Animal People

November 24, 2011 § 1 Comment

Written in February 2004.

She hunts for the wild in humanity.

These are the tracks that the wild leaves: shadowy depths of something not-quite-human lurking behind the eyes; the restlessness of being wingless or clawless; feral wariness of motion and reaction. Her trained eye recognizes the signs, and with study, the form that leaves them.

Wolves are direct and rough, no-bullshit and no-nonsense; there are many of them. There is a tall rangy male, scruffy, with a slight beard and unkempt hair: he is a cocky juvenile wolfdog. He looks in some ways as Hollywood depicts the werewolf in man form, and he moves with a cocky sureness that leads one to expect his tail to be curled up and his tongue lolling.

There is another wolf, a heavyset woman in her 30’s, middling height, with soft dough-pale skin and seal-brown hair. Not the sort you’d peg for lupine by her appearance. But it’s evident in her dark eyes, piercing and intense; in her almost-wary movements, the way she seems to bristle and verge on a snarl when startled or hemmed in by too little space.

There is the one nicknamed Old Wolf – he of grizzled salt-and-pepper hair, heavy brows, intense dark gaze. He moves like the old wolf he is: stiff legged, almost stalking at times. His voice is rough, his words blunt and gruff, and one can almost see the ears flick back and forth, flatten now and again in displeasure. He has a sense of smell nearly equal to a true wolf, and his nose wrinkles at distasteful scents, or flares wider at interesting ones.

She found a stag, once; a stag who claimed wolf, but she could never see it. He prances, tosses his head, watches with clear bright eyes, reacting to every noise and motion. He verges on paranoia, though one wouldn’t know it to watch him bound and preen and prance. Physically he seems almost like a wolf, with a beard and long hay-hair and a stout-muscled build – but the movement’s wrong, and the behavior. He’s a flirt, a buck in rut, right down to the combativeness. A peacock, someone once called him, for his prancing and posturing, but he’s all antlers and hooves, not strutting feathers.

There is one that she cannot quite figure out; this young woman is either horse or cat, or perhaps both. She too prances, but her prancing is proud high-crested horse rather than dancing deer. Her eyes flash, head tossing back, seal-brown mane flying. Cat’s there too, in the love of texture and touch and the predatory eye for movement. Two natures manifest oddly in her; at times there’s a quick movement and she seems to shy away, kicking horse-like at earth and air. At others, she stares fascinated, and one can almost see a twitching tail as she stalk-stalk-pounces. She has a feline’s dignity, where a loss or fall brings first a flashing fire in the eyes, and then a laugh and a grin and a manner that says “I meant to do that.” Defeat in sparring brings out that spark of flame that almost seems like anger, and then fades to acceptance and a laugh or smile, and it’s hard to tell if either is more equine or feline.

She knows a puma, and he was one of the easiest to spot. He’s a grizzled graying mountain lion, long in the teeth he retains, stiff of limb and joint. Cranky grumpy snarling cat, preferring his den to all else. He’s tall and lanky, all limbs, with a rough gray beard and a segmented ponytail that swings like a false tail. Proud beyond measure, and just as territorial, but it’s age-pride, toothless dignity, and he avoids the conflicts by staying within his den, in his uncontested turf.

There was an owl. Her build suggests faerie – thin, near to waifish; black hair like raven wings liquefied; pale skin over sharp features. It’s the eyes that give her away, though – storm-gray eyes as reflective as a glassy lake, settling on one object, dissecting it for a long moment before shifting to the next, rarely blinking, dispassionate. Neither restless nor steady, unlike most peoples’ eyes; instead, they’re unsettlingly intense on the item of interest, yet never rest long on any single spot. She is almost expressionless; facial movements are like afterthoughts, twitching awkwardly from stoicism to brief smile and back again with no transition. Leaning forward is like perching; she seems rarely relaxed, never sprawled back or slouched in a cushioned chair. She looks at people, sometimes, as if they are a meal, that mirror-surfaced gaze showing little, reflecting much, and dissecting the flesh of the observed individual layer by layer.

There are some who have no animal inside, no hint of the wild; they are utterly completely human, and perhaps that leaves them less than human. She probes and stares, watches hard and long, but she cannot find a glimmer of wild; they are all wires and concrete, all perfect normality. Has the wild been trained out of them by disapproving glances and social prodding, or was it never there to begin with? Do they know of its absence? Do they miss it, long for it, or do they fear it so much that they’ve locked it away beyond all retrieving?

For herself, she clings to the wild within, and seeks it in others. She feeds it with woods-walking and cloud-staring; she breathes it with words and with wordlessness; she releases it on the streets, eyes pigeons with temptation, and walks the city as a hawk.

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