The Beauty of Grey

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Chapter 6

There’s a certain point, I’ve read, where your body blocks out all contemporary physical pain; usually when your injuries are too agonizing to register, or you’ve experienced too much trauma and you’re on the brink of death. When you die almost instantly, you feel little to no pain.

I barely had time to prepare myself for accepting the fact that I was going to die and I was worried that I would die horrendously with insufferable pain, because I’d never heard of being comfortably or painlessly mauled by wolves. I couldn’t remembering throwing my arms over my face to shelter my eyes from the lunging wolf, but I had at some point.

Time seemed to stop and it was like all air had been knocked from my chest as I laid on the ground, body as still as a corpse but my mind as live as a wire. I hoped that it would quickly crush my neck so it would put me out of my misery early; so it would be humane. Not that I had any room to ask of any favours.

But the wolf never so much as nicked me with a claw. There was no pain for my body to block out...there was no pain to begin with.

A yipe—a horrid, wretched yipe—sounded from my right as the wolf, the one I assumed was going to attack me because of its fortunate lack of attacking, was tossed away. I could hear the sound of its body being thrown onto the ground; a heavy impact that must’ve caused the whole forest to shiver.

At first I had thought that another wolf had attacked it due to the fact that it wanted to attack me itself, or at least have one of its other, closer alliances do the honours. I didn’t think that any wolf was trying to spare my life. No, not at all. Wolves didn’t think morally or ethically like some humans. They were all instinct...instinct for survival.

But I never felt the impact of another wolf tearing into my flesh or mangling my body. I couldn’t see anything, nor did I want to, so I couldn’t see what was going on around me; I couldn’t see what was preventing these wolfs from killing me. I wasn’t imaginative enough to believe it was a guardian angel, but I had a hard time swallowing down any other conspiracy.

But angels didn’t growl.

From right above me, a growl—deep, throaty and menacing—reverberated for what seemed like miles. It travelled through the trees, dashed through the air, and shook me deep into my core. I let out a harsh sob, bordering a scream, as I moved my legs up and curled into myself. I wrapped my arms tighter around my head, sheltering myself from a situation that had went from bad to worse.

Only a leader could have had that much authority to prevent a whole pack of wolves from attacking me. Their leader was standing over me, most likely snarling and warding off the rest of its pack until we were alone, so he could tear into me himself. I didn’t think the Alpha was sparing me out of the kindness of his heart, because primal creatures like that harboured no kindness to humans at all.

I began muttering prayers under my breath again. I didn’t think they’d help me, but I hoped they’d earn me a spot in heaven. I didn’t think I had too much longer to live, and knowing that I had the biggest and baddest wolf standing over me, I didn’t think I had the chance to try and make another run for it.

It let out another growl, and I could feel the heat from its body as it lowered itself further onto me. Its fur, fine and thick, brushed against my bare arms. It made me tremble, only because I became unavoidably aware of our close proximity. He, too, had no intentions of letting me walk away from this encounter alive.

It roared, with the fierceness of a lion and the ferocity of thunder crashing. Its jaws snapped together, teeth clashing against teeth, as it warned the other wolves away. There was a brief moment of pure, uneasy, utter silence. Nothing moved, I didn’t move, and no wind disturbed the quietude. Time seemed to become still, again.

Until the wolves moved to retreat. The dozens of them that had pursued me, mind set and hot for the need to kill, backed down. I could hear them as their paws began to backpedal. I was beyond glad that they were leaving, but beyond mortified that I was alone with their leader. It was a bitter transaction.

Its heat left me as it too backed away from me. It walked away, in the opposite direction of the leaving pack, but didn’t go far. It stopped a few feet away from me; maybe on a pile of dry twigs, because I heard a series of cracks. Loud, obnoxious cracks.

It shuffled for a few seconds, perhaps readjusting its stance. I had thought that it was preparing the perfect angle for attack, where it could make my kill instant. I knew I couldn’t run, I knew I couldn’t crawl, and I knew that I couldn’t reason with it. It wasn’t like death. I couldn’t give him twelve reasons why I thought I deserved to live.

It started to approach me again—slowly if not warily. Instead of the constant thumping of four paws, I was able to make out the distinct trek of only two. It was taking its time to get to me. Maybe to try and convince me that it was not a threat. But I knew I couldn’t be so close to the beast for him to let me go alive.

So it really fucked me up when it was two very human hands that grabbed my forearms.

I let out a scream as calloused, male hands pulled my arms away from my face and forced me to stand up. My legs, flimsy as jello, could hardly support my weight as he helped me onto my feet. I kept my eyes clenched shut instinctively, under the impression the danger was not yet gone.

My knees gave out, and if the man didn’t have his hands around my arms, I would’ve sunk to the ground and anchored myself there until I withered to nothing but dust. He didn’t let me drop, however, and instead readjusted his grip to latch onto my biceps. He moved me backwards until I was sitting on the log that I had tripped over.

He didn’t let go of my biceps but I still folded over, cradling my head as I rested my face on my knees. I was still trembling and beyond frightened. I hadn’t been that scared even as I thought I was about to fall to my death; demise by wolves seemed far more gruesome. Deaths finger had grazed my mortality twice in one night. I needed to sit, just to remember that I was still subsisting.

“Edie,” he spoke—the man, my kidnapper as he knelt down in front of me. I wasn’t completely taken aback by the sound of his voice because I knew eluding him would be too good to be true. “Edie, look at me.”

“N-no,” I whispered as I shook my head, my eyes gathering with warm tears. “H-holy shit.”

“Edie, breathe. Calm down. You’re alive, you’re okay. You’re here...I’m here.” He was trying to soothe me, his fingers tightening and sinking further into my biceps. He must have seen what I had seen...but yet he seemed so unbothered. Shouldn’t he have been just as jittery as I was?

“The wolves. I—” I swallowed, unable to form a proper sentence. “Holy shit.” I restated.

“I know. They’re gone now. They will never hurt you again,” he made it sound like it was a promise—like he’d ensure that they’d never hurt me again. “You’re safe.”

“Where did they go?” I cried, my sanity on the verge of cracking. I quickly bolted upright, my fingers tugging on my curls as I struggled to comprehend what had happened, and what was happening. Tears rolled down my cheeks, bitter and burning against my skin. “Oh my god! Wh-what if they come back? They’ll eat us alive! I—”

He released my biceps and wrapped his arms around me, his hands already stroking my back as he pulled me to him. He was warm...fleetingly safe. I couldn’t stop myself from burying my face in his chest, my arms falling slack as I let go of my hair.

“They won’t ever harm you again. You’re safe. They know that you’re off limits. You’re untouchable.”

“B-but—”

He hushed me, again. This time, I couldn’t deny that I was glad he did. I’d keep spewing out pessimistic, paranoid things and I’d keep myself riled up. “Edie. You have to trust me. You will never have to fear for your safety again. They know what you are to them.”

But I couldn’t keep my mouth shut, not after his statement. “Wh-what am I to them?”

“Someone of power—someone of importance.”

“A-are you the wolf whisperer or something?” I asked honestly.

He chuckled, resting his chin on top of my head as he continued to rub my back. I took a deep breath, inhaling the scent of his cologne. So woodsy and peppery and calming like chamomile. I listened to his drumming heartbeat, taking notice in its regular rhythm. My heart was running like a race horse.

“Something like that.” He said.

“Where were you?” I questioned accusingly. I was beginning to connect the links—the links to him and his assertion over the wolves. “How were you here?”

He paused; hesitated. “I don’t follow.”

“How did you know I ran?” I retracted away from him, pulling back to study him closely. I didn’t like his hesitation; it meant that he knew something that I didn’t. “You weren’t in your cabin. I made a lot of noise and you weren’t there. You would’ve heard me, and you would’ve came to check out what I was doing.”

“I was at work.” He told me in a clipped tone, not liking the fact that I was interrogating him again. He always seemed to grow uncomfortable and agitated when I asked him about himself. He was hiding some serious secrets, and that was not exclusive to me.

“You work here?” I raised a brow. Our eyes locked, his steel and emerald irises growing more fervent the longer I did not look away. “In this...village?”

He looked like he had wanted to correct me. His head tilted to the side as his lips fell open. He was about to say something, but bit his tongue and held back. He snapped it shut until he decided on something wiser, if not more misleading to say. “Yes, I do.”

“How did you get those wolves to leave?” I fired another question at him.

“What wolves?” He played oblivious, like he hadn’t just consoled me because of my encounter with them.

I narrowed my eyes at him. “The wolves! You couldn’t have missed them. It’s not possible,” I shook my head. I flipped my legs over the other side of the log and stood up. My legs, still somewhat unreliable, managed to keep me stable as I stood in place. My posture, however, gave away the fact that I didn’t want to. “There were dozens of them...” I whispered.

“Oh, those wolves,” he nodded inattentively as he began to stalk towards me. His movements were slow; unpredictable. I started to tiptoe backwards with wobbly knees, feeling them become weak all over again. “Don’t run.” He ordered.

“That wolf that stood over me—the leader maybe, it stood over me and walked away but came back. And when it came back, it was you. How is that?” My eyes widened to the size of golf balls as he stepped over the log, his stance becoming more minatory. “How do you explain that?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. There wasn’t a wolf that stood over you,” he held his arms up, and if I weren’t in the unfavourable position I would’ve thought that he was surrendering. “Something must’ve scared them off.”

“Yes,” I agreed. ”You.”

He stopped no more than a foot away from me, his eyes narrowing into a harsh glare. I took a deep breath as he put his arms down, his eyes seeming to darken a shade or two. I blinked a few times to see if my mind was playing tricks on me, but his eyes never diverted back to normal. If I could’ve ran, I would’ve. But he was too close and too fast. He’d be able to grab me before I could even turn away.

I shrunk under his stare, but still spoke. “What are you?” I asked, not bothering to ask who. I knew who he was—some sort of delusional, unstable, neurotic man who had developed some sort of twisted, sick obsession with kidnapping girls and using drugs to control them. He was a special type of fucked up.

But there was more to him...and it wasn’t a big secret yet to be unveiled. The secret he harboured had yet to be unveiled, sure, but the fact that he harboured a secret was nothing if not common sense. A wolf had walked away from me and a human came back. The man could not have befriended the wolf in mere seconds. I could not be going crazy.

I had to be onto something...right?

“I am exactly what I look like,” he said slowly; voice deepening with hostility. “Human.”

He grabbed my shoulders and spun me around so I was standing directly in front of him, before he let me go and placed one hand on the small of my back. It was my turn to hold my hands up in surrender as though he was holding me hostage and I was capitulating myself in order to survive.

But it wasn’t a comparison. It was exactly what I was doing. He dug his fingers into my skin through my shirt, pushing me to walk forward. I did, right away, but not before stumbling as I struggled to kick my motor movements into gear. I felt stiff and locked up, only moving because he was behind me. It was easy to pretend that if I walked fast enough I could escape him.

But yet I knew I couldn’t. As we backtracked, I wiped my eyes with the palms of my hands; refusing to let my tears continue to soak my skin any longer. The longer they sat there, the more I wanted to break down and cry again. But I felt like I had so much to fight against; so much to conquer. I wouldn’t cry now because I could cry later when I was alone. I had cried in front of this man once. I wouldn’t let him see me cry twice.

Although it would be one of my most substantial tests of will.

It was a long, draining walk back to his cabin. He hadn’t once removed his hand from the small of my back, and I knew that even once he removed his fingers his imprint would still remain. There was something derogatory and minimizing about being forced ahead from behind. I felt like I no longer had the right to walk alone. But I knew I hadn’t given him any reason to at least grant me a little leniency.

It was damaging to walk in the out and open, with plenty of spaces to hide and seek refuge, but not be able to run to them. It was like being kidnapped, thrown into a disguise, and being taken back out into the public eye and bypassing a police officer as you hold hands with your kidnapper; unable to call for help.

He walked me up the steps of his front porch until we reached the door. Keeping his hand on the small of my back, he took his keys out of his pocket and unlocked the door with the other. He pushed it open, revealing the dreary, enervating gothic dollhouse from the inside. Prison looked more cheerful than this.

He pressed his fingers harshly into my skin to push me inside after removing the keys from the lock and placing them back in his pocket, but I disobeyed. I rooted my feet to the ground as my hands closed into fists, my nails digging into the fleshy part of my palm. I swallowed a lump in my throat, realizing my defiance would get me nowhere. But yet I couldn’t stop myself.

He leant down real close, his lips brushing my earlobe as his hot breath fanned over my loose wisps of hair. “Get in.” He ordered.

I mustered up all of the bravery that I could. I didn’t suddenly feel like I had an alternative to going inside of the cabin, but I was feeling so hotheaded. He wasn’t giving me any choices, anyway. He was worse than I was. “No.” I defied.

“Edie,” he warned; for my own good. “I said get in.”

“And I said no,” I retaliated. “What are you going to? Drug me? Throw me to the wolves?”

“Edie—”

“Tell me what the fuck is going on!” I hollered as he forced me forward from his strength alone. My hands shot out last second, pressing on both sides of the doorframe as I rebelled against him and his demands. “Tell me what you are! Tell me who you are! Just tell me what I need to hear!” I pleaded desperately, voice becoming shrill.

With his lips still by my ear, he hissed brusquely words that didn’t fail to intimidate me. “I can tell you that if you don’t get into our cabin in three seconds I will be very angry.”

He didn’t give me the chance to piss him off further, though. He put his other hand, big enough to crush my skull like a walnut, on the back of my head and shoved me inside. When he was determined like this, I couldn’t combat against him even if I wanted to. Our size difference didn’t allow a fair fight, and even if he were to use only half of his strength against me I would still be at a disadvantage.

He didn’t take his hand off of the back of my head as he led me in the direction he wanted us to go, not bothering to close the door. I truly felt like a prisoner, a forced submissive in the house of a tyrannical dominant. I expected him at some point to make a stop somewhere, grab some nylon rope, and bind my ankles and wrists with it.

He led me up the stairs, nearly walking too fast for me to keep up with. He took the steps three to my one, and it was a struggle to not trip. I was scared to fall in front of him; I was scared of the humiliation. I knew, in this moment, he was insensitive to me and I wasn’t ready to hear him groan and gripe about my clumsiness. And I didn’t want to hear him tell me to get back up, because I would’ve been stupid enough to argue with him on that one.

He took a left and forced me to walk down an unlit hallway that made me feel like I was walking into the twilight zone. It was pitch black because it was windowless and untouched by any outside light. The walls, painted such a dark shade of grey, did little to brighten the place up. I couldn’t believe that I was glad when he shoved me into the room I had escaped from; I blamed it on the fact that I was finally able to see my surroundings again.

He pushed me away from him, and I willingly put some distance between us as he slammed the door shut. I kept my head down but kept my posture straight as his body brushed against mine purposely to show how irate he really was. His heavy footsteps stomped across the room to the window.

My heart dropped into my gut when he slammed it shut.

“Do not ever cause a scene like that again, do you hear me?” He fumed, aggravated by my disrespect to him. I didn’t respond, which only served to tick him off more. “I said do you hear me?”

“I heard you loud and clear,” I snapped. “But that doesn’t mean I’m agreeing to your terms and conditions.”

“I am not a force to be reckoned with, Edie. If you were like every other person who inhabited this territory, I’d have ripped your head clean off of your neck by now.” He said, exasperated.

“Why am I so special?” I asked, looking up at him. I turned my body to face him, weaving my hands in front of my stomach. This confrontation made me nervous, and my hands gave that away. But my voice still remained strong; my spine straight as an arrow. “We saw each other once, and that was at a gas station. How could I have developed a significance to you? You don’t know me and I don’t know you. I don’t even know your name.”

“You were made for me.” He gritted out.

I licked my lips, irritated at the response he gave me. Another vague answer to add to the list of vague answers. “That’s not an answer! You haven’t given me any answers since you’ve kidnapped me!”

He took a threatening step away from the window, before taking another.

“S-stay away from me!” I cried, shifting myself so I could run across the bed if needed. I looked at him from my peripheral. “I don’t know what you expect of me. But I have this dimwitted expectation that you’d find some decency in you to give me answers—”

When he got too close to me, but not within a quick grabbing distance, I made a break for it. He, of course, reached out to grab me but missed as I jumped onto the bed, running across it and jumping off on the other side. I turned around to face him head on again and retreated until my back hit the wall. I felt like I had run a marathon, so I was out of breath when I finished my sentence.

“—but it seems that I’ve expected too much.”

My words infuriated him greatly, because I was challenging both his morals and integrity. The room seemed to burn ten degrees higher from his rage alone, and I wouldn’t have been shocked to see smoke blow from his eardrums. Even from where I stood, I could make out his eyes darkening again. It wasn’t his pupils dilating, because I had watched the silver section in his left eye darken shade by shade until it was obsidian; just like the green.

I slapped a hand over my mouth, realizing that I wasn’t crazy and that something was truly off about this man. He wasn’t at all what he said he was—human like me. He was anomalous, like an alien from a distant planet that looked like us but wasn’t like us at all. Maybe he had taken one too many of the drugs he had given me, and these were the repercussions. I prayed I wouldn’t inherit the same bizarre traits.

His voice was even as he spoke, but I knew a whirlwind of fury stirred inside of him. “Fine. You want answers? Then I’ll give them to you. But when you cower and recoil, you can’t say that I didn’t warn you.”

And I watched, with my heart in my mouth, as man transformed into beast.

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