Shine stared at the grimy water and wished that it would swallow her up. Moons upon moons had passed since her pups, Noble, Pride, and Grace abandoned the group and her trusted mate, Fiery, had died. The Scavengers numbers dwindled, more and more deserting in the hopes of finding a place among another family or starting their own. Shine couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen a pup. It appeared that her once strong family was soon to disappear from the desert for good. In a few generations they would be forgotten completely.
Shine reached forward with a claw and disturbed the reflection of her graying snout. “The sand will consume our bones and there will be nothing left. It will be as if we never existed.”
Another meer, taller than her with white fur tinging his tawny scruff and dark fur shadowing his forehead, came to join her. “Why are you so gloomy?” He asked, his murky brown gaze trained on the cloud-streaked sky. He pressed his long, stiff tail to his flank, its dark tip resting on Shine’s forepaw. “The day is warm, there’s insects to be found. You should be happy.”
Shine retracted her other paw with a sigh and sat back on her haunches. “I used to come here with my mother. We’d sit on a fallen branch and watch the water. It was clear then and fuller. Sometimes small fish would end up in it and we’d watch them pluck mosquitoes from the surface.”
The male glanced at her, expression patient. Shine dug her forepaws into the ground to keep from lashing out at him, she knew that he wasn’t trying to be patronizing. He had been her only confidant since she lost Fiery.
“Rabbit,” she asked, “have I ever told you what my mother used to say to me when we came here?”
Rabbit blinked at the dreary puddle that was once a proud pond and shook his head.
“She’d say, ‘Do you see the water, Shine? How one day it holds the gaze of the sun and the next it does not? The future is reflected in the water, if you look hard enough, you’ll see it.’ She was so serious, her voice wispy and mystical.” Shine explained with a wistful stare at the water.
Rabbit narrowed his round umber eyes. “That sounds like a mound of superstitious giant dung to me.”
She didn’t respond. “The water is dull. The clouds cover the sun.”
“I don’t know what you’re going on about.” Her companion muttered.
“I am like this pond. The Scavengers are like this pond. Once we were alive, moving, and shining. Now we are dim, hollow, and shrinking. It has shone me our future.”
Rabbit puffed, his old voice creaky. “And what future would that be?”
“We will evaporate, all of us, into nothing. Until not a drip remains.”
“That’s a bit miserly, don’t you think?”
Shine gritted her dulled teeth. “I mean it, Rabbit.”
Rabbit stood and shook out his thinning pelt. His sharp muzzle pointed at her as he spoke. “You’ve given up.”
Shine denied looking at him.
“You can’t give up, Shine. Not on your family. Not on our family. Remember the Truths? Family is survival.”
Shine nodded and her whiskers twitched in wry amusement. “And ours was not meant to survive.”
Rabbit bared his teeth. “Fine.” He spat. “You may have been defeated, but I won’t be.” He spun with a lash of his tail and marched away.
Shine watched him go, an intense sadness swirling in her stomach. That’s fine, go. Shine thought. I don’t need you. But she knew the bitter lie of the statement and returned her gaze to the water, alone in her misery.