The winter night settles in the forest. The only sounds that can be heard are the whistle of the wind and the hoot of an owl in the distance. Snow lies unbroken beneath barren trees. Far above the silent forest are empty skies.
The moon passes overhead as the night grows in the same silent way.
The crunch of snow echoes through the forest.
An old man wanders through the empty woods. His hair is old and gray. His flesh is tanned by years of being in the sun. But is scarred by many battles. He pauses at the base of a tree. His gray eyes search the woods.
“I know you’re here.” He calls out into the night. “I know what you’ve done.”
Silence greets him.
“I can smell you.” He draws out a small stone and tosses into the snow.
It sinks out of sight.
“Now come out.”
Minutes tick by before he hears the snow shifts. Snow shifts and part of the earth rises, revealing a black hole. A young man emerges. His hair is black and his eyes green. Though his skin is not as weather beaten, his flesh is already layered with scars.
“What is your name?”
The man narrows his eyes, “How did you find me?”
“I followed your trail.”
He chuckles, “Hoping to cut in on the action?”
“Not at all. I was hoping to offer you a different path.” The older man glances towards the hole in the ground, “Though I must ask, is she still alive?”
“For now. And what path are you talking about?”
“Your life. Your choices are leading you down a shadowy path. I am here to offer you a better path to follow.”
The younger man laughs, “A better path? Ha! You are old and out of date. This is the way things work now.” His eyes narrow, “We hunt. We kill. We mate. We hold the power. We do what we will.”
The man stifles a frustrated sigh, “Why do you think this?”
“Because we have the right to live as we will. What right do they have to order us about? We are oppressed and we shall have our right.”
“By hunting them? By terrifying them every day? Keeping them up at night? Never knowing if their child will be gone or their livelihood destroyed?”
“What do I care? They held us beneath them. Hunted. Killed for sport. I’m, we’re, just equalizing things. Having our rights restored.”
“By oppressing the oppressors? That changes nothing. Only the roles.”
“Listen, Old Man, half of the problem is that you started this? With your own actions and wars, you destroyed what little you had. My generation is simply doing the best we can to fix it.”
“By twisting and turning things around?” The man growls, “You have shouted and screamed for equality and rights but you go about and doing the same thing.”
“Because we are tired. Tired of being treated second class citizens. Tired of being judged on our appearances.” He stalks towards the old man, “Tired of all those humans looking down on us. Their money and their power. Denying us rights they have.”
“What rights? You can own a home, property, get married, and move around freely! What more do you want from them?”
“I want their power.” He snarls, “We want their powers and their positions! They have reigned over us for three hundred years! Being handed their elite status without working! How is that right? How is being born into money and influence giving them a better start in life.” The younger man laughs, “We’re just wanting to make things fair.”
“You do realize that each of their generations worked hard to give the next generation a better position? That it took hundreds of generations to get to where they are. Hours of work and thousands of sacrifices.”
“It doesn’t matter.” He comes to a stop. “You are here to stop me. Aren’t you?”
“As I said, I am here to offer you another choice.”
“And if I don’t want that choice.”
“Then I will stop you.”
He snarls, “Then you’re a fool. And a traitor.”
“I have already walked your path. I know where it ends.”
“You don’t know anything. You are part of the old vanguard. The generation, the so called greatest generation, and you produced some of the most wicked individuals ever.”
“Well, one that title belongs to a select group. Not the entire group. Second, we earned that title by rising up and defeating those wicked ones.”
“You have destroyed us. We are merely working to undo your mistakes and making this a better place to live in.”
“By causing destruction. By causing pain?”
“Enough. If you won’t support us then you are just as bad as all of them!”
He snarls and his flesh begins to twist and turn. Black hair extends out of his flesh. His bones grow longer and warp. His nails extend and curve into long claws. His faces stretch and become wolf-like. His teeth extends and curves. Where a young man stood three minutes before, now a tall beast stands. Long hair shifts in the air.
“Please don’t.” He sighs, “A battle can be easily avoided. Simply let her go.”
“Please.” He finishes changing, “We are what we are. We were born to battle. We have always battle. We will always battle.”
“You may be the sum of your past but your past does not define you.”
“Come.” He snarls, his voice deep and echoing strangely, “There is only one rule to follow. Battle.”
“No. I cannot.”
“Because you have terrorized this town long enough. You have left a trail of blood and bodies. I cannot let this stand.”
He chuckles, “Too bad you haven’t transformed yet. It takes time to transform.”
He lunges across the distance.
The old man twists out of the way. As he dodges the younger man’s attack with ease. Turning to face the other as he skids to a stop, the old man turns and twists into his own wolf-form.
They are an odd contrast. Where the younger man has black hair with white fur in front covering his chest. The older has dark gray fur.
“What do you expect to do? Stop me?” The younger man growls, “You don’t have the strength or the stamina for battle. So why even try?”
“Because I must. Because there is no one else so I must take action.”
“Then you shall die tonight!”
“And if I die, I die. The question is this. Will you die with me tonight?”
With twin snarls, they leap across the empty space. Claws reaching and jaws open wide. The younger baying for blood. The older howling his battle cry. The two of them clash. Snow swirls as they claw at one another. Their teeth and claws tear into each other flesh. The snow turns red with their blood.
They part after an exchange a furious round of blows.
The younger man chuckles as he surveys the damage their fight had wrought. Three trees have been knocked to the ground. Another three have chunks missing from their trunks. The snow has been kicked aside. A ring of blood divides the snow from the earth.
The young man has deep scars across his chest and stomach. His left-hand hangs limply. The older sinks to a knee. His back is torn and blood flows freely down his face. He clutches a deep wound on just above his heart.
“What now?” The younger man wheezes, “Will you give up?”
“I cannot.” The older man struggles to his feet.
With a snarl, they lunge at one another.