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He was running as fast as he could, but it felt like it was hopeless - he could hear it behind him, loping along, easily keeping pace.
Jean's breath was ragged in his chest, his throat felt raw from the cold air, but he pushed for a little more speed. It was just up the next hill - if he could make it - not safety, but maybe a glimmer of hope.  There was the smallest of chances if he made it and if his trap actually worked - but that was two very big "if's".

The trap had taken minutes of planning and then days of sweat - digging out the pit that would now hopefully trap the wolf. 
The only missing element was the bait, and somehow it had ended up being him. 
His idea, they had said, so his responsibility.  Stupid, stupid, stupid!  Why did he have to come up with these hair-brained ideas without realising - in his town, these things always went against him. He was the loner, the outcast, the expendable. He should have known he would end up being the "bait" in this plan. Why couldn't he have had normal parents like the rest of them? But then he wouldn't have been able to spend so much time in the woods; so much time discovering, exploring, practicing sneaking up on deer and other unsuspecting animals. His education had been a limitless array of subjects, taught by observation and imagination. Families, he watched the squirrels and the badgers. Territories, he watched the bears and the phalante, those large, miss-understood beasts - so ugly and aggressive, and yet so intelligent.

No time for mulling now though, his muscles screamed as he pushed up the hill.  In the back of his mind he wondered why the lone wolf was playing with him - why hadn't he caught and pounced on him? His timing was totally off as he had had to go much further till he found it. The initial bait to attract the predator - a half a chicken, hadn't drawn the wolf as expected and after most of the day hiding and waiting, he'd had to venture further into the woods. No he was running for his life and somehow hadn't been put down yet.
Was there something else there that he hadn't realised? But no, he had seen the bloody remains of the wolfs work. This was no joke - no game at all.
He could almost feel the claws ripping into his back and teeth tearing at his flesh as he scampered over the narrow pathway across the pit and dived the last few feet onto the solid ground beyond.
With a roll he covered his head with his arms waiting for the crash as the wolf fell into the trap; it seemed like an eternity before he heard a crack of branches and collapse of the trap.
As he lifted his head and looked back, what he saw turned his heart to ice. The wolf stood at the far side of the pit, bright eyes watching him, grey fur beautiful in the morning sun and a red red tongue surrounded by those long, deadly, white teeth.

He could see the wolf had stopped just in time to trigger the trap, but hadn't fallen in. This was bad!
The wolf looked down and then back at Jean and tilted his head to the side, puzzled - almost like a question? What? That didn't make any sense, why was he thinking that.
A second later Jean was sprinting back towards the village. He couldn't feel his legs, he couldn't feel the scratches and twigs left stuck in his clothes, all he could see was the bridge in front of him. The bridge meant safety and once he crossed it he would breathe. As he sprinted across the open ground he flashed a glance over his shoulder and saw nothing behind him. Nothing chasing. His mad dash slowly bounced to a jerky halt on abused legs that felt like sticks.

Looking back he thought he saw a pair of yellow eyes looking back and felt an unexplained sadness that flashed through his chest.
Wolves ran in packs, like family. What had caused this one to end up alone? Jean had been abandoned. The village made sure he remembered that he was a throw-away, but what of the wolf? Where was his pack?
Jean turned and stumbled into the village to face the hatefulness and the stinging words he knew were coming.
Quickly his mind turned inward, searching for that inner core, that inner space that he had found and needed to latch onto to weather what was coming.
This time he knew it would be a hungry night as well and dug that little bit deeper to make peace with that too. It wouldn't be the first time he had gone to bed hungry and bruised and knew it wouldn't be the last either.
Bartlet came walking towards him with the switch in his hands. His eyes glancing behind Jean to see any evidence of success - but there was none.

The pallet felt a little harder than usual because of the welts across his back and legs. The ointment helped a lot but took time to work. He'd thank Teresa when he saw her again. She was one of the few that still spoke to him with kindness and was sure it was her that had hidden the tin where he would find it. Her mother was the village healer and she helped when she could - which was seldom because Bartlet never allowed it unless it looked like he was dying. A dead boy couldn't chop his wood, trap his meat or run the errands he needed.

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