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Wolf Versus Zombie

The dark-coated Wolf wandered through the forest, if such nightly prowls could truly be considered wanderings. It had been ten years since The Fall. The Zombie plague came, wiping out ninety percent of the world's population. Ten percent of seven point one billion is still a lot of people, some would say. Of course, those who would say that are without a doubt among the hordes of slouching, moaning monstrosities who were once human. In the Age of the Undead, pessimism is a survival trait and optimism isn't. The bulk of humanity is dead and gone for the most part. Here and there, ragtag bands of humans hide, forever hunted by those who used to be their fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. Welcome to the twenty-first century.

In this day and age, many humans succumb to the madness that comes from inhabiting a world without hope. A world where the dead walk and the living, whose numbers dwindle day by day, must hide. The Wolf knew these things but didn't process them the way a human being might. In the world of wolves, there were predators and prey. And absolutely nothing in between. Living in a world suddenly filled with swarms of slow-moving, fearless and utterly mindless Undead monstrosities didn't even come close to phasing the Wolf. Just as its kind had done since time immemorial, it would hunt and be hunted. That was all. The Wolf found the deer it had been stalking for the past three days. Finally, it pounced on the beast, ripped out its throat and feasted.

Even while feasting the Wolf kept its senses on high alert. After the Fall, scores of animals once kept in zoos or as pets had escaped from the confines of captivity. There were gigantic snakes roaming all over the woodlands of North America. The descendants of pythons and boas once kept in zoos or as pets by humans long since dead or worse, reanimated. These magnificent ophidians had done really well in the post-apocalyptic remnants of America, Canada and Mexico. Of course, they shared their world with the descendants of lions and tigers, as well elephants and rhinos escaped from zoos and circuses after the events of the Fall. The fauna of North America was wonderfully diverse these days. All kinds of predators roamed the wilderness. And of course, all of them feared only one thing. The millions upon millions of Undead walking and moaning across the continent. The Wolf instinctively knew all this. That's why it kept its ears to the ground. It feasted as fast as it could, for it knew it wouldn't be alone for long. The scent of fresh blood always attracted the Zombies. Always.

The Wolf's hackles raised when it heard the telltale signs of a Zombie presence. Twigs snapping. Fetid smell. And of course, the constant moaning. One good thing about the Zombies is that they always made plenty of noise wherever they went. In nature, most predators knew that silence was golden. Zombies didn't need stealth, nor did they need speed. They had the advantage of numbers. And they hunted animals and humans across every continent on God's green Earth. Zombies also roamed along the bottom of the ocean floor, fighting against sharks, orcas and other marine predators for the schools of fish. Everywhere, mammals, birds, reptiles and even insects found that in the aftermath of mankind's near-extinction, they had a new enemy.

Across the savannahs of Africa, the deserts of the Middle East and the European tundra, wild beasts fought against the Zombie hordes. Entire herds of elephants found themselves surrounded by the remnants of Undead men...and consumed. Prides of lions fought the Undead, and lost. Schools of sharks took on the Zombies, and perished. The thing about Zombies is that while utterly dim, they feel no fear, no pain, and they also never stop. They will walk across a lake of fire to get at their prey. They will swim to the bottom of the ocean to feed on every last fish left. The world's animals were simply unprepared to deal with such monstrosities. The only breed of animal that did well against the Undead is known as the common North American Wolf. And our Wolfish hero, Gray, is a prime example of this breed.

Born into a pack of wolves escaped from the San Francisco Zoo in California in 2017, the year of the Fall, Gray has lived most of his life in that area of what was once the United States of America. Sharing the remnants of California's biggest cities with wild dogs, deer, coyotes, tigers, lions, feral cats, and of course Zombies. The swarms of the Undead plague the hills and valleys, cities and towns, and even the rivers and seas of every nation on the planet Earth. Millions of them roam the oceans, giving orcas and sharks a run for their money. Zombies cannot swim, but they can float, and have no problem walking along the bottom of major seaways. Gray has become an expert in avoiding the Zombies when he could, and taking them down when he couldn't.

Three of them stalked towards Gray. The Wolf tensed. Normally, the Zombies traveled in packs. These three looked fresh. Doubtless they were humans who recently got turned. This could spell trouble for the lupine prowler. Fresh Zombies moved faster than their rotted counterparts. They almost moved as fast as live humans, who, while much slower than wolves, were still dangerous. Gray hesitated. As a predator, he had the urge to defend his kill. Still, instinctively he knew that coming in contact with the infected blood of the Zombies wouldn't be good for him. Zombie blood turns humans into Zombies, but it sends all other members of planet Earth's fauna into a coma, and this eventually results in death. Growling softly, Gray launched himself at the Zombies. He landed on the first one, a large African-American male in overalls.

Tackling the foul monster to the ground, Gray raked his claws across its eyes. Blinded, the Zombie continued moaning, though not because of pain. Zombies don't feel anything at all, not heat or cold, pain or pleasure. The blind monster continued coming for him, but Gray had already turned tail to run. Only one of the Zombies was fast enough to run, and it gave up after chasing Gray for five minutes. Even in top form, nothing human or once-human could outrun a Wolf. It simply wasn't possible. Gray ran until he lost the Zombies scent. He hated abandoning his kill, but that was life. The Zombies never ate anything they didn't kill themselves. They liked living flesh, not the flesh of the dead. Every animal or human consumed by the Zombies was alive when consumed. Unfortunately. Gray shuddered as he recalled his pack's hunts across the City of Los Angeles. The area was teeming with Zombies, but it also contained a sizeable number of goats, descended from zoo specimens as well as former pets whose owners were long dead, or undead. For this reason, the Wolf pack dared to venture in this high-infestation area. They were overrun by the Zombies, and only Gray escaped.

Gray thought about Silver, the female Wolf from the Arctic wilderness. Silver was once the property of a high-tech pharmaceutical firm in the Los Angeles area. When the Zombie plague hit, she escaped from her captors and joined Gray's pack. Although she was a different breed from the common North American wolves, she proved to be a swift hunter and a valuable member of their pack. The beautiful, exotic Silver was larger than the biggest male of the pack but she was also warm and friendly. She took a liking to Gray, who while he wasn't the runt of the litter, was definitely not one of the pack's most popular males. The two of them became friends, bonding while hunting deer together and fighting for the survival of the pack. Silver had lived most of her life in the Los Angeles area, and knew firsthand what a swarm of Zombies could do to the most powerful of hunters. She had been against the pack venturing into the City from the start.

Of course, Gray agreed with her because he had a natural dislike for the artificial constructs built by the human predecessors of the Zombie hordes. He always felt trapped in the cities and longed for the wilderness. Silver felt the same way. After living most of her life in a lab, she loved the woods more than the average Wolf could ever understand. The bond between Gray and Silver surprised just about every member of the Pack. Including Red, the Alpha female. She viewed the larger and tougher Silver as a potential rival, though Silver had no intention of taking away the Pack's leadership from her. Red didn't much care for Silver or Gray, and didn't hide it. Against their vehement objections, she ordered the twenty or so members of the Pack into the Los Angeles basin to hunt the goat herds. And they walked right into a swarm of Zombies millions strong. The Pack was overrun. During the fight, Gray lost track of Silver. He barely made it out of the danger zone alive.

His Pack decimated, most likely exterminated, his Mate gone, Gray now wanders the vastness of California alone. Haunted by the memories of the only family he had ever known and the loss of the magnificent female he wanted to share his life with, the solitary Wolf would ponder the purpose of his existence if he could ponder such things. Fortunately, the only beings on the planet with the capacity of pondering were the humans, and they were on the verge of extinction. Gray wandered the darkness, letting his keen senses guide him. Time after time he avoided marauding Zombies, and finally found his refuge for the night. A small opening into a rock formation, barely large enough for him to fit through. Once inside, he inspected it, then lay down. At last, the Wolf slept. In his fevered dreams, Gray dreamed of Silver.
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