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Shawn Oetzel

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Member Since: May, 2006

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Shepard's Pack
By Shawn Oetzel
Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Rated "PG" by the Author.

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This short story appeared in the August 2005 Wirter's Post Journal.

A dry arid wind blew across the barren wasteland as the sun began to set, and the horizon was starting to glow its customary red. This was not only from the setting sun, but from the radiation that still permeated the atmosphere as well. It had been close to ten generations since the humans had incinerated themselves with their nuclear weapons, but the sky still shone blood red as it had done on that day of annihilation. Shepard usually enjoyed watching the sun set, but on this night as his Pack made its way back home, the redness of the evening sky reminded Shepard of the blood that been spilled earlier in the day.

Shepard and his Pack had paid a visit to the Mongrels of the southern region. The Mongrels had taken part in a raid against the Pack the previous evening. They had killed an Elder while stealing food the Pack had worked diligently to store before the season changed. This was a deed Shepard could not let go unpunished.

He was the leader for the largest and strongest Canine Pack in the region. It would have been a sign of weakness to let the Mongrels get away with their heinous crimes. He already knew that some of the younger Pups were considering challenging him for Pack leadership, and to shy away from a fight with the Mongrels would be the excuse those young Pups would need to justify that challenge.

Shepard was the oldest member of the Pack. He had won leadership by defeating old Fang, the previous leader, in a Ritual Duel. It was simply a matter of time before Shepard knew he would have to face a similar fate as that was Pack law.

Shepard was also a pure blood. This was another reason why he had lasted so long as Pack Leader without being challenged. There were very few pure bloods left, what with all the mingling of the breeds. He could trace his blood line all the way back to what was once referred to as the Norwegian Elkhound. Being a pure blood garnered respect from the rest of the Pack, and he planned on using this as an advantage for as long as he could.

It was hard for Shepard to imagine the way dogs were before the fiery explosions would forever alter the canine population of this planet. Though the humans were wiped out by the bombs, and then the ensuing nuclear winter, the canines of Earth began to mutate from the radiation. They rapidly evolved over the next few generations to grow into the dominant race they had become in this newer version of Earth.

Canines could now walk on two legs. They had greater intelligence which had given them the ability of a spoken language. Perhaps the greatest change was even though canines still had what most would consider paws, they had become more dexterous. This was due to the development of a slightly opposable thumb. This had given them the ability to make and use tools or in some cases, like earlier this evening, the ability to use weapons.

Shepard watched his fellow Canines as they plodded across the plains back to their compound. Shepard and his Dog Warriors had lost four soldiers in this evening’s skirmishes, but it would be a long time before the Mongrels would show their ugly snouts in this region again. Though he would hardly consider the deaths of four of his elite guards to be a rousing success, he was very proud at how well his Warriors had fought.

His males were tired and ready to be home. They were literally licking their wounds as they continued on their journey. Shepard could hear some of the younger warriors talking about their families and their new litters. This had been a good year for breeding. Ten new litters had been born. This more than doubled last year and he took this as a sign of things to come including the prosperity for his Pack.

In front, taking the point was Shepard’s right paw Dog, and best friend Kane. By old Earth standards, Kane would have been a Chow, Black Lab mix. He had been by Shepard’s side from the time they were mere pups, and Shepard owed his life to Kane many times over, including again this evening.

Kane had been wounded during the battle with the Mongrels, yet he refused to accept medical attention, and now he was walking point to help ensure the Dog Warriors would return home safely. Shepard always felt safe with Kane by his side.

Shepard knew earlier this evening he had defeated one arena of danger by dispatching the Mongrels like the mangy mutts they were, but he was also realistic enough to know that a new arena of danger would be opening up once he and the Dog Warriors returned home. He knew he would have to face a Ritual Challenge for leadership of the Pack. Maybe not tonight or the next day, but it would happen soon. He did not mind though. He had led a long and productive life as Pack Leader. Under His leadership, the Pack had tripled in size, and was more prosperous than at any other time in Canine history, and Shepard took his greatest pride in that. His canines were well taken care of. What more could a good leader want?

Up ahead, the Pack was able to make out the steel skeletons of the compound they called home. It had once been a large sprawling city built by humans, now it was a grave yard marked by devastation from the nuclear blasts. The rusted out steel husks of once large structures made perfect houses for the Canines of the Pack. The sight brought a hesitant smile to Shepard’s muzzle. He was glad to be so close to home, especially after the bloody events of this evening.

The wind had picked up, and was blowing dust up in little tornadoes across the plains. Shepard could make out faint yips and growls. The hesitation now gone, he smiled at these sounds. They were the sounds of pups at play. This reinvigorated him somewhat as those sounds brought home why blood had to be spilled. He would gladly fight to give those pups a chance at survival.

The Dog Warriors entered the compound to the sound of cheering and howling. They had returned as conquering heroes that had vanquished their foes. Shepard reveled in the sounds of happiness from the Canines he protected. He did not linger among the celebrating throngs for long; instead he made his way to his own house. It stood on a pile of rubble left over from the human’s war, and overlooked the rest of the compound.

Shepard surveyed his canines as they celebrated the hard fought victory. He could not help but look out at his fellow Canines and wonder curiously which one it would be that would challenge him for Pack Leadership, and with even more curiosity, which one would win. He decided not to worry about it right now as this was supposed to be a happy time so he allowed himself a few minutes of relaxation. He was still the Pack Leader after all, even though Shepard new his time was growing short.

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Reviewed by Charles Dias 7/1/2006
Nice story. I never think about a post-nuclear war canine society, interesting. I missed a little more explanation about the beligerance between the Pack and Mongrels. Very nice work.
Reviewed by Kenneth Seay 6/28/2006
Oh interesting. Good imagination. I like kitty cats beter!

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