“The time has come,” he said. “To build a city.”
They were wolf children who didn’t know much about building. They’d spent their childhood pulling tails, forming riverbanks and wells out of clay. They didn’t wash much. They lay in the grass, limbs splayed.
“We came from the stars,” Romulus said, picking a fly out from between his toes. “I know we did; I can smell it.”
Remus didn’t like to argue; his brother had the best sense of smell in their pack and, despite their being twins, he had always assumed role as eldest.
“What does it mean?”
“I think,” his brother said. “It means we have to get our noses out of the earth and start reaching for the sky.”
“But the sky is unreachable. I've tried to reach it from the trees and I can’t.”
“Then we must build things that will make us tall, so that we can,” he said, pricking up his ears. “We are different, you must know that. We weren’t released into this world to crawl around in the mud. Look, I've been practising something.”
He crouched on all fours, glanced from left to right to make sure no one was watching, and then suddenly sprang upright onto his back legs.
Remus gasped, terrified. “What are you doing?”
“It’s a better way to view the world. Come on, try it.”
Remus was afraid, but he tried. At first he fell, his back too curved to do it, but on his eighth attempt, arms outstretched to balance himself, he managed to stand.
“Look at it all,” said Romulus, pointing down and across to Palatine Hill. “We can build here.”
“It looks much the same, standing like this.”
“We are not wolves, Remus,” his brother’s voice was shaking. “And I am sure that our parents did not mean us to become so. We should not howl at the sky – we are from the sky. We are Gods.”
“But, how do you know?”
“Have you ever seen a wolf walk on its hind legs?”
Remus had to admit that he had not.
“I've been watching the ants,” Romulus said. “The way they carry pieces of food and wood in a line back to their home. We need to find ants to build our city, Remus.”
“But surely ants will be too small?”
“Many things look like ants when we stand like this, little brother.”
The She-Wolf, their adoptive mother, climbed up from her den to find her eldest sons standing on their hind legs. She froze; she had been expecting this day for some time. The smell of evolution was putrid. If she did not love them, she would have killed them both, but instinct told her they would do that to each other soon enough. She silently collected her young cubs and fled, fearing what would happen if she stayed.
“Four legs good, two legs better, little brother,” Romulus nodded.
And so it all began.
Jen Campbell, 24, graduated from Edinburgh University last summer and now lives in London. Her work has been published in various places including Poetry London, Short FICTION, and Gutter. She’s just finished writing her first book ‘The Aeroplane Girl & Other Stories,’ the writing of which she talks about over on her blog http://jen-campbell.blogspot.com. You can sometimes catch her on BBC Radio, and will always find her with a cup of tea in her hand.