Artifice and Ash

A Hell of a Morning (Or: A HOWL of a Morning)

At least I had the presence of mind to hang on to some of our stuff. All the way to East Providence? The mark on his shoulder, did I… Carry? Did I carry Alex all that way? I feel… Tired. Like I just had the biggest workout of my life. I keep getting flashes of HINTS of memories, like the scent changing from asphalt to concrete to water and back again. Ground against my feet, fast wind… Strongest thing was the feeling of wanting to get away, grab Alex and AJ and get away from that… THING.

I remember Alex waking me up, pounding on the door of AJ’s place. He was being chased by the girl he went home with, who vanished, and next thing we know, there’s some kind of black death-slime coming up through the pipes in the kitchen. Another thing to add to the list: Don’t ever get drunk, don’t take home strange women from dens of debauchery. What the hell was with that place? I mean, I know what kinda stuff AJ gets up to, he doesn’t HIDE it exactly… But places like that really exist? What the hell was I doing there? Right. ‘Otto’. Rgh. Infuriating, cryptic, know-it-all fuck. “You’re pawns, I can move you up to being ‘players’ instead. But you have to do something for me.” Rob a bank. Not really ‘rob’, but still, a bank. An illegal bank. Break in to the private money repository of some big underworld shaker.

On the one hand, what have I got to lose? I’m already… This morning. Right in the middle of Wildcat’s checkup, it happened again. It went from a little before ten in the morning to four in the afternoon. Seven hours gone. There was blood on Wildcat, blood on my jacket, blood on the steering wheel of my jeep. From where it was, looked like … gunshot, close range. Blood on my hand. It looks like now I’m a murder suspect. For all I know, I’m a murderer. Maybe attempted, but I know my Wildcat. Close enough to get that much blood on my shooting arm, whoever it was couldn’t have survived. I’m getting REAL sick of being someone’s puppet. I’m telling you right now, I’m going to find whoever the hell our ‘Stromboli’ is, and then I’m going to EARN that charge. I’m going to put a nice forty-five caliber hole in his chest with the gun he’s soiled, break every bone in his body, and then I’m going to tear what’s left of him apart, I’ll sink my TEETH into his-BREATHE. Breathe. Please breathe…

I can’t believe it. I have to believe it. If I deny this, I deny everything else that’s happened. Skeleton dogs, ghosts, slime monsters… And now I’m one of them. I guess in hindsight it should have been obvious what was happening to me… As soon as I saw that black ooze come up, I told Alex to go get AJ so we could get the hell out. Drew Wildcat, but… Twelve grams of copper and lead, forty-five hundredths of an inch in diameter, designed to expand and transfer energy as efficiently as possible while causing tissue damage. SOLID tissue damage. May have just gone right through that thing without hurting it, but made a hell of a racket. Too much attention. I could hear AJ and Alex arguing upstairs. Telling him we’re under attack, and he wants his goddamn beauty sleep! Finally I heard AJ say something about the window, after that thing starts to cut us off. As long as I knew they’re getting out. I head out the front door regroup, find them at the back side of the house in a heap. Apparently they took a tumble when one went for the gutter and the other used tied bedsheets. AJ can be so blasted STUPID sometimes.

I asked him if he was okay, and that’s when it started. The loss of control. I hit AJ in the face after he gives me a smartass remark like it’s MY fault, and THEN Alex wanted me to grab his crap from his house, because he’s too scared of what might be in it. Whatever the hell that thing was, it was filling AJ’s place then. I could see the black gunk seeping out the windows. … And that wasn’t all. I could HEAR something. The lawn. The grass. Like the freaking EARTH was whispering at me. I haul ass into Alex’s room, and I could SMELL what happened there. I grab clothes and his peashooter, and book back out to the street. Alex wants his damn PHONE too. I start to lose it a little more. My clothes were getting tighter, but I couldn’t focus on that. Alex says something about a beard, and I reached up to touch my face. It was covered in hair, not only that, but I noticed the prick in my cheek. My hand had CLAWS.

I remember calling AJ for help, but he just took off. I can’t blame him. I had already punched him in the mouth, and I could FEEL the difference in me. Bigger. Stronger. Alex took off after him too, and that’s when it hit me. The last THOUGHT I could remember was ‘how DARE you leave me when I’m trying to save your worthless lives?’ And that was the last bit I had holding me back. I was gone.

So now here we are. Alex is freaking out. I’m some kind of… But I had his clothes, my phone, and Wildcat. I just got off the phone with Abby, Alex’s friend. Her and Z are on their way to get us. I hope AJ is all right. She said something about taking him to the hospital again. Something about he stopped breathing, but only for a little bit, because she said he was up and around. And then, because life is like that, Uncle calls. I couldn’t take it. Couldn’t take the call, couldn’t take dealing with HIM right now. He’s probably furious, at best. At worst, he’s dug up something about earlier today. I can’t face him. Not when I’m planning a robbery. Not when I’m some puppet master’s personal hitman. Not when I’m… a damned WEREWOLF



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