Alpha Atlas

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Chapter 9

Tyra and I shifted, darting into the woods behind Liam’s house. Lila was eager to stretch her legs, the two of us nearly bursting with anxiety. I was determined to keep away from the fight. We would provide help with evacuation, but fighting wasn’t in my skill set. I just needed to see my Mom, to make sure she was alright.

Our paws thundered against the dry earth, twigs snapping under our feet. My chest burned with exhaustion, but I kept pushing forward. Somehow, I found the strength to continue running, even when my legs cried for mercy. Branches whipped across our fur, feeling like velvet across our thick skin.

‘Over here.’ Tyra snapped through the mind link, darting out of the woods and behind one of the buildings in town.

The two of us shifted, the warm air lapping against our exposed skin. I had never become comfortable with constant nudity, even after spending my life in a pack. My cheeks burned, but I tried to pay no mind.

“Here.” Tyra jogged over to one of the trashcans and began digging behind it.

She handed me a book bag with a wide grin on her face.

“The five of us used to ditch middle school and come out here to shift.” Tyra told me, “We kept a bag of clothes out here for when we came back.”

I pulled the clothes from the book bag, my nose crinkling as I registered the smell of trash lingering on them.

“They’re not the best.” Tyra frowned, “And their at least three sizes too small, but it’s better than running around naked.”

I silently agreed with her and pulled some of the clothes out of the bag. I grabbed a t-shirt, hoping it would cover the important bits. It clung to me like a second skin but kept me covered. I was thankful a small pair of leggings sat in the bag. They were stretchy enough to fit me comfortably. Tyra looked nearly identical in her trash smelling clothes.

“I’m taking a nice long shower when this is all over.” Tyra rolled her eyes, yanking the hem of her t-shirt down.

“That makes two of us.” I nodded. I could care less about the shower; I just wanted this all to be over with.

We walked one more block in silence, pausing as we came to Tyra’s house. She ran to the door and shoved it open, barreling inside without sparing me a glance. I waited outside, tapping my foot impatiently. I could’ve gone on without her, but I was afraid.

“My brothers are there.” Tyra frowned, jogging down the steps. “I know I shouldn’t be worried, but I am.”

“I’m worried too.” I frowned, and together we continued running.

We could hear the snaps and snarls, see the wolves and rogues fighting for their lives.

We hid behind one of the buildings, gazing on at the horror before us. My blood turned cold at the number of lifeless wolves on the earthen floor. There was too much blood to discern if they were rogues or not. The Preschool was right across the street, only one hundred feet away from the slaughter.

Liam’s Dad was right, there were hundreds of them.

Rogues were easy to spot. They were unnaturally dirty, their fur coated with dry blood and entrails. Many of them preferred eating in their animal form, living in tents and small groups. They smelled like rotting flesh and looked the part. With this many rogues, it was hard to tell who was who.

I could easily spot Liam, taking down as many rogues as possible. Under the nearly blinding sun, his coat was the color of liquid gold. It reflected the harsh light, casting hues of gold along the battlefield.

While I was unaware the exact definition of war; I hoped this was the closest I would come to ever seeing one. When I pictured war, it was much different than the sight before me. I pictured two sides fighting against one another, an organized fighting that left you clear view of your opponent. True battle was much different than the books and movies. Unorganized chaos, spanning the length of the lower half of town. Tables and chairs were scattered to the wind, trampled and torn apart by rogue and wolf alike. There was no clear view on the enemy, just a cacophony of large fur-covered bodies thrashing for the upper hand.

“We need to cross.” Tyra kept her voice low, not that any rogues would notice.

Everyone else was focused on the fight, not the two teenage girls who crept across the road.

We slipped into the Preschool, surprised that the door wasn’t locked. The building was small, only able to hold thirty kids or so. It seemed the entire building had gone on lockdown. Kids were hiding under their desks, whimpering as they heard the fight going on outside.

The two teachers and three employees stood against the wall, each one peeking out the window to catch a glimpse. Fear was written on each of their faces. They too were surprised by the magnitude of this attack.

“We did what we could, but I don’t think we’ll make it from the building.” One of the teacher’s said, her voice shaking with fear.

“We crossed the street undetected; I don’t think their paying attention to us.” I shook my head.

“Not until our warriors are dead.” Tyra mumbled under her breath, wincing as I put my elbow into her side.

“I can’t put the kids in danger like that.” The teacher shook her head, her glasses nearly falling from her face.

“Do you have a back door?” I frowned, my eyes scanning the room.

“We do.” One of the older employee’s spoke up, her voice sounded a little calmer compared to the teacher. She had a fiery look in her eyes, ready to go down fighting.

I paused for a moment, trying to come up with some sort of solution. I was never the person to go to when something bad happened. My fight or flight response was broken. Instead of fight or flight, I would freeze. My body would stop working, everything shutting down except for my senses. I had frozen that time my Dad and I encountered a bear, only falling backwards when it growled.

“The backyards.” I murmured to myself and turned to the rest of the teachers.

“Take them out the back door.” I nodded, “Go through the residential backyards and don’t stop.”

“They’re too afraid.” The teacher shook her head, her sympathetic eyes glancing down at once of the crying children.

I had never felt a strong connection with children, but in this moment, I knew how they felt. I was afraid too, but something had to be done.

“I have a message from our future Alpha for all of you.” I leaned down and looked at the scared kids.

There was no contemplating whether this would work or not. If it didn’t work, the entire pack would be gone regardless. If it did work, a lot of children’s lives would be saved.

“Do you want to hear it?” I asked them, pleased when I got a few nods.

“He wants you all to be really brave. Can you do that?” I asked the kids.

Some of them nodded, while others wiped the tears from their eyes. A murmur of small voices urged me to continue.

“He needs us to leave the building but were going to have to be really sneaky.” I let my voice get low, “You think you guys are up for it?”

The kids looked unsure, but eventually they each nodded.

“We’re going to head through the backdoor.” Tyra spoke up for me, “We’ll go through some backyards and make our way to the center of town.”

“Everyone stand up and hold hands.” I nodded, mouthing ‘thank you’ to Tyra. My heart was hammering in my chest, praying to the Moon Goddess this fight didn’t end badly.

Judging from the snarls and snaps, nothing had changed outside. The fight was still going on. I had never experienced anything like this before. These were not the stories your parents would tell you. They were the horrible experiences you locked away and tried to forget.

“I’m going to follow them, make sure they get there safely.” Tyra frowned, her voice sounding sure.

“You don’t want to check up on your brothers?” I grimaced.

“They’re some of the best warriors in town.” Tyra looked pained. “If they can’t save themselves, what can I do?”

“I’m not coming.” I shook my head, “I need to make sure my Mom’s alright.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Rae.” Tyra frowned, “Liam would kill me if he knew I let you stay.”

“I’m sorry, but I can’t leave.” My body rejected the idea of staying, the fear battering me mercilessly. “I’ll keep my cell on the entire time. I’ll—I’ll call you when this all ends.”

“And if I don’t get a call?” Tyra frowned, knowing what the words implied.

“If you don’t hear from me—then you know what happened.” I sighed.

“If everyone makes it out of this, you better make sure Liam doesn’t kill me.” Tyra frowned, giving me a quick hug.

“I’ll make sure he doesn’t.” I chuckled humorlessly, “I’d hate for Nicki to get her hands on all your shoes.”

“Don’t put that thought in my head.” Tyra grumbled, gathering the kids together tightly.

“Keep an eye on your cell.” I reminded her, my stomach dropping as she herded the kids out the back door.

My hand twitched, itching to grab the book I had carried around for years. My Dad’s old poetry book was a source of comfort, alleviating some of my turmoil during the rough patches in life.

I stayed in the empty daycare for a few more minutes, my stomach a mix of nerves and bile. I was trying to be strong, to be brave. My own body rejected the idea, determined to live as a coward for the rest of our days. I had nearly passed out while talking to the children, my own body turning against me. Fear clouded my mind, overshadowing the image of my mother. How could someone be brave when their own body was fighting against them?

It only reminded me—I was not born brave. I had been weak my entire life. Why would that change?

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