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The Beast in Me (completed)
I raced to Sheena's house, half for wanting to kill my prey and proving myself worthy of becoming a member of the pack, half because I worried that the others now might beat me at the finish line. After a few minutes of high speed racing, I reached the edge of the woods where I skidded to a halt. There across the road stood her house. Everything seemed calm and quiet.
I let my tongue hang out to cool my heated body. My chest felt mighty and strong as I inhaled and exhaled rhythmically. I carefully protruded my head from the underbrush and slowly turned it left to right to look and make sure that nobody was on the streets and could see me. But at this hour, the town was fast asleep. I squinted satisfied and licked my lips. Then I blinked once and homed in my sights on Sheena's house. There were lights in some of the windows over there.
Is she still awake? Is she getting used to her Veela-self and gliding about the house in vanity, maybe even showing off to her father? I growled inadvertently.
Then the clouds tore open a hole in the sky and let the light of the full moon bathe the area. It also had the effect to let the werewolf blood in my veins start to boil again.
Sheena is my prey! More yet: she is the offspring of a half-Veela, the eternal enemy of us werewolves!
I leapt forward and headed toward her window in the back where I had left her an hour ago. To my surprise it was not properly closed. I nudged it with my snout and it swung open easily. I jumped over the windowsill and into the well lit room. No one was there. Maybe she had gone into the living room. I had seen from outside that there had been a light on there, as well. The door was ajar and I pushed it open and trampled onward with my giant hind paws, right into the depths of this human dwelling. Like never before, I noticed the different interesting scents that humans could produce. I stopped to sniff. I recognized Sheena's perfume now hanging in the air: a mixture of cherry blossoms and wild lily.
I pushed my curiosity aside and instead looked down the hall in one direction and then the other. Where was she? All was still. I cocked my ears. There was a steady breathing sound coming from the living room. My muscles contracted and I made a barely audible leap over to the couch. The thick rug help damp the thud when I landed softly on my huge paws.
My eyes took a few seconds to digest the sight. A full grown human was sprawling on the couch, snoring in its sleep and unaware of any danger. Sheena's father had fallen asleep at the TV. His neck was exposed and offering a juicy reward for my quest for blood. I started drooling. Such an easy and delicious way to quench my thirst was lying right before me. This was an offer I couldn't refuse. I opened my snout and spread my jaws like calipers over his throat. I grazed his skin. I felt the vulnerable softness of his human flesh.
The house door suddenly tore open with a thud and I jerked up my head to look. Too late! The girl in the doorway had already let out a bloodcurdling scream and had turned to run away. Instinctively, I set to jump after her but then I hesitated, realizing that I easily could first finish off this unconscious prey here at once and still track her down without a problem. I turned to the man again. Sheena's father had not even reacted to the commotion but lay there as before, breathing steadily. I bared my teeth but then I stopped.
No. My first victim would be the girl, I thought for myself. Zeus was right, it was a strong urge to choose the right first victim. I pushed off from my hind legs and bounced out of the house to take up my hunt for her.
Aha! So, she hadn't changed into a Veela after all, I thought. Maybe Zeus was right. Perhaps she was just an ordinary human, at least it seemed as if the powers had not turned out as expected by her mother. Did it have to do with reading the letter before the set out time, I wondered. Outside a gusty wind met my furry face. The moon was well-veiled by the black clouds above. A chill was in the air. It was ready to start raining any minute, it seemed. I squinted against the wind as I sped forward trying to take up Sheena's scent on my path down the gravel road that went past her house. But I couldn't make it out among all the more and less familiar smells that wafted toward my nostrils.
Then I saw the pack again. They were standing at the road curb, right at the edge of the forest. They seemed to be cornering something or rather someone, growling at their prey. Sheena must have run right into them after leaving the house, I thought. Slowly, I approached the five beasts, suppressing a shudder when mustering their size and shear presence. Their jaws were snapping toward the center of the circle they were forming but I sensed that they were waiting for a definite sign from Zeus before attacking for real. Zeus was majestically keeping his distance with an air of superiority in his strut. Then our eyes met. I froze to my spot again.
"Ah, here comes the cub again!" he announced. The others eased off a bit and for the first time I saw their victim to be. It wasn't Sheena, it was Mandy! What was she doing here?! Her face was drained of blood, like a wax doll.
"You led us directly to the Veela-breed's house... But instead we found this human at her doorsteps. Did you let the Veela-girl escape?" There was mockery in Zeus' voice.
I was confused and didn't reply at once.
"Looks like our enemy is smarter and perhaps stronger than expected, eh?"
I was left dumb-founded. Where was Sheena and why on earth was Mandy out here at this hour?
"Please... Don't hurt me..." I heard Mandy whimper weakly. "We didn't mean to do anything mean to Sheena... it was only a stupid prank. I'm sorry... I'm very, very sorry... please..."
One of the werewolves snapped his jaws at Mandy again, who fell to the ground in tears. My muscles spasmed but I didn't stand a chance against the pack. Why did Mandy have to come here at night? I felt my human heart pound in my chest. Zeus sneered but his body language was still holding the others off their victim, as for now, while he was still turned toward me.
"We will need a larger pack to reach our goal." Zeus said matter-of-factly, "We should start with her."
"What?!" I squealed. "What goal? What are you going to do to her?"
Zeus looked at the others and nodded,
"We might as well tell him, since we will need him too." Then turned to me he continued, "Baskerville. We are meant to take over the town. Us werewolves have waited long enough for this moment. Finally, we are strong enough to fulfill the prophecy... once we eliminate the Veela-breed, that is."
"What prophecy?!" I asked out of shear curiosity and confusion.
"Haven't you learned about the Myth of Baskerville in school?" Zeus said in his mocking voice again.
"But..." It was dawning on me that the Myth had as many interpretations as there were interpreters. It was a means to an end, an excuse for doing evil. "How...?"
"Your youth is showing... Of course you want to kill when you young. But us elder wolves can hold back... and merely injure our victims and let our saliva transform them to become werewolves, too."
I recoiled in horror. Zeus had turned around to his pack, ready to set them free to descend on their victim. My paws were grinding deep into the gravel. I couldn't let this happen. Now I was sure of who I was, that I was human and not a beast.
"No, no! It was Frank who put Sheena's father to sleep. He's alive!"
Mandy could of course have no clue what this was all about, as the conversation was not held in English or any other language she understood. Her bad conscience and fear was letting her tell the truth about her deeds, in the face of death. I wasn't really paying attention to it, but merely registered that Frank, of course, was at the center of whatever they had been up to. Zeus flicked his huge head toward her,
"Shut her up! But don't kill her! Zany, you step back... I don't trust your self-control, you're still too young!"
I had to do something fast if Mandy was supposed to stay alive, at least in her human form. Suddenly, one of the werewolves jumped in front of Mandy and turned around. She was growling madly at both the pack and Zeus. My hopes surged.
"I'm old enough! Let me prove it, Zeus! I can control my instincts by now and know exactly when to stop!" Saliva was dripping from her snout.
My heart sunk again. The others bounced angrily at the defiant Zany and tried to push her away and started fighting over their prey. Mandy sat up and inched backward toward the forest, ever so slowly. Get up, run! I telepathically tried to urge her. But she stopped and glassy-eyed addressed the others again,
"It's about the dam, right? Frank said that her father is involved... I won't tell anybody... Neither will Frank... I can make him keep mum, I can do it."
Mandy was scared to death and trying everything to stay alive, blabbering away. My mind was also racing, as time was running out, and I hardly was paying attention to the stories that Mandy was telling. How long would this quarrel keep them from attacking Mandy? I got the answer much to quickly.
"Enough! You bunch of hound dogs! Stand aside, I will do this myself and show you how to bleed a human into a werewolf!"
Gracefully, Zeus pounced atop of Mandy, holding down all her limbs with his paws. She was sprawling defenselessly on her back, her throat laid bare. I jumped forward in agony. Zeus smiled a werewolf smile at me and nodded.
"Right, you should also come closer and learn. You seem smarter than this lot!"
The others stood with drooping ears and growled at me. Suddenly, a strong gust of wind blew dust in our eyes. Zeus shook it off but the wind had now turned into a storm. Rain started splattering down on us. The trees were bending precariously. But there were no signs of Zeus letting loose of Mandy.
"Ok, it was us who broke into the uranium mine! It was only a joke... a prank! We never meant to destroy anything or hurt anybody! Yes, we wanted Sheena to get blamed for it... Please let me go! I'm sorry, I'll never do it again, I swear, just le'me go home now.... please."
Zeus didn't listen to a word the human girl was saying and just slowly opened his snout and closed in on Mandy's throat. The wind itself was howling like a wolf now. It was as though it was whispering something in my ear. I fended it off, madly trying to come up with something while Zeus was trying to keep his balance on top of the struggling girl.
"Ron, Ron now! Push him off of Mandy!" It sounded like the voice of Sheena. As if she were whispering directly into my ear from behind. But there was no one there. "Do it Ron and bite her yourself. Now!"
Without thinking one more second, I made a giant leap just when Zeus' fangs were about to pierce Mandy's throbbing neck vein. The huge werewolf tumbled to the side, not expecting the blow. I found myself standing between him and Mandy. Twigs and leaves were being torn from the trees and streaking past all of us, the force of the wind making it hard for even us four-legged creatures to keep their balance. Zeus squinted, standing downwind from me.
"What's this supposed to mean?"
I just stared at him. I was declaring war.
"No one touches her!" I shouted above the storm and ducked my head below my shoulders. Zeus got the picture quickly.
"Finish him while I take care of the girl!" He commanded calmly but with a strong voice.
They made a move toward me but all at once there was a ear-deafening crack and the next instant a large branch crashed down in front of the others. One of them got struck to the ground. The storm was with me. Sheena was with me, I realized. Of course! As a Veela she had power over storms. But why would she want to save Mandy who had betrayed her?
"Bite her now!" Again I heard Sheena's voice in my ears. I gasped. She wanted me to harm Mandy? Was this her revenge? I hesitated.
"Do it before the others get to her! Your saliva will protect her from theirs!"
Sheena had a plan, it seemed. But I just couldn't do it. I couldn't bring myself to hurt a human being intentionally. I tried to get grip of her clothing with my teeth but failed as she wriggled away. How was she to know that I was the good guy?
Then Zeus jumped over the branch and crashed into me. I fell to the ground but rose quickly to my paws, ready for fight. Zeus grinned,
"So you want war? Boy, you don't know what you've gotten yourself into! We punish defiance brutally."
I didn't back off an inch. Adrenalin was pumping through my veins. But my courage was put to trial when I saw the other werewolves towering behind him.
"So tell me before we tear you into pieces: what's she to you? Werewolves aren't known for their empathy, you know. What kind of beast are you anyway? Who made you?"
Questions I could have asked myself without knowing the answers to them. I realized that my history had been quite different than theirs. I was born a werewolf, it seemed. Not made into one by being bitten. Did that make me better than them? This was hardly the time to ponder this.
"It doesn't matter anyway. Get him!" Zeus commanded. Quick, as I never had been before I jumped and snatched Mandy's wrist between my jaws and started dragging her away. At the same time, Zeus had sprung forward and sunk his teeth into Mandy's leg, pulling the other way. It was a deadlock for a fraction of a second. The others rounded and came from behind at me. I let go of my grip on Mandy, who was howling of pain and fear now. I went for Zeus' eyes with my fangs. Startled, Zeus let go and retreated backwards while the other missed their target once more. I whirled around and snatched the other wrist of Mandy this time. I headed for the forest, dragging Mandy along. She was getting bumped, bruised and torn on the ride but I was getting her away from deadly attackers. I hoped that she would just faint at some point to spare her the pain but I heard her screaming above the storm.
"They're closing in on you. Head for the river. They won't follow you across the water." A voice echoed in the forest. Instinctively, I turned a corner and found myself descending a hill. I could smell the humid air from the river banks. Right, Zeus and his pack were afraid of drowning in the water. I needed to get there before they caught up with me. Then we would be safe. I hoped.
I had heard their panting and growling following me since the start of the chase. Now I had the impression that the sounds were becoming fainter. Maybe they had taken a wrong turn somewhere. I slowed down somewhat, cocking my ears. Now I could also make out the dark band of water that waited below. I was close now. Then I couldn't hear our mob anymore. I dared a glance behind me. But right there was Zeus on my heels. He made no sound.
Crack! I collided with a low-hanging branch and was separated from Mandy, tumbling forward, downhill. Dazzled, I picked myself up after catching my fall. I looked back up. Zeus had stopped 25 feet uphill and looked triumphantly down at me. He was straddling the unconscious body of Mandy.
"You're dead meat, cub! But first things first."
Without further ado he ripped open Mandy's neck. He lifted his head, licking the blood from his lips.
"I think, I understand your likings for this human girl. She was pretty. With some luck she'll make a decent werewolf, wouldn't you agree?"
I howled in agony and charged at him. He had been waiting for this move. Next moment I was lying beside Mandy bleeding from my shoulder.
"You don't stand a chance, you stupid puppy! Don't you understand?"
"What are you going to do to the town? Leave them alone!"
"Still the hero, aren't we?" Zeus sneered. "These are our hunting grounds that the humans have stolen a long time ago. We're just taking back what's rightfully ours. We will get rid of the last Veela that stands between us and our goal by increasing our numbers. But you're neither human nor werewolf. You deserve nothing but a painful death. Now!"
But before he could do anything, the ground beneath his paws gave way. A huge mudslide had him surfing down the hill toward the water. Zeus howled in horror as he tried get solid ground under him and avoid sliding into the river. In vein. All the mud pulled him with it into the cold wetness. I rose slowly to my paws and saw his silhouette getting washed away with the current. He was struggling to stay afloat.
"Don't wait too long before finishing her off, cub!" I heard him shout in his efforts, "She'll be one of us anyway!" Then he was gone from sight. I looked down at Mandy. Her chest was still moving but there was a horrible gash across her throat and saliva was mixed and coagulated with her blood. I howled in despair. Mandy was gone either way.
The wind was whispering to me again.
"Take her across the river! The others will be here any minute."
I panted. What was the point? Why should I bother saving my own life now that Mandy was beyond rescue? But could I let her become a risk for other people? Zeus had been right, my choices were limited at best. I had to end her werewolf-life before it even could begin. What a horrible task. And I was the only one who was able to do it. I lifted my head and gave a long whining howl. Seconds later the others had tracked me down.
"Ron! Take her and go!"
When I saw the four pairs of yellow headlights I obeyed the voice. I took her once more at her wrist and slid down the mudslide into the river. The others didn't even budge. Leaderless they planlessly just stared after us.
After what seemed an eternity of splashing, keeping Mandy's nose above water and gasping for air, I had taken us to the opposite river bank. I dragged the lifeless body of Mandy to a dry spot and laid her on her back. Completely spent, wet and frozen to my bones, I sat next to her gasping for air. Only after several minutes, I realized that Mandy's chest had not been moving. My blood ran cold. I put my ears to her chest but it was quiet as a grave. Sadness and emptiness was all I felt, drained of emotion or any coherent thought, besides that this must mean the end. This was impossible. As if I had thought any of the things that I had experienced lately could ever be possible. Even considering all the nasty things that Mandy had been involved with, I could't bring myself to see that this was an end that she deserved.
Why hadn't Sheena been more helpful? Anger welled up in me against the Veela. Somehow the ancient hatred between werewolves and Veelas also was rooted inside me. Jealousy. Was she jealous of my feelings for Mandy? Spiteful because I chose the beautiful girl before the ugly duckling?
I looked out over the river. There were only different shades of grey to be seen in the dead of night. But then I blinked. Was I seeing things? A foamy white area seemed to be bulging in the middle of the river. It was growing larger. Like a curtain or a silvery-white dress it was lifted high above the surface. The contours were sharpening all along. I could recognize the shape of a young woman. A dazzlingly beautiful young woman. Then she zoomed toward me. I was too startled to be afraid. But then I recognized her: it was Sheena. Sort of. It was a perfected version of her.
She stopped at the edge of the river, hovering a few feet above the surface. She looked serene. I shook my head and tilted it toward the lifeless body of Mandy.
"I did as you told me but I failed. She's dead, Sheena. Mandy! Why?" I felt shame. I had reacted too slowly all along. It was all my fault. Tears flowed down my cheeks. Suddenly, I became aware of the fact that I was in my human form again.
"You were so brave, Ron! You're a true hero!" Sheena's voice was full of affection and admiration. I wouldn't have any of it.
"Don't you understand?! She's dead! Gone! And it's my fault!" I buried my face in my hands. Then I realized how self-centered I was acting again. "You're the one who did the right things tonight... You're amazing. So powerful, like your mother had foreseen."
I looked at her. Sheena's expression was still serious. I wondered how I ever had seen anything else but beauty in her face - both the physical and meta-physical kind.
"You're awesome, Sheena... You look awesome." I added, a bit awkwardly.
"It's true, Ron. I want your love. But not because of my looks or what powers I possess. But I know that your feelings are with Mandy."
My heart ached. If love could be deserved, it would be all Sheena's but I could not fool my heart. For whatever reason, Mandy had that place reserved for herself. What did it matter now?
Sheena moved over to Mandy's body and knelt down at her side, holding her right hand above her chest. I frowned confused.
"My mother had no idea about how powerful a real Veela actually is." Sheena also placed her second hand six inches above Mandy's chest. Suddenly, there was a jerk and her lungs emptied the water that they had accumulated and they started breathing air instead.
"Is... Is she...?"
Sheena turned to me.
"I think she will be fine again. She'll probably be out for some time, though."
"But won't she become...."
"I was afraid of that but you got hold of her wrist the first time a fraction of a second before Zeus did. Her blood was protected from that moment on."
"Because I'm not a real werewolf?"
"You almost sound a bit disappointed there." Sheena giggled in her characteristic way.
"Me? No way." I shoved the insinuation away from me and looked at her with big eyes.
She rose to her full height again. We were standing only two feet apart from to each other. I felt humble and weak, admiring everything that Sheena represented. Sheena reached out with her hand and stroked my cheek. She smiled,
"One day, I hope that your eyes will look at me with love and that there also will be a place in your heart for me."
"But what else should there be?" I reached out for her but she was immaterial. I was frustrated. Why couldn't I feel the right things?
"Later. There are more important issues at hand now, Ron. Baskerville is in danger. The werewolves won't give up so easily."
"But Zeus drowned in the river, won't..."
"He survived alright. He will gather his pack and attack as soon as he feels strong enough. But I need to know one thing from you, Ron."
"Are we in this together?"
"Right to the very end."
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