As Sam and I lay in bed, I could feel all of his emotions like a wonderful and terrible symphony, all of them colliding and radiating with their own distinct depth. I felt his anger. His fear. His lack of certainty for the future.
But, above all of these, I felt his strength.
My hand was splayed against the hardness of his chest. I could feel the faint rhythm of his heartbeat. I felt his warmth beneath my fingers. My eyes were closed, the faint light of pre-dusk coming in through the frosted window. I had slept restlessly- more of a ghost of it, really. I was certain that Sam hadn’t slept at all.
Right then, I thought of all of the strangeness that had occurred in those last weeks. It seemed like so little time, yet it was as though I had been a part of this life, with Sam and the others as a Changed One, for centuries. As though things had always been like this. I couldn’t imagine my life being anything else.
Thinking of my simple existence in Aurora, with my quiet parents, the endless cycle of routine, I knew that I could never go back. I would take this crippling fear, this fear of the unknown, over the known any day.
I felt the hum of Sam’s breath, the expanding and contracting of his rib cage. I counted each breath. When I got to one-hundred, I spoke.
“It’s okay to be afraid.” My voice was barely a whisper, my cheek pressed against his shoulder.
Sam exhaled. I felt his rib cage plummet downward beneath my hands. His arm moved about my shoulder, drawing faint circles.
“It’s very hard.” He spoke, his deep voice rumbling in his throat.
Sensing the conflict in his voice, I opened my eyes. I looked up at him. He stared down at me, and for the first time in a while I saw the mystery in him that I had yet to solve. I was reminded of what had first intrigued me about Sam Evans.
Things that I yearned to know danced along the surface of his dark eyes. Dark secrets that were beyond my comprehension.
I knew that he could sense my curiosity. Sam was quiet. He seemed to gather his thoughts. An old pain slowly seeped into his expression until it flooded his eyes and deepened the lines of his face. The corners of his prominent mouth turned downwards. I lay still.
His forehead crinkled between his eyes. His hand stopped moving.
“I don’t have many memories.” He began. “I believe that most of them were subconsciously blocked out.”
I listened to this carefully, not making a sound.
He spoke slowly, his voice flat. “My dad was never in the picture. He was most likely around when I was a baby, but I have no memory of him other than the sound of his boots on the floor. And yelling. I remember yelling.” My thumb drew across his chest. I studied the end of the bed.
His voice carried no bitterness. Only sadness. “It was probably the best thing that could have happened to us when he finally left.” He was resigned.
“Mom was depressed. Extremely troubled. She would fall into these downward spirals, and then go up again like a rollercoaster. Crazy highs. Crazy lows. One day, she would be over the moon- all smiling and happy, getting dressed up, going out with friends. Staying out late. But the next day, in a matter of hours, she would lock herself in her room and never come out. That was most of the time.” His face was grim. His expression was unsettling. Harrowing. Empty of emotion.
“I don’t have early childhood memories. Most people remember things from when they were around three or four- I’m not like that. My earliest memories are at around ten, and they’re not much.”
“I’ve lived in Aurora pretty much all of my life as I can remember. I grew up there. We were never rich, but we got by alright. Mom was a nurse, and she went to work on a good day when she was riding an emotional high. Which wasn’t often. I kept to myself. I did pretty much everything on my own- cooked dinner, took the bus to school. Packed a lunch. Went to the store. Cleaned the house...” He didn’t go on.
I bristled at his words. I tried not to show any emotion at the things Sam was saying, but it was becoming more and more difficult as I saw his pain deepen, intensifying my own.
“When Mom got home from work, she’d go straight to her room and I’d never see her again until the next afternoon when I got home from school. Like I said, I was on my own. But I got used to it after a while. I had a roof over my head. Food to eat. A bed to sleep in. School to go to. It was fine.”
But it wasn’t, I thought to myself.
“The second I turned fifteen, I applied for a job bagging groceries. All I could think about was the day that I would finally be free from Aurora- and my Mom. I managed to save up for a car by the time I was sixteen. A shitty one, but it was a car.” He managed a smile. I didn’t. I couldn’t do it.
“I was pretty much banking on getting into some college far away from Aurora. I worked hard in school. Kept my grades up. I kept telling myself to hold out until then. Just one more year. I was counting down the days.”
Sam breathed, his tone shifting. “But there were other plans in store for me. I was eighteen when I started to feel the magic.”
I had been holding my breath. Waiting for the part of the story when he would mention this. I released when he said this. It was okay after that. Everything was okay, I thought. But I could sense the rising of something climactic, and a coldness settled itself inside me.
Sam looked at me. His gaze was distant. He looked scared. As though he considered me too fragile to hear the rest.
“I don’t have to go on.” He whispered, his eyes deep. Pleading. I just looked at him, touching his ribcage.
“I need to know.” I said.
Sam took a breath. He seemed to draw in his strength. I could sense a looming heaviness. “Strange things started happening to me. Inexplicable things. I would get excruciating flashes of heat in the middle of a winter night. Nose bleeds. Migraines so intense that no painkiller would ever help.” I shivered at the memory of my own experience with those same things.
“I didn’t know how to tell mom. She was so disconnected from me…and we both liked it that way.” Sam looked undeniably sad.
“And so, I didn’t tell her. But it got to be too much. I didn’t know how to deal with it all. I thought I had a brain tumor or something. But I knew there wasn’t anything I could do; we didn’t even have health insurance.” I felt a pang of intense sadness, holding back my reaction to this.
“So I just kept on living my life, hoping it would go away.” He breathed. “But it didn’t. I started hearing voices in my head. Strange voices that spoke a language different from my own. When Adonis, in his wolf form, came to my house one night, calling me to him, I knew that something was taking a hold of me that I couldn’t stop.”
“And I was right.” He said grimly.
“I started having visions of Adonis speaking to me in our native tongue. Prophecies were whispered in my ear that would be fulfilled way beyond my lifetime. I could feel the magic taking effect. I was terrified of what was happening to me. But I pushed it in, deeper and deeper.”
Sam swallowed. I listened on, closing my eyes. It was becoming too much. But I didn’t want him to stop. I needed to know. I could sense the bad part coming, the climactic end, the horrible tragedy.
Sam spoke quickly. “Mom caught me one night when I was having one of my heat flashes. I was standing on the back deck, soaked in my own sweat with an early snow falling around me.” The words passed through his lips quickly, as though he thought he would lose them to vaporous air if he didn’t get them out.
“She pulled me inside, utterly convinced that I was possessed by the devil. She had always been religious, but I had never seen her like she was. I didn’t know if she was on one of her emotional kicks or what. I remember the smell of alcohol on her breath. The glazed over look in her eyes. She started acting absolutely insane- muttering things to herself, jerking me around the house, being rough with me. I tried to tell her to stop and pull away, but I was too weak from the effects of the Change. She pulled me into the bathroom. I didn’t know what she was doing until it was too late. She ran the water, holding onto me so tightly that my circulation was cut off in my arms. I was crying, begging her and pleading with her to let me go. That I was her son. She didn’t care. I remember her eyes. They were absolutely blank. No emotion. No lucidity. No nothing. And once the tub was full, she held my head under.”
I opened my eyes, pressing a shaking hand to my mouth as my heart beat wildly.
Sam continued, his words flying. “I struggled, but I was too weak. She was fueled by her clouded mind.”
“She would have drowned me if Adonis hadn’t sensed my distress. Our connection was already forming by that point. Something had drawn him to me, and he burst in right as I was about to lose consciousness.” His voice strained.
“I would have died if he hadn’t been there to save me.” Chills ran up and down my spine.
Sam’s expression changed from one of deep pain and sadness, to one of admiration and respect. “He subdued my mother and took a hold of my hand to lead me away from that place. I remember his words to me to this day, and I will never forget them.” Sam was solemn.
“He said, ‘v-tla-u-na-ye-hi-s-di’.” The Cherokee rolled off of his tongue in a seamless way. It was beautiful.
“It means, ‘never fear’.” Sam spoke. The resonance of the words hung in the heavy air.
“After that, Adonis took me to see Halona. I had a deep connection to her that no one could explain. She was like the mother that I never had. I became part of the Lupus tribe. Adonis was the first to be awakened by the Change- the foreseen Alpha. I was the second. I was destined to become the Beta.”
I lay there in my own sorrow for what had happened to my Sam. My reverence for the magic. My newfound respect for Adonis. Sam continued on, my emotions swirling in-between the both of us, his emotions bleeding into mine like a beautiful aurora borealis.
His words were all that I knew.
“I was made for this life. I knew that from the moment that the Change began. And I never looked back.”