I have been close to death before. I have stared it in the face and won. Whether that was luck or fate or destiny is uncertain but I didn’t know that it happened then. This time is different. I see the white lights that so many people talk about. Like a magical gateway is opening just for me, to take me to the place that I’ll be safe and warm and happy. Far away from this nightmare.
The pain is gone and I am staring into a bright abyss of possibilities and endless choices. I can be whoever I want to be. Go wherever I want to go. I am fading with that beautiful promise of salvation.
I am dead. I am sure of it. I can even hear things talking to me. Soothing voices of angels and my ancestors. It is like music. There is so much peace. The fight is over. The struggle is gone. There is no blame or anger or guilt.
Whatever is meant for me, I do not go there, no matter how hard I try. Instead, my eyes snap open and I am confronted with Lyle’s sweaty and panicked face that hovers over me. He withdraws his hands from my chest as I take my first breath.
Did I just dream that?
“Thought you died for a minute then,” he mumbles. “You’re lucky that I know CPR. You must have had a bad reaction to the sedation.”
The pain is back. I start writhing on the bed, my cries turning into a captivating scream as the bones of my hand break. My insides are bubbling, I’m getting hotter and hotter. It’s like I’m in an oven, my flesh is being cooked. I’m burning alive.
“Stop screaming!” Lyle yells. “What is wrong with you?”
I compose myself just enough to look at him. He trembles backwards so quick that he stumbles over his own feet and meets the ground.
“Your eyes,” he says. “What is wrong with your eyes?”
There’s so much rage inside of me. I can’t contain it. I yank the restraints from the railing, freeing my wrists simultaneously. This new strength is empowering. Lyle backs away from me, crawling his way towards the door. I pause against the bed as my head starts to spin, as my stomach starts to twist and shape into something else.
How odd it is that suddenly he is the one attempting to escape. He runs at the door with the key in his hand, he gets as far as unlocking it before I push my hand at the door so forcefully that a bolt comes loose. Our eyes meet and he’s starting to figure out just how dangerous I am.
I grab on to his thick arms and I throw him across the room. I fall to my knees a second later, panting heavily as my chest stings. The pain is so intense. Every part of me is changing and morphing into something else.
“What are you?” he says as he backs up the wall.
I look up at the thin veil hanging around the bed. It is the same material that he used to tie my wrists. I pull it down and I hold it at both ends, tightening it into a weapon.
“No,” he mutters. “Please. I’ll do whatever you want. I’ll let you go. I’ll give you a new life. You never have to hear from me again.”
I approach him, stretching the material in my hands. “I told you no once. Did you listen to me?”
“I’m listening now. I’m sorry that I hurt you. Look, you’re burning up. You might be infected with some kind of virus or disease. I can have a doctor check you over.”
“How considerate of you.”
He isn’t wrong. I do have a fever, among many things. My concentration levels are dropping but this rage is the only thing that can quench the pain. As I get closer, I see my reflection in the window. My eyes are glowing a bright amber. The same colour that I saw in Thorn’s eyes when he transitioned.
I am turning into a wolf and I can’t stop it.
Lyle has exhausted his options. He tries a head on attack. He throws his head at my stomach and tackles me backwards. We fall to the floor and his legs tighten astride my waist. He places his hands around my throat and starts squeezing. I curl my hand around his wrist and I snap it. He screams and slides off me. The noise is different. The high-pitched vibration stings my ears. He clutches his wrist as he rocks on his knees.
“What the fuck are you?”
“Your worst nightmare.”
I place myself behind him and I throw the thin rope over his head, pulling it against his throat. I take deep breaths. It feels so good. It feels fucking amazing. He scratches at my hand, he tries to headbutt me and wriggle out of my hold.
The power is addictive. It rivets and moves inside of me like a worm. I can’t turn it off. I can’t stop this. It is claiming me—this powerful and beautiful change. So many changes. So much. I close my eyes, keeping a mighty hold on Lyle’s life. It is in my hands.
He would have killed me too. But my death would have been slower and a lot more painful. I’ve dreamed about this moment since the first time he touched me in that room, since I saw the smirk on his face that enjoyed my misery. My morality compels me to release him, to save myself from becoming like him, but this rage is too incredible. I don’t know what will be left of my humanity. I can’t feel it right now. I just know that relief outweighs regret.
“Thanks for bringing me back.”
I yank the material until I hear it slice into his throat. I push his lifeless corpse to the floor and I watch the blood pour out around his blue, puffy face. I take enjoyment in his demise for a few more seconds until it actually hits home that I’ve killed him.
I murdered someone. He might have deserved it but what does that make me? I back away from the body, crawling towards the corner of the bedroom. Why did taking a life feel so good?
I glare down at my nails that are growing into claws. My spine is next, it bends and makes my body curl forwards. It is the most painful thing I’ve ever felt in my life. I scream as I hold it, my hands bang into the wall to unleash some form of ease. Nothing makes a difference.
I don’t feel right in my own skin. I want to claw out of it. I can’t stand anymore. I crash down to my knees and I place my bony hands in front of me. That’s when I hear the door open. I roll onto my bent spine, squealing at the ceiling.
“Don’t come near me,” I cry to whoever is witnessing this. “Run.”
“Hey. It’s okay.”
I roll my head to the side, whimpering to myself as a fearless shadow ignores my warning and sits beside me. The fever is claiming me quickly but my eyes do not lie. They are sharp and alert. “Thorn?”
“The curse is broken.”
“What?” I whisper. I reach up and touch his cheek, we smile at each other. I cry out with both happiness and agony. “It’s broken?”
Is it really over? He’s free? We can be together. Properly together. My heart reacts positively to that sweet and unbelievable information.
“I killed you. I didn’t mean to. I’m so sorry.” He crashes his forehead into mine and I feel his tears against my skin. “I thought I’d lost you.”
“He brought me back,” I whisper. “My heart stopped and he brought me back. I thought I was dreaming.”
He looks afraid to ask me the next question, he swallows the lump in his throat and his lips almost tremble. “Did he…?”
I shake my head. His eyes brighten with profound relief. I clench on my teeth and I curl my fingers into his jacket. “Make it stop. Please.”
"I wish I could but the connection ended when you died. I'd take it from you in a heartbeat. I hate seeing you in pain."
I feel his hand around mine, tightening it with strength and courage. He’s really here. I can feel him. I take one look at Lyle and I start panicking. I shake my head as my lips tremble.
“I killed him. I’m a monster.”
“No,” Thorn says. “Listen to me. You are not a monster. You are the most selfless, kindest, bravest person that I’ve ever met. He deserved it. You were protecting yourself.”
I keep shaking my head. “I’m a murderer. I didn’t even hesitate. I liked it. If I’m not a monster then what am I?”
He smiles softly and pats over my wet hair. “You’re the clueless human in the wedding dress that I fell hopelessly in love with,” he says. “My mate. My home. You’re everything. We all have monsters inside of us but yours is the best kind. And I for one cannot wait to meet her.”
I lock with his green eyes and I fall into them helplessly. He presses his lips against mine and I close my eyes, savouring the moment that is making my mind clearer. He swipes me from the floor and holds me in his arms. I bury my face into his chest, my claws scraping against his shoulder.
He slams his foot into the glass window and it shatters instantly. I close my eyes as he bends us through it and drops three stories to the ground. I try to stay still but it’s impossible. Thorn has to place his hand over my mouth to stop me from screaming.
I’m starting to fall unconscious. I’m too human for a transition like this, whether it’s natural or not. I now know why they’re all obsessed with finding the cure. I can’t imagine having to go through this torture every night.
I start hitting against his chest and he just takes it. I don’t want to hurt him but I can’t control my reactions. I have no idea where are we but I can’t stay in his arms anymore. I struggle my way out of them. I drop to the ground. Thorn circles me slowly.
“We’ve got quite a bit to go,” he says. “Do you think you can make it?”
I throw up onto the leaves, emptying my entire stomach—or what’s left of it—onto the ground below me. I’m not wearing bottoms so my knees and legs are covered in dirt and sticks.
“The first transition can take up to two or three hours. We’re at least an hour away from the others. We need to keep moving.”
“Shut up,” I hiss. “You’re not helping.”
“I’ve been through this thousands of times.” He kneels down next to me, fearlessly holding my hair away as I vomit again. “It feels like it’ll never end but it does. The moment when you transition into a wolf, it’s so euphoric that the pain is forgotten.”
“I don’t want to be a wolf. I can’t go through this every night. I can’t.”
“You won’t. Your gene is activated through my transitions. That’s why I’m human right now. You took it from me. It’ll only happen when I open that gateway again.”
That should make me feel better but it doesn’t. We could share the transitioning. I could take his share of the pain to give him some form of his life back but that isn’t what he wants. I feel bad now. He wants to protect me but I can’t allow him to take the full burden. That’s a conversation for another time.
“Help me up.”
I use his shoulder for support as his hand holds my waist. The moment he touches it, my hip snaps. I rock sideways with a scream and he presses me against him. My hands fold around the back of his head. I cry into his chest.
“Devon, the gene is a part of you,” he says softly. “Your body was born for this. If you stop trying to fight it then it’ll be easier.”
“You sure about that? Because it gave me a heart attack.”
“Granted, that’s never happened before. But your senses are heightening every second. Listen.”
I turn my head and I smile as the beating of a pump thumps against his thick chest. “I can hear your heart.”
“That’s lovely but listen to everything else around you.”
I follow his instruction and I focus on the quiet woods around me. A human would only hear silence but my senses are picking up strange and mysterious sounds. I can hear tiny paws running and the wings of owls and birds flapping through the high trees. Somewhere to the east, I hear direct vibrations like white noise. It buzzes against my ear drums and relaxes my body.
In contrast to the hearing, I can smell things too. All kinds of things that I can’t place a direct image to. Thorn’s scent is stronger than when I was human. He has a distinct odour, part of it is lake water and the other part is beautiful, a mixture of berry and the freshest grass. I’m almost certain that I’d be able to follow that scent anywhere, that I’d find him no matter where he tried to hide.
These senses are overwhelming. Even the dirt smells. . . dirtier. The earth has a hollow and gross scent but the trees are layered with delicious and alluring pheromones.
“Focusing on my senses helped me through the first few months,” he says. “Disconnecting from your humanity will make it easier.”
“Accepting that I’m a werewolf will never be easy but. . . it worked. I feel more relaxed.”
“Hold on tight to me. I’m going to run fast. Are you ready?”
I smile as I press my nose into his throat. I cup my hands behind his neck and I nod. “I’m ready.”