Courage

By Cori Kane All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Horror

9

Dean left the bar early the next morning. The weather had turned a little gloomy, wet and foggy. Dean made their way to the inn where they'd parked their car and found their bag on the lowest stair to the building. It was obvious, someone had been searching it, but as far as Dean could tell, everything was still in it.

Dean put their bag into the car and then drove to the bar. They left it there and, slipping into their coat, started walking back to the lake to try to talk to Desmond and her friends again. They had agreed with Tasha that she would keep the teacher busy while Dean looked for the teens and they were confident that she was already on the way to the lake herself.

Tasha was an odd one, Dean thought to themself. She was beautiful, which was what you saw. Stunning came to mind. But then she was the sheriff and she was a werewolf. She was tall, easily over six feet. Graceful. Her eyes had captured Dean's a couple of times last night and they'd been unable to break free. Dean had to admit that they were attracted to Tasha. It was disconcerting to be attracted to someone they usually considered an enemy or a potential threat, but it also spread a cozy warmth across their chest and made them feel cheerful.

Dean encountered several of the high schoolers on their way to the lake. Some were walking in groups toward town, a couple of them were down by the lake, fishing. It made Dean smile to see these teens occupied outdoors, no technical device in their hands. They probably didn't have any connection down here.

Nearing the cottages, Dean left the path and walked behind a bigger structure, probably the proprietor's lodgings and a kind of cafe or mess hall. They looked around it and could see the sheriff's cruiser from there, but not Tasha herself or Aidan. Dean wondered where Desmond and her friends could be, probably in one of the cabins. But which one? They looked around and detected two girls walking by a cabin toward the woods. They seemed familiar and Dean decided to follow them.

They found them sitting on a fallen tree, facing each other and talking in low tones. Dean cleared their throat as they approached.

Corinne's head whipped around to them, her eyes big and fearful. She seemed actually glad to recognize Dean, she gave them a small smile. Desmond looked a little annoyed.

“Are you stalking us now? This is a private conversation.”

“Well, as much as I hate interrupting, time is running out. I really have to talk to you.”

“Why us, not the boys?”

“I wanted to talk to all of you, but...,” Dean stopped, thinking. “Maybe it would actually be better if just the two of us talked.” They were looking at Desmond.

Desmond rolled her eyes, then turned to her friend. “I guess she won't leave us alone until I talk to her or it, whatever. I'll be quick. Why don't you go back to the cabin? I'll find you there in a bit.”

Dean noticed that Desmond was talking in soothing tones to Corinne, as with a child. Her friend seemed unsure, maybe she didn't want to leave Desmond here with Dean, maybe she didn't want to go back to the cabins alone. After another moment's hesitation, though, she rose from the tree and left. She looked at Dean with big trusting eyes, but just for a second before she lowered her head.

Dean frowned. The evening before at the bar, Corinne hadn't seemed shy at all. Maybe they'd spooked her more than any of the others, maybe it would save her life.

Dean walked over to the tree and sat down, not facing Desmond like her friend had done, but the foliage where Corinne had disappeared just a moment ago. They didn't say anything, trying to unnerve Desmond. But she simply looked at them.

“The correct pronoun is the singular they, by the way,” they started the conversation. They looked over at Desmond who had the tiniest of smiles on her face. She was really quite beautiful in a conventional way. And Dean would bet anything that she knew it. Being beautiful and having the kind of dominant personality she exhibited were sometimes dangerous attributes in the same person.

“I couldn't care less.”

Dean nodded. “Few people do. And I bet, you have other things on your mind right now, like keeping Corinne in check.”

“Why would I need to do that?” Desmond asked. She didn't sound as superior as she had a moment ago.

“It's obvious to me that Corinne is afraid. She doesn't want to die.”

“She's not going to. Stop saying that.”

Dean waited a moment, letting their gaze drift over their surroundings. They liked the woods, always had. There was a kind of serenity, a peace they found nowhere else. Maybe that was why they'd become a hunter, to rid their favorite place of its monsters. They wouldn't have thought that the monsters could come blond and blue-eyed and quite human.

“Are you willing to sacrifice her for a cheap thrill?”

“She's not the one I'm sacrificing,” Desmond gave back.

Dean looked at her. “Who is?” they asked.

“Nobody. I'm not...this is ridiculous. Do you really believe in werewolves?”

“Yes,” Dean said and could tell that she did too. It was why she was here. Sacrifice, Dean thought. It had strung a chord in Desmond. Why?

“Well, I don't. I just want to enjoy this outing with my friends.” She made to rise, but Dean held onto her arm. She tried to break free, but couldn't, so she said down again.

Dean let go of her. “We don't have time for this. I don't even care what your plan is, really. I want for you and your classmates to leave. Make up a story of your grandmother dying, I don't care, but leave.”

“We won't,” Desmond gave back. “I'm not leaving.”

“Why not?”

“None of your business.”

Dean took a deep breath, fighting their anger. “So, you're going to come to these woods tonight. Full moon, possibly some rain. You'll hear a werewolf howl in a distance, not too far away. Another howl will answer it. They'll know you're here, they'll smell you, your perfume, your deodorant, you. And then they'll start hunting. You get scared now, but tell yourself to stay put. You want to see them. They'll surround you, you'll hear something, or maybe there's a shadow that's not a tree. Adrenaline is pumping through your veins, fear. They'll be able to smell that too. Then one will break through the foliage, and you'll give a sharp gasp because it doesn't look like you imagined. It doesn't look like a wolf, but like a monster, half human, half wolf, standing on two legs, big, hairy. You back away, but you feel there's one of these creatures behind you. You make a sound you've never made before, but you can hardly hear it over the hammering of your heart, your racing pulse. The beast before you bares its teeth, growls deep in its chest. All you wanna do is curl into a ball now, but you stand too scared to look away from the thing. It'll come closer, so will its friends. You look around you in panic and then they'll jump and...”

“STOP! Stop it, okay?!” Desmond screamed and jumped up. She walked a few steps, then turned back to Dean. “That's not how it's gonna be, okay?! You have no idea!”

“I don't? Really? I have faced more than a dozen werewolves in the last seven years. I've killed most of them. I was lucky on more than one occasion to make it out alive and not turned.”

“You call that lucky?” she snarled.

Dean looked at her. For a moment, they thought she meant that they'd survived, but it wasn't that. Lucky to not have been turned.

“Is that what you want? Become a werewolf yourself?” A look into her eyes was enough to confirm their suspicion. “Oh, sweet heavens, that's just insane!”

“Yeah, like being human is so great.” Her sarcasm cut deep, but into her not Dean. She wasn't insane, she was broken. And she believed that the wolf would make her whole again.

“It's better than turning into a beast every month and possibly killing people.”

“I won't have to kill people. Courage is different, I could live here.”

Dean squinted their eyes. Desmond knew, but how could she? “So, you dragged your friends and classmates out here to have a shot at becoming a werewolf? How do you know you won't end up being wolf-kibble?”

“Darwin.”

“The survival of the fittest?” Dean took a moment to think about this and then realization hit them. They felt their face morphing into a disgusted mask, bile rising in their throat. “You...you want to sacrifice your friends to the wolves? Is that it?”

“Not my friends,” she said, looking them straight in the eyes.

“Your classmates then. You'll sacrifice your classmates to become wolves, you and your fine friends.” Dean rubbed their face with both hands.

Desmond took this moment to make a run for it. Dean let her, there was no use running after a delusional girl. She wouldn't believe Dean if they tried to convince her that she was risking her life for a dream.


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