A Million & One Candle Lights
Scarlet sprayed the walls. He reopened his eyes, feeling the wriggle of loosened teeth in his head. He had to give it to them; they were going all out on this. They said it was a test of his abilities. It was perfectly routine.
But how is beating a man to within half an inch of his life routine?
The scientist in the corner hummed and jotted something down on his clipboard. He nodded to the torturers as he readjusted his glasses.
Pain smashed across Blake’s face. Blood pooled in his mouth, collecting at his lips and falling in strings of thick saliva down his shirt front. He lifted his head with some effort, fixing his gaze on the scientist again.
They didn’t get it.
“Okay. Enough for today. We have the data we need.”
Eyes closed, he listened as they left the room, leaving him in darkness surrounded by heavy walls. They thought the partitions were thick enough so that he couldn’t hear the sounds of their other ‘patients’. Nobody here was a patient. They were all lab rats.
The wire around his wrists burned. It cut through his flesh as he twisted. He could feel the hot drip of blood down his palm, but he closed his eyes and kept at it. It would give in a minute.
Thoughts returned to Maria. He tried only to think of her when he knew there was nobody about. They had been whispering outside his door one day, speaking of a telepathic who could listen in to the memories of the ‘subjects’.
She’d been with him when he’d heard them coming. It had just been a picnic, their first proper date. And it had all been ruined the moment he’d caught that sound on the breeze when his lips had neared hers for the first time.
A moment of relief washed over him as the wire fell apart, baring his raw wrists. He bent to the floor, releasing his calves from the same bindings. It took him a few minutes to stand up. His limbs did not want to carry him.
He moved shakily to the barred window, brushing hair out of his swollen eye. It was fine. It would heal in a matter of hours. That was one of the advantages of his condition.
Had they caught Maria?
They’d said they hadn’t but they could have been lying. They could have been trying to get him to cooperate. What did they think he was? A performing mutt?
He looked at the bars, examining the edges of their framework. If he got out he could look for her, replenish himself and come back stronger to get her if he needed to. Hands wrapped around the metal and heaved. It screamed, wrenching from the walls in his tough grip. It didn’t take him long to crawl through the gap.
The scent of night air greeted him, grass rippling beneath his feet. He needed to change, but he had no energy left. All he could do was sneak.
Barely five metres from his cell, the sirens sounded. Lights blazed. Adrenaline kicked in.
But his mind didn’t follow. It burned with thoughts of Maria sprinting into the trees when they’d last been together. Her skirts skimmed the grass. Her bare, dainty feet scrambled through the dew. She threw one last look at him, eyes wide and blue as her golden hair whipped out in delicious bubbles behind her.
He’d tried his best to cover up her scent and then he’d hared off in a different direction. Their trackers had picked up his smell easily. He’d made no attempt to hide it. He’d wanted them to find him instead of her. She wasn’t as fast as he was. She couldn’t protect herself.
It turned out that he hadn’t done a very good job of protecting himself either.
And now he was running again, running in the dark and running without a shred of energy left. All that he could rely on were thoughts of escape to get him through. Bullets whizzed over his shoulders, skipped at his feet and ruffled his hair.
He headed for the trees. Humans weren’t as good in the trees. They didn’t have the eyesight or the agility.
More than ever, he felt the desire to change. It was almost as strong as when he’d been newly bitten. Oxygen burned his lungs as his flesh buzzed with excitement. His body wanted to mutate. It wanted to curl into its favourite form.
But it wasn’t safe.
Sweat and blood dripped down his brow. He could hear them closing in. There was still time to find somewhere safe and transform. What if it didn’t work? What if he was too stressed and too weak to do it?
He panted and slid to a halt in the undergrowth. His ears twitched and then it started, uncontrollable and unsteady. His back dragged him down too fast, pulling limbs into contorted shapes. It was hard not to call out. It had never been this painful before.
The moon shone down on his pale skin as it bristled with suddenly sprouting hair. Whimpers ripped at his shifting ears before he realised that it was him making the noise. He had to hurry. Lips pulled back, jaws cracking into a new shape as his nose crushed into a snout.
Minutes later he lay on the grassy floor, panting, yellow eyes open on the night sky. He needed to move. He pushed his paws down unsteadily and almost toppled.
They were coming.
Shaking, he padded a little way through the thicker undergrowth, hoping it was too thick for the humans to follow him through. His pads turned into a trot and then a run as regained his previous momentum.
Maria filled his mind. Would she be there waiting for him?
Howls tore the air.
He wasn’t alone. He wasn’t the only wolf in this forest. But were these wild wolves or werewolves from the facility?
A snarl burst from his left. Teeth clamped his fur. His view of the night tumbled and rolled. His limbs waved, desperate to run back to Maria.
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