Hello and welcome to my very first furry writing! I sincerely thank you for your support given by reading this story. Immense amount of time and tears were poured into this project. It couldn't have been written if I myself wasn't feeling as depressed as our protagonist here. Life is pretty much a struggle, but hey, to quote a clichéd phrase, “what's life without challenges?” If you too are facing emotional distress, hopefully you can still live your life to the fullest so when we look back decades later, we can laugh about our problems.
A novel was originally planned to bring to light a collection of challenges that some people face, like domestic violence, human trafficking and clinical depression. However, I changed my mind after spending a whole year to write and polish one single story.
Being not a good writer, I ardently entreat you dear readers to give any feedback, ranging from grammar issues to style to coherence of the story. Alright, now buckle up because the story is starting. This story is fictional but the struggles are very real and faced by numerous teenagers and adults every day. To these people/animals, I'd like to quote a certain vulpine Robin Hood, ‘Keep your chin up.’
— CanidWolf, 2016
With tremendous efforts, I drag my legs down the deserted street while my paws, tucked inside pockets, weigh down the shirt on my body against the chill winds of November. Life evades my tail as it trails on the ground, causing prickling pains – the only sensation which reminds me that I’m alive. But for what reason? Trees on my left arch overhead and stare down at me disapprovingly. Their branches bare, offering no shelter nor reassurance against the desolation of imminent nightfall. My legs root to the ground as I catch sparkles in my peripheral vision. Taking my time to lift my muzzle slightly, I get a better view of the joyous dancing lights running around a display window of a bakery to my right.
Looking past the faint reflection of a miserable wolf, a huge cake dressed in white cream, laced with pink and velvet ribbons, greets my eyes. Tracing upward along the spiral ribbons from the base, I observe four or five tiers of cake staked on one another, each progressively smaller than the one below it. Claustrophobically constrained at the top-most tier, a fine ceramic topper of a coyote couple stands proudly facing each other, with fingers and muzzles locked together. Their happiness blindingly shines like the angel on top of a Christmas tree, mocking my agony with their affection. A vice clenches my heart and I see the ears in the glass reflection fall down even further. I turn and move on.
A puff of cloudy mist escapes my mouth as I let out a long breath, and it disappears in the melancholy and bleakness that envelopes our small city. Sparks of electricity dance menacingly, revealing little particles that drift gracefully from the grey heaven above which further smother the weak flames of my heart. The snow dances with skills and vitality comparable to that of a trained ballet dancer, weaving through the bare twigs with ease. As each wintery speck touches my ears and cheek ruff, chill permeates through my fur and chills me to the bones, draining any emotions I have left and leaving me as an empty frame.
We do not choose whom to fall in love with. Feelings are subconscious and irrational, if not magical. Feelings cannot be easily defined as a dictionary would suggest. It is Chemistry, Biology, Carnality. It is the flutter of the heart when you see someone, the flush behind the ears when they speak to you and the warmth in your heart as they care for you. None of those can be described with words nor did we choose to feel them. Feelings are shared only through similar experience and mutual connections; they cannot be explained nor can you choose whom your heart beats for. Throughout high school I had been trying to forge relationships with girls, including that wolf with whom I held paws, the vixen with whom I shared my first kiss, and the lioness with whom I cuddled. None of them raced my heart nor had their presence won my appreciation. I had gone on to date girls to convince everyone, myself included, that I was straight.
I flick my ears, sending a pile of snow down my muzzle. Ahh! In surprise I shake, and snow which had hitherto been stealthily collected around my cheek ruff and clothes flung in all directions. “If every flake signified a fakery in my life, that would be about right…” I think to myself, perhaps aloud, but I cannot care less. My pace quickens.
The frost nudges me from all directions to return to the warmth of my own home, but it only serves as a bitter reminder as to why I haven’t been doing so. Although it happened just moments ago, my memory is a blur. Grievous as it is and hard as I try not to recall, pieces of memory spelt with horror seep back into my mind, tormenting my idealistic reality and threatening my sanity. The evolution of his countenance, from serene and bliss, to shock and disbelief, to anger and betrayed. I shut my eyes hoping to extinguish the memories, but the images reappear under my eyelids. His eyes, round and wide, stared into mine, waiting for the moment I reveal the prank, while mine stared into his, as I yearn for his acceptance or at least an understanding; both of our hopes did not realise. His ears flattened and his whiskers drooped down low before he sank into a chair and buried his head in paws. “You need help…” He shook his head slightly, “I know a place… Th-They can cure you. You can stop this. You have to stop this!”
I gasp for air, after having been holding my breath unknowingly. Lying at the end of the street is a pavement that leads to a road intersection. I stop and wait for the red turtle light to be replaced by a green cheetah, although traffic on the road is non-existent. A digital billboard fixed on a nearby building is playing a commercial – warm candle glow from a dining table illuminates the surrounding crowd as they recite Grace. Moments later the tiger family dive into the succulent Thanksgiving turkey placed placidly beside the mince pie and mango puddings. The footage of merry family is then superimposed with a blue logo but my vision has blurred. My stomach growls.
“I don't need help! There's nothing wrong with me! What needs curing is a prejudice mindset like yours!” My tail bristles with a pang of guilt as I recall my impertinent reply that came out louder than I had intended. The green cheetah is now flashing. Rubbing my eyes dry, I run across the intersection before the turtle has a chance to greet me again.
To what place can I go that would accept a person as pitiful as me? Where can I seek shelter and consolation, a pair of understanding ears and soothing eyes that offer assurance? “That’s what I get for trying to save you?” Anger seeped into his tone as his volume matched mine, “God blessed a sacred relationship between male and female. This disease will have you burn in hell!” I wince at that last word. I pause and gaze to my back. Street lights sneer at me and buildings in the distance hide in the snowy weather. My eyes narrow instinctively as a gale howls in my face. “Get out!” I remember the vehemence embedded in the last of my father’s words. I keep moving forward. I no longer have a house – a home – to return to.
Can he not see that I am the very same cub he gave life to and raised up? I have not changed in any ways, nor am I on drugs or negatively influenced by some cult. Can he not see that it wasn't an act of rebellion, that I was merely sharing a part of me that was infused at birth and, with great confusion, discovered during recent years? Can he not see that it’s not about giving in to temptations, for who would choose to be shunned by unforgiving classmates, bullied by intolerant strangers or risked getting kicked out of house? People often preach about specism, about how wrong it is to prejudicially discriminate against an individual because of their species, something they could not choose, so how is it then different from our sexuality? Can he not see that this is about love? I am no different than the others; I have feelings and I am capable of loving and taking care of someone dear to me. My yell, pervaded with exasperation, comes hoarse and dry, “how can you possibly afford to be unique?” Teeth baring as I snarl, my paws stretch into the air and swipe frantically, desperate to catch and crush those provoking snowflakes. “I just want to be treated normally!”
I slump to the ground. Fatigued. Famished. Frozen. Even with my thick coat of fur, the chill is unstoppable. The sun has completely left my side now. It would be pitch black (to those without night vision) if not for the warm light radiating from a sodium-vapour street light directly above my head, but I do not feel any warmer. Instead I feel enclosed in a display case made of quiet truth and my failure is proudly illuminated by the light for everyone to witness. Counting the sixteen dollars in my pocket with shaky fingers, I contemplate my next move. I decide to get indoors, but where?
Just then, a door swings wide open a stone’s throw away as creaks diffuse through the dry air. A moment later, an otter shuffles out hesitantly. He leans against the door frame with head hanging low, taking not the slightest notice of me. A sigh escapes his mouth in an insignificant puff as he stares aimlessly at the ground. Then he shuffles down the street away from my direction, deep in thought with inclined head and lifeless tail leaving a trail of sadness in the snow. I am reminded of myself a few moments ago and I wonder, o-dear otter, for what reasons art thou dejected for surely a young otter like thee knoweth nothing of our cruel world? Hast thou been just as unfortunate to experience a heart bleeding moment as I? Hast thou also been rejected of a home, for why hast thou not gotten to bed at ‘tis hour?
My eyes follow his back until he disappears around a dark corner. I get up, stumbling in the process, and walk hastily towards the door. As my paw touches it, hesitation yet again get the best of me. There is no sign to suggest the identity of this shop, and no light appears to pass through the tiny frosted windows on this dark brown oak door. Varnish had long worn off, leaving the surface dull and not offering protections against numerous scratch marks visibly imprinted by visitors of this shop. Strangely, that feels encouraging and comforting, and with a deep breath, the door swings inwards from the pressure of my paw as creaks once again fill the air.
The door swings shut behind me before I realise the room is even less illuminated than the streets outside. The air carries soft crackling sounds and trifling warmth from the fireplace at the opposite end of the claustrophobic room, and I feel my senses, along with calmness, return in waves from the freezing weather. Being in here already feels better than being a snowman braving the elements without winter clothes. And it definitely feels much better than being at my home, or what used to be. As the flames flicker and lick the air with animated tongues, casted are the warm yellow light over the room and long shadows that dance from the legs of a few wooden tables sparsely placed in the room and tiny vacant stools around them. I take a deep breath, and my nose is immediately hit with a sharp, spicy smell of herb. The scent of otter is still fresh in the air along with faint smell of other species that is almost masked by the strong fox musk lingering in the room. To my left and behind a long mahogany bar, yellow vulpine eyes of the bartender meet mine.
He registers the bitterness in my face and my shaking frame, and without question he turns around with a glass mug into which he taps a dark brown liquid as the spicy aroma yet again fills the air. As the mug slides over the bar and is raised to my muzzle, the warmth flows from my paw down my throat, and muscles throughout my body relax as the warm ginger brew melts away the iciness of my situation. Wiping a slender wine glass expertly with nimble fingers, he patiently waits for a word out of me. Now without the distraction of the biting froze, the images spring vividly back into my mind.
“If you told me that it’s possible to have everything one night and see them reduce to nothing but memories the next,” my voice hoarse and trembling, “I wouldn’t have believed you.” I hesitate and choke out the rest in a timid voice, “Now I’m not sure.” He nods silently as my words hang in the air.
“The ship sailed,” his deep voice shattering the pity silence that has developed, “so look forward to the next service.”
“Doesn’t matter,” I look into the empty cup clenched in my paw. “The ship sank and the passengers are drowning." His tail twitches in the slightest surprise with the apparent lack of anticipation of a reply, much less of one that reuses his analogy. Turning the mug upside down, I watch as the last of the brew collects into a drop around the brim before falling softly to the bar top.
“Ah, life jackets and patience equal survival.” His voice teems with hope and optimism.
“Some refuse to wear them. And they drag others down with them to the dark abyss.” Mine with despair and grief.
He gently shakes his muzzle sideways. “Have faith in others, for they may be in a shock right now. Let time unveil the future and bring calmness to the great calamity.” His muzzle turns in my direction to prompt a reply, but instead my head remains low.
“Only if hypothermia doesn’t win the waiting game.”
He lets out a soft sigh. “Time is one of the things nobody truly understands. It may be an indication of being alive. Or a reminder of the looming death. Or it may be an illusion. Time may encourage entropy, but it also allows perception. If it costs you time to understand a situation, expect at least just as long for others to reach the same page.” He pauses momentarily as I look up at him, but I remain silent. “Be who you are, young cub; not be a puppet of the society.” With pride and confidence, he sets down the wine glass he polished. It gleams and lustres in dim firelight. “Do not ever lose your shine.”
As the words hang in the air and soft crackling of firewoods fills the room yet again, I gingerly rake through the tiny pockets of my jeans, hoping to leave the bar with only three dollars poorer. “Aye, don’t you worry. It’s on the house!” With a toothy vulpine grin, he continues, “question your heart for the answer is within you. Most importantly, you are not out and out alone.”
As I step through the door into the winter breeze, a coyote with tearful cheeks might have entered, and the bartender might have poured her a glass of healthy consolation. For if there wasn’t something magical drifting in the air, I would have noticed these details. Lifting my ears higher, I make out the distant but unmistakable soothing sounds of organ harmoniously complimented by tuneful voices from perhaps by a carol practice group.
And I let it guide my way.