Crow By Kat Franklin
Everything is ready. The injured animals have healed; we are war machines, our bones strong and our muscles lean. I see the power behind each paw, each wing, each strike that the animals could deliver.
The timid voice of Mouse reaches my ears from the leaves below. I look down to see her bound toward me, not even a limp to mar her graceful stride.
“Hello friend,” I tell her. “Is every animal instructed on our plan of attack?”
“They are.” She nods once, quick and sure. “The smaller creatures will run underfoot and bite the necks of the deer. They’re slower, easier to fall. The birds of the sky will fall upon the wolves, beaks trained for the eyes and nothing else. The cats have the hawks, the bears will fight one another, and every animal not on a specific mission will protect your flank.”
“Thank you,” I respond. “Is that all?” She nods once, so I turn and pad away. Realizing I forgot to wish her luck, I swiveled back. When I return, Mouse is shaking, her tiny shoulders convulsing with what looks like a mixture of fear and grief.
“Mouse?” I ask, my voice barely a whisper. She jumps, wiping the moisture from her eyes in two swipes. “What’s wrong?”
“Oh, it’s nothing. I’m just a little scared. Everyone is. But we’re so ready to fight and take our home back!”
The forest floor has been quivering since I announced our attack. Like a fool, I assumed it was from excitement, anticipation, the raw animal need to protect what you have. I’m filled with horror as the truth dawns on me, the mood I misread: every animal is terrified out of their wits. And I have driven them to it. Crow was right, of course he was. War was never the solution these animals needed. I have destroyed their home, their security. This is not their battle to fight. It’s mine.
“Mouse,” I choke out. “Mouse. You have to distract the animals. Delay them, do something!”
“What are you going to do?” Her wide eyes search mine for answers that I’m not even sure I have.
“I don’t know. I’ll be back.” I tell her. “I swear I will. You’ve got to look out for them. Okay?”
I wait until her large brown eyes meet mine, then I sprint into the dark damp of the forest, pushing my legs to hurtle me through the trees and underbrush. Dense clumps of ferns and grasses rush by me in a blur, the wind plastering my fur to my skin. I doubt I will make it to my destination before it’s too late, but if ever fate wanted me to make a move, now is the time.
I am running for one reason, and one reason only. I am running to find my brother.