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The low wolf growl scared off a screeching bird nearby. It also made the forest around it a bit quieter. Joonbum watched the wolf through his night vision goggles.
‘Now that I think about it, the wolf looks a bit smaller than the other wolves. A cub maybe?’
It was still huge to be a cub. It was as big as two adult horses combined.
‘It must be!’
Even so, it was smaller than the wolves he saw today. That moment, the wolf started to moan as it struggled to move. Even the painful cry sounded so small. It seemed like it was calling for its pack, but it had been abandoned.
‘Why did they abandon her? Damn it.’
Joonbum bit into his anger, clenching his fist.
He took off his goggles at the sound of wolf’s moan and lit up a cigarette. He puffed out thick smoke into the sky.
‘It’s bittersweet for Christ’s sake.’
Joonbum gazed at the sky glittered with stars. He had never seen a sky filled with more stars.
-Honey, please! Don’t do this!-
Joonbum thought about his father, or bastard rather, who turned his back on Joonbum when he was a child. He only had one reason for leaving his family.
-I found someone I really love. I’m sorry, but please understand. I don’t want to live like this anymore. I’m sure you don’t like me that much? Please let me go. Oh, and she won’t like it if I bring the kid so take care of Joonbum okay? I’m so sorry. Goodbye-
And that was it. Joonbum only could hold onto his sobbing mother’s skirt and helplessly watch him leave. What unfolded afterward was hell. It was only his mother and him, and the world was ruthless against them. There was no bright or happy life for them. He wished to become an adult fast, but when he became an adult, it didn’t change the fact that he was poor.
He cursed and spat at the blurry image of his father. After some angry outbursts, Joonbum cleared up his thoughts and eyed the wolf which was still struggling to stand up. Joonbum shook his head and picked up the gun.
‘Should I end her misery?’
He’d seen it multiple times in the movies: an owner shooting their own horse with a broken leg to ease its suffering, or using a dagger to kill a terribly wounded animal to help.
After pondering while fiddling between the gun and a dagger, Joonbum scowled at himself.
He’d never killed anything other than some flies, roaches, or some fish. Not even a mouse. All he did was cook processed meat prepared by someone else.
‘Killing a wolf is too much.’
That thought alone was enough to make him shiver. Even though he bought these weapons to kill, it was too much for him to handle in reality. Then he was stopped by a sudden chill. The atmosphere changed and the wolf let out an aggressive growl – there was no more moaning to be heard.
‘What’s going on?’
Joonbum grew tense, he felt his hair stand on end as he surveyed the area carefully with his goggles.
‘There it is!’
Joonbum found that the bushes were shaking. The wolf was also watching. Between bushes, a small head popped out.
As one head popped out, at least a dozen more popped out of the bushes.
Joonbum shook his head at the thought. It did have a long muzzle which made it easy to mistake it as a fox at first glance. But it was not a fox. As it fully moved out of the bush, even its shape closely resembled a fox’s, yet it still was different. Its eyes glowed in the moonlight and it started barking aggressively. Then some sniffed at the blood on the ground and jumped off, hiding behind the bushes, startled by the smell. But soon enough, it returned as if it found out what was going on, closing in on the wolf. As it closed in, the wolf put its head up and let out a low growl, baring its teeth.
Joonbum felt his fear return to him. He felt as if he was being stung by the needle made from the wild smell of death. He scratched his head at the stinging sensation as the fox-like creature moved in closer to the wolf. Unlike the wolf, which was letting out a low scary growl, the fox-like creature let out a noisy, annoying, high-pitched cry.
‘They’re testing him!’
It seemed like those creatures were testing the wolf to see if it was weak.
Creatures were moving back and forth, taking turns to get close to the wolf. It was teamwork.
‘Survival of the fittest!’
This was the true side hidden behind the beauty of nature.
As if they were now moving in, the creatures started moving fast. The moon grew brighter, making it easier to see the movement. While some drew attention from the front, the others bit the broken leg from behind and quickly retreated. The wolf let out an angry growl every time, but it couldn’t do anything more. As the creatures discovered the prey’s weakness, they started focusing on the hind leg. The wolf had no way to resist.
As soon as Joonbum realized it had no hope, his hand moved. He threw the twigs he had cut off to make the platform at the creatures, startling and scattering them. Seeing those creatures scared off by his attack, he found relief and threw the twigs harder.
‘Shit, it’s not enough.’
He quickly ran out of ammo and the creatures came back. As they closed in again, Joonbum scowled. He now had a hunting rifle in his hand.
“Go away you bastards!”
His voice caused the creatures to move quickly as they realized where the source was coming from. Joonbum took two shots at it. The two shots were followed by a high-pitched animal cry. His heart pounded loudly as the gunshot and blood rushing to his head made him dizzy.
He fired more rounds and more cries were heard. Soon, the creatures ran back into the woods, disappearing as if they were never here.
Joonbum let out a heavy breath, listening to the faint cry of pain let out by creatures that were shot and soon fell silent, leaving only the smell of gunpowder behind.
‘What should I do?’
He let out a long sigh. The long night was over and it was time for morning to come. His sight was filled with the swirl and the world twisted as he closed his eyes. When he opened his eyes, he was back in his world. As he let out a sigh of relief, he heard a growl.
It was a sound made by the wounded wolf who had shifted together with Joonbum to his world.
‘Should I open up a monster exhibit? How about selling it to a zoo? Or shoot a movie out of it! Wait, the government might interfere and take her away! Gotta say things like the monster belongs to the country because it is hidden Korean beast long thought to be extinct! Or some sort. Or I guess people will just panic and say that it’s a mutant.’
He was deep in thought as he puffed his cigarettes. As he quietly watched the wolf, it subsided in its aggression, not because it knew that he was not dangerous, but because it was too tired.
‘He couldn’t eat or drink since yesterday.’
The wolf was panting with its long tongue sticking out from its mouth. It needed water.
‘Should I give her some?’ he thought. Watching the wolf all night made Joonbum feel somewhat close to the wolf, easing his fear.
‘Am I fearless or what.’
Joonbum took out a water bottle and drank. Some of the water flowed through his mouth and onto the ground. The wolf seemed to react to him drinking by moving its ear and it seemed like it was watching him.
‘It’s showing some interest.’
Joonbum looked around and quickly moved to prepare. He took out a big plastic basin and started pouring water into it.
“Hold tight! I’ll give you water. Be quiet!”
Joonbum shouted at the growling wolf. When he finished pouring, he used a long stick to push the basin toward the wolf. The wolf growled for a moment, watching the basin and Joonbum. Its thirst made it lose aggression. It still hesitated on drinking the water.
‘It must be hard not to give it! Hehe.’
The wolf was very cautious. It needed time.
Joonbum left it alone and started cleaning up from some distance, pretending to ignore it. Soon, the wolf made a move. It tried to drink the water from the basin by stretching its head out, but the basin was farther away. Since it could not move, it was too much of a pain.
A few minutes passed, and the moaning grew louder.
“I guess it’s about time then.”
Joonbum tied up a water hose to the long stick first, and then closed in.
“I’ll give you water, okay?”
He spoke to the growling wolf and slowly pushed the basin. Then the wolf slowly stopped growling, waiting for the basin. As the basin drew close ever so slowly, the wolf panted faster.
‘I can’t give it to you that easily.’
Joonbum intentionally did this to ease its aggression on a whim. As the basin got close enough, the wolf put its head into the basin for water.
“Here you go! More water!”
When the basin was almost empty, Joonbum then stuck water bottle to the rubber hose he had prepared earlier, and more water flowed into the basin. The wolf showed suspicion but it quickly stopped at the sight of fresh water.
‘Water is the most important necessity for humans and animals alike.’
The wolf stopped drinking after the fifth bottle by slowly backing her head off the basin.
‘So what do I do now?’
When he was done giving water to the wolf when his thought came back to him.
‘Let’s go back for now.’
“Hey, eat this!”
He uncovered the truck from and pulled out the chicken and pig meat from the cooler and threw it at the wolf. Wolf growled a bit but started sniffing at the meat.
“I’ll be back soon!”
Joonbum waved at the wolf as he drove off the hill.
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