Kelsey kneeled at her patch of grass while Jaelynn kneeled at the patch of grass on the opposite side. Daren, Joshua, Marshal, and Colton all stood hovering over the two girls to help with the preparations for tomorrow. She couldn’t help but look at Daren’s devilish look and feel worried. Over the past two weeks, his hair had grown more and more out of control. He looked like he hadn’t slept in a month, and he seemed so close to coming undone. It didn’t help that he got more distant from her as time got closer to the full moon. She felt happy that she had at least gotten to talk to him before tonight’s preparations. Daren had told her what to expect tonight. Jaelynn’s mouth had watered when he said she could finally eat.
The men’s clothes were covered in mud and blood from carrying a deer from the woods. It looked like it was mauled by something but freshly dead. It lay on the grass between Kelsey and Jaelynn. “Colton, get cutting,” Marshal demanded, and he went to wash his hands inside the house.
She watched the men bustling about, but her only thoughts were of food and how she would probably be the one scrubbing their clothes clean tomorrow. Tomorrow Jaelynn’s mind wandered to what she would have to do. She’d finish her chores and then…. The changing ceremony. It seemed too good to be true.
Colton began hacking away at chunks of meat from the dear. Joshua pulled a decent size metal circle meant for a bomb fire and stacked wood in it. Daren was telling Colton what parts to cut and put in what piles. Three piles were laid out: one for Jaelynn, one for Kelsey, and one for the men.
Kelsey and Jaelynn’s only jobs right now were to kneel obediently and bow their heads. The waiting was killing Jaelynn. She couldn’t wait to put her mouth on a chunk of meat.
Marshal came out and put chairs around the fire pit, and Joshua got the flames to flare up. Even the smell of the wood-burning made her hungry.
“Alright, start putting those on the fire and give the girls their portions,” Daren said as he went to one of the chairs and sat. He was in a direct line of looking at Jaelynn with a smirk on his face.
Colton didn’t even bother to hand her the meat. He just tossed it on the floor in front of her. Red, bloody chunks of meat splattered the grass with its juices. Jaelynn thought for sure she was losing her mind. What’s this? She thought. She looked up at Daren and could tell by his smirk he wanted her to eat the raw meat in front of her.
Even in her state of hunger, the idea of eating raw meat didn’t sound appetizing. She stared at the repulsive chunks and wondered what would happen if she chose not to eat. The idea of disappointing her mate came to mind that was alone enough to make her try. However, her mind also went back to the night she was reprimanded. Her stomach churned in fear.
Her stomach felt queasy as she picked it up and brought it to her nose. It had a pungent metallic smell to it. Jaelynn had to swallow the bit of bile that came up. She looked over at Kelsey, who was already gnawing on the bloody meat, struggling with how chewy it was.
She could hear the men laughing at one another. “How’s your mate?” Joshua asked to the group.
There was a large huff of air before Colton spoke. “She’s really not happy. She is the only one that doesn’t get to change.” Their conversation mushed together as Jaelynn struggled with the idea of eating raw meat.
Jaelynn looked back at Daren, knowing it would make him happy if she did what was expected. So she raised it to her mouth and worked the meat into swallowable chunks. She tried to taste the meat and feel the gushy, uncooked texture as little as possible. After every bite, she had to stop herself from gagging. Her stomach felt even more empty than before.
Daren wore a look of approval as all the men watched Kelsey and her eat their raw meat. All the while, they enjoyed their freshly cooked meat. The smells of spices permeated the air.
Jaelynn tried to pretend she was eating what they were, but it just made her realization all the worse. On her hands and knees, she hurled all the chunks of meat she had just eaten back into the grass.
Their soft murmurs of conversation stopped to watch. “Colton,” Daren’s masculine voice it through the silence. “Go cut her some more pieces.” Jaelynn groaned inwardly. She didn’t want anymore.
With a chipper tune, Colton hurried and cut her some more chunks and threw them next to the bile. Just barely missing it. She stared at it hesitantly.
“Eat all of it, Jaelynn. You need it for the transformation tomorrow.” She heard Daren’s words, but her eyes were focused in the distance.
Think of the transformation. Think of how nice it will be to be with Daren. To be his mate! With determination, Jaelynn started again eating the meat.
The next day was the worse day of preparations. Both Kelsey and Jaelynn were sick to the bone—often puking or going to the bathroom. Marshal assured both of them it was a part of the process.
Despite being sick, they had to make preparations for the whole pack to come tonight and finish their chores. The men seemed even more on hinge than usual. They talked lowly amongst themselves, and people came and went with information to tell them. Even Bailey made several visits. Her eyes would make a plea with Jaelynn, but she made no move to talk to her again.
By night, Kelsey and Jaelynn were kneeling in the grass wearing white nightgowns and bowed heads. The pack members came quietly, spoke softly, and ate and drank at the tables. No one bothered the girls.
Jaelynn’s wooziness made her feel like she could hallucinate any second. She focused on her breathing—scared it would stop the ceremony if she were to come unhinged.
Soon she would be changed—a werewolf.
The night got closure to midnight when finally the girls were addressed. “Alright, we have about an hour till it’s time to start phasing; let’s start our ceremony.” The man who had made the announcements last time shouted in a loud announcer’s voice. People crowded around the girls. Daren stood before them as Marshal brought two cups.
“Tonight!” Daren’s voice rumbled through the crowd. “We will unite two new members to our pack! One of them, my mate! May we give them a warm welcome. For the pack!” He shouted.
“For the pack!” They all shouted back.
Then Daren nodded at Marshal to hand the girls the cups. Jaelynn smelled it. It smelled strong like alcohol and natural like roots with a hint of licorice. She brought it to her lips, and it warmed her empty upset stomach, but the taste was not pleasant. She had to hold her nose and chuck the drink as fast as possible. When Jaelynn finished, she raised the cup.
“For the pack!” The crowd chanted. Kelsey followed shortly behind Jaelynn, “for the pack,” they chanted again.
“Now we wait!” Daren shouted. “When it’s about midnight, the witches will arrive, and we will start the passing of blood with the pack.”
Immediately Jaelynn started not to feel good. Her head felt heavy, and everything spun. “For the pack, for the pack,” she would hear the whispers, but as she looked at everyone’s faces, their lips would not move. “Hahaha,” a laugh from here and then there would linger in the air, but no one seemed to be laughing. She breathed in and out, focusing on staying alert. She could feel her own heartbeat pulsating through her body in a rhythmic beat.
“Aawwwwoooo,” a howl cracked through the compound and echoed into the night air. It was heard over the lipless chanting, but as her head snapped up, she saw no recognition in anyone’s face that they had also heard the howl. Their still faces just slandered left and right. The atmosphere changed from purple to teal to dark blue, as if they were in some color fogged light.
The wolf! Jaelynn thought excitedly. Her eyes searched everywhere for the beast.
Then, from the woods, she saw its big black and gray fur dance in the wind as it trotted toward her. It came face to face with her. She reached out to touch the beast. Although she denied it until now, she doubted werewolves were real. Her beat drummed through her chest as she looked into the beast’s steady eyes. She slowly reached a hand out to touch it. Suddenly, the beast was gone — replaced with Daren shouting.
“Jaelynn, Kelsey, stay put! Colton look after them. Everyone spread out and deal with them!” Daren shouted.
Jaelynn was shocked to find herself on the floor, looking up at the starry sky, spinning like a tornado of light. Heat simmered on her cheeks like she was sunbathing on a summer day. She groaned. How did I get here? She asked herself, and the world did little to stop spinning. She giggled to herself. From a distance, she swore she heard a siren. No, not a siren, a wolf’s howl, no, maybe a siren. When she finally decided it was a siren, it turned into the world’s most annoying female whine.
“Jaelynn. Fight this! It’s not real. Jaelynn, we have to go.” Jaelynn looked and was surprised she could see the girl’s lips move with her mouth. It was Bailey. All the while, behind her, she could still hear. “For the pack, for the pack.” She looked to see who was still chanting, but there was no longer anyone standing around her. She sat up in the search of her mate. Biting back the sudden sorrow she felt for being abandoned.
“Jaelynn… Jaelynn!” she tapped Jaelynn’s face repeatedly, trying to get her to focus. “We have to go now! If you want to be free of this place.” Her voice sounded scary desperate, like a girl screaming bloody murder, but in a whisper. Jaelynn was able to cling to what she was saying. “Think about it. You are drugged. You wouldn’t have to be drugged to become a wolf, would you? It’s brainwashing. Please, I am trying to save you!”
Jaelynn stared at the girl with her lined lips pressed together, making them appear like she had no lips. No wonder my mate didn’t choose her. Then, behind Bailey, shone a white light. Jaelynn reached for it, and she saw herself staring back at her. She stared at it in confusion. She slightly noted the warmth in her body and the happiness she felt and left out a string of giggles until Jaelynn’s self spoke in her sassy, serious tone. A voice she hadn’t used since coming to the compound.
“Only females need to be changed,” her voice snapped at her. She fought to focus on herself floating in the air. “You can not see a wolf change until after you have changed.”
“Jaelynn, please stand,” Bailey pleaded as she yanked her up. Somehow, she was managing to stand with Bailey. Jaelynn wasn’t sure how she got off the floor, but felt like dancing. Bailey’s hands tightened on her, making her feel like she was in some giant seaweed body wrap and the seaweed was eating at her skin. She wanted to find Bailey, but her own voice stopped her.
“You have to be drugged for the changing.” Herself told her, and with that. Jaelynn drunkenly staggered where Bailey wanted her to go. I’m not supposed to be here. She thought, even though she couldn’t come up with any reasons. She clung to Bailey and stared at the gravel on the floor, too disorientated to be bothered by the sharp edges jamming in her feet. Each step caused the gravel to become blurred. Then she felt her eyelids go heavy.
Jaelynn stood out in an extended field with no one for miles around. Off in the distance, she heard a soft bark. She looked to see a pack of wolves staring back at her. The wolves are so friendly; I want to be one. She took off towards them. “Oh, you are having a good time,” a familiar voice commented, pulling her away from the wolves.
She opened her eyes to the back seat of a car coming to a stop. Red and blue lights flashed in and out through the window. Bailey’s frizzy blonde hair bobbed as she turned to check on Jaelynn in the back seat. “Don’t worry; you are safe now.” Happy to be told she was safe, she closed her eyes again. She saw the wolves and began to run to them.
Jaelynn felt an empty void before she woke to the steady beat of the heart monitor. She opened her eyes to look for him sitting on the rocking chair, but that wasn’t what she found. Instead, she found a much older gentleman in a suit staring back at her. He wasn’t in a rocking chair either, but a nice comfy sofa. A sofa with no little flower designs. No. It was a modern green, beige sofa.
Jaelynn jerked up to examine herself. She was shocked to see she wasn’t chained to the bed. The bed that you would find a patient in who went to the hospital. She looked around and felt suddenly relieved, but that relief was filled with fear. She shouldn’t be here. Daren would be furious. Would this mean she’d have to do the process all over again?
“Hello Jaelynn,” the voice in the chair spoke, causing her to startle. “I’m Detective Grayson. I’m working on your case. There will be time for questions later, but for now, I want you to rest knowing you are safe. You have round-the-clock police protection.”
“W-what happened? Did I not turn?” She forced herself to remember, but everything felt foggy.
“Can you tell me what you know?”
Feeling like it was a trap, she didn’t dare to say anything that could get her reprimanded. “I- I didn’t. I-I don’t know,” she stumbled to figure out her reality. She took the drink for the changing ceremony. And then what? Did it not work? Did Darren throw her to the curb to find a new mate?
The man’s peppered eyebrows squished together as he looked at her solemnly. “I’m afraid you were abducted by a cult. These cult members were led by Daren Hopkins, who totaled your car and brought you to their compound. The same compound that takes an average of twelve girls a year brainwashes and conforms them. They use agents such as drugs, lies, and abuse to convince these women that these men are werewolves and soon they will be as well. We have managed to arrest Daren Hopkins and several other cult members at this time. We will be sending someone to come by later today to assess your mental state and help you through this process. You should rest for now.”
She soaked in the information he told her like a dried-out sponge. This isn’t a test? The realization that it was all a lie was too much. I am weak. She cried. Heavy tears spilled from her eyes as she tried to catch her breath. I am weak for believing it. I told myself not to fall for it!
The detective let a nurse in to calm Jaelynn down. Jaelynn was unaware of herself hyperventilating. She gasped for air but felt none. She couldn’t think of anything but for the pack, for the pack.
“It’s alright,” the sweet nurse comforted as she put a syringe into Jaelynn’s IV. Jaelynn looked at the needle with complete and utter fear.
“No! No more drugs!” She wailed. The nurse gave calming words of assurance, but she didn’t listen to her as she fell back asleep—back to the wolves in the meadow.
Thank you so much for reading the final chapter of The Wolf Cult!
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