“You are a monster.”
I stood behind the closed door, eyes shut, repeating that sentence to myself over and over. It was like I was meditating, and that was my mantra. I was a monster. I had accepted that years ago. I hated it, but I didn’t deny it. That was why I did this every time I went outside. If I ever lost this feeling…if I ever stopped hating myself…then I would know I had lost the last bit of humanity I had in me.
What would I do when that happened? Hopefully I’d never have to find out.
My pocket vibrated, and I pulled out my phone even though I already knew what it would say. You have arrived. Taking a deep breath, I pushed open the door. It opened to the side of a busy city street, with a row of dilapidated buildings rising up in front of me. Stepping onto the curb, I looked back. What had been a wooden door when I’d gone through had turned into a car door, attached to a shiny black limousine. The driver grinned and wiggled his fingers at me.
The urge to kill him rose, not for the first time. Also not for the first time, I shoved it back down and slammed the door. He would wait here with the car until I was done. I turned, looking at the building he had dropped me off at. It was an old hotel, abandoned for decades. The smell of smoke was faint even to my supersensitive nose, but still there. It looked like it would collapse if I breathed on it the wrong way. Why hadn’t the city officials demolished it, I wondered?
No. No wondering. No thinking. I fixed my eyes on the boarded up doorway. Only work.
I walked up to the door and gave it a kick. The entire thing shattered like it was made of graham cracker, throwing up a cloud of old smelling dust. I waited for it to clear before stepping—
I froze. I could…feel…something. Far away, but getting closer by the minute.
The full moon.
Cursing under my breath, I pulled my phone out again and checked the time. Eight twenty five PM. Fifteen minutes before moonrise. The feeling faded as I went inside, putting a roof and walls between me and the sky, and I breathed a sigh of relief.
Jackwad! I typed, face burning. You did this on purpose. Again.
Send. It took a few seconds to buzz again.
I’m sure I have no idea what you mean, Amber. But you had better hurry if you don’t want to get caught outside with the moon up. Wouldn’t it be a shame if someone got hurt because of you?
I growled, the sound coming out more beastial than I’d meant it to, and shoved the phone back into my pocket. Fifteen minutes. Could I do this in fifteen minutes? It wasn’t like I had a choice, I guess. If I didn’t get the job done, I wouldn’t be surprised if he took the car away.
I squared my shoulders. I’d managed to stay out of the full moon for three years now. I wasn’t going to let that change tonight.
I rammed my shoulder into the door that led to the stairwell and raced up the steps. I could still feel the moon faintly, but in here I could control it. I let it seep into me, like I was some kind of lunar panel, feeding me energy that I used to run all the way up to the top floor of the old hotel. When I got there, kicking down that door too, I wasn’t even out of breath.
The wind whipped my long red hair out behind me. The fire that had ravaged this place must have started up here, because there were holes all over the walls and barely any ceiling. Again, the power of the impending moon hit me. My senses went into overdrive, and for a split second I could smell everything. Not just the soot stained air, but the people who had been here that night so many years ago. Burning flesh. The human part of me wanted to hurl, but something else latched onto that scent. Something I had done my best to bury over the past three years. It loved the smell of death, lived for it.
Like a shadow, it rose up inside me.
LET. ME. OUT.
I refused to speak to it. Maybe if I ignored it, it would go away. I knew that was stupid, since it literally existed inside of me, but…
The job. Right. Doing my best to shove the thing back down, I began to wander around the hotel. There was one good thing about this, I supposed, and that was my already superhuman sense of smell being ratcheted even higher. I resisted the urge to go down on all fours and sniff for him—I might not be able to get back up—and instead closed my eyes and inhaled deeply.
Yes. I wasn’t alone.
I let the scents wash over me, painting a picture in my brain without having to open my eyes—and then spun around and charged down the hallway! I had him, but I needed to act fast. Not just to escape the moon, but to keep him from escaping again. I didn’t even bother with the door this time, plowing straight through the old brittle wall instead. A cloud of dust and plaster filled the room, but not before I saw my target huddled in the corner. With a scream, I pounced on it—
That wasn’t him.
I could tell as soon as my hands touched his—its—body. My target was a full grown man, but this felt like…a puppy? It squirmed, but I kept a firm hold on it until the dust and plaster settled and I could see what I’d caught.
“What the hell?” I asked out loud.
It looked just like a fox pup. I knew that wasn’t possible because, 1. how did a baby fox get to the twentieth floor of an abandoned hotel, and 2. since when were foxes born with two tails?
I clutched it between two hands, holding it at arm's’ length. I could plainly see the terror in its eyes, but there was also intelligence in there. I didn’t know what the hell I had found up here, but it wasn’t just a common animal.
My fingers tightened around it, making it whimper. He wouldn’t want any witnesses. My common sense was screaming in horror that I would even consider something like this, and yet that deep, dark part of me was whispering how easy it would be. A quick jerk of its head. A little bite on the…
It was almost a relief when I got punched through the wall.
I blasted into the next room over, head spinning, and realized I had dropped the pup. The small amount of moonlight I was absorbing cleared my head after a couple seconds, and I stood up. The little fox was back in the room I’d been in before, cowering behind the fuzzy hooved legs of the one I’d come here looking for. The satyr raised a fist, the metal gauntlet he wore glowing with scarlet runes.
“Reya, run!” he said. The pup bolted from the room.
I turned to face him, and he held the gauntlet out warningly.
“Stewart Doss?” I asked, already knowing the answer.
I pointed at his metal glove. “You have something I want.”
“You just tried to murder a child,” he said. “You’re the last person I’d give it to.”
I flinched a little. I wanted to tell him that hadn’t been me, but that would have been a lie. It was a part of me. It had been since the night Stark had attacked me and my dad. And unless I took a swan dive off the hotel tonight, it would stay part of me for a long time.
I checked my phone. Ten minutes to moonrise.