«Issue 1 A foreword from the editor: Reader, Thank you for picking up our first issue! This is a journey that I hope will last quite awhile, but for ...»
Lanny raced with the rest of the lemmings, ignoring the myriad discussions running up and down the swarm. He had to stay focused; he had seen what happened to the unfortunate lemming surprised by a stream, or whose feet snagged in branches: the pack would keep moving, even right over you.
Also on his mind was Brynn. Always Brynn.
She was somewhere up ahead among the dense, furry mass. He missed her sorely, but their eventual reunion on the Endless Isle would be sweetened by this temporary separation.
There they would begin their life together, finally free from wolves and free from hunger.
He probably would not have been knocked out of his fantasies at all—not until the very end—had he not heard his name spoken over the clomp of paw.
“Somebody call?” Lanny asked.
“Yeah!” Aksel said, bounding alongside. Aksel was one of his four-hundred first cousins, on his father’s side. “Me and Cousin Nils were remembering our kids back home. Wondered if you’d share any stories about yours?” “It’s strange,” said Nils, a half-step behind, “but I don’t remember ever meeting your kids. That even possible?” That subject again. As though his mother hadn’t hounded Lanny enough before setting out on her own migration.
“Never had any,” Lanny said matter-of-factly. He braced for the obligatory indignation.
“Never?” Aksel sputtered.
“C’mon,” Nils said. “I bet you’ve seen three full mating cycles, right?” Lanny had tried to explain before, to his mother and others, but he never quite managed. Unless they had met Brynn as Lanny had... unless they had found her in the mating field and fell to talking, and then met every night under the moon, even long after the mating cycle, for the simple pleasure of her company. If they’d never seen the fire in her liquid amber eyes, or felt the soft caress of her paw, how could they possibly understand?
“I decided to wait,” was all he said.
There was a moment of awkward silence until Aksel broke it with incredulity. “But what could you possibly wait for?
The Endless Isle?” “Exactly,” said Lanny. “I have someone special. And once we’re away from the hunger and fighting of the mainland, once we’re on the Endless Isle, we—” Aksel barked an ugly laugh. “You seriously believe in the Endless Isle? Come now, that story’s just for pups, to comfort ‘em about their parents.” “It’s true,” said Nils. “We figure everyone just jumps off a cliff and drowns. Isn’t that horrible? That’s what got us talking about our kids. Makes me wish I’d spent a little more time with them, you know? I guess you should’ve had some when you had the chance.” Lanny’s stomach soured. He’d never once questioned the existence of the Endless Isle, but now that he heard it aloud, it had the cold ring of truth. After all, a land without wolves? An island large enough to accommodate all of the previous generations of lemmings, and all those to come? An “endless” island, where they could all coexist without eating themselves to famine? Suddenly Lanny felt foolish for even entertaining the idea.
But if others knew better, why were they still running?
Why was he still running? And then, driving every other consideration from his mind: Brynn.
“I’ve got to stop her,” Lanny said.
Without waiting for a response, he darted ahead, driving through the tightly-packed crowd. He didn’t know how far ahead Brynn might be, or if he had time to reach her before... whatever lay in store. He only knew he had to save her.
* Lanny raced frantically through the pack, heedless to the cries around him or his own pain, as he slammed repeatedly against fur and bone. He finally emerged near the head of the pack without having found Brynn, and his heart nearly stopped at the infinite sight ahead.
The hard-scrabble ground terminated abruptly at an icy cliff, past which was a dazzling field of gold-flecked blue, stretching forever. Maybe they were wrong. Maybe there was an Endless Isle somewhere in all that vastness. Or maybe it didn’t even matter. How could he refuse the beauty that lay just beyond the edge?
“Lanny?” a voice called from behind, snapping him from the spell.
As they neared the cliff, Lanny could see clearly what was happening. Some lemmings were throwing themselves mindlessly over the edge, perhaps seduced by the same reverie that had struck Lanny. Others tried too late to stop. They careened into one another, plummeting down, their screams blending with the sounds of crashing water far below. Lanny would quickly join them, and Brynn soon after.
Lanny first had to free himself to help her, but he was driven from behind by the pack. If he slowed, he would be trampled or swept off the cliff. The only way out was to the side.
The edge reared up, blue death beyond.
Lanny leapt onto the lemming to his right. He bounced from that lemming’s back to another, springboarding across a cascading waterfall of rodents. As the wave crested, threatening to take him with it, Lanny made one final, desperate leap.
Inches from the swarm, Lanny crashed onto safe ground.
He spun around. “Brynn!” he cried, “Stop!” But it was too late. Brynn’s brilliant amber eyes went wide as she tried to break from the pack and was slammed from behind. Her body vanished over the edge.
“No,” Lanny screamed.
Without hesitation he followed Brynn, leaping off of the cliff into the jeweled ocean below.
* Still some distance from the edge, but every second closer, Nils turned to Aksel. “You think there’s any chance that Lanny made it out safe with his special lady?” “Maybe. For their sakes, I hope not. I’ve thought about escape myself, but I figure if everyone else I love is doomed, the most horrible thing would be to survive.” “To the end then, old friend?” Nils asked.
“Exactly.” Aksel smiled and raced on towards the cliff.
Thank you for reading!
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