Shifted

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Chapter 10

Agony.

All I felt was an excruciating agony, consuming me from within, crawling in my skin, burning through my veins like poison...

I was disintegrating, breaking, and falling apart into million pieces.

“Zack, it has started. She won’t make it to the pack house. If we want to help her, we have to do it now. Otherwise, she’ll die...”

It was unbearable.

I couldn’t take it anymore.

I didn’t want to take it anymore...

“I-I can’t... God, it hurts...! I-I can’t...”

“Zack...!”

“I know. I know...! Just stop the car! I’ll walk her through it...”


“Honey, are you home?” Mum’s question brought me back to reality. I blinked the remnants of a vision/dream/the product of my overactive imagination(?) away and looked at my half-eaten, already cold chicken leg with disgust.

“In the kitchen!” I shouted and threw food back on the plate just as mum came in, armed in the tones of heavy grocery bags. I jumped out of the stool and hurried to help her.

“Good, you’re here...” She huffed out of effort, breathing a stray lock out of her puffy red face. “Emmie’s at the door.”

“Emmie’s here?” I repeated dumbly, earning a funny look from mum.

“That’s what I said. Why surprised? Didn’t you two make up at the party last night? You even slept over at her place - ”

“Yes, that’s right.” I lied as I put the last one of six bags on the counter and begun placing apples in the metal basket stand. “I didn’t expect her so soon, I guess. I’ll go and check what she wants...” I added, pointing with my thumb towards the door.

“Okay, but don’t be too late. We have lasagne tonight.”

“I won’t, I promise,” I said, kissed her on a cheek, and headed over to the terrace.

The night was crisp and surprisingly fresh, smelling strongly yet pleasantly of resin as well as gradually rotting leaves. The chilly wind danced between thick tree trunks, gently caressing my exposed arms and legs, making me shiver. I hugged myself tentatively and looked around, spotting my friend on a swing bench by the left railing of our terrace. I headed towards her.

“Hi there,” I greeted her, smiling.

Upon hearing my voice, Emmie’s head snapped up. Her eyes suddenly glistened as she jumped out of her spot and hugged me tightly, almost knocking me down.

“Oh God, you’re alright!” She exclaimed, thoroughly relieved, squeezing me in between her arms and clouding in a smell of resin and musk, pretty similar to that of Bennett.

I lightly patted her shoulder, not really sure how I was even supposed to react to her unexpected outburst.

I had been drunk, not dead.

“Yes, I am,” I said, rolling my eyes. Aaaand - because I still was a bit upset with her - “No thanks to you, by the way. You left me at your cousin’s mercy. Be sure I’ll remember that.”

Emmie let me go, cringing. Guilt was written all over her face.

“Gee, I know. Please forgive me. I’ll be your slave for a day,” she said placatingly.

“You mean a week,” I only half-joked.

“Bummer... Though I guess I deserve that,” she sighed but smiled anyway as if she was too happy to be bothered.

Huh, that went easy.

“Okay, so tell me, how come you’re here?” I changed the subject, curious. “Mrs. Bennett said your parents were so upset you sneaked out to a party that they’ve grounded you some more.”

She gave me an impish smile.

“I snuck out again,” she admitted, her eyes twinkling mischievously. “They can’t really confine me, not unless they would lock me in somewhere without windows and threw the keys away. Plus, I had to check if you were fine.”

“You’re so sweet,” I mock-joked. “Thanks for your concern, but honestly, besides my damaged reputation and loss of memory, all is good in the hood,” I informed Emmie truthfully.

“Memory loss? So you don’t remember anything that happened last night?” She eyed me with a strange expression on her face.

“Unfortunately,” I sighed and ran a hand through my hair. “I definitely remember following you behind that rock, but all is a blur after that. I have these strange dreams/visions, though. I would have blamed it on the alcohol if I was actually drunk that night. But the truth is, I wasn’t. Not after one beer. I think my drink was spiked - it would explain a lot.” For the first time today, I uttered my worries.

The knot I didn’t know existed in my chest, loosened up, and I could finally breathe a little bit easier -

That is until I looked at Emmie.

There was something odd about her, something I couldn’t put my finger on that filled me with dread. A cold shiver ran down my spine.

“What is it?” I asked, suddenly nervous.

“Actually, I have something to show you...” She started, but then her head snapped in the direction of the woods, expression intense. Her nostrils flared in a strangely animalistic way. “Shit, that was fast...” She mumbled to herself and then looked at me fervently. “Tomorrow. Meet me at the ravine by the Azure Lake beach at noon. It’s a little bit further than the place you had followed me. I’ll explain everything there.”

“But, Emmie...!” I shouted, trying to stop her, but, of course, I couldn’t.

She leapt over the railing in one go, landing on the lawn like a cat.

And then she took off.

“Jesus...” I muttered, bewildered, watching her being swallowed by the woods. I shook my head in disbelief, placing my hands on the banister, and then squinted my eyes, trying to spot what had my friend so spooked.

And there it was - a pair of familiar icy-blue eyes, staring right at me.

The wolf...

Goosebumps erupted on my arms as something in me stirred and became unexpectedly vigilant of the animal. I drew back my lips, showing a bit of teeth like I actually wanted to growl at the imposter. It was such a bizarre idea that it made me immediately regain my senses. I blinked the peculiar feeling away, only to realise my fingernails had unexpectedly elongated and made tiny holes in the wooden railing. I let it go so quickly as if it burnt and backed away clumsily, watching with morbid fascination my nails contracting themselves on their own.

They were back to normal...

Was I still dreaming?

The wolf howled, snapping my attention to here and now.

Just what the bloody hell was going on here?

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