Author’s Note: An excerpt of this piece was originally published in the November 2011 issue of Ramen, a handwritten paper zine published by students of Columbia College Chicago.
People disagree about when the world ended. Some people said it happened when we ran out of water, others when we ran out of oil. When the crazies on the radio talked about rising wolf populations and suspicious disappearances, we didn’t listen. We focused on God, on religion, on space exploration. We talked about countries and borders and war. We ignored the army rising up in the forests around us.
People disagree about when the world ended, but for me, it ended when I was seventeen.
My mother heard the howls before I did. She pushed me into the tiny room under the floorboards and told me to stay there, stay quiet. I should have protested (I should have grabbed a bat and fought by her side), but I didn’t. My mother covered the trap door with a carpet. There was a thump, a cry, and then silence. The silence was worse than the screams. Silence meant something was waiting. I covered my mouth and slowed my breath as the floorboards creaked above my head. Several heart-thumping minutes later I heard howling in the distance. The werewolf above me sprang out the window, showering dust onto my hair. I struggled to keep from sneezing.
I sat under the floorboards for two days before I heard the “all clear” sirens wail. I might have starved if my mother hadn’t stored enough food under the floor to feed my entire family. That was before my father left to fight the werewolves. Before my kid brother was snatched out of his bed. Before my mother was slaughtered while I hid under the floor.
The sirens were modeled after old stories of air raids, back when humans fought each other instead of werewolves. When I was a little girl my grandmother said humans have to fight something—anything—so until the wolves came, we fought ourselves. Nowadays there are too few of us to waste life fighting each other. Once upon a time, the sirens meant it was safe to come out of bomb shelters and storm cellars. These days they mean the werewolves have retreated; that it’s safe to emerge and pick up the pieces they left behind.
I poked my head cautiously out of the trap door. My mother’s body was gone. Footsteps echoed across the floor. Footsteps were safe; footsteps were human. I climbed out. My best friend Jude was taping cardboard over the broken window. I didn’t want to know where he found the duct tape, but I was glad to see him. As I pulled myself out of the trap door he turned.
“Brix! We thought you were dead.”
“If you thought I was dead, why were you boarding up the windows?”
Jude smirked, “This house is prime. There’s no way I was gonna let it get nabbed by Father Owen.”
Cold, but understandable. Jude’s my best friend, but that only goes so far these days. We passed my neighbors as they patched up their own houses. I could smell smoke and blood and sweat. When I was younger I watched these old post-apocalyptic movies from the 20th century (back when we had electricity for more than 3 hours a day). They showed wastelands where heroes roamed the countryside with sawed-off shotguns. They got it wrong. There are no heroes or happy endings—just starving children, tattered clothes and fear.
As Jude and I neared the town center, I saw the source of the smoke—a huge funeral pyre. I knew my mother (my mother’s body) was somewhere on that pyre. Jude held a grimy handkerchief over his mouth. If I still prayed I would have whispered one for her. Instead I just gritted my teeth and moved on.
Father Owen bustled toward us. He used to be a priest, before the wolves took over and everything went to hell. Now he’s our mayor, as far as that title goes. Nowadays it doesn’t go very far. Owen tried to hug me, but I stepped away.
“Brix. I’m so sorry.”
I shrugged and put on my game face. “It happens, right? Nothing we can do about it.”
Father Owen opened his mouth, but no words came out. He patted me gently on the head. I scowled.
I can count the number of times I’ve left the village on one hand. Once to visit my grandmother, back when we still had gas for cars. Once with my father, when he taught me how to hunt. Once to look for my brother, after he disappeared. I had packed light, because I always knew I was coming back. This time was different. Jude stood in the door of my bedroom, watching me pack. I knew the words that would come out of his mouth before he spoke them.
“I want to come with you.”
I smiled, “On my wild goose chase?”
He didn’t take the bait. “Brix, you need someone to watch your back.”
I knew he was right. I looked out the broken window. Daily life was slowly starting up again. Our neighbors filtered the water from their rain barrels and patched up their houses. They didn’t care about a half-remembered legend. I wondered whether I was as crazy as Father Owen.
“You’re not crazy.” Jude’s voice broke through my thoughts. He could read me, like always. I laughed.
“Don’t be so sure. Everyone knows the silver’s gone. You know, my grandmother used to have a set of tableware made out of silver. Can you believe that? Forks and spoons and everything, all made out of silver. She sold it before I was born to buy bread.”
The thing about the silver is, no one noticed when it started disappearing. We were running out of resources left and right–silver wasn’t important when we were trying to conserve coal and water. Not many people connect the loss of silver with the werewolves. The wolves are so elusive, no one really knows if the old Hollywood superstitions are true. Father Owen believed. As for me? It didn’t matter. Unless you count Jude (which I don’t), I didn’t have anything to keep me in the village. So we left, walking side by side into the forest.
The forests around here–the big ones, anyway–were once inhabited by bears and hikers who wanted to live off the land. Now they’re overrun by the wolves and the paths that used to be trimmed and tamed are overrun and snarled. Jude led the way, hacking and slashing at the trees with a knife he stole from Father Owen (Jude claimed the only use Owen would have for it would be to systematically slaughter the entire town, so he was, in fact, doing everyone a favor).
Suddenly Jude’s quiet voice broke through the noise. “What are we supposed to do if we meet a werewolf?”
I stopped walking. “I didn’t think about that.”
Jude turned to face me. “You didn’t think about that? You took me on a quest to fight werewolves and you didn’t think about how we’d do it?”
I sighed and flopped onto the ground. “I didn’t take you—you latched on. And we’re not on a quest to fight werewolves, just to find the silver dagger.”
“In the heart of the forest, where the wolves live, where it’s probably guarded in the center of their settlement by the leader?” Jude crossed his arms and stood over me.
“That was random.”
“You’re not the only one who watched old movies, Brix. I know how these quest stories go.”
I stood, brushed off my pants and took Jude’s knife. “Those are just stories. I’ll take the lead for a while.”
Jude followed, but not without arguing. “Are we even sure that silver will work? Why don’t we try wood?”
“Because they aren’t vampires.”
“Maybe they are! Dracula can turn into a wolf.”
“Don’t be an idiot. There’s only one of him.” As I hacked at a particularly stubborn branch, something occurred to me. “And he’s fictional!”
“I don’t believe in fictional anymore. We used to think that werewolves didn’t exist and look where that got us. Besides, what if he made more?”
If Jude hadn’t been (vigorously) protesting the number of Draculas that existed, he might have seen the small figure lurking in the shadows of the forest. If I hadn’t been clearing the path with a stolen knife, I might have heard the velvet-soft footprints as the figure followed us through the woods. If I’d been paying attention, I would have seen the tripwire stretched across the forest floor.
Jude told me later that the tripwire was really well hidden, but he was just trying to make me feel better. The bottom line is that I should have been looking. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to hang in a net, swinging from a tree, awaiting your certain death, let me demystify the experience for you: it’s awful. It’s nerve-wracking. And it makes you want to tell your best friend how much he means to you. Luckily for my pride, the werewolves came for us before I reached the “I love you. I really, really love you” stage of panic.
And you want to know the craziest part? The werewolves looked like people. I know, I know, I should have expected that–I’ve watched all the movies. But we had been terrorized by the wolves for so long that we forgot who they were and what they looked like when the moon is a sliver in the sky. And they looked like me. Like Jude. Like Father Owen. They looked scrawny and pinched and dirty. One of them–way in the back–even looked a little like my brother. I told myself that was impossible; that my brother was dead. But even as I told myself that he was taken from his bed, I remembered that we never found his body. My parents had never suggested that he had become a werewolf. I think they were afraid to even think it.
“Brandon?” My voice cracked on the second syllable. Jude twisted in his net, trying to locate my brother. The wolves, the people, the werewolves… whatever they were, they closed ranks and hid my brother from view. A tall, scarred man approached us and took out a knife. (Iron blade. I checked). Jude and I stiffened, but he just cut the ropes attached to the trees. We dropped to the ground. Jude scrambled out of his net and helped me free of mine.
Before we could even think about escape, the leader bound our hands and hobbled our feet. Jude tried to struggle, but the leader held Jude’s gaze and stared him down. Maybe it’s a wolf thing. I remember learning about that when I was a kid, when school was still mandatory. Dominance and alpha males. I guess it works with werewolves and humans. The leader wrapped worn cloths over our eyes, blindfolding us.
We walked for an hour or more. I stumbled more than once, but someone was always there to catch me. I hated the feel of a werewolf’s hand on my skin. I hated knowing that, for whatever reason, the wolves had spared our lives. I hated owing them for that. I wanted to call out for my brother again, but as much as I hated letting a werewolf touch me, I didn’t want that contact to be replaced with the scarred leader’s iron knife.
At long last we arrived at the camp. Our blind-folds were removed (though not, I noticed, the ropes that bound our hands and feet). I looked for my brother, or for the face that looked like my brother, but he was gone. I wondered whether I had imagined him after all. The leader pushed us into a small tent.
He lit a lamp and looked us over appraisingly. I didn’t like the feel of his eyes on my face, my legs, my breasts. He looked like he was examining a horse or a car. Like I was a piece of property he could use. There was no feeling or affection or lust. Just clinical interest. Jude didn’t like it much either, and true to form, he started arguing.
“Hey, you. What’s your deal? Do you usually truss up travelers like a Christmas roast?”
“Jude,” I warned him, but he was on a roll.
“No, Brix, I want an answer. We were minding our own business and all of a sudden some group of dirty outlaws—”
Quick as lightning, the leader had his hand wrapped around Jude’s throat. When he spoke, his voice was a low rumble. “If you think I’m an outlaw, you are far stupider than I thought.”
“Let him go.” The anger I felt didn’t surprise me, but the fact that I spoke did. The fact that the leader actually dropped Jude surprised me even more. Jude rubbed his throat and glared at the wolf. Inexplicably, the leader started to laugh. Another wolf poked his head into the tent. The leader gestured toward Jude.
“Take him away. Feed him, bathe him, untie his hands, I don’t care. But don’t untie his feet.” The leader glanced at me, “and don’t hurt him.” The wolf led Jude out of the tent. The leader poured two cups of water from a pitcher in the corner. He set one near my hands, but I didn’t touch it. He sipped and spoke. “I heard you call for Brandon. Who is he to you?”
So my brother was here. I swallowed, hard. “He… was my brother. I thought he was dead.” I shrugged, “Maybe he is. Maybe it was just my eyes playing tricks.”
The leader appraised me again, but his gaze was softer, kinder. He knelt at my side and quickly untied my hands. “My name is Luke,” he said finally. “Your brother is here with us.” A raised hand silenced my questions before I could ask them. “He may not be the child you lost.”
“I don’t care. I need to see him. Our mother–” a lump grew in my throat. I swallowed several times before I could continue. “He’s all I have left.”
Luke nodded and stood. He swept out of the tent. I shook violently; with fear or excitement I wasn’t sure. The tent flap stirred and my brother entered. We stood silently, examining each other.
Brandon was older, now–14 to my 17. I hadn’t seen him in three years. There was a feral gleam in his eyes that reminded me of Luke. He watched me silently, daring me to speak first. There were so many questions, so many things I wanted to ask, to know.
I started to cry. “Brandon. What happened?”
He looked up at me and reached out to wipe away my tears. I flinched. He smiled, a crooked smile, and dropped his hand. “Don’t cry, sister.” His voice was flat and devoid of emotion. “I spent my entire life listening to the wolves howling outside my window. I knew I would go to them sooner or later.”
“Brandon, no,” I whispered.
“Yes. They didn’t take me from my bed. I ran away. Luke found me; he took me in. He taught me the history of the wolves. And one night, when the moon was full and the wolves were howling around me, Luke made me into what I am now.” His voice was filled with conviction. It made me sick to my stomach to see how my brother had changed so much.
“Brandon, listen to yourself. The wolves are monsters, they—” I stopped and took a breath. “They killed our parents.”
Brandon shook his head, “we don’t know that. Luke says that our father could be with another tribe. He could be saved, like me.”
I narrowed my eyes. I didn’t like where this was headed. “I don’t care what Luke says! He didn’t save you. He doomed you. How do you know that Luke didn’t lead the raid…” I swallowed, “the raid that killed Mom?”
My brother looked up at me. His eyes glinted with a strange, feral light. “How do you know Mom’s dead?” He countered, “Did you see a body? I bet you hid under the floor like a child and let her die.”
Filled with a sudden burst of temper, I slapped my brother. He barely flinched. “Humans will never stop fighting.” I hissed, “Our time won’t be over until every last one of us is dead.”
“Then we still have a long way to go.” I heard Luke’s voice behind me. I froze, but Brandon stood and bowed his head. “Leave us,” Luke said. Brandon shuffled out of the tent without a backwards glance. “I’d take it as a kindness if you didn’t strike my men.”
“He’s only eleven,” I retorted automatically.
“Fourteen,” Luke corrected me. “And he has seen more in the three years he spent with me than in eleven years with you.”
I stood, stung by Luke’s words. He let me pace the tent silently. I could feel his eyes on my back–it was unsettling. I turned to face him. “What did he mean? That the time of humans was ending?”
Luke cracked a smile. I didn’t return it. “Some of the new wolves are… excitable. It doesn’t harm anyone.”
Luke shrugged one shoulder as if to say so what? “How old are you? Seventeen?” I nodded. “You probably don’t remember what the world was like before the wolves took over.”
“Yes I do,” I protested. “We fought over oil and coal–”
Luke waved my words away. “You remember what your parents told you. Ten years ago you were seven. I was fifteen. I remember.” Luke reached out to me. He took my hands and pulled me down onto a chair. He held my gaze, daring me to look away. “We lost touch, that’s all. Lost touch with the world, with nature, with each other. Why do you think me and my people are living in tents? Because if we moved into houses it would be too…”
“Civilized?” I asked dryly.
Luke smirked, “Too human. There’s no shame in extinction, Brix. It happened to the dinosaurs; it happened to the dodo. Maybe it has to happen to humans too.” Luke released my hands and stood. “When werewolves start outnumbering humans, which one becomes supernatural? Think about it.” As silently as he had appeared, Luke was gone.
I sat quietly for several moments, digesting everything he had said. It sounded crazy. It sounded crazy, right? But there was a part of me (a very small, very quiet part) that whispered maybe Luke had a point. Maybe it was time to let humans die. Maybe my big quest was just a dead end.
I was still lost in thought when Jude bounded into the tent. “Brix, what are you doing? We’re wasting time.”
Jude stared at me. “The dagger. We need to find the dagger.”
I sighed, “you know, it might be just a legend.”
Jude’s mouth dropped open. He studied me carefully. “I don’t believe it. You’ve gone soft.”
I snorted, “I’ve never been soft.”
“Well you are now. You saw your brother, you had a… what d’ya call it, tet-o-tet with that hot werewolf guy…”
“It’s tête-à-tête,” I snapped, “and Luke is… old.”
“He’s 25.” Was Jude’s only reply, “Not that old.” His voice took on a petulant tone, “and now you’re backing out of our quest.”
There was nothing I could say to this, so I stood and walked away. The moon wasn’t full, but it was close. I could feel the light tingling on my skin. I wondered what it was like to be a werewolf. I wondered if the change hurt. I wondered if they remembered anything afterward. I wondered if my brother was happy, if any of them were. I didn’t hear Brandon’s footsteps until he was right on top of me.
“What’s that old saying? Penny for your thoughts?”
I couldn’t help but smile. “Oh, my thoughts are worth a quarter, at least.
Brandon sat, cross-legged, on the ground. He patted the dirt beside him, inviting me to join him. I settled myself carefully on the loam. Brandon broke the silence first. “Luke says I should apologize.” He waited, but I didn’t respond. “I’m sorry.”
“And what are you sorry for?” I asked, teasing him gently. It was something our mother used to say. She hated short sentences–stubs, she called them. Little things–I’m sorry, thank you… she thought they should all have reasons behind them. My brother rewarded me with a quick smile, but it faded.
“For scaring you,” he replied. “I forgot you were just a human. It stood to reason that you’d have trouble accepting our way of life.”
“Just a–” I repeated, but my brother wasn’t finished.
“It’s all right, Brix. When Luke turns you and Jude, you’ll understand. You’ll understand everything.”
“When he turns–” I felt like a parrot, stupidly repeating phrases.
Brandon narrowed his eyes. “Well, yeah. You don’t think that we can just let you go, do you? It’s this or death, Brix. Trust me when I say this life is better than no life at all.” I closed my eyes and listened to the howling of the pack. I wasn’t so sure, but I would never tell Brandon that. “Besides,” he continued, “there’s the prophecy.”
I raised my eyebrows, “what prophecy?”
Brandon tensed suddenly. “I thought Luke had told you. I wasn’t supposed to mention it.”
I grabbed my brother’s arm and forced him to look at me. “Brandon. What prophecy?”
Luke looked up quickly when I marched into his tent, arms akimbo and eyes ablaze. A werewolf I hadn’t met yet protectively moved between me and his leader. “When were you planning on telling me about the prophecy?” I snapped. Luke waved a hand and the other werewolf left the tent.
“Sit, please,” he said, gesturing to a pillow on the ground.
I didn’t want to sit. I wanted to scream, I wanted to run. I wanted to grab Jude and my brother and flee from this forest. More than anything, I wanted to never, ever see another werewolf as long as I lived. Instead, I crossed my arms and glared at Luke. He sighed and took a seat instead.
“There’s a text, a book, that every werewolf clan carries. It explains our origins, our purpose, and our future.”
I snorted, “Like a Bible?”
Luke shrugged, “yeah, kind of. Not as old, of course. It speaks of a time when humans will cease roaming the earth–a time when werewolves will be the dominant species. Evolution, if you will.”
“Evolution?” I tried to keep the scorn out of my voice, but it was difficult. “You live in tents in the woods. That’s… that’s moving backwards, not forwards.”
“Maybe the human race moved too fast. Maybe we were never supposed to leave the woods.”
I opened my mouth–to disagree, to call him insane, to point out that civilization is good, civilization works, but I stopped. And I remembered. I remembered all the stories my grandmother told me, about war and famine and death. Maybe civilization wasn’t good. Maybe it didn’t work. Maybe somewhere along the line we screwed something up. My grandmother told me about sky scrapers, airplanes and paved roads, but once the werewolves took over, those things fell into disuse. We became scavengers living in small villages. We stopped driving, stopped flying, stopped going to work. Luke watched me with a smug smile.
“See? I’m not as crazy as you thought.”
I shook my head, “but what does your book say about murder?” I demanded. “Your kind has been attacking us for years. You killed half my family.”
Luke narrowed his eyes. “Are all humans good? Werewolves are as different as men. My tribe didn’t kill your mother. And has it ever occurred to you that your father might not be dead? He may have been changed, like Brandon.”
I crossed my arms tightly across my chest. “Is that the prophecy? That every man, woman and child will become a monster like you?”
Luke stiffened and turned away–my words had hurt him. Instantly I wanted to apologize, but I couldn’t bring myself to say the words. He was silent for several long moments, and when he spoke his voice was harsh. “In a time of change, a new leader will rise. She will come to the outcast pack, searching for what does not exist. She will lead the wolves into an era of new beginnings.”
I swallowed, but my throat was dry. “She?” I whispered.
Luke turned back to face me. He smirked, “Noticed the similarities, did you?” He started to circle me like a wolf eyeing a rabbit. “A human girl in a pack of outcast wolves? Searching for an imaginary dagger?”
“It’s not me,” I whispered, willing my voice not to tremble. “I won’t allow it,
“That’s the thing about prophecies.” Luke said, almost gently. He raised one hand to cup my chin softly. “They don’t care whether you allow it or not. Prophecy is prophecy because it will come to pass.”
I looked up into Luke’s face, so close to mine. “Let me go,” I whispered. “Please, just let me go. Jude and I will go back to the village. We’ll tell everyone we failed. No one has to know.”
Luke studied my face. I held my breath, waiting for him to speak. Suddenly he stiffened. I could hear the wolves outside raise their voices as one. I had heard wolf-song before–after attacks they would celebrate. But this sound was different. It was urgent. Angry. Luke released me.
“Stay.” His voice left no room for argument. I nodded and Luke swept out of the tent. Moments later Brandon ran in. He looked more scared than I had ever seen him before–more scared than he had when we were children and the wolves attacked the village. I put one hand on his shoulder. He didn’t push it off.
“They’re attacking.” Brandon’s voice trembled. I wanted to pull him into my arms, but I knew he wouldn’t allow it.
“Who? Humans?” I had never heard of humans attacking werewolves in force, but it seemed like the only option. Unless…
“The other packs,” Brandon whispered. “We don’t attack humans and they don’t like it.”
I moved toward the front of the tent. “I have to find Jude.” Brandon grabbed my arm and, with strength beyond his years, pulled me to the ground.
“Do you know what will happen if they find you? They’ll skin you alive. They don’t like humans mixing with wolves unless they’re meat.”
I pulled my knees up to my chin. Brandon shuffled around the tent, gathering blankets and clothes. He dropped them in front of me. “Put these on. It’ll mask your smell.”
I ignored him. “Where’s Jude?”
Brandon opened his mouth to speak, but a sudden, animalistic howl silenced him. Shaking, Brandon unfurled a blanket and wrapped it around me. “I don’t know. Luke told me to protect you.” He tried to smile, but it came out crooked. “Don’t worry–Luke won’t leave him unprotected.”
I nodded mutely. My brother and I sat in silence, listening to the sound of battle around us. Every time a body slammed against the wall of the tent I flinched. I hated myself. People were fighting and dying beside me and where was I? Hiding again. I buried my face in my hands and tried not to hear the screams and the howls. I wondered whether Jude was safe. I wondered which pack was winning. And deep inside, I hoped that Luke–strangely philosophical, alarmingly gentle Luke–was a good fighter.
Just as the pink light of dawn started to illuminate the tent, there was silence. I grabbed Brandon’s arm. I was afraid to speak, afraid to move. Suddenly I heard a long, smooth howl. Brandon grinned and leapt to his feet. Before I could stop him, he let out a smaller, thinner howl. My brother grabbed my arm and dragged me outside, into the aftermath of the battle.
I could smell death and sweat and blood. It was as strong as the morning after my mother’s death. I wanted to cry or throw up or run, but I squared my shoulders and stood tall. Most of the wolves–and they were wolves, not men or women–were huddled together, licking each others wounds. One wolf, a large grey animal, broke off of the huddle and approached Brandon and I. And then, right in front of me, he changed. And suddenly Luke–in all his naked, scarred glory–stood in front of me. I blushed and looked away. Brandon took the blanket from around my shoulders and handed it to his leader.
“I thought you only changed on the full moon?”
Luke’s voice was rough. “We can’t control it during the full moon, but we can change at other times. The larger the moon gets, the easier the change.” Suddenly his voice became softer, kinder. “Brix, will you walk with me?”
I glanced around. Most of the wolves were still licking their wounds, but a handful had changed back into humans. Unashamed of their nakedness, they set the camp in order and gathered the dead into two piles–friend and foe. I felt Luke’s hand on my arm and I let him lead me away from the camp. We walked in silence to the clearing where Brandon and I talked last night. I could tell something was bothering Luke. I looked around. With a sudden sense of foreboding I realized someone was still missing.
“Luke, where’s Jude?” Luke didn’t respond. My heart beat faster. “Is he still hiding?” I stood and looked around the forest. “Jude? Jude!” Luke took my arm, but I shook him off. “Jude!”
“He’s dead, Brix. I’m so sorry.”
I shook my head. “He can’t be. Brandon said… Brandon said… he said you would protect him.”
Luke’s mouth was a hard line. “The wolf I assigned to Jude’s protection left his side to join the fight. An enemy attacked him.” He stared at me. I think I was scaring him. “Brix, say something.”
I felt like Luke was speaking a foreign language. His words made no sense. Jude isn’t dead because he’s my best friend. Because then it would be my fault. I was the one who took him on this pointless quest for a dagger Luke said was a myth. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t cry. I was afraid that if I opened my mouth the scream trapped inside would escape and I would never, ever be able to stop. My legs crumpled under me, but Luke–quick as ever–caught me and guided me to the base of a tree.
My own reaction startled me. When Brandon disappeared I still had my parents. When my father never returned I had my mother. When my mother died I had Jude. If Jude is dead, who is left? A werewolf brother I barely know, and Luke. Luke, who looks at me like I’m some sort of savior. I took a deep breath and tried to calm my shuddering heart. When I finally spoke, my voice was soft, but firm. “Can I see him?”
“Brix, I don’t know if that’s a good idea.”
Luke sighed. I tried to stand, but my legs refused to obey. Luke picked me up more gently than I thought he was capable of and carried me back to the camp.
We heard the howls first–long and mournful. “They’re honoring the dead,” was all Luke said. When we drew closer to the camp, I could hear the soft flicker of flames. There were two pyres–one for the wolves and one for their enemies. I could see a small body, far away from the flames, lying on tinder. Without speaking, Luke carried me to Jude’s body. He set my feet on the ground, supporting my weight against his chest. Jude was covered with a blanket and his eyes had been closed. He looked like he was sleeping. I leaned down to pull the blanket off, but Luke stopped me.
“Trust me,” he said softly, “It’s better if you don’t see.”
“Can I be alone with him?” When Luke hesitated, I looked up at him. “Please?” He nodded and left me wobbling, but steady.
I wanted to say something, anything, to the body in front of me, but I knew it wouldn’t change anything. Jude was gone and it was all my fault. I felt alone. Lost. There was nothing to tie me to the village and, as much as I hated to admit it, there was everything to tie me to the wolf pack. Suddenly I knew what I had to do.
Luke looked up in surprise when I charged into his tent unannounced.
“I want to become a werewolf.”
Luke stood and placed his arms on my shoulders soothingly. “Brix. You should rest.”
I shook my head. “I want to kill those wolves. I want to make them pay for everything they’ve done and I can’t–I can’t do it as a human.”
“Brix, that’s not a good idea.”
“You’re the one who wanted to turn me into a wolf in the first place! Aren’t I supposed to be your leader? Your… your fucking savior?”
Luke grabbed my arms and shook me, hard. “Revenge is bloody, Brix. It’s violent and it’s messy and it never, ever ends.” His eyes softened, “I don’t want that for you.”
“You don’t know me,” I whispered.
Luke smiled, “I don’t,” he agreed, “but I want to.” He sighed, “Look, Brix, I don’t want you to become a werewolf because you’re angry or because you’re lonely or because of some stupid prophecy.” He took my hand and studied it. “I want you to become a wolf because you believe. Because you want to lead.”
In the end Luke made me wait a year. Twelve months of waiting, watching and thinking. Every full moon I asked Luke to change me and every full moon he looked me in the eye and said no. I think he thought that if he waited long enough I would change my mind and go back to the village. He shouldn’t have worried–there was nothing waiting for me back at that village except for an empty house and crazy Father Owen. I got to know Brandon, as a wolf and as a growing man. I grew to love the pack–every strange, wolfish member.
Luke made me wait a year, but one night, when the moon was full and the wolves were howling around me, he made me into what I am. I still think about revenge, more than I care to admit, but I know there’s too much work to be done. After all, prophecy is prophecy and someone has to lead the world.