1st Place Category 5: It Was Just for Family
Winner Category 5 (Ages 11 – 12)
by Chui Chung Ko, Age 12, Hong Kong
It Was Just for Family
The early morning held a soft chill to it, the night having cooled everything from the previous day off. A brief halt was given for the shadowy figure to catch a glimpse of the sky. It was, after all, the one thing that improved his mood for the long and arduous day to come.
The sky was lightening with the colours of daybreak as the sun began its slow ascent into the horizon, a thin veil of pale gold, mixed with fiery colours illuminating the peak of the earth in the vast distance.
Today, he paused longer than he ever had and watched the myriad of soft colours painted across the lightening skyline of a canvas before trudging forward, ebony paws thrumming gently on the ground as he took off down the ridge.
It was his birthday, the boy thought with numb surprise. He was ten years old. It should have been a great milestone, a day worth celebrating, but all he felt was sheer astonishment and perplexity at how it had come so fast.
“Dante.” His father approached the foot of the bed, shaking him out of his thoughts. “Happy birthday!”
Dante grinned and was about to say something when his father spoke once more.
“I have a surprise for you. We’re going on a small adventure. We’ll leave in the afternoon, okay?”
“Okay!” exclaimed the boy happily.
“Run along now.” His father ruffled his hair as the boy walked past, making his way back. to the house.
It must be some kind of rite of passage, Dante thought. After all he was ten years old and almost a man full grown.
“Hey, Asiavik!” Smoky black ears swiveled around towards the direction of the voice, and soon the figure came into a view. It was Kilalurak, his brother.
“Are we going to hunt those animals again?” Kilalurak paused in front of him, his posture showing deference to him, the leader. “You know that’s a bad idea….”
“The animals of Man,” Asiavik spoke, tilting his proud ebony crown in a birdlike manner. “Prey is scarce; we have no choice but to hunt them. It will be dangerous to attack the same prey we attacked yesterday, especially when Man owns them, but our young need to be fed, and we
have no alternative.”
Kilalurak frowned and was about to object, ears splayed to either side of his skull in distress but Asiavik shot him a commanding stare. “Prepare them for the journey, we will leave when the sun is at its peak in the sky.”
The white wolf nodded, albeit reluctantly, and trotted away, tail flicking irritably as he walked.
The boy strode out of the house, making his way to an old rusted truck. It was worn and the paint had long been flaked off, when Dante scrambled into the car, he could see a thick layer of dust on the ragged leather seat. Typical. His father preferred walking after all.
“Where are we going, Father?” he inquired as the truck started with a rumbling growl and began trundling over the rocky dirt road. “You’ll see,” came the enigmatic reply.
They stopped at the edge of the farm, where the cows were peacefully grazing. By then, the sun had begun to set, casting beautiful rays of light over them yet darkening the land at the same time.
“C’mere,” murmured Father, slinging a bag over his shoulder, eyes drifting warily around as he crouched down behind a large rock.
Dante followed suit. “What are we doing, Dad?”
“Hush child. Watch.”
The pack arrived at the outskirts of the forest which bordered the farm.
“Kilalurak, stay and guard my wife and my children. I will be back soon,” commanded Asiavik, staring at his brother fiercely. “You will need help!” protested Kilalurak but Asiavik did not speak and was silent as he nudged them all goodbye.
The leader set off towards the prey, paws skimming over the rough ground. He did not notice one of the pups sneakily following him from behind, thinking that this was yet another game of hide and seek.
Arriving at the edge of the farm, Asiavik pinpointed one of the cows and charged forward, intending to bring the weak elderly prey down.
Dante tried and failed to tug the gun out of his father’s hands as the first bullet sank into the canine’s flank. “Why are you doing this, Father?” he cried, tears running down his pale cheeks. There was no answer.
“BANG!” The bullet streaked through the air and once again found its mark, but the wolf still continued its assault on the cow, determined to bring the animal down despite the various bullets in his flesh.
“BANG!” Blood spewed from the wolf’s throat, matting the ruffled black fur as he sank to the ground, finally accepting defeat.
Dante hesitantly moved forward, ignoring the cries of protest from his father. Tears of distress blurred his vision as he stopped by the wolf’s side, hands resting on the thick fur, waiting, hoping for the familiar rise and fall of breathing. But it never came.
“We need to live, child. These wolves are threatening our cattle. We won’t have enough money if this keeps going on!”
There was no understanding on Dante’s face, no reassuring smile that he had understood.
“The wolf was doing it for his family,” Dante whispered, having caught sight of a puppy at the edge of the fence that was now scampering away, tail fearfully tucked between his small legs. “We kill for money or for unnecessary things when we already have enough to simply live. They were doing it for survival, for family. And you killed him.”
For Kilalurak. For Aklaq and my children.
Those were the words that crossed Asiavik’s mind as he leapt for the final blow, but he would never make it. He would never bring the cow down. Never see his children grow up. Never be able to run with his kind again.
I have always loved both reading and writing, especially if they were fictional stories. At school in Hong Kong, my English has always been (usually) better than the others, probably because of my obsessive love for books. I was very young when I wanted to be an author and have never stopped pursuing that dream.