Dog Tag

In this alternate reality, werewolves live among us. Feared though they are, they are treated as normally as possible. Just one thing marks them out from others - a silver dog tag necklace. Every full moon, the wearers of the dog tags are rounded up and put in cells in the WereControl Headquarters.
Wisteria Lewin wakes up one morning wearing a tag that she cannot get off and has no idea how it got there................
*I've used the name Wisteria before, yeah I know, but it's such a lovely name that I couldn't resist using it again*

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4. Three

I crack open one eye. Sunlight stabs into my retina, making me groan.

Ugh. Morning.

Which means school.

I groan louder and drag myself out of bed. Pain rolls through my head and I go momentarily dizzy, black spots fuzzing up my vision, making me stumble. I brace a hand against the wall and put a hand to my head. What happened? Was I attacked? Oh wait - of course. I swallow down my nausea and totter into the bathroom.

"Wisteria? Is that you? Are you up?" Foster No. 1 (female) calls up the stairs.

"Uh, yeah," I call back weakly. I slide the bolt on the bathroom door across and turn to the mirror. I look goddamn awful. I scrunch my hands up in my hair, trying to wake myself up. It's as I let my hands drop back to my sides that I notice it. A glint of silver.

I frown. Silver? I don't wear silver very often. I definitely wasn't wearing any when I got into bed last night.

My heart begins to thud as I fumble about my neck, fingers sliding over the thin, ice cold chain and down, into my t-shirt, yanking it out.

A Tag.

For some reason, as if it might help, I swivel my head around the bathroom, as if I'm looking for something. A Tag? A Dog Tag? Around my neck? I drag the Tag upwards, taking a closer look, seeing if I can spot some sort of mark or engraving to show it's forged.

Nothing. It's as smooth and plain as a regular Tag.

I reach around, sliding the chain through and round the loop, searching for the clasp to take it off. All I feel are the endless links. No little balls connected by a hook and latch. I'm starting to get a headache. I pull upwards, giving up on the clasp, but find I can't get it over my head. The chain is too short. It just gets stuck under my chin, and when I manage to wiggle that over, under my nose. I frown in confusion. All the Tags I see are definitely long enough to get off, quite easily, the Tags themselves resting comfortably just below the heart, in the middle of the ribcage. This one is tiny. It rests on my pale neck and collarbone for the world to see. It feels like a collar. A dog collar. How ironic.

"Wisteria! Breakfast!"

I shake myself out of my stunned stupor and make a quick decision. Pull a sickie, go to Freddie's house. He'll have a plan. Freddie always has a plan. Plus he has this week off anyway - he's recovering from flu.

I shower in the space of three minutes, drag a brush through my black-and-green locks, apply deodorant, wash my face and teeth. I get dressed - navy and white tie-dye skinny jeans, black leather calf-length boots, a tight black t-shirt underneath a black turtleneck to hide the present problem.

"Uh...........Sally..........I don't feel so well today," I call down to Foster No. 1, pinching my nose to make it sound muffled. "Can I stay home from school?"

"Sure, sweetie," she calls up. "D'you want me to come up? Do you want some honey and lemon? Medicine?"

"No!" I blurt. "Um, I mean, no thanks............please don't come up. Might be contagious."

I fake a sneeze, rush back into my bedroom, stick a chair under the door handle and slide open the window. Over the years, I've devised the perfect strategy for climbing out and down. I hook my legs over the windowsill, brace myself on my hands and lower myself down like a prize gymnast. Drop a few feet onto the shed roof directly below, walk across, crouch and jump to the (overgrown) grass.

Unlatch the garden gate, and I'm free.

I run like a gazelle along the back path around to the front, then sprint off up the street. Freddie's house is about a fifteen minute run from here. I can do this, easy.

Before I know it, I'm sweating profusely and bent over, hands on my knees, trying to catch my breath. On the bright side, I'm standing outside Freddie's blue front door. I knock quickly and go back to trying to control my panting, arms now folded, the stitch in my side lessening.

The door opens, and there stands Freddie.

Let me explain. Freddie has been my best mate since I was six, since we made friends after a quick fist fight about a bucket of mud in the park. He's a year younger than me, and a bit of a joker. He has one of those tans that never fade, and thick, shaggy brown hair. He's wearing a red cotton shirt and grey tracksuit bottoms, his feet bare.

"Ri!" he says, stifling a yawn. "Whatcha doing here this fine evening? Or, morning......or whatever."

"Freddie, I need your help," I say, trying to stop breathing so hard. It comes out like a wheeze.

His eyes widen. "Um, sure. Step inside."

He moves to the side, and I walk in, letting my arms drop from their crossed position. As soon as the door closes, I let all my self control go.

"Where are your parents?" I whisper frantically.

"Er, out for today," he says, looking confused. "Conference. Ri, what's going on?"

I drag him into his sitting room and begin to pull my turtleneck off.

"Whoa, Ri!" he raises his hands. "I like you and all.........."

"Shut up, you idiot!" I squeak. I let the turtleneck drop and gesture to my neck. "Look at this!"

His eyes travel over the Dog Tag, his mouth forming an O shape. "Ooooh. Ri. You are in trouble." He drags out the last word, adding emphasis for effect.

"I can't get it off!" I hiss in a panic. "There's no clasp, it's too small to slide off.........help me, Freddie!"

Freddie's eyes widen. "What do you want ME to do?!"

"I don't know! I just know that you always have a plan!"

He breathes out a long breath. A few seconds, and then his eyes begin to sparkle. "Ah!" He darts out of the room, yelling back, "wait right there!"

I stand impatiently, tapping my foot, while the rustling and clanking noises come from upstairs. Eventually he appears back downstairs, holding a something big, rusty and metal.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" I raise my hands and take a step back as he advances. "What the hell is that?"

"Bolt cutters," he shrugs. "Now come here!"

We spend the rest of the day trying to take it off. He says something about hot temperatures making metal expand, but I'm not too keen about putting my head inside a kettle, thank you very much. We try more scissors, a kitchen knife. I draw the line at an axe.

We eventually both flop down side by side on Freddie's bed, exhausted.

"How did you get it on, anyway?" he asks finally.

"That's just the thing!" I hiss. "I don't know! I don't even know why or when or where it happened! I just woke up this morning and - there it was!"

"Well, did anyone put it on you?" he presses.

"I don't know!" I say, feeling like screaming and pulling my hair out. "Who would - ?!"

And suddenly, I stop.

Those two guys in the alley last night.

The big one got really close when he was beating the crap out of me.

Did he........?

Would he.......?

But why?

My hands touch the Tag. It feels cold. Still so cold. Even after a day of wear. How can it be so abnormally cold?

There's the sudden blare of a siren outside, and I feel dizzy.

"Freddie," I croak, "what's the moon tonight?"

"Uh, full," he says absent-mindedly, checking his calendar. "Why?"

The siren wails again. Freddie's eyes grow to the size of saucers. "Oh."

That siren means they're going round the houses, checking everyone for Tags and rounding them up to head to the WereControl Headquarters.

Which means.......

They'e going to take me.

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