The mist gathered on the ground and rolled eerily. The whole effect was of an old black and white thriller film, London town, the East End, Jack the Ripper… There was even a full moon.
Thursdays, Bianca had the night to herself. She tended to use them at her keyboard, though tonight she stood at the gates to Dawn Park, hands shoved deep in her pockets. She took a deep breath, unneeded but calming. Tori had been found in the very centre of the park, almost completely dismembered. Somehow, she felt she had to see the scene for herself.
The gate creaked as she pushed it in, and suddenly the active night seemed so much quieter. The sounds of the street and the bar and the city blacked out, leaving only the wind in the leaves, the crunch of the gravel. Bianca paused. If her heart still worked, it would be pounding. The place shouldn’t have her so scared, she was already dead… but something felt wrong here.
She ignored the curious feeling in her belly and moved forward, further into the trees. The mist still gathered around her ankles, playing with her feet like a live animal, and she shivered. Somewhere in the night the drumming started. The faint sound travelled up through the dark, seemingly from the bottom of the hill at the far end of the park. She frowned, wary.
The drumming grew louder as she made her way deeper into the dark, soon she could make out the individual players. Their time signature was interesting, cleverly syncopated. She followed the sound farther, curious.
When a werewolf changes, it isn’t a pleasant experience. In a pack, there were those who turned, and those who made sure that those who turned didn’t kill people. Or killed the right people. The latter were clavigers, trusted humans who don’t mind sitting around a bunch of really cranky werewolves for the three nights around the full moon. But not every wolf had a claviger, or belonged to a pack.
The itch always started low in his back, behind his kidneys. It grew, travelling up his back and forcing him to fall forward, overbalanced. His mouth grew uncomfortably crowded, his teeth too big for his jaw, and he twisted and scrunched into a foetal ball as his knees reversed with a loud, disgusting crunch. The previously coloured world dimmed, greens and reds were sharper, blues faded altogether, and what an explosion of smells! The pines, the grass, the dew… blood.
The wolf’s head rose, nose to the air, ears pricked. The scent was tainted, not off, but wrong. The wolf didn’t care. It padded silently through the park, following the bloody smell.
The drums were closer now, filling the air and smothering all other sound. Bianca crouched and covered her ears, eyes tight shut. She wasn’t sure why that helped, but forcing herself into as small a space as possible seemed the instinctual thing to do. The sound overwhelmed her, pounding on her skull.
Then, abruptly, there was silence.
The wind shifted, and a strong, earthy scent was carried toward her, filling her head with what would have been panic, if she had still been able to feel it. She slowly raised her head, wincing at the throbbing in her ears. All she could hear was a dull whine, the after-thought of the thunderous drums.
She was face-to-face with a pair of pale, yellow eyes, low to the ground, not six feet from her nose. The face was long and canine, its lips pulled back over yellowing, gruesome teeth, each one ridiculously sharp. Her hearing returned just in time to catch the low, menacing growl that built in the creature’s throat. She wished she had remained deaf.
It moved toward her, one, jerking push and its nose was almost touching hers. She fell backward, never taking her eyes from those hungry yellow ones. The stench of its breath on her face was overwhelming, and the heat radiating from its body was uncomfortably warm.
The body was long, with thick, muscled hind legs and long, arm-like front limbs. It crouched on its heels, balancing with the front knuckles, and she could see clusters of serrated, sharp claws behind, longer than her fingers. The head was longer than a wolf, though that was what she would have likened it to if asked… maybe a hound.
The werewolf growled again, and shuffled. This time, she could tell it was ready to lunge for the kill. She had only moments to think.
She leaped forward a split second before it, startling the creature and forcing it to rethink itself. Too late, it plunged down toward her, for she had already shoved it full-force into the dirt. It seemed to be confused by her strength for a moment.
That didn’t last long.
Pain lanced through her arm as its jaws latched on, crunching down with enough force to sever the limb completely if she were human. Bianca levered a boot under its jaw and pushed into its throat, screaming as it tore at her flesh, whilst the other foot snapped up and smacked it in the side of the face. It let go with a whine, allowing her to scramble to her feet.
A thought occurred to her, filling her with dread, as she turned to escape the park. If she ran now, there was still enough night left for it to find a weaker prey somewhere in the city. She was fast enough to out run it, but not everyone was as swift as she. She’d have to keep it occupied.
“Oof!” She fell back again, crumpled over her midsection where the shoulder had rammed her. Her wounded arm was trapped underneath her, turned at an awkward angle. The werewolf’s ears flattened against its head when she screeched, probably high enough for only it to hear.
That was it, scratch the heroism. She pulled herself up and sprinted. She made it all of five yards before the thing crashed into her knees and sent her flailing, face down on the bed of rotting leaves. Bianca’s heart no longer worked, but she still understood fear, still found it hard to focus when she was terrified. She screamed and panicked and thrashed, pulling her legs from under the creature in a mad frenzy. Her boot connected with its face, and she was on her feet again.
The night was full of sound now, the bubble around Dawn Park seemed to have popped and she could hear the traffic on the street and the people leaving the theatre. She wondered how late it was, fleetingly, as though she had suddenly decided to stop being afraid, and then its scent was there again, all mud and blood and disease.
She made for the road, running drunkenly and slamming into obstacles. She could hear it lumbering behind, feel its hot breath.
Over her shoulder, she saw its jaws ready to close on her spine, and remembered something. She had forgotten in her blind terror, a lesson from her mother, one she’d never mastered. A mother who would read the gothic tale Carmilla aloud, because it was her daughter’s favourite.
The werewolf’s jaws closed over thin air with a snap, and then it was its turn to panic, for where before had stood a frightened young vampire, there now raged a large, angry panther, eyes glowing violet and teeth flashing. It’s right foreleg was bleeding and broken, but it bristled dangerously. The fight that ensued was terrible, and quick.