• It was a frigid, frosty afternoon in the back lands of the Alaskan tundra. Icicles lined the very tips of the tree branches like eager young children coercing around an open flame, anxiously awaiting the moment their village chief would recite one of his many tall tales. Signs such as these clearly indicate the remnants of the blizzard season, a season which had recently departed, leaving springtime in its wake. Slowly but surely the stalagmites of winter withered away, and the layers of ice atop nearby bodies of water reverted back to their more free-bodied selves. All was a peaceful quiet, one that was much rejoiced after the harsh and clamorous snowstorms of the late winter.

    Amidst the penetrating silence, a bellow was heard. Magnanimous, guttural, and crisp, the shout continued, growing greater in volume as the source of the noise grew nearer. Not one noise of the bellow could be made out into a word of English, merely sounding more or less like the caw of a crow or the screech of a threatened field mouse. Gradually, the primitive noises became clearer as the cause for the shouting became evident.

    “Gee!” exclaimed a young man, audacious in appearance and vigorous in tone. Through every inch of the forest his call chimed, ascending from the underground den of the frivolous fox to the very crown of the mighty evergreen tree. In response to such a powerful demand, many a bark and holler followed, echoing the urgency of the duty at hand. At the head of this uniform chaos was the principle of the entire formation, a brute of an Alaskan Malamute known as Jolon (Joh-lahn) who was certainly wise beyond his very few years as lead. In his wake, the lot of the team soon came running, this lot including swing dogs, team dogs, and wheel dogs alike, all in tandem hitch. Each and every canine was a more than valuable asset to the team, just as the many ancient-yet-fortifying aesthetic columns support the grandeur of what remains of the Romans’ famous Coliseum. If one pillar happens to fall, the sheer magnitude of the burden on those still standing would surely become uneven, causing the entire culmination of support to weaken and ultimately be crushed by the one body its duty was to protect.

    The grandeur itself, or himself, was positioned at the very rear of the formation, providing the load for his support to pull. He was the mastermind behind the scheme, the architect behind the masterpiece. It was he who called the shots, gave the directions, and decided right from wrong. Undoubtedly, if the grandeur were missing the support, the entirety would collapse; if the support were without the grandeur, the formation would be completely and utterly useless.

    The previously shouted command had coaxed the canines westward, as was its predisposed purpose. Along a broad valley of snow these dogs did tread, venturing outward from the maze of woods that then trailed behind them. Consecutive, cautious exclamations were made by the man on board the sled in the rear, in an effort to keep his team in its constant state of undulating balance. The very many dogs’ paws were nearly hovering above the fine layer of white powder that lay beneath them, their speed unmatched and their spirit unparalleled.

    “Home stretch, guys!” the young man called out from a distance behind them. “We’re gonna make it!”

    As if their body and spirit had intertwined, a sudden rush of energy burst through the team. It did not come from the heart, the mind, or any other organ that may produce chemicals to energize the body. The mere motivation of their nearing destination gave the exasperated sled team ample energy to make it to where they needed to go. The most energetic of all the canines was, of course, Jolon, carrying the weight of the team on his shoulders as well as the many feelings they may have. He felt a sudden rush of overbearing pride and delight, so much that he himself raised his head to the sky and let out a call of his own. A sound very much like the melodic howl of a wolf rang from his lips as he cried out to the heavens victoriously, and naturally he allowed the rest of his body to follow suit. With unusual grace, Jolon leapt into the air, kicking his rear limbs backwards in a feeling of empowerment. As was natural, the rest of the team soon followed the odd celebratory procedure, leaping up with less grace but equal intentions.

    The ropes of the sled team’s hitch, therefore, proceeded to act like waves of water rising in the ocean. At one end, the wave began, and Jolon landed from his triumphant leap. Gradually, each and every other dog on the team stuck their landings in the snow. However, the rippling effect of such a force lifting the team also lifted the young man at the back of the formation, though not to the same magnitude. The tip of the wooden sled structure rose nearly a foot off of the frozen surface, then the rest of it soon followed afterwards. For a moment, the vibrant young man lost his luster. His eyes widened and his pupils dilated, feeling the stomach tossing effect of gravity raise him and throw him back down to Earth. On the other hand, a portion of his body was exhilarated. The rush of frigid atmospheric pressure breezed past him as if it were some otherworldly spirit passing through him, giving him life as well as taking some of it away. For a moment, it seemed as though time had slowed, and gravity had slowed with it. But at the very point before the sled descended back to Earth, time reached its norm once more, and drew the wooden structure downward. All was an eerie quiet. Even the canines in primary of the hitch halted their movements the best they could, thrusting their limbs before them and screeching to an abrupt halt.

    “That was a risky one, guys.” The musher said exhaustively from the rear of the hitch. “Jolon?” he called out afterwards, leaning off to his right in order to view the lead dog.

    Upon hearing his name, Jolon’s ears immediately drooped, and his expression completely distorted itself from its former state. Just hearing his name being called was enough for him to realize that he was in grave trouble, or worse. The male dog’s lower lip curled up, just barely gracing the front of his upper lip, in an attempt to put on the best pleading “puppy dog face” he could for the musher. If anything, he hoped it would reduce his punishment, or be some sort of preliminary apology that could have softened the human’s words before scolding him.

    “Easy boy…” The young man coaxed, seeing the quite apologetic expression on the lead dog’s muzzle. “Easy-”

    An ear-shattering crackle burst through the ears of the canines on the team, a crackling noise sounding excruciatingly like a bone snapping in half or a loaded gun being fired. Again, the musher’s face turned as white as the snow itself, just as it had when the dogs showed their anticipation for the ending point of their journey by leaping up into the air, bringing him with them. Simultaneously, his figure seemed to shrink a significant amount. He hadn’t shrunk physically, no, but the load sure did. Upon looking down, the musher soon realized that it was not he who was shrinking, but the ground beneath him, which happened not to be ground at all. Much to his dismay, they had been running right along a lake that had surely already begun to thaw in the spring warmth. He and his team were literally on thin ice.

    “Don’t move, team!” he shouted desperately, not allowing even his own body to move an inch, except for his jaw and mouth muscles releasing to shout to them. “Whatever you do, don’t mo-”
    But the effort was in vain. It seemed as though the intensity of the call that rang was just enough to agitate the skeletal layer of ice beneath him. For one moment, another shattering noise was heard, this time much stronger than the one before. The next moment, he was gone, and completely. It was as if a force, one besides gravity, had pulled him down beneath the surface of the freezing water beneath them. Taking a moment to register what had just befallen their comrade, the dogs remained still, as was the musher’s last wish. But before they could react, the brutal force of the weight of the sled pulling down on them interrupted their grief. The muffled cries of the submersed human, along with the last bit of physical energy they had, was all it took to make the weary canines haul their hardest. Jolon, himself, was the most passionate in the endeavor. Because of the overbearing, perservering thought of the entire predicament being his own wrongdoing, it was he who did his utmost to right the wrong and save the man.

    Alas, again the effort was in vain. Not only did the musher continue to submerse beneath the bone-chilling waters, but the canines themselves, trying their hardest to prevent that, were also being snatched down as well. It was as if a creature, unlike themselves, was immersed in the frozen lake, seizing anything that came its way and dragging it downwards towards its crude, primitive cave. The uncompromising, unrelenting beast just would not let them go.

    The average amount of time a human being can hold his or her breath is a pitiful one minute in length. Due to the canines’ lack of time perception, they weren’t sure how long the man had been underwater exactly, because they hadn’t seen him since he submersed. But in all reality, his head had been deep beneath the face of the water for well over five minutes’ time. As the dogs finally began to heave the burden upwards out of the not-so-frozen lake, their hearts began racing. As if feeling the same triumphant feeling they had when the man informed them of their journey being almost at its end, they pulled even more vigorously to put an end to their dilemma. As the sled rose higher and higher out of the water, the dogs continued to pull harder and harder, success barely out of their grasp. With an unusual suction, the wooden load was liberated from the merciless depths, only to feel much lighter than it had before. Jolon, in his success, turned around to yip merrily to the young man who had just been saved by his constant leadership, but did not see the human at all.

    Coming out of form for the very first time in all of his recollections, Jolon tore desperately through his reigns, and bolted down the ranks. Each of the other canines on the team had either wilted down onto the unforgiving ice out of fatigue or dropped near-dead out of hopelessness. In either case, Jolon nipped bluntly at each of their heels as he made his way, not nearly enough to cause any blood to flow, but enough to cause pain and to carry his point across. There was no way in Hell or on Earth that he would let his team give up. The team as a whole was a reflection of Jolon and his abilities, and if the team had lost all inspiration, it was a sign that, as lead dog, Jolon did not own up to his responsibilities.

    Upon arriving to the scene of the incident, the chief dog’s spirits were crushed as he saw two lone capsules of air ascend from the chilly depths of the water up to its surface. All he could do was gawk in disbelief as the last two breaths of life from their late master slowly rose and gave away, popping into nothingness and melding with each and every other breath in the atmosphere. The other canines whimpered as they watched their last breaths of hope just dissipate into the air around them.

    Jolon sighed deeply, his failure realized. What he had done, and what he hadn’t done, had all culminated into one event that cost him his career as well as someone else’s life. Oh how he wished he hadn’t leapt for joy at the moment he had overheard the journey’s closing, the long-anticipated news after their perilous journey. It almost made him wish they hadn’t been close to their destination at all, for then he would not have been so excited or willing to step out of line. That was it, his major flaw, stepping out of his leadership role and making a mistake a rookie would make. It was his duty, in the very first place, to assume his position, no matter what it may be, and absolutely adhere to it and it alone. If he had remained steadfast and diligent, the disastrous even would never have happened. But, unfortunately for Jolon, the past could not be changed. What was done was done, and that was set in stone. Only a true leader would take what they had left, forget their losses, and start a journey anew.

    After a well-deserved mourning in regards to his late master, the principle in hitch turned to face the rest of the team. His expression was one which none of the other canines would ever forget. It was as if he had suddenly transformed himself, from the carefree and happy-go-lucky pooch he had once was, to something of legend. Jolon’s ears had to be as erect as the mighty pine trees that stood around him, bowing in witness of the dog’s new sense of presence. His brow had to be as tight as it had ever been: stern, forceful, and powerful enough to see directly through each dog in hitch and even well beyond them. And those eyes… They were truly a wonder to behold. Jolon’s pupils were sleek with importance yet bold with vigor, making the other dogs wonder what exactly was going through the very intricate mind of their leader. With the contraction of his jaw and the elating of his head, the principle dog prepared to address his team.

    Pacing. Back and forth he went, his head still held prominently and his jaw not budging even the slightest. Incessantly, Jolon passed through the ranks, even weaving in between the lines of rope at times, before finally stopping after practically a dozen of paces. As his pacing came to a close, he repositioned himself, resting back on his haunches and facing the team. As was anticipated, not a muscle had dared to move on his face, not one. It was almost as if he were sick, perhaps not sick physically, but in some way twisted, as if he had just witnessed the most horrific murder ever to be committed, and was both traumatized and made emotionally cynical by the experience. But just as the inner fantasies of the leader’s state of mind approached their thoughts, a movement was made. It wasn’t much, but it was enough.

    With just a reluctant flick of his wrist, the lead dog, disturbed by his own inner trauma, cut himself free. As his wrist sprung forward, his claws released themselves, and made a striking contact with the bare leather of the harnesses, therefore distancing Jolon from the very team that he had once lead. For a moment, he attempted to shake himself from the well-constructed harness that had kept him in place for so long, until eventually the belted leather loosened itself, and slipped almost casually off of him. Once the deed had been done, the principle canine then situated himself upright, allowing the feeling of liberation to settle inside of him.

    For a moment, he basked in the midmorning sunlight, allowing that warmth to reach areas on his body that had once been strangled by the limiting leather harness he had recently given up. The next moment, his head turned ever so slightly, to raise a question of sorts to his fellow teammates Jolon’s left brow perked up marginally, allowing him to give them a sort of quizzical yet perplexing look. Each of the other canines on the team looked to each other, as if having some variation of telepathic communication amongst themselves. One’s eyes drifted to their partner in hitch, then to the teammate in hitch behind them, and the pattern continued simultaneously throughout. Finally, after silent conversation, the lot of them directed their attention behind themselves, towards the gaping hole that they had all helped to create. Their eyes remained focused on the very sight of their failure and negligence, the very rubble of the grandeur they were meant to support. As they examined the shattered remains of their once-impressive constitution, their spirits sank once more into its murky and unforgiving depths. As their leader had done before them, they examined the scene helplessly, and soon hopelessly. Everything they had done, everything they had dreamed of doing, all lay in ruin before them, or more literally behind them. One by one, their ears sank, feeling the heavy burden of their failures. What would become of them? What were the mighty Roman pillars without the magnificent Coliseum to sustain? In the minds of the team, they were nothing.

    Yet, just as presently as that ludicrous thought had crept into their minds, they were interrupted by a frank and guttural snarl from their dissatisfied leader. Upon being awakened from their self-pity, the team soon realized the cause of the lead dog’s change in facial expression. A new ambition, a new sense of character, had all risen within him. Jolon had been fully aware of the accident that had caused them grief, surely, but unlike the rest, he did not treat it as a set-back. No. Only a true leader would take what was left after such a ghastly event and duel with fate. Only a true leader would grasp the scarcity of what was left. Only a true leader would heave, prod, and tow at the very fragment of his team’s leftover existence, until it was something to be esteemed.

    In and of itself, the entirety of the Coliseum is truly one of the many neglected wonders of the world. The very intricacy of its construction, and the exertion set into it, all joined to form the showground splendor that is known today. Yet, behind the wonder of the stadium itself, lie the very pillars of its foundation. The columns themselves are wonders of their own. Molded, perfected, and fortified, they are their own art form. To the eye of a biased individual, only the totality of the structure would be considered an art. But to the eye of a trained, trustworthy, and perceptive being, each part of the entirety is its own work of art. Whether an insightful eye or a true leader, both would comprehend the potential of the negligible and use it to create art anew.

    One by one, the team unfastened their harnesses, gnawing through every last bit of what had bound them to their previous career. One by one, the scraps of the once mighty structure fell, creating a ruin of leather amidst the loose mantle of pallid residue; and one by one, the potent canines showed their true colors. Their heads lifted, and their spirits soared. With their new found freedom came a parallel new found confidence, a confidence instinctively desired yet one that had laid submerged in their ever-changing duties. Only when tragedy struck did the group witness the power they had held within themselves, a power that had long been suppressed. As each canine liberated themselves, they proceeded cautiously towards their changed leader, this time not allowing their disillusionment to interfere with their better judgment.

    A last solace was given to the fallen comrade before, at last, the team proceeded away from the scene. With Jolon leading the way, they ventured westward, not having a particular destination planned. With enlightened body and mind, they wandered aimlessly into the dense forest, creating for themselves a new course, a rebirth.