Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language, violence, and mature content.
The Night Before
Things have been different lately. Everyone has been doing their own things. Dealing with their own problems. When I saw Julia and Logan at their house, they were both different. Logan was may more intense than she’s ever been and Julia was more serious. I’m not sure she’s handling everything as well as she’d like us to believe. But it’s not like there’s anything I can do about it.
With Elijah not being around much lately, Parker either taking care of his sister or at work, Julia and Logan just getting out of the hospital with their own suddenly crazy lives to worry about, and Mom and Dad being absent for the past week on a trip for work to Oregon, being lonesome has become a daily thing for me. At least with Mom and Dad, they’re usually around more. Work-related events used to be a once a year thing, but this past year it’s about a 50/50 chance that they’ll either be at home or be gone. I mean, it gives me the freedom to do pretty much whatever I like and they leave plenty of money for me, but sometimes I wish they were home just a bit more.
I’m washing the conditioner out of my hair in the shower, wondering about how our lives will be when Julia and Logan come back to school, when I hear something. I stop what I’m doing and lean closer to the wall to listen.
It sounds like footsteps. And...voices.Coming from my room. My heart drops in my chest because I have no siblings, all of my friends are clearly busy and wouldn’t be here at this time of night anyway, and my parents aren’t supposed to be back for three more days. If someone has broken into my house, I don’t exactly have any weapons with me in the bathroom. Not even a phone.
But as I shut the water off and step out a bit too fast, getting water all over the floor, the footsteps and voices stop, as do I. Was I imagining it?
That’s when the scratching starts.
It’s still coming from the next room over, my bedroom, but this sounds distinctly….animal. Like claws are digging into my walls, going up and down, left to right, dragging across them and making indentations in them most likely. Did someone bring an animal in? Or do they just have some really long fingernails?
I look down at my cat, Shadow, now remembering that he followed me in here. He meows at me again, staring back at me with green eyes that are startling in contrast to his dark coat. Now I know for sure that that can't be him making those noises in my room.
"Shh," I hiss back.
I wrap a towel around me, still dripping water onto the grey and black linoleum tiles, and stand there listening and contemplating what to do. I try not to even breathe, as if they’re going to hear me and come barging in at any second. Why are they here? To rob my house? If so, why are they in my room? And they had to have heard the shower going. They know I’m in here.
Shit, shit, shit.
What do I do?
I grab my glasses off of the sink and slide them on my face, clearing up my vision. Then I pull off the metal bar holding up the shower curtain, slow and quiet, pushing the curtain off. It’s the best weapon I have if there is someone in my house right now.
"Go check it out."
I look around. Did someone say that aloud? Did I? That wasn’t my voice.
"Go check it out," it repeats again, and this time I know that it wasn’t aloud. Just in my head. But it still doesn’t feel like...me.
What? No. That’s fucking crazy. That’s how you get killed.
No. Why would I do something stupid like that?
"JUST GO! GO LOOK IN YOUR FUCKING ROOM!"
I shake my head, trying to knock the voice right out of it. It doesn’t go away though; just gets quieter. As dumb as it is, I find myself listening to it. Trying to get it to shut up by doing what it says. I inch toward the door.
"Go look in your room."
I’m going, I’m going. Chill.
My entire body is shaking so badly that not only do I bump into the mahogany cabinets to my right, I end up fumbling with the gold doorknob for longer than I should as well, making an incredible amount of noise. The scratching doesn’t stop, however; if anything, it gets louder.
They heard me. They had to hear me.
I make it into the carpeted hallway, my long wet jet-black hair splayed over my shoulders, while Shadow rubs around my legs while purring. I don’t think I so much as breathe for the next minute as I make my way to my door not five feet away. It takes me a long time just to get that far, my body trembling still while I struggle to remain quiet.
I’m not Julia. I can’t stay brave in terrifying situations. I’m not the person who stays and fights; I’m the one who runs. I don’t even know why I’m doing this right now. I should be getting out of the house. I know if she were here right now that she’d be calm. She wouldn’t be shaking. She wouldn’t hesitate to open the door and hit the intruder over the head. But I just can’t be that brave.
"Open the door."
And though I don’t understand why, I listen to the voice. With my heart pounding in my chest, my head feeling stuffy, and the scratching sounds all around me now and drowning out every other noise and thought in my brain, I set my hand on the doorknob and twist. I yank my left arm back up, tightening both hands around the metal bar and preparing myself to lash out at whatever’s on the other side of the door.
But there’s nothing. Neither human nor animal. And the scratching stopped as soon as the door cracked open.
I feel like I’m walking on air as I step farther in and look around my room, then finally let my arms fall down to my sides. Did I imagine all of that?
Jesus Christ. You need to get out of this house for awhile before you go crazy.
I clean up the mess of water I made in the bathroom, french-braid my damp hair, and change into a thick pair of sweatpants, an even thicker pair of socks, my black and white Converse, a long-sleeve shirt, and a billowing black hoodie. Then I lock the doors to the house and go for a walk, even though it’s dark and below freezing outside.
My paranoia gets the best of me as I walk down the sidewalks of Eastcliff, every car that passes me by making me think I’m being followed, that they were who was in my house. I have to keep reminding myself how ridiculous I’m being, but fear doesn’t care whether it’s correct or not. It’s just there.
The thing is, is I can wave away what happened with the scratching and the footsteps and the voices as my hearing things, as people do that from time to time, especially in the quiet; but the voice I heard in my head was certainly real. And why was it telling me to go into my room? Was there something in there and I just missed it?
I walk past the park once during my thoughts about this, but the first time there’s either no one there or I’m too caught up in my own world to notice anyone. But the second time I go by, as I hadn’t realized I made a giant loop around one of the nearby neighborhoods, there is someone there. Actually, two people. It’s too dark for me to tell exactly what’s going on, or who it is, but the highline pole illuminates the area enough for me to witness a bit of it. My thoughts about the voice and the possible break-in at my house exit in time-breaking fashion when one of the individuals takes off running away from the park and the other collapses onto the ground. I freeze for a minute, watching the figure run away, then snap out of it and race toward the collapsed person on the grass.
I’m out of breath by the time I reach her, and once I see who exactly it is, it becomes hyperventilation out of panic rather than exercise.
“Rachel,” I whisper, falling onto my knees. My hands, which have yet to stop shaking, hover over her maroon-stained shirt. The blood is warm to the touch, bringing heat to my cold hands. “Rachel!”
This is Lucas’s sister. This is the girl I rode in the car with to the cabin last Friday, before that disaster of a night happened. She and I had never spoken before then, but I’d seen her around school, of course. I recall her being exasperated with me in her car, but that’s something I’ve come used to over the years as people tend to either love me or hate me; there’s no happy-medium. She has gone with the latter option, not that it really matters anyway.
My fingers find their way to her neck, and then to her wrist, but I can’t find a pulse anywhere. She’s not breathing either.
Tears start streaming down my face, and I struggle to control my breathing enough to call the police and let them know what’s happened. I’m lucky that I can even get a clear enough thought through my brain to think to do that, as nothing else going on in there right now makes any sense, though I end up dropping my cell phone three times before getting a strong enough grip on it.
What the hell was it that Julia did at the cabin with Diana? Tied a jacket around her like a makeshift tourniquet? Do I need to do that, or–or turn her on her side like she did, or should I give her CPR or something since she’s not breathing?
There’s blood everywhere, all over both Rachel and me. Her naturally bronzy skin is paler than I’ve ever seen it.
How the fuck did Julia stay so calm?
“Please, please, please…” I breathe, hoping against everything I know about the human anatomy that Rachel will be okay. My vocal cords let out a high-pitched squeak every time I try to inhale.
I have the three numbers dialed for the police, but just before I press the call button, something moves. I stop squeaking and look up with my thumb still hovering over the button.
Did I just imagine that too? Is this even happening?
Call 911 already, you idiot.
But then it does it again, with me looking right at it as it happens. Her hand twitches. It’s definite this time, and I somehow muster up enough courage to take another look at her torn-open stomach.
Except now it’s not torn-open. The previous slashes and gaping wounds have disappeared. If it wasn’t for her shirt being ripped apart still, along with blood all over it, I would’ve figured I’m just going insane and imagining all kinds of crazy stuff now. But it’s still there, meaning that a few seconds ago she really did have slashes and scratches and slits all over her abdomen. But now she doesn’t.
What the hell is going on?
My thumb is still wavering over the call button when her hazel-brown eyes pop open. She sucks the air right out of my lungs and into her own, then starts coughing like an old man with pneumonia and sits up. My phone slips from my hand once more.
Even with her brown and blonde hair in a mess, her skin pale and sweaty, and blood splattered up her neck and on her face, she’s gorgeous. She’s always had this unique kind of beauty that makes you want to stop and try to figure out whether you’ve seen her before or if she’s just pleasant to look at.
She reigns in her coughing after about ten seconds, looking around the park in confusion before stopping on me.
I’ve never heard her voice shake so much.
My mouth hangs open and I try to make something, anything, come out, but there’s nothing. My chest grows hot from a lack of oxygen reaching it, and I’m pretty sure if I could speak right now, it would only be an even messier version of the confusion running around inside me.
Rachel must notice either my lack of breathing or my changing skin color because she grabs onto my wrist, her grip firm but gentle.
“Sarah. Sarah, breathe. Breathe.”
“I–” I take a breath. “You-you were dead. You didn’t have a pulse, and-and you weren’t breathing, and there’s no fucking way that just happened. There’s no way. What’s going on right now?”
She lets go of my wrist and leans back, color starting to come back to her face. “I don’t know.”
Rachel’s eyes widen and she becomes stock-still all of a sudden, interrupting my train of thought.
“Oh my god.”
“What? What is it?”
“No-nothing.” She shoots to her feet all of a sudden, shoving herself off the ground with lean arms and legs that appear prepared to sprint away at any given second. “I’ve got to go.”
I sit there watching her speed-walk away for a moment, then scramble to grab my phone and catch up with her. She’s dug her hands into the pockets of her brown leather jacket, her long legs moving so quickly that my short ones practically have to run to keep up. She doesn’t so much as look at me.
“What are you doing? Where are going? What the hell happened back there? Did something–”
“Go home, Sarah. I don’t know why you were out here anyway, and I do appreciate that you were trying to help me, but leave. I don’t know how I did that either.”
“I’m not going anywhere until you tell me what’s going on. So if I have to follow you home, or wherever it is you’re going, so be it. Your parents will have a third child now.”
She rolls her eyes so far back into her skull it’s a wonder they don’t get stuck. “Those lemmings wouldn’t know it if you did live with us. But that’s not where I’m supposed to be going anyway.”
“Then where are we going?”
She comes to a sudden stop, almost goddess-like with her hair blowing in the wind and her posture standing tall and confident. “We are going nowhere. You are going to go the fuck home, and I am going back to the park, where I was supposed to be meeting someone. You will pretend this never happened, got it?”
“Uh, no. No, I don’t got it. And I’m not leaving your side until you tell me who attacked you, why those were claw marks all over you when that was a human with you, and why you are out here at all. I’m tired of being left in the dark.”
I don’t realize that I’m talking about Julia and Logan until after I’ve said it, but once I do, what Elijah told me at their house about the latter hits me like an explosion to the memory folds of the brain. She’s a werewolf. They’re both werewolves. That would make them both human and animal, which would explain both the human figure I saw from the distance and the animal wounds on Rachel’s body.
“Wait...was that Logan with you earlier? Or Julia”
“Logan?” By the confusion all over face, it’s obvious that she has no clue what I’m talking about and I just made a big mistake. “No. Why would you think that?”
“Um…” I rub the sides of my glasses like I tend to do whenever I’m nervous. “Nothing. You know what, you’re right, I should probably get home. Sorry.”
She grabs onto my arm as I try to fly past her, pulling me to a stop. “What do you know?”
My mouth opens and closes a few times as if I’m a puppet, but for the life of me I have nothing to say. I’ve always been a terrible liar. Like a ‘needs days in advance to plan and still messes it up’ kind of liar.
Why the hell did I say Logan? Or even Julia, for that matter? They may both be werewolves–which will never cease to blow my mind–but there is someone else out there that has been the one killing people. They are not killers. The man that bit Julia is a werewolf; if anyone, it was him. Then again, we know nothing about him. Or at least, I don’t; maybe Julia, Logan, and Elijah do and just haven’t said anything yet. But I’m assuming it’s him, even if I don’t have any clue who he is.
I mean, who else would it be?
Luckily, the sound of a car squealing to a stop up ahead interrupts us. Someone in some kind of old, bright red car comes to a stop beside the park. I know nothing about cars so I’m not sure, but I think it might be a mustang.
Rachel lets go of me, sighing, and rubs her head. “Goddamnit. Okay, look, I need you to come with me. I’ll tell you what I know, you tell me what you know. Okay? We have to go get into that car over there.”
I look between the car and her a few times, unsure of what I should decide. I want to know what she has to say, clearly, but at the same time I don’t want to get into some random person’s car. This night has been crazy enough already. And it’s really late and I should probably get home. But…
“If I get murdered tonight, I will haunt you from the dead, Rachel.”
“That’s fine,” she says, intertwining her arm in mine. “Let’s go.”
She practically drags me with her down the sidewalk toward the red mustang. My heart starts racing again because of how strange and suspicious this all is, and because of the fact that I really should’ve said no. What the hell am I doing right now? I just saw Rachel come back to fucking life, and now I’m getting into a stranger’s car to discuss….well, I don’t even know what we’re going to say.
“Who is this?” I ask, hoping at the least it’ll be someone I know. I look at Rachel, whose face is flushed as she comes to a stop outside the car, reaching for the passenger side handle.
“Her name’s Tiffany.”
I lean the front seat forward so I can climb in the back, where Rachel joins me after a second. A girl probably not much older than I cranes her head around from the driver’s seat, revealing bright green eyes along with her dirty blonde hair. She looks from me to Rachel.
“Who’s this? And where’s Luke?”