You are alone in the wilderness, remote from civilisation. You mark a presence. A rustle. Panting. The patter of paws. A wolf is hunting you. A question is born.
The stakes are higher for you than for the wolf. The wolf’s being dances on the tension of a line pulled taught between the odds. This is its life. It doesn’t need to escape. The cost of a single or many failures is routine in the economy of its existence. It only needs to win often enough to survive. You have a single chance. How will you spend that chance? You can hide. You can run. Or, you can fight the wolf.
Hiding won’t work. It has your scent and a lifetime of experience overcoming prey far more cunning than you. Perhaps you can climb a tree. Your animal ancestry is equal to the task, while the wolf is no climber. But how long can you stay in the tree? Who will be first to succumb to hunger or exhaustion?
Running won’t work. That is the the wolf’s bet. Terrify its meal into flight. Its tactic is to tire its prey. A slow race. A campaign of attrition. Resisting the instinct to give chase is beyond the resolve of most people. Deciding to force a resolution through direct conflict feels like an affront to reason. It’s not. It is the only even-headed course of action.
On the timeline of this parley, the wolf’s chances of success increase at the rate yours diminish. The wolf will not risk a direct attack. Not at first. Will you?
The conflict need not have a binary outcome. You don’t need to kill the wolf. The wolf’s calculation is its energy expenditure against the liklihood of a fruitful result. How do you imbue that investment with the promise of a negative yield?
You outweigh the wolf three to one at least. Your lengthy extremities pose a realistic threat to the wolf. You must make that threat real. Stop running. Cast off all hope of finding a safe hiding place. Find whatever weapon the wilderness can provide. A rock. A dense, blunt branch. Turn around and fight the wolf.
Be vicious. Strike first and hard. Forget civilized laws that temper the savagery of your intent. The wolf’s attacks will contain no reserve and neither will they savor of remorse. Until you satisfy the wolf’s fear of death, neither should yours.
One well placed blow has a realistic prospect of igniting the fuse of doubt in the wolf’s mind. Your body will suffer injury. Bravery is rarely bloodless. But the question needs an answer. Will you allow the burden of your instincts to drive your feet into the earth? Or will you invoke the most human of all traits.
The ability to spurn nature. To dare its rules. To fight the wolf.