Heir of the Alpha

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Chapter 8 - Not Alone

He stared at his reflection in disbelief. He couldn’t think, he couldn’t breathe. No....no, this couldn’t be possible. Things like this - they didn’t happen. There had to be a rational explanation for this - was he hallucinating? His head whipped around at the broken shards of pottery, vine-covered walls, and the near-darkness that encased his surroundings.

But no - nothing else had been changed. Only him. That was it. He had to get out of here - it was this place. It had done something to him.

Without thinking, he broke into a run, the sensation strange on his newfound paws. Oliver headed straight towards one of the large windows on the far side of the room. Putting all of the energy he could into the jump, he leaped into the air and burst through the window, shards of glass raining down onto the rain-soaked grass outside. The pressure of the fall he took full-force on his front paws and he winced at the feeling before taking off into the copse of trees that dotted either side of the road, hoping beyond all hope that it would lead him home.

The wind rushed into his face as Oliver tore through the dead leaves as fast his legs would allow, dodging fallen logs and the hanging moss of the trees above. He didn’t remember them looking this tall before but now, they were like skyscrapers towering high into the night sky.

As his mind struggled to come to terms over what had just happened to him, Oliver fought the oncoming tightness in his chest that signaled a panic attack. This wasn’t even possible....it couldn’t be. Things like this didn’t just happen - maybe in Teen Wolf or Harry Potter but not here, not in the real world. This wasn’t fantasy, it was reality. But Oliver couldn’t deny the rush of adrenaline coursing through his canine body at the sheer excitement of it all.

He had never felt this...free before. Like a heavy weight he never knew he had had just been lifted off his shoulders. But no, he would contemplate all of this later when he was safe - when he was home. His paws pounded the ground underneath him, rustling the leaves and twigs as he went. This had to have been the way he’d come - it looked right anyway. Surely...surely, this was the way...

But with every turn he took, Oliver kept finding himself even more lost - his cellphone of no use now, having long since been abandoned with his clothes after the transformation. He slowed to a stop then, knowing it was futile to keep on going with no destination in mind.

How in the world was he going to get home?

Just as these thoughts were racing through his head, a sound - the rustle of leaves, panting of several animals - pricked his ears. Wow, he could hear everything out hear! Even the cicadas up in the trees, making their very own rhythm. He didn’t have a chance to think all this over before a pack of wolves burst out from among the trees. His eyes widened in disbelief as he watched them run into the slight clearing in the woods. Feeling as if he had trespassed on something he shouldn’t have, Oliver hid behind some of the hanging Spanish moss, watching intently from his concealed space.

The wolves were large, some of them even larger than himself. Their fur ranged in varying vibrant shades and colors - beige, cocoa, scarlet, gold, even ebony like himself. Confusion and fear swirled inside him as they raced through the woods, kicking up mud behind their heavy paws as they went. Oliver hadn’t even heard of New Orleans being home to wolves - especially not the bayous and outlying woodland areas such as this.

There was one wolf in front who seemed to be leading the pack. It was older by the looks of it - there were tufts of gray mixed into the light brown of its fur - and the others followed it dutifully into the next copse of trees. All except one. A smaller, seemingly younger wolf whose eyes had locked on Oliver’s, even through the moss. The wolf’s fur was a coarse cocoa-brown, its gaze the same amber color as his own. Time seemed to freeze as neither he nor the wolf blinked, locked in a death stare with the other.

But for some reason, the wolf did not alert his pack. It seemed like the obvious option and Oliver prepped himself to bolt just in case. But it never came - no, instead the wolf broke his gaze and started after the others, who Oliver could just hear in the distance.

His heart pounded in his chest as minutes slowly ticked by until finally, the sound of racing wolves receded into nothingness - the only evidence they had ever been there that of the large paw prints imprinted in the muddy terrain. And slowly, ever so slowly, he let himself relax.

What was that? A pack? Out here in the bayou? Since when did wolves live in the swamp lands? Oliver had never heard of any of this before, not anything he’d ever read or saw on TV. Surely, it wasn’t possible? And yet...

Shaking his head from thoughts that couldn’t be explained, he turned his attention to a situation that needed his immediate attention. He was a wolf now - but what did that mean? Could he even go back home? Oliver doubted his mother would understand this. What could even be said? ‘Sorry, mom, I got lost and oh, by the way, I transformed into a wolf. Just thought you should know.’

No, that would never do. He couldn’t even speak in this form. Let alone explain his predicament. All of this was making his head hurt. There was no rhyme or reason as to why this happened to him so what good what it do to figure it out now? Furthermore, he didn’t know who he could go to for help or just how long this would last. Maybe he was stuck forever as a wolf...

With questions swirling in his head that evoked only more despair and confusion, Oliver turned around to glance up at the towering moss tree above him. This would have to do for the night. Sighing inwardly, he gingerly pawed at the leaves and bunched them up into a nest that he hoped would be comfortable enough. And as Oliver lied down in his newfound bed of leaves, just before the hypnotizing darkness of sleep overtook him, he couldn’t help but think that maybe, just maybe, he should never have left the house.

Or at least taken a map with him.

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