romance, short fiction, women

I Watched You Change – Episode 20 (Wolf Series)

For previous episodes, please start here.

 

‘Kelly, I will pull over and look at it.’ John said.

 

Kelly’s face was taut and pale with concern. They had been out in the woods for days, and she held onto the city girl’s uninformed distaste for the country. She came out in a sweat wandering around Whole Foods and she had managed days sleeping under open skies, covered with dirt and god knows what else.

 

‘I scratched it somewhere. It’s nothing a hot bath and a band aid won’t fix.’ she said.

 

John inhaled through his nose and kept driving.

 

‘We don’t know that.’ he said.

 

She gritted her teeth and looked away.

 

‘Could it be passed on through contact?’ she said.

 

He ran his tongue over his teeth before he shook his head.

 

‘There aren’t any traces of it in bodily fluids. I’ve done the work myself.’ he said.

 

Kelly nodded in agreement and in response, the skin of her lower back prickled and itched with a fierce, sharp heat which made her suck in a sharp breath. John pulled the truck over to the side of the road and undid his seatbelt before he turned to her.

 

‘Kelly, I need to look at your back.’ he said.

 

She undid her seatbelt and turned her upper body away from him as she lifted the hem of the t shirt she was wearing. One of his, but her other clothes were torn and bloodied after the plane crash landed. Kelly closed her eyes as she felt the tips of John’s fingers stroke against her back. Under any other circumstances, she would have welcomed his touch, but this was something else. An unspoken ugliness made manifest in the mark on her back and John’s demeanour becoming something more concerned and clinical than affectionate.

 

Kelly heard him swear under his breath before he tugged her shirt back down. She turned around and looked into his eyes as he furrowed his forehead.

 

‘I was unconscious in the water for some time, so I can’t say with any certainty what it is but we’ll get to my house and look at you there.’ he said.

 

The car stereo switched on.

 

‘I’ve arranged for the jet for you both. Will you require tranquilizers?’ the stereo said.

 

Kelly raised her eyebrows as she stared between the stereo and John as he put his seatbelt back on.

 

‘Are you asking him or me?’ she said.

 

The stereo chuckled in John’s voice but behind the wheel, John’s face was a mask of concentration as he put his foot on the accelerator.

 

‘I take them if I have to fly.’ he said.

 

Having a wolf spaz at thirty thousand feet is not safe for anyone.’ the AI said.

 

Kelly fought the urge to chuckle at the term ‘wolf spaz’ and how it contrasted with John’s sombre expression as he focused on the road.

 

‘How far?’ John said.

 

John’s phone vibrated with a notification and he picked it up and nodded.

 

‘Thank you.’ he said.

 

He turned to Kelly.

 

‘I keep a few things on retainer. John’s confirmed the hire agreement and they’re fuelling up for us.’ he said.

 

Kelly’s mouth hung open and she went to speak before she recoiled against another spasm of itching, painful heat across her lower back and she gasped with discomfort. John put his foot down and took the truck up as far as possible.

 

‘John, you don’t have to go so fast.’ she said.

 

He gripped the steering wheel until his knuckles turned white as he grimaced.

 

‘I do if you’re sick with something, Kelly.’ he said.

 

She tasted the tension between them. She reached out and touched his thigh, pressed her palm against the ridge of muscle beneath his jeans and willed him to feel the reassurance she took from his actions.

 

‘Then I’m with the best person, aren’t I?’ she said.

 

His face softened and he smiled at her, his eyes damp with unspoken emotion.

 

‘I don’t want to think I’ve infected you.’ he said.

 

She shook her head and closed her eyes, struggling to bear the possibility of it with anything close to equanimity.

 

‘John, you understand yourself better than anyone, if you thought it was a possibility, we wouldn’t have -‘

 

Her voice trailed off as she failed to give voice to the fears they both felt.

 

‘The pilot has sent word he’s ready for you. I’ve submitted a flight plan. If you take the medication now, it will be in your system by the time you arrive.’ the AI said.

 

John glanced at Kelly, his mouth set in a line as his jaw trembled with the effort to control his emotions. Kelly kept her hand on his thigh and squeezed again for reassurance.

 

‘You’ve carried too much guilt for too long. You don’t have to carry mine.’ she said.

 

He put his hand over hers and squeezed her fingers before he turned the truck off the main road and down a stretch of road. The airfield was deserted apart from the jet on the runway, lit and prepared for take off. John drove onto the airfield and into an adjoining warehouse as Kelly craned to look at the jet. In her peripheral vision, she saw John open the glove compartment and grab a silver blister pack and pop two of them into his mouth and dry swallow them. He stopped the truck and got out. Kelly joined him as he locked the truck and put the keys in his pocket.

 

She took his hand and he squeezed it again as they walked to the jet.

 

2.

 

Amaro Felipe watched as the medical team prepared Olivia via a live camera feed. He had left the tank and fed, so he was free to sit in the dark and watch the process. Amaro envied her the care and attention she was receiving although it was to his specification. His circumstances had been less fortunate, ignorant of his biology and afraid to lose the station and wealth which had been fought for through his life.

 

He knew what she would undergo, having experienced it himself but he had placed her in the care of professionals who had helped him understand himself. Amaro was unique, but he did not wish to be, and the results had been disappointing. Olivia would not approach him in his capacities, but she would emerge from the procedure something more than human. The medical procedures were there to ensure she would be provided with nutrients and life support whilst her body underwent a series of fundamental changes. An induced coma would support the process as her body rewrote itself according to his design and he had the quiet pleasure of watching the rebirth. Most of the alterations occurred in the brain and nervous system, reverse engineered from the studies Amaro made of himself, and even those had only been in the last forty years. Before this period, he had investigated myths and legends, archaeological expeditions to far corners of the world in search of meaning and all of it giving hints but no solutions. Amaro knew the power of myth, having usurped it to allow him to slip free of his human identity and obligations to continue his existence.

 

The camera zoomed in on her face. Without the coma, Olivia would have suffered violent seizures as her brain altered, focusing on the cerebrum and brain stem but the transformation was not so much scientific as evangelical. In high definition, Amaro watched as her skin grew translucent, darkening over her abdomen as the secondary nervous system spread out and grafted onto her existing physiology. Her jaw jutted forwards and blood dribbled down from the corners of her mouth as the secondary set of teeth grew in, knitting sheaths from the existing gum tissue and connecting to poison sacs which ran down the back of her throat.

 

Her hair fell out of her scalp but Amaro knew it would grow back. The establishment of the primary form was brutal and violent, but she was kept apart from it by the coma.  

 

He had no such courtesies afforded to him. Five hundred years and he remembered what it was to be reborn into something monstrous. It was this knowledge which piqued his interest in the events in the forest. Amaro did not believe there were trained dogs involved, and after being informed about one of them surviving a rifle round, his interest piqued into something more urgent and important.

 

There was also the matter of restitution. The contents of the briefcase had represented the first chance of viable offspring in centuries and they had been cauterized to ashes to protect a competent thief and her protector. Amaro sat back in the chair, looking at the screen but not watching it as he considered his next steps.

 

Olivia would be ready to send out in only a week. Her physiological changes would be managed with his instruction and a clear set of directives for Jasper and the others to follow so they would act in a support capacity whilst she led the investigation.

 

She opened her eyes and Amaro smiled at how the irises had disappeared, now black with flecks of emerald. The medical staff increased the dosage, but she screamed as blood spilled down her chin and she revealed multiple sets of needle sharp teeth before she collapsed back down onto the bed, lost to the world again.

 

‘You’ll do just fine, Ms Nixon.’ he said.

 

The spectacle had stoked his appetite and he asked Miller to make the arrangements with a brief phone call before he continued to watch Olivia change.

(Let me know in the comments if you’re enjoying the series, what you’ve enjoyed and what you’re looking forward to. Thank you.)

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Episode 19 – No Good Deed

Previous episodes can be found here.

They drove in shifts. John insisted on doing most of it. He didn’t need as much sleep as he used to.

 

‘Isn’t that every doctor?’ Kelly said.

 

‘Eighty hours a week and twenty-eight hour shifts. When I went back after the infection, I cruised through the day.’ he said.

 

She shifted in her seat.

 

‘Weren’t you scared about having an episode in the hospital?’ she said.

 

He nodded as he turned onto the interstate.

 

‘Yes but I wanted to study myself. There were a lot of other things which came along with the infection and not all of them were negative.’

 

Kelly liked watching his face as he drove. His beard had hints of gold in it and his hair fell around his ears where he needed to cut it. She liked how big his hands were and how gentle he had been. She recalled the trembling release of his orgasm and felt a hot flush of blood rise to her cheeks.

 

He glanced at her, mouth drawn into a line.

 

‘Are you okay?’

 

She sighed and tilted her head against the seat.

 

‘Yeah, just thinking about what we will do next, you know?’

 

He shrugged his shoulders.

 

‘Someone took the paperwork and they’ll be looking for me. If I’m on home ground, I have a place to work from on finding out who these people are.’

 

‘What was the thing in the briefcase?’

 

John unzipped his jacket and got out his phone. He passed it to her and she switched it on. He leaned to swipe his thumb across the centre and focused on the road.

 

He told her to activate the bluetooth and wait for the app to finish uploading.

 

‘What, you’ve got a version of you on your phone?’ she said.

 

He shook his head.

 

‘No, there’s a version of me in the cloud. It’s modelled on me but he’s developed further than me. No episodes, doesn’t have to eat or use the bathroom.’

 

Kelly shuddered and wrapped her arms around herself.

 

‘Is that something you could do afterwards?’

 

He bit his lower lip and looked out through the windshield.

 

‘I think faster than I used to. I used to read comic books as a kid and all my favourite heroes were the smart ones. Tony Stark. Reed Richards. Bruce Banner.’

 

Kelly frowned and studied him.

 

‘I don’t recognise the last one.’

 

‘The Incredible Hulk. There’s been a few of them but he’s the alpha. So I liked how they could just think through any problem and I always believed it was possible until you realise how long and difficult everything is to do.’

 

He peered through the windshield.

 

‘We need to get gas and I’m hungry. How about you?’

 

She nodded.

 

‘I could use a drink.’ she said.

 

They pulled into the parking lot and John stopped the truck. He sniffed and froze as he clinched the steering wheel. Kelly went to undo her seatbelt and John whispered a single word.

 

‘Don’t.’

 

Kelly grew taut with concern as she stared out through the windshield.

 

‘I can smell blood.’ he said.

 

‘What are we going to do?’ she said.

 

He reversed the truck and Kelly looked at him.

 

‘You’re not just going to drive off,?’ she said.

 

He did not look at her as he drove down the road and pulled over. He undid his seatbelt and opened the door.

 

‘Wait here.’ he said.

 

He took off his jacket and unbuttoned his shirt as he got out

 

‘John, please. Let’s call the cops and go.’ she said.

 

He looked over his shoulder.

 

‘I can’t do that. Kelly. It’s not who I am.’

 

She watched him disappear off the road towards the back of the store.

 

The shadows hid him as she watched him remove his clothing and his shape warped and elongated before he fell onto all fours and the wolf emerged. It stopped and looked at her with his eyes before it ran towards the store.

 

2.

Blood never lies.

 

John filtered it through his senses. The aldehyde triggered his hunger, but he leashed it to his consciousness and used it to focus his attentions as he charged through the trees towards the store. There was a fence and he charged before he transferred his strength to his back legs as he soared over the fence and landed in the delivery area of the store. His paws slapped against the concrete and he slinked into the corner, tasting the air for information. Three concentrations of corynebacterium jeikeium and five overall concentrations of thioalcohol compounds. Three men and two women. One of them was producing bursts of amino acids each time they breathed and John saw he was talkative by the bursts of scent which dominated the olfactory landscape behind the door.

 

There would be guns but he was used to them.

 

He nudged the open rear door aside with his muzzle and slipped through into the storeroom. It was dark, but he had no interest in the light. He raised his muzzle and growled from deep in his chest. It rumbled through the air, a low, cutting thing which would raise atavistic fears, the bowel-loosening threat which you couldn’t see.

 

He stopped and moved behind the door on the side it would open and kept himself low.

 

The debate came to him through the walls and he listened.

 

‘I’m telling you, there’s no dog out there, sir.’

 

‘The fuck you say, I heard something.’

 

‘Let’s go, man, Go.’

 

‘Please, you’re scaring my baby.’

 

‘You. You’re coming with me.’

 

‘No, please she’s just a -‘

 

John breathed in how two scent signatures moved in his direction. One of them reeked of corynebacterium jeikeium and amino acids whilst the other had a more metallic odour and a synthetic bouquet of stale perfume and laundry detergent. He would wait until the second signature came into the room.

 

The door opened and he squinted against the light.

 

‘Get the fuck in there.’

 

John watched her stumble through the door ahead of him but he leapt forwards and turned his head to the side, opening his wide mouth.

 

John clamped down on the denim clad knee and his teeth severed the ligaments and meniscus into shreds before he darted back, spitting the ball of gristle, bone and tissue out as he did. The gun fell from his hand as he fainted away, his face slack from unconsciousness. John moved through the aisle and kept his head low as he hunted for the other one.

 

John considered it fate the man was coming towards him with the gun raised ahead of him to fire. He remained in place, stepping to one side and rearing back, swiping with his forepaws to push the man off balance and knock the gun from his hand. He roared into the man’s face and caught the ammoniac tang of urine flooding the air before he backed off and bolted out the back door.

 

The woman sat in the corner of the storeroom and stared at the man with his leg bit in two at the knee. She screamed as John charged past and outside, leaping the fence as he moved on, looking for a place to shed his skin. He breathed through the pain as he came to a stop beneath a copse of trees, dissolving and reforming beneath the sloughing skin back into his human form.

 

Kelly’s lower back itched as she sat in the truck. She avoided scratching, but it prickled in waves of irritation which made her sweat until she reached and dug her nails into the skin at the small of her back.

 

Her fingers came away wet, shining with her blood. Kelly cried out and wiped her fingers on her thigh as she waited for John.

 

She watched him run towards the truck and opened the door for him.

 

‘We should go.’ he said.

 

She lifted her blood stained fingers to his eyes as she swallowed her fear and looked at his shocked expression.

 

‘There’s something on my back and it won’t stop itching.’

 

He started the truck and they drove off, hearing the shriek of sirens coming towards them.

 

Blood never lies, he told himself, but the truths were often worse. A small, ugly thought bloomed in his mind as he saw the cars go past. He needed to get her back to the house as he imagined the worst.

 

The phone pinged and John switched the speakers on.

 

‘How are you both?’

 

John and Kelly looked at one another, unsure of what to say.

 

‘We need to get back to the house. Did you run the tests?’

 

John chuckled through the speakers and sighed.

 

‘I did. There were multiple strands of DNA, not all human or even alive -‘

 

John lifted his chin

 

‘That’s great but I will need everything we have on any infection vectors we assessed.’

 

Kelly felt the blood drain from her face as she heard the one word she never considered.

 

Infection.

 

2.

 

Paul looked at Howie, soaked and shivering on the floor as he pointed the gun at him.

 

‘You stupid fuck, we went to school together, man. You come and rob my dad’s store, what were you thinking?’

 

Howie, coming down from the cocktail of amphetamines he needed to think this was a good idea and jabbered a litany of nonsense words as Paul kept the gun on him.

 

Laura came out from the back, soaked in blood with Joel’s shotgun in her arms as she leaned against the wall.

 

‘Something big got him.’  she said.

 

Howie sobbed for himself as Paul and Laura looked at one another, wondering how to explain what had happened.

 

‘Did you see it?’ Paul said.

 

Laura nodded and cocked her thumb over her shoulder.

 

‘The fucker pushed me into the stock room first and it waited for him. Bit his leg off and ran past me into here.’

 

Howie cackled as his sanity struggled to remain in check.

 

‘See, I told you, it weren’t no wolf. It was too fucking big, too fucking big.’ he said

 

Paul turned to Jenny who sat there, arms wrapped around herself as she stared at the floor. She had come in for a lottery ticket and a packet of cigarettes, paid for it in change before the two junkies had come in, hollering and spitting. She had borrowed Paul’s phone to call the police and thanked him when she handed it back to him.

 

Jenny looked up and Paul could not meet her gaze as she gritted her teeth.

 

‘It was a big wolf.’ she said.

 

She stared at Howie where he laid.

 

‘It should have bit your fucking head off.’ she said.

 

Paul saw the lights of the police cars and set the gun down on the counter as he waited for them to come in.

 

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Episode 18 (Wolf) – Nothing Human

Previous episodes are here

EPISODE 18 – NOTHING HUMAN

 

Olivia got out of the car and looked up at the house. Her years of field office experience had taught the efficacy of bending the knee often and without prompting even if it galled her to do so. Olivia had a phrase from Quantico she used to inure herself to the worst excesses of the job

 

Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto.

 

Nothing human is alien to me. It came from the roman playwright Terence, to remind her of their common heritage when building profiles for their incarceration.

 

Terence and Quantico was no use in her current situation but her instincts were careful in gathering observations about him. In particular, whether she could call her employer him at all.

 

Olivia’s skills were attributed to possession of an eidetic memory and she never corrected them. She had spent a long time developing foci and the discipline to deploy them over possession of anything so unique as an ability to recall things at will. The Talmud Scholars who told George Stratton which word of the Talmud he stuck a pin into were not gifted with anything beyond discipline and will. It took a particular person to apply themselves to a process, and Olivia counted herself amongst them.

 

If only she had such control over her vices, she might have been Deputy Director now, but here she was, on paper a security consultant but in reality, something else. If Jasper had asked her, she would have told him how it excited her. She solved mysteries, and here she was in the middle of one, unsure of how much danger she was in. Olivia wondered if she were an apogee, allowing Jasper with his honed instinct for self-preservation and her employer, with their wealth and condition to escape the consequences of their actions, should things go wrong.

 

Should, she told herself, should.

 

Your boss is a fucking merman who has enough money to convince the world it doesn’t exist. Her cynicism was not an affectation but a result of an earlier education in a hierarchy which cost her a career and a reputation which she had achieved through insight and diligence and was lost because she could not defeat the demons of her nature.

 

She wondered if her employer knew about the Cutler Case.

 

The doors opened and Miller ushered her in.

 

‘You will be entering a sealed environment, Ms Nixon due to Mr Felipe’s requirements. Whilst inside, any electronic devices will not operate or emit a signal and at no point are you to try to alter the environment to assist any proprietary levels of comfort or communication.’

 

He handed her a black ring binder and with the other hand, held out his hand. Olivia placed her phone and in his hand.

 

Mr Felipe. She retained the information for her own interest but kept her face still. Whether such intimacies were a prelude to something terrible or a recognition of her utility remained to be seen, but she had a name to go by. He pocketed her phone and took a pair of oversized sunglasses and handed them to her.

 

‘For your comfort, Ms Nixon.’

 

She took them and thanked him but did not put them on.

 

Miller led her upstairs to the double doors and opened them for her. A blast of chill air brushed against her, making her shiver as she stepped inside to complete darkness. She put on the sunglasses.

 

Mr Felipe was not in his tank, instead he was sat at the head of a table, wearing a black robe as he read through a stack of paperwork without looking up at her. His features were more human than the last time she saw him and remembered how they had altered once he left the tank. She saw all these details rendered in photoluminescent green and realised the purpose of the glasses.

 

Mr Felipe looked up and gave a thin smile as he put down the pen, held at an angle between his long, clawed fingers. Olivia caught the piscine scent of him as he gestured to the chair at the opposite end of the table. She pulled it out and sat down.

 

‘I never knew your name before now.’ she said.

 

He looked up with his gelid black eyes staring into her across the table.

 

‘No, you did not. Few people do.’

 

His voice was low and amused as he folded his hands. He had instructed Miller to drop the name in conversation with her and he was pleased to see she had picked up on it.

 

‘Of course, I don’t look Spanish.’ he said

 

Olivia smiled at his observation. She dared not laugh for fear of causing offence.

 

‘Of course not. A name doesn’t define a man.’ she said.

 

He nodded once and sat back in the chair.

 

‘I do not have these arrangements for theatrical purposes. My condition necessitates such arrangements and I wanted to see how you reacted.’ he said

 

She nodded and he shook his head.

 

‘No, Ms Nixon, do not feel you have to be polite here. If I disgust or disturb you then now is the time to discuss such matters. You are not at risk from me here. You have utility.’

 

Olivia listened to his voice. There was no vocal chord atrophy and his diction was perfect  although his pronunciation of certain vowel sounds was flatter and monophonic.

 

‘Were you Spanish?’ she said

 

He furrowed his forehead before his mouth curved into a smile, too full with teeth to appear warm or ingratiating.

 

‘A long time ago, yes. I am impressed.’

 

Olivia did not allow herself any congratulations for her insight. The question of time filled her with an intoxicating blend of curiosity and dread.

 

‘Thank you. I have an ear for these things.’ she said.

 

His smile widened

 

‘An eye too’  he said.

 

‘Two of them, in fact.’ she said.

 

Mr Felipe laughed. It was a grating, rusted clot of sentiment spat into the air and it made Olivia flinch to hear it. He stopped when he saw her reaction.

 

‘Very amusing, Olivia. Now I have something to offer you. It would be to our mutual benefit.’ he said.

 

Olivia’s heart leapt in her chest but she fought to keep her reactions under control, even if she was unsure as to well he could read her in the darkness.

 

‘It is why I am here.’ she said.

 

He got up and walked over to her, pulling his robe closed along the way. Olivia was taut with concern as he reached into the pocket of his robe and retrieved a small metal tin. As he drew nearer, she caught the smell of salt and a damp, fungal undertone to it, like someone had overturned a stone left too long in the earth. She shuddered at the moist slap of his bare, webbed feet against the flooring.

 

He placed the tin in front of her and told her to open it.

 

Her fingers shook as she lifted the lid and saw two small capsules which gave a soft green glow through the glasses.

 

‘Ms Nixon, I have an offer for you. Your reputation is someone talented but difficult to work with, and Jasper has mentioned this enough times to make me wonder if you’re being used to your fullest potential.’

 

Olivia looked at the capsules and wondered if this was an inhuman variation of seppuku or jauhar but why bring her here to do that? Jasper could have poisoned her drink or throttled her in his suite. With the amount of power and influence available, Mr Felipe had no reason to make this an act to witness himself.

 

‘No, these will not kill you, but they will make you stronger.’ he said.

 

She looked up at him and met his gaze.

 

‘What will they do to me?’ she said.

 

‘They will increase your value to me as my representative, Olivia. I have any number of operatives across the world, but you are someone who strikes me as being worth an additional investment.’

 

She glanced at the capsules.

 

‘I can find this man, Mr Felipe. The offer is flattering but I don’t want to put you in a position.’

 

He shook his head and with a swipe of his fingers, slid the box to her.

 

‘Your refusal would. Consider this a signing bonus and if nothing else, it will infuriate Jasper to no end.’ he said.

 

Mr Felipe grinned and she looked down, ashamed at being read with the same ease she used on other people.

 

‘I have no problem with Jasper, Mr Felipe. I’m concerned as to what they will do to me.’

 

He exhaled and tilted his head to the left, studying her with a clinical disinterest.

 

‘You will become what children imagine when they dream of a detective. There is a transitional period but there always is on the path to transformation, isn’t there? Jay Cutler would agree, I’m sure.’

 

He chuckled and tapped the table with his fingers, the tips of the claws making a rapid tattoo before she took out the tablets and threw them into her mouth and swallowed them. They were tasteless and she gulped them down without any problem.

 

‘Excellent. Now, I’ve had Miller prepare a suite for you whilst they take effect.’ he said.

 

Olivia looked at him.

 

‘You’ve done your homework on me. Is that to get inside my head?’ she said.

 

He shook his head.

 

‘The Cutler affair is why you’re here. Expediency is a trait I value above all else, alongside ambition and loyalty.’ he said.

 

He offered his hand and without thinking, she took it as he lifted her to her feet.

 

Six women. Blunt force trauma with excessive amounts of force. The autopsy had suggested a tremendous amount of strength was necessary and she had been given the case to make a profile. Whoever killed these women was a non-secretor and had worn gloves padded with deposits of powdered lead over the knuckles, which limited the investigation.

 

Jay Cutler had fitted it, which was unfortunate as he was the son of a Congressman and a successful professional bodybuilder. There were quashed warrants for sexual battery and possession of anabolic steroids which fitted her assessment of an assailant acting on focused bursts of rage, but his lineage made him untouchable.

 

Olivia had taken the case and when she learned about Cutler’s sister being murdered when he was twelve years old, she had gone to her superior with the righteous fury of certainty on her side. Justice was not respectful of a man’s station, she had believed.

 

She was disabused of the notion and Cutler flew out to Mexico for a tournament the following day. Olivia was placed on administrative leave without pay as a warning. She was on a plane by the afternoon.

 

They found his body in his hotel room, shot six times in the face and chest. The furore was intense but Nixon, disillusioned and corrupted by the tailored nihilism of inherited privilege had moved, if not on, then down to the point where she embraced corruption like a long-lost lover. One of her instructors had fed her a quote about revenge, in the observation that before you set out on the path, you dug two graves.

 

Olivia tried to speak but a sudden, intense throbbing began at the back of her head. She registered Mr Felipe’s arms around her as she lost feeling in her limbs.

 

‘ When you return, we will talk about your role in more detail.’ he said.

 

She heard one last thing before she went down into the transformative darkness of herself.

 

‘My name is Amaro.’

 

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To Reach

islam_4_peace_02_by_larage4peace

 

https://larage4peace.deviantart.com/art/islam-4-peace-02-96804342

 

How long had I been in this tower?

 

Enough to know I will die here. All they had to do is not bring me food, or I fell ill. Sometimes I thought about throwing myself down there. If there was no hope of rescue, then I faced death, whether it was slow or fast.

 

It was a long way down. I think it would have been the quickest option. Starvation is death by a thousand bites.

 

Henrietta, my sister’s fairy godmother at my sister Catherine’s bidding slipped a pinch of Slumber into my wine and I collapsed into the arms of a guardsman.

 

The former story is so much more enjoyable to tell. It also absolves me of blame which is a handier skill to have than you might think up here. There’s no sense in anger up here where the winds howl and the birds fly around me, waiting for me to die or give up as they float on the thermals.

 

I knew she would marry me off to some ailing duke to cement an alliance. Have children and hold his withered, limp hand in public.

 

I wanted children but with someone I loved. There had been such a man, a troubadour who attended court at the height of spring who enacted complex verses of poetry and played a lute with such skill my eyes watered at the sound of it. Mathuin.

 

There were private performances for my pleasure where I was the instrument through which his talent flowed. Catherine had other ideas and had him banished. She waited a year before she whispered how she had his hands broken and his tongue removed. He did not get the mercy of death.

 

Her eyes gleamed with an emptiness I recoiled from. What had happened to my sweet and wise elder sister?

 

‘What do you gain from my misery, your highness?’

 

She drew her lips back from her teeth and hissed at me. I stepped back. I was more frightened of how everyone around the table ignored it. I wondered if it was even real.

 

‘Two things, dear sister. One, he was a commoner and your cunt is too precious to be wasted on a piece of rough, silver-tongued or not and the other thing, well it seems almost silly, but I spoke to Henrietta and she said I should at least tell you.’

 

I gave a slow nod, looked for a knife on the table whilst she spoke.

 

‘When you were eight and I was six, you broke my cup and ball. It was the last thing Mother gave to me and you couldn’t even let me have it. I hated you for that and I still do, so when I got the chance to hurt you in a way which would still allow me to sell you off then I took it. ‘

 

I blinked with surprise and a sinking horror she meant what she said. Mother had died birthing a son, and he did not last an hour before he died. Father had the two of us, and he never took another wife. He died in his bed and part of me died with him. I looked at my goblet of wine and drank it down.

 

I got up and left the hall. It was no more than a few steps when my head swam with an overwhelming exhaustion and I was caught by a prepared guardsman and winched up here.

 

It’s quite an interesting bit of history but the tower was built to honour Peregrin, the great archer and it was rumoured whoever could slay the four great birds of death, who were doomed to wander the skies without tasting flesh again, would get their fondest wish.

 

Catherine never came to see me. Henrietta came in her stead, watched me as her insect wings fluttered as she floated up to see I was still alive.

 

‘Between you and me, she’s not handling things well.’ she said.

 

I got up and strode over to me, brought my hand up to slap her before she buzzed away, her wand pointed at me, the gem at the end trailing off sparks of energy.

 

‘Neither are you.’

 

‘You’re supposed to be her godmother, you have an obligation to look after her.’ she said.

 

Henrietta frowned and shook her head.

 

‘I do, but you can’t save someone from themselves, can you?’

 

She reassured me I would come down in time when she felt I’d suffered enough and she made a table heaving from food appear. My stomach had shrunk and the rest of it rotted away to the point I had to toss it over the side, without anywhere to store it.

 

The birds float on the thermals and I went over to the side, ready to join them at last.

 

I looked down, so high up clouds thronged around the bricks of the tower below. I made out a shape against the wall and hear the faint slam of something heavy being smacked against the wall. I tilted my head to listen.

 

It saw another day before I saw something which convinced me my mind has broken.

 

Someone was climbing the tower.

 

Starved of stimulation, I watched and listened. Each thud had a ringing metallic tone. Like swords at tourney but slower and more certain.

 

The figure was cloaked and hooded and they climbed the tower, hand over hand.

 

I called to them but they did not look up. There was too much sky to look upon. They kept coming towards me and I wondered if this was my sister playing a cruel prank on me.

 

I wept and screamed at them to go away.

 

I pleaded for them to hurry.

 

I swore they would die in trying to kill me.

 

I asked what their name was, and why they were coming.’

 

The figure climbed without stopping and as they drew closer, I heard the harsh panting of their breath.  

 

After three days I watched the gleam of sunlight on his brass fingers where they bit into the bricks of the tower.

 

The hood fell back and I looked into the eyes of a man I believed dead or broken. The lower half of his face was wrapped in a length of black cloth but his eyes bore into mine with a purpose as hard as steel.

 

Mathuin.

 

It was sunset when he stood in front of me, his chest heaving and I looked at his hands.

 

They were made from brass and iron, small rods leading to perfect spheres at either end, pistoning to allow him a full range of motion. He followed my gaze and lifted them up, looked at them as though it were the first time. He reached into his tunic and retrieved a scroll.

 

There was a sigil set into wax. It represented one of the guilds in the North, men who had learned the work of the dwarves and plied a trade in weapons and armour.

sigil (7)

They left me for dead.

Broke my hands and took my tongue,

I wandered in the north and took work

With a caravan back to the guild

I swept floors

Slept in ashes

But I waited and earned

Favours

I wrote down my story

Asked what I needed

I told them

Two things

.

 

He drew down the cloth from his face and smiled at me. His tongue gleamed white between his teeth.

 

‘The hands count as one item.’ he said.

 

I screamed as I ran towards him.

 

‘You stupid man.’

 

I touched his face and kissed him. His tongue stole between my lips and it was soft and agile without the taint of metals. His hands went to the small of my back and drew me closer to him. I put my hands to his chest and push him backwards.

 

‘Had you thought of how we are going to get down?’

 

He straightened his tunic and adjusted his belt. He reached for a pouch and pulled it away from his belt.

 

‘It’s a mix of djinn ash, powdered silver and aether. The dwarves used it to make their armour lighter but when you sprinkle it on flesh, it produces an interesting effect.’  he said.

 

A screech drew our attention as the birds descended upon us. Their beaks were sharp and hooked as they raised their claws to attack him.

 

He tossed the pouch to me and turned on his heels to face them. He raised his brass hands above his head, clenching them into fists which shone in the dusk.

 

The first of them was clubbed to the ground with a wet crack and he caught the second by its beak, splintering it into shards of bone and splinters of keratin before he pulled back and straightened his fingers to slap the third’s head across the neck. I had caught the pouch by the time he had grabbed the claw of a fourth and twisted it off with a wrench like a starving man tearing into a capon. He took a claw across his tunic but he kept moving and hammered into the fourth bird until it lay still as he got up from his knees.Blood stained the front of his tunic but he walked towards me and looked at the pouch in my hand.

 

He shuddered and reached out his hand to brush the hair from my face.

 

‘I want to take you away from here.’ he said.

 

The air shimmered around us and it grew too bright to see as I reached for his cold hands and felt soft earth beneath my feet. I blinked away spots from my eyes and looked around us.

 

We were at the foot of the tower. I put my hands to my face and sobbed with relief as he looked up with wonder.

 

‘Peregrin’s challenge wasn’t a myth.’ he said.

 

The wish could have granted him eternal life, the power of a god but he had chosen to speak from his heart and take me from my prison.

 

He came to me and took me in his arms as the years spent at such a height robbed the breath from me as a wave of vertigo overwhelmed me. We walked to the horse tethered to an old oak a few yards from the tower.

 

I held his hand and caressed the pistons, wondering if he felt it when he looked at me.

 

‘What about the queen?’ I said.

 

He adjusted the saddle and fed the horse from a bag of oats as he stroked its mane.

 

‘During the years I could not speak or use my hands, I thought of her less than you, but those thoughts weighed me down so I let them go. People see a poet or a musician and think their work a thing of lightness. They forget the patience and the determination it takes to make art with feeling and craft.’

 

I put my hand against his cheek.

 

‘So when you couldn’t speak or play, what did you do?’

 

He flexed his brass hands and smiled at me.

 

‘I listened and paid attention. Those were the first things I learned as a man. We can go and take revenge if it pleases you, but we had best dig our own graves before we go.’

 

I lowered my head and closed my eyes as another wave of dizziness overcame me.

‘I’ve no desire to see my own grave for a while.’ I said.

 

He put the tip of his finger under my chin and lifted my face to his.

 

‘Neither have I. Now we shall ride to a better place than this.’

 

He assisted me onto the saddle and climbed up with an exhausted grunt as he took the reins.

 

We settled on a stretch of land on the borders of the Crow King’s demesne and he built us a home with animals and we grew food to sustain ourselves. It was three months when the soldiers arrived. I called out and he came over to me, a sheathed sword in his hand but the soldiers stopped and dismounted as soon as they saw me.

 

They kneeled and the captain came to me with a scroll in his hands.

 

‘Your sister has died and with her went the wicked sylph Henrietta. We have searched for you as the sole heir and we beseech you to return and claim your throne.’

 

I looked over my shoulder at Mathtuin and with a smile, he bent the knee.

 

‘How did my sister die?’

 

She took up arms against Henrietta and dealt her a mortal blow with a knife she kept in her sleeve. Henrietta cast a final ball of fire which engulfed Catherine and sent her running into the courtyard where she collapsed and died.

 

Henrietta’s last words came back to me and I felt the weight of the lesson.

 

Mathuin came to my side and put his arm around me as I wept for my sister. The captain passed me the scroll and I took it as I nodded through my tears.

 

We went home, Mathuin and I, but by his side, I knew it was something I carried with me. It took his patience and determination when he could not speak or touch me to find me and carry me down to the earth. Fate had raised us up again but as I saw my family’s castle, I knew I would be capable of the task with this man by my side.

 

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romance, short fiction, women

Episode 17 – A Finer World (Wolf)

1.

 

John kissed her on the top of the head when he came into the kitchen. He stroked her face with the backs of her fingers as he gazed at her.

 

‘What are you thinking about?’ she said.

 

John smiled as he leaned over and kissed her soft lips before he stood up.

 

‘I decided it was easier to show you.’ he said.

 

He went out the freezer and brought in more venison steaks, ran water over them and put it in the sink to thaw out. John wiped his hands on a towel and looked at her.

 

‘We will get out of here today. It’s safer if we go to my house.’ he said.

 

‘Your house?’ she said.

 

He nodded and poured himself a cup of coffee as he came back to the table and sat down.

 

‘One of them but I haven’t been to any of the others since Mom died. Also, I had to consider what would happen if I had an episode in a pressurized space.’ he said.

 

Kelly had not seen him have an episode. She had seen John and the wolf but not the transition.

 

‘What happens when you have an episode?’

 

He reached for his tobacco pouch and rolled a cigarette, lit it and sat back in his chair.

 

‘I turn into a wolf.’ he said.

 

Kelly asked for another cigarette and he rolled it for her.

 

‘You think it’s an illness? I mean, you’ve been investigating it on that basis.’ she said.

 

He shrugged his shoulders.

 

‘I don’t have a frame of reference for anything else.’ he said.

 

Kelly picked up the lighter and lit her cigarette. She breathed in the smoke and looked into his eyes.

 

‘I don’t have one either. You are self-aware and there being another one out there, without that self-awareness, it frightens the shit out of me but through all this, despite knowing you turn into a giant wolf and you’ve eaten people, I trust and feel safe with you.’ she said.

 

He shook his head.

 

‘ It’s why I work on solving the problem of myself.’ he said.

 

She leaned over and kissed him. He reached up and touched her cheek as her lips drew over his. It was sweet and brief before she stood back and looked at him, holding his hand across the table.

 

‘You saved my life. I’ll do everything I can to return the favour. Don’t feel you have to keep yourself apart from me.’ she said.

 

He shook his head and drank his coffee before setting it down and finishing his cigarette.

 

‘I won’t.’ he said.

 

When they had eaten and changed, John reached at the top of a cupboard and found a small black bag. When he opened it, the inside was lined with metallic padding and he picked out a small cellphone. He switched it on and stuffed it into the pocket of his jeans.

 

‘I must see if anyone’s asked about me.’ he said.

 

She had no luggage, but she had baggage and she had brought it with her

 

‘In case they’re trying to find out who you are.’ she said.

 

He locked the cabin and they walked up a hill as he took out his phone and switched it on.

 

‘Where is your car?’ she said.

 

He moved it after he had made her stable and comfortable. She asked him why and he said he was not sure if there anyone else from the plane out there. He had looked but he couldn’t assume anything and moving his vehicle dissuaded anyone from taking further advantage or even the possibility of it.

 

‘They still might have killed you.’ she said

 

He raised his eyebrows and considered it before he gave a short nod.

 

‘Yes, but with the exposure and no navigation, they’d be dead in hours, anyway. It was a calculated risk.’

 

Kelly moved closer to him.

 

‘Were you worried about me doing that?’

 

He shook his head.

 

‘It was a calculated risk on my part.’ he said.

 

It had not occurred to her to do anything like it. She wasn’t sure if it made her intuitive or a good person. She was a thief but killing wasn’t something she liked to be around. Tony kept her out of work which involved it, but even the awareness of it was a stain on her soul.

 

‘I’m glad it paid off.’ she said.

 

He grinned and took her hand.

 

‘Me too.’ he said.

 

He walked over to a tall mound of earth, strewn with leaves and John tugged the netting away with both hands until he had dragged it all off. He pointed his phone at the pick up and the lights flashed as the vehicle unlocked in a series of mechanical clicks and whirs and the engine switched on with a low, soft purr.

 

‘Bluetooth lock?’ Kelly said.

 

He beamed as he got into the drivers side and opened the passenger side door for her. She got in and put her seatbelt on.

 

‘It’s almost like you were a thief at some point.’ he said.

 

When Kelly sat down, the seat rubbed against the sore spot on her back and she winced at the contact. John glanced at her and asked if she was okay. She nodded and told him it must have been a bruise or a sprain she’d picked up. He took a deep breath and wrinkled his nose before he drove them out of the forest.

 

Kelly lowered her head and fell asleep, wondering if it was a bruise or a sprain after all and when she needed to let John know if not.

 

He emerged from the tank and towelled himself dry in the dark as his anatomy flowed beneath his skin and by the time he was finished and dressed, he looked like a tall, handsome man in his forties. He switched the light on and admired his reflection in the long mirror before he opened the doors onto the humid California evening.

 

His assistant was there to meet him and passed a folder detailing the operating issues and current reports on the areas of influence he had a particular interest in.

 

Water rights in Colorado.

 

Biotechnology start-ups in Silicon Valley and India.

 

Admiralty Law statutes

 

Government bids for flood defences around the world.

 

Military counterintelligence reports on pirates off the Somalian coast.

 

Satisfied with their direction, he handed the folder back to his assistant and thanked him.

 

The assistant, a severe but loyal young man named Miller told him his dinner was waiting in the dining room.

 

He smiled and thanked Miller once again as he rolled up his sleeves and walked through to the dining room.

 

The strain involved in remaining on dry land for this amount of time led to an increased need to process nutrients, and this was even more important when he had to spend long periods in a stable human form. He had mastered himself long ago as much due to necessity as to curiosity and his inexorable will to dominate.

 

He was tied to the chair with his head down and tousled blonde curls obscuring his face. Drugged, he thought, with a pang of disappointment and decided once he had eaten, to educate the team who had prepared this base of operations to meet his requirements.

 

Still it made for less drama and avoided the possibility of escape.

 

His jaw unhinged and a set of secondary needle teeth slid from recessed sheathes in his gum line.  His tanned skin became translucent in spreading blotches as he lifted his head, taking a grip of his hair and stared at his sleeping face.

 

He hated it when they were asleep. Part of the anticipation came from seeing them accept their fate or rage against it. Either way, his belly was full, but he still enjoyed novelty in his life. He bit down into his carotid artery, each tooth injecting a drop of anticoagulant as bladders pumped, creating a vacuum as his blood squirted into his mouth and he closed a set of his eyelids as the first coppery spray hit the back of his throat. His throat distended and throbbed as he swallowed without losing his grip on the back of her neck. The exsanguination was over in minutes due to his distaste at the bitter aftertaste of the tranquilizers. Wealth meant he could afford to be selective and exclusive as chemicals affected him in ways he never enjoyed. He dreamt of spiced rum and caught fish, but in reality, he had adapted to his diet with a ruthlessness borne of deep and uncompromising need.

 

He stood back without a drop of blood on his shirt and let him fall forwards.

 

‘Thank you.’ he said.

 

He left him in the chair and walked out of the room.

 

Miller had stood outside the dining room and he straightened his posture as the door opened.

 

‘See to it they are unconscious by other means than whatever was used on her. If we have to get soundproofing installed then we will but I don’t like my food drugged, do you understand?’ he said.

 

Miller agreed and said he would see to it.

 

‘I would like to see Ms Nixon please. Tonight. Alone.’ he said.

 

Miller took his phone from the clip on his belt and dialled her number.

 

‘Ms Nixon, there will be a car arriving for you and bring you to meet with your employer in the next hour. Please ensure you make yourself available.’ he said.

 

He ended the call and replaced the phone in his pocket.

 

‘Thank you, Miller. I will be in my tank for a little while. Please send notice when she’s on her way.’ he said.

 

Everyone around him called him sir. He used several names and identities to obfuscate unwanted interest but his identity was lost. There had been a time where he had devoted resources to finding others of a similar genus but had turned his efforts in a different direction which had been the reason for the attempted theft carried out on his orders.

 

He undressed and slipped back into the tank. The pressured silence of the cold sea water was meditative and here, he loosed his alien, inhuman thoughts as he dreamed of the world.

 

The world he was creating

 

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love, romance, sex, women

Episode 16 – A Knot Untied (Wolf)

Previous episodes are here.

Episode 16:

 

Kelly rubbed herself against John as they kissed, trembling with the tension which ran parallel with the exhaustion and desire running through her body like summer lightning. He was slow at first, light and gentle kisses but she felt the shudder of controlled muscle tension and the dynamic of a man risking his will in pursuit of pleasure. Kelly sighed as his warm, rough fingers traced concentric circles over her buttery, soft skin and his lips brushed against hers. She felt the rigid, jutting length of his cock through his underwear against her thigh and she pulled him close, wallowing in the languid waves of heat which emitted from his every pore.

 

He drew back and gazed down at her, his eyes dark with want and a fear of the want arising within him. His scent had darkened and she reached up and touched his face, fingertips grazing against the soft fur of his beard. His lips were parted as he took a deep breath and positioned himself on top of her and supported himself with his hands.

 

‘No, put your weight on me.’ she said.

 

He lowered himself down as her arms came around him. Kelly kissed him and pushed herself up against him but he was immovable as he kissed from her lips across her cheek and down along the graceful line of her neck. Each touch of his soft, full lips sets sparks in her nerves until the urgency leaves her breathless and flushed. He raises himself up and stares into her eyes again before returning his attentions to a continued exploration of her skin with his mouth. A beautiful topographical route, a silent meditation upon wonder and each passing moment adds to the fullness of the moment. He shoves her t-shirt over her breasts and runs his rough palms over them before he lowers himself so his mouth is level with hers and he alternates taking each nipple into his mouth, suckling on them with a soft, knowing pressure and pressing them between his fingers until they are stiff and aching in a way which sends bolts of sensation down her spine as she opens her thighs and wraps them around them. The only sound is their breathing, a damp circadian rhythm which rises and falls like the ocean waves as Kelly pressed against him.

 

He caressed her stomach and when his fingers slipped beneath the waistband of her panties, she gasped and flexed her stomach, lifting upwards to accommodate the raw need which his actions gave voice to. He studied her face as he stroked the soft fur before his fingers drew apart her labia and he eased a finger inside her. She throbbed and moaned as he withdrew it and stroked around her clit with a gentility which took her breath away.

 

‘You don’t have to be gentle with me. I won’t break.’ she said.

 

He furrowed his forehead as he removed his hand from between her legs and raised himself onto his knees. Kelly fought a moment of concern before he put both hands either side of her hips and took a grip on the cotton before he tore them off with one easy motion. He threw the two ragged pieces aside and stood up to take his underwear off. Kelly looked at his cock, how it jutted from his groin, which was as dark with hair as the rest of him, arrogant and potent in its length and thickness.

 

‘I have no protection.’ he said.

 

She nodded and told him it was ok. Kelly did not want to have anything between them and her intuition sung in concordance with her decision. He smiled and kissed her as she lifted her hips and reached down between his thick furred thighs and wrapped her fingers around the base of his cock. Kelly guided the head of his cock inside her as she sighed and felt him push forwards. John gave a thick grunt as he struggled to control himself, exhaling as Kelly felt him shudder inside her. He took a deep breath and eased himself inside her until his cock was buried to the hilt before he withdrew, the head of his cock remained inside her, held by the suckling liquid tension of her soaked pussy and the clenching muscles. He looked into her eyes and thrust himself inside her, still cautious and restrained even as she watched his face tighten into a mask of focused concentration. She nodded at him, fingers stroking across his arms where she held on. They rocked back and forth, Kelly moving her hips to take him deeper inside her and urging him with her eyes to go harder.

 

He nodded and grinned, flushed with the effort as he moved inside her. She raised her legs and hooked her ankles over the backs of his calves which made for a delicious friction between her clit and his groin. His thrusts found a spot on her anterior wall which sent exquisite sensations through her body, the impending rumbling of a summer storm in the distance. Between the two contrasting but complementary sensations, Kelly caught the stirring signs of her orgasm as she turned her head and kissed him on the cheek before whispering in his ear.

 

‘I‘m going to come.’

 

He gave a hasty nod without missing a stroke before she clung to him and surrendered to the explosions of her body. It surged within her as she cried out, loud and strident as she shook with the force of it, pressing her face to his as he pumped with urgency inside her. She felt herself gushing over the length of his cock as she came and when he whispered he was close, she gave an anxious nod before feeling him tense up as he lifted his head and cried out. Kelly felt him spurt inside her as he wrapped his arms around her, tight enough to take her breath away.

 

He fell onto her, as their limbs intertwined in a perspiring, flushed knot of mutual relief as they kissed one another, whispering sweet non sequiturs before John lifted himself onto one elbow and touched her face. His expression was tender, almost pensive and Kelly asked him if he was okay. He grinned at her.

 

I want to talk to you about something.’ he said.

 

Kelly fought a tight burst of anxiety but nodded, touching him to ensure he was real.

‘We will get free of this, Kelly, I don’t know how but we’re leaving here and we’ll figure it out on the way.’

 

Kelly blinked away tears but John kissed them away as she held him onto him and nodded.

 

‘I feel safe with you, John. I don’t know how we will do it, but I want to stay with you.’ she said.

 

They remained locked into one another until sleep overcame them.

 

When she awoke, John was there and she watched him. His face was relaxed, youthful and ancient at the same time without the constant necessity of control straining and testing him. She laid on her side and decided, whatever happened, she would go with him.

 

She got up and used the bathroom, wincing at a sore patch of skin on the small of her back when she sat down on the toilet. Kelly looked in the mirror, turning her head to check and seeing a small red mark just above the cleft of her buttocks. She smiled, recalling how she had not known of anything beyond their coupling and put it down to a sin of enthusiasm on his part. She padded back to the bedroom and watched him sleep before she wandered into the kitchen and made coffee for them. Kelly rolled a cigarette from the pouch on the table and lit it as she looked outside as the day began.

 

Kelly felt a fierce and unambiguous joy of still being alive. She smelled pine and good, clean earth, wished they could stay here forever, just the two of them but eventually, someone would come for them and they would be better prepared.

 

She thought about her situation and how she could get them both free of it.

 

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romance, short fiction, women

The Reflecting God – Episode 15 (wolf)

Previous episodes are here.

https://mbblissett.com/untitled-wolf-series/

 

So impressed with all you do

Tried so hard to be like you

Flew too high and burned the wing

Lost my faith in everything

Nine Inch Nails, Somewhat Damaged.

 

Jasper shot a warning look at Olivia as she stifled her cry of alarm. He did this to avoid having his own appalled reaction at the thing in the tank.

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