Thorn (Werewolf)

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Chapter Twenty-One

I rub my bloated stomach and I pick boiled plants out of my teeth while Thorn extracts the large quilt from my bed and folds it out onto the ground. I don’t know what he’s doing. Maybe he’s broken.

The sun has set and he’s starting to act strange. Well, stranger than normal. He keeps stumbling as though he’s drunk. I think I can hear him hissing too. His hand suddenly moves upwards and he lets out a low growl before tucking it beneath his shirt.

“Thorn,” I call.

I stand up nervously. He keeps his back to me even though he can hear me walking over. I’m worried about him but he won’t let me near him. He waits until I’m closer and then moves further away. Something snaps in his legs and he flops to his knees.

“What’s going on?” I demand as I run to his side. “What’s happening to you?”

“Get away from me.”

“No, you’re in pain. I don’t understand!”

“Devon, I don’t want to hurt you. Get the fuck away from me.” His eyes glow yellow when they look at me.

I stumble backwards, transfixed by those eyes. The eyes that are suddenly not his, not even human. Thorn has green eyes. I’ve looked into them enough to memorize the colour. Everything about this is impossible and terrifying and yet I can’t stop watching.

“I told you not to intervene,” he says. “Just watch.”

Thorn looks down to his hands that are starting to change. My own hands rise up without conscious thought. They become bigger and longer. The bones start breaking, my nails grow into sharp claws. I start screaming as I back away.

“How are you doing that!” I yell.

“I’m not doing anything,” he says. “What are you looking at?”

“My hands,” I cry. “They’re changing.”

“Your hands are not changing,” he says. “Mine are. Look at me.”

I pant in confusion as I turn my hands over. They’re back to normal. No claws or broken bones. Did I imagine it? I look over to Thorn and he’s smiling at me while his face leaks with sweat.

I blink and I am no longer looking at him. I am looking at myself from the same amount of distance that Thorn is. My body paralyzes with fear as I watch myself look back. It is a strange and mind-bending sensation, as though my soul has left my body and is possessing another vessel.

It vanishes a moment later when Thorn drags his shirt over his head slowly. I am blinded momentarily.

I keep blinking and rubbing my eyes until I can see Thorn clearly.

“What is happening to me!”

“I am so sorry,” Thorn says, almost on the verge of laughter. “I completely forgot that this part of the bond existed. It’s been a while. I’ll try not to look at you so you don’t freak out.” He snaps his head up. “Let’s look at a tree. That’s a nice tree.”

Thorn vanishes from my sight and I am on the ground, looking up at a tree. I panic so much that I fall backwards. I feel my backside collide with the leaves but all I can see is that tree. I rub my eyes again as my vision returns back to me.

Thorn cries out as he writhes on the floor. I stare at his hands that are claws. The exact ones that I just saw attached to myself. I want to help him but I am too afraid. Hair starts to grow all over his body. It covers his whole torso until there is no skin left. His legs grow so big that they rip through his pants.

I’ve seen doctors help people in pain before. There’s always something you can do. What the hell do I do with this?

My mind starts to split. My own insanity creeps into it.

“Should I get you some painkillers?” My eyes widen, my voice is numb and unrecognizable.

Thorn isn’t Thorn anymore. I don’t know what Thorn is but he isn’t Thorn. The noise that comes out of him is half-laughter and half-howling.

Until it’s just howling.

Howling.

“I could get you some painkillers,” I whisper.

The wolf shakes its body and stands like a giant on all fours. I twist my head until I almost snap my neck. I look down to the ground and I try to make the comparison between Thorn’s ripped pants, his shirt, his shoes, and this beast in front of me.

The comparison exists in my mind for around four seconds before I fall backwards and pass out.

+ + +

I wake up in a panic from another nightmare. I observe my hands carefully before patting down my body. I’m outside the camp. I turn my head at the soft quilt beneath me before I look around. It’s morning, the fire has died out, and I can’t remember ever going to sleep.

“I knew you’d pass out,” Thorn says as he sharpens a blade on the log. “You woke up a few minutes after but then you fell straight to sleep.”

I blink at him. Something stings around my ankle. I pull open the piece of cloth that he’s tied around it, my eyes widening at the small wound that has dried blood around it.

“I nipped you a little when I was pulling you onto the quilt,” he says. “Sorry.”

There are certain images ingrained into my memories. Images that I cannot block or disregard. I’m not sure what was real and what was a dream. I don’t move or breathe as I try to make sense of nothing and everything.

“Devon,” Thorn says. “Do you want to talk about it?”

I don’t look at him as I stand up and walk up the steps. My mind is throbbing like I’ve got a hangover. I pick up a bottle of water and I tip it into my throat. I change my clothes and I wash my face with the water from the bowl on the table.

He is still sitting in the same position when I walk down. I almost go in his direction, and he looks up with anticipation, but then I change my mind and I walk away towards the trees. I squat to pee and then I start heading towards the lake.

I sit in the grass next to it. I can’t face him. I can’t even look at him. All I see now is hair, claws and those freakish yellow eyes. What if it was a dream? I know it wasn’t but what if it was?

It was just a dream that felt very, very, very. . . very real.

I start thinking about every single night since I’ve been here. I have never seen Thorn at night. Even before I knew that he existed, it was always the wolf. It was always that wolf. The wolf that knew to check how much water was left in my bottle and the same wolf that guided me towards shelter. The wolf that put himself between me and a bullet, that killed Lyle’s men to protect me.

It was Thorn all along. He is the wolf.

No, no, no. No!

It can’t be. I have never heard of such things. But it all adds up. It all makes sense. He isn’t crazy. He really isn’t human.

“I’m not much of a mind reader but I can imagine your thoughts are anything but calm right now.” Thorn slowly walks beside me. “Can I join you?”

I hug my knees to my chest as he sits anyway.

“Can’t even look at me, can you?” He chuckles to himself. “Are you afraid?”

“Wouldn’t you be?” I whisper.

“You have nothing to be afraid of. I’m in complete control when I’m a wolf. It’s only during the transition when it’s dangerous to be near me.”

I cringe at the word ‘transition.’ I remember his bones breaking, his legs growing so big that they burst through his clothes. I remember the sweat leaking from his skin and the cries that he was trying hard to keep concealed.

“You’re in complete control?” I say. “So you don’t hurt humans?”

“You mean hunt?”

I nod nervously.

“No,” he says. “There’s been debate among my kind about the ethics of it and most of us agree that it’s still cannibalism.”

I stare at him as he grins at me. I laugh lightly because I can’t help it and he laughs along.

“How are you…?” I look over his face and I catch my breath. “Is it the curse?”

“I wish it could be that simple,” he says. “No, I was born this way. The wolf gene isn’t triggered until we see one our own kind in transition. It’s like a chemical reaction. I transitioned for the first time when I was ten. Parents try and hide their young from it as long as they can but I snuck out and saw them. Since then, I’ve transitioned every single night.”

He twists his head slightly as he studies me. He breathes in my scent and confusion flashes in his eyes.

“I thought that maybe if you saw me transition then it would trigger something in you,” he says. “It’s in you. I can smell that it’s in you. I just don’t know how to bring it out.”

“Bring what out?” I say. “What are you talking about?”

“You are descended from my kind,” he says. “The leader that I killed, he was the leader of a powerful pack, like mine. Wolf genes are so strong that they don’t skip generations or phase out. Only faulty genes would suppress it.” He places a hand to my face and searches for something in my eyes. “Like the gene of a witch.”

“Thorn,” I mutter. “Not this again. Are you suggesting that I’m a wolf?”

“You are definitely not a wolf,” he says. “You would have turned last night if you were.”

I narrow my eyes. “You were testing me?”

“A little.”

“Wait, I remember something,” I say. “I could see. . . my hands were. . .” I stare down at them.

I blink harshly. My hands were like his, they were changing into an animal. And I could see things that weren’t in front of me, including myself. It was like I was looking through his eyes. Oh no, what if he’s right? What if I am a wolf? The transition caused really strange things to happen.

“I saw through your eyes,” I whisper. “Is that what happens?”

He smiles. “No. That’s got nothing to do with a first-time trigger of the gene. That was the product of something else.”

“What?”

“If you have to ask then you really aren’t a wolf,” he sighs. “All you need to know is that when our eyes met during my transition, a type of connection formed. Every time I transition now, you are going to see what I see.”

Every time?”

“Yeah.” He pops his lips and grins. “It’s annoying at first but over time it gets easier to control. It's so interesting and confusing that the wolf gene allowed you to experience that but yet you can't fully transition. You should have listened to me and stayed away.”

“I’m already beating myself up,” I mutter. “Why does it only happen at night? Can’t you stop it?”

“I tried to go back in time once and ask the first wolf why it only happens at night but I got tired halfway,” he says. I scowl at him before I nudge his shoulder. He laughs out. “I don’t know why. No one knows why. I can’t transition into a wolf willingly in the day and I can’t turn back into a human until the sun rises. It’s like that for all of my kind.”

“And I just thought you were a crazy loner.”

“I am.”

I smile. His eyes meet mine and the heat returns to my stomach. He’s different somehow. He seems smaller, like me knowing this information is causing him vulnerability. He pushes his knees to his chest and holds them with one arm while his left hand lays at his side.

My fingers tap against the ground as my hand moves closer to his. I rest it on top of his warm skin and our fingers entwine instinctively. I just want to show him that he’s not alone anymore, like he did for me.

There are still a lot of things that I’m eager to know. I want to know more about his family and the community that helped nurse me back to health. I want to know more about the mountain people and their leader, and why Thorn killed him. I have already worked out that they are like him and it makes me feel nervous to think about how many creatures like that are running around at night so close to me.

I have so many questions but I’m afraid of the answers. I’m terrified of finding out what I truly am and what my role is with breaking the curse.

I’m suddenly not so sure that me running into these woods that day was a momentary decision or accident. What are the odds that I would stumble into his life like this? Maybe I was drawn here unconsciously by something else—something hidden and powerful.

Something that wanted us to find each other.

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