The Beauty of Grey

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Chapter 7

The twigs I thought I had heard snapping in the forest panned out to not be twigs at all.

I watched, with great horror, as man transitioned into wolf. I was both disgusted and intrigued, unsure of which feeling I felt more. On one hand I wanted to look away; to run and run and run until I couldn’t run anymore. But on the other hand I couldn’t look away; I had to keep watching to make sure this was real.

I hoped that I wasn’t hallucinating from whatever drugs the man had put into me. I doubted I was, however, because it wouldn’t have taken me hours to start on what appeared to be a wild acid trip. Unfortunately, the scene before me was too tangible.

His clothes tore and fell to the ground in tatters as his limbs snapped and formed jagged peaks, swelling as though air had been pumped into his body. His face remained stoic as it cracked, unaffected by whatever shifting his body was doing. My whole being began to prickle with discomfort as I experienced the pain that he didn’t gave away to feeling. His arms were outstretched in the air as he threw his head back; composed and expectant having done this a million times before.

He dropped to the floor, but not from agony because he wasn’t convulsing or screaming from any throes. I could only hear the crunching and reforming of his skeletal system, but I still flinched back. My knees, for what felt like the dozenth time in the span of a couple hours, began to wobble.

And then there was silence. An unwelcome silence. For a second I pondered on the theory of him actually being dead, only because I could’ve imagined that having to do that transition slowly would’ve been strenuous and depleting. He had done it rather quickly in the forest.

Taking a careful step towards the bed, I put a knee on the edge of it as I leaned forward. It was stupid and hypocritical, because I had watched dozens of horror movies that annoyed me when the heroines spirit of inquiry did nothing but kill her in the end. And here I was, in the presence of a beast, doing the same thing. I could argue that this whole experience seemed unreal...

But I was not in a state of disbelief. I knew this was real, I had watched the scene with mix-matched horror and inquisitiveness. I should’ve taken the man-creatures lack of movement as the perfect opportunity to make another run for it. But I couldn’t bear witness to that and just walk away from it.

Albeit it definitely would’ve been the smarter thing to do.

I put my other knee on the bed and crawled forward less than half a foot. My eyebrows were furrowed and I was worrying my lip as everything seemed to become still; surreal. I felt like the world was doing something strange, such as sucking all sound from the atmosphere.

But then he rose. The wolf stood up from its crouching position, taking its slow time to reveal itself to me. Instantly, I froze in place; regretting ever becoming curious. The wolf was monstrous, bigger than any wolf I had ever seen photographed in a National Geographic magazine or recorded on Animal Planet. But this...this wasn’t a regular wolf.

A coat of glossy midnight black, eyes of emerald and steel, a body thick and burly with incredible strength. This wolf was as beautiful as it was deadly, and had I not held such tremendous fear towards it I would’ve reached out to stroke its fur just to feel its fineness in between my fingertips. It was grotesquely magnificent.

But I couldn’t get far enough away from it, and I couldn’t look down fast enough. I instantly retracted from the bed, getting off of it and standing up straight. I didn’t put my back against the wall, however. I didn’t want to increase the risk of having this wolf corner me. I was, practically, already backed into a corner. But having my back against the wall didn’t give me the versatility I believed I had.

“H-holy shit.” I stuttered, my heart racing like a stallion. Its back curled as its fur stood up on end, before it leapt onto the bed. The creature, heavier as a wolf than as a human, dipped the bed low enough where I expected it to fall through the mattress. The bed was barely able to hold up its weight; just like I was barely able to hold up mine.

It was nearly as long as the width of the bed, and the only reason its hot breath wasn’t fanning over my face was because it kept its head up. My breaths were low and slow, as if to not set it off by respiring too hard. I couldn’t move, nearly trapped as my terror held me in place.

With great strain, I forced myself to look up at the wolf. I had been wary to look up at it once it jumped on the bed, afraid that making direct eye contact with it once more would cause it to think I was evoking a challenge from it. Every move felt critical, like one wrong one could lead to its teeth, jagged like knives, clamped around my neck like a vice.

Even though it had my kidnappers human eyes, I couldn’t seem to harmonize the two psyches to one another. I couldn’t bring myself to think that although the man and the wolf were the same entities, that their minds worked the same way. I had this firm, irrefutable belief that all wolves had one intention—and that was to kill.

It looked down at me, quickly enough that I hadn’t had enough time to dart my eyes away to avoid making direct contact. And that was the most troublesome part of all, because once our eyes locked I could not look away. I wanted nothing more than to flinch my head to the side and squeeze my eyes shut, just to pretend this was a nightmare.

The wolfs eyes darkened to black, obsidian like I was looking into the windows to the universe. I could make out my reflections, one in each eye. There was something eerie about being able to make out every detail about myself—every ringlet, every dirt stain, and every freckle—in the eyes of another creature. But it wasn’t enough to get me to look away.

It made the first move, thankfully, by dropping its head; submitting. Its eyes, matching the blackness of its fur, closed. I still found my gaze following its eyes, as though tied by an invisible string.

Swallowing nervously, I reached a hand up into the air; but did not stroke its fur. There was a heedfulness that made me hesitant to touch it, like I would disturb the equilibrium of peace we were currently maintaining. But the urge to stroke the beast was nearly too great of a thrill to pass up. But I did, pass it up that is.

I let out a heavy breath as the wolf lifted its head back up, meeting my eyes again. Its eyes, thankfully, lightened to their regular colour; preventing me from being able to pinpoint my reflections so clearly. It broke eye contact quickly, however, looking to my hand that was still raised in the air. I hoped it didn’t think I was going to strike it, because that was what it looked like.

Instead, it pressed its wet nose into my palm; demanding my attention. My eyebrows flicked up as I looked at the wolf, incredulous that it wasn’t ripping my fingers off. It wanted me to pet it—give it affection. And there was something so guiltless about doing it...it was no human. I, somehow, was able to separate the two psyches when it came to who participated in the kidnapping.

My legs stayed in place as my hand, gentle but shaky, stroked the beasts snout. There was something so soothing if not healing about being able to touch it. There was still remnants of fear and mistrust but if the beast hadn’t killed me yet, then I doubted it was going to. Not as long as I propitiated it.

But this creature...this wolf. What was my purpose to it?

I didn’t know much about wolf-shifters. What I thought I had known about them was proven false. For one, I thought that they didn’t exist and they were just an urban legend. That didn’t work out, however. What was thought to be myth was just proven as real.

And I thought that the host of the gene could only shift into its wolf counterpart on a full moon, and it shifted back to human before dawn. But here this wolf was now, in the early morning, with sunlight beaming off of its ebony coat. I remembered I had watched Bram Stoker’s Dracula on Halloween a few years back, and there was a demonic wolf-shifter on screen for hardly two minutes, but it told me nothing about the creatures.

So where did that leave me—a human? How did I get tied into this mess? This...creature had the option of having four legs or only two—it was a hybrid of both man and wolf. Was this a result of those drugs he had given me? Was he created in a lab like Frankenstein? Were the wolves here supernatural, and one bite from them could give a human a mutation beyond scientific explanation?

And maybe that was when I got off at my stop, leaving transit bus cloud nine.

Logic, fear and common sense seemed to stream back into my body all at once. It was like waking up from a daze and being able to see with a startling new clarity. I went rigid for a moment, like it was now just hitting me that I was in the presence of a shapeshifter. I realized that although I knew what was happening was real, it wasn’t registering.

I ripped my hand away from its snout and cradled it to my chest, my eyes widening as my mouth gaped open. My breaths began to grow more rapid as I took a step backwards; not too far back to hit the wall, but far enough for the wolf to notice my subtle repositioning. It did not like this.

Its lips pulled back into a snarl as it flashed its canines at me, refreshing my memory of how large and potent they truly were. Even just a small scratch could leave a major mark that I would never forget. It was indicating to me that it did not like my sudden revelation of how dangerous I now knew it was.

I began to edge my way towards the foot of the bed, keeping eye contact with it out of fear that it would attack me if I looked away. Its spine curled as its ears flattened, its eyes going as black as sin. Colour was reliant on its pink gums and white teeth, the rest of it dark as ink.

Even as I passed the foot of the bed and slowly made my way over to the door, it didn’t run at me. I thought that my intentions to put more distance between us would’ve forced the wolf into a crazed frenzy, but it merely let out guttural, rumbling growls. Its body barely vibrated.

I continued to make my way backwards, glancing over my shoulder for split seconds occasionally until my back hit the wooden door. Once I was against it, my hand fumbled around as I searched for the doorknob. It shouldn’t have been such an impossible task to find the doorknob, but yet it seemed so nonviable.

And then the wolf lunged, tossing itself off of the bed.

I screamed as I began frantically searching for the doorknob, by the grace of God finding it at the last second as the wolf landed on the ground and leapt again, focused on reaching me before I could open the door. But I was quicker to the punch on this one, throwing open the door before the wolf could get to me.

I ran out of the room, slamming the door shut behind me as I ran down the unlit hallway. I could hear the wolf from behind me trying to ram itself through it, but it was inconvenient unless you had hands to open it with. I didn’t think that the door could hold him in there forever, but I hoped it would give me at least enough time to make it outside.

I didn’t know where I could run off to, but I didn’t care. If I could run, I could run somewhere.

I raced down the stairs, jumping down them at least four at a time so I could get down them quicker. When I was about halfway down I heard the door smash onto the ground as the wolf ripped it clean off of its hinges. I let out a squeal, or maybe a cry, as I felt more pressured to run out of the front door. I could see the fiery sky from where I was on the stairs; I was so close I could taste it.

Reaching the bottom of the stairs, I stumbled but immediately recovered as I ran to the front door. I was too afraid to look over my shoulder, because the last time I had looked over my shoulder to check the whereabouts of a pursuer or two, I tripped over a log and face-planted. There was no log around, but I was prone to slipping.

And when I was no more than three meters away from the door, the wolf put up a barricade as it wedged its body in between me and my freedom. As it stood on all fours, on the same ground level as me, it was no shorter than I was.

I had to skid to a stop on my heels to prevent myself from running into it. I didn’t think it was in the mood to break my fall or put a complete stop to my sprint. When I came to a stop, however, I wasn’t far enough away from it. It was like being in the forest all over again; it was too close for comfort—close enough where I could make out every strand of fur. I could count all of its whiskers, its canines. I could estimate its canines at three and a half if not four inches.

I gaped, nearly positive that this creature was going to throw away all its consideration and rip me to shreds by the front door. Dread locked my body, solidifying me like a statue. Most people have a fight or flight response, but I freeze until my body decides it’s appropriate to move.

As I stared at the wolf, however, I realized how dumbly impulsive I truly was. As it wedged itself between the door and I, I couldn’t help but feel that maybe it was doing me an indirect favour.

Where could I have possibly run to, anyway? There was nothing but forest for hundreds of miles. If I looked hard enough, however, I knew that there would be a gravel road because I had travelled a gravel road in order to get here. But I had no vehicle, nor keys to a vehicle, so I had no way of transportation.

I had treated the front door like it was the gateway to my freedom—like the moment I stepped outside the wolf would lose interest and give up chasing me. I realized how irrational and misplaced my hope in getting out was. I had nowhere to run and nowhere to go, as much as I liked to fantasize that I did.

The wolf let out a rough bark, snapping me back into reality as I focused all of my attention onto it. It didn’t look as bloodthirsty as it had initially when it jumped in front of me, but the murderous glint in its eyes still remained. I swallowed thickly, my saliva coating my throat like molasses.

My undivided attention on it was short lived, however, as I began to take in my surroundings for a potential weapon. I didn’t have to search long and hard, though, because there was a kitchen behind me on the right. The kitchen was always full of cutlery.

When I looked back ahead, the wolf was closer to me than it had been seconds ago. When I looked down at its paws, it was mid-step; one paw raised in the air. My eyes widened as I looked back up to meet its eyes, trying to configure the exact method and time to try and run away.

Before I could comprehend what I was doing, however, I was already turned around and racing into the kitchen. The heavy footfalls of the wolfs paws hitting the hardwood flooring followed in brisk succession, not willing to let me evacuate so easily.

Once I was in the kitchen I glanced around in a panic, spotting a block of knives adjacent to the sink. I wasted no time in running over to it, grabbing the first knife I could find. It was long and serrated; a bread knife. Unless I had the wolfs paws over a chopping block, I couldn’t do much damage to it.

But I didn’t have the option of being picky and choosy. When I turned back around, the wolf was there in front of me, beside the kitchen table; cunning and wily. Even though I held up a knife—a rather pathetic knife—it didn’t change the fact that I was backed into a corner by a wolf who could gnaw through this blade like it was a piece of licorice.

Maintaining eye contact, I darted out from the corner and ran to the opposite side of the table across from the wolf. It had to walk forward in order to turn itself around to face me. When it did, I didn’t miss the gleam of pity it held towards me. I knew that it had me right where it wanted me.

Its confidence was unmistakable, and it made me sick to my stomach.

I must’ve blinked for a millisecond longer than normal, because when I opened my eyes again the wolf was mid-jump. Its body flew over the kitchen table as it lunged at me. Like I had been doing so frequently recently, I let out a scream. Speed walking backwards, I waved the knife in front of me like a racquet; hoping I could hit a vital spot. It had no hands to hold me back with.

At least, that was what I had thought until it was a body covered with smooth skin that landed on me. I hadn’t even heard his bones crunching as he shifted back. The wolf was no longer a wolf—it was a man. It was my kidnapper. My pursuer. My freedom-snatcher. He was here again. He had shed his fur for human flesh.

We fell to the floor, me taking the brunt end of the impact as I battled for the knife. I didn’t feel as my body collided with the ground because all I could focus on was my kidnappers hand squeezing a pressure point in my wrist. It caused a shooting, flaring pain to lapse into my hand, which in turn caused my reflexes to open my hand up like a morning flower. The knife clambered onto the ground.

And I watched as the man pushed it across the room; far out of reach from me.

One knee was in between my thighs while the other one closed in my left leg. Both of his hands were on my wrists as he held my arms above my head. I was a dishevelled, petrified mess beneath his nude body. I was crying—without tears—and struggling with all of my might against him. But I could only struggle so much. His hands and legs restrained me as good as cuffs and chains could.

“Let me go!” I yelled.

“Not until you calm down,” he told me, voice monotonous. “Once you’re calm, I’ll let you go.”

Like a child, my tantrum wouldn’t concede right away. “Wh-what is going on?” I cried, thrashing my head from side to side as I squeezed my eyes shut. “You’re not human!”

“No,” he didn’t bother to deny it. “You’re right. I’m not human.”

“You’re a-a—” I stilled for a second, pausing as I looked up at him. “Wolf!” I hollered, before continuing on my frenzy.

“Yes,” he said, sounding nearly embarrassed about it. “Partly.”

And I continued my tantrum for maybe two to three more minutes, flailing my restricted limbs and continuing to thrash my head from side to side. I screamed a few obscenities amongst other maniacal things until my throat felt raw and I was exhausted. By the time I was done my freak-out session my head spun, my throat hurt, and I knew I was on the verge of vomiting.

“I’m going to be sick,” I informed him, feeling as perspiration glistened on my face. I felt so hot, like I was overheating. I kept my eyes shut but unclenched them. “I don’t feel good.”

Credits to him, he didn’t ask questions. He stood to his feet, keeping my wrists in his hands as he pulled me up with him. Once we were standing, he let go of one of my wrists and hooked his arm around my waist, helping me walk. I was thankful he was acting as a support beam, because I may not have been able to walk on my own.

My eyes cracked open as we began to walk up the stairs. He was being awfully considerate, slowing down so I wouldn’t trip. The world spun as my vision grew blurry. I leant against his bare body, dependent on his sturdiness to keep me from falling. I just hoped that I wouldn’t faint, because I felt about shaken up enough to do it.

Once we were up the stairs, we hooked a left and walked until we reached the very end of the hallway; not his bedroom. He turned the light on, and once the room was illuminated I felt the queasiness in my stomach begin to increase as my head pulsated. I was going into shock...or maybe I was coming down from it.

He eased me to my knees in front of the toilet bowl. I instantly hugged the toilet seat as my stomach began to upchuck its contents. The man grabbed my hair with one hand and held it back, accommodating me as I vomited. With his other hand he rubbed my back in therapeutic, steady circles.

Once I was done vomiting I sloped backwards, pressing against his bare body. He made it clear that he wasn’t grossed out by me as he let go of my hair and used the same hand to wipe my mouth clean. I left all humility at the door, welcoming his catering.

He maneuvered himself out from behind me, and I sunk rearward until my back hit the wall. He flushed the toilet and washed his hands before he left the bathroom; leaving me alone. I had no choice but to wait until the man came back, lacking the energy and motivation to make another failed attempt at escaping.

He returned seconds later with a change of clothes in his hands and set them on the sink counter. I was certain he was looking at me when he spoke to me, but I didn’t bother looking at him to find out. “Run yourself a bath when you’re ready. And when you’re ready to get out, knock three times on the door.”

And before I could respond, he exited and closed the door behind him. Scraping of a chair against hardwood ensued seconds after, ceasing directly outside of the bathroom.

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