By M. F. Erler
There was nothing but darkness before his eyes as he moved slowly through the trees. Somehow, he could sense them and avoid walking into their rough-barked trunks. Perhaps it was the way the ground level changed as his hooves neared their roots.
He tossed his head, shaking out his tangled mane and nickered softly. Then he pushed air from his nostrils in a loud whoosh.
Lowering his head, he chomped off a few blades of grass. It was still too early in the spring for very many of the new fresh blades, so he had to settle for the dried remains of last year’s crop. It wasn’t too bad, though—it tasted like the straw his master had fed him—back when he still had a home.
That was now a hazy faded memory, though. He couldn’t really measure the time, but there had been numerous periods of light and darkness. The weather had gone through its full sequence—from the chill of the snowy time through the greening up and the hot days of sunlight—and then back to the long darkness and the fading of fresh and green things—into the cold, and back out again.
These cycles had always been a part of his life, but before there was some shelter provided for him from the wet rain and the cold snow. Now he had to find his own shelter—sometimes in a rocky overhang or under some of the taller, thicker trees. The cycles passed over him, and he just took what each day brought. Numbering the passage of seasons was not part of his nature. His only awarenesses were the immediate needs—food, water, and shelter.
This night, there were no lights—he didn’t know to call them stars or moon. Neither did he know to call the dark concealing these things clouds. All he knew was his sense of sight had little use at the moment. He was using his keen hearing and sense of smell, along with the touch of his hooves on the ground, and occasionally the brush of his flanks or legs against some low vegetation.
Suddenly his eyes did see something—two yellow lights glowing between the trees ahead of him. Stepping closer, he saw the eyes of some animal. It was lower to the ground than he, and emitted a low growl. At first, he snorted in fear, but when the eyes didn’t move any closer, he sniffed more deeply. There was no smell of threat. In fact, there was a smell he hadn’t known for a very long time.
Moving closer still, he could see this was not a wolf but a big black dog with pointed ears. It gave a whining sound and stepped closer to him. Now he knew this scent—it came from humans.
The dog brushed gently against his foreleg and gave a short bark. Then it started off through the trees to his right. Without any hesitation, he followed.