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The entire By My Light series in one box set!One fateful night pulls Gwen Rogers from her normal office world and into the realm of myths and legends. She becomes a legend herself after she’s given the curse of a werewolf and thrust into the powerful grasp of William Fox, a billionaire obsessed with all things paranormal. Now she must fight against the monster inside her and the monster beside her to navigate her new world.
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Copyright © 2018 by Mac Flynn
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Continue the adventure
Other series by Mac Flynn
Some nights are just like one another. The moon rises, sets, and another day begins. Then there are other nights where things are different. The moon rises, but the night never seems to end. Your world turns upside down and things are never the same. That’s what happened to me one ordinary night.
“And another day bites the dust,” Dakota quipped.
The heels of our shoes clacked against the linoleum floor of the office building. By my side was my best friend Dakota, in front of us were the elevators that led to freedom, and behind us was another week of work in the trash. Our office was on the twentieth floor of the pit of hell. Who knew hell was aboveground?
“And another rent due,” I added.
Dakota cringed. “It went up again, didn’tit?”
“It went up again.”
She sighed and shook her head. “You’ve really gotta find another place to live. That ‘apartment’ is an overpriceddump.”
“But at least the cockroaches are free,” I pointedout.
She snorted. “You can always find the deal in anyscam.”
“I’m just that talented,” I teased.
“So what are your plans for this weekend? Going out on the town?” she askedme.
I shook my head. “I haven’t figured out anythingyet.”
She grabbed my arm and stopped us. “Come on, Gwen. You have to come out into the world some time, and don’t give me that excuse that you can’t do a thing with your hair. You don’t haveto.”
Dakota was right. I’d be lying if I tried to make an excuse about turning men into statues with my looks. I was pretty, if I ever did anything with my looks. You know the kind. Long, wild blond hair tied haphazardly behind their backs. A thin but not narrow face. Nice enough body, but getting on the plump side as I approached twenty-nine.
My twenty-five year old friend was more than a little plump, but her bubbly personality made everyone forget everything about her except her raven-black hair and her infectious laugh.
I shrugged and walked on towards the elevators. We were in the midst of the Great Daily Migration out of the office, and to stop for very long was to risk being trampled. “I guess I’m just too much of a loner.”
“A lone wolf has to settle down some time,” my friend pointedout.
I playfully punched her in the arm. “Maybe when she’s found the rightmate.”
“Someone say mate?” a voice spoke up. A man emerged from the depths of his cubicle and leaned against the entrance. He was a little over six feet tall with sandy blond hair that fell perfectly over his handsome face. His auburn eyes twinkled with mischief.
Dakota steered us out of the wave of humanity and into the doorway of the cubicle. “Gwen here is looking for a mate,” she told him as her own mischievous eyes flickered between us. I had to admit I blushed whenever Lance looked at me. He was the only person who could disarm my cute-guy security system. “Know of anyone she can take on a date?” I glared at my friend.
“Well, I’m available this weekend,” he offered.
I stepped behind my friend and pushed her towards the elevator. “I’m sorry, I’ve got plans.”
Dakota glanced over her shoulder and glared at me. “Are you nuts? He’s cute and into you! What kind of plans can be more exciting than snogging with him all weekend?”
“I’d rather settle down on my couch for a long weekend of watching TV,” I toldher.
Dakota rolled her eyes. “Again? Why don’t you go out with me and some of the girls? It’ll be fun, and if you don’t want Mr. Perfect there then you might meet a new guy who can give you some old-fashionedlove.”
“The only new acquaintance I’m meeting is an unopened tub of ice cream,” I quipped.
My friend scowled at me and looked me up and down. “You know I hate you, don’tyou?”
“No, why?” I asked her as we stepped into the elevator.
“There’s nobody else I know who can scarf down as much food as you and still have your figure,” she explained.
I shrugged. “It’s agift.”
“One day I’m going to curse you, and then you’ll be sorry,” she warnedme.
I laughed. “Curse me withwhat?”
“With-well, with acne, and a chubby belly, and maybe a cute guy you can’t have but want badly enough to tackle him in an elevator and-” I clapped my hand over her mouth.
We weren’t alone in the elevator, and the other people were staring. The place was standing room-only. Not that anyone was encouraged to sit down, but you get the idea. We were packed tighter than a can of clams, or a clown car on a weekend full of kids’ birthdays.
Dakota got my hand off her mouth and glared at me. “I need to breathe through myface.”
“But that shade of blue was very becoming,” I teased.
“Ha-ha,” she retorted.
The elevator doors opened to the busy, open lobby of our office building. We worked in one of the smaller financial companies in a large city inhabited by ten million miserable people, all crowded together trying to making a living by not dying. Crime was up, hope was down, and home was a precarious walk in-betweenthem.
“But seriously, are you coming or not?” she asked me as we steppedout.
I sighed. “I guess I-” My eyes caught on something strange along the right-handwall.
The lobby had a few metal benches along the walls, and one of those was occupied by a threesome of women who were obviously triplets. The triplets were about twenty-five and sat close together so their hips touched. They wore matching gray business shirts, the kind with shoulder pads that could poke out an eye, and stiff skirts that ended just below the imagination. Their eyes were a strange gray hue, like the color of ash, and all three pairs of them stared straight at me. Sly, coy smiles graced their perfectly redlips.
“Gwen? Gwenneth? Hello? Anybody home?” I started back when Dakota waved her hand in front of my face. She leaned forward and looked into my face. “Something wrong?”
I blinked and looked at the bench, but it was empty. One sweep of the lobby told me they weren’t in sight. “Did you see those three women?” I askedher.
She looked where I looked and frowned. “Whichones?”
“The triplets. The women in gray,” I persisted.
Dakota shook her head. “I didn’t see any triplets, but the lighting in here is pretty bad. They haven’t changed a bulb in years, and the sun’ll set in a few minutes.” She looked back to me, but I just kept staring at the empty bench. I was sure they’d been there, and then they weren’t. “You sure you’reokay?”
I clutched my head in one hand and closed my eyes. “Maybe I’m coming down with something.”
Her eyebrows crashed down. “Oh no, you’re not getting off with that old I’m-seeing-things-so-I-must-be-sickploy.”
“I did see them,” I insisted.
“Uh-huh, and I’m the Easter Bunny,” she quipped.
“Your ears are showing.”
She stuck her tongue out at me. “That shows what you know. I left them in my other outfit. The one with the rabbitfeet.”
I dropped my hand and sighed. “But seriously, I don’t feel up to a weekend I can’t remember. Maybe nexttime.”
By this time we’d stepped through the doors of the building and into the growing dusk of the busy streets. People in suits and casual wear walked to and fro in an endless stream of restlessness. A cool autumn breeze swept past us, reminding me that I had forgotten my coat. Even the hot concrete jungle of the city couldn’t completely block out the chill air and sweet scent of falling leaves.
Dakota turned to me and pursed her lips. She set a hand on my shoulder and looked me in theeyes.
“You promise to go next weekend?” she pleaded.
I sighed, but nodded my head. “I promise.”
Dakota smiled. “Good. Let’s get a taxi to your place. My treat.”
I shook my head. “I think I need to clear my brain out a little.”
Her eyes twinkled. “Aren’t you supposed to have one to be able to do that?” I playfully punched her on the arm, and she rubbed the bruised spot. “You’re not supposed to hurt your friends.”
“With friends like you who needs enemies?” I quipped.
“Well, with your crazy behavior you won’t have to worry about anybody but enemies,” she countered.
“What crazy behavior? I just want to walk home,” I pointedout.
“Through some of the darkest streets in the city,” she reminded me. “You know you live in Slum Alley.”
“It’s better than Crime Alley,” I argued.
“Oh, right, I forgot. You only get shot at once a week,” she retorted.
“And I’ve had my quota filled for the week. I was shot at Tuesday, so I’m safe for today,” I quipped.
Dakota shuddered. “Gwen, please let me call a taxi,” she pleaded.
I patted her shoulder and with a small wave I turned away. “See you Monday.”
“See you. . .I hope,” she added.
If only that had meant tobe.
I walked through the busy commercial streets and into one of the less fashionable residential districts. Those streets were places the city development department forgot, or at least for the last seventy years. The ten-floor brick apartment buildings were so run-down even the rats wouldn’t live in them. They were up-to-code only on paper. Bribing the inspectors was what kept the slumlords in business.
The streetlights flickered on, if they lit up at all, as the setting sun finally finished its work for the day and went below the horizon to rest. The multitude of homeless gathered around burning barrels to warm their hands and swap news of the best shelters for grub. Others hunkered down on stoops with their grocery carts close beside them mumbling words no one else could understand.
I in my fancy work clothes stuck out like a sore thumb, but I didn’t mind. My apartment was only a twenty-minute walk from work, and the rent was cheap. Part of it was paid by my cockroach roommates. They were usually easy to deal with. The bugs would greet my coming in with a scurry of their feet into their dark holes, then wait for me to shut off the lights for bed to come out again.
I paused on a street corner to wait for traffic and caught a glistening of glass in the distance. The skyline of the city was dominated by a single capital I-shaped building of glass and steel that rose two hundred floors above the ground. That was the Indigo Towers. It housed the headquarters of Indigo Industries, a multinational conglomeration of business words. Atop its steel frame was a stone castle and gardens, the extravagant residence of one of the richest men in the world, William A. Fox. It was rumored he had his hand in everything. Legal, illegal. Nothing was too dirty for him. My office had some lucrative contracts with one of his dozens of firms.
Standing on that dingy street corner among blaring car horns and shouting people, I wondered if it was quiet up there at the top. Maybe he was sitting there right then reading some boring paper and earning a million dollars an hour off his stock ventures. It must have been good to be the king of a small financial kingdom.
And did I mention he was the most eligible bachelor in the world? Men envied him, women adored him, and my best friend was one of the drooling masses who fawned over his pictures. Dakota’s hobby was to collect any magazine that had his face on the cover and lock it away in her Drawer of Dreams. Seriously, that’s what she called her filing cabinet full of memorabilia, all featuring the handsome Mr. Fox. Catchy name, I had to admit, but someone that available who wasn’t married by thirty was definitely hiding something. Maybe he was gay, or maybe he was secretly married and kept his private life a secret. I’d once made that last suggestion to Dakota, and she’d nearly killed me for dashing her dreams.
The traffic subsided and I walked across the street to the next block. The sound of shouting and screams from behind me broke me from my reverie. I turned and yelped as something big and furry sped past me. The beastly behemoth shoved against me and sent me tumbling into a mess of trash cans. Lids clattered in every direction and a box of used clothes fell onto my head. Through the thin cloth I glimpsed the large dog, or whatever it was, race down the street. A few seconds later two men sped by in hot pursuit of the drive-by canine.
My eyes widened when I recognized one of them as Mr. William Fox himself. If it wasn’t him then the guy should’ve been out posing as him, not as some animal control officer. The guy with the Fox look-alike was a man of about thirty-five with black, thick-framed glasses and a stylish blue business suit that looked horribly out of place among all the bums and my now-dirty attire. I couldn’t ask them who they really were because they were gone as soon as I sawthem.
I tossed the box and clothes off my head, and stumbled to my feet. I brushed off what I could of the garbage and looked down the street. Prey and predators were gone. The homeless and others like myself who were trying to get home went back to what they were doing.
I shook my head and proceeded down the street towards my apartment. There was half a block more and I needed to take a right into an alley. Then I’d be home free. My mind, however, went back to the run-in with the over-sized pound puppy and his pursuers. I was sure that was Fox himself. I’d seen him in the flesh.
“Dakota is going to be so jealous of me. . .” I murmured as I pulled out my phone. This was some juicy gossip that I couldn’t keep to myself.
I turned right into the alley. Fifty yards straight ahead across a wide block was my street. I even had a slim view of the stoop of my apartment building, but my attention was on my phone. The illuminated buttons on my cell phone pierced the darkness as I pressed the shortcut key for Dakota’s number.
If I hadn’t been paying so much attention to my phone I might have noticed the two shadows that rushed down the alley towards me. I heard a splash as something hit a puddle and looked up just as I pressed the Call button.
The giant dog from before leapt at me and opened his big mouth. I raised my arm to protect my face and his sharp jaws clamped down on me. I let out a scream as his fangs broke through my frail flesh and sank deep into my arm. My cell phone flew somewhere into the dark edges of the alley. The dog dragged me to the ground and rung my arm in its teeth, raising the pain from terrible to excruciating.
The second shadow, who I barely recognized as Fox, was ten yards behind the dog and closing. He raised his arm and I heard a soft whoosh of air. The dog released me and jumped to the side. Something flew past it and over me, and bounced across the ground until it slid into a pile of garbage.
The dog turned to Fox, bared its teeth in a hideous growl, and jumped over me. I turned my head and watched it race out of the alley and across the road into the next alley. In a few seconds it disappeared. The only evidence it was ever there were my memories and the horrible bite mark on my arm. It burned like someone had lit my flesh on fire. I grabbed the upper part of my arm and wished I could rip it off. Footsteps walked up to me, and I tilted my head back to see the Fox look-alike.
The man had dark brown hair and cold blue eyes that looked down on me with an interest I didn’t like. He knelt by my side and lifted my wounded arm. I let out a yelp and tried to pull it from him, but he kept a tight hold onit.
“Are you all right?” the man askedme.
I grimaced and shook my head. “Does it look like I’m all right?” I growled. That got a smile fromhim.
I heard footsteps and the spectacled man came from the direction I’d entered the alley.
“I’m sorry, sir, but the beast appears to have gotten away,” the man told the one beside me. “Did you want me to call for air surveillance of thearea?”
“There’s no need. I believe we’ve found what we were searching for,” he replied.
The spectacled man looked down on me and raised an eyebrow. “A new one, sir?”
The look-alike pulled out a small, white medical device that looked like a handgun. A fat, round barrel stuck out of the top rear end and three spikes stuck out of the front. I’d seen enough movies to recognize a tranquilizer gun. “She will have to do. And who knows? This may turn out to be more educational forus.”
He pressed the needles against my arm and I felt the sharp points prick me. I jerked back, but he held tight. My vision began to blur. “What are. . .what areyou. . .”
That was all I could get out before the world went black.
The next thing I knew was waking up with a hangover like I’d spent the weekend with Dakota. I sat up in bed and rubbed myhead.
“What did I let her talk me into-” Then I realized it wasn’t my bed. Hell, it wasn’t even Dakota’sbed.
My eyes widened as I tried to take in the full view of the strange environment around me. I was in a cell that was twenty-feet by fifteen. The rear, side walls, and even the floor were made of single sheets of thick-looking, cold gray metal like steel. The front of the cell was made of a thick glass. I sat on a cot that was attached to the wall and suspended two feet off the floor. On the opposite wall was a sink and toilet. The only source of light came from beyond the glass.
I stood and caught the wall. My head swirled like I’d drank one dozen too many vodka shots without chasers. I glanced down at my inured arm and saw that it had a tight, white bandage around the wound. I tried flexing the muscles, but only once. They burned like I’d stuck a lighter under myskin.
I shook my head, clutched my arm, and stumbled over to the glass. I placed one palm against the transparent surface and looked beyond the glass at a long, wide hall that ran to my left and right. The light was from overhead florescent bulbs that stretched down the hall in either direction. The floor was the same metal, and on the opposite side of the hall were more cells like mine. I could see three other cells, but there wasn’t movement in any of them. The cell opposite me didn’t appear to have anything different in it from mine except a large wooden rectangularbox.
I couldn’t see a door knob or release latch, even on the cells and walls opposite me. I pounded against the glass. The stuff didn’t even quiver.
“Hello? Is anyone there?” I yelled.
I heard a heavy metal door open and shut, and footsteps walked down the hall. The look-alike came into view and stopped in front of the glass.
He bowed his head. “Good evening. I’m not sure if you know who I am, so allow me to introduce myself. My name is William Fox.” He gestured to my cell. “I brought you here after your little-well, we will call it mishap in the alley.”
I glared at him. “What the hell am I doing here? Let meout!”
He shook his head. “I’m afraid I can’t dothat.”
“And why not?” I growled.
“You see, you’ve become what’s commonly called a supernatural creature, or, more precisely, a werewolf,” he explained.
I leaned back and looked him over. He didn’t look particularly insane, but his calm, even voice gave me the shivers. I shook my head. “Listen, I don’t know what you’re thinking, but it’s wrong. My name’s Gwenneth-”
“Gwenneth Rogers, age twenty-eight. You live at 112 North Second Avenue. Would you like me to recite your social security number?” he askedme.
I frowned. “No, what I want you to do is get me the hell out ofhere.”
He shook his head. “Like I said before, I can’t do that. You’re now a danger tothe-”
I slammed my fist into the glass. That vibrated it. “I’m not a werewolf, now let me out or the police are going to comeand-”
“The police have come and gone,” he revealed.
I started back. “W-what?”
“They asked me about my being seen with a large dog. I merely told them I was doing the city a favor by ridding it of a dangerous dog, and they left. A small donation to the officer’s fund will patch up the rest,” he toldme.
My fist opened and my hand slid down the glass. There went my last hope of outside help. Now I had to convince the psycho in front of me to let meout.
“I can see I haven’t convinced you of your new changes,” he mused.
I narrowed my eyes at him. “The only thing you’ve convinced me of is you’renuts.”
“I see. That will make two nights from now all the more difficult for you,” he commented.
I frowned. “What happens in two nights?”
“In approximately two nights the moon will be full and you will experience your first transformation into a werewolf,” he revealed.
I turned away from him and threw up my good arm. “I’m not a werewolf! I was just bit by some stupiddog!”
“Really? Your have been unconscious for exactly twenty-four, and yet your arm is almost completely healed,” he toldme.
I turned to him and gestured to my bandaged arm. “Does it look healed toyou?”
A small, crooked grin slipped onto his lips. “Prove it to me. Unwrap yourarm.”
“And then you’ll let me go?” I questionedhim.
He bowed his head. “If you prove me wrong, then I will let yougo.”
I stepped back and clawed at the bandage. My fingers caught on the lip of one end and I furiously unwound the white cloth. In a few seconds the last of the bandage fell to the floor at my feet. I held up my arm and my mouth droppedopen.
My wound was almost completely healed. There were only a few angry red marks where the teeth had sunk into my flesh. I looked past my raised arm at Fox’s smilingface.
“Now do you believe me?” he askedme.
I cradled my wounded arm in my other hand and shook my head. “I. . .this isn’t right. I’m sure it bitme.”
“You’re not wrong. The wolf did bite you, but werewolves have incredible healing powers, or so some legends say. I’m glad for your sake that bit of myth was true,” he commented. I ran a hand through my frazzled hair. I was still in the filthy clothes from my time in the trash heap and on the ground of the alley. “I can see this is very upsetting for you. There’s a fresh change of clothes at the foot of your bed. I’m afraid we can’t shut the hall lights off, but you’ll get used toit.”
Fox turned and walked away fromme.
“Wait!” I yelled. He paused and half-turned to me. “What are you going to do tome?”
“For now, nothing. Your transformation will be finished in two nights, and then we’ll go from there. Goodnight.” With that he turned and walked out of my sight.
“Fox! Fox!” I yelled. I heard a metal door open and shut, and then there was silence. “Let me out!” I banged against the glass. “Let! Me! Out!” There was no sound. The door didn’t open. He didn’t come back and let meout.
A sob broke from my throat. Tears poured down my cheeks as I slid down the glass and onto the cold floor. I curled myself into a ball and balled my eyes out for I don’t know how long. Maybe ten minutes, maybe an hour. What I do know is that I got the sense of being watched. I lifted my head and glanced over my shoulder. My pulse quickened.
A man stood at the glass in the cell opposite me. He was as pale as chalk and wore a dark business suit with a red tie. His eyes were a strange autumn color mixed with an impossibly red hue. I thought maybe he wore contacts. He stood at six feet and looked about thirty. His black hair was cut short and a few loose hairs hung dashingly over his forehead.
The pale man pressed one of his fingers against his pasty lips. I noticed he had unbelievably long fingernails. He reached down and used one of those fingernails to cut a long, deep gash across his own arm. The man tipped his arm down and bright red blood flowed from one end. He dipped his fingers into the blood and pressed the mess against the glass in front of him. I barely registered that his wound healed because he wiggled his fingers a few inches away from the glass.
I scuttled back when the blood began to form words.
Hello there. The moment the words formed they congealed back into a blob of blood.
I shook my head. “Not possible. So not possible.”
The man shook his head and pressed his bloodied finger against his lips. He waved his hand in front of the glass and the blood shifted again. New words formed, and I noticed they trailed down the glass just in front of hisbody.
Don’t speak. They can hear our everyword.
I was shaking even worse than before. This was all so insane. First I was kidnapped by a crazy rich guy who thought I was a werewolf, and then a pale guy with the power over blood and a wooden box behind him wanted to strike up a conversation. I swallowed some of my fear and edged towards the glass front of mycell.
Brave girl, he complimentedme.
I shook my head. I was scared out of my mind, but that meant I didn’t have much else to lose from talking, or reading, a guy’s blood words.
We can help each other, you and I, the guy wrote.
How? I mouthed.
He shook his head and wrote out a few words. Write what you want to say and erase it. They can see your lips, but the surface of the glass reflects the camera views and is more difficult to catch.
I looked around for something to write on. The only things I thought I could use were my finger and the toilet water. I hurried over to the toilet. It was clean, but the thought of dipping my fingers into the bowl wasn’t tempting. I looked down at my fingers. They were pink with cold, and I blew on them. That gave me an idea. I hurried back to the glass and blew on it. My warm breath stuck to the surface. I used my finger as my pencil.
Hi, I wrote to him. Then I realized it was backwards for him, so I stuck in an ‘i’ at the front of the ‘h’ before my breath vanished from the glass.
He grinned and waved his hand to spell out more words. Hello again.
I took a deep breath and blew a large cloud over the glass. Who areyou?
A prisoner such as yourself, but we haven’t time for full introductions, he wrote. They may come back any moment, and we must plan our escape.
How can Ihelp?
Tomorrow night you may be able to escape from your cell, he wrote.
Why tomorrow? I askedhim.
Your strength will be close to its zenith, but your weaknesses will not have fully manifested themselves.
I blinked at him and wrote out my comment. Huh?
He pursed his lips and wiggled his fingers. The closer the approach of your first full moon, the greater your physical strength, but since you have not yet changed into a full werewolf the wolf’s bane will have less effect onyou.
I threw my arms up. Another wacko who believed I was a werewolf. Then again, I was writing to someone who could twist his blood into words.
Am I really a werewolf? I askedhim.
If Fox believes you are, then you must be, he replied.
I sighed and ran a hand through my hair. Oh god, did I need a drink. One of Dakota’s goon juice drinks would’ve been great about then. I took a deep breath and blew again.
But how do I get out? I wondered.
The glass front delves four inches beneath the floor. You must wedge your fingers into the small slot in the floor between the glass and floor and pull the glass door up, he instructedme.
I looked at my hands and then at the floor at my feet. I could see what he meant by the eighth-of-an-inch gap between the glass and the floor. I wrinkled my nose. A strange odor wafted from thegap.
You’re joking, right? I askedhim.
He shook his head and his fingers moved madly over the blood. This was becoming so normal as to be surreal. With your strength you can widen the gap between the glass and floor, and grab the bottom lip of the glass. You need only lift it high enough to squeeze under and go to the panel down the hall to your right. The controls to open the doors are there. Destroy the controls and you will free usall.
That sounded way too easy. And if Ifail?
Then you will never get another chance to escape, he wrote tome.
I ran a hand through my hair and shook my head. This was just too much. I was now supposed to be the savior to a whole hall full of-hell, I didn’t even know who else was trapped in there. I hadn’t seen anyone but the pasty guy in front ofme.
What is this place for? I askedhim.
A holding cell for those captured by Fox, he told me. We are all at the mercy of his experiments. They are too numerous to list, but know that he won’t have any mercy on you. He won’t see you as a fellow human being, but as a monster, and he will treat you as a monster.
I slid onto the floor and leaned my back against the cool metal wall. My life was gone if I didn’t take this one chance of escape. I took a deep breath and wrote on the glass.
We had a plan, but I had to be sure I could pull it off. I lifted one hand and looked it over. There wasn’t anything there to tell me I was some sort of superhuman wolf thing.
I saw movement out of the corner of my eyes. The pale guy was writing again.
Try crushing your bed, he suggested.
I looked over at the elevated cot. The body was made of the same material as the wall in which it projected out. I got up and walked over. There was just a slim mattress, a couple of blankets, and the clean clothes Fox mentioned. They were completely white like prison garb. I grabbed the mattress and blankets, and threw them to the floor. That left the sheet of metal. I grabbed the long bar on the side with both hands and pulled.
Nothing happened. I looked over to Pale Guy. There was a strange smirk on hisface.
Pull your hands away, he wrote tome.
I shrugged and tried to pull my hands away, but they were stuck.
“What the hell. . ” I murmured. My fingers were wedged into the metal. My strength hadn’t bent the metal, but the bar now had indents in the shape of my fingers.
I put one foot on the bar and pushed backwards. My fingers popped out of their little placements. I stumbled back and raised my hands. They weren’t so normal anymore. My fingers were thicker than before, and the fingernails were longer and sharper. I dropped to my knees and stared at them with my mouth agape.
“Wow. . .” I murmured.
Try again, the guy suggested.
I slid over to the bed and grabbed the bar. My hands fit perfectly into their molds. I stood and braced my legs before I tried to lift the bench. The metal creaked and groaned, and after a few seconds I felt the bed give a little. It tilted up just a half a degree.
I gasped and stumbled back. From across the hall came the muffled clapping of the Pale Guy. I turned to him and grinned. He smiled and gave a nod. It looked like I had a chance at this afterall.
After that effort I was tired, and now without a flat bed. I lay down on the mattress and closed myeyes.
I don’t know how long I was out, but the next thing I heard was the loud clang of the metal door and footsteps. I sat up on my mattress and watched Fox’s stoic henchman come into view. He had a tray of food in his hands.
“Breakfast,” he explained. He pressed his hand against the wall and a small rectangle at the bottom of the glass front opened. The guy slid the tray into my cell and closedit.
I glared at him and the tray, and turned away. “I’m not hungry.”
“Mr. Fox would rather you eat,” the man insisted.
I sneered at him. “Do I care what he wants?”
His eyes flickered to the pile of discarded clothes. “Does the attire not fityou?”
I kicked the pile of clothes with my foot. “Not my style.”
“I will endeavor to inform Mr. Fox of that fact,” the man replied.
He walked away, and in a moment the main entrance door opened and shut. I glanced at the tray of meat, and then to the cell opposite me. Pale Guy was nowhere in sight. There was just his box. I walked over to the glass and pressed my nose against the cold surface to get a better look at his cell. No sign of him. He must have been in that box, but I couldn’t figure out why. These cells were claustrophobic enough forme.
I plopped myself down against the left wall and turned to my left. The tray sat on the ground with a tempting appetizer of rare steak and mashed potatoes. My mouth salivated at the red blood that pooled beneath the mooing cut of meat. Just a little bite, one little swallow wouldn’t mean I was giving my soul to the devil. Besides, I had to keep up my strength. Yeah, that was it, my strength.
Ten minutes later and I had one plate sans meat and potatoes. The potatoes didn’t sit well with me, but the steak was delicious. I licked my lips, leaned back against the wall, and closed my eyes. The cool metal chilled me, but I felt too warm, anyway. There was also a feeling of tension inside me, like I was waiting for something, something likea-
“Full moon,” I whispered.
My eyes shot open and I shuddered. I hadn’t meant to think about that. That was the last thing I wanted to remember. I ran a hand through my hair and gave a shuddered sigh. My mind wandered to that night, whenever night was in this place of endless lights. That lackey of Fox’s said that was breakfast. That meant I’d been missing for quite a few hours.
“I should’ve made that date with Dakota. . .” I mumbled. Hell, I should’ve taken thattaxi.
I had a long, long day to think about my mistakes. Fox’s creep with the monosyllable voice came around two more times for meals. After the dinner hour I glanced at Pale Guy’s cell. He still hadn’t made an appearance. I wondered how he could breath in thatbox.
It was while staring at his box that I saw something strange emanate from between the lid and body. It was a thick white fog. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end, but I crept up to the glass and watched the fog cascade onto the floor and over to the front of his cell. The fog gathered itself in one spot and shot up to materialize into the form of my newfound, and terrifying, acquaintance, PaleGuy.
He smiled at me, and for the first time I realized his canine teeth were unbelievably long. I scooted away from my glass.
“What the hell are you?” I askedhim.
He cut himself and once more used his blood as an etch-a-sketch. Another creature captured against his will, but we don’t have time. Fox may visit us at any moment for an ‘inspection’ of his creatures.
There isn’t time, he persisted. It must be done now or never. Will you hesitate and doom yourself to a life inside thatcell?
That didn’t give me much time to wonder what I’d gotten myself into, but it did give me enough time to imagine another day in that cell. I took a deep breath and nodded. This was it, my big chance at saving the day. I knelt on the floor in front of the glass and tested the crack with my fingers. The smell from last night was still there, and stronger than before. I wrinkled my nose, but didn’t let it stop me from shoving my fingernails into the crack.
I was stronger than last night, I could tell that by the indents my nails made in the metal. I wedged my fingers in behind my nails and wiggled them down the tight spot. After six inches I felt the base of the glass door and inched my fingers beneath the entrance. When I had a loose grip I tucked my legs under me with my feet on the floor like last night’s demonstration of my strength.
And I pulled.
At first there was nothing, but slowly, achingly slowly, the glass door began to rise. Perspiration ran down my face. My legs screamed for a break, but I kept pulling upward. Pale Guy watched anxiously from his glass door. He was close enough he could have fogged on the glass, but there was no sign of his breath.
I had the door six inches above the floor when a shrill whistle drilled into my brain. I nearly lost my grip, and the door slipped down two inches.
“Hurry!” Pale Guy yelled. “The alarm has sounded!”
I grunted and pulled harder. The door slid up two inches. Four more inches. I lowered my knees to the ground and slid my legs under the door. Then came my waist. One false move, one slip of the fingers, and I would have been cut in two. I wiggled my upper body under the glass and held it up above my head like it was a bar. I took a deep breath and pushed off from the bottom of the glass. It slammed back into place, but I was on the other side of thedoor.
And in trouble.
The hallway ran left and right. At the right was the black control panel and a door on the left wall beside it. To my left at the opposite end of the hall was the heavy metal door. It opened and in stepped Fox and his assistant. Fox had the familiar white gun in hishand.
“The panel!” Pale Guy screamed.
Fox stretched out his hand to me. “Stop! You don’t know what you’re doing!”
I scrambled to my feet and rushed down the hall. I covered the twenty yards in a few seconds and slammed my clasped fists into the panel. Electricity shot out from the myriad of buttons and screens. The lights overhead flickered and dimmed.
I turned and watched the other glass doors slide up. Pale Guy stepped out and smiled atme.
“Excellent work,” he congratulated me. “Now if you will excuse me, some revenge is in order.” He changed into mist and disappeared into some infinitesimal cracks in the metal floor.
“He’s after the larger cells. Hurry!” Fox yelled at his bespectacled henchman.
The man bowed his head and hurried back the way they’d come. I took a step back and my back hit the broken control board. Fox took a few steps closer with the gun pointed atme.
“It seems I underestimated your strength,” he surmised.
My eyes flickered to the door and I pressed my lips together. Only one chance. “Get used to underestimating me,” I shotback.
I dove for the door. The tranquilizer dart sailed past my head and pinged off the wall. He didn’t get a second shot before I slammed my shoulder into the exit and stumbled into a stairwell. There was up, or there was down. I didn’t like the idea of possibly going below ground, so I chose the up route. I didn’t stop running until I ran out of stairs four floors higher. The stairwell ended at another door, and I burst out of that one and onto another plain of existence, or so it looked.
I found myself on a grassy plain covered in trees. There was even a small pond twenty yards from the exit. The stars twinkled beautifully above me and far off I could see the near-full moon in the dark night sky. The sounds of the city were far away, but had a strange echoing to its noises.
I heard a clatter of footsteps behind me and took off to the right. A small strip of metal surrounded the edge of the grass and beyond that was darkness. Ten feet from the edge I realized what the darkness meant and slid to a stop with my toes hanging over the strip.
I teetered on the edge of the Indigo Towers two hundred floors above thecity.
I waved my arms and pushed myself away from certain death. My heart beat hard against my chest as I stumbled backward onto the grass. I heard a noise behind me and spun around to find Fox ten feet away from me. Something sharp hit my arm, and I looked down to see it was a tranquilizer. I pulled it out and expected to fall unconscious, but all I felt was a little faint-headed. His finger tightened on the trigger for anothershot.
The ground beneath us rumbled. Fox’s henchman rushed out of the door and over to theboss.
“I’m afraid I couldn’t stop him, sir. He’s released-” The earth shook again, more violently than the first.
A column of rainbow-colored light burst through the steel ground between us. The column lit up the sky and its heat seared the grass. I was knocked back and over the side of the building, but my hand caught the edge. I hung in space for a few seconds before my other hand grabbed the edge and I pulled myself onto the top of the building.
More columns erupted from the ground, dozens of them. They cracked the green surface and ignited the trees into balls of fire. The beams of light created a circle between me and the pond some fifty yards away, and the center of the circle burned bright red with heat. In a moment the steel and grass melted away, and a storm of wind burst from the hole. The tornado spun in dizzying circles three hundred yards into the sky. The first creature to emerge from the circle above the tornado was a brightly-plumed bird. It followed the tornado to the peaks of its height and let out a screech that echoed over the entirecity.
Among the terrible howling of the wind I noticed there were dark shapes in the tornado, dozens of them. They swirled in its depths and followed the bird into the sky. The bird let loose another cry and the tornado broke apart into dozens of smaller tornadoes. Each mini tornado had one of those dark shapes. They scattered across the sky and landed in the far reaches of the city. The bird itself screeched again and flew off into the distance.
The wind was gone. The bird was gone. Everything was calm. I chanced to stand, but the roof trembled one last time. A large shadow flew from the dark hole left by the tornado. It spread its leathery wings wide and let loose a loud roar and shook the air. Its lizard eyes blinked twice, once for each eyelid, its armored green scales shimmered in the starlit sky, and its tail whipped about in anger. My mouth dropped open as I realized it was a dragon I saw, and it was pissed. It flew over me and let out another deafeningroar.
“We must get to the cannon,” I heard Fox tell his assistant. The pair stood near the crumpled remains of thedoor.
His voice caught the dragon’s attention. It flew in a tight circle to my right and over the pond. The dragon opened its mouth and I beheld the pits of a fiery hell. A stream of flames burst from its powerful jaws and spread across the pond and few remaining trees. The water evaporated and created a thick mist over the rooftop. The fog hid its prey from it, but I saw Fox and his assistant’s dark shapes move towards the thin bridge that made up the center of the ‘I.’
The fog only drifted so far, and the moment they stepped foot on the bridge was the moment they cleared the fog’s boundaries and revealed themselves. They took off across the grass. The dragon made another pass and spotted them. It roared and opened its mouth. A ribbon of flame blasted toward the pair, but the dragon didn’t have very good aim. The flames melted the steel five yards from where they sprinted across the lawn. Part of the bridge buckled beneath them and the assistant disappeared into the depths of the mess of heated steel.
Fox leapt forward and tried to grab the other man’s hand, but missed by a hair. “Aldus!” Fox criedout.
Aldus grabbed one of the twisted bits of metal and hung above the bubbling, dragon-heated pond water. He looked up and nodded. “I’m fine, sir, but you must get to the cannon.”
Fox nodded and rushed across the bridge. A screech caught my attention, and I noticed the dragon coming back for another try at barbecued bad guy. This time it wasn’t going tomiss.
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