The Belly Dancer was glad the final pose in her debut as a figure model for the art class was laying down. She was also glad she could close her eyes because then she wouldn’t have to look at the hideously scary painting of a wolf that was on the wall behind her.
At the last minute she decided to get her scimitar and use it as a prop in the pose. She knew it would create drama, adding an exotic and dangerous element to her character. While she knew it was unlikely the artists drawing her would understand, when she danced she became Zaira, The Rose Princess of the Tribe. She changed from being the dutiful daughter, the loyal office worker, and the meek sister into the strong and courageous Princess.
The room was warm and the pose was easy. Soon she had closed her eyes and fallen into a dreaming sleep. She dreamt she was alone in the hot desert of North Africa. She was out searching for her little brother, who had not returned after a day in which he had supposedly gone out to catch lizards in the dunes with friends. It was now night under a full moon and the family had spread out across the desert to find him. She was given the direction due south, towards the small group of hills that made the southern border of their tribe’s land. She was about a mile from their home when she heard the howls.
Howling was not uncommon in her land but it was always far away. This time it was very close. She walked faster along a line of date trees that were fed by a small spring to the west. She knew the trees would lead to the edge of the hills and that would likely be where her brother would go if he were stuck in the desert at night. It was also where the howling had come from. The moon had partially disappeared behind the hills by the time she reached their start. She could see shadows cast by jagged rock outcroppings. It made for a disconcerting scene.
Just as she was about to call her brother’s name she heard a rustling behind her. She turned to see another large shadow, also appearing to be of jagged rocks. Then the shadow moved. Then the shadow snarled. She was able to see now that it was a large wolf, bristling hair high up on it’s neck and back. It’s head was lowered and it started pacing back and forth in front of her. Every turn it made it took a step closer as well. She was able to see as it got closer that it’s mouth was dripping something. When it turned again and came another step closer she could see it was blood.
She had been taught to hunt by her father, a rarity among the women of her tribe. But he had told her that the hunted doesn’t care of you are a woman or a man. If they sense fear they will attack. He wanted everyone in his family to be able to protect themselves and anyone else in the family, no matter what they were born as. She was thankful for her upbringing even when it meant she was teased by the boys and girls in her tribe.
She slowly put her left hand over her head and reached behind to her back. She drew out her scimitar from its sheath and brought it to the front. With her right hand she drew out the knife she had in her belt. The wolf sensed his prey getting ready to defend itself and attacked swiftly. He ran directly at her, a distance of about 20 feet. It took no more than 3 leaps before he was airborne with his teeth bared, aiming for her neck. She was able to fall to her left as he passed over. As he went by she thrust upward with her knife, piercing his chest on the right side. He collapsed as he hit the ground. A second later he was back up. He turned, exhaling and coughing. She knew she had hit his lungs. She knew she had but a moment to do what she knew was next. Instead of waiting for him to attack she ran towards his wounded right side. He was not able to turn quickly in that direction and before he could get around to face her she had struck a blow on his neck with her sword. He fell to the ground, his spinal cord cut.
She didn’t have to take a second look at her foe. She knew he was dead. She turned back to her task, calling her brother’s name while running around the nearest rocky rise to see if he was behind it. She was worried that the blood on the wolf’s mouth had been that of her brother. She was prepared to see her brother dead and mangled somewhere close by. When she came around the rocks she did indeed see a mangled and bloody body. But it was not of her brother but of a young lamb. She called again as she walked deeper among the rocks. A few moments later she heard his faint voice responding. The voice was above her. She looked up and saw her brother standing on a single pillar of rock, no wider than he was.
Zaira returned to her family’s home with her brother about 3 hours after she had left. They were welcomed back with love and tears. She told the story of her search, the fight with the wolf and how her brother was smart enough to escape the wolf by climbing up a high and precarious set of rocks that the wolf could not climb. The family was proud of Zaira and told the story for many generations thereafter.
Zaira woke with a start when the drawing monitor called ‘time’s up, pose is over.’ When she opened her eyes the first thing she saw was the painting of the wolf on the wall. She laughed at the wolf and told the assembled artists, “I just killed that wolf in my dream!” They all applauded and thanked her for her heroic deed.
Drawing and story by Marty Coleman