Yellow eyes and massive fangs!
Zave came awake with a surge of adrenaline, sitting up and clawing blindly at the beast looming over him. When he didn’t hit anything, he curled up, covering his head, sure that the killing blow would come at any second.
But nothing happened.
After a minute, when his brain had had time to catch up with his body, he peeked between his fingers. He wasn’t in the old woman’s living room anymore. In fact, he had no idea where he was. He was lying in a bed, on top of the sheets, still wearing the soaking wet clothes he’d had on before. Was this another room in the old woman’s house? Had the monster thrown him in here to keep as a prisoner instead of eating him? One of them had said that Clueless would come to them because they had her owner, hadn’t he? What did they want with his dog, of all things?
He looked around some more. The walls were painted a soulless white, unlike the homier cream color of the old woman’s house. The only other things besides the bed were an old and worn out dresser, and a cheap mirror hanging from the wall. Zave remembered how the old woman’s walls were lined with photos of her smiling grandchildren, and couldn’t imagine any room in her house being this bare.
So, he wasn’t in the old woman’s house anymore. But was that a good thing? That might just mean the monsters had taken him somewhere else. Someplace with fewer corpses to incriminate them if they were caught. Zave thought back to how the one in charge—the one who had changed into that monster, but he tried not to think about that—had casually mentioned eating him. How long would they let him live before they got tired of waiting for Clueless and devoured him?
He scanned the room for anything he could use to escape. It was probably pointless, but he couldn’t stand the thought of just sitting here, waiting for his captors to…
The door was open.
Although fear made his limbs want to lock up, Zave forced himself to move. Leaving the door open was a mistake the monster and his buddies wouldn’t make twice. The floor was carpeted, which he hoped would muffle his footsteps enough that the monster wouldn’t be able to hear him. He knew literally nothing about that thing, and that meant he had to assume it was capable of anything.
Zave crept to the door and, half expecting the living nightmare to appear and rip his face off, poked his head through it. The door led directly into the living room of a cramped apartment. Directly across from him was the bathroom, and just to the left of that was the kitchen. The only furniture was an old folding table with a single chair, and a miniature TV-VCR combo that sat on the floor surrounded by haphazard stacks of VHS’s. Books and papers covered the table, but Zave couldn’t make out what was on them from here.
Sitting on the floor, facing each other, were Clueless and the girl from the pet store.
Wait a minute, Zave thought, another memory clicking into place. She was there too, wasn’t she? But she looks human again now.
“I know you don’t understand everything I’ve told you,” she said to Clueless, “and that’s fine. There’ll be time to go into more detail later. But right now, you and I need to—”
Before Zave could react, Clueless’ head snapped to look in his direction, and the pet shop girl’s followed. Zave knew he’d been seen, but he still ducked back into the bedroom. There was a window beside the bed. Maybe if he got a running start, he’d be able to jump…
Clueless came bounding into the room, her tongue hanging from her mouth, as happy and blissfully ignorant as she’d ever been.
“You’re up. Good,” the girl said, stepping into the room behind Clueless. “You didn’t look hurt, but you wouldn’t wake up.”
Zave faced her. She was blocking the door, and he doubted he could break through the window before she could stop him. Especially not if what he remembered from before was true.
The girl rolled her eyes. “I’m not going to hurt you, okay? Stop acting like you’re going to jump out my window.”
Zave couldn’t help but blush. “Wh- What’s going on? Where am I?”
“You’re at my place. I found your car on the side of the road and brought you and Clueless here. The wreck must have knocked you out.”
Zave blinked. The wreck? With everything else that had happened, he’d completely forgotten about totaling his car. But if that was true, and the impact had knocked him unconscious, then that would mean that all that other stuff hadn’t happened at all. The temptation to accept that and pass off everything else as a horribly vivid nightmare was almost too much to resist. His face did still have a dull ache where he’d hit his airbag. But then…
He glanced out the window. The apartment complex outside looked familiar. With a jolt, he realized that he knew exactly where he was.
“This is on the complete other side of town from where I crashed,” he said, looking back at the girl. “How did Clueless and I get here?”
“I brought you here,” the girl said matter-of-factly. “You’re welcome, by the way.”
“Why didn’t you call an ambulance?”
“My phone didn’t have service.”
That made sense. Zave’s phone hadn’t been able to find a signal either. But…
“Then why didn’t you just take me to the hospital?” he asked, pointing out the window. “You would have had to go right past it to get here.”
The girl didn’t have a rebuttal for that one. She narrowed her eyes.
“Which means,” Zave deduced, panic rising up inside him with every word, “that you’re lying. And if you’re lying, then that means all that stuff in the house really did happen. And if all that stuff in the house happened, then that means…”
He swallowed, his face growing pale.
“…that you really are a monster.”
The room fell silent except for Clueless’ tail thumping rhythmically against the floor. The girl didn’t make any move to attack him, but neither did she do anything to reassure him. Zave felt like he was spinning. All of this, one mind shattering revelation after another, was too much. He wobbled, feeling like he was going to faint again, but managed to stay on his feet.
“What the hell are you?” he asked.
“Are you sure you want to know?” the girl asked in an ominous whisper. “Once you learn the truth, you can never forget it.”
Zave paused. Did he want to know? She’d said that she didn’t intend to hurt him, but what if that was a ruse? What if she was just trying to distract him, get him to lower his guard, before she pounced?
Well, it’s not like I can do anything about it, he thought with a shudder. He was clearly out of his league here.
The girl turned and made her way back into the living room. Zave hesitated, but then followed her, with Clueless trotting along behind him. There, the girl motioned for him to take a seat at the table. He did, and then looked at her, the creeping uncertainty of the situation making his insides tie themselves into sailors’ knots.
“My name is Fey Greenbriar,” the girl said.
Then she transformed. White fur grew all over her body. Her face stretched into a goatlike muzzle, and a pair of jet black horns sprouted from her forehead. Her feet, which were bare, shrank into themselves and turned the same shade of black as her horns, becoming a pair of cloven hooves. She remained standing on two feet—hooves, whatever—and her hands stayed hands, but everything else was that of a snow-white forest goat.
“And I am a skinwalker.”