❝Not all who wander are lost.❞
My whereabouts were unknown to my consciousness. The path of how I arrived to my direction now, was nothing more than a blank slate, unsure of how I survived conjuring among the void in my mind. I couldn’t remember much of anything besides a flash of images. The shock that courses through my veins prevented my mind from reeling back to the previous events, I wasn’t able to think but feel.
I felt cold. The air that spiraled around me pricked at my skin, the sensation of pins-and-needles coating every inch of my body as frigid air took its home in my system luring me down the path to hyperthermia. My wet clothes were like lead as they slowed my pace, my feet dragging with no destination, the images of how I have become wet wedging no familiarity inside me.
My shoes crunch the snow in my path as the wind blows harshly against me, violent tremors rack my body, the temperature in the atmosphere dropping lower as the sun sinks below the horizon; taking the light of day with it.
The throbbing in my side was now a numb ache, the blood long dried on my skin. I limp my way through trees and over dead snow-covered branches, not sure where I’m headed or where I will end up. Minutes crawl by and I can barely push myself further to walk, my hands are frozen to the tip and my legs burn from exhaustion.
The world swayed and I fell to my knees, the snow biting at my skin to the point it felt like needles stabbing at me repeatedly, puffing out heavy breaths as my energy began to disappear like a flame in the wind.
My hand slams into the ground to keep my body upright, my vision swimming. A howl in the distance floats into the air and carrying to my position, shaking me to the core. A part of me knew I was close to danger and if I didn’t value my life I needed to be getting a move on, now.
My body denied me as my arm gave way under my body weight, falling to my side into the blistering snow, dead to the world; another howl slicing through the air. My heart beats an uneven rhythm on my ribcage, my body aware of the danger close by. My vision blurred the surrounding objects, nothing clear to me, but the feeling of me becoming numb from the ferocious cold that wanted to drag me with it and into the wind; it was slowly getting its wish.
As my consciousness slipped with each passing second, another howl pierced the heavens soon followed by a guttural growl, this time much closer than before. Rustling leaves grabbed my attention off to the side as I sluggishly turned my head, deep in the bushes, yellow eyes glared at me burning its way into my soul; a place I couldn’t tear my eyes away. The world darkens and the last thing within my sight were those potent yellow eyes.
I woke in and out of consciousness and every time it felt like I was swaying in the air, the feeling of weightlessness registering in the back of my mind. This time my eyes peeled back slightly, enough for me to gaze upward at the sky, tree leaves blocked my few from studying the sky completely; it was a baby blue as the sun rose. The world still swayed and moved from side to side, the shadow of the bare branches passing over my face, it was then I realized the pulsing heat beneath my body that surrounded me. My energy hasn’t yet restored but that didn’t stop me from turning my head to investigate.
A weird tingling sensation filled my body from the tip of my toes to the top of my head, it maneuvered its way to my heart and through my veins leaving my form warm and fuzzy and thoughts slightly scattered; any discomfort I felt vanished into thin air, the most heat coming from someplace on my side. I barely felt the wind that still blew harshly.
A wide chest male greeted my drowsy gaze, expanding as the male breathes in deeply and calmly before releasing, bulging muscles of the arms confirmed my thoughts of the pleasurable heat under my back and shoulders. And so my gaze slips up along the path, the sun’s angle created shadows of branches on the tanned bare chest; I lifted my eyes to travel up the length of his sturdy neck and to the man’s face.
My vision cleared enough to see a chiseled jawline that leads up to a chin covered in hair that surrounded full, plump lips, I then slide my gaze up and stare at the slender nose that seemed a bit crooked. Nauseousness slammed into me the same time exhaustion made its presence known, squeezing my eyes tightly, I snapped them open and collide gazes with dark eyes that glinted in the morning light.
The world seemed to stop swaying and the wind was non-existent on my skin, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the ones that burned into mine, taking my breath away and filling my lungs with a mouthwatering scent that encased me inside it’s caccoon. The nameless man held my gaze, glaring down at me with dilated pupils before his lips parted to utter one word.
“Sleep. . .”
And that I did with no hesitation.
The next time I woke up it was to the feel of being overheated. My eyelids drifted upward, blurs of objects immediately filling my vision with a few blinks everything cleared, my eyes shifted down to see that I’m covered in a thick blanket that looks a lot like an animal’s fur; with a throbbing in my temple I move my eyes around the room to take in my surroundings, the walls looked like oversized tree barks pushed together, there were small patches of leaves growing out of the wall. The earthy smell in the room made me feel as if I was out in nature, where the trees stood tall and strong and shadowed me under their leaves as the wind mingled the different scents.
The bed beneath felt soft to my sore taut muscles that protested with the small movements I did.
I licked my dry, cracked lips as I slowly pushed myself upward, looking around the unfamiliar room. I hissed out a breath when a zap of pain catches my attention to my side, gazing down, I lift my shirt to see a white bandage wrapped around my torso; one particular spot tinged red. I release a deep breath and slip out the bed as slow as my sore body would let me and to the only exit in the room. The wooden door was made out of twigs and smaller logs, though I still felt the frigid air through the small cracks and distant noise of chattering voices and body movements.
With shaking limbs, I pull the door open and was greeted with a vast wonderland of snow that cloaked the ground and tree leaves in the distance, but my eyes fixated on the people that were casually sitting and chatting away on logs that positioned around a fire; of all ages these. Some off in the distance in their own group, as if feeling my gaze on them, a man turns his eyes towards me and slowly everyone else followed.
The noise in the clearing died down and everyone had their eyes on me like I was an alien from another planet.
A movement off to the side flickers in peripheral vision, catching my attention over to see a shirtless man, with a broad shoulder and wide chest with small hairs splayed across his golden skin walking in my direction. His face was carefree and calm as he stared straight at me, his form growing larger with the decreasing distance between us.
I take a step back, pushing myself further into the small room when the man towers over me from the doorway. He doesn’t speak, he just stares while analyzing me with his sharp brown eyes.
“I see you’re finally awake,” he speaks, voice deep and rumbling through my body.
I just stare up at him, no words forming. I look over his shoulder to see another man — an inch or two smaller than the one in front of me— in the same condition as the man towering over my form, no shirt, and just pants. The man in front of me follows my gaze and looks over his shoulder.
“This her?” the other man speaks as he walks closer, stopping slightly behind the man.
“Yeah,” the first man answers, his gaze finding mines once more. ”Περιμένετε έξω από την πόρτα μέχρι να τελειώσω.”
Wait outside the door until I finish.
The second man’s eyes flicker toward me and back. ”εντάξει.” he speaks before turning and moving off to the side, where he stood posted.
My eyes widen at the foreign language spoken between the two and further widen when I not only understood what they both said but never heard or learned the language. I step back when the man takes a step forward and continued that way until we’re both fully inside the small room with the door closed and away from prying eyes.
“I bet you’re confused as to why you’re here,” he starts off, watching me cautiously, standing in the middle of the room.
I nod, stepping back as he moved toward the bed I woken up in, the multiple sheets were still crumpled in a heap, with slight movements he arranged them and sat at the end of the bed while staring at me.
“My name is Marcus and one of my people found you nearly frozen to death in the snow and brought you back here.” he tells me, his eyes analyzing me, “Your clothes were wet and we tried our best to dry them so you wouldn’t catch hypothermia or frostbites.”
I look down at the clothes I wore, jeans and pants to see that they were wrinkled and still had a few wet spots here and there, the cold air that drifted into the room from the door made my toes curl from the coldness as I glanced at my bare feet, my body finally registering that it was cold and I looked back to the man. He must have been reading my facial features as he yanked a blanket from the bed and handed it to me.
I hesitated to grab it.
The smallest of smiles sported Marcus’s face. “Don’t worry, I don’t bite.” there was hidden humor in his eyes as he still held the blanket out to me.
“Whe. . . where am I?” I croaked out while stepping forward and taking the blanket from his fingers.
“Deep inside Gifford Pinchot National Forest.” he responds, “Where no human can travel, yet, here you are.”
I frown, “What do you mean? Who are you, people? Why are guys dressed like that?” the questions that have been begging to be released now finally flow out of my mouth like a river.
“I guess you don’t know,” Marcus pauses, crossing his muscled arms over his bare chest. “My people and I are Lycanthropes.”
My heart is practically beating out of my chest, drumming to a song of its own. Cold chills began to cover my arms despite the blanket over my shoulder and I knew that it was because of the temperature. Marcus continued to look at me, tilting his head as a dog would do.
“What are you talking about?” my voice quivered and I took a small step back, to the door when the level of my confusion and uncomfortableness reached an all-time high.
“Let me show you.”
Arms falling to his side, small growls begin to rise from his chest in a slow tempo as his fingers curl and his nails grow out; his face begins to shift, stretching and elongating into a snout. His eyes take on a bright yellow glow that reminds me of the yellow ball of fire in the sky, something starts to peek from his bottom and top lip. When he parts his mouth, I was greeted with the sight of weapons that only animals would need for survival, sharp canines that lengthen and glint with intentions.
My wide eyes took in every detail presented to me, the small bubble that seemed to grow from the beginning of his transformation burst as it traveled up my throat and out my mouth.