Drew’s eyes rolled into the back of his head and I cursed, catching him before he broke the back of his head, falling on the floor. I cradled him, unable to hear my own thoughts. I just heard my heartbeat. Felt the cool the wind brush against my skin. My body moved without thought, laying him on the bed. I pressed the back of my hand to his forehead.
“Fever,” I barely whispered.
He was a ghostly white and even his lips were pale, like the dead. My chest tightened, constricting my lungs and I couldn’t catch my breath. My mind raced. When did it start? Why didn’t I notice? Why didn’t I press him harder when I knew he was sick? I reached for his collar, peaking at the bite. It was swollen. The skin around the wound blistered too and I could see it leaking a mucus colored liquid.
I didn’t have an answer.
I wasn’t smart enough to know the next step.
“We need to...” I hovered over him. “I need to find help.”
No more stalling, I ripped off my jacket and wrapped Drew in it. I scooped him back into my arms, cursing over the fact he changed into a human. He’d stay warmer as a wolf, but I guess it’d be more difficult to move him as a fully grown white wolf.
I was having an out of body experience, carrying Drew through the woods. It happened in flashes. I was running through the trees and then suddenly, I was by the road. No one stopped when I raised my thumb, but who could blame them? I looked like the guy your parents warned you about. If you searched the key words “hitchhiking serial killer,” I was the first result. I was more lost than ever before, my whole world a maze and an exit was no where in sight.
“Jess...” Drew mumbled.
“It’s gonna be okay,” I whispered and held him closer. It was more of an assurance for me. I had to believe it. His breath hitting my neck was my only comfort. Drew was alive. If I closed my eyes, I could hear his heart beating. My Drew.
Night had fallen and I was forced to stay by the road, by the stray lamp light. With nothing else to do, I kept walking. I walked through long stretches of back roads, when I stumbled upon a town sign. It was one of those old school wooden signs with Gody red paint and yellow lettering. It said, “Welcome to the town of Dearest. Your home away from home.” To me, it read like a town full of suckers.
I started my trek into the town, keeping my distance from all the buildings and houses with their lights on. My senses were on fire, sensing the abundance of life in this town. I could smell humans, but I could also smell wolves. The air was thick with wet dog. I held him tighter, kissing the side of his head. No one was going to find us. Not if I could help it.
My feet landed on something that crunched, breaking the silence of night. I looked down a gravel path. There was a lamppost... It had an old orange glow, lighting up the nearby trees and the crooked tree limbs dusted by snow. More flakes trickled from the sky or maybe they were shaken from the tree tops. From what I could make out, the path took a left.
This path led somewhere.
My feet started moving. The mix of tiny rocks crunched underneath my feet. That initial post led me to another one and another. I half wondered if I took myself down a trail or a dead end, but the house appeared like a gift and I prayed mirages only existed in the desert. I couldn’t see much else in the thick oily darkness. More importantly, the lights were off.
I quickly checked all around for cars. I checked a dingy little garage and found nothing. The quiet spoke out to me and welcomed me with hope. I ran to the door, reaching for the knob and I was surprised by how badly my hands trembled.
“There’s no way I’m picking it,” I told Drew. He couldn’t hear me, but I needed to talk to him. I glanced down at his pale face and shrugged. “Sorry, Drew. You’d disapprove, but you can’t tell me not to because you didn’t tell me you were sick.”
Squeezing the nob, I yanked the door as hard as I could until the entire lock broke and fell apart like crushed Lego pieces. Kicking the door open, I walked through the threshold and was wrapped up in the house’s warmth. Actual heat. It smelled like cinnamon, whether it was from a candle or something that was actually baked, I couldn’t tell. However, it couldn’t mask the smell of sweat and Drew’s copper smelling wound. It curdled my stomach acids.
I maneuvered around clunky furniture to some couch, laying him down carefully. He just melted, laying limp and... my stomach twisted and I couldn’t stop shaking. “Fuck,” I huffed and rubbed my face until I erased all my annoying thoughts.
“Stay here,” I whispered to Drew. I hurried out of the room, checking doors, but so many of them were locked. I had never been in a house with so many locked doors. It seemed unlivable. I found the kitchen and sighed in relief. I threw a bowl into the sink, throwing on the water and found random towels, covered in apple pictures.
It still wasn’t enough.
I continued my search, throwing door after door open until I finally found a fucking bathroom. Ripping open the mirror, I dumped a glass jar of cotton swabs and filled it with all the First-Aid supplies, when I looked into the bottom cabinet and found a First-Aid kit on it’s own, I rolled my eyes and dropped the jar. It was red and huge and mocking me. It weighed a ton between my hands.
What do I know about this? Any of this?
My eyes filled with burning tears and I took a deep shuddering breath. I rubbed my eyes, the tears streaking across my arm. I couldn’t break down now. I couldn’t break down now. Drew needed me. Holding my loot tight, I dashed back down the hall and barreled at the kitchen, when I stopped dead in my tracks.
I was looking down the eyes of a shotgun.
“Shit,” I said through clenched teeth and dropped everything in my hands, so I could raise them. Everything clattered, cracking the silent house into pieces.
“Yeah, shit indeed,” the shotgun owner stated, pointing it at the middle of my chest and the bottom of my stomach fell out. Dread leaked down my body, thinning my blood. I felt faint. Death had come to my door again and this time, I might not get away, this time Death may just collect. The man attached to the live ammunition scowled, sharpening into a dangerous point. “Keep those hands up.”