The sun was bright, its rays warming and golden. A faint mist clung to the far hillside, and dew spread across the grass. Adeline sat up, yawning and stretching her arms. She felt like she had slept well- her bed was comfortable, for once. A frown spread across her face, and she looked down at the bed. A few moments of panic spread through her, before she remembered where she was, and why she was here. She hadn’t heard the ‘werewolf’ once throughout the night. She had gone to bed early, though, and fallen asleep almost instantly. Perhaps she had just missed it? Something within her doubted that. As if a werewolf could exist. She took a deep breath, pushing back the covers to her bed and getting up. She changed from the pajama’s she had found in a draw, into something different, something that wasn’t even her grey uniform. What she wore now was a plain, dark blue t-shirt, with matching, but fading, jeans. She walked over to her window, opening the curtains, sliding open her window and sticking her head outside. It was pleasantly warm in the sunlight. It made her happy.
After a few moments of breathing the fresh air, she shut the window again, before heading downstairs. Her feet felt strangely warm on the wooden floor as she walked into the dining area, from the stairs. A few more steps and she was in her kitchen. She felt calm, tranquil. Her mind was at peace, and her thoughts were few. She opened an overhead cupboard, then another, and another, until she had found what she was looking for- a bowl, and something to put in the bowl. Then she started looking for a spoon in a drawer somewhere. She found one, eventually, in the draw beside the sink. She put it in her bowl, before turning back and lifting the box of cereal, pouring herself a generous amount. She was hungry- she hadn’t eaten last night.
She didn’t bother looking for any milk, and just sat down at her small table and ate. It tasted amazing- even though it was nothing more than cornflakes. It was a welcome change from the normal bland porridge.
She was done within a few minutes, and left her bowl by the sink to wash up later. She padded into her front room, curling her toes within the carpet, before flopping down on her sofa, leaning back and staring at the wooden supports of the next floor. Her house had two bedrooms- one which she had claimed for her own, and a guest one. Her own had a large double-bed, and was painted a relaxing shade of blue. A desk was in one corner, with a small office chair tucked neatly beneath. To the other side she had a large wardrobe and, beside that, a shelf filled with rows and rows of books. She hadn’t had time to fully investigate every single one yet, but she could feel the need to do so at some point soon. A small shiver of anticipation ran through her body, and she found herself suddenly excited for the day ahead.
It died away when she remembered what she had to do today. She had to vote for someone, someone who seemed most like the werewolf. It probably didn’t help that she didn’t even know if the werewolf existed yet. She froze, as more thoughts came tumbling into her mind. Someone must have died last night.
She was in a rush, pulling on some boots she had found, not bothering with socks. She grabbed a thin coat, just in case she got cold. She wrenched the door open, hurrying outside, letting it slam behind her. She ran down the small garden path, opening the gate with fumbling hands, before setting off at a sprint down the road.
Her sprint didn’t last that long. By the time she had reached the end of the second street, she was out of breath, and found herself speed-walking instead. When she reached the square, she found a small group had already assembled, chattering nervously amoungst themselves. She walked over to them, cautious. “What happened?” She asked, as the conversation halted.
A man turned around to her, and started babbling- she recalled from the evening before that his name was Mervin. “Did you hear the howls last night? It sounded close to where Cameron, Reagan and Todd live. Everyone’s worrying about who got attacked.” He paused for a moment, looking at everyone else. “And then, of course, everyone wants to know who the werewolf is.”
Annelise laughed, looking cheerful- but Adeline noticed a cold hint to her gaze. “Haha, I doubt they would actually let someone die like that. I mean seriously, they probably played some sound effects or something.” She sounded skeptical herself.
Someone else emerged from one of the streets, and everyone peered around to look. Cameron was walking toward them, his face pale, his expression sorrowful. When he neared the group, people started asking questions. “I heard Reagan scream last night.” He said, staring at the ground. He looked utterly defeated, almost the complete opposite from the man Adeline saw arguing with Annelise the previous day. “The only… possible way that she could have survived, would have been if the Doctor had protected her…”
There was no protest from Annelise, nothing to confirm her doubt of their deaths.
Adeline stayed in the square for the next half hour, as more and more people joined the growing group, adding their own experiences from the night. Aeron appeared at some point, carrying a large box to be used for the votes. Elissa and Emlyn helped him carry it into the main hall, fetching paper and writing equipment so they could write their votes on slips of paper. The sun had risen a fair way when Reagan appeared from a corner of the street. By this time, everyone but her had entered the square, and people were already beginning to tear up. At the sight of her, everyone stared in silent awe, each of them pondering how she could have survived. No one else had said they were attacked. It stood to reason that Reagan was the one who Cameron had heard scream.
When she neared them, she raised a hand in greeting. “H-hi.” Everyone stared at her. “Uh, the werewolf is real.” She stopped there, as Christina launched herself into full on hug-mode. Adeline sighed, almost pitying the girl. Christina’s hugs were like being squeezed to death by a python. A storm of questions followed the release, and Reagan barely had time to register them all, let alone answer. She did her best, though, resembling a mouse as she did. “The Doctor sent me a note… I got… a bunch of flowers. They were gone this morning though. No, it very nearly killed me. If they were going to stop it, they left it a little late. If it weren’t for the flowers, I’d be dead. Y-yes, that probably was me screaming. No, I completely froze up… it tore my door to shreds.”
After a while questioning her, someone pointed out that she was obviously not the werewolf, and everyone agreed. Reagan got a few pats on the back, looks of sympathy and a few hugs from the girls. The crowd started to disappear quite fast after that- the majority going into the village hall to vote, the others heading back to their homes to have breakfast. Adeline found herself alone pretty fast, and sighed, sitting down on the bench beside the platform. She was glad Reagan was alive- thrilled, even. But she felt something within her, something deep down. Somewhere, she felt disappointed, like some great opportunity had slipped away. She stretched, cringing as she felt her arms send a pang of pain. She hadn’t noticed how much she ached. Another sigh found her, before she stood up, and walked toward the village hall. She would probably put down a random name. She hadn’t a clue who the werewolf could be, and she doubted that person was going to die anyway.
The atmosphere within the hall was heavy. It made itself apparent as soon as she walked in. Adeline took a deep breath, walking over toward the box, which was on a table, slowly. She took a piece of paper- they had been cut into smaller pieces- and a pen. A few people stood around the room, holding their own slip, chewing on the tip of their pen, clueless for what to do. Adeline herself found a corner with an end-table on it, and managed to squeeze her paper between the plant on top and the edge of the table. She was about to write something- her pen was poised, one hand holding the paper in place. It was then that she realized her mind was blank. She hadn’t a clue who’s name to write down. What if, with this vote, she condemned someone to death? Wouldn’t that make her as bad as the werewolf? She glanced up at the other people in the room. None of them looked suspicious- Mason couldn’t be the werewolf, he was just staring blankly at his piece of paper, eyes almost unseeing. She doubted Aeron could be the werewolf, either. He seemed so… genuinely nice. However, the person on the radio had said that the werewolf didn’t know who they were. A look of concern flashed across her face for a moment. She decided to pick a random name- one of those who she hadn’t become too close to. After a few moments, she wrote down “Elissa September”, and put her slip in the box.
She left the village hall, walking back out into daylight, returning back to her home so she could make sure she knew where everything was.
When she returned to the square, around mid day, she found a small group of people gathering. She wandered over to see what was going on- approaching Christina first. “What’s going on?”
Christina turned around, letting a grin fall on her face. “We’re hunting! Just waiting for a few others to come, then we’re going to go out and start looking for signs and hopefully lay some traps.” A cloud passed over the sun, and everything dimmed for a moment. “Gonna get us some meat.” She said, her grin widening.
Adeline looked at Christina for a moment longer, before Christina turned around, rejoining the conversation as though nothing had happened. It was practically that exact moment that Giselle turned and saw her, giving Adeline a friendly smile. Adeline returned it, holding out a hand in greeting. The two women shook hands.
“You’re probably going to have to set your own traps. I doubt we’re going to catch that much, and people will take the meat from their own traps, and probably not share it.” She shrugged, looking over Adeline’s shoulder for a second. “I mean, we don’t know if whoever we’re sharing with is the werewolf, right?” Adeline smiled awkwardly. The friendly mood had changed in a few short moments.
“I’m afraid I haven’t a clue how to hunt.” She paused for a moment, deterred by Giselle’s seeming lack to attention. She wavered as she continued. “Does someone have a book or something?”
Giselle blinked like a deer caught in headlights. “Sorry? Oh, right. Yeah, I think everyone has a copy somewhere on their shelves… Among the other books there are some pretty useful things. Obviously they don’t want us starving to death or anything.”
“Which is pretty weird when you think about it.” Adeline muttered, her eyes dropping to the ground as Giselle looked over her shoulder at something again. “I’m just gonna go back now.” She said, pointing behind her. Giselle nodded vaguely, squinting at something. Adeline started to walk away, keeping her head down. Nobody payed attention as she left the square, walking into one of the adjacent streets, heading back to her home.
When she got back, she took of her shoes- placing them neatly beside the mat -and headed upstairs. When she entered her room, she shut the window, and turned toward her bookcases. There were a lot of books. And these books were about a lot of things. Half of them were to do with finding and growing your own food, the other half were various fiction books on a variety of subjects- a majority of them, however, included something to do with werewolves. Adeline sighed, and started searching for one that could be related to hunting and laying traps.
She found one, eventually. A small book tucked into the far corner of the top shelf. She prized it out, walking backwards toward her bed and sitting down. She opened it, and started flicking through the pages, pausing as she found a trap that she felt she could pull off. It seemed the village would be living off rabbits and maybe a few other small animals, if they found them.
By the time she had finished reading through the parts about hunting small mammals, another hour or two had passed. She sighed, standing up and looking around her room. She needed a bag to put all the equipment she needed in. So far that list included wire, various sized sticks, and a few rocks and stones. She walked downstairs, doubting there would be anything in her room. She’d already scanned her drawers, finding all kinds of clothes for both men and women, she’d looked in the cupboards, finding nothing but coat hangers. She knew she had a few cabinets downstairs, so she thought down there would be a better place to start.
After a little searching, she found what she needed. Tucked away in a dark corner she found a rucksack, and put it on her dining table as she passed it. Then, she started rifling through all drawers in her kitchen, searching for some form of wire. She didn’t find any. She glanced around, searching for another potential hiding place. Her gaze stopped on the cupboard beneath the stairs. A smile spread across her face, and she walked purposefully across the room, opening the latch and turning on a dim bulb inside. There were shelves stacked with various “Do it Yourself” (DIY) tools, boxes filled with odds and ends, including a number of different sized screws. Hung up by a hook one one of the walls, as a long coil of wire. Adeline took it, flicking off the light and putting it in her bag.
She also retrieved the book from her pocket, carefully putting it in one of the front pockets. She could find the sticks and stones on her way there. She turned toward her back door, watching it, determination rising within her. Most of the simpler traps didn’t need any bait. You just had to put them on a rabbit run, and wait for the rabbits to appear. She slung the bag onto her back, before opening the door and heading out into her back garden, walking along the path toward the gate, which led to the forest.
The forest was calm. A sea of green met her as she stepped among the trees. She followed a worn dirt path, which was perhaps a little older than she had originally noticed- bright green shoots stuck out here and there, suggesting it hadn’t had too much traffic recently. Adeline felt at ease here. She hadn’t noticed it before, but she had been tense. Something about the emptiness in the village unsettled her, made her think far more than she actually needed to. In the forest, she didn’t have to think about all those little things she had to think of back there. In the village, questions constantly rose in her mind, she questions where the inhabitants of this village were; she questioned whether the organization were serious about people being killed; she also questioned whether they would make it out of here alive. Whether they were forced to kill each other or not, taking people from their ordinary homes and leaving them in a desolate village wasn’t legal.
A thought returned to her, and she frowned. Couldn’t they just escape? What was to keep them from simply leaving? From just walking out of the forest, from scaling one of the hills and going beyond? Sure, it was a pretty nice village, but if they actually planned on killing some of them, they were going to try and run away. Try to get away from the village.
As Adeline walked, she kept her eyes to the ground, constantly scanning the undergrowth for signs of a run. It was because of this that she nearly walked straight into Keelan.
The other woman stopped just in time, holding out a hand so Adeline didn’t hit her. Adeline looked up, her entire being alert and ready for fight or flight. She calmed as she saw who it was. “Keelan, right?” She asked, just checking before she made a mistake. The other woman nodded. “You’re the Seer?”
She nodded again, glancing around quickly. “Don’t tell anyone else- we don’t know who the werewolf is. And… I don’t really believe it’s not conscious of its actions.”
Adeline bit her cheek, thoughtful. “Are you sure that there actually is a werewolf?”
Keelan met her gaze. It was calm, almost cold. “Yes. I have no doubt that those people were telling the truth. After all, I got to find out who ‘Elissa September’ was.”
Something inside Adeline started panicking. “What is she, then?”
“A plain old human, like most of us. She’s not the detective nor the doctor, she’s not diseased and she won’t sacrifice herself for someone else.”
Adeline frowned, before she remembered. “I voted for her today.”
The other woman raised an eyebrow, regarding her with mistrust. “You voted without knowing anything? I am certain of your role- I know you wouldn’t have two. You are innocent, and therefore I feel save telling you who I know the role of.” She sighed.
“Can’t I just change it?”
“No. I doubt Aeron, Mervin or Kira would let you.”
“Well, it can’t be helped.” Keelan looked off through the trees, squinting at something. “Hm. Well, you’d better lay your traps for the day. I need to lay my own.” With that, she started to wander off, picking through the undergrowth, not bothering with a path.”
Adeline watched her go, and couldn’t help but feel as though the woman didn’t like her that much. She sighed as Keelan disappeared from sight, and started off again. Her eyes were back to the ground, searching for the tell-tale ‘tunnels’ in the bracken.
It was a while before she saw somewhere suitable. She found a place where there was a rabbit run, and started to follow it carefully through the ferns and brambles, wincing every now and then as a thorn pushed into her leg. When the path was out of sight, she crouched down, pushing away the covering from the run, and started to lay her trap. She used various bits of stick, stone and wire, following the diagram in the book as best she can.
When she had finished, she stood up, looking down at her handiwork with a critical eye.
When she was satisfied, she headed back to the path, glancing around to make sure she knew where she was, and continued.
She set three other traps- four in total, before she started on her way back. The deadline for voting was approaching. Soon they would find out who was to be killed. Adeline felt fear spike within her. What if it was her?
She emerged from the forest, opening the gate to her back garden and heading back into her house. There was a clock above the fire. It said 13:43. She had 17 minutes before the voting was halted, and another hour until the victim was revealed.
Adeline sat down in one of the chairs, leaning to one side. She suppressed a yawn, and let her mind wander. She had nothing to do until then.
She sat up, opening her eyes. She glanced at the clock. It was Five on the dot. She was late. Adeline stood up, hurrying over to her front door and pulling on the first pair of shoes she could lay her hands on. She wrenched the door open, slamming it behind her and ran down the little path, out the open gate, and tore down the streets toward the square.
She got there just as Aeron was getting up onto the stage. Everyone was already there, and they watched her as she thudded over, before looking back toward Aeron. He gave her a brief smile, before returning his gaze to the crowd. He held on to a small slip of paper, his fingers white with how hard he was holding it.
“The first… person… to be ‘lynched’ is…” He took a deep breath, singling out one face. “Edan Carmen.” Edan’s face dropped, his chest starting to rise and fall faster and faster as his breathing quickened.
“You’re not serious…?” He muttered, starting to back away from Aeron, starting to move out of the crowd. Everyone else watched him silently. “You’re not really going to kill me. You can’t.” Someone took hold of one of his arms. “They never said you had to kill me!” He yelled, shaking himself free of Kira’s grip. “Just… just make them think you did!” Tears started to well up in his eyes.
Aeron turned his head to one side, hiding half of his face. “We got… a letter earlier today, while we were counting. Well, we found it. It said that if we didn’t kill you somehow, then they would, and they would do it in a more painful way.” He looked up at Edan, his eyes filled with pain. “I’m sorry.”
Edan sank to his knees. “No… No you can’t… They’re lying, aren’t they?” Kira regained her grip, and was joined by Emlyn. Edan stopped trashing. Adeline averted her gaze, looking away. Edan was brought up to the stage. Once he was up there, he looked up at Aeron. “So how am I going to die?”
“It’s… your choice. We could hang you? I don’t think anyone could stab you, slit your throat or anything…”
Edan’s eyes dropped to the floor. “Just hang me, then.”
It took a few moments to find things which could be used to hang someone- they found a large post in the village hall, which slotted into a hole on the platform. There was a length of rope in the back, as well, which Annelise was tasked with to knot. They also found a box. Everyone was silent as this happened, no one daring to make a single noise. Edan sat to one side, head in his hands, shaking violently.
When it was ready, and the rope was in place, he looked up. His eyes were red, his nose running. He stood up, walking toward the box. He took a deep breath, and stepped onto it, shutting his eyes as someone lowered the rope around his neck, and tightened it. Someone in the crowd muttered, “Goodbye, Edan”.
Aeron stood to one side, and once Edan nodded, he kicked the box from under him. Adeline looked away, wincing as she heard the rope go taught. After a few seconds, she looked back. Edan was motionless, limp, as he hung there by his neck.
Mason stepped up to the stage, his movements stiff, and untied the corpse. He laid it on the stage, and started to take down the post, walking with it back to the town hall. Everyone else was silent, not daring to move.
After a few more, long minutes, another two people got on to the stage, and started to take Edan’s body into the village hall. The Organization behind this had kindly left a bunch of coffins. Mason and the two others returned a few minutes later. Aeron was still standing, staring up at the sky. A bird flew past.
Cahal- one of the two who had moved Edan’s body- stepped up onto the stage next to him. “So, uh. Yeah. First person dead and… I think he was innocent. You can all go back now. Unless, of course, you want to help prepare a grave and funeral… things.”
The crowd started to split, a few stayed behind, but most left. Someone had just died, and there was little they could do about it. Adeline hurried off, glancing at the sky. The sun was beginning to dip behind the hills once again. Soon it would be dark.