Here’s a Segment from Chapter 4 of my upcoming release of The Deviants!
The burning, gnawing hunger in his stomach was gone. His muscles no longer ached. He felt light, almost weightless. And yet, there was a creeping sensation across his scalp. As if someone were rolling a set of dull spurs up and down the length of his back and around his temples.
Is this death? Please let it be death. I need this to be death.
But he wasn’t dead. That much he understood. Logan was breathing. In and out. His senses slowly came to him like it had that long ago morning. But there wasn’t the smell of the fresh carcass or the buzzing of flies around his head. There were voices whispering, their words intelligible at first. Then there was warmth. Clean clothes rubbed on his skin as his chest rose and fell with each breath.
Logan was very much alive.
A thousand different smells blended together, mingling in his nose like a swarm of mice pushing their way through a tiny hole. It was as if each person in the room were just inches from him, though he knew they weren’t. Sounds, so near and so distant, rang in his head. Laughter, talking, whispering, footsteps, shouting, rustling of fabric and the constant clanging of metal and wood. All of it pounded in his ears. For the last three weeks, he had been this way. Driven mad by all of it.
The only thing he could remember, through the madness, was a word. He remembered hearing it far off. Just one word. Loup-garou. He followed it, and the voices. He came to a white house. No, it was a school. And there was a man.
Logan remembered the way he felt in that moment as he faced the first person he had encountered since leaving South Carolina. Deep in his gut, a rage exploded. He didn’t understand why. He didn’t want to feel it. The stranger didn’t deserve it. But that thing in him, the one that craved meat, it hated him.
In the din, he heard that man’s voice.
“He must not have eaten for days,” he said. He sounded strange and foreign. Logan remembered once when an Englishman came to Ollie’s stables for help. He had been passing through, but Logan remembered that unique accent. So different from the southern cadence he had been raised with.
“I’d bet for weeks,” said another voice. It wasn’t as deep as the first, but gentler and thoughtful. “I’ve never seen another so malnourished.”
“It’s a good thing he fell unconscious,” said a third. This one was gruff and held more authority than all three of them combined. “He would have been too unstable to be reasoned with.” He knew that accent. It reminded him of home. Of South Carolina.
Logan moved his head and a spark of pain shot through his neck and down his chest. He winced and swallowed hard, but the damage was already done.
“He’s awake,” said the second voice, accompanied by a pair of hasty footsteps.
Logan tensed involuntarily, bracing for a touch that didn’t come. It was then he realized he was on a bed. He felt the sheets beneath him and the comfortable padding of the mattress. His head had rolled against a pillow, crisp and smelling of cotton.
More came to his bedside. He could bear the noise and the smells, but if he opened his eyes, he feared it would bring back all the hunger, the fatigue, the anger and the hatred. It would all sweep in like a gust and tip him over the edge.
The trickling of water sounded off to his side and something soft and cold pressed to his forehead. Before he understood what he was doing, his hand shot out and snatched at the wrist. It was thin and he felt the pulse quicken in his grasp.
A feminine whimper shattered his complacency. Before he had the chance to squeeze harder and break her arm as he wanted, Logan released and let his hand close over the air just in front of his face. The fist was a warning and they heeded him.
The man with authority was the first to break the silence in the room. “Leave, Ginny. Your work is done here.”
Logan heard her light footsteps and the dusting of her dress hem against the floor. A door closed and he lowered his fist, but he still wouldn’t look at the men. He could feel their stares on him, pinning him to the bed in a muted command to remain perfectly still. All he wanted to do was run.
“You’re safe here,” said the Englishman. “Nobody’s going to hurt you.”
He wanted to believe it, but everything in him rejected the assurance. He didn’t feel safe. He felt lost and unsure why his head continued to tingle like it did. He wanted answers, but he didn’t want to speak.
“What’s your name?” the softer voice asked.
A weight pressed down on the edge of the mattress near his side and a new, disturbing sound erupted from Leo’s chest. A growl. It rumbled low, another warning. But the man didn’t listen. He didn’t move.
“You are safe here,” the deeper, commanding voice reiterated. “We’re like you. We just want to help.”
Just like me?
The growl died away and he put a greater effort into opening his eyes this time. The light dazed him at first. It poured through a window behind him, shining upon the three men.
“His eyes were gold when I found him,” the British man said to the others in a hushed tone. Dark haired with eyes to match, he was indeed the one that came out to meet him from the schoolhouse.
“That’s an improvement,” replied the gentle one sitting on his bed. He gave Logan a tight-lipped smile, green eyes smiling with him. His long dark hair was pulled back behind him. The prominent cheekbones and darker complexion reminded him of a Cherokee who lived on the outskirts of his home town. But this man was lighter, and he had never seen an Indian with such emerald eyes.
The last, the one who exuded so much confidence, stared at Logan with piercing blue eyes that offset his jet-black hair. There was something unsettling, yet calm about him. If he thought anyone was a threat, it would be this man. Yet, if anyone were capable of protecting Logan, it would also be him.
All were strong, judging by their build and how their clothes were filled out around their shoulders and arms. They seemed capable, steady, and Logan began to believe what the Englishman said. Maybe he was safe.
“What’s your name?” the leader asked as he folded his arms.
Logan let his lips separate, but the answer sat on his tongue for a moment before he could force it out. “Logan… Logan Elster.”
He nodded, as if the answer pleased him. “I’m Robert Croxen.” Then he gestured to the half-blood native and the Englishman. “This is Adam Swenson and Darren Dubose. Do you remember meeting Darren?”
Logan regarded the schoolteacher and nodded in answer.
“How are you feeling?” Adam Swenson questioned, scrutinizing his face for any flaw or sign of distress.
“Fine,” he lied.
The three men stared, and he could tell that they saw through his passive answer. However, they didn’t press further.
“Where did you come from?” Darren asked, sliding his hands deep into his trouser pockets.
Once more, Logan didn’t want to trust them. He didn’t want to say too much. What if they already knew who he was? What if they knew about his parents? How far had he fled from home?
“Where am I?” he asked, carefully avoiding any other questions.
Robert was more obliging. “You’re in Devia, Alabama.”
So, he had made it. Logan let out a long breath. In his grandmother’s journal, it had said his grandfather, the werewolf he inherited from, was from Alabama. It also mentioned in a later entry about Devia. This was a safe haven for werewolves, for beasts like him.
Somehow, through the starvation and fatigue, he’d made it.
“I need to see Dustin Keith,” he told them.
Darren visibly bristled at the name. The other two looked to the teacher, shock written in their expressions. “Dustin Keith?” he repeated.
Logan nodded. “Is he here? I need to see him.”
Now, Darren looked to the others for assistance. Irritation flamed in him at the delay.
“Is he your father?” Robert asked, his tone dropping a note to convey the seriousness of the question.
“My grandfather… on my mother’s side.”
It was then that the three relaxed, but only marginally. Darren seemed especially peeved. Adam looked back to Logan. “Who is your father?”
Again, Logan didn’t want to answer. He looked to the three of them, and then shook his head. “I need to see Dustin. Is he here or not?”
“He’s not,” Darren curtly replied. “He left when the war started. He’s probably in Europe somewhere. We haven’t heard from him in years.”
Logan let his head drift backward. All that way for nothing. The promise his mother wanted him to keep was for nothing now.
“If you want us to help, we need to know more, Logan.” Adam’s voice cut through the contained wrath that surged in him.
He had walked for miles upon miles, across state lines and risked death by starvation to find Dustin, and he wasn’t even there. Logan wondered if he could book a passage to Europe, if it was even worth it. His mind was already far away from Devia by the time Darren spoke.
“Where are you from?” he asked.
He wanted to lie. To say he was from somewhere else in Alabama, or even Tennessee. Admitting he was from South Carolina might make them inquire about his family. The one he had left behind.
If they found out what happened to them, they might turn him into the authorities. He’d be charged for murder and sentenced to a death of his own. Then again, would that be so bad? He wouldn’t have to withstand the noise, the smells, or the constant flaring of some wild entity roaring inside of him. He could be free again and maybe reunite with his mother.
Would werewolves be permitted in heaven? Would it even matter?
“South Carolina,” he muttered.
That elicited some shock from the men.
“You walked all the way?” Adam asked. Logan nodded. “When was your last shift?”
It was then that he remembered what Robert had said. They were all like him, and they wanted to help. All werewolves. He looked to each of them, trying to find some clue in their appearance that would give them away. He saw nothing. Besides their brawn, there might have been nothing to suggest they were telling the truth.
“You can trust us, Logan,” Darren said. “We’ve all been in your place and know how scary it can be. You’re among friends.”
Throughout his childhood, Logan couldn’t remember having friends. It was just him and his mother for the longest time, struggling through life with his father breathing down their necks. Now, he had no one. Not even Ollie. These men and this entire town were supposed to be a refuge, according to the journal. Maybe Dustin wasn’t here, but Logan could learn from them instead.
Hope was a dangerous thing. He had learned that the hard way. He could never hope for his father to turn sober. He could never hope that his mother would someday see the error in staying. He could never hope for anything more than being a poor boy who wasn’t good at much of anything. Could he hope for a future anymore?
“I… I don’t know how long… A few weeks, maybe?”
Robert’s jaw clenched. Adam’s stare grew distant as if he were thinking about something important. Darren seemed to be the only one still grounded in the moment.
“If it’s been a few weeks, what happened to you when you shifted, will happen again soon. We want to be ready for it, so we’ll need you to…”
Logan didn’t hear anything else. He would turn into a monster again? He’d become uncontrollable? He’d kill? The others in the room might have sensed his panic before he even realized it was upon him.
He bolted upright and tore away the blanket that covered half of his body. They were on him faster than it took for him to blink. Adam grabbed his legs while Darren and Robert took his shoulders and forced him back into the bed. Their grips were like iron, their strength far superior to his.
He kicked and clawed at them, resisting. He couldn’t stay. He couldn’t kill. Not when there were women and children here. He couldn’t hurt them. Not again.
“Logan, you have to calm down!” Robert insisted. “We can’t let you leave.”
Frightened tears streamed down his cheeks, the first he had shed, since he’d left his mother’s body in the cabin. He didn’t even have the strength to bury her. He saw her lifeless face again and all at once, he could see so many more dead. Mutilated, bleeding corpses across the town. He could see the white schoolhouse in flames, the children screaming and burning. All because of him. He couldn’t be responsible.
“We’re going to take care of you,” Darren promised. “We won’t let you hurt anyone. But you have to let us help you.”
Logan was too tired to believe, but just terrified enough to fight. That is, until something else struck him out of nowhere.
From all three came a power more devastating than anything he knew. Greater than hunger, than pain, than sorrow, but more calming than his own mother’s fond embrace. His limbs lost their strength. His tears dried up. And though his chest continued to heave, Logan let himself be compressed under this power. He let it drown him, entering his soul and silencing that anger that seared inside.
What had they done to him? Was this how they helped? If it was, Logan would stay in this state forever. Anything to quiet that storm of feeling that could never break.
“We’re going to take care of you,” Darren said again, attracting Logan’s gaze.
For the first time, looking deep in the werewolf’s eyes, he believed every word.