Not everything in life is how you`ve been led to believe it is.
I shoved my brother playfully to the side, knocking him into my Dad.
“Knock it off you two, you’ll get us caught” but he was smiling.
We were on a resource run for our group, we just had to finish going through the tunnel then we would be on the other side of the mountain, close to our temporary camp again.
Dad says that in the days “before” it was used for something called a train, which had tracks to run on and was fast, faster then any wolf could hope to be.
But that was “before”, before the werewolves organised themselves and took over humanity, I’m not sure how they did it or why, I’m not sure anyone does any more, it was over 150 years ago and no one thought to write it down, well, no one human anyway.
We arrived at the point where some of the tunnel had collapsed in on itself, we had to squeeze through it one by one, it wouldn’t take long.
Dad went through first, quickly scrambling up over the single large rock and hopping down the other side, a few minutes later his low whistle signalled he had made it to the other side.
Paul went next, he was younger then me by 4 years, although he was taller than me. His hight made it easy for him to climb over the fallen rock, soon I heard his low whistle announce that he had also made it through to the other side successfully.
I stretched, eyeing the stupid rock. While my Dad and Paul were both around the 6ft mark, I myself had somehow stopped growing at a measly 5ft 3 and a half inches, which made the rock more like a small mountain for me to try scale up.
I hated being short, it made my life more difficult to say the least, I was the endless butt of jokes, the nicknames where so unoriginal it was unreal and worst of all …. I was normally the first one sent into a small dark cramped space, which would have been fine, but I have claustrophobia, cant stand to be in any small, dark, tight space, It makes me feel like I’m buried alive.
And on that cheery note, I plunged into the darkness to scale over the stupidly large rock.
I felt it as soon as I`d grabbed the small rock protruding from the wall, what I’d originally thought would be a rather perfect little handhold, turned out to be a huge mistake.
The wall started to shake, a slow rumble starting somewhere above me, the rock shivering under me, starting to slowly turn on its axis, making me stumble.
“Mya!!! RUN!” I could just hear my dad over what now sounded like hail stone.
Whipping my head from side to side I could see stones sliding and crashing to the ground, both in front of me and behind me.
Shit , shit , shit. My breath was coming in rapid panicky gasps, I could hear it whistling in and out between my teeth, I tried to force feet to move, but they remained glued to the stupid rock under me, my legs shaking so much my knees were literally hitting each other.
“Mya!! come on girl! Don’t freeze on me now, just run dammit, RUN!!”
I wanted to I really did, I was screaming at myself inside my mind to get a grip, to run or I’d end up dead in a dark dirty tunnel. But nothing was happening, my body had gone into lock down, I was too scared to move forward and too scared to move back, so I stood there, while stones and rocks and dark cold earth started to rain around me, covering me in dirt, scratching my exposed skin, dust clogging my lungs.
This was it, I was going to die, 24 years old, stuck in a tunnel while I could hear my Dad and brother screaming for me.
I thought I could see a hand reaching out to me, but then there was nothing but darkness and my shallow breaths, becoming shallower and shallower.
I awoke to find a pair of bright blue eyes staring down at me.
I gave out a strange squeek sound and scuttled backwards until my back hit what felt like a rather large tree.
My chest felt sluggish and it burned when I sucked a breath through my bared teeth. I could see I was filthy, dirt caked my trousers, little bits of it splintering off and floating to the ground as I moved.
How did I get out of the tunnel? Dammit, where the hell was the tunnel? My eyes darted around frantically, I didn’t recognise any landmarks at all, nothing was familiar, especially the man sat staring at me quizzically.
“calm down young `un, I wont be hurting ya” his voice was deep and gravely, I didn’t know what to say so I kept my mouth shut, rapidly trying to figure out what had happened.
He made to move closer and I glared at him, pushing myself further back against the tree.
Running a hand through his dark hair he grinned at me and sat himself down on the floor.
I couldn’t tell how tall he was, but I knew he was taller then me, everyone was. He seemed well built, handsome in a rough kind of way, sharp cheekbones, bright blue eyes, dark curly hair which was just on the longish side, his clothes were the usual travelling get up, long sleeved top and combat type trousers with sturdy boots.
Every nerve in my body was screaming at me to make a run for it, but I knew without a doubt I wouldn’t make it far, I could feel a deep burning heat radiating in my ankle.
Hopefully I had only managed to twist it rather then sprain it, a sprain could leave me defenceless for weeks, and the full moon would be here in a couple of days, I needed to get back to the camp before they moved again.
“ya know, I ain’t no wolf if tha`s what ya thinkin kiddo”
“sure, `cos if you were a wolf, you’d tell me right?” I couldn’t help the bitterness in my voice, we’d lost people to the wolves, not as many as some, but more then enough.
The thing about the wolves is, they look just like everyone else, the men tend to have beards and longer hair, but that means nothing much when a razor is hard to come by.
They can infiltrate a group of humans, pretending to be like us, gaining our trust and friendship, even our love, but come the full moon they cant help but shift into their wolf, and they will take humans to try and change.
Its not like they cant help it either, we know that, we’ve had people who’ve been changed try to come home, explaining that they are in full control when they shift. But its too risky, you never know when a wolf will turn on you.
“hurmph, guess you got yerself a point there kiddo, now up ya get so we can move on, don’t wanna stay put too long in these woods so close to tha fulla moon ya know”
I watched as he rose up and strode towards me, I felt around for a weapon, a rock or stick, hell id even settle for a pine cone right now, anything so I wasn’t defenceless against this huge man.
He stopped just in front of me, hand held out towards me with an eyebrow raised, “watcha waiting for? I ain’t got all day, I need to get back to ma group”
“where am I?” First things first, I wanted to know what had happened, my Daddy didn’t raise no fool.
“well id say ya was in the woods wouldn’t you?” I frowned at him, he knew fine well what I had meant.
“1 point to Captain Obvious over here” I muttered, then louder added, “how`d I get out of the tunnel?”
“oh come on already! You know fine well what I mean!” Dammit, I always did have a bit of a snarky temper.
“do I now?”
I glared up at him, “I ain’t going anywhere with you, so you might as well bugger off”
Without warning he swept me up and threw me over his shoulder, and started to walk, whistling.
Argh! I squirmed and kicked, punched and threw myself around trying to get down, but his grip was firm, my efforts not even seeming to register with him.
In the end I gave up, better to save my energy for when we got to where ever he was taking me.
After around half hour he stepped into a clearing and said “here we are kiddo, home sweet home” and then proceeded to plonk me unceremoniously on the ground.
I tried to scramble to my feet, but as soon as I put weight on my ankle it gave out, I muttered a string of swear words as I face planted the ground. Smooth Mya, smooth.
His deep chuckle caused me to glare at him again, but I soon stopped, there were other people behind him, women, men and children, all of them staring at me suspiciously. Great.
“Oh sod off the lot of ya! Let the poor lass have some space, and get outta ma way Earl! You know I wont think twice about tannin ya hide with ma stick again boy!”
I looked around in confusion until an elderly woman shoved her way past one of the men. When she saw me her face lit up in a toothy grin, “My, my! Ain’t you something to look at ey? Just have a gander at that hair o` yours!”
My hand shot to my hair, trying to smooth it down, It was a deep reddish brown colour, slightly curled, I normally had it tied back with some scraps of fabric, but it had come loose and was now matted to the back of my head with dirt and grime.
“where am I? I need to get back to the tunnel” no one answered me, they just carried on looking at me, I was starting to feel rather self conscious.
I wouldn’t say I’m much to look at, but I’m not ugly either, a few of the guys at the camp had flirted with me before, telling me my freckles are cute, they weren’t, they were awful, tiny splodges all across my nose and surrounding my pale blue eyes.
“look, I appreciate you helping me out of the tunnel, but I really do need to get back, if you could just point me in the right direction I’ll just be off” I kept my voice even, hoping that they would listen to me.
“you wont be getting back there tonight dear, it’ll be dark soon, not safe to be travelling at night so close to tha full moon ya know” It was the woman who spoke again, she must be the leader of their group.
They could be wolves, but I wasn’t so sure, they had children in the group, wolves had a high miscarriage and infant mortality rate and kept the children close to their city.
Yet I could see 7 kids in this group so far, all appeared healthy. Not to mention the varied ages within the group. Wolves aged slowly, like really really slowly, apparently all shifters did, not that there are many others left now, the wolves soon saw to that, guess they didn’t like competition.
“how do I know you’re not wolves?” I tilted my head to the side, trying to look harmless, best for them to think I was a weak girl.
The guy who carried me here chuckled, “We’re not wolves kiddo, ya just gona have ta trust us on that one, for all we know you’re a wolf”
“why did you bring me back then? Why did you help me?” I was confused as hell, I needed to get home and fast, I didn’t want to be stuck with these people, I didn’t trust them.
“couldna just leave ya there now could I?” I stared at him, not sure what to say any more.
“stop bein stubborn kiddo, stay the night and we’ll figure out getting ya back to ya people in the morning ey?” Slowly I nodded, it wasn’t like I had much of a choice, my ankle throbbed painfully reminded me that I couldn’t get far walking, it was getting dark, I had no idea which direction to go in to get back to the tunnel, id just end up lost.
The old woman smiled widely at me, “Earl, Sam, help the lass up and get here over to the fire to sit down so I can have a look at tha ankle o hers.”
I sighed and let the men help me to the fire, foreboding curling darkly in my stomuch.