Chapter One: The Past Hurts
Chinook blinked his dark eyes as he stretched his long, muscular wings, waking up from his tangled dreams of flashing pictures and blurred noises. His dreams never made any sense, and it was no thanks to the constant chitter and chatter from the fellow bats in their colony, always keeping him half-awake so what he saw in his mind was never completely fake, but never completely true which always made Chinook confused on what was dream and reality.
He envied Shade's natural intelligence. He would probably have no problem at all sorting out what was true or false. And not to mention, if he had Shade's smarts, he may have figured out earlier, that discs and studs the Humans had attached to him were bombs, so he would have been able to save Plato and Isis, his father and mother, before they died in the explosions. That was another thing that kept him from falling into complete sleep. It always bothered him that if he was even a tad bit brighter, maybe they would still be with him. A sudden small tear rolled from his eye and he quickly blinked it away, rubbing his cheek against his shoulder, to dry off the dampness in his fur. There's no use crying about it now. It was the past and it would never change. He had to be tough on the inside, to match his outer looks, being the most promising hunter and flyer and all.
He sighed. It wasn't at all easy being the best. Chinook chuckled lightly, remembering those times when Shade would grimace and grind his teeth, jealous of his strength, popularity and looks. It was never Chinook's first idea to be a bit of a bully to Shade sometimes, okay, most times, but Shade, being all brainy and weak looking, made it so hard not to crack jokes and just laugh at the way he was. Sometimes he may have gotten a little too far, forcing Shade to prove himself by glimpsing the sun, but it was always so entertaining watching the small bat's troubled emotions lead to wild antics that no one else dared to do.
And it wasn't like being the little bat that Shade was, was such a loss. Chinook remembered that time when he himself accidentally angered a raccoon, and when it began to chase him all around the forest without end, he actually found the perfect hole in a rock that the raccoon couldn't possibly fit its nasty muzzle in. He thought his idea was so smart until he unfortunately experienced that he couldn't fit in it either, resulting in him painfully splatting face-first into the rock. Stupid rock. It's not like it was his fault for being large and not-so-bright…it…it was the rock's fault for not making the hole big enough…! Well, maybe it was his fault for being unable to calculate the size of the hole in the rock… He huffed in distate at himself. Chinook, you can fly with ease, catch tiger moths like it's a breeze, but you can't frickin' calculate the size of damn holes in rocks…? What the bat is wrong with you? It's not like it was his fault, escaping predators was what Shade had to do, poor Chinook had absolutely no experience in judging the size of stupid holes in rocks, while for Shade it was probably something like second nature.
A sudden angry gurgle emanated from his stomach and he tinged with embarrassment. Here he was, still on his roost, silently complaining about Shade's smarts, when everyone else was already hunting outside. It reminded him of the saying 'first come, first served'. Chinook was most definitely not the first to come like he usually was, so he could guess all that were left were probably weak little flies and bland, gauzy mosquitoes. He frowned. He was looking forward to eating another satisfying tiger moth and some large juicy beetles, like he did every night. Oh, well. Tiger moths were very difficult to catch anyway, so there may still be some left.
He let go of the branch he had roosted on and with a few light flaps of his large wings, effortlessly glided out of the tree and flew into the night.
Chinook pulsed with annoyance, stomach empty, protesting against his urge to resist eating the mosquitoes and flies that are easy as hell to catch. He needed to show the world that he was still the old Chinook; that Shade's death didn't change him into someone he didn't recognize anymore.
He didn't even know he cared for Shade until he died. Shade was the runty bat that he had always laughed at for Nocturna's sake, so why did his death change him so much? How did Shade's death show Chinook all the good qualities that he had had? Chinook felt tears brimming at his eyes again, but this time he didn't bother to hide them. He let them spill like rain on a stormy day when the sky darkened to gray and the thunder growled in the distance.
Now that Shade was gone, he really didn't have anybody to prove to about anything, nobody to protest against what he could or could not do. Jarod always agreed with everything he said, truth or lie, his other friends just went along with his brags whether they believed him or not and the elders didn't even care. Life was so…he would sound selfish if he said boring, but honestly, there was no better word for it. Why did he have to suddenly disappear…?
A slender figure flew gracefully below him and he veered softly to the left and shot down to join her. Marina. He'd always liked her and had gone crazy when she denied becoming his mate. She was smart, fun, kind and nice-looking, just like him, except he wasn't very smart or that kind. He would've enjoyed her company very much, just them roosting together, some nights just staring out into the distance, looking at nothing in the particular…
"Hey, Chinook," Marina's soft voice piped up.
"Oh, hi, Marina…" Chinook said quietly. His voice was calm, revealing no real emotions.
"You've been really quiet, since, well, since Shade…You know…I think if Shade…was…still here…maybe he might have found you… more tolerable…"
She smiled sadly. Her voice kept pausing, tears caught in her throat. It was hard for her to speak of his death, without choking down her feelings and forcing herself not to cry.
"Really…? Well, I guess…maybe I…changed…a bit…" Chinook mumbled. He'd lost his once boastful voice; it died down to a soft low timbre, like the sound of thunder if it could be rhythmic and soothing to listen to. He shook his head at his foolishness. Stupid. Thunder could never be rhythmic.
"What are you thinking about? You always look so troubled. I almost can't remember the days when you never had a care in the world, always so lively and flaring your wings…"
"Well, Marina, I-
She sighed in frustration. It began to rain and the rain drops pelted down on her cheeks, rolling down her jaw like tears.
"Chinook, if this is what I think it's about, I'm sorry, but I have to say no. It doesn't matter if…if Sh-Shade is d-dead or alive, th-there will never be an, us. I'm sorry if that wasn't the answer you were looking for, but my answer will never change. I'm sorry,"
"But Marina, I don't underst-
"And you will never understand why, until you try to put yourself into my shoes. If your soul-mate died would you immediately mate with another to erase your memories of her? Would you throw her away like a dead animal?"
"Would you…? Would you, Chinook…?-
"Marina, please let me finish…!"
A heavy silence filled the air. Marina sighed deeply and decided to let him go on.
"It's not about us, being together. Trust me, Marina, I've thought that over a million times and you've rejected me enough for it to get to me that we can never be like that. I just don't understand why Shade would just disappear, be gone, so suddenly, it's selfish-
"You don't have any idea what greed actually is-
"Let me finish, please, Marina…didn't I just say that a moment earlier…? What I'm trying to say is that it looks like a noble deed, sacrificing himself for Griffin, but how selfish is it to leave his family, his friends, his son and not to mention, you, leaving you all, coughing dust in his shadow, if that makes any sense at all,"
She looked at him defiantly, fur lifted, furious.
"I don't want to believe you, but who else can I trust…? Griffin won't even talk about Shade anymore,"
Marina pounded angrily towards the foliage of the trees, not looking back at him once.
Chinook just sighed again, beginning to stare blankly into the distance, finally understanding what Shade had felt when he was alone.
He flew furiously towards the rising sun, squinting his eyes, but still looking hard, trying in vain, to find his tomorrow.