Ballad of the Wild Girl
When they came to save her she went for them hackles up, teeth bared, spittle strings swinging. She almost outran them, even on all fours. They shot her father and her brothers fled, tails between legs. When the men overpowered her they stabbed a needle in her flank and even as her eyes closed she bayed her wrath at the moon.
She wakes to white and is surrounded. They gather, upright and bald to look at her, and they communicate in something sung, like birds. When she attacks they splay and bind her on the padded platform and make winter-sleep come. She dreams of hot breath, rough tongues and blood-clogged fur.
The sun here is a lie, sisterless and bright too long. A female rubs cream into her paws and smiles, which means something different now. The cream softens her skin so that when she walks she feels the floor and it is smooth, cool, unknown. They cut off her claws.
They put her in pelts like theirs and her skin burns. They strap about her shiny icy bones that bend her back so she cannot run and must sit straight. For hours they move their mouths at her with their hidden tongues.
When they can they tell her how she was found, and when she knows how she curses them. They say they do not know who her real parents were or why they left her but she says they killed her father and she shows them her teeth.
They give her to a family but at night she leaves and walks for hours, her choking howl diminished and unanswered. The family find her beneath her bed in the mornings, red-snouted, grimed and growling in her sleep.
With time she learns to trick them, to ape their ways and pass. She reads machines, watches buildings and draws pages of numbers with her new hands. She keeps her tongue inside but her voice retains a coarse sibilance, a forest burr. When she is too old for them to keep goes rigid-backed on hind legs into their world.
For such long years they pass so fast. She does a job cooking their food and at times she strokes the meat first, holds her fingers to her muzzle and lets one or two slip in. She takes the bones home. She has read about love and thinks that she might try.
As he climbs the stairs in front of her, she fights the urge to sniff. Naked he has almost-fur and after the coupling she grooms it, lapping, hiding her inhales. He says she has such big eyes and in a while he marries her.
Another white room and the white-coated men again, only this time they encourage her to pant. Her husband holds her hand until the first one is born, snuffling, its purblind eyes cauled pink. When the whelping is over she gathers her cubs to her breast and smiles at them, which means something different now.