Jeremy opened the door almost instantly. He motioned for me to walk forward but all I wanted to do was sink to the floor, and cry. Grabbing my arm, he pulled me through the door. “You can walk or I can drag you.” He whispered. Not wanting his hands on me I pulled my arm away and started walking. “Hey.” He whispered softly. I stopped and looked at him. His eyes looked conflicted and his face held a sudden softness I hadn’t thought him capable of. “We need to do this for the safety of our pack. Just be patient, if you are who you say you are this will be cleared up in no time.” I nodded. They knew who I was. By this point they probably knew more about me than I did. They had a full file. They could just let me go. Jeremy opened the door and stayed behind me as I went down the stairs. I started heading down the hall towards my cell when I heard what sounded like screams coming from the first hallway. I froze, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. Someone was yelling, and a man was screaming out in pain in the farthest cell back. His pain echoed off the merciless walls, and reverberated in my heart, triggering feelings I had long since locked away.
Pulling up behind me Jeremy, looked at my face before he grimaced. Grabbing my arm, he turned me back towards the stairs. I looked at him, a mixture of panic and confusion crossing my face as his hand slid down my arm and locked around my wrist. Noticing the look, he threw an aggravated glance in the direction of the wailing before saying “Don’t worry. That won’t happen to you.” Not exactly comforted by his words, I gave a small nod. He led me to a door that was tucked away down a tiny hallway to the left of the stairs. Where was he taking me? After all of this I was fairly certain this wasn’t some scientific research lab, although I had been quick to believe the beta when he said they were all wolves. I wouldn’t have believed Jeremy when he said it if I hadn’t seen him start to change. That and I hadn’t met a person yet who smelled normal. These people didn’t smell like everyone else did, they all smelt similar but slightly different from one another and not a one of them smelled like a normal human.
Jeremy wasn’t acting like he was going to hurt me. Yet I couldn’t trust that he wouldn’t. Not when someone was obviously being tortured here. That could have been me. It still could be. My wolf was on edge and I was right there with her. I just hoped that when the time called for it, I could shift.
The man started howling in pain again and I looked in his direction as Jeremy came to another key pad. I kept facing the direction the screams were in while I shifted my gaze towards his fingers. I could see about where his fingers were. It looked like he typed in 5467. I chanted those four numbers in my mind. These numbers were my way out, but how? The door beeped and pulling it open, Jeremy pulled me inside. Another hallway stretched out before us, but this one had white walls and white tiled floors. Where the hallway upstairs looked more managerial this space reminded me of a hospital. The aroma of the hallway matched the aesthetic, as it reeked of lemon cleaner.
Dropping my hand, he led me down to the end of the hallway. On my right and left were closed doors. The door he had motioned me to was on the left labeled ‘REC’. As he put in the code, I looked to the door across from me. It was labeled ‘medical’. I wondered if that was where I had been treated. A shiver traveled down my spine. I looked at my feet, the humiliation of being naked and unconscious burning my face once more. Looking up when I heard the beep of the door, I noticed something. There was a soft glow of natural light coming from underneath the medical room door. Could that be from a window? Please, I silently prayed. Please let it be a window.
Feeling a hand on my back, I looked up to meet Jeremy’s expectant gaze. Raising one eyebrow at the flush still present on my cheeks, he put his hand out in front of him in a sweeping gesture. I rolled my eyes and walked into the room, shocked to find it had a table and chairs, a television, and a bookcase. He opened a door that led to a tiny, bare, restroom. “You’re now under observation so you may spend some of your time here. You can choose to eat your meal here or in your cell.” “Here!” I answered quickly. Maybe too quickly. He eyed me suspiciously before he walked out of the room and closed the door behind him.
Using the restroom as quickly as I could, I came back out and examined the door. Like the others it locked automatically and had a keypad. Reaching my hand out towards the keypad, I let my fingers glide over the buttons. I had no idea how much time I had. My stomach grumbled at me menacingly. I was starving and food sounded amazing, but what if this was my only chance? What if he stayed and stood guard when he came back? If I wanted out, I needed to go now. I couldn’t risk waiting. I had an opportunity now and I needed to take it. Taking a deep breath in, I hoped I had seen the numbers right and that they used the same code for all the doors. 5-4-6-7. I typed the numbers in slowly. Sending a small prayer to whoever would listen, I pushed enter.
At first nothing happened. My hopes began to fade and my lungs burned with the breath I had been holding. Then, a beep sounded over my head, and letting out the breath I had been holding, I jumped up in triumph. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to dance or cry. Turning the handle, the door opened with a soft metallic ‘click’. Sticking my head out the door, I quickly looked both ways before stepping out.
Closing the distance between the Rec room and the medical room in a few short steps, I went to type in the code on the keypad. Stopping myself I put my ear to the door to listen for any signs of life inside before I unlocked the door. Satisfied that my wolf-like hearing hadn’t let me down, I typed in the numbers once again and pushed my way inside. Holding the door, I guided it so it would close soundlessly before turning to survey the room.
The room held a wall mounted monitor, next to a countertop with a few cabinets, a sink and two hospital gurneys. IV stands were housed in a corner and a small blue curtain was pushed to the side. Looking to the large lights overhead I couldn’t help but shiver as the feeling of Deja Vu crawled its way over me. I had been here. This was where they treated me. Turning away from the lights, I focused on the reason I came here. On the back wall stood a decent sized window with a view of the woods. I made my way to the window; thankful it was on the first floor. Inspecting it I found it had a latch on the side to unlock it. Unlocking the window, it slid open easily. Popping out the screen, I slowly lowered it to the ground. I shot one last look behind me, and did a quick listen before lowering myself out and down.
My heart leapt as my feet touched the ground. The smell of crisp air and pine engulfed me. Sucking it in, a stupid smile spread across my face. I was free! ′Not yet.′ A small voice reminded me. Turning my focus back to my escape, I started covering my tracks. Standing on my tiptoes I pulled the window shut, and then out of habit, I picked up the screen and popped it back into place. Years of sneaking out of foster homes had taught me the value of leaving behind no trace of your escape route. It buys you time, and leaves you a route for future use. I hoped I never found myself here again.
Turning to face the forest, I shielded my eyes from the bright noon day sun. It was mid spring and the heat was already stifling. Making my way to the trees I could feel sweat already start to form on my pale skin. My heart was beating a million miles a minute and as I made my way deeper into the brush, I stopped for a moment to calm my breathing. Somehow being out was scarier than being in. If I was caught, I would look more guilty than I had previously, and who knew what they would do or how long they would keep me. My mind drifted to the sound of the tortured man, screaming out in his cell. I needed to get out of here fast. Crouching down I closed my eyes, probing my ability to shift. The wolf inside me thrashed, waiting for me to let her free. It was time to run, and running was something she did best. Taking off my clothes I threw the pants under a nearby bush. Taking the shirt, I folded and rolled it neatly before setting it down. Crouching down, I willed myself to change. I imagined myself becoming the wolf. My body started to pop and snap as my change began. A sharp pain erupted in my shoulder then when I opened my eyes, I was one. Grabbing the shirt from where I had placed it, I worked it into a comfortable position in my mouth before doing a little celebratory hop. The movement hurt my shoulder; I was sure that I had re-opened the wound but for now I needed to ignore it. Bounding forward I sniffed the air to check that the coast was clear before leaping into the forest.
I needed to put distance between myself and the compound. I also needed a way off of pack grounds. I had no idea how big their territory was, I also had no idea where I was. I would assume that a pack would live on their grounds, they had to with how they protected it. If people lived on it, it had to be fairly close to a town, right? I needed to go through everything I knew about the land. I had been driving down the highway when I had decided to pull over for a run. I had pulled off the road, and taken a dirt road out to a small grove of trees before pulling off, stripping down and changing. The dirt road hadn’t been too far off the highway. Hopefully this meant the highway ran through their land. I listened for the sounds of cars, and I kept checking the air for the scent of exhaust, gas or oil. If I found the highway, I could find my way home. I let the wolf take over, I would need all my instincts to get out of here.
After an hour of running, I was beginning to think that the deep green sea of trees would never end. Right when I started to think of changing my course, I heard it. The unmistakable sound of cars. The sound was accompanied by the sharp scent of gas and burning rubber. Picking up speed I ran until the trees started to clear. Slowing to a stop I inched to the tree line. Peeking out, I watched as a semi-truck barreled past me. I found it! Ducking back into the trees, I followed the road disguised by the forest. When I came across road signs, I snuck out and made sure the coast was clear before sitting in front of the sign and considering my options. I was 10 miles away from home. 10 miles was a long way, especially since I had been running all day injured and I hadn’t eaten in a couple of days. Slinking back into the trees I laid down to think.
Maybe I could hitchhike? I’d be naked when I changed. I had brought the T-shirt with me, but hitchhiking half naked still didn’t seem like a good prospect. That was just begging for attention and trouble. The last thing I needed was to try to explain why I was half naked and injured by the highway. Rolling my shoulder back, I could feel that the wound was slowly healing. I just didn’t know how noticeable it would be to any passersby. Thinking about my shoulder made it hurt. My whole body hurt. I had been running on adrenaline, and resting had me coming down off the high. I needed to keep moving. I couldn’t shut down now.
Pulling myself up, I picked the shirt back up and decided to keep going, hoping a better plan would come together. I had been running for what felt like a couple miles when I came across the smell of humans. Slowing as the smell got stronger, I crept through the trees until I came to the back of a small diner. A young man was unloading the back of a pickup truck and carrying his haul into the back of the diner. He was joking with the owner, an elderly woman, before she handed him a plate of food. My stomach growled so loud I swore they could hear it. I wanted to lunge for the plate in the man’s hand, but I talked my body down, promising it the entire contents of the fridge and as many brownies as it wanted if it would just make it home.
When the man mentioned heading back to town my ears perked up. Standing, the man checked the back of his truck, before heeding the old woman’s call to wash his dish before he left.
This was my chance. Changing back, I slipped the slobber stained shirt over my head. My legs shook as I snuck up on the truck. Looking in the back, I was relieved to see a few blankets, a balled-up tarp, and a rusty red toolbox in the back of the bed. Climbing into the truck I pulled the tarp and blankets over me, and then tried to make myself as small as possible. Hearing footsteps approach the truck I struggled to still my shaking limbs and held my breath as, who I assumed was the man, walked around the side of the vehicle. When the footsteps stopped at the top side of the truck my heart nearly exploded from my chest. He was going to find me. I had no idea what I would say to him. Luckily, he started walking again, and hearing the driver’s door open and close, I relaxed, ready to go home.
The wind whipped around me as the truck picked up speed on the highway. The young man had the radio blaring, and he was singing along to every song that came on. Badly. Very badly. Wailing out a particularly high note, I wished I was still in wolf form. At least then I could flatten my ears to my skull. The trip took longer than I thought, but I welcomed the drive as it gave me time to rest and think. The sun shined through the blue of an exposed piece of tarp.
Reaching up I touched the small spot gingerly. I could feel the heat seeping through the heavy material. The warmth reminded me of my bed and I couldn’t wait to feel safe and warm snuggled up under my heavy comforter. Home. I wanted it more than anything but the more I wanted it, the more I realized it no longer existed. My apartment did, but the chance of it being my home was gone. They had a file on me. They had my car, phone, and all my cards. They knew where I lived. I had to go back for cash and clothes, but I couldn’t stay. These guys had a full compound and were willing to keep me locked up in it because I ran on their land. What would they do now that I had defied them by escaping?
The sun had set by the time we pulled off the highway. I uncovered my face and watched the street signs mounted on the stop lights until we were close to my street. Making myself ready I slipped out the back of the truck at the next red light, grateful there were no cars behind us and equally so for the song that had the young driver pounding his steering wheel while he loudly sang. I whispered an apology as I snatched the blanket out of the back, and once I made it to the sidewalk, I wrapped myself in it. Being three blocks from safety, I used the last of my energy to jog until I reached the old brick building with the red door that I called home.
Quickly entering the building, I made my way to the staircase, where I took the stairs two at a time. My dated green door came into my view as I climbed what was left of the stairs. The sight of that old beat up door almost had me in tears. Picking up the navy blue flower pot to the left of the door I pulled the key I had taped to the bottom of the pot free. The small key rested in my hand and I just stared at it for a second. Was I doing the right thing by coming home? I knew they could find me here, but without a car or money what others option did I have? Making up my mind, I hurriedly unlocked my door and stepped inside. Closing the door behind me I instantly locked it again. Picking up no other scents and hearing nothing but the beating of my own heart, I walked into the living room, turning on lights as I went. Seeing my old tan couch, I spread my arms wide and fell backwards into the cushions. Sinking into the cushions I closed my eyes and greedily inhaled the scent of home. Tears trailed down my cheeks as I thought of how I had barely made it back here. Wiping them away, I opened my eyes to study the familiar cracks in my ceiling. A few days ago, I would have done anything to get out of this place, but now I was just thankful that I was home.
Getting up I made a bee-line for the kitchen. My stomach was growling, tired of waiting, and my body was cramping from dehydration. The first thing I did was down what felt like a gallon of water. Then, opening the fridge I pulled out the plate of left-overs I had left for myself, and giving it a cautionary whiff, made sure it was still good before popping it into the microwave. Putting it in for a couple of minutes I went to wipe my hands on my shirt. Looking down at the blue oversized shirt my mood started to shift. This wasn’t my shirt. It was theirs. Pulling it off I cast it a dark look before dumping it in the trash. I wouldn’t be needing it anymore. Hearing the familiar ding of the microwave I was reminded of the sound the doors at the compound made when they unlocked. I immediately shivered.
Brushing it off I retrieved my now heated food. Grabbing a fork, I made my way to the bathroom. Shoveling food in my mouth, I started laying out everything I would need for a quick shower. Catching the sight of myself in the mirror I grimaced. My shoulder length, honey blonde hair was knotted and greasy. My dark blue eyes were red and puffy from crying. I was covered in a thin layer of dirt, and the bandage that was on my shoulder had fallen off, probably during my shift. The gash in my shoulder that, at this point should have fully healed, was only partially healed. A long inch wide gash ran from my collar bone to the tip of my shoulder. The skin was split open, revealing a pink ravine, and making a gruesome show of my missing flesh. I could tell that my body had tried to pull my wound together, but hadn’t been fully able to. Seeing it as it was, I tried not to imagine what it must have looked like fresh.
I traced the injury with my finger. Perhaps the drugs had messed with my healing abilities? I hadn’t been able to shift, so that would make sense. Or maybe since I was dehydrated, hungry and sleep deprived, I didn’t possess the energy to heal myself as quickly as I was used to. Tearing my eyes away from the mirror, and my thoughts away from the last couple of days, I took a few more bites of my meal. Turning on the shower, I let the water heat up while I finished my plate.
When the water was a few degrees short of scorching my skin off, I stepped in. When the hot water hit my back, I could feel my shoulders instantly relax. Putting both hands on the wall in front of me I let the hot water roll over my tense muscles. Looking at my feet, I watched the dirty water run off my body and down the drain. As the last two days washed off me, I imagined that, like the water retreating down the drain, everything that had happened was being washed away as well. I wished it could be like that. Straightening up I grabbed my shampoo bottle and started working a glob of it through my matted tresses. I knew that no amount of hot water could make this go away. The pack may still come after me, and I still had to figure out how to best handle everything. Running my hands over my face I groaned aloud. My car. Should I try to go back for it?
Remembering the file, the alpha had on me made me angry all over again. They wouldn’t have been able to make that file without the information they found in my car, so there was no doubt in my mind that they had it. Did I report the car stolen? The alpha had said they had ties with the local police department. If I reported it missing or stolen, I would have to come up with a story for where I was, why I was there and what happened. That and I would probably have to go into their territory to deal with the incident which would lead me straight back to them. If they had my driver’s license and a full file on me, then they knew where I lived, I reminded myself yet again. I needed to use this time wisely. I needed to make a to-do list. When I was far enough away, I needed to figure out what to do about my car. They also had my credit cards. Should I call and cancel them? I didn’t think that people who had their own little jail needed my petty wages but I would need new cards. So, I would still need to call--. I stopped mid-thought. My phone. My phone was also in the car. I growled out loud and kicked the bottom of the tub, crying out when I stubbed my pinky toe. I would have to come up with the cash to buy a new phone. Summing it all up in my head I released that I had a large to-do list and no assets.
Shampooing my hair for a second time, my mind reeled. Would they really come after me? After all I was just one lone wolf, what damage could I do? Though I guess I was a rogue by their definition, I had no plans of harming anyone. The only real crimes they could find me guilty of, besides trespassing, was my own ignorance to the ways of my kind and the misfortune to be born without a pack or a family. That is what made me so undesirable to them, and it was something I was by no fault of my own.
Washing out the suds from my hair I put in some conditioner, before washing my body, twice, with my favorite peppermint scented soap. Going to rinse out the conditioner, I grimaced at how knotted and rough my hair still felt. Turning off the water, I grabbed my towel and dried off. Walking to my vanity I put a leave-in deep conditioning treatment onto my hair. Looking longingly at the reflection of my tub in the mirror I signed. My body ached horribly and I needed a good soak. If I had more time, I would have taken a long hot bath, but that was no longer possible.
Finishing my skincare routine and brushing my teeth, my stomach rumbled again. I still had a few things I needed to do, so there was no harm in letting a batch of brownies bake will I worked. Besides, I had promised myself all the brownies I wanted. I deserved it.