Wolf's Lullaby

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The bestest boy

PHILIP

My vision blurred.

There were flickers of light and warmth growing stronger. Cold earth underneath my body soothing against the heat surrounding me. As my eyes adjusted, I saw a fire in the darkness. Flames licking at my skin, their touch scalding.

The forest shrouded in shadows that danced in the glimmer of flames around me stood intact. Drawing breath proved hard. Smoke burned my airways. Blistering claws tore at my rib cage from the inside, pushing, searing, tearing, trying to let it all out.

A painful growl climbed up my throat. The smell of blood filled my nose as my fingers dug deeper into my skin, turning crimson. The pain was excruciating, making me trash on the ground. Pulse erratic, thundering in my ears, head pounding, muscles aching, bones cracking.

Writhing in pain, a howl escaped my throat.

Close.

So close.

It reached for me.

Eyes glowing red between the trees, watching. A low growl sounded from their direction as it waited for the opportunity to rip me open.

And I would have let it, just so the pain would stop. I wanted to beg, to scream.

But I knew better.

I had to run.

So, I barely scrambled to my wobbly feet, swaying as I went. One… two… three… stumble… get up again. Dizzy, I walked a few steps more before a loud snarl sounded behind me. Warm breath fanned the back of my neck. My vision turned red. I saw the bright light of a full moon breaking through the branches.

I pushed forward, balls of my feet making divots into the ground. One… Two… Three… I picked up the speed.

The icy wind cooled my burning skin as I weaved my way through the sea of trees. The forest seemed never-ending.

I didn’t stop.

I couldn’t stop.

I couldn’t allow myself to stop again.

The burning subsided as I dived out from the shadows and stepped into the meadow filled with tall grass and red flowers. A sense of calm surrounded me, my pulse slowing down, throbbing in my head ceasing. Pain faded…

I knew this was it.

I was fine.

The worst had passed.

A breeze swept through, swaying strands of grass, lifting petals. The most intoxicating scent, sweet, familiar, filled the air. My whole body relaxed as I fell to the ground, unable to move a muscle as a voice whispered a song, lulling me to sleep.

I blinked awake.

“Hey, welcome back to the land of the living. We have freshly baked cookies.” A familiar husky voice said.

Squinting as the neon lights burned my eyes, I looked around. I was lying on a single bed, white walls around me. A familiar sight.

My eyes slid from the heavy silver door to an empty chair next to it. That old bastard wasn’t here. Not that it was any surprise.

“He had to go, but he was here Philip, he…” The look on my face stopped him from saying anything more. I didn’t want to hear it, so he just pursed his lips, unhooked the IV lines in my arms, and helped me up. “Luca got dragged by his old man two hours ago. The school complained about his attendance. It’s worse than yours and he has no excuse. Also, Lola gave you the all clear.”

My head was heavy, hell my whole body felt like a truck hit it and it was then run over by a bulldozer.

Great.

I looked at my wrists. They had thick burn marks from silver chains, nasty ones, slowly fading. The one on my neck still throbbed.

“Your healing is slower today… Was it worse than usual?” he asked, holding my hands and inspecting the fading marks with concern.

“I’m fine.” My voice was coarse, mouth dry. Stephan pulled a bottle of water from a backpack on a chair next to my bed, opened it, and handed it to me. I drank it like I hadn’t drunk in a week and I was still thirsty, so he handed me another one.

Stephan rummaged through the backpack for something and I caught the glimpse of a tail of a pearly scar underneath the sleeve of his t-shirt. I frowned, a giant knot tightened in my stomach. I didn’t have any recollection of it, but I knew I was the one who gave him that scar. It ran all over his upper back.

My first shift... he was too close.

Thankfully, he had great reflexes.

“Aha!” Stephan exclaimed gleefully as he pulled a bag full of what I assumed were chocolate chip cookies squished and crushed inside the backpack.

“A treat for the bestest boy!” he handed me the bag, grinning, then petted me on the head.

I snorted, shaking my head.

Idiot.

“Thanks… for everything,” I uttered, pulling a piece of crushed cookie and tossing it into my mouth. Thanks didn’t even come close to how grateful I was. I’ve known him since I was five. We grew up together. Though older than us by four years, Stephan was the biggest child. Restless, always pulling some shit to get us in trouble but, then bailing us out of it too.

He would work us at training like a psychopath punishing us for the shit he made us do. He named himself the father of our group and has been a twisted weirdo ever since. Said we learned valuable lessons, through his various pranks and stunts, thus we were one step closer to become decent werewolves when we grow up.

His personality was ripe for a detailed psychological analysis, but he always had both mine and Luca’s back. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Not that I would ever tell the idiot that but, I was convinced he knew. There was no need to add more fuel to his crazy.

“Aw, my little boy caught manners.” Stephan cooed in a baby voice, hugging me and rubbing his scruffy face against my cheek.

As the goosebumps formed all over my skin at the sound, I frowned and grabbed his face with a palm of my hand, pushing him away. “Crackpot be gone!” I shouted with a half-smile.

“Come on, let’s get you out of here. You need rest.” Putting one of my arms around his shoulders, then steadying me by placing his hand on my waist, he walked me out of the cellar of my house.

It was early in the morning. The air was chill, and I shivered as my whole body was covered in sweat. I was in a dire need of a warm shower, but I couldn’t do shit. We walked to my room, and he sat me on my bed.

“Wanna eat something, like those colorful loopy things you like in your milk?” he asked.

“You can say fruit loops, the world won’t collapse if you act normal for a second.” I needed lots of sugar after these episodes.

“Psh, why be normal when you can be fun!”

“And no, I’m not hungry, thank you.”

“Ah!” he yelled, clasping his hands together like he just remembered something.

“What?” “I think I ate some food coloring today!”

“So?” The moment the question left my mouth, I regretted it.

“I think I’m dyeing inside.” he whisper-yelled.

Silence. I thought I heard a few crickets as I looked at him, unimpressed. I lifted my index finger. “One more. You have one more slot for today. Use it wisely.”

Stephan used to bombard Luca and me with random dad jokes so, before we stuffed him in the ground somewhere in a led box, we made an agreement. He had two slots a day. Two jokes a day.

He laughed, stretching and yawning. He looked tired. Did he even sleep?

Crap.

“Are you going to the shop?” I asked.

“Hmm… Nah, not yet. I gave the old man a note. I’ll come a bit later.”

“You look worse than me. You can crash here.”

“Boy, did you even see yourself? No way do I look half as crappy as you do.”

“Shut up! Go sleep in the living room!”

Gasping dramatically, he placed one of his palms over his lips and the other over his heart. “Why I thought we could cuddle?!”

“In your dreams. You are not my type.” I stretched on my bed, arms behind my head.

“Oh, so you have a type, wanna share?” He wiggled his eyebrows at me.

For a split second, a flash of a certain petite, rambling girl with brown hair crossed my mind but, I quickly filed that away. “No. Go to sleep!” I said, closing my eyes.

“Such a tease. Nighty night!” He closed the door behind him.

I was exhausted, yet I couldn’t sleep at all. So, I stared at my ceiling, counting sheep until I drifted off sometime later.

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