Innocence

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Water dripped somewhere in the distance. The sound was almost hypnotizing as I stared at the glistening red iPod Nano. I sighed as I spied a figure in the glass.
“Time to go,” my dad said.
As we walked out of the store, I noticed how quiet the night sounded. The moon shone bright in my tired hazel eyes as we walked to the truck. I looked out of the corner of my eye at Dad. His usually joyful features were set in a hard line, his mouth grim. We drove into the night, and a few minutes later, pulled up in front of a rustic white building. Everyone in Lancing, Colorado thought of it as the Shelter. Years ago, it housed hundreds of citizens during massive earthquakes. Since then, it has been abandoned. Dad pulled the key out of the ignition and the engine choked to a stop. I hopped out, my door slamming in unison with his. What were we doing here? Walking across the practically vacant lot, I felt tension lining Dad’s body like a hard shield. I risked a quick glance before looking away and out to the parking lot. A few cars were scattered across the lot, some old and beaten like ours, some new. As we neared the Shelter, my heart froze. Strewn across the gravel by a lamp post was a ripped up carcass. I suspected it was some sort of animal, maybe a large deer. There was little flesh left; only the outline of the body was intact, as were the head, part of the antlers, and the hooves. I pressed closer to Dad, and he put a hand on my shoulder.
“Dad, what’s going on? I don’t want to be here.”
Dad looked at me, a slight hint of fear coming into his eyes. “Hush, lioness, be brave.”
My throat constricted as we neared the steps that led to the door of the building. Suddenly, a car horn honked and a red Chevrolet pulled up behind us. The window rolled down while I peered around Dad to catch a glimpse of the stranger. Wavy reddish brown hair came into view, then dark feral eyes. His face was well tanned by the sun, and his features were broad and strong.
“Hey, I’m a little lost and was wondering where the meeting was.” He hooked an elbow out the window as he leaned forward.
Dad turned to face him, pushing me behind his frame as he did so. “You’re in the right place. Just go into the building and downstairs to the basement.”
I looked at him suspiciously. Dad had never mentioned anything about a meeting. The man nodded, giving me another long look before he drove off to park. Dad pushed me forward and we hurried up the steps.
“Go inside, Leona, I’ll be right there.”
He didn’t come back.

1 year later
“Are you coming, Lee-lee?” I looked up into a pair of questioning brown eyes and frowned.
Towering a handsome 6’5 and sporting chocolate brown eyes and dark auburn hair, Erik could have been a model. Except for one minor setback; he was a werewolf, we all were. Besides me and Erik there was Aiden, a quiet seventeen year old with black hair and light hazel eyes; and the infamous Evangeline, Erik’s mate.
Sighing I put down the book I was reading and got up out of my comfortable chair. Erik wasn’t the official alpha of our pack, but he was convincing enough that you did what he asked, even if he called you by your hated nickname.
“S’pose so,” I said and turned off the lamp.
I walked through the trashed apartment the pack and I shared and made my way to the door. Reaching in front of me, Erik opened the door and bowed like a pretend gentleman. I smiled sweetly, fuming inside, as I made my way past him and out into the hallway.
“Took you long enough,” Evangeline said from the shadows.
I gritted my teeth, and refused the urge to slap her Barbie face silly. I looked over at Aiden who just rolled his eyes. He and I weren’t exactly buddy-buddy, but we understood each other pretty well, enough to get along and not want to rip the other’s throat out. Erik led the way down the stairs and out into the sunshine. Outside, I breathed in deeply. The warm wind blowing against my face, trees swaying silently in the breeze, cars honking lazily at the drivers in front of them; a perfect summer afternoon. So far, the day seemed like every other day; when children would beg their parents to take them to the park or flock to the ice cream truck that played the same jazz tunes every time it hit Mullberry Street. No one was worried that it was the year 2012, when humanity was supposed to be wiped from the face of the earth. No one cared until Death Toll Rises Again hit local newspapers. Then humans would run around screaming and try once again to prepare for that huge wave that was to be the end of them. After a while, minds forgot the terrorizing title and went back to life. The only thing is, no one knew who was behind this murder spree, no one except my pack.
It all began with a young werewolf named Erik. He picked humans who he thought had survival skills and determination, hunted them down, and bit them, killing anyone that stood in his way. This is how Aiden and Evangeline became werewolves. I was slightly different; lycan blood already ran through my veins, labeling me as a mutt, one who wasn’t fully human, but not a true lycan either. My father’s killing was only done in amusement. The day after New Years, Erik slowly began killing off citizens across the country. His plan was to create an actual end of the world disaster by killing off town after town, city after city. You’d think me stupid for following him, but Erik never took no for an answer. It was either hunt or be hunted with him.
“Hey, cheer up. At least we don’t have to do the killing, right?”
I looked at Aiden and grimaced. “It’s still the same thing. We’re involved in the murder, and it’s not like we can forget the whole thing and leave the pack.” I snuck a quick glance at Erik to make sure he wasn’t listening.
“I guess,” Aiden shrugged, “but it’s still a bonus that we aren’t the targets either.”
I had to agree with him. Erik’s killings were brutal; hardly any part of the victim was left once he had finished with them.
We walked for half an hour before coming to dirt roads and corn fields. As we entered among the tall stalks, the ground vibrated and Erik’s form started to ripple. He arched back, grunting in pain as he did so. Bones cracked and shifted and a mixture of auburn and grey hairs spouted from his body. In moments, a large wolf stood in front of us, brown eyes glistening. One after another, the other two members shifted. Aiden became a shadow wolf, lean with ebony fur and haunting pale yellow eyes. Evangeline shook her pure white coat and licked her lips. Her dark orange eyes turned red in the sun, giving her a lethal expression. She arched her head and turned toward Erik who eyed her greedily. I rolled my eyes and walked past the two lovers in my human form. The bad thing about being a mutt was that I couldn’t fully shift any time I wanted to. My adrenaline had to be up, and then I could take on the transformation.
I started into a slow trot, building up speed to a flat out run. The wind whipped through my long, curly brown mane as I pushed off of a small rock and jumped. The world fell into slow motion as my once human body took on something more regal, more powerful than a mere mortal. I hit the soft dirt with a thud and shook my head. This was one of the bonuses of being a werewolf; you could become something else and forget about your human life, forget all the hurt the world had caused.
Ignoring Erik’s silent appraisal, I trotted over to Aiden. Erik stared at us before giving a low bark and we were off. Soon, we crossed the Colorado-Nebraska border and headed north. Craigsville, Nebraska was a relatively small area, only containing a mere 2,200 residents. Night was almost upon us, so the oncoming shadows gave us cover. The first stop was Jenny’s Market, a small, rundown gas station. Erik motioned for me to go forward. It was my unfortunate job to herd out the innocents and bring them to the predators. Truthfully, I could have passed as a large dog. My long tricolored coat of grey, blonde and red complete with grey brown eyes would have anyone interested. Lowering my head and tucking my tail between my legs, I trotted forward and made the sound humans called “crying.” Movement stirred in the pitiful shack and a bald head peaked out of a window. Sitting back on my haunches, I swiped both paws in the air like I was begging. The man’s face twisted into a smile and seconds later, he opened the door. I wagged my tail and went up to him. Carefully, he put out his hand and let me sniff him. Interestingly, he had a very good taste in perfume. As he ran his hand over my fur, I felt a pang of sadness. Another innocent, kind life would be lost today; another to add to the thousands already gone.
I whined again, gently taking his hand in my mouth and tugged.
“What’s wrong girl?” he asked.
I tugged again, and led him around the corner of the building. As he took his last breath, guilt flashed inside my mind.
.
.
.

It was almost midnight before Erik was satisfied. Aiden looked exhausted. I nuzzled his shoulder, trying to comfort him. He was the nicest guy I had ever known. No one should ever be forced to do this crap. When we changed back into our human forms, Evangeline slid over to Erik and kissed him full on the mouth, licking the blood away from his lips. Disgusted, I turned away hoping not to puke out my insides. Aiden put an arm around me and held me close.

“Soon we’ll get away from here Leona. It’ll be just us and we won’t have to deal with this anymore.”

“Yeah, just us and the wretched past,” I snarled.

Aiden sighed and looked up at the stars. “It won’t be like this forever, you know. Eventually someone will find out who’s done all this.”

“I guess.” I said. But something inside me wondered if we would ever get caught; if Erik would ever get caught.

Aiden and I stayed in silence before he spoke again.

“Hey Erik, are we done with your killing spree yet?”

The three of us looked at Aiden. He was normally mellow, especially around Erik. Evangeline pulled away from Erik and took a step forward.

“What’s it to you brat?”

I growled warningly, meeting her icy gaze. “Back off.”

Erik stepped between us and glared at Aiden, “Why do you ask pup? Something on your mind, hmm?”

Aiden’s fist balled up, his teeth clenched. Erik took a step closer, putting his lips to Aiden’s ear.

“Don’t try it pup,” he whispered, “you won’t win.”

When he stepped away, I stared incredulously at Aiden who met my eyes calmly. What was that about, I mouthed. Aiden smirked and walked away.

Shaking my head, I followed Erik as he headed down the road.

By 2 o’clock, a third of the town was dead. As we neared another house, the atmosphere seemed unnaturally still. I pulled up cautiously, the others beside me; Aiden seemed indifferent. We crept around the side of the ugly green house and came to the back yard. Evangeline pulled on the door and the lock snapped. I took the lead, sniffing around for any signs of life. Faintly, four hearts beat in rhythm, the sound of peaceful sleepers. Quietly I crept to the foot of the stairs.
“Wait,” Aiden said, pulling me back, “I’ll go.”

Confused, I glanced at Erik whose suspicious gaze was fixed on Aiden’s back. The time ticked as we waited for Aiden to return.

“Leona, can you come up?” Aiden’s voice pierced through the silence in a normal tone.

Erik shoved me out of the way and stomped up the stairs. “What the hell is going on here?”

Warily, we followed Erik up the stairs to the master bedroom. Inside, Aiden stood at the center of the room with two men pointing guns at our heads. Behind them, what I guessed to be the couple who lived in the house. Evangeline growled and started forward before Erik could warn her to stay back.

“You selfish mutt, you led us right to them!” Evangeline leaped into the air, claws extended.

A gunshot fired and she lay quiet. I looked quickly at Aiden who shook his head. Erik was too busy to notice this gesture. In seconds, a snarling wolf filled his place. He ran towards one of the men, slashing his throat before either man had time to react. The remaining hunter quickly got out of the way as Erik’s jaws snapped at him. The wolf charged at the terrified parents. Their screams turned into dying gurgles as Erik turned toward Aiden. Just when he was about to pounce, another shot fired. Erik went back on his haunches, his eyes wide in surprise. The bullet had shot through his head, leaving a gaping hole of blood and brains. Erik collapsed on the floor, dark liquid pooling around him. The hunter took one look, and ran out of the room. After a moment, I turned to Aiden who came and put his arms around me.

“It’s over, honey. It’s through.” I realized I was crying and buried even deeper into his shoulder.

A small sound pulled us apart and we looked at each other. I walked toward the noise and pulled back one of the heavy curtains. Gently, I picked the baby up and brought her over to Aiden. He smiled and stroked the baby’s head.

“She’ll never know of the blood spilled here. We’ll take care of her, be her parents.”

My tears splashed onto the baby as I hugged her tight. I followed Aiden out of the house and looked up at the sky. Hues of orange and purple painted the beginning of a new day. As we looked toward the sun, I thought about what to name her.

“Innocence,” I said finally, “because of the past she will never know. She is the voice of the deceased who will always be remembered.”





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