Rated G for the possibility of inducing strong urges to cuddle a small, furry animal. Apparently. x3
This was my entry for the Tragedy One-Shot contest, and it came fourth, which I'm quite pleased with. Enjoy!
I still remember you as a cub. My cub.
I remember your round blue face, always happy, always gazing at me with adoration and love. Your large ears, that tail with its little star, both would twitch with interest at the slightest thing, and your forelegs would let loose a shower of tiny sparks. You were young, and so curious about the world. And you were mine. My perfect little son. My first, my only. I was so proud of you.
I raised you just as any mother would. I fed you as you crawled out of your egg, tiny and helpless; I gave you the warmth and love you needed. Once you grew, I hunted for you, happily awaiting the time when you would become old enough and I would teach you to hunt for yourself. Most of all, I kept you safe. I protected you. I did all I could to avoid seeing you hurt, for that was what mothers had to do. Bearing my own cub was something I had waited to do for so long, and I was determined to care for you as well as I could.
You used to love playing in the long grass. I watched, hidden – with my special sight, I could see through the swaying green blades as clearly as if they weren’t there. Sometimes, you would join in the rough and tumble with other cubs your age, though you were always the cutest, the brightest, the best, in my eyes. But one particular time, you were on your own – at least, no other young ones were around, but I was not far from your side. Lack of company did not faze you; you rolled through the swishing tufts of grass, paws waving wildly, sparks flying from your fur. Once, you pounced on a blade as it shivered slightly in the breeze, and my mind soared at the possibility that you might soon start hunting.
Only moments after this, I saw you cowering, fur raised, hissing as threateningly as you could for a creature so small. I focused my special sight to look through your body – something I never usually did, as it made you appear more like prey than my own cub – and saw that your tiny heart was beating frantically, faster than I had ever seen it beat before.
You were scared, and it was my duty as a mother to remedy that. I stood up, eyes and ears alert, scanned the surroundings, and saw the reason for your fear: a human.
It stood tall on two legs and had strangely loose skin. I could recall vague memories of its kind from my childhood, but more central in my mind at that point were the stories told by the other mothers as we sat and watched you play with the group. Stories of how these large monsters came to steal cubs away from their parents, never to be seen again. They left mothers alone and broken-hearted, forcing us to start over.
I would not start over. You had come so far already in your short life, and I would not lose you.
The human was hesitating, gazing at you and not making a move. Seeing my chance, I leapt out of hiding and placed myself firmly between you and the monster, releasing threatening sparks from my fur. Its expression changed to something different, though I could not tell what as its body language was foreign to me. You pressed yourself up against my hind leg; I looked at you and saw your fear ebb away, eyes shining with trust as they gazed into mine. I was your mother, and I would protect you. That was what mothers were for.
Still the human stalled – one of its front paws seemed stuck in its loose skin – and I began to wonder whether fleeing would be an option, before the monster had a chance to steal you away. I turned and was about to scoop you up in my jaws when a blinding flash of light, brighter than anything I could ever emit, startled me into looking back.
The brightness faded, revealing the shape of another strange beast. It was vast, and it somehow managed to hold both a tree and a mass of rocks on its hardened back, supported by thick, sturdy legs. As a roar left its stumpy head, I felt my fur stand instinctively on end, crackling with power.
If this monster was strong enough to carry part of a forest – and if the human had control of it – fleeing was the only sensible option. I turned again, picking you up as tenderly as I could in my jaws while ignoring the strange, low noises coming from the human.
I began to run, but before I had run far I heard a crashing thud from behind me and felt the earth tremble beneath my paws. Searing pain coursed along my legs, through my body, and it shocked me so much that I dropped you. The ground continued to quake, and I watched you scream as you were shaken by the tremors.
The rumbling eventually subsided. I saw with a heavy heart that you were unconscious, and I had no idea how injured you might be. I did not want to risk carrying you in case I hurt you more – something I would never dream of doing. That left me with one option to stop the monster taking you away. Defence.
Snarling, I turned back to the earth-coloured beast and pumped energy through my body. Soon my fur was alive with dancing sparks, and I charged ruthlessly at the enemy. It did not move as I slammed into its unyielding shell, did not flinch as energy coursed through its form. Every spark of power I emptied into it dissipated into the ground without harming it at all.
I took a slow step backwards, frightened by this monster’s apparent invincibility. Before I could decide my next move, its beak-like jaws had clamped around my middle and I was being tossed helplessly through the air. I landed with a thud a good distance away, all the breath forced out of me. But then I remembered that you were alone and unprotected, and I snapped into action.
I forced myself up from the ground; I sped towards you and placed myself between you and the monster, acting as a living barrier. The tree on the beast’s back shook as though disturbed by the wind, and a flurry of leaves tore themselves from it and scythed towards me. I stood my ground, taking the full brunt of the bitingly sharp barrage of foliage, refusing to let a single leaf touch you.
My body was aching all over from the repeated assaults, but still I would not give in, still I would not let you be taken. The ground began to shake in an ominous but less painful way as the beast lumbered towards me. It was pathetically slow, but something that heavy would do a lot of damage to one as small as you, so I remained where I was, glaring defiantly into its small eyes even as I panted for breath.
The monster crashed into me, flicking its flat head and throwing me effortlessly to one side. For the second time, I landed away from you, but this time I could only watch and hope for a miracle as the dangerous, monstrous beast approached your tiny body.
Then it stopped.
I looked on in astonishment as the lumbering monster heaved itself around and back towards the human it served, leaving you still unconscious, but unharmed. I lay where I was, unable to move, my body screaming in protest every time I tried.
Confused, I took a closer look at the human; perhaps it wanted to finish you off itself. It had something in its paw; it was raising it, and then it threw the object – at me.
In that one wild moment I realised the mistake I had been making all along. The human was not trying to take you from me – no, the reality was far worse.
It was taking me from you.
The object – small, round and hard, like a strange kind of berry – bounced off my unmoving form. A strange tingle sprang up all over my body, accompanied by a warm glow like a sunset. Before I knew what was happening, I was thrust into a surreal world where everything was dreamy and I was nothing but thoughts, tumbling through a red haze.
I knew then that this was how humans stole us away, and I knew that I had to escape. I tried so hard, I did – I tried to fight with claws and teeth, but I had no claws and teeth to fight with. So I fought instead with my mind, my bond with you, my steadfast belief that we would never be apart. But I was so tired and weary from the monster’s attacks, and the hazy glow filled my thoughts, lulling me into unnatural sleep. I knew that you had lost me, and it was my fault.
The first time I became aware of myself again, the human was standing in front of me. I tensed, preparing to lash out, but then I remembered the painful truth of losing you. I did not recognise where I was, and I could only assume that the human had taken me far from our home. I sensed that it was trying to communicate with me, even felt that I might be able to hear some meaning in its strange calls if only I tried – but I did not want to try.
For such a long time I refused to co-operate with it, yearning only to be with you again. But eventually my determination faded, and I sullenly went along with what the human wanted – to use me to fight other creatures like us, for its own gain. His own gain. I realised soon enough that the human was male – in fact, I realised that he was not as bad as I had always thought humans to be.
Still, the only reason I fought for him was because I no longer had a purpose in life. I hoped fervently that he would not use me to take another creature from its home, but thankfully, he never did. I am the last member of his pride; he does not need another.
I slowly grew to understand his reasoning for taking me from you. He did not want a cub, someone who would need teaching like I wished to teach you to hunt. He wanted a strong, experienced fighter like me. And as soon as I realised this, I knew how utterly responsible I was for our fate. If he had not seen me, he would not have taken me. He would have left you alone.
It’s my fault, and I’m sorry. But I know that I would never have acted any differently. Seeing you there, terrified, defenceless, and seeing the human so large and threatening – I was not to know. By defending you, I did what a good mother would have done. That is all I ever wanted to be to you – a good mother – and I hope that you will forgive me.
If you are still alive.
It has been so long since I last saw your face. The memory of it is slowly fading in my mind, replaced by countless images of the nameless foes I have battled over the years. But even if I grow so old that I forget your face entirely, I will never forget you. I will always be your mother, even if you are dead and gone.
I know that you probably are. You were still young – too young to survive on your own. You could not hunt, and there are predators who would quite gladly take an unprotected cub as food. Starvation or the teeth of a hunter – neither are ways I would have wished you, my only son, to die. But it was I who condemned you to such a death.
The worst part is that I will never know. I’ll never know whether you died or whether, somehow, you survived.
A tiny spark of hope that you are still alive stays within me, telling me that another mother, perhaps one who lost her own cub to a human, took you in and raised you like her own. It would break my heart to see you calling another creature your mother, but at least you would be safe. By now, you would have changed, grown up – if so, my memory of your face is meaningless now that you have a new one.
And if you were not cared for by one of my kind, I still have another, even fainter hope. You could have been taken by a human, one who did not care for immediate strength as mine did. You could be battling for it, learning and growing stronger and changing your form.
If that human ever meets mine, I could even see you again.
It is too late for me to bear another cub; you will always be my only one. I am so old now that I could quite easily give up on life. And I know within my heart that you must surely be dead. But as long as there is even the slightest chance that you could still be out there, I will keep on fighting until my end.
You are the one thing that keeps me going, even now.