He stood over the body.
It's over, he thought. No more. I'm not like them, their traditions, rituals, this pack... I'm different. It's over for me.
The scent of blood was overwhelming. The heat from the fire only reminded him of the hate that grew within him.
I hate them, he repeated over and over in his head. How could they, and for what, they call this honor!?
He wanted to see them burn. Fire didn't seem enough. He could only think of the worst kinds of deaths one could experience, and he wished it on them.
He was alone. It was not what he wanted, but it was all his fault. He had taken everything too far.
My lies did this. My hope to be different. He had lived with his curse long enough, he was asked to do the only thing he vowed never to do.
"I will not!" Andrew yelled out in the darkness.
Shadows moved across the field. Glowing eyes were on him, fueled by hatred and judgment. He didn't care. He wouldn't stand it.
His eyes glared back with a glow as well-with teeth bared.
Andrew went to the body. It was cold and lifeless as he lifted it up. Blood immediately soaked his hands.
He had done a horrible thing, caused by selfishness. He caused his family to turn against him. He knew that one day he'd have to face his family for his choices, but he never imagined that someone else would take the punishment he deserved.
Tears swelled in his eyes. It's not your fault. It's mine.
"Do it boy!" A dark familiar voice snarled from the shadows.
Andrew's fists clenched, and a growl ripped silently from his throat.
He refused to obey.
He brought the boy closer to his chest and stood up. There was the sound of stirring in the grass ahead. They were gathering their defenses. They knew he wouldn't surrender, which would only mean death.
The whole situation made Andrew sick to his stomach. He posed no real threat, yet refusing to kill his best friend was all that mattered to them. Even more sickening was the simple the fact that their actions were meant merely to teach him a lesson.
Fire surrounded the entire area, claiming trees and brush. He had knocked down the torches in an attempt to distract members of the pack, who were guarding with their lives. He had fought with members of the pack he once loved, to stop the ones he hated most-his mother and step-father. They were out there somewhere, ready to kill their own son, all because of a stupid ritual. Andrew's life meant nothing to them.
There were a pair of eyes that caused him more pain than anger. How could you?, he glared, watching as the glowing eyes hung low, and he knew the guilt set behind those eyes as they moved back towards the house. He had no time to think about that, he had a life to save.
Sweat dripped of Andrew's face. The heat was intense and violent, burning its way through the brush and trees. Hell itself marched steadily toward him, a perfect mirror to the rage that burned inside him, and it only helped his urge to shift. Andrew hoped the whole area would catch, leaving them homeless and pathetic. He pictured it only to calm himself.
Andrew didn't answer their threats and slowly began to move backwards. He knew he needed to escape if he wanted the chance to save his friend's life. He was barely alive; his heartbeat weakening with each labored breath.
The murmuring noises in the dark grew closer. Faces began to form from the light provided by the fires. Glowing eyes and ripping snarls got louder.
There was only one thing to do now-run.
He took to the forest, away from the fire and from his family. He no longer cared. This was the best way to save his friend.
He could hear the howling and shifting behind him grow as they gathered up their forces to follow.
Running away would be difficult without his feral legs, but he knew he must carry is friend and run as fast as his human legs could carry him.
There was no looking back now. It was either this or death.
"They must die!" "Betrayer!" "Coward!" They screamed, both as human and beast.
He kicked his heals as fast as he knew how. In the process he lost his shoes. He could run faster barefoot anyway.
Andrew held his friend tightly. He knew keeping him would only give the others a trail to follow. The blood. They would smell and follow it forever.
The thought about ditching his friend made him sick. He would NOT leave him as dog meat for these whelps.
Their paws would eventually catch up. It was only a matter of time. He knew this from the moment he took off, but he had to try. He had to keep going for both their sakes. He couldn't let his friend suffer. He would be a lousy friend if he did, and his efforts would be in vain.
Andrew finally came to a river. He paused for a moment, smelling the air for directions. A thought came to mind as he stared at the river. His blood.
The smell of the blood could confuse them if some drifted in the water. They wouldn't know the difference. Blood smelled the same in water as it did on a body or object. As desperate as they were to catch him, they'd be forced to follow the scent.
He gently dipped the frail body in the water for a few seconds, washing the blood down the river with his other hand. This would only give him a few moments head start, but it could be enough to reach safety.
The boy groaned as the water entered his gashes. Andrew could only imagine the pain he must be in.
He smelled the air. The smell of tar was up ahead. That could mean only one thing-a road!
He took off again, heading in the direction of the smell. It wasn't very strong, so he didn't know how far away it was.
He looked down at the boy, whose body was turning pale.
"You hang in there Jeff, you can't give up!"
It seemed like forever until they arrived. He could see a small light ahead as the paved road was only slightly lit. Their only chance was to flag down a passerby for help.
The speed of a car changes scent. It would be much harder for his pack to track them. Of course, they would follow the road, but roads were complex. It can easily confuse a tracker, even a skilled one. Andrew's pack never used cars. They had no experience with tracking vehicles at all, so there was hope.
The only problem was that they were deep in the mountains and cars are rarely seen.
Oh Lord, please let there be a car.
Andrew stepped out on the pavement. It was soft and smooth compared to rocky forest ground. His chapped and bloody feet finally felt relief. He missed his paws so much.
Please... please be a car, he thought, sniffing the air for any sign of one.
He set the boy down. Andrew could hear the barking and howls growing several miles behind him. He knew their trajectory had been changed by the river, but they had figured it out and were heading in their direction. Andrew was a fast runner, but he was not a good tracker. The rest of his pack and family was.
He had about five minutes before they arrived, and they would be dead. There was no hiding from them unless a car came.
Andrew put his hand over one of the boys wounds. He whined in pain. His eyes closed and his skin felt more cold than it did before.
"Hold on." Andrew whispered. "I'll take care of you. This is all my fault."
The boy didn't answer, and began to go limp.
Andrew began to cry. Normally he never did, but he knew he was powerless. He also had no knowledge of human wounds, only that stopping the blood was the most important thing to do. Andrew never kept any wound for more than fifteen minutes. His body healed too quickly. He never had to worry about first aid or medicine. This human boy had a weak, frail body like every human; people were so vulnerable to the simplest hurts. Comforting him was all he could do.
Andrew gently rocked his friend back and forth. He could hear his heartbeat slow down. If nobody came to the rescue, Andrew would kill himself before his family had the chance.
Suddenly, a hope flared quickly in Andrew's mind. Should I turn him? The thought continued to pound at him the longer the minute passed. His fangs slid down, as if his body was wanting to make the choice for him. A bite couldn't do it at this point, not with the shape he was in. But luckily, his blood could. All he had to do was rip his own flesh and feed it to him and it would be all over, assuming the boy was alive enough to survive the transformation. If the car didn't come, the hunters would, and both of them would be dead.
His thoughts ran away with a familiar sound. There was a sound of hope down the hill. A truck!
Andrew set his friend down and ran in its path.
"Please, please stop! He needs a doctor!" He said as he waved his hands furiously at the driver.
The clunky truck slowed, pulling over on the side of the road.
A middle-aged man rolled his window down and slightly leaned out the window. Fear shot on his face from the sight of so much blood. Blood was all over Andrew and the boy. Andrew could see doubt in the mans eyes, and was afraid he'd be too scared to help, but he gave him a smile as best he could as a sign of relief.
"What the hell happened?" The man said, looking back and forth between Andrew and Jeff.
Andrew told the truth. "Wolf attack! He needs to get to a hospital, now!" Andrew was out of breath from running. He panted, "Please! He's lost a lot of blood."
"I'll call 9-1-1." His wife in the passenger seat said, quickly pulling out her cell phone. Andrew was surprised and grateful she had one, let alone a signal.
The man hesitated, but finally gestured to him to get into the back of the truck. "Put him back there, we'll take you."
"Thank you sir, thank you!" Andrew grabbed the boy and laid him in the back.
"Ask them to meet us somewhere, he needs care now!"
Andrew looked back at the woods. The howling had stopped. He wasn't sure why. He gave a quick sniff as he jumped in the back of the truck himself. Where did they go? he thought. He couldn't quite figure it out, but by the time the truck pulled away, his worries were gone.
Safety, for now, he thought.
Andrew turned his undivided attention to Jeff, constantly reminding the driver to hurry. The boy was wrapped in a towel, but the bleeding still wouldn't stop. Andrew could sense there was internal bleeding in addition to his other wounds, which he knew was bad for humans.
Even though he was relieved for himself, that the pack would not be able to reach them easily, he was less hopeful for the boy.
"Don't leave me!" Andrew pleaded to Jeff in his arms, tears violently falling down his face.
It was another twenty minutes to the hospital. The boy maybe had only five minutes left. He would be dead by then.
The boy was now wet with tears and blood. Andrew embraced the boy all the way to the hospital, but it was too late. They tried to revive him, but his brain had lost all activity. The boy was cold.
Sweat poured down his face. His bed was saturated.
Again, he thought, and let out a long sigh.
It was the same dream, same nightmare. One he would live with the rest of his life. It was the constant reminder of that night; the pain, the running, his only friend dying a horrible death, and it being all his fault. And of course the reminder of the life he refused to return to. Each night the dream grew longer and longer, like running as fast as you can, never escaping the terror following behind.
Lately, the dream replayed itself every night, bringing back those old feelings of helplessness and sorrow. He wasn't sure why. It's not like he was constantly dwelling on it during the day. He wished he could wipe his memory of it. Why wouldn't his dreams just let him move on like he'd thought he had.
Andrew rose up in his bed, still very tired. He woke just one minute prior to his alarm. He hated that.
Turning off his alarm, he wiped the sweat off his brow. His thoughts were restless now because of his dream. His pack-their anger and hatred towards humans-caused him to lose someone close. The only true friend he ever had. All because of a stupid ritual.
Even though he thought it was stupid, to his pack, it was essential. He understood this for years, but it became pure madness when they forced him to kill his best friend based on one principle; werewolves do not interact with humans. Ever. At least, according to his pack rules. Andrew knew of other packs who were allowed to mingle and befriend humans, just as long as their secret was kept hidden. Andrew never understood why his family couldn't be that way.
He often tried to justify their behaviors, but could never find any reason to believe that they were doing anything good. They were always living in the past, doing the same things today that their ancestors, the wolves, did.
His family always lived in the traditional ways, living together in groups. The males are dominant with the females as the mothers. The alpha male rules over all: sacrifices, hunting, mating, blood, and survival. Everyone else, especially humans, are the enemy. Nothing has changed in over one thousand years-until now.
Andrew was the first to ever break free from a pack and get away with it. He wasn't even sure how it was possible. Andrew knew his family had strange superstitions about humans, and did their best to avoid them. He was brought up with the knowledge that they were a lower species. This blew his mind, seeing as how they pretty much dominated the planet. He would find himself standing up for the humans. He knew they were a weak species that had their shortcomings, but they were good for the most part. His family hated him for it his attitude towards humans.
Andrew could only recall short memories of his younger childhood. Some pleasant, some not so pleasant.
There was always some drama to bark over at the dinner table. He grew tired of it. Even his own mother would get into fights with other females over the stupidest things. Even as a young boy, he could remember hearing his parents argue over their hatred towards humans. There was always talk of blood and carnage, domination, sex, and authority. He grew tired of it fast.
Growing up in a pack, the only thing that gave him pleasure was the hunt. The thrill of the hunt, the running, the freedom, and to have his instincts roam free. Once the hunt targeted humans it was over for him. It seemed everything Andrew considered good in life was considered evil by his family. No wonder all this happened to him.
None of it matters now, aside from the nightmares; he was free, he'd escaped. After the death of his friend, the state placed him with a foster home three states away. He was lucky the story he made up for the agency led him to such a good spot. Best of all, it was far enough out of his families reach.
He moved around a lot, living life like a typical teenager, even getting to finish high school, until he was finally old enough to move out and be on his own. He moved to a place he only dreamed of living-New York City.
Andrew finally had a normal life. He wasn't strapped down by traditions or duties, he was free to live any way he chooses. The best part was that it was not their way.
He now lived among humans, a lot of them. Although he was eager to mingle and become apart of their society, he couldn't deny/ignore the risks. Mingling with humans landed him into this mess in the first place.
After a few years he found a job and a nice apartment. Living on his own was a dream he feels he had from the beginning. He was a free-spirited wolf, yet, he felt he should have been born a human instead.
Andrew wiped his eyes and sat up in his bead, his head busy with thoughts. Lately his sleep caused him to be late to work. Not that it mattered, he held a high position and a salary. He only had to be there to make sure everyone else was doing their job properly. Regardless, he needed to get up.
He let out a small grunt as he staggered to the bathroom. The wood floor of his condo was cold, just the way he liked it. The blinds were closed and the lights dimmed. He passed a load of laundry ready to be folded and put away and immediately made a note to himself to do it as soon as he got home from work.
Living alone was wonderful; the privacy proved necessary to keep his true form a secret. Nobody outside of his pack knows what he really is. He knew exposing his secret would be dangerous. Not only would it jeopardize his overall safety-humans are not ready to accept werewolves-he would risk being found by his family.
In order to keep himself safe, he avoided human contact as much as he could. He learned his lesson about getting too close. He wouldn't repeat his mistakes. After all, the last time he got too close to anyone, it ended up killing them, and Andrew ended up on the run. He couldn't bare to go through that again. The nightmares alone are too much.
It seemed simple enough. Besides his job, avoiding people was easy. It's lying that was getting harder. Not to mention he had a target marked on him at all times, literally, by way of the symbol on Andrew's eye. It is a "sacred" tribal symbol, something he can't easily hide. If anyone knew anything about the traditions of werewolves, they'd instantly know he was one of them. Humans always fear what is different, and the added attention to himself made it hard to keep his life a secret. He tried hiding it with make-up, but it never worked. He often thought about getting it removed, but he was scared he'd heal too fast and risk being caught.
Admittedly, life in the pack was easier when it came down to it. You can talk about whatever you want (except for human affairs), you can be yourself (in any form), and everyone you know knows exactly who and what you are. It's like one big family living in a community. A wolf utopia of some sort.
Outside the pack, however, Andrew discovered it isn't easy. He has to deals with humans, their questions, always making sure he's fully human, and the urge to shift when in pain or anger. And of course you can't forget the other problems to worry about, hormones.
Wolves are naturally sex driven. Under those circumstances he could easily hurt someone if he lost control. Staying away from relationships is the most important goal. Andrew didn't think he'd have a hard time with it after he left, but puberty sets in young for a wolf. Not to mention the heat cycle that every wolf goes through. He couldn't get involved. Not only for those reasons, but the drama is too much to handle.
Then there's the blood lust and his "special" diet. Just like any carnivore, they enjoy raw meat. His fridge was packed with chicken and steak, and not much else, save it be a few TV dinners and junk food. To satisfy his tastes for blood, eating raw meat helps, but werewolves can eat normal food as well.
He tries his best to keep his profile low, hiding his tattoo with his long grown out bangs. Eight-to-five job, simple loft apartment, boring hobbies, crappy car; just your typical New Yorker trying to get by.
After five years of living with humans, even with risks, he decided it was worth it. Though it was dangerous, it didn't mean he wasn't allowed to have fun. Running in the far woods several miles from the city gives him comfort, especially in his feral (natural wolf) form.
Sometimes within the comfort of his own apartment with the windows sealed, he shifts into his anthro (werewolf) form. It feels free and natural, like an endorphin rush, an arousing release to change and breathe about the former life left behind. But, with his busy new life, he barely has time to remember what he is. It is like he's a human already. It has been years since Andrew has shifted into any form.
Andrew sometimes wishes he could show the world what he really is. Movies and books tell the world its fiction. He watches and reads them, only to find himself laughing or chewing on the hard covers. Although the books and movies aren't far off, they aren't quite like the real thing.
First of all, werewolves aren't mindless monsters controlled by the moon, lusting for blood like in the movies. They are simply humans with the ability to shape shift. Their human mind has complete control of the wolf. That doesn't mean there isn't a weakness for blood, as it can trigger desires. Some do struggle with it.
Another myth instigated by the monster movie makers dealt with the gruesome or disgusting werewolf transformations. It really peeves Andrew off at how distorted the werewolf legends have become because of humanities misguided fears; werewolves consider transformations beautiful. Unfortunately, he would probably have a hard time convincing anyone that, especially what real werewolves are like.
Second, there's the tribal mark. Movies seemed to have missed that, luckily. They don't need more attention drawn to them; every werewolf has one with each pack bearing its own unique marking. This wasn't just a tattoo, it was etched into their skin, using some magic he never really learned much about, deeper than what a human would have done, which also makes it difficult to remove. In the past, the mark is given to the first born male of every wolf family to determine worthiness to be the alpha male. Only those who have a mark can lead. It also showed other packs what family they belonged to, their class, their age, their deity. These markings were put on wolf pups the day they are born. It can be anywhere on the body, not just the eye. This tradition has been used for centuries, and of course his pack decided to continue with it. Yet another reason why he resented them; they were old-fashioned.
Third, packs live in groups together, usually in small rural areas or out in the middle of nowhere, away from civilization. They can be any number from four to up to a hundred. Most live and blend in with other tribes, but they do not separate too far from each other. And they don't like to live too close to humans. But, like anyone, they have jobs, go to school, pay bills, and live like normal law abiding citizens. The exception was Andrew's pack, who isolated themselves away from everything.
It's easy to spot a werewolf pack if you know what to look for, Big houses with multiple entire families living in them, not just immediate family members. They sometimes disappear around the full moon to go and do ritual moon runs and hunting. All within a pack are usually shy and reserved, and never hang out with humans.
Movies and books did get one thing right; Werewolves are incredibly physically strong. They are able to run faster than any human, jump high, and fight. Fighting was essential to survival. If you were not a fighter, you might as well be dead.
It might sound like an ideal life, but living in a pack is incredibly difficult with so many rules and so much inequality. Sometimes Andrew wished werewolves were simple like books and movies, because the reality is far from it.
When he was back home, Andrew was still a young wolf. He wasn't high enough to even receive a rank. If he had gone through with killing his friend, he would have probably landed omega, which is the worst and lowest position-probably as punishment for being with a human.
Omegas are often mistreated and are shown little-to-no respect. They usually spend time trying to avoid contact with everyone and keep from drawing attention to themselves; they are actually lower rank then children. Andrew hated that. But even without this title ranking, Andrew felt that way already. He was so out of place in his pack. Not only would he be at the bottom, he'd be pushed around and have to obey everyone above him, even females, or he'd be killed. Obeying other annoying members was one thing, but obeying the alpha, was something he refused to do regardless of the punishment. Especially his alpha.
The pack leader, Stephan, tried too hard to be his father, but he wasn't. Andrew's real father, Lokami, who died several years before, held his position as alpha for a long time. He was known for being one of the best his pack had ever seen. Stephan had always disliked his father and the way he ran the pack. And as stupid "tradition" calls, if someone wants to challenge the leader of the pack, the alpha, he was forced to fight to the death in order to continue or step down from his position. Stephan won and took over the pack. However, the rules never stated whether the life of the pack leader could be taken or not, and Stephan relished in this oversight, killing Lokami with his final blow, to ensure his reign would go untainted by the old pack ways.
Even though Andrew was still young and barely knew his father, he hated Stephan for it. It pained him to see that even his own mother didn't mind the death of her husband for loyalty to the pack laws and their stupid traditions which overruled love and even logic.
Andrew's mother married Stephan immediately and Andrew's life changed forever. Stephan's influence on his mother made life a living hell for him. Andrew's happy childhood and perfect family was ripped from him, starting his rebellious stage: sneaking out at night, hanging out with humans. All this had to be done to help himself feel better and fight back the urge to kill Stephan. Anything that wasn't their way was what he wanted. To this day, Andrew wished to see Stephan suffer for his fathers death.
Now that he was free, Andrew tried hard not to remember the life he worked hard to leave behind. All he knows is that he must continue to hide, because they will be looking for him, and with the mark on his eye, it would be easy. If they find him, they will kill him. He didn't want to give Stephan that chance.
Andrew stood in his bathroom. He stretched his body letting out a pseudo-howl. He laughed. Howling always felt good. It was a great way to relieve stress and get himself excited for another great day of freedom.
He jogged down the hallway, looking towards the front door at a sign above it. The message written said. 'Vita Amoena' which meant 'beautiful life' or 'life is good.' Life is good, he repeated in his head, reading it. He reminds himself that every morning.
He agreed. Life was good. In fact, life was great.