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After forever, p.21
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       After Forever, p.21

           Krystal George
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The forest floor flew beneath me as I quickly made my way through the woods. There was no one around to hear me so I wasn’t cautious as I drifted through the familiar surroundings. My brain was working in overdrive. Too much had happened for me to believe it wasn’t him. But why? That was the question eating away at me now. After all of this time, why had he chosen now?

  My heart was hammering in my chest; beating too rapidly for comfort. It was making my vision blur… making it hard for me to see anything but red as I made my way to the spot I was looking for. As if going there would make anything easier. As if I didn’t already have all of the answers that I needed.

  A cry escaped my hoarse throat and I whimpered softly as I finally emerged into the clearing. It was empty. Just as I had suspected it would be. My heart broke all over again. No one was coming then. The tides had changed and I was on my own. Blue eyes flashed before my eyes and I thought, “Not alone… I still had him.” Nathan Smalls.

  I let emotions rush through me. There was something about him. Something that had kept my eyes on him for as long as I could remember. If only he had realized I had been there, watching… waiting. Maybe things could have been different. I had to trust him now though. My grandma would have wanted that.

  With that thought held securely in my mind, I retreated back the way I had come; more careful this time in case I was wrong and I wasn’t alone… in case I was being watched.

  It was going to be a long night. Where the hell had she gone? Of course, it’s my fault that she’s missing and I’m left with two words ringing in my ears. FIND HER!

  Yeah… yeah, I thought irritably. If only Sherriff McNaley knew how badly I wanted to find her, maybe I wouldn’t be feeling his disgusted stare boring into the back of my head. Only I couldn’t tell him that I needed to find her because she said she was there when my dad died. That would just sound crazy. Everything else about this night was crazy enough, I didn’t need his radar trained my way.

  That was why, even though Brandon had claimed there was something in the woods, I was still walking far back behind the house with my flashlight in hand. I knew I wasn’t going to find her. She had disappeared right under our noses. If she had wanted to get away that badly, I doubted she was going to be easy to find. Still… I had to try. If nothing else, it gave me some room to breath away from all the action.

  The woods were eerily silent. Not the peaceful, nightly silent, but the silence that was missing the normal sounds of the woods. No birds chirping, no animals rustling in the brush, no scampering of the night creatures. Nothing but silence. The hair on my arms began to stand on end and a nervous knot began forming in the pit of my stomach; like a rock, complete with jagged edges that were causing all sorts of pangs and aches to run through me.

  A snap to the left of me had me spinning on my heel. Because the forest was so eerily silent, that one sound was like a shot gun going off. “Who’s there?” I shouted. More silence. Then another snap but to the right this time. I spun that way. “Hello? This isn’t funny.”

  Then, as if just waiting for me to say something, I began to hear laughter. Not the normal, human, tinkling laughter, but a hoarser scary version of a laugh. It took everything inside of me, all of my police training along with growing up with my father to stand my ground. It wasn’t easy. Not when everything inside of me was screaming for me to run. I had to face this. It was my job to face this.

  “Who’s out there?” I asked again.

  “You shouldn’t be here.”

  “Talia?” When I turned at the statement, it was to face my sister. Only she seemed… different. There was something wrong with her face. It almost seemed like her features were stretched, like she was standing in front of an abstract mirror in a fun house. Only she wasn’t. Her eyes seemed huge… too big for her face.

  She rolled her neck and I could hear the bones cracking inside it. “You shouldn’t be here,” she said again.

  She was younger than me, and I was more concerned about her safety out there than with her purpose for being out here. “Does mom know where you are?”

  She laughed then. That hideous hoarse laughter that wasn’t at all like the laugh I was used to from her. Then she placed one finger in front of her lips and I gasped in horror. “Shh… someone might find us,” she said before laughing again.

  I couldn’t stop looking at her finger, her hand, her arm, then back to her finger. It was longer and thicker. It was covered in a hair that from this distance looked coarse and thick. But it wasn’t those things that really had me worried. It was the razor sharp claw like nail that was protruding from it.

  “Talia, it’s late and it’s not safe out here. Let me get you home.”

  She shook her head exaggeratingly slow. “I think I’m right where I should be.”

  She smiled then and her teeth were white in the darkness and big… too big… and sharp… too sharp. I felt sick to my stomach. I was shockingly close to losing what little food I had in my system. This was my sister; my baby sister. Sure we hadn’t been super close since our dad died, but hell, we had lived through a traumatic experience. It had been expected to force some distance between us. Especially because while I had been heartbroken over it, she had gone on with her life like nothing had even happened. I had resented her for that… but I had never seen her like this.

  “What’s wrong with you?” I whispered.

  She walked closer and I noticed that her clothes were covered in blood. I could smell it on her. As she drew nearer, I could see it smeared on every exposed surface of her body. As she watched me watch her, her tongue whipped out and she licked at a smudge close to her mouth. My stomach heaved and I felt myself dropping to my knees. I knew I had to get out of there, but this was my sister. She wasn’t a monster… was she?

  “Leave him alone Talia.”

  It was her.

  Talia growled and threw her head back causing more bones to crack, more distortion to her face. “He is mine Micha.”

  She stood her ground.

  “He is your brother, not some pet to play with… not another meal.”

  I stood up and back a few steps away from them. “What is going on here?”

  “It’s simple really,” Sheriff McNaley said as he walked toward us, “this monster killed her own grandmother.”

  My eyes flew to the girl and I watched as she flinched and then clenched her fists. “He’s lying,” she said through her teeth.

  “Tell him, Talia, tell your brother what happened.”

  Talia had begun to whine when the sheriff walked up and now she was on her knees and twitching strangely. “Yes… she killed her grandma.” She began licking at her grotesque arm and I realized she was cleaning herself.

  “I don’t understand.” It was all I could say because this was crazy. Everything happening, everything I was seeing, it was all crazy. Something from a nightmare. Something that wasn’t real.

  “Your sister isn’t what she seems, Nate,” the girl said. “Neither is the sheriff.” She spat out the last word as if it was poison.

  McNaley laughed. “She’s talking nonsense. This boy has known me his entire life, he knows who I am.”

  “Why should I believe you?” I asked her softly.

  She turned to me and there was such sadness in her eyes that I had to catch my breath. “Because he said you know who he is, not what he is.” She turned away and looked pointedly at both Talia and the sheriff. “You don’t know what we all are.”

  Then, as if on cue, the clouds shifted and silvery moonlight spilled down into the forest. All three bodies began to twitch and transform in front of me. Wiry hair sprouted from their skin, eyes grew larger, feet and hands turned into paws with claws extending from them, and before I knew it, I was looking into the faces of three very large and very pissed off wolves.

  I had to protect what was mine. He may not realize it yet, but we were destined to be together. I felt it in t
he depths of my soul and I would not fail to kill any who stand against us.

  A growl worked its way out of my chest and into the night. I faced my adversaries with my head held high and ready to do some damage. Nate fell to the ground and then scooted backwards, his eyes large and unbelieving. He didn’t want to believe what he was seeing, but he would. He would have to.

  Talia was weak and backed away from me. She only liked to pray on those who were helpless. If I were in my human state, as my grandmother was, she wouldn’t think twice before devouring me. But as an equal, in a state that had been a part of me for far longer than it had her, she was no match. And she knew it.

  McNaley was brave. I am sure that he had eaten my grandmother’s heart which made him believe he was stronger than me; more powerful. But he was wrong. He didn’t know the truth. The secret that my grandmother had protected for all of these years was mine alone. And now they would pay for what they’ve done.

  The animals moved so quickly it was hard to see what was going on. Growls and howls filled the night air with terror and sweat broke out all over my body. Pure adrenaline pushed me to my feet. Pure fear and self-preservation got me out of the line of fire. And pure instinct had me pulling my gun from its holster.

  The one who I thought was Talia seemed to be trying to stay out of the fight. Instead she focused her beastly eyes on me and bared her teeth as if warning me not to flee or she’d kill me. My mind was having a hard time accepting that this was my sister, but my eyes were playing back the scene in which she had transformed, forcing me to believe what I had seen or admit that I had gone crazy.

  The other two were tearing at each other. Teeth were scraping against teeth and skin was being torn open with furious cries and screams as claws raked across flesh. There was a tangy aroma in the air. Blood mixed with fear and the distinctive smell of wet and mangy dog.

  I wanted to take aim and shoot. I wanted to feel in control of a situation that there was no controlling. But who did I aim for? Sheriff McNaley who had been a part of my life since birth, or a girl who claimed that there was more to the story of my father’s death? I didn’t want to believe that Talia was a part of something so monstrous, but I had seen the blood on her with my own two eyes. Did that mean she had killed the girl’s grandma? Or was there some other explanation?

  Sensing my hesitation with the gun in my hand, the beast that had been Talia charged at me. I was a fast runner, but I was no match for her and she was on me in seconds. My gun went sailing through the air and landed a few feet away from us. I pushed at her massive chest with all my strength, trying to avoid getting ripped to shreds by the teeth that were snapping at me.

  To my immense surprise, I succeeded and she hit the ground with a hard thud. I didn’t stop to think about what I was doing. I lunged for the gun and had just felt the cool steel with my fingers when I felt those teeth close around my ankle. Talia dragged me backwards toward her and ripped at the fabric concealing the tender flesh of my calf. I kicked back at her with my free feet and had a brief respite where I was able to at least turn over and pull myself into a sitting position.

  Then she was on me again, pushing on my chest so that my back struck the ground with a jarring crack. Saliva dripped onto my chest and she leaned her bloody muzzle toward my face, hot rancid breath tickled my cheek and I gripped the gun harder. She hadn’t noticed that I had it. I just needed to get my arm out from under her weight and I would be free. I couldn’t let the fact that I believed she was my sister stop me from realizing she was a beast.

  She smiled a wolfy grin then, a sight so hideous that I knew it would haunt my nightmares for years to come. Blood mixed with saliva and stained her white teeth where they met her gums. I imagined that I could see torn flesh left in her mouth, but I closed my eyes against the image. If I was going to die, I would die fighting. With what was left of my strength, I dug my heels into the ground and pushed upwards with my body.

  It worked. I threw her off balance just enough to free my arm and aim the gun at her chest. I watched her eyes as they grew even larger with recognition, then I fired. Instead of the dead weight of a body falling on my chest, I was suddenly free. Another wolf, I wasn’t sure if it was the Sheriff or the girl, had barreled into Talia just as the gun went off, hurling both of their bodies into the truck of a tree with a sickening crunch.

  I pulled myself up to my feet, but limped unsteadily toward the broken bodies on my injured ankle. It was like I was watching something magical take place, some sort of movie special effects. Before my eyes, the bodies of the wolves began to transform. Talia’s features stretched out and then began to shrink back to their normal shape. Her body twitched and jerked as her spine straightened out and her limbs began to look human again. Then she was still.

  Shaking, I knelt down beside her naked body and checked for a pulse. It was weak, but it was there. I sighed in relief and began assessing her body for more damages, namely the gunshot wound that I was sure I had inflicted. But other than bruises and a few scrapes and cuts, she was fine. Her breathing was returning to normal and for all I could tell, it looked like she was sleeping.

  Then I heard a soft whimpering a little farther away and I hobbled over to the source. The girl was lying naked on her side. She was in worse condition than Talia, but she was conscious and weeping from the pain. Her body was bruised and bloody. Teeth and claw marks sliced through the pale skin and oozed blood. I gasped and kneeled beside her when I realized that wasn’t the worst of it though. Because there on her side, where her hand was frantically working to stop the flow of blood, was the gunshot wound that I had been looking for on Talia.

  It was over, I thought numbly, while my teeth chattered and my hand shook over the gaping hole in my side. After all of these years, it was finally over. I would be cursed no more. It was almost a relief really. I had been living with this secret my entire life, it would be peaceful to not be at the mercy of the moon anymore. But the thought of dying and never having a chance to explain to Nate what had really happened was almost more than I could bare. So I cried for my salvation and I cried for my loss.

  When I felt his warm hand cover mine, I jolted with shock. It was so much more powerful than I had ever imagined. My love for him was as intense and steady as the pull of the moon’s power over my transformations. It had been a part of me from the moment I had seen him weep over his father’s body the night he had died. I had been years younger than him, but the wolf’s hold on me had matured both my mind and my emotions from the moment I was bitten. I knew I loved him. I knew he belonged to me.

  I had wept then. Tears had streamed down my face in salty rivers for what I had done. Even though I hadn’t been the one who had killed his father, I had been the one who had changed those who did. It had always been me. I was the first in this town to change.

  I had been practically a baby at the time, a toddler just learning to stand on my own two feet. My parents had decided on a camping trip at Yellowstone. I didn’t know what was happening, only that I was having fun and I had a whole campsite and forest to explore. It was night when the wolves came. It was sitting around a campfire that I watched the blood of my parents spilled when my life was spared. A single bite to my chubby leg and then the wolves had left me to my fate.

  The park rangers came, and then the police. My grandmother was called, she was my only family now. But then, once I was safe at home with her in the mountains of Colorado, the first full moon came and with my change, I attacked her. She was the second to change.

  Years went by after that and I met a friend in school who loved me. Talia Smalls was sweet and innocent and as much as I loved her, I envied her for her normalcy. So I chose to bite her. She was the third.

  Her father, a deputy, knew what she was. She disappeared the night of her first change and he and his partner went looking for her. What they found was the two of us, rolling in the forest like a couple of pups. Her father had protected her… protected us. But the other one, t
he partner, had coveted us our power and he had forced Talia to bite him. Then he began to hunt down other wolves and kill them. With each heart he consumed, he grew more powerful, taking on what those he killed had been.

  When her father had figured out the truth, he confronted McNaley, and McNaley had killed him. Talia was too far gone by then. Something in her was darker than me. Something in her relished in the predatory sensation she felt when she was in her wolf form. So she began working with McNaley to consume all they could find. She did the dirty work by killing those he sought, but she saved the hearts for him. They killed my grandmother because they didn’t know our secret. They thought she was more powerful than me, they thought she was the first. But she wasn’t. And now I would die for all the evil I had caused.

  “It’s okay, don’t move, you’ll be okay.” Nate murmured to me.

  He put his other hand on my cheek and I turned my face into his palm, savoring the feeling of his skin on mine. Tears were still streaming down my face and he tried to wipe them away. I was happy that he had shot me instead of his sister. He didn’t deserve to live with the guilt of her death on his conscious. Now that he knew what she was, maybe he could help her; remind her of her own humanity.

  “Who are you?” He whispered.

  I laughed, the sound ragged and hoarse through my pain. “My name is Micha and I have loved you for as long as I can remember.”

  I saw recognition then, as his soul recognized mine and his heart believed what mine had always known. My eyes drifted closed just as his lips brushed across mine and I knew that I was finally where I had always belonged.

  It was strange, this new sensation.

  The transformations were slightly painful, but the exhilaration of running through the woods was worth it. When Talia had bit me, I didn’t realize then what it would mean for me. It wasn’t until later, during the next full moon that I fully understood. But she had been there, holding my hands and looking into my eyes as we had changed together.

  Micha… my soul mate.

  With all of the heartache she had lived through, I vowed to give her the happy ending she deserved. So we lived that way; a small population of humans who changed to wolves in the silvery moonlight in the Colorado skies. More were changed, life went on. But the secret of what we were stayed hidden away in the eyes of those who were like us and the humans we chose to protect in our town were never aware of the danger that lurked with one bite from our teeth.

  It wasn’t perfect… it wasn’t ideal… but we had each other and that was enough. Ours was a different kind of fairytale…

  And they all lived…

  Happily Ever After

  The End

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