JIANA Bieke rode his horse carefully down into the valley floor. It was spring, the season for Mongolian gazelles to go down to drink and Jiana knew that the wolves wouldn’t be far behind. He hoped the luck was on his side and he could get the chance to hunt his first wolf of the season.
Soon gazelles arrived in their hordes. Hiding behind a large rock, Jiana remained motionless, waiting for them to pass by. Suddenly five wolves appeared. Targeting one wolf, Jiana aimed his rifle, quite confident he could kill it with one shot. Once one wolf went down, the other four would run away, he thought. Then he would carry the dead wolf back to the village. However as he was about to fire, he noticed the big male, taller than all the others, with an imposing appearance, like a king.
Jiana shifted his aim and fired at the wolf king. It was a clean hit. The majestic creature faltered, but then ran off. Reacting quickly Jiana jumped on his horse and gave chase. He fired a volley of shots while in the saddle, but despite being shot the wolf was still too fast and all of the shots missed. Jiana’s failure to bring the animal down made him more determined. He changed tactics. Slinging his rifle on to his back Jiana increased speed. He knew that the faster the wounded wolf ran the more chance there was of quickening its death through massive hemorrhaging. Human beings knew this, but not a wolf. Actually hunters often talked about this together as sometimes they needed more than just guns and bullets to succeed on a hunt – they needed wisdom too. The latter would ensure a hunter finally get his prey.
As they galloped across hill and dale, Jiana watched as the distance between them narrowed. Finally, while trying to climb up a steep slope, the large wolf dropped from exhaustion. Jumping down from his horse, Jiana intended to fire the killing shot. His hand was on the trigger. At that moment the wolf howled in anguish. The mournful sound froze his trigger finger. Blood gushed from the wolf’s mouth, caused by its wild running that must have exacerbated its condition. Jiana knew it would die soon.
Another howl sent shivers down Jiana’s spine. It was the sound of a living creature suffering unbearable pain. A surge of sympathy swelled up in Jiana, stopping him from firing. Squatting beside the writhing wolf, he witnessed the withering of a living being on the verge of death. With no strength left for it to run away, the wolf just looked at him, waiting for its death. Its eyes were filled with pain, the pain of submission. Tears rolled down from its eyes which moved Jiana.
It was a wolf king, but the panic of death had removed the majestic glow that had been there just hours before, a fact that heightened Jiana’s distress. In the face of death, all living things were fragile. Death was a fate that waited for everyone. Then a great wave of sadness seized Jiana. He didn’t want to see a living being dying this way, in particular the struggle and desperation on the verge of death. Witnessing a scene like this gave him an ominous feeling. He felt as if he was experiencing death himself. He made up his mind not to kill the wolf.
It was blistering hot. Jiana found some weeds to cover the animal, trying to shade it from heat and relieve its pain. If it were lucky enough, maybe the wolf could still survive. An hour later he uncovered the weeds, and found the flow of blood had congealed around the corners of its mouth and its breath was weak. However, the wolf opened its eyes wider, full of desperation and fear. As he walked in front of it, its eyes followed his movements seemingly in the hope that he would release it from death. However, death had already arrived and was inevitable. There was no stopping it now.
Jiana estimated that the wolf would endure two more days of torture before its death. He was caught in a dilemma: When night fell, bears would hunt here. Once being discovered, the poor wolf would be attacked by bears. Then at the last moments of its life, the wolf king would suffer more humiliation. Even if bears did not appear, it was still miserable for the wolf to wait painfully for death in the coming days.
Suddenly Jiana knew what he had to do. He pointed the rifle at the wolf’s head, turned his face away and fired. The wolf lay motionless. Its pain had ended along with its life.
Jiana never hunted again.
WANG ZU is a member of China Writers Association, and author of multiple poetry anthologies and prose works.