I was hunched over a book when Jack tapped my shoulder.
"Hey, Fi, we still on for later?"
"I really don't know . . ." I said, playing it cool. "I have some stuff to do tonight-"
He plopped down on the library sofa beside me and crossed his arms. "Oh come on. We both know you have no social life-"
"-and this will be good for you. Getting out, seeing people. It'll be fun."
I really don't like crowds. It's a thing I have, I guess. Too many people in one place, too many smells, too much movement, too many sounds, and then lights got brighter even in dark rooms and the air choked up-
But Jack was asking. And he was right: I hadn't been out anywhere in ages.
"Fun, fun, fun," he insisted.
I relented. "Sure, I'll go. If it's not fun, you owe me a soda."
He grinned that stupid grin that made his nose crinkle up and his accenuated his freckles. "Deal." He pulled a pen out of his backpack's pocket. "Hand."
I duly gave him my hand, and he scribbled down the phone number and address.
"God, you're so cheesy," I said. "You could've texted or something."
Out came the grin again. "Yeah, but then I wouldnt've had an excuse to hold your hand, now would I?"
And then he leapt over the back of the sofa and was gone, off to do whatever. I went back to my book, unable to stop smiling.
* * * * *
Jack was cute. Ridiculously, outstandingly, fantastically, palm-sweatingly, face-reddingly cute. It was probably the freckles. I'm a sucker for freckles. And lately he'd started hanging around the library with me. Turns out we liked the same books and same authors, and when we eventually moved over to the computer lab, we liked the same sites, too.
So after a couple weeks of chilling at school, I certainly wasn't going to turn down an invitation to a party. My big sisters weren't happy.
"Party?" said Toni. "You can't go to a party!"
"Why not?" I said. I was looking at the mirror in my room, trying to decide whether or not to have my hair up or leave it down.
"Because you hate parties," said Bianca from her spot on the sofa. "You get edgy in crowds."
"Yeah, well, tonight I'm going to a party." Up, definitely. But do I use one of the brightly colored scrunchies, or just a plain black band?
"It's that Jack boy, isn't it?" said Toni. "He's nothing but trouble, I smelled it on him the first day we met."
"You've never met him," I reminded her.
"Well Bianca has, and she told me. She said to me, 'why Toni, I do believe the lad smells like trouble', isn't that right, B?"
"Oh yeah," said Bianca, nodding, both voice and facial expression indication that it was a bold-faced lie she wasn't even bothering to cover up.
"You guys are being paranoid," I said, deciding on the scrunchie after all. The purple one sort of went with my sweatshirt. "I'm still going."
"You can't just go alone, at night, with some guy!"
"There will be other people there, too. Look," I wrote down the number and address Jack had given me onto a post-it. "This is where we'll be. And it's not like I won't have my cell on me. I'll call if something goes weird."
"s your phone charged?" said Bianca.
I glanced at it and swore. "It will be, before I leave." I went to plug it in.
It took another good fifteen minutes before they came around, with arguments ranging from 'I'm a reasonable young adult and can manage on my own' and 'I'll call every twenty minutes if it makes you feel better' all the way to 'you're not my mother' and 'I wanna go!'. After much grumbling and growling on their part, I left with their begrudging blessing.
That didn't mean either of them would drive me, though. They thought if they wouldn't give me a ride, I might change my mind. I bussed.
* * * * *
The house was huge. It looked like some sort of secluded mansion, all on its lonesome out on the top of the hill. Victorian or colonial or something like that. Pardon, I'm not too big on architecture. But the place was huge, complete with little ponds wrought iron gates and a cobblestone walkway.
I swore, loudly. Jack had gotten me invited, I hadn't known how damned rich these people would be. I couldn't be here. I was too underdressed. I was too underwealthy. I felt for my phone, only to realize I'd left it charging back home. Smooth. I almost turned back then, but someone poked their head out the front door.
"Hi, Fi!" said Jack with a wave. He looked awfully excited. "You came! This is great. I've got to show you around. Lot's of people want to meet you."
That was. . . unsettling. Flattering, but unsettling. And since he was looking right at me, I couldn't just turn tail and leave. I went up to the porch.
"Jack, I'm not sure-"
"Nonsense. Come on in." He more or less dragged me inside.
The room was classy, full of polished dark browns and thick rugs on hardwood floor. It was also full of people. All men, All wearing black, with silver chain around their necks.
Well fuck, I thought.
"Fi, I'd like to introduce you to the gang."
"Jack," I said way more calmly than I felt. "What's going on? Who are they?"
The men looked at me appraisingly. I was suddenly very glad I had opted for the sweater and jeans instead of something unduly formal and therefore revealing.
"These are my family, Fi. They're all my family, and they're very interested in meeting you."
One of the men stepped forward. He was about a foot taller than I, and was probably around fifty-ish. He spoke some language I didn't understand but sounded familiar (Latin, probably. That seems to be the language of choice in these sorts of things. In retrospect, it's a wonder why nobody was chanting ominously) and looked at Jack pointedly.
Jack replied in the same tongue and the man nodded.
"Jack, seriously, what's going on? I think I should be going home."
"Oh Fi," he said, still smiling. "We can't have that."
Two of the men grabbed my arms from behind. Someone threw a black hood over my head.
Things get a bit frazzled after that. I was dragged somewhere, kicking and screaming the whole way, hoping I could land a groin shot. The best I got was some grunting and one man hitting me in the stomach. The hood stank. I wondered how many people they had used that thing on.
Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck.
Eventually they dumped me on the ground and removed the hood. We were on a hill, a damp, grassy hill. The fresh air was a joy after the hood, but the fact that there was a whole circle of large, rather threatening looking men looming over me killed any relief I might've had. Jack was standing in front of me, still smiling that stupid smug smile of his. I vowed to tear it off his face first chance I had.
"Well, Fi, you wanted to know what we're going to do? I'll tell you. We're just going to have to kill you, now." He held up an old fashioned revolver and aimed it at my forehead.
"Why? What the hell-"
"Change," he said.
"You know exactly what I mean. Change."
Well I thought, you really screwed the pooch on this one, didn't you old girl?
"Go fuck yourself, Jack."
"Come on Fi, don't make this any more difficult than it has to be. We can't kill you in good conscience until we have solid evidence."
"So you can't kill me?"
"No, we'll kill you, we just won't be happy about it."
That smile on your face says otherwise.
I was about to tell him exactly what he could do with that gun in detail when one of the men screamed and fell. A large brown blur sprang from his writhing corpse onto the next man, who likewise fell. A black blur to my left took out two of the men there as well. It was mayhem. The men began either running for the house or trying to draw their weapons. Most died of a snapped neck or -in some cases- the forceful removal of their necks. Hot blood spurted and stained the grass. Jack fired wildly at the two blurs, missing them entirely.
Taking advantage of the distraction, I changed.
Muscle rippled and shifted positioning. Hair rose through pores and in some cases pierced the skin, creating a thick layer of gray fur. My back spasmed and bones contracted or elongated accordingly. Nails transformed into sharp claws, and teeth pointed. A howl of pure ecstasy escaped my newly reshaped throat. I was me again, and I was happy about it.
When we're changed, we don't see thing like we would as a human. Sight is almost as unimportant to a wolf as smells are to a human. They're a nice extra, but you couldn't really rely on them too much when you had something so much better to work with.
I sniffed the air and knew everything I needed to. The men were afraid. Their fear came off them in bright, violent, sickly copper waves. Their anger was a sharp red, mean smelling scent that undercut it. The stench of silver was also in the air, but not dangerously so. People forget that while silver does burn us, it only does the same amount of damage as handling something hot for too long. Getting scalded may hurt like hell, but it wouldn't kill you.
My sisters and I made quick work of them all. A few had run into the house, but we doubted they'd be any trouble to us. Soon there was just one left who'd been too stupid to run.
Jack sat cowering the center of a ring of his fallen brothers. The gun was empty, but he was still brandishing it like a club.
"Stay back!" he screamed, his voice shrill. The ugly stink of fear came off him in gallons. The smell of body odor, sweat, blood and -yes, urine didn't compliment things. He was a grotesque, dark smear in our not-vision. "Stay back!"
I changed back to human, though my sisters remained as they were.
"Hey Jack. You were right, this was fun." I walked over and kicked his chest. He was terrified and couldn't do anything but weakly wave the gun at me. "Fun fun fun."
I took the gun and threw it into the woods. Couldn't let something like that lie around where anyone could get it.
"Now, Jack, I liked you. Really, I did. That's why I'm not going to tear out your throat."
He stopped cringing and looked at me. "Really?"
"Yup." I stepped back and my sisters went forward. "They are."
He died slow, and didn't stop screaming until Bi made good on the deal and tore out his throat near the end. It was nice.
Bianca ran off, still four legged, to get a pack of clothes they had brought along. Toni changed to human and we both sat around in the midst of the corpses.
"These things don't smell nearly as nice now," I said.
"Fiona, what the hell were you thinking? You could've gotten killed. You left your phone at home- You're lucky me and Bi were going to return it to you-"
"Yeah, I got it. I'm an idiot. Still, it turned out all right in the end, didn't it?"
She snorted and gestured to all the corpses. "Yeah, turned out fine."
I smiled and lay back, looking at the stars. There were quite a lot of them out here, with nearly no light pollution. There wasn't any moon out, but I threw back my head and howled anyways.