Devil watched as the raggedy band of humans maneuvered through the narrow confines of the canyon below.
He could smell the death clinging to them. He knew they had not found the water and they were walking farther from it every minute.
In another mile or so, it would be too late. They would be at the mercy of the Black Canyon Pack. But Devil was not like the rest of the pack. He did not think it wise to make prey of humans.
In 250 words or less, tell us a story incorporating the elements in the picture. The 250 word limit will be strictly enforced.
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11 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge: Sentry”
Devil’s memory of his time with humans was foggy, but the emotion he felt for them remained. Sometimes snippets flashed through his mind – a warm blanket beside the fire, delicious snacks and a human hand scratching between his ears. He had been in the wild so long now that he was afraid to approach the humans, but at the same time did not want them to fall prey to the pack’s savage jaws. He took a tentative step forward, then hesitated as his wild and domestic instincts waged an inner war. If he did not stop them now, it would be too late. He raised his nose to howl, and then remembered the sound the humans would recognize. He began to bark.
The dog stood guard over the den. Humans were about and he’d already escaped from them twice; once as a pet, the second time as a stray. His lips curled back as he returned to the rock, trying to draw them away from the vulnerable pups belonging to the alpha pair. The stray pack had gone to hunt, leaving him in charge of their precious young. He had felt pride rippling through his body at their trust and so now, he was prepared to betray himself, offer his life up in place of the pups and the pack that had taken him in so willingly. He slunk onto the rocks, making himself the target.
The humans had yet to see him, and he was torn by the urge to live and the desire to do what was right for the pups. A deep breath before he wrinkled back his lips and a fearsome snarl rumbled from his chest. He could see the metal sticks they carried lifted, his imposing shadow and shape soon catching their attention. He stood proud, glaring down on them and not even daring to turn his head, to check on the pups. The humans couldn’t know they were there. He watched them, impassive as one human lifted the stick up. He didn’t even move when their paws twitched and the metal sticks boomed.
He just fell to the rock, able to hear the returning pack and grinned. The pups were safe and that was his task.
Devil maneuvered down the hot rock, speeding to keep his paws from burning. There were two men and a woman, all of them weakened from the sun, slowly following each other in a trance.
Devil gained momentum and was soon in front of them. He stopped and barked loud, but without creating an echo, to keep the pack unaware of the wrangled group of humans.
The lead man with weathered tan skin, and wore a bandana, and crunched up hat, stopped. The women, a small being, who wore a long dress, covered with dirt and sweat, reached out her hand.
“It’s a dog. Here boy.”
The man snapped his fingers and reached out his hands. Devil ran to him and the man almost wept when the dog finally was in his reach.
“Boy, you know where we are, don’t you boy.”
He hugged Devil. The dog barked and nudged the man to face the other direction.
“What boy. You want to show me something.”
Devil barked. The man looked in front of him, and then gazed in the other direction.
“We need to change our path boy.”
The dog barked again.
The other man, younger but less perceptive, woke to the goings on.
“You’re not listening to a dog? I told you it was this way.”
He pointed towards the direction they had been going.
“You didn’t seem to sure son, and this dog here seems to know his directions.”
Devil barked again.
“Okay boy . We follow you.”
Devil looks on from the mountain top hoping to see his friend Jewel once again. She has gone missing and hasn’t been seen in days. He and Jewel were puppies when they were adopted from the Carson City Shelter. It was then that their young lives were changed forever. For the first time, nights were not so scary and their days were now filled with runs in the park and an abundance of love.
Something didn’t feel right but he couldn’t figure out what it was. He couldn’t remember a time when Jewel wasn’t by his side. Even though they often fought for attention and had food fights they were extremely bonded. He wasn’t sure what he would do if she were to stay away forever. Though, in his heart, he knew he would never see Jewel again. Still, everyday he stood in the same spot, watching and hoping she would come running back to him.
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Mirage
There’s a Devil above me, driving me on
The Shadows hint at his name
But the heat, oh the heat how it makes my soul burn
As I choke on the fumes of my dreams
Glen focused all his energy on making it to the next watering hole. He knew he was running out of time and if he didn’t get there, everything else would have been for naught.
“The Devil is in the details, son,” his father always said. “You gotta sweat the small stuff.”
Glen wasn’t certain of much in this world, but he was damn well sure the old man was sitting somewhere laughing his ass off right about now.
He let his breath out slowly.
Ahead, on the horizon was the water hole. Swaying on his feet, he began the trek one tenuous step after another.
“Just a little further,” became his mantra as he forced himself to move, but each step seemed to achieve nothing, and the water was just as far away as it had been when he’d first seen it.
Then he saw something walking through the water towards him: shattering the illusion… the mirage that had beckoned to him. He swallowed as a jackal-like beast appeared before him: a jackal with horns.
He raised himself to his full height, prepared for almost anything. “Do your worst, Devil.”
“I think,” said the Devil. “I already have. Welcome to hell.”
“What hangs about your neck great-grandfather?” I asked.
“A gift from Earth Mother. All mountains are Sentinels. For those who listen they’ll share their knowledge. But Sentinels speak slowly. It takes patience to know their words. This one you ask about stands Sentry for dreams, visions, spirit travel and spirit speak,” his reply.
“In this very Granite alcove I received the first vision. Granite called down a star asking it to land nearby,” Grandfather said pointing towards the north. “Spirit Bear came teaching me about it.”
“That it?” I asked pointing to his chest.
“It is. It carries Creator’s heavenly star energy,” he said sweeping his arm horizon to horizon. “When I wear it I hear out-world spirits. When rock spirits want to talk to me, but I listen not, fidgeting instead, like you are now, Bear or Wolf come reminding me to listen.”
A Black Grizzly appeared next to great-grandfather. “May I touch it?” I asked.
White Grizzly appeared as great-grandfather placed the necklace around my neck. “Listen well to its life-forces.”
Eagle and Hawk came. Coyote and Wolf sat on the overhang above us. They sang about this great-grandfather warrior. “It’s a good day to die,” I crooned joining their tribute.
That was a lifetime ago. Today I passed the meteorite-stone to my great-granddaughter. White Bear and Grizzly lay at my side. Eagle and Hawk guard the alcove’s entrance while Coyote and Wolf sing. Great-granddaughter joins them.
I smiled, “Indeed, it’s a good day to die.”
Becca moaned. “I can’t go on. I’m hot and thirsty and I’m in labor.”
Jeremy offered her the last drops of water in the canteen. And his sunburn couldn’t hide the sudden pallor of his face. “But it’s too early!”
“Tell that to the baby. The pains are 20 minutes apart.”
“We have to keep walking or we’ll never catch up with the others. Here, I’ll carry you for a while.”
A wolf stood in front of them, teeth bared, saliva dripping from its muzzle. It snarled and whined.
Every time Jeremy tried to take a step, the wolf blocked the way. After several attempts, Jeremy turned to walk southwest. The wolf followed. It seemed to be herding him in a specific direction.
“OK. We’re going. Take it easy.”
Whenever Jeremy tried to stop, the wolf nipped at his heels. “Crap you’re heavy, Becca.” He panted. “That damn animal won’t let me put you down. I wonder if it has rabies or something. I’ve never seen a wolf act like that.”
Around a bend. Down a rocky incline. Around another bend.
Trees. Shade. The gurgle of a stream.
The wolf stopped. It stood guard while Jeremy delivered his baby girl. Soon it padded closer—like a penitent dog with its head hung low. It lay next to Becca, and offered her a paw.
Then it sniffed the wind—and disappeared.
Devil’s howl on the bluff above them led the pack away from the humans and their new child.
Devil raced through the rocks. This was his one chance to head off the two legs before they found the pack.
He overtook them at the crest of the next rise. Pain and fear exuded from their pores, the stench of humans unaccustomed to these lands. But there was something more, a hunger born of desperation, he saw it in their eyes. They would still fight to live.
With growls and yips he sought to herd them, force them to turn back to the water they needed to survive. The bigger one wedged himself between devil and the female, though his stance spoke of supplication.
Devil sat and cocked his head in wonderment. The males desire to protect the other showed him an intelligence unexpected of the two legs. He did not lunge, did not attack. Instead he barked once again and ran past. He barked once more and waited for the two to notice his intention.
With the barks of two legs, he felt the curiosity in their exchange. The female, she understood. She followed devil and drug her mate to follow. He ran so they could follow. Though tired and damaged they made progress away from Black Canyon.
The call froze the blood in Devil’s veins. The pack caught the scent. Hunters answered that call from other directions. He barked for the two legs to hurry, the borders into the free lands was close. They still had a chance, if only they could reach the final pass.
Devil took one last fleeting look at the humans trudging through the sprawling canyon he’d called home for as long as he could remember. As long as he could remember . . . how long was that? A day? A week? A lifetime? His thoughts and remembrances were inexplicably and frustratingly hazy.
What was it that tickled his memory’s fringes, that made him so protective of the humans below? It didn’t matter. They were in danger. He had to act.
Devil turned down the craggy decline into the canyon basin. He needed to stop his pack from attacking the weakened humans. My pack, he mused. Something about the concept seemed wrong. But why?
Bounding around rocks and crevices during his descent, Devil abruptly entered a vast field of green dotted with yellow. The floral scent of spring inundated his senses. He looked down to see two human hands, fingers intertwined. Shocked, he lifted his gaze to see two pools of blue on a beautiful, human face.
And then he was back in the canyon, where his pack hid amongst the rock outcroppings, ready to attack.
Turn back, he sent telepathically. These humans are under my protection. Disappointment flooded his mind in response, but his pack complied. The tension left Devil’s shoulders.
Sliding into the shadows, Devil watched and waited until the humans safely passed by. They were searching for someone, it seemed.
One of the female humans caught his attention, one with eyes like pools of blue.
Devil’s tongue hung down, heat from the midday sun scorched the lookout rock. In the canyon below a small band of humans struggled through the twists and turns, heading straight for the Black Canyon pack’s den. The scent of dry death hung in the air. How could they not smell the spring only a few hundred yards away? Despite obvious need, the humans stumbled away from the only source of water for miles.
Humans were food to the Black Canyon leader, but Devil remembered his old human pack. Food had been plentiful, members full of love and kindness. They were gone, killed by the sky fire.
One of the human pups stumbled, then curled on the ground, whimpering. She was so like his little human. Devil reach the bottom of the canyon before he realized he had left his sentry post. The pack leader wouldn’t be happy.
Devil approached the humans cautiously, circling around until he stood between them and the spring. The scent of fear was strong, but they didn’t attack. One of the men moved toward him. Devil sprung back, toward the spring, then waited. Bit by bit he drew them closer to the spring, then sat several yards away as they drank their fill. He liked this pack. They felt right and the dried meat they tossed him was good.
Devil spun around as the Black Canyon leader approached. It was time to oust the real devil and return the Black Canyon pack to humans.
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