As Quiet returned to the clearing that the coyotes called their camp, she nearly collided with her mother, who hopped back in surprise. “Quiet!” she exclaimed, causing her to stop in her tracks and turn her head towards Gentle. There was no way for her to tell her mother of what she had seen; they had developed some words without a voice, such as help, leave me alone, I’m hurt, I’m sick, stop, hello, come here, no, yes, wait, and goodbye. None of those would help her in this situation, so instead of struggling to mouth the words as she did upon occasion, she swished her tail to the left, their sign for hello. Gentle sighed, flicking her ears back. “Are you hurt?” she asked finally, scanning her daughter’s feeble frame for a moment. No, Quiet responded, shaking her head to communicate yet again.
Giving up on dialoguing with her daughter, Gentle turned with a quick “Goodbye” and then padded off. Quiet watched her go, not caring to sign goodbye. Her mother was no longer looking, anyways, and it would be wasted energy. Quiet loved her mother, but despite Gentle’s best efforts at helping her be able to speak, she knew that her mother had always had a longing for a normal daughter. One who could speak, and laugh, and bark, and howl. One who could be useful.
Sorry, Mother, Quiet thought sadly. That isn’t me.
That following morning, one of the older coyotes was ravaged by a high fever, appearing out of nowhere. By that evening when the sun set, he was dead. The pack gathered around to mourn, heads low to breathe in his musty smell one last time before howling in mourning. Quiet stayed at the rear of the group, taking no part in howling for she knew that she couldn’t. She sniffed from her place a few feet away, nose twitching warily as she scooped up thin traces of his smell. It was sour thanks to his fever, and Quiet worried that it was still clinging to him enough so that it could travel to a different coyote, too.
But if she was being completely honest? She was afraid of the sudden death. The wolf that she had seen out in the forest, with dead eyes and a blank stare, had haunted the back of her mind up until this point, and even still his image hung like a heavy fog in her thoughts. The nag of being watched itched at her like a stubborn flea, and she found herself looking over shoulder more often than not. And yet she could tell no one of her experience, nor would they sit and try to decipher her desperate signing. She was alone with her fear, and that made her angry.
The next few days were consistently filled with anxiety and unease. Three days’ time after the elder has passed away, Quiet was back out in the forest, wishing that she could scream out her frustrations instead of holding them within herself like she was forced to. As she got farther and farther from the camp, the idea of eyes burning into her back caressed her thoughts until it was too much to bear. Finally she turned around, and her heart nearly stopped.