“–and there are usually seven to eight wolves in each pack,” Eric can feel the pitch of his voice rise with his excitement, this subject being one of his dearest; the Wyoming wilderness had offered a great escape from the brutality of his then home, “but I once saw a pack of thirty-five, and their alpha was this gigantic, probably at least two-hundred pounds. I wasn’t able to get close to that pack, but they were beautiful!” Eric felt his voice nearly squeak, and he quickly glances away from Omar in embarrassment.
“That is quite large for a wolf, it’s no surprise you didn’t approach them. From what I’ve heard, wolves in the unincorporated areas have grown quite bold, and have been known to attack humans.” Omar smiles at Eric as he finishes his sentence, untying the awkward knot that had formed in Eric’s stomach.
“Oh no, they usually don’t attack people, but hunters have been found dead fairly often, and some people think it’s the wolves, others know it’s wild ‘festers that are hiding out in the forests.” Eric feels quite odd speaking about manifesters in such a manner now that he knows he is one, but the colloquialisms of the communities he had been raised had influenced his thought processes and speech to fairly large degree, such that he frequently doesn’t notice the influence.
“That’s a likely possibility,” Omar looks thoughtful as his form begins to flicker, almost fading into the background, and although the pause couldn’t have been much longer than twenty seconds, Eric oddly feels as if he is walking alone when Omar speaks again, “some manifesters haven’t taken to the Academy compromise too well, but have you considered the possibility that maybe wolves might have been affected by the phenomenon that caused manifestations, and there was some radiation and fallout after the collapse, although I’ll admit there wasn’t much here, so it’s an unlikely cause.”
“But why would that cause them to attack humans?” Eric is genuinely confused by Omar’s question, he was unable fathom where Omar was coming from, the connections are completely unclear to him in regards to the cause of death for the hunters.
“Well, I’ve heard some reports and rumors have implied that some animals have shown far greater signs of intelligence than they had before. This leads me to believe that they might be defending their territory from human encroachment, which lends credence to the deaths of the hunters being from wild animals,” Omar pauses thoughtfully his finger going to his chin, yet his eyes stay locked, directly tied to Eric’s, “there have also been reports of loggers being killed in other territories, and the consistency of these attacks has made me suspect that the more intelligent members of the animal kingdom were effected in a different way than humans by the phenomena that caused manifestations.”
* * * * *
Omar’s hypothesis was not far off.
It was the third year after the first manifestation, when a young man named Thaddeus Foggbottom, who lived in Jackson, Wyoming, craved and dreamed, fantasizing of the animals in the nearby wilderness being able to comprehend him and reply in kind. While he did grow up in a small rural town, the frequent invasions of tourists, as well as travelling hippy sorts, exposed him to a myriad of perspectives as a child. When manifestations began to appear more publicly even the people of this small town, whose primary claim to fame was its proximity to Yellowstone National Park, began to believe in the new phenomena.
As was case in all manifestations (at least as far as my own observations as well as theoretical physics would lead me to believe) reality shifted. Since, the First’s rebirth, the laws of reality had been challenged, and were beginning to be redefined. Those who’s impossible desires were strongest, and those whose grasp of reality was more tenuous were able to unknowingly redefine their interaction and control over the very laws of said ‘reality’. Because the human experience now allowed for and accepted the concept of human beings having “superpowers” (or more accurately- super human abilities), Thaddeus Foggbottom soon became able to rewrite the very brain structure of animals with whom he interacted.
Thaddeus did not understand what he precisely did, so some forgiveness for ignorance is necessary when discussing this poor man’s fate. As far as Thaddeus was concerned, all he did was “teach” the animals to speak. What he was actually doing was exposing many minds to the bias, idiosyncrasies, and perspective of American English. For the far more simple creatures, most of this was beyond them, and they proceeded to live very similar lives to the ones had before, albeit with a slightly skewed yet broadened view of the world. For creatures who’s worldview allowed for community, learning and concept of self, this “teaching” had drastic effects. They learned to read, watch, and how to make war.
One particular wolf whom Thaddeus met, learned of the manifestations happening among humans, and through interactions with another animal who had also been affected by Mr. Foggbottom’s manifestation (of those there were many, some notable mentions are a gorilla, a lion, several elephants, and two entire pig farms.) The wolf also learned of a theory regarding the nature of manifestations, that it was accessible for all thinking beings. This wolf, who called himself Tecumseh, after a famous Native American leader (orator), began genuinely believing in the possibility (almost the probability) of becoming the first animal manifester. He convinced his pack of this, and the rumors of this mad wolf spread among other creatures who had been affected by Thaddeus’ manifestation, and they began to believe. It worked.
Tecumseh became massive in size, his eyes glowed yellow at night, and he claimed to be able to read the future, but this did not stop the death of one of his pack members in the third year of the Universal Era, at the hands of hunter from one of the small rural communities that still survived in the shattered remnants of a society that had just begun its reconstruction. These wolves had grown up protected from violence at the hands of hunters prior to this, hunting had been illegal in Wyoming, especially in Yellowstone where this particular pack ranged. Tecumseh began to plot revenge on these humans with the rest of his pack.
Thaddeus heard rumors of Tecumseh’s plans to make war upon the humans, and he came to plead for the humans lives, and the wolves listened, except Tecumseh. Although Tecumseh was the alpha, Thaddeus held a greater authority over the pack in some ways, and this caused Tecumseh to back down and give the humans a reprieve. As Thaddeus was thanking Tecumseh for listening to his advice, several shots were fired from a semi-automatic rifle, killing two members of the pack. The man who killed the wolves was killed within five minutes of committing the act. Thaddeus died thirty seconds before, his throat torn out by Tecumseh for his “betrayal” of the pack.
* * * * *
As Omar and Eric near the Liberal Arts portion of TCU, where the Academy’s training facility is hidden, Omar turns to Eric and says, “I want you to listen carefully to what I have to say,” the very air around Omar began to hum with anticipation, or so it seems to Eric as he feels a warm glow of confidence suffuse his body, “you were recruited for the Academy by very intelligent, very observant men, who know exactly how powerful you truly are. No one in that room,” Omar points to the foretold ‘large assembly hall’, that seems to be inexplicably dwarfed and dilapidated, and has a sign stating: ‘closed for repairs,’ in front of its doors, “will be prepared for what you’re capable of doing. Trust yourself, and you will do fine, my young friend.”
Eric feels his body relax; his mind focuses on the upcoming exam. Although he was settling into the zen space that he usually reserved for his trips out into nature, Eric is very intensely aware of Omar. When Eric had previously interacted with the man, he had almost felt as if Omar was irrelevant, as if he could forget him in an instant. At this moment, Eric can’t understand how this man could ever disappear in even the largest of crowds. Before Eric can puzzle this all out, and piece anything together, Omar smiles at Eric, gestures towards the ‘assembly hall’ with a raised eyebrow, then turns and walks in the opposite direction.