Some would refer to it as 'private ownership'
|We sweat beneath the unforgiving rays of an artificial moon.
The youngest among us wails as their adolescent body strains to accommodate changes which should only happen once each month. Our captors care not for the endless suffering, dampening guttural moans with cheery music that plays on loop, broken only when harsh commands spur us to deliver an ever increasing quota.
These mortal shells were created to withstand the most brutal of elements. Canine flesh which can repair savage wounds, muscles powerful enough to bend steel, jaws made to snap bones, eyes that can cut through the darkness, snouts so sensitive that even the blind are able to locate a blood drop from leagues away. Yet for all these gifts, we are powerless to free ourselves.
Because of our strength they force us to complete back breaking tasks which no human could ever accomplish. The miraculous healing is exploited to the utmost limits, leaving the afflicted to whine in agony each night as packmates feebly lick at their acid burns and maimed limbs in a tender act of love. I wonder if that is true.
Do we nurse them because of those powerful bonds that trauma bestows? Or is it because one less paw at the yoke means we must all bear a heavier load the next day?
I can scarcely hold this fragment of charcoal, much less write. After each sentence, I wait for the tremors in my misshapen hand to cease before continuing. It is forbidden to remain in my human form for more than an hour. They do not wish us to think. Clarity of thought is a dangerous thing, ideas are even more deadly.
If an alpha arises, they are never seen again. Any brave enough to refuse this torturous existence are quickly given their wish. The collar on a strong-willed wolf beeps twice in warning, once more and it constricts until the fated prisoner howls in panic, tugging, scratching, ripping at his throat, eyes bulging, purple tongue lolling as bones crack and skin tears until the device severs head from body.
He will stay there until the day is done. A grim reminder to show what awaits those who do not serve.
They keep us at the edge of breaking. This cruelty is all by design, for a workforce that cannot summon the energy to raise a fist is easily pacified. Each morning, we are fed just enough to produce the results they require. Each night we are given scraps as a reward.
Sometimes, they choose a wolf to be the 'fortunate one'. This poor soul receives a larger portion than the rest, encouraging the bitterest member to raise their hackles, bristling with indignation as hunger gnaws his belly. If only we were able to revert back, cooler heads would prevail.
But the feral nature takes hold. The wolf defends her piece of moldy chicken, hunching over the fetid offering as territorial instincts whisper to protect it from any who dare feast upon it. Fangs are bared. Jaws snap, saliva dripping onto a concrete floor crisscrossed with claw marks. When the fighting begins, the suits watch through cameras mounted out of our reach. They never break up these bloody affairs.
We can always be replaced.
After the frenzied snarling fades and when the pack reluctantly clears away, a lifeless body lies amidst the carnage, viscera trailing from a torn neck. The victorious female limps back to her den, clutching the chicken in her mangled maw.
She feeds as the rest of us eye our fallen comrade, drooling while crimson life pours around blistered feet. A youngling cannot stop himself from lapping at the warm puddle. The corpse hasn't even cooled and already my starving brethren begin to feast, morals and empathy forgotten in a desperate need to fill that devouring emptiness.
I pause, wrestling with my urges. It takes everything to keep myself from joining in, giving up all individuality and allowing the animal side to swallow my rationale, devolving into that which they force us to be. Mere beasts, squabbling over bones.
Later, the sorrowful keening will last long into the night. We loathe ourselves for the things we do, helpless against their callous machinations. I know it won't be long before I am the one who drinks first, biting into the steaming flesh, tearing wet chunks away to fill my aching belly.
The topic of escape is one we all murmur to ourselves, an impossible dream which tantalizes, floating just out of reach, yet one we entertain throughout the long days, consoling ourselves and numbing tedium with the most terrible drug there is: hope.
While I also fall into this awful trap, I question if it would be what we imagine it. What sort of world would we find behind these walls? Would we be content living in a society that allows such inhumane acts to transpire? Does anyone even know of our misery? ... do they even care?
I confided in my mate a few moons ago. She tensed at my questions, fear widened eyes searching mine as her tail swished anxiously.
"Conri," Her low voice rasped. "You cannot think this way. It isn't wise to go against our masters."
My heart grew heavy at her response. So many of us were quick to refuse the wishes of a better life, to think beyond the day to day existence. Everyone possessed aspirations but none dared act on them.
"Ashina, please," I begged. "They cannot replace us all. If we were to unite under a common goal and truly become a pack... Perhaps we might feel the wind in our fur once more."
Her teeth found my ear, nipping it. "Silence. Don't speak like an alpha. I couldn't bear it if you vanished from my life... like so many others."
I said nothing as Ashina nuzzled my chest, pulling her closer as we shared warmth on the freezing stone floor. It was fear that kept us together and fear which drove us apart. Couldn't they see it? Clinging to fragile remnants of comfort, unable to conceive what would happen if it were ripped from our grasp.
The masters were cunning. An animal which has nothing to lose is an unpredictable one. So they give us the barest of minimums, knowing it would be just enough.
It is useless to convince the others to join me. I won't even bother to ask. Tomorrow, I shall stand in open defiance and speak my mind to the masses. They are going to kill me. So be it.
I cannot bear to see Ashina suffer any longer, to witness my comrades debase themselves over rotten meat and dance on unseen strings. This is no life. It may be enough for some, but not me.
Tomorrow, I will howl at the artificial moon and proudly stand for what I believe in. There is no movement without a martyr. No change without blood spilled. Perhaps others will join me, else they will ignore the fate I boldly embrace. We were never destined for subservience. Luna wanted us to be free.
I am the beast which prowls in the night, the shadow of the sleeping forest, the predator which all men fear.
No shackle will bind my spirit.