Nature never repeats herself, and the possibilities of
one human soul will never be found in another.
– Elizabeth Cady Stanton
I stood there watching them as they sped off in an older vehicle. I was rendered helpless as I watched my baby girl, well not so much of a baby now, stolen from me.
I called 9-1-1 immediately, and before I knew it, squad cars and sirens had surrounded my house. One of the detectives met with me and saw I was bleeding.
“I’m sorry about this, Mr. Harmer, can you run me by what happened one more time?”
I looked at him through eyes covered in coagulated blood. My side ached but was healing quickly.
“I arrived home shortly after six or so. I found my daughter in the driveway, and we went in. I showered, she was ordering pizza when I came downstairs. Then three strangers burst through my front door and assaulted both myself and my daughter.”
I was trying to be patient, but I was at a losing battle with my head and my heart. I just wanted someone to help me find Amelia. She was in danger and the longer it was taking, the harder it was to stave off my sudden burst into a dog man.
“Thank you. So, you had never seen these people before?” he asked me suspiciously.
“Can you tell me where you have been Mr. Harmer? You were missing for nearly six months. Perhaps given recent events, you aren’t telling us something important. Maybe it has to do with your daughter going missing?”
I looked at him and then looked away to balance out my emotions. If I stare too long at this goon, I was going to shift and tear his throat out. So, I looked away and deterred them as best as I could. I could see him out of the corner of my eye.
That is when I saw her. She came up to me quickly and furiously. I stood to face my wife who stood five feet two weighed approximately a hundred and twenty-five pounds soaking wet walk up to me and smack me in the face. I took a deep breath and looked down at her. She was so much like my daughter the eyes, the long black hair and all I could do is begin to sob.
She took me into her chest and sobbed with me. I couldn’t find the word, but she had no issue.
“My husband is done here unless you are arresting him; let’s go, Eric.” She said pulling me upstairs to our bedroom.
I watched her unsure what to do or even say. She, on the other hand, had a lot to say to me.
“What the hell Eric?”
“I know what you must think of me. I don’t blame you for being angry, but that is why I left.”
“Help me understand because right now I want to smash your face in.” she began to tear up again.
I had no idea what to say to her, and before I could even try, I saw my son Jaimie standing in the doorway. We both stood and looked at him.
“Jaimie,” I said looking at his small frame and his dark eyes and hair that had the air of someone older than their years.
“Dad?” he asked
I walked toward him, and I saw him back away. To my disappointment and shame, my son was afraid of me. I stopped and smiled at him to reassure I wasn’t the boogie man.
“Jaimie go downstairs until your father, and I have had a chat,” Sarah said to my son sternly. Her voice shook, and I could tell she was nearing a tearful breakdown.
He left and didn’t seem to pause even for a second. I looked at him walking hastily away, and then I turned to my wife and grabbed her by the shoulders as if I was trying to reassure myself of what I was about to say.
“Sarah, I love you. Please understand this has nothing to do with me and you. I was afraid something like this would happen. That is why I went away. There are bad people out there, and they want to hurt me. I don’t understand why but I want you to know I will find out who these people are and I will find our daughter. No matter what.”
“Why did you come back? Why didn’t you stay away if you thought that they would come for you?”
“I wanted to make sure you were okay. I couldn’t stay away. I love you. I don’t think you understand how hard this has been on me.”
“On you. What about us?” she walked away angrily.
“No! You don’t get to do that! Not now, you have no idea what your children have been through. What I have been through.”
I took a step back analyzing her pain and while I completely understood how she felt she still had no idea what I had become. I was a monster and not just because I could change into a beast at will and howl at the moon. I was a bonafide jerk.
I knew that anything else I said was going to sound insincere, so I left her to her anger. She had a right to her feelings. I worried about our daughter, and I knew she did too. We were now in this together. In a way, I was glad that I had developed a bond, but I just wished it was for different reasons.
She stopped being angry, and she just leaned in and hugged me.
It was not too much longer; we both were back to being questioned by the same detective at the police station. Jaimie went to stay with Sarah’s father for the time being until we could pick him up the next day. They questioned both my wife and me separately to try and obtain as much helpful information as they could come up with to find my daughter. Then we both were placed in an interrogation room together. Law enforcement told my wife and me non-stop we were not suspects. I suspected they were lying. I had to keep remembering I was never going to help my daughter if I acted like I was guilty of something.
It seemed like we were there in the police station for what seemed like hours. I tried to remain as calm as I could and help keep Sarah calm as well. She was growing more hysterical by the second.
That is when I smelled it. There was someone there, and I recognized its scent. I had felt it before. Only this time I was in the presence of whatever that thing was, and it was a few feet away. I stood up releasing Sarah from my secure grip. She looked at me, and I smiled as best as I could.
“I need to step out for just a few minutes to use the restroom.”
Just as I was saying this, a man entered the doorway staring directly at me with a kind of sheepish grin on his face. He was taller than me, and he appeared too young to work here. Then again being a man in my mid-forties adorning salt and pepper hair, everyone seemed too young to me. I noticed he wore a dirty green jacket, but the rest of his outfit was clean. His tan pants and shirt looked freshly pressed. He had shaggy reddish hair and in his arms were three cups of coffee.
“Mr. and Mrs. Harmer sorry to bother you but I thought you could use a cup of Joe.” He handed my wife a cup and then gave me the other. He held it for a moment and looked into my eyes before releasing it.
I had to have a look of confusion as he slowly handed it to me all the while still looking me directly in the eyes. It took me a moment to recognize him. Although it wasn’t his face, I realized it was his smell.
“I’m Christopher. I am one of the detectives here. I came because I think we may have a lead on the information you provided us.”
“You?” I looked at him questioning as he was in no way a day over twenty years of age at least.
“It’s okay. I get that a lot. I have the good luck of having great genes.” He laughed lightly.
“What is the lead?” I asked still trying to understand why he smelled so familiar.
“Well, it isn’t so much a lead as much as it is your- “
“DAD!” running into the room was Amelia. She nearly knocked me down as she came into the interrogation room.
Sarah was balling her eyes out and grabbed Amelia as tight as she could. Tears fell from my eyes in pure happiness. It took a while for all three of us to compose ourselves.
When we did, I realized that there was something rather strange about my daughter. While she had blood on her from hours before, she had no visible marks there was any trauma done to her neck. I was sure she would die from the bleeding. Instead, here she was looking at me as though everything was fine, a bit dazed and confused, but physically not a scratch on her. I guessed perhaps it was my blood from when one of those guys attacked me.
“How did you get here?”
“Mind if I have a word with you, Eric?” Christopher interjected.
I looked at him and nodded. I just needed a moment with my child. I held Amelia again, and I put my head into her long dark hair. Something was off about her scent. I couldn’t place it except that she had spent the last few hours with dog men or werewolves or whatever we wanted to call ourselves now. Perhaps their scent rubbed off on her.
I reluctantly let go of Amelia.
“It’s an okay dad. I’m just really starving. I could literally smell the vending machine burritos before I got halfway down the hallway.”
I chuckled as Sarah reached into her purse to find her some money to hand to Amelia.
I then followed Eric into the hallway and left Amelia alone with Sarah.
“You don’t know who I am do you?”
I looked at him and shook my head.
“I see, what if I did this?” he shifted slightly revealing his red eyes.
I took a step back, and he grabbed me by the shoulder of which I quickly pulled away ready for a fight if I had to again.
“It’s okay man! I’m the one who found Amelia. I’ve been watching you, you know.”
“Yeah,” he chuckled “You were pathetic at times trying to hunt on your own. The mere fact you weren’t able to leave your family told me you were one of the good ones.”
“You were watching me. Why did you never introduce yourself? Man, I have so many questions for you.”
“Actually, I did introduce myself it was just in dog man form.”
“Why are you helping me?” I asked perplexed.
“Everyone that goes through the change is assigned a mentor. Only you didn’t get assigned one, so after the attack on your family my sister and I decided you needed someone.”
“You look young enough to be my son.” I laughed at him.
“I’m older than you. It’s because of the supernatural power of the transformation. Once you get a hold on it, and it no longer has a hold on you that is when you truly become one with the spirit of the beast.”
“Those men that took Amelia, they said I killed their brother, the same one that turned me.”
“That was Snake and his gang. If it weren’t for him, there wouldn’t be a lot of bad things. It is one of the reasons I joined the police force and became a detective. I had to be able to keep a watch on them. Every bad thing that happens and our name comes up, or we are sighted somewhere we shouldn’t be it is him and his gang. They are bad news. I’m glad Amelia is okay- “
“Dad I want to go home.” Amelia had walked out into the hallway interrupting my conversation with Christopher.
“A few more moments okay?”
She stomped off, and away she went back to the room with her mother.
“How did you get her back to safety?”
“I found her in one of Snake’s warehouses they were gone and I found Amelia escaping. I showed her my badge, and she came with me willingly.”
“Did they hurt her?”
“No, it doesn’t seem like it, and she doesn’t seem to recall much about what happened to her. There is one thing though.”
I knew before he said it out loud and I didn’t want him to say it at all.
“Amelia’s wounds healed, Eric.”
“Fuck,” I said, and I crumbled to the floor. The thought of my daughter having to go through what I did made me sick to my stomach.
“It’s going to be okay Eric.”
“Fuck you! How can you say that? You know what happens.”
“I do. But it isn’t all bad, is it?”
“That isn’t the point. How can Amelia have a normal life? She must go to college and do all the normal things girls like her age do. For instance, go to her Senior prom like other girls her age. Although, the thought of who she may go to the prom with might be a good enough reason not to let her go.”
“She can still do those things.”
“Christopher I don’t want this for my child. There has to be a cure or something.”
“Look, my sister dabbles with what you might call arts and crafts. She may be able to help your daughter, but if not then together we will help her through it. I promise you.”
“Where is this sister of yours?”
“She lives in the middle of nowhere. I can take you to her, but it is about a days drive. We own a nice little cabin in the woods not far from her house. We can hike to her house from the cabin; it will give you and Amelia a chance to bond and help her understand what is going on with her body.”
“As if being a teenager wasn’t bad enough,” I smirked.
I took Amelia and Sarah home and, once we were there, I spoke to Sarah about maybe taking Amelia on a little getaway to get her mind off her ordeal. Sarah was reluctant at first but once I explained it to her that Amelia needed a break after something so traumatic she agreed. In the meantime, she would go to her father’s house with Jaimie and stay until I got back.
I didn’t want to tell Amelia the real reason why we were going at first. I wanted to wait to explain it to her after we arrived. We would meet with Christopher after I explained to her why he was there.
The drive to the cabin was long but we stopped at a little diner, and as we sat there a waitress came over and took our orders. She was polite with red hair and thick dark eyebrows there was something about her overly kind demeanor that I didn’t at first even think was weird until she stood staring at us.
“You two just look so lost. You ain’t from around here are ya?”
“No, we are just passing through. We are heading to a friend’s house north of here.”
“Well, I’m Beatrice if you need anything just holler honey.”
With that, she went away. I looked at my daughter and tried to find the right words to explain.
“Amelia, there is something I need to talk to you about.”
“What?” she asked playing with her phone.
“That day that guy took you. What do you remember?”
“You almost pissing yourself.” She said matter of fact. She was being rude which was her way of deflecting.
“Amelia, you know what I mean. Did you see anything out of the ordinary? Like with me?”
She looked up at me then and then looked away.
“No.,” she said, and then the tears started.
“Did you see me change in any way?”
“So, you’re like a werewolf or something?”
“I guess, I don’t know honestly. It’s why I left.”
“I gather that, is that why I’m here?”
“Not exactly. I wanted to know what you knew so I could explain it.”
“I’m starving where is Beatrice?”
She stood up and walked over to the counter. “Hey, Beatrice! I’m starving over here. Gotta appetizer ready for me?”
“AMELIA! Sit down!” I was getting angry at her embarrassing outburst.
She came over and sat in front of me with a smirk. “Why you pissed you have to spend time with your least favorite child?”
“To be honest young lady, I’m not that sad I don’t very often. You’re acting like a brat!”
I looked at her and could see her fury, and I recognized it in the days before my first transformation. There was no doubt now that she was just like me.
“Amelia, you’re going to turn into what I am also,” I said softly.
“ I’m so sorry you had to wait for your appetizers honey,” Beatrice said running over with a plate of French fries and a milkshake.
“Can I have an order of onion rings, some pancakes with extra syrup and that cheese sauce you advertised with nachos?”
“Oh, um sure honey whatever you like. Just as long as dad is okay with it?” she laughed awkwardly looking at me.
I nodded, and when she walked away, I watched Amelia scarf down the French fries shoving him in handfuls into her face.
“Mmm, these are so good dad you want to try some?”
I shook my head, and then about ten minutes later Beatrice brought over the other food, and again I watched Amelia scarf down every single ounce without even blinking.
When the last plate was licked dry, I paid the bill, and we left.
We got to the cabin and when we got inside Amelia through her duffle bag onto the sofa in the living room of the cabin and laid on the couch.
“I’m stuffed and beat.”
“That happens when you scarf down an entire café,” I said laughing at her.
I made my way to one of the bedrooms in the back, and I let Amelia get settled in another room.
I sat down on the sofa and turned on the television. It was probably the first time in months that I had seen any tv. Not much had changed the same news programs complaining about the same things. More about politics and as I was about to doze off I felt a light tap on my shoulder. Turning around I saw it was Amelia.
“Hey, honey. Are you okay?”
She shook her head as she stood in her pajamas some bunny print things. It reminded me of when she was a little girl.
“Is it going to hurt?”
I looked at her, and as sincerely as I could, I shook my head no. “That is why we are here. We are here to find a cure or someone that can put a stop to it.”
“When did you know I was like you?”
“The moment you came back.”
“Does it ever stop driving you crazy for instance the smells? I can barely sleep. I can smell every animal carcasses hanging on the walls in this creepy old cabin.”
“Yes, it will take some getting used to.”
“I get why you left, but why couldn’t you just talk to us?”
“Jaimie was there that night he saw everything. He knows everything.”
Amelia looked struck down. “Why does he always get all your attention?”
“He doesn’t. He just happened to be there.”
“He has these terrible nightmares sometimes. Mom started sleeping in his room. I think I can see why.”
“I’m going to try and find a way to fix this,” I said looking at her face which looked mature beyond her years as opposed to the bunny PJs which were proof of her age.
“Paul is going to love this!”
“I thought I asked you to stop seeing that boy?”
“He isn’t like what you think dad. Paul is a great guy once you get to know him. After you left, he came by every day to check up on me. He even started helping with stuff with Jaimie. He would pick him up after school for mom.”
“Not on that motorcycle!”
“No, dad. He has his dad’s car. I do love the motorcycle though.” She grinned.
I eyed her very thoughtfully. “They can be dangerous.”
“Everything can be dangerous.” She laughed. “I haven’t ridden on his bike. But I loved that look on your face! Serves you right for leaving us for the last six months.”
“Time for bed,” I said shaking my head.
“Night dad.” She said and kissed my cheek still giggling.
The next morning Christopher came by, and we set out on foot to begin the two-hour hike to his sister’s home. The walk was long but uneventful. We finally reached a rather dark part of the forest that seemed to harbor things you couldn’t explain. It was like eyes were watching us at every turn. I got an uneasy feeling the closer we got to Christopher’s sister’s home.
I kept hearing things in the woods, and I looked at Christopher who knew what I was thinking. He nodded acknowledging my fears. “I hear it too.” He said. Something was following us, and I wasn’t sure what but I didn’t want to think who or what it was.
The woods cast a shadow over us, and it seemed to get darker the further along we went. Deeper and deeper the forest seemed to go. The strangest thing was that there didn’t seem to be a sign of life anywhere.
Amelia didn’t seem to mind the hiking and didn’t protest once about not getting reception on her phone. That changed when we got to Christopher’s sister’s home Amelia, or I wanted to go anywhere near the woman’s house. Onward we braved the wooded trail towards the clearing where her cottage was.
Upon first entering the little clearing we saw a stone cottage, but unlike one of those fairytale cottages you read about in fantasy novels, this one had a slightly sinister outside. There was broken fencing around it, and it had a black door that looked in need of repair. The outside had boxes and other sources of garbage which a field full of goats seemed to be devouring.
When we got to the door the smell of cat piss lingered well into the area of the front yard, and I had to cover my mouth for fear of puking.
“Cecily! It’s Chris!”He knocked twice for good measure.
There was no answer, and we stood there for around ten minutes, or so Christopher knocked on the windows and looked in the barn, which also looked like it needed repair. It tilted slightly and when the wind blew it nearly toppled over. You could hear the metal roofing rattling as the wind rattled it.
“Shut up you vermin!” yelled an older woman’s voice as it seemed to be coming closer to the front door.
When she opened the door, she squinted looking at Christopher and then at me and completely disregarding Amelia.
“Cecily!” Christopher said hugging the old woman tightly.
“Stop all that.” She said smiling big as she showed she was missing several of her front teeth. She had gray hair in a clip on top of her head, and she wore a black silk nightgown which she held a shawl over. “Get out of my way Gloria! Stupid dog.” She said kicking at it to get by it.
I was appalled at how she was treating the animals, and there seemed to be a large amount of them. The dog, who she called Gloria was lingering by a water dish and began barking at her in earnest. The old woman threw her a large bone from inside the freezer.
“Aren’t you a pretty baby? You stupid girl.” I looked at Christopher, then a giant Iguana ran by us.
“Don’t judge me. I see your head. You think I’m a cruel old bitty. Let me tell you this, Gloria was my husband’s mistress until I made use of her. She was no better than a dirty dog. You see Miss Gloria used to be my best friend. Isn’t that right you old bitch you!” she said lovingly petting the dogs head as she stepped over her. We followed Christopher as he seemed to follow her around her house. “This is Petey,” said pointing to the iguana as it ran past us. “He used to be my gardener until I caught him stealing from me. So, he stays here with the rest. My menagerie of assholes.” She laughed. “Some of them are in the freezer.”
I looked at Amelia, and then we both looked at Christopher. He seemed to look apologetic at us and changed the subject with his sister. “These are the two we spoke about over the phone, sis.”
She grabbed a can of Pringles and popped the lid shoving a handful of them in her mouth. “Want any?” she held out the can of chips to us.
We all shook our head no.
Cecily shoved more of them in her mouth and mumbled “Good more for me.”
“Sis, we need to do something to help these nice people. They didn’t sign the book of the law. They didn’t get that option. Snake made them.”
“That dirty bastard.” She looked at me and then shook her head. “He is our other brother, different fathers; he uses his gifts for evil. Purest I ever knew.” She shook her head solemnly before turning back around to us. “I can help you,” she said walking away. “Christopher you bring it?” she asked throwing off her shawl and then walking into a small room that led off to the back of her tiny house.
Once inside the room, everything seemed to change, and she relaxed. Christopher walked over with a small rectangle box and handed it over to her. She ripped off the top of it and inside was a rather large bottle of wine in a language I didn’t recognize. She uncorked it with her homemade wine opener fastened out of a large nail most likely used on building barns. “Ahh, the magic we do maketh. All spells work better with this.”
She poured half of the bottle in a giant goblet and drank the entire glass in seconds.
“Or maybe they are just drunk,” Amelia mumbled under her breath.
At that moment Cecily, whose eyes were closed in the ecstasy of her wine until now, opened her eyes and looked directly at my daughter. She walked over to her and cupped her cheeks in her old hands and smiled. “Green eyes you are the Phoenix. I didn’t recognize you at first. They say I’ll meet you, but until this moment I knew not of who they were speaking of because you are so young.”
“Please tell me you can help my daughter.”
“It will require a death made of sacrifice.” She said still holding my daughter’s face in her hands.
“Yes, did you think this was going to be easy? All dark magic requires a sacrifice, and this one requires a beating heart. So, who’s heart is it going to be?”
to be continued…