Some therians subconsciously view people as prey. There’s a sense of superiority, an underlying knowledge that everybody around you is a step down on the food chain. They don’t acknowledge it, but it’s there all the same. In the wild, an ordinary lion is going to eat an average human. In a shopping centre surround by slightly overweight, lumbering, distracted people, a hungry lion would be having a field day. At the least, there’s an understanding that ‘I have teeth and claws and am bigger and stronger than you,’ which leaves a lot to be desired when there’s any possibility of a physical altercation.
You’d probably assume that on the other hand, there are therians that are instinctively afraid of humans. Maybe a wary, easily startled deer, or a rabbit, caught in the headlights. Maybe these therians flinch at sudden movements and sounds, or freeze and then skitter away when someone elbows into them in a crowded space.
As someone who identifies as a wolf, I fall into the latter category, perhaps surprisingly considering others I have spoken to. I have maintained, and will always maintain, that wolves; natural, wild wolves, are shit scared of people. A wolf isn’t going to attack a person. It’s going to run away at the very sound of someone approaching. And that’s the truth for me as well. I’m acclimatised to people. If someone walks into me, I can deal with it and internalise it, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a part of me that treats everyone as suspicious. I never really understood that, when you’re in a room and a stranger walks in why, do people automatically assume they’re okay?
Realistically, unless they’re wielding a sawn off shotgun, strangers in the same space as you are not out to get you. This isn’t paranoia, and your chances of getting murdered are statistically pretty low. However, that doesn’t necessarily make other people safe. They’re unpredictable and a little crazy, and the problem with being as I am is that I am all too painfully aware that my teeth are not well suited to biting, and I am not stronger than most people, and I am not even faster than people. If somebody limps, my eyes are drawn to them. If they are ill or weak or slow, there’s a certain manner of singling them out from the group. Yet even then there’s a knowledge that they are not easy prey. They are not to be underestimated.
The instinctive reaction for some people appears to be aggression, and that’s not how I experience it. When cornered, probably, when defensive or protective, likely. But put me toe to toe with some guy outside of a tournament and I’m going to run the heck away as fast as I can.
Last year, I was bitten by a large, white, German Shepherd type dog whilst delivering papers. My reaction was not to growl, or to attack, or even to run away. I stood there. I looked at my arm. Saw the puncture wound. And then I calmly instructed my friend to ring my dad so he could take me to the hospital, as my arm was shaking too much to hold the phone properly. I distinctly remember apologising profusely to the woman who owned the dog and telling her that I was perfectly fine, because English politeness dictates that I should comfort the slightly hysterical woman regardless.
My instinctive reaction to fear is not then, to act aggressively. It’s to freeze. The image is easy to recall, the dog is running towards me, and the last thought I can remember is ‘Oh, shit’ before I put my arm up to my chest/face area to protect it. I didn’t move from the spot. And when people scare me, get too close, behave in a way that makes me uncomfortable, that’s also my reaction. I stop internally, I stifle any feelings deep inside, and I carry on.
People are not something I see as prey. I see a herd of horses or deer, and there’s that instinctive reaction, the rush of knowledge and longing. A group of people do not bring about the same effect. A group of people make me want to be invisible, quiet and small and unnoticed. I want to be able to pass by quietly, so I do.
This isn’t to say that I am shy, or do not interact with people. I have brilliant, wonderful friends, a girlfriend, and I’m more than happy to be the person who goes and asks a stranger where the closest bathroom is, or order food from a waitress. I can walk head held high down the street all I like, and make cocky arguments in debate with total strangers, but I still have an instinctive reaction of suspicion and negativity towards people’s intentions which as a rational, thinking human, I like to optimistically believe is not true.
People are a lot like wolves, in the end. A lot of what I feel, everybody feels, even if I base it in something rather more eccentric. I believe that if you pitted a human and a wolf against each other in a room, chances are the wolf would come out on top. But probably not before it tried to run away first.