Over the next week, Quiet’s pack began to decline. It had started with the elder- what had his name been?- becoming sick and then passing. Then went Gentle. Then Giant and Rough. And now the litter of pups were deathly sick, one of them having already died. The rest of them were certainly not far behind.
Two days passed and the entire litter was gone and now buried in the ground. What had previously been a pack of sixteen had been reduced to seven. What Quiet didn’t understand was how any of this death was happening, nor how she had survived that long. If there really was a murderer amidst them… why hadn’t they killed her?
These thoughts kept the mute coyote up at night. She lay in her lonely den, curled up with her back pressed against the dirt wall behind her, nose tucked under her tail, as she pondered what could possibly be happening. There was so much sickness, so much blood. The sickness had to be coincidental. It had to be. There was no way in all of the stars that their murderer- whoever they were- could make the coyotes fall ill. There was no way. No way at all.
And yet… despite the way that she argued with herself at night about whether or not that could be possible, something deep down inside of her knew. It knew exactly what was happening- exactly who was doing this. But that small part of her, the section that held the final piece of the puzzle, refused to open up to the rest of her mind. It refused to let her realize who and what was doing this.
So she simply laid and pondered.
When Quiet finally dipped into sleep, morning came far too quickly. She was woken by a shrill cry. The cry of one of her pack mates.
Jumping to her feet and shaking sleep away from her, Quiet quickly blundered out of her sleeping place to find her aunt Soft hunched over something in the center of the clearing. Her head was bowed, eyes screwed shut, all while whimpers escaped her mouth.
As Quiet drew nearer, she saw that it was two somethings on the ground; Elegant and Grace. They were twisted, mutilated, so bloody that at first it was hard to identify which was which. Their stomachs were ripped wide open, revealing their hollow insides. Blood-coated organs were scattered around on the grass around them. Grace’s lower jaw was ripped away and lying beside Elegant’s tail. Elegant’s face was so shredded that it was impossible to make out whether or not her eyes were even still intact. Huge claw marks were scored down their sides, long and caked in blood. Quiet felt queasy just from looking at such a horrific sight, and she felt bile rise up in her throat as her stomach begged to vomit.
The rest of the pack was gathering now, letting out fearful cries and whispering to each other. What had been seven was now five. Five pack members left.