Elders say our councils and even the Great Wolf Mother were wary. Highly suspicious, in fact.
Could you blame them? Millennia of subjugating our canine relatives didn’t exactly engender homo sapiens to us as a ...trustworthy species. They had hunted our populations to near extinction. And the Others themselves even recognized that when their ilk weren’t targeting our populations specifically, the wrought they were bringing upon the planet was beyond the pale.
Homo sapien experimentation on wolves had its own fraught history. They had conducted medieval forms of tests on us in the past. Around the time of the great plagues, when supernaturalism reigned supreme and man’s populations were steeped in intellectual darkness, they came to believe there were diseases that turned their kind into ferocious half-man, half-wolf mutants. Preposterously, they thought this would only occur under the light of a full moon. They tortured countless of our ancestors, trying to unlock the secrets of transmogrification from our blood. All for naught, of course. As if, even if possible, those effects could have been achieved millennia ago, without scientific advancements…
At the same time however, the wolves of those days saw the trajectory the Earth was on. They saw the desperation in The Others’ eyes, and recognized it was akin to that in their own. They could smell their fear. It mimicked ours.
If the experimentation was in service of our eventual salvation? It would have to be tried. Still, we wanted to know we could trust them. To this end, we began our negotiations…
To gain our trust, we offered The Others an initial proposal. It wasn’t overly complicated. We asked them to free wolves who were trapped in what the ‘humans’ referred to as “zoos”. These were ghastly institutions where obese, hairless apes gawked at our kin.
The incarcerated existence was mind-crushingly boring and maddening for wolves. A small pen. Meals of the same fare, consistently served. None of the wildness, none of the randomness of the hunt. The smell of pine needles on an earthen floor, or fresh snow fall a fleeting memory. It was unconscionable. That homo sapiens gained some kind of sick enjoyment from keeping other sentient beings in this state explained a lot to us about their treatment of the Earth itself.
The Others were equally embarrassed and dismayed by it. They consented readily to our proposal. Under the cover of darkness over the course of one moon cycle, wolves across continents were delivered from their subjugation. Quietly. Without fanfare. It was a great mystery to the other humans at the time to find the wolves missing. We chuckled when they attributed our slow re-population of ancient habitats with their own conservation efforts. These were prisoners who had been freed. Regardless, homo sapiens’ attention waned quickly.
With our ranks replenished and our compatriots liberated, we prepared a summit with The Others to ink a comprehensive pact.
We were impressed by the technological prowess they exhibited in breaking out our brethren. It was well beyond the capabilities of normal humans. Had they been building in secret for years? Decades? Were they a more evolved class of Man altogether? So much had changed in a few moon cycles … nothing was out of the question.
“Perhaps we can unearth the answers to more questions as we grow our relationship,” our Elders thought to themselves.
The summit took place under a full moon. The demands of my forebears were simple. If our collaboration could help The Others conquer distant stars, well, then we wanted the chance to follow them. If their predictions for the Earth would come to bear, we would need new planets of our own to settle. It hurt our pride to concede that our survival could be contingent on another species someday. What other choice would we have?
We inked the final pact immutably, and The Others programmed the essence of the pact into the code of the spaceships they were building. Our forebears howled at the moon and summoned the spirit of the Wolf Mother to watch over them.
Then the work began.
From then on, what The Others called “the integration” commenced. Their scientists, warriors, and philosophers alike would come to spend time in our packs. To observe our culture. To understand our motivations. To embrace our spirit. We thought they’d last a day, maybe two. To our great surprise, they showed more resolve than that.
They monitored our dreams. Took saliva and fur samples. They studied us as we howled at the moon. And they began supplementing our carnivorous diets with vials of stardust.
From then on, nothing would ever be the same.
The integration was far from seamless. The Others had a bad habit of startling our prey when we were on hunts. We had a bad habit of occasionally snapping and snarling at them. But in time, we could tell how much they appreciated our culture. The fluidity with which our kind could flow between winters spent alone, charting new paths, and springs spent nurturing communal bonds and nuzzling our young.
We saw the Others were earnest. We saw them look fondly, longingly even at the same moon at which we howled. New bonds began to form.
And then? The Others prepared to leave. Their studies were complete. As were the spacecraft that would carry them up. Away. Into the night sky, into which we so desperately wanted to follow them.
We couldn’t go with them. At least not right away. Their ships were perfected for their own physical transmigration. They weren’t suitable for our kind.
The experiments with stardust had shown promise however. Not only did stardust grant wolves enhanced vitality, in the same way it had already been shown to extend The Others’ lifespans. But The Others were confident that stardust would unlock the promise of our own eventual migration as well. Once they settled the outer regions of the galaxy, they’d have enough stardust supply to complete the requisite technology for us.
Of course, in wolven tongue, we construe things less scientifically or analytically than the Others. Their technical explanations were opaque. In our mind’s eye, we imagined a future in which the Others would teach us how to run on moonbeams, the wind ushering us across the night sky.
With the pact in place, wolves the world over saluted The Others’ ascendence as their ships took off. With a massive, communal howl. Wolves across the entire, desolate old planet howled in unison. For some of them it was broad daylight.
Howls rung out throughout the woods, across snow-capped peaks, into the ravines and crevices of the eerily luminescent, ravaged earth.
This is the tale the Elders tell. Of their ancestors watching mournfully as magnificent ships rocketed into the sky. Until they became indistinguishable from the stars.
Since then? We have had one hope. One hope alone.
That the Others will make good on their promise. And, once perfected on distant planets, send back whatever requisite technology we need for our own ascendence.
At the time, the wolves knew it could take years. Centuries, even. Until then, we would endure.
The years have passed. We endure with great hardship.
Our numbers have dwindled. Generations of valiant warriors have passed into dust, their entire lives spent waiting for a signal from the stars. New litters sustain themselves on the lore of older generations. As I did. As I do.
Our belief remains the same. That a pact was made with a mysterious breed of half-homo sapiens, half star dwellers. That in these fables and tales alone rests our collective will to sustain ourselves. To turn our eyes towards a new day. A pale moon hanging low in the sky of another early morning. Do you believe?
There have been rebellions. Suicidal sects, even. Wolves who have given up. Our bonds have weakened. Can you blame them, really? An existence spent watching habitat and kin wither. Populations roiled by radiation poisoning.
The Believers, as we are now known, migrate often. Not just in search of hospitable land. But to shield new litters from dissenters. From the forlorn. From the damned. For they walk among us. Tell me, friend, do you really believe?
Even my hope has dwindled, to tell the truth.
Have the Others already sent signs? Have we missed a stray signal? Do they presume all wolven kind dead? Did they intend to come back for us, only for their own resolve and belief to gradually ebb over the centuries, waning ever more as they floated further and further into the outer rings of the imaginable universe?
And what if they themselves haven’t survived? Is our only claim on a future in the stars floating listlessly outside a distant nebula somewhere, smashed to smithereens in an asteroid belt?
These were the thoughts that occupied my mind for many a sleepless night as I grew older. A pup no more. Indubitably they’ve occupied the minds of all the wolves who were born since the time of The Others' departure. Those of us who have known no other existence than this one. Sustained by our wolven lore.