THE SAVIOR: Chapter 7

For the past hour and a half I’ve been repeatedly cracking my knuckles, my wrists, my neck and spine, and each one of my toes—everything! Probably not the greatest thing in the world for me to do, but at this point I don’t freaking care!
Why does she have to do this to me? I mean, seriously, why? Why did she have to go out and see him tonight? Why couldn’t she wait until tomorrow when I could’ve driven her there?
At the moment my brain is frying—probably bubbling in my skull like some sort of ghoulish Halloween soup—and I’m shocked that the fire alarm is not blaring its deafening warning call of doom. Heck, maybe the damn thing is expired and doesn’t even work anymore. I mean why would anyone bother checking it if it’s just me living down here?
Anyhow… in the midst of my brain frying-ness I’ve come to the genius conclusion that we desperately need to hire an old Asian dude—you know, the kind of person radiating in Eastern wisdom and who is also savvy in kung fu like Mr. Miyagi. See, Juna needs to master the ancient art of patience because Nellie ain’t getting that job done and neither can I.  
I hear the sliding glass door open and close shut, but before I get halfway across my room Juna is already at my door.  “Good,” I sigh. “You’re back.”
“Yep.” She nods, taking a seat on my bed, the water wiggling beneath her weight. I sit down beside her and my pulse is jacked up so high I feel like not only is my brain going to explode but my heart too and I don’t know whether this has to do with the fact that I’m insanely ticked off at her or if it is due to something else. Juna pulls her knees up to her chest and stares down at her dirty, scratched up feet.
She smells different too, I notice, and I can’t pinpoint the odor. Over the years of hanging out at friends’ houses I’ve discovered that all houses have a unique scent and I guess she’s brought that part of Selene’s house back with her, specifically Max’s room.
I don’t like it.
“So, what happened?” I ask, my face growing hotter by the second.
She clears her throat, emerald eyes meeting mine, and then explains, “Well, I had to climb onto the roof to get to his window and I almost fell off, but Max caught me just in time. He was really shocked to see me.”
Well, duh, he was shocked to see you, I think bitterly. The only time you expect someone to be snooping around your rooftop at night is during the month of December.
“What?” she asks me, leaning back a little, and it takes me a moment to realize that I’m giving her this half glare, half open-mouthed idiot look.
So, I shake my head, hoping to loosen the muscles in my face to a more appropriate expression. But what exactly is that? I think. I mean, what is the proper response to what she has done? “You climbed the roof?” I ask, shocked, hoping that’s what my face looks like too.
“Yup.” Juna nods, leaning forward again, which makes us both wiggle on my bed. “And—oh god—when I was there Selene came into his room!”
“Selene came into his room?” My mouth drops open.
“Yes,” Juna answers, looking annoyed. “I just said that.”
“Well, what did you do?” I ask, thirsty for details. 
“I hid underneath his bed.”
I shift my weight over a bit, causing Juna’s head to bob up six inches. “So, did he admit to why he was being such an asshole?”
“Yes, he did,” she answers, “and don’t call him that anymore”—Juna’s eyes shoot daggers at me—“It was like pulling teeth, though. He’s being so stubborn lately.”—Stubborn, eh? I think. Sounds like someone I know—“Maybe he’s scared about it or something…”
“Scared about what?”
“He’s been feeling sick lately, but the doctors don’t know what’s wrong with him,” she explains, staring down at her battered feet again, pulling her knees tighter into her chest.
“Oh,” I murmur. Or maybe, a dark thought pops into my head, he already knows his diagnosis…
Gulping, Juna nods; concern deepening the lines on her forehead. “Do you think I kept showing up at Selene’s house for a reason?” she asks and as I stare into her deep questioning eyes I’m dying to give her a better answer than my usual: I don’t know.
I shrug, saying nothing. There are too many emotions reeling through my system to allow me to function properly: anger, shock, fear, relief, exhaustion, etc. I don’t know how to freaking deal with it all.
  “Ugh, I’m going insane,” she fumes, rocking back onto her butt slightly and then leaning forward into her toes again. The bed jiggles beneath us and I study the dirt crammed beneath her toenails, taking note of the mud getting on my sheets. I will have to throw them in the wash tomorrow, I think.
“Yeah, you and me both,” I say. “It’s a demented world we live in.”
We sit there for a silent moment like sponges absorbing this all.
“It makes you wonder…” Juna says, not looking at me. “I mean, if I exist what else is out there?”
A shiver rolls down my spine and I think: Something else definitely exists out there, Juna, but what it is, I don’t know.

Juna:
I tell Logan goodnight and as I round the corner after climbing the stairs my eyes meet with Brianne’s.
I flinch and the palm of my hand strikes against my chest. “Geez,” I let out a deep sigh, chuckling awkwardly, “you scared me.”
Where were you?” she asks, her voice as taut as a wire. Brianne stands in front of the girls’ room like some sort of bouncer at a nightclub with her arms folded tightly across her chest. She peers at me through the darkness, waiting for an answer.
“I went out to rescue someone,” I lie easily, taking a step toward the room, but Brianne slides over to my left a step, blocking the door even more this time. I stop and stare at her.  
“What happened this time?” Brianne inquires, arching her eyebrow.
“Uh,” I begin, feeling like a tiny mouse looking into the sharp eyes of a cobra. “There was a nasty burglary.”
“Where?” she spits.
I shrug. “I don’t know,” I tell her. “I never know the location when I go. I just… go.”
Silence stretches between us and I’m surprised my breath doesn’t hit the air in white puffy clouds because it is suddenly freezing in here.
“Well,” she whispers. “You’d better get to bed.”
I want to say, “Yeah, you should too creeper,” but I don’t.
She shifts to the right, away from the door, permitting my entrance into the room. I move hastily, my skin seeming to shrink tight around my bones as I move into the room.
“Goodnight.” The word tumbles out of my mouth like a pebble rolling off the edge of a cliff.
“Night,” she mutters, closing the door behind me.  

Logan:
“Logan. Logan, wake up…Logan!”
My eyes flash open. Mom is shaking my arm.
 “Geez. What?” I yawn and then glance over to the clock to see what the time is, but I can’t find it. Oh, yeah, I remember, I destroyed it. “What time is it?” I mumble.
Mom looks down to her wrist. “Five thirty-eight,” she tells me.
I know she has to leave early for a meeting up in Portland, but she hardly ever comes down into my room to say goodbye, especially this early. She normally goes into the girls’ room and kisses Noah goodbye.
“Logan,” she gulps, looking at me like she did when the World Trade Centers collapsed. “There was another attack last night.”
I sit up, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes. “What do you mean?” I ask.
“There was another attack last night. All the animals are dead. Juna. It was Juna. It had to have been her,” she tells me, her eyes swelling with tears. “What else could have done that? Huh, Logan? Tell me. What?”
I stare at her in disbelief. Why is she still going at this? I’ve never seen her so panicked before. It’s weird. “Just calm down,” I mutter.
“Logan, I can’t,” she fumes, her voice shaking with terror. “There is a murderer in my house.” She grabs me by the arm, yanking me out of bed, out of my room, and demanding that I turn on the news.
I up snatch the remote off the couch and flip on the television. “It wasn’t her,” I tell her, my voice clearly spelling out my annoyance.
“How can you be so sure?” she asks and then walks behind the couch, eyes trained on the TV.
“She went out to save someone last night… that’s why,” I tell her.
“I don’t think she did.” Mom shakes her head and then says, “I caught her last night, asked her where she was, and I could just see it in her face that she was lying to me.”
I roll my eyes.
“Logan I know you like her and all, but I am positive that she is the one committing these heinous crimes. She is killing these poor animals and if it isn’t her like you claim it is, then what on earth is, Logan? Tell me that. What is doing this?” she spits out hysterically.
“I already told you,” I say, my voice escalating, “I don’t know!”
“Well, I don’t want her sleeping in the girl’s room anymore,” she finalizes.
“Where is she going to sleep then?” I ask angrily.
“Down here on the couch…for now,” she tells me. Then, as if talking to herself, she mutters, “I wish Nellie were here. She’s the one who wanted to deal with this nonsense in the first place. Not me.”
“Nonsense?” I growl. “Why the hell are you being like this? Why don’t you trust her?”
“Logan”—She closes her eyes, inhaling a deep breath in through her nose—“I don’t want to argue with you. I have to go. I have an important meeting to get to in Portland. I was going to cancel it, but unfortunately that’s not an option right now. I’m going to wake Juna up and make her come down here,” she concludes and then turns for the stairs. “I’ll be back in a few hours.”
  I follow behind her.

Juna:
“Juna?” A sharp, icy whisper cuts through my dreams.  
I open my eyes, lids still heavy with sleep. Brianne is bent over my bed with her head just barely touching the upper bunk’s wooden planks. Beyond her, near the edge of the door, stands Logan. Outside is a gray shade of early morning and I wonder why they’ve woken me up.
“What?” I ask, propping myself up onto my left elbow, consciousness pouring into me like molasses.  
“Get up,” Brianne hisses, motioning me with her hand as though swatting a fly. Her untamed curly hair and angry eyes make her look like Medusa. “Now,” she warns.  
“What is it?” I ask. “What’s going on?”
“Come on,” Brianne growls, taking a painful grip around my wrist and then yanking upwards.
“Owe!” I exclaim, jerking my arm back.
“Mom what’s—” Logan starts, but I don’t want him waking the girls.
“I’m coming, I’m coming,” I whisper harshly, wide-awake now.  
I climb out of bed and exit the room, hoping the girls don’t wake up, but when I peek over my shoulder I see that Erin has her eye’s half open. Brianne closes the door behind me. “I know what you’ve been up to and I’m not—”
“Mom,” Logan groans.
“Logan shut up!” She holds a finger to him, but keeps staring me down with those burning amber eyes of her’s. Brianne continues, saying, “And I’m not happy with it. So, for obvious reasons I don’t feel comfortable with you around my children.” My face scrunches up in confusion. “Unfortunately, I have a meeting up in Portland this morning that I need to be at, but I’ll be back in a few hours. We will”—Her eyebrows rise—“discuss this matter more when I return, but for now you just stay put and keep away from my kids!”
“What are you talking about?” I ask, frustration burning in my throat.  
She rolls her eyes. “You know exactly what? Now, I’m running late.” She turns her attention to Logan. “Keep an eye on her. I’ll be back,” she tells us and then leaves for the door.
What the hell was that about? I think, raising my eyebrows at Logan, totally confused.
Logan and I hear the rumbling growl of Brianne’s car outside, followed by the squeak it sometimes makes when it’s in reverse.
“What the—“ I begin, but Logan cuts me off.
“Come with me,” he says with urgency. “I think it’s still on the news.”
I follow him down the stairs, my pulse quickening with each creaking step. An inarticulate news reporter sounds from the television as we near the game room. The TV casts a blue glow across the room’s walls and as I round the corner I’m presented with a gruesome scene that almost makes me queasy.

Logan:
We both take a seat on the couches. Juna gapes at the screen as the horror unfolds before us.
This attack was not as bad as the first, but it’s still pretty bad.
A blonde woman reports all that has happened, but I’m too distracted by the graphic images to pay any attention to what she says. Pieces of cow limbs lie scattered across the field, muscle torn off the bones looks to have been chewed off. Decapitated heads lie in their own separate pools of blood. The camera pans across the ribs of a half-eaten horse, a large pig, a few goats, and suddenly I’m thinking about The Godfather.  
A farmer recounts how his dog tried to attack whatever it was that killed these animals, but barely made it out alive. The dog is now in critical condition and the blonde reporter warns all indoor pet-owning viewers that it is no longer safe to let animals outside at night anymore. 
When they move on to the next story I grab the remote and hit the mute button. I glance over at Juna who is absolutely freaked out and it’s obvious by the genuine shock on her face that it wasn’t her. She turns to me. “What do you think is doing this?” she asks, her voice quiet, scared even.
I give a helpless shrug. “I have no idea,” I say.
She points to the screen, noting, “She said this was the second attack; when was the first?”
“A couple of days ago,” I admit.
“So, this is what you’ve hiding from me?” Her eyebrows furrow. “Why didn’t you tell me about this?”
“Well,” I sigh, shifting positions on the couch, “this happened right after the rape incident and I wanted to give you at least one stress-free day. I know it wasn’t you, but my mom doesn’t believe it. She thinks you did it because we can’t figure out what did.”
“There is no way I could’ve done this,” she says, her eyes darting back to the screen. “I mean, geez, I’m good for about a week after I eat one deer. There is no way I could’ve wiped out all those animals, especially without getting caught. I’m not even that quick. Why won’t she believe me?”
“She’s just scared…and doesn’t know how to handle things she doesn’t understand,” I explain. “But I know it wasn’t you.”
“Well, thanks for standing up for me, I guess,” she says softly, glancing down at her knees. She takes a deep breath in through her nose and then sighs out her mouth, blowing air into the flyaway hairs around her face.
I nod.
“So, I’m not allowed to be around anyone anymore?”
“That’s what she said, but I don’t care. I’m just going to ignore her for now because she’s just being plain stupid. I mean, seriously, what does she think you’re going to do? Eat Noah and Erin for appetizers? Actually, on second thought, that might not be such a bad idea,” I say and then smile.
She grimaces at me.
“You’re right.” I nod. “Spare Noah, but Erin”—I close my eyes for a moment and hold my hand out like I’m presenting a platter of food—“be my guest.”
She gives a half-hearted chuckle and now looks to the ceiling like the answers lie up there.
I grab us both blankets and Juna cocoons herself in the hand-made quilt my Grandma Flora crafted for my parents as a wedding present. For the next hour we flip through several channels, avoiding the local news station like the plague. I leave it on TV Land and we watch a few episodes of I Love Lucy and Bewitched. The show barley holds my attention and I doubt Juna has much interest in it either; we can’t even bring ourselves to laugh at the funny parts because of how preoccupied our minds are.
I’m bushed, so I end up nodding off a couple of times, my head periodically falling and rising into the couch cushion. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get some sleep one of these days.
That would be nice.
The sun creeps up from behind the mountains and lights the sky in warm fruit-like colors, but I’m not ready to face another day.
A pair of footsteps plods down the stairs. Juna and I watch as two little feet plop onto the first visible step. It’s Noah with her pal, Sampson the stuffed alligator, whose head is tucked unpleasantly, I’m sure, in the crook of her left arm. A penguin themed baby blanket—another Grandma Flora creation—is clutched in her right hand. Flushed cheeks and golden curls snaggled around her face, she totters over to see us, dragging the blanket and Sampson’s tail across the floor.
“Morning Noah,” Juna says as cheerfully as possible, like all is good in the world. Noah’s innocence and oblivion to the horrors of the world make me envious.  
“Hi,” she mumbles. “Why you down here? You weren’t in bed when I woke up and I got scared.”
“Oh, I’m sorry sweetie,” Juna tells Noah, her tone soothing, very mother-like. “I couldn’t sleep, so I came down here to watch some TV. You shouldn’t be scared, though. You have Hannah and Erin in the room with you.”
“I had a nightmare,” she mumbles, pulling the blanket up to her mouth.
“You did? Oh, no. What about?” Juna urges.
I glance over to Juna and her eyes meet mine for a brief second.
“You died,” she answers quietly, glancing down at Sampson.
A shiver rolls down my spine and Juna gulps. “Um, how?” Juna can’t help from asking. She tries to sound calm, but I can hear some of the repressed fear leaking into her voice.  
“You,” Noah chokes up, “you hurt yourself.”
Juna rises from the couch and quickly walks over to Noah. She bends down to my little sister’s eyelevel, places two hands on her tiny shoulders, and then coos, “Awe Noah. Hey, Noah? Look at me please.”
Noah raises her head.
“Are you afraid I’m going to kill myself?”
Noah’s face scrunches up, her lower lip curling open as she nods, tears and mucus running down her face and the whole time I’m thinking: Is she even old enough to know what the term suicide means?
“Well,” Juna begins, her tone shifting into one of such severe honesty that it can’t possibly be questioned, “I want you to know that I would never kill myself. Okay?”
Noah nods and Juna stands. She pulls my sister into a hug. “Nothing but a bad dream,” Juna tells her.
I get up from the couch, my chest suddenly tight and aching. “Hey, Noah?”
My sister leans around Juna’s arm to see me.
“What should we make for breakfast?” I ask her.
Noah shrugs.
“How do popovers sound?” I ask. “With mom’s raspberry jam?”
She nods. “Good,” she replies. 
“Alright then,” I say. “Let’s hop to it.”
“Or rather pop to it,” Juna adds, winking at my sister.  
Noah giggles.

Juna:
When Brianne returns home from Portland I get that achy feeling in the pit of my stomach that generally means diarrhea is own its way.
 I watch Brianne pull her sunglasses up onto her head of curls as she heads for the front door. One quick glance at me through the kitchen window and her eyebrows furrow, her jaw suddenly clenched tight.
Should I shit my pants now or later? I think.
I’ve been sitting here at the kitchen table for just about the entire day thinking. Thinking about Max, thinking about little Nathan, wondering if he’s even alive. I think about the girl who was raped, and, of course, try to figure out what on earth killed those animals.
Logan has been in and out of the house all day, driving Rowan and Conner to the bowling alley earlier this afternoon to meet up with a couple of their friends. He took Noah to a birthday party about an hour ago and at around two o’clock Erin rode her bike over to the Lauten’s house to hang out with Mei. She is still there.
Being the only two home, Hannah and I sit at the kitchen table together. She reads Lois Lowry’s The Giver for what I am told is her fiftieth time. Doesn’t surprise me.
I revealed everything to her and although she understands where her mother is coming from she disagrees with her actions.
The door slams shut and I swear it shakes the entire house.
I flinch, swallowing hard as her footsteps near the kitchen. When her eyes meet mine she lets out an exasperated sigh. Clenched tightly in her left hand is a brown leather briefcase, which Brianne sets down in one of the chairs as she nears the table.
My heart is thundering in my chest. I don’t understand why I am so damn nervous because I’ve done nothing wrong.
She swings around, snatches a glass from the cupboards, fills it with several ice cubes and water, and then saunters back to the table, taking a seat across from me. Her snake-like eyes narrow on me as she sips from her water, never straying, never blinking.
Chills flute across my skin and I feel like Walt Disney.
“Hi mom,” Hannah interjects, trying to melt away her mother’s bitter iciness.  
Brianne twists her neck around to view her daughter. “Hi darling,” she breathes. “Can you please let me speak to Juna privately? It’ll only be for a minute or two.”
“Sure,” Hannah says, rising from the table, giving me a weak smile as she leaves for her room.  
“How was your meeting?” I venture nervously.
She sets the glass down on the table, wiping away the moisture from her lips. “Fine,” she answers.
“Um,” I nod, bobbing my head like an idiot, “that’s good.”
  She stares at me and I feel as though a thousand needles press at my spine, dig through my skin.
“I gave my mother a call,” she informs me. “I told her, I don’t feel comfortable with you around my children. I know what you did and to be frank, it scares me. It scares me a lot and I don’t know what to do with you. Nellie will be arriving here in a few days.”
I nod, feeling a lump in my throat.
“From now on I don’t want you leaving the house without my permission. I don’t want you going hunting anymore. If necessary I’ll buy some raw meat and you can eat that here in the kitchen.”—Her eyebrows furrow—“Is that understood?” she asks, her voice stern.
“Yes,” is my solemn answer.
“Thank you,” she says stiffly and then pushes herself from the table to put her glass away.
I look out the window and see Logan pulling up the driveway with the minivan. He parks the van, hops out, and then helps Noah out of the car. Dressed in her bright tie-dye overalls, she goes skipping off for the house the second her feet hit the pavement. He shuts the van’s door and then turns back for the house. Logan notices me in the window and his lips curve into a small smile, giving me a little wave. I wave back at him unenthusiastically and then sigh.
“Mommy!” Noah squeals, running toward Brianne with her arms outstretched.
“Hi honey!” She laughs, slipping back into her Dr. Jekyll persona as she pulls her youngest daughter into a hug. “How did Britney’s party go?”
“Good,” Noah squeaks.
Logan bumps into me as I stand up. We stare at one another for a moment until his eyes divert from mine to Brianne’s when she says, “Logan, would you please bring in a steak from the garage?”
He nods and then heads in that direction. I march past him towards my room, determine to be left alone, but when he touches me I find myself turning around instantly. “Come with me,” he whispers and so I do.  
I follow him outside to the garage where he asks me what happened between Brianne and me before he got home. I give him the lowdown.  
“Ah, crap,” he mutters as he pulls out a steak from the fridge. “Nellie is coming back? This day just keeps getting worse and worse.”

Logan:
Juna and I head back inside with the frozen, airtight sealed bag of steak. Juna heads downstairs, while I bring the meat into the kitchen and as I step across the creaking linoleum floorMomhangs up the phone and then tells me I need to go pick up the boys.
“You’ve got to be kidding me?” I blurt aloud. “Rowan told me someone was gonna drive them home.”
Mom shakes her head.
Sighing, I scoop the keys off the countertop and head for the truck.  
On the way back home, we almost get into a wreck because some bleach blonde brainless idiot decided to pull out right in front of me. Apparently she didn’t see the stop sign. Moron.  
 When the three of us shuffle in through the front door Mom hands me a plastic grocery bag with Erin’s clothes in it and, at first, I have no idea what to do with them. “Can you take these to the Lauten’s house please?” she asks. “Erin is spending the night.”
I want to die.
Without saying a word—because the only two I can come up with right now rhymes with bucket—I take the bag and peddle my bike over to Spencer’s house like my life depends on it. 
If my mother asks me to go on one more errand I’m going to throw a Noah-approved tantrum, but she doesn’t so that’s good.  
Hannah finishes setting the table when I enter the kitchen. Rowan and Connor lay out a platter of steak, asparagus, a bowl of rice and a bowl of salad. It smells delicious. As Mom washes her hands in the sink she asks me to go fetch Noah and Juna. Hannah informs me that Noah took a shower and should be dressed by now.
When I knock on the girls’ door Noah screams, “Hold on! I’m super naked! Don’t come in!”
“I won’t,” I say, bursting into a quick smile as I wait a moment.
“Ok,” she peeps.
I open the door, hoping to see Juna in here too but she isn’t. Noah skips over to me with a bouncing wet head of curls that still drips water onto her Disney princess nightgown.
“Time for dinner,” I tell her. “Where is Juna?”
“On the trampoline,” Noah says, and then gets quiet. “Mommy said I can’t hang out with her right now because she is sick.”
I roll my eyes. Of course she would say that.
“What?” Noah tilts her head.
“Nothing.” I mutter. “I’ll go get her then.”
So, I go out into the backyard and find Juna sprawled out on the trampoline with her hands folded behind her head, looking as sad as a raincloud. Speaking of rainclouds, the sky is quickly darkening with them. I can smell the approaching storm in the breeze as it sweeps through the property. The wind chimes hanging beneath the porch sway in the air, singing an eerie high-pitched tune that raises the hairs on my arms. 
I set my hands on the trampoline’s blue padded rim and say, “Dinnertime.”
She rolls over onto her side and her long dark hair is all staticky. “Is that even allowed?” she grumbles.
“I don’t freaking care,” I sigh. “Come on.”  

Juna:
My shoulders and the back of my neck prickle and burn as I sit down.  
The only sounds audible are those made by the metallic scrapings of forks clinking against ceramic plates and the keening wind pounding against the house.
I notice myself gulping a lot and it’s not like I mean to. It’s just that my throat keeps getting tight and dry about every five minutes and I don’t have any other choice than to swallow or to take a sip of water.
I don’t even know why I’m sitting here, pretending to be a part of this family when Brianne clearly wishes me dead.
Dead like in Noah’s dream.
A shiver creeps up my spine and I push the thought away.  
Reaching for my glass again, my eyes meet with Brianne’s icy glare just as I am swallowing down a gulp of water. If I didn’t have stomach ulcers before, I do now.
Shifting my gaze in a new direction, I watch Noah play with her food, still sensing Brianne’s loathing eyes trained on me.
My face burns and I get that feeling again like a thousand needles pressing into my spine.
I grab my glass once more, drinking from it as though this will erase the heat spreading throughout my body when all at once my vision cuts out and I see nothing, nothing more than a black void.
 Oh god, I think frantically. Not tonight.
Someone screams, a thick, guttural sound that crests into full agony.  
A spasm tingles up my spine in response.
A long, drawn out moan rattles in my brain and I am almost certain by the husky sound of the voice that this is a young man I’m dealing with.
With a thud my glass hits the table and my vision snaps back to the here and now. I suck in a deep breath of air.
Scowling, Brianne opens her mouth to tell me something, but before spitting out whatever infuriated remark she wishes to say I’m sucked back into the darkness, back into someone else’s nightmare.  
Oh shit! A woman shrieks and I still can’t see a damn thing. Is it happening again?
Noise.
Noise.
Noise.
So much of it buzzes in my ears and makes them ache. Items being knocked over, urgent footsteps treading across a floor, and a heavy wheezing sound fill my ears as though I am in the midst of it all.
What can I do? The woman yells in desperation and I’m dying to hear the rest of this, but once again I am yanked back into reality.
Shivers tumble down my arms and spine. “Juna!” Brianne shouts across the table.
“What?” I mutter, distracted by the sharp pain in my temple.
“Why won’t you answer me?”
“I just did,” I blurt out in frustration.  
“No,” she begins, “earlier you ignored me. What’s going on?”
With my eyes pinched tight in pain, I point to my brain as though this is an obvious thing. “I’m hearing voices,” I groan.
Brianne shakes her head, but the blackness blinds me once more. I flinch as the boy lets out an agonizing wail, the sound making my gut twist.  
What comes next confuses me. A ripping, tearing, and snapping noise drowns my ears, followed by a loud roar from what I can only imagine to be the sound of an angry bear.
My vision snaps back and I know what I must do. Pushing away from the table, I bolt for the door.
“Where the hell do you think you’re going?” Brianne yells, stumbling after me.
I hear Logan’s voice, but am unable to catch what he says. Wrenching open the door, I sprint down the long driveway. Brianne screams one last time as I dive into the air, blasting into my wolf form and then launching forward, knowing my legs will take me where I need to be. 
The sun made its final descent only minutes ago, so I run in the dark—something I’m used to. Lights from cars stream past me as I glide in and out between vehicles. I know I’m almost there when these streaks of reds and whites begin to dissipate.
I come to an abrupt halt, my vision clearing, but when I take in my surroundings a ripple of doubt runs through me.
A forest? I think. Why the hell am I in an empty forest? Did I go the wrong way?
 I’m pretty sure I have because there is absolutely no one here. Nothing, but the hoot of a nearby owl and the chirping of crickets keep me company.  
Nothing unusual.
Taking a step forward, my paws press into the damp mossy floor as I scan the woods. Little fingers of mist crawl along the trees, a creepy sight, indeed.
  I trot in a small circle and then stop, lifting my nose to the air to draw in a deep breath. Next I lower my nose to the ground and walk forward, trying to pick up a scent, something to tell me where to go next, but I don’t pick up anything unusual, just scat, dirt, moss, and pine.
This is so annoying and I surprise myself by barking in frustration. Generally, when I race out to save someone I continue hearing what is happening. So, why can’t I hear anything now? Has the issue been resolved?
Something tells me no.  
All at once the owl stops hooting and the crickets cease their chirping. My ears flick to the sound of a branch creaking as the owl flies away. I catch the sound of its wings flapping against the air for a few seconds and then there is nothing, so quiet that the silence is an uncomfortable pressure against my ears.
I take a step forward and the ground gives a violent shudder beneath me. What the hell was that?
Hackles rise and my annoyance seeps into terror as I anticipate what is to come. 
The earth shakes again and a roar erupts from behind me, but before I have time to react to it something grabs a hold of my back leg and hurls me into the air. I smack into a tree. Hard. A yelp comes through my teeth and I fall to the ground with a sickening thud.
Air knocks free from my lungs and I am wheezing as I scramble back onto my paws. I shake my head, trying to regain my senses, eyes immediately scanning the forest in search for my attacker.
Another roar is ejected into the air, bouncing off the trees like thunder. I jerk around and what I see next I can hardly believe. I honestly don’t even know what the hell this thing is. This creature is some seriously demented version of a bear, but it’s definitely not a bear because it’s too lean, too skinny, too freaking enormous to be a bear. The thing is coated in thick coal black fur, stands on its hind legs, and looks as though it actually possesses human-like hands, which makes sense since it grabbed me by the leg, but then again nothing about this makes sense. But what freaks me out the most is its eyes. This thing—no joke—has blood red eyes. It’s the most horrifying thing I’ve ever seen.
Aha, I think, so your what’s been killing those animals.
Throwing his head back, the creature howls to the dark cloudy sky, a sound that chills the very marrow of my bones. Head snapping back down, he charges me, running on all four legs.
 Shit.
A snarl rips through my teeth and I launch forward. The thing rises onto his back legs—still running—and swings his right arm back, preparing to strike. I leap into the air, trying to sink my fangs deep into the flesh of his arm, but instead he hits me and I’m thrown into the air once again. My spine slams into another tree and I fall to the mossy floor with another bone-crunching thump.
Ouch.
You panic you die. You panic you die.
Take panic out of the equation and I am quite certain that I am still going to die.
 I force myself onto all fours again, my entire body trembling with weakness. Muscles try to twitch off the pain as both ears pin flat against my head. Crinkling my muzzle back over bared teeth I let another snarl rip out of my throat.
Glaring at me, the creature clenches and unclenches his hands, a growl rolling throughout his colossal chest, dissatisfied with my challenge. Again, he charges me, consumed with a furry that drives him faster.
I hold my ground this time, shifting into a low crouch and then spring from position once he reaches me. I crash into his chest, teeth sinking and tearing away at his ear and with a yowl he catapults me into the air, but this time I land squarely on my feet. I spit something out and discover that it is a chunk of he ear or rather was a chunk of his ear.  
Disgusting.  
Bellowing in agony, the monster touches his ear with his all too human-like hand, eyes clamping shut as the blood drips from his wound, streams down his neck, and mats his fur.
I remain still, panting as I wait for his next move.
Eyes open and a snarl cuts through the air, the sound vibrating in my skull. He stomps forward, about to charge me again, and I brace myself for his next attack, but he stops unexpectedly, abruptly twisting his neck to the left as though someone has whistled for him and the next thing I know he is bolting away.
It takes a few seconds for it to register that him running away probably isn’t the best thing in the world. He might go rampaging through towns, killing more livestock or even worse, people!
Launching myself through the woods, I blaze past tree after tree. He runs on all fours, butt elevated much higher than his head, again, very human-like. I urge my legs faster, stretch them further as I race toward the beast. Within seconds I near him—ten feet, six feet, four feet, two, and then I pounce, pinning his chest to the ground.

Jerking his neck around, he begins snapping those teeth at me again and like a punch, I swipe my paw at his muzzle, nails scraping along the jawbone. Snarling and swiveling beneath me, his hands press against my chest and then fling me into the air. My skull slams into a tree. I hit the ground and am swallowed up in darkness.

Click here for Chapter 8

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