"One... two... three... push!"
With the truck set in neutral gear, we both pushed and felt the wheels roll in unison. As slow and steady as it was, we continued moving the vehicle down the road until we finally reached the entrance of the hospital that we had claimed as our home.
While it was as large as any other city hospital, we had made plans to reinforce long after scouting it out. I remembered the first few weeks; we had to leave half our men out on watch every night, changing posts every few hours to ensure that everybody had gotten some sleep. During the day, we gathered cement constantly and mixed as much as we could to provide the wall that kept the hounds out. The wall itself measured nearly 3 to 4 feet thick and 6 feet tall, to ensure the hounds couldn't bite, climb or dig their way through it, but we had to also consider the costs of material and labor to make it. Luckily, we managed to get it built around the courtyard and secure some small, safe area for people to walk without fear of the hounds biting at their ankles. From the concrete wall, we placed a fence- electrical, of course- in the hopes of keeping out both hounds and uninvited guests, like the Steel Infantry or any other armed groups seeking to take things from others.
"Yeah, I can't believe it's still standing either," Brick marveled beside me. "Damn, I can still remember breaking my back to give Ahmik some place to feel safe."
"My brother too," I added, nodding in agreement. "Remember when he picked up that little 3-foot shovel and started helping?"
While most of us out breaking our backs at the time, the kids stayed inside and played. Not Damien, though. He was the only one to charge outside with the shovel he could barely lift, ready to help in any way he possibly could. I remembered him telling me that he didn't want to play with the other kids, he wanted to be a man like his older brother and protect the family like I did. His speech and actions inspired the other guys to keep working, to push through the pain and build a wall to keep their own families safe.
Even before that moment, Damien always did his best to help out around the house, and the only thing he's ever truly wanted was for me to notice the young man he's growing up to be. Little did he know, I noticed and I still do. But he was my last living relative, as far as we both knew. With our mother- if I could even call her that- and our father gone, we had to depend on each other. It was difficult for me to hand him his first gun, telling him that he could be part of the guard one day. He was my little brother, after all, and the last thing I want is to put him in harm's way. The job of our guard was dangerous, but he knew that and that's why he still fights to prove that he can do it. The rest was up to me.
"Alright, let's stop waiting around and-"
"Hold up," Brick gestured for me to stop. "Your eyes, they're doing that weird glowy thing again."
"What?" I asked, wanting to make sure I heard him right but I couldn't have been more certain that I did. Quickly, I moved over to the left side-view mirror on the truck and leaned over to get a better view. While my eyes were naturally light brown, the bright shade of amber was noticeable, especially when others were close-by but there was nothing I could do about it; I had no control over it.
"Does it hurt?" He asked curiously, though he kept his voice quiet.
"No," I responded just as quietly. I may not have known much about shapeshifters but I've learned enough to get by. Sure, the color of eyes- the sudden changes- they never hurt, not once. The real pain came randomly; sometimes, I'd get strange skin crawling sensations and then muscle spasms so bad that it felt like they were tight enough to snap my bones at a moment's notice. Most people here, they'd never notice. They only noticed my pain when it began affecting their own lives, when my behavior got in the way of the wonderful life that I fought to give them.
"Why don't you head up before the others see you?" He suggested with a pat on my shoulders. "I'll have the guys strip the truck down for parts and put the fuel into our reserves. Go upstairs, take some time and relax, alright? I've got it from here, Sam."
"I got it," He insisted with a firm voice. "Besides, I don't think getting everybody worked up tonight is going to do us much good." He paused for a moment, "You talk to Ana about this, right? Want me to get her or Elika?"
"Ana," I said quietly. Neither Seth or Elika needed to be seen around me right now, and Ana was usually the person I spoke to about it because she was there when it happened. But everyone else? Most the people here were already scared of my most recent outbursts and it's one of the reasons I had to leave, to get out and breathe without them hovering over my neck, waiting to see when I'd finally lose it and become the monster they feared me to be. They didn't understand though, none of them really did. I heard the stories, the rumors. Men bit by an animal with red eyes and cursed to walk the rest of their days by it. Some committed suicide, others fought the change. But then you had people like me, people who couldn't take the right form because their body didn't know how to react to the poisoned bite.
"Keep your head down," He said as I focused on my reflection.
Come on, go away.
I stared longer and harder at the mirror, growing more and more impatient as my eyes stayed the same. There was no change, there never was. And yet, I always hoped there would be. After all, if you couldn't control yourself around your loved ones, wouldn't you be worried too? What would happen if they ticked you off over the smallest thing that's never truly bothered you? If you turned to them and bared fangs like some rabid, mangy animal or actually ended up- I don't know- biting them?
I clutched the door of the truck and closed my eyes, hoping and wishing for the same miracle.
× One year ago,
"Ana!" I coughed for her through the flames, waiting for some kind of response from her. "Ana, where are you?"
The smoke had become so thick and heavy that I could barely see more than two feet in front of me. She was the only one still inside, and I had no idea where she was or where she could've been. Ana was just a kid in the wrong place at the wrong time, and ever since I found her lost and alone inside of an abandoned mall surrounded by those... things, I knew that she was my responsibility and that I would do everything in my power to protect her, even if she hated me for doing it.
"Ana!" I shouted at the top of my lungs before covering my mouth with the freshly ripped sleeve of my shirt and pushing forward into the immense heat of the flames.
Carefully and quickly, I climbed past the burning wood and debris that fell down all throughout the warehouse. From one end to the other- or as far as I could get- I searched for her, using most of my strength to lift several metal beams and others large objects out of my way in the hopes of finding her, but I didn't.
"Damien!" I heard her voice cry out weakly. "Elika, anybody! Please, I- i can't move!"
"Ana!" I called out, hoping to hear her again as I tried to determine what direction her voice was coming from. "Ana, talk to me!"
Shit! I quickly turned around and followed the sound of metal striking against metal as she continued crying for help. One by one, I knocked over everything in my path and even stumbled over myself in my hurry. It was getting harder and harder to breathe, and it felt like the air was nearly gone, if wasn't already.
I froze instantly at the monstrous sound, listening to the wet steps of the creature as they grew louder and louder. In the corner of my eye, the source of the eerie noise suddenly came into view. Loud, deep snarls echoing and originating from some large, black creature with huge white fangs. If the smoke were any darker, I probably would've walked right into it and that's assuming it wasn't paying any attention to it's surroundings. How it got inside- if it wasn't already before we arrived- I didn't know, but it looked distracted and focused on something else.
It's head suddenly jerked away as it looked directly at me, revealing the identity of what looked like one of the hell-hounds. But this one was far, far different than the others. This one, unlike them, had piercing red eyes and stood the size of a bear with it's paws larger than the head on my shoulders. Part of me wanted to run, but the other part told me that it'd be certain death.
× Present day,
"Sam?" I glanced over at the door's reflection, checking to see if I remembered to lock the door as the familiar voice continued speaking from the other side. "It's been over an hour, and people are starting to get worried and," Ana trailed off. "I came up with an excuse, okay, but Elika's looking for you too. I think you should talk to her, Sam. You need to talk to her about this and you need to tell her what you told me."
"I'm fine," I closed my eyes again and took a deep breath. This was my problem and I was dealing with it the best way I knew how. Elika was patient and supportive over recent changes, but she shouldn't have to be. We both knew that my body was either rejecting the change, or I was becoming something else entirely. The tremors weren't too bad, not yet anyway, but it's only a matter of time before they start getting worse. Soon my body would give out and force me to turn into one of those hounds, and that's if I haven't killed someone else.
"You're not," She argued weakly from the other side. "You're so not fine, Sam."
"I am," I countered as I re-opened my eyes. Quickly, I reached for the faucet and turned on the cold water, feeling the need to be cleansed.
"Okay, fine, Captain Wolfy!" I shook my head, fighting the urge to smile as she tried to get me to laugh, though I was just happy we weren't talking about me any more. "We still need your help out here in the real world though. Seriously, Sam, your brother and Ahmik are doing their weird silent death stares again! I tried to get Damien to walk away but Ahmik's being... well, Ahmik."
"Yeah," I rolled my eyes while patting my face down with the nearest dry towel.
Ahmik wasn't my favorite person in the house, and I knew for a fact that he hated me just for being related to Damien and anyone else who tried to be friends with him. Early on, they were the best of friends but, after we found Ana, things changed between them. All three of them grew close, too close to stay friends forever. When Damien told me that he liked Ana, I knew it wasn't going to end well because I had already known that Ahmik was drooling over her too. Everyone in the house had to watch as their friendship deteriorated, as friendly arm-wrestling became fist-to-fist fights and laughter turned into yelling. But Ana, the good kid that she was, tried to stop them, to keep them together. No matter how hard she tried, it only brought the worst out of them and now the rest of us are left to make sure they don't kill each other over a girl.
"First one to throw their fist gets double chores this weekend."
"You really think they care?" I could literally feel the frown on her face.
"They will when I'm done with their asses," I shook my head. With the hounds prowling later tonight, the last thing we needed was to attract their attention with two fresh idiots. "Tonight is not the night to be fighting; if they want to throw punches at each other, they'll both be getting their asses handed to them in isolation."
"He's your brother," She commented solemnly. "He's just trying to-"
"Prove himself a man," I finished for her. "Yeah, I know. He's been trying to prove himself for the last three years, but this isn't the way to do it. Throwing your fist at someone doesn't make you a man. Choosing to walk away, now that's what makes you a man."
"He's trying!" She defended him as I made my way to unlock and open the bathroom door.
"He's not doing much of a good job," I said flatly.
The blonde girl made a sour-face while standing between the doorway, scrunching her nose as though my words weren't the ones she wanted to hear. "Maybe not," Ana sucker-punched my arm playfully, "but that's on you, Sam. You're his brother and you're supposed to be helping him become the man I know he is. Can't do that if you're hiding out in the bathroom all day, you know? Ahmik has an excuse to be an ass. He doesn't have anyone to set him straight, no one except Gregory- or Brick, or whatever you call him by- but they aren't related. Now, Damien's lucky because he's got you, Sam, and he needs you more than you think he does."
"That's fair," I sighed. I guess some of the blame was rightfully mine. How couldn't it have been? I was never around for him to talk to nowadays, especially not after I was bit. "I'll talk to him, alright? Then I'll talk to Elika," I added, remembering that I haven't seen her since we got back.
"Good," She said proudly, feeling victorious over her win.
Honestly, there were many things I had to make up for and, hopefully, I still had time to make things right.
© Copyright 2017 JaayAnon. All rights reserved.
Book / Fantasy
Book / Gay and Lesbian
Short Story / Erotica