Whoooa oh, we're half way there...
The Dark Side - Part the Fifth - October 29th, 2012
Even if it was not over all the news outlets, Cole would know there was a giant storm coming. She could smell it. One of the few gifts of the wolf that wasn't so bad. Her senses were always heightened. When she was herself, it was nothing more than just a slight increase, but it was enough to put her ahead of most humans.
Maybe it was the senses, or maybe it was more the changes to her instincts that being a wolf brought with the changes. But to her, it always felt like she could smell a storm coming. The air was charged, the air smelled like...well, like wet dog. She could almost feel the crackling energy all around, the hair on her arms tingling.
If a storm was coming, and it was, she had to be prepared for it. It did not feel like a big storm, but things had a bad habit of getting worse when you didn't think they would or could. Even more so for her, it seemed.
Cole remembered the last time she had been caught in a storm on the night of a full moon. The wolf somehow knew, even beyond just basic senses and instincts. It knew the power was out, and wanted to take her into the nearest town, and tear it up. That was the one time it felt safe going into a town. Everyone was either in a panic and too busy to deal with a wandering wolf, or inside and not a problem.
An empty city gave the wolf free reign to do as it wanted with anything and anyone left behind.
Cole's motel room wasn't quite what one might consider in the city, but it was close enough that the wolf did not have far to run. The forest behind the motel would be empty this full moon, and the town was far too close, and far too tempting a target for the wolf to ignore.
It was fortunate that Cole had been taught to always have a contingency plan, to always be prepared. She may not have been a Boy Scout herself, but a brother of hers she had long since thought much about was, and it was sound advice.
Whenever Cole arrived in a new location, she scouted out the outlying areas. She would use whatever resource she could to source out any local caves, from travel brochures, to online information, to GPS, and try and find a good place in case of emergencies.
Emergencies didn't always provide time for hikes into the woods, but Cole at least always had ample warnings and knew more or less when her monthly visitor was coming.
Once she had found a cave that was near enough to town, but far enough into the woods that she would not just be stumbled upon by the first hapless driver on the road, she prepared.
She had left a series of caves dotting the country with hefty iron chains buried in the walls. They weren't always guaranteed to hold the wolf, and it had broken free more than once. It had stopped it more often than not, if the rocks were solid enough.
Along with the chains, she gathered less permanent supplies. A lantern for light until the change came. Changes of clothes, and food. Food for both her to eat before the change, and after. Also, food for the wolf. If she was leaving it chained up in the cave, the least she could do was leave it a side of beef or a steak to sate its hunger, maybe curb its attempts to escape.
Once again, these attempts to control the wolf did not always work, but if it was chained up and fed, the likelihood if it causing any trouble was diminished to almost acceptable risks.
There was one time when Cole tried dosing the meat with animal tranquilisers to stop the wolf cold, but all that did was make her throw up for almost an hour upon waking up and having to deal with the remains of the drugs within her own system.
Cole was unsure just how many of the animals attacks during the last few full moons were her, and how many were other wolves, but with the storm on its way, she wasn't going to risk her own cursed form paying Kraftsbury an unsupervised visit.
She made a stop at the supermarket in what passed for downtown, to pick up her meal, and the meal for the wolf. On her way out, she ran into Colin again. She found that she was liking these little encounters more than she should, and looked forward to each next one.
Cole had thought about seeking him out several times. It would have been easy enough, as he was a creature of habit and it was a small town. It would have been nothing for her to engineer more not quite accidental meetings than the ones she had already conjured up.
It was better for her to keep her distance though, she knew that through bitter experience. It was better for him to stay away, and she knew she should push him away, rather than the awkward flirting they were both partaking in. She feared what would happen if Colin came face to face with the wolf. She wasn't sure which would actually be worse; what Colin would think of her, or what the wolf would do to Colin. She hoped she would never have to find out.
Still, despite the kid's own social anxiety, she found herself smiling back at him, and feeling a weight lifted from her shoulders with each meeting. She knew the wolf was mere hours away from clawing its way out of her skin, but that was the last thing she thought about in Colin's presence.
Being around Colin was dangerous, and not just for him. It was bad for her as well, as she found out last month when she had been distracted so late that she almost lost control of the wolf in the center of town. It was a miracle she got back to the motel in time.
Cole could not afford to let that happen this month, not with the storm, and not with having to venture out into the woods before moonrise. It was a good thing she had decided to get her supplies early, and had plenty of time to reach her forest lair.
With plenty of time, Cole was in no particular hurry as she drove the backroads of Vermont. She kept a close eye on the time, but she always enjoyed a pointless ride before a change. For all she knew, she would not see the morning come. Any of a hundred things could happen that would stop the wolf and kill it. So whenever she had the chance, she would just...ride.
She rode with no direction in mind, just letting the road take her where it may, the blurring scenery passing her by unnoticed, and just slipping away from the world and her problems.
Time waited for no one, and it wsa of particular concern for a werewolf, and so Cole had to turn back towards her destination and get settled in for the night.
She parked her bike on the side of the road, and while this was always the riskiest part of her plans, she always found a place that was secluded enough that the chance of random car thieves was slim.
Grabbing the supplies out of her bike, she pushed her way into the forest, and found the trail she had seen upon her earlier inspections of the location.
Deep inside her, she could feel the starting hints of pain, the surging rumbling growls in her thoughts. The change was near, but she had plenty of time.
The trail led almost straight to the mouth of her cave. It was a little bit off the path, but you could see it if you looked for it. Cole tried to find places further off trails, but they were always much harder to reach, so it was a trade off she had to make some times.
She dropped the bags she was carrying onto the ground and entered the cave. Its entrance was a large oval and the soft ground underfoot soon changed to stone after a few steps. Cole walked around the cave and gave the chains another inspection. They seemed well anchored to the rock walls, and should hold the night. Still, the one real test was to find out when she woke up. The wolf had yet to break the chains themselves, but there was always that chance, as well.
Cole turned on the battery powered lantern, the bright, harsh yellow being thrown against the walls, and offering poor illumination, but better than none as the daylight was soon to be gone.
She moved the food she had gotten for herself and put it outside the cave, where she believed the wolf would be unable to reach it. That mistake was one she had made but once. The wolf didn't care what food was there for 'it' and what food she had left for 'her'. It would eat all the food, if it could. As much out of spite for its prison as out of hunger.
If the wolf slipped its bonds and got loose, then all bets were off, but at least she had a good chance of something edible in the morning. Canned foods seemed to help, in the cases where it did manage to escape.
Cole returned to the cave and looked around some more, as she felt the wolf growing within her. The cave seemed to end only a dozen or so feet beyond the mouth, making it seem like an almost egg-shaped hollow. Near the back wall though, obscured by shadows unless you were looking for it, was a branch off the mouth of the cave, that angled downwards into unknown darkness beyond.
The woman had considered chaining the wolf deeper within the cave, but if it escaped, she had no idea where it could leave her. It was bad enough waking up in the woods in an unknown location. Better to not wake up lost, alone, and unable to see inside an endless system of tunnels.
And just like that, the time had come. She had no intention of holding the wolf back this month, with no need to do so. She just needed to delay it long enough to get ready and chained up.
Cole removed her jacket and tossed it outside the cave. She had lost plenty of clothes to the wolf's transformation, and she'd be damned if she would lose that jacket.
The cold mountain air tickled her bare arms. She wore nothing more on her torso than a black tank top under the jacket, and she was regretting it that night. The air on a late October night was not what anyone would consider warm under the best of circumstances, and with the hurricane speed winds, and the rain, things were just that much worse.
Cole paused and rubbed her arms, shivering. Her hairs were standing up not just because the air was charged by the coming storm, but from goosebumps, and on top of it all, the change was beginning. The hair was becoming thicker, longer, coarser. More and more of it was sprouting all over her body, not just her arms.
She was quick to remove her boots, and grabbed the chains that would hold the wolf in place, if all went well. At least she felt out here, it would not kill anyone.
The shackles clasped around her wrists and clicked shut with a metallic scrape and thunk. The chains were loose around her wrists, and she might have been able to slip loose without much difficulty, but once the wolf was in control, its larger form would fit the shackles much better than her slender form.
That had taken some trial and error on her part. The first time she had chained herself up, she had gotten the chains sized for her own wrists, and awoke the next day with almost no feeling left in her fingers from the hours of pressure they had been under. She had feared she may lose the hands on account of her mistake.
Just as the cold, hard metal clicked shut around her arms, and the touch of it made her shiver once more, Cole heard something outside. She knew it was meat. No, the wolf knew. It could smell meat, and it was growing strong. It smelled food.
Cole looked up, an act which was a chore as the transformation kicked her in the stomach and doubled her over in pain. She fell down to all fours, failing to see what was outside the cave. She figured it was nothing more than a rabbit. A deer at the worst.
She watched her hands as her fingers seemed to shrink, as her own nails grew. They changed shape from anything close to a human hand, becoming more and more like an animal's paw. If the change was not happening to her, Cole would have found it the most fascinating thing to watch.
And it was quite something to see. Another thing altogether to feel. Every bone cracked and reshaped to fit the mold of a wolf. A human skeleton could not just be banged and rearranged into that shape. It had to be broken, remolded, twisted into something so different as to be almost unrecognisable as human.
Every fibre of her being was aflame with pain. A hundred or more bones breaking at once, and each one feeling like a broken bone. This was not gentle, this was not simple. The sole consolation was that it had become less painful since her first transformation. Yes, this was almost considered to be easy, compared to that first half a year of going through the change.
Cole was in so much pain, she was almost unaware when she felt a presence nearby. The wolf sensed it first, and that made Cole aware. She could sense the form kneeling beside her, about to reach out and see what was wrong. She knew the scent, even without looking. It was Colin.
No no no, she thought, he can't be here, that's impossible. This is about the worst thing that could happen. He has to get out of here, he has to go. She needs him.
She should have pushed him away. She should have scared him off. She should have kept her distance. But a universe of should haves only added up to a pile of did nots. The past is the past. What is, is. All Cole could do was deal with the here and now. She was ill equipped to do that at the moment, however.
All Cole could do was try and scare Cole out of the cave, get him as far away as she could in the moments she had left, and pray they were enough.
She watched as he stumbled backwards out of the cave, and hit his head, falling unconscious. Cole prayed that was far enough away, and hoped she had not given the wolf an easier meal than the raw steak a few feet to her right.
Her awareness faded as she watched Colin's motionless body, knowing the wolf would go straight for it.
The wolf was hungry, and it did indeed spy the easy prey nearby. Once it tore free of the remains of the clothing Cole had not managed to strip off, it tried to pounce upon the prone form before it, but all the wolf did was let out a yelp as the chains stopped it mid-air and dropped it right back to the ground. The food was out of reach.
Tearing with rage at the chains, the wolf tried to free itself, pull itself closer to the food source that was right there, so close, yet so far.
But it was no good, the chains were too strong, the body too far. The wolf did not give up though, and spent the entire night howling and pulling in anger, until its limbs were red with blood, and its throat was raw with rage.
It still was trying to snap at the body, take a big, juicy bite out of anything more than air, when it felt the sun begin to rise.
The wolf let out an anguished, pissed off howl of impotent rage as the warmth of the sun touched its fur and cursed it to return to its human prison.