Violent tremors rocked through his body, like earthquakes rippling beneath his very own skin, trembling down his muscles before driving back down in the longest, most twisted and painful route possible. It was like thousands and thousands of daggers driving into his skin, prickling down his arms and legs, running up his spine, before melting into liquid pain. He cried out in agony, cold and suffering, his hands going to his head, staggering back, once more forced into the moonlight.
The sky was clear on an otherwise perfect evening. Trees rustled quietly either side of him, breaking into a clearing just behind him as a small hill rose up. The emerald shades of summer were clearly visible on the cloudless night, dimly reflecting the moon above.
Cold wind battered his sides, slipping through even the slightest of tears in his shirt, biting into his skin. The summer night was warm, and yet the wind that accompanied it was cold, bitter and trying. The man regained his balance, if only for a moment, before the change took hold of him by both shoulders, and his cries reached a new frequency of terror.
From his shoes, his heels emerged, and the sound of tearing fabric reached the ears of all who dared listen. From the toes of his shoes long, black claws came, shredding the flimsy material. The rest of the shoes came off as the bones in his foot warped into new, interesting shapes. They kept changing, before settling, realigning themselves like the feet of a canine. The rest of his bones lengthened, shortened, warping into the new lengths they needed to be, changing swiftly from human bones to those of a beast's.
His cries never ceased as his nose and mouth began to elongate. He kept moaning to himself, still producing sound through his new set of jaws. His cries became whimpers, tortured howls and growls. His ears changed on his head, his senses sharpening as the whole works inside his head and brain shifted, rearranging itself to fit their own needs.
His back arched as his spine lengthened, making the same noise as that of a train over tracks, clicking into place once it had finished. His ribs pushed out through his chest, puncturing the old skin as new, fur-covered hide took its place, stretching over his new ribs, his stronger muscles, his muzzle and all. His clothes, now shredded, hung in tatters on his larger frame.
After a few minutes, his cries were replaced by a long howl. It rose from his belly, rising up through his throat, calling out into the night, slicing through the warm air and climbing up through the sky. In their beds, humans shivered, retreating further into their covers, terrified of what the night would bring. What had replaced the feeble figure of the man was a beast of nightmares, a creature who's only purpose was to survive. It would do anything to live, to breath and see the world. It would do anything to wrench control from its own day-time form. Its hands, still vaguely resembling those of a human, clenched, sharp points of the claws digging into the grey palms, and a trickle of blood leaked out, dampening the short fur before dripping to the ground. It turned its head from side to side, sniffing the air.
It's eyes were a cold, icy-blue, filled with sudden fear. After a few more seconds, they slowly faded into a deep yellow-ochre, pupils dark, iris splashed with deep brown. They reflected the moonlight like nothing else, pin-pricks in the blanket of black, searching through the heavy darkness, hunger showing plainly within its head.
It was very, very hungry.
With only a moments hesitation, the werewolf took off through the trees, large paws thundering along the ground, spreading a subdued cloud of dust into the air. The earth was dry, cracking slightly beneath its heavy weight. The grass that formed a green carpet beneath its feet shivered in the wind, as though it was scared for what the beast could- or would -do to it, had it been a human.
After a while, the trees began to thin either side of it, giving way to more bushes, a faint path, and eventually a road. The old tar mac had already lost its white lines, tufts of grass pushing up between every single little crack. A rusting red car sat, squat, on one side of the road, doors torn off and long gouges in the metal. The werewolf slowed to a walk. It was not entirely bipedal or quadrupled, instead preferring to move in a mix of both, running on four legs for speed, lumbering on two when it wanted to be a little more careful. It took one step onto the concrete, lowering its muzzle to smell the road. A second passed, and the werewolf looked up once more, its head angled toward the distant silhouette of houses, the thrill of a hunt rising up within it.
She had heard the howl- loud and clear. Even through her shut window, with the double-glazed glass attempting to shut out all outside noise. It did a rather good job, until something like that started crying out to the world. She was warm within her bed, snuggled down in the bedclothes, wrapped within a mass of duvets, sheets and blankets. She shivered all the same, the spine-tingling, blood-chilling howl that climbed into the sky and then fell back into the world again. She curled up into a small ball, whispering quietly to herself. It would all end soon. She was the only one left, apart from him. He was the werewolf, she knew it. He was coming for her, and there was nothing she could do about it. The Seer and Wolf Hunter had failed. All three of them failing to identify his true identity.
Questions rose within her mind, plucked like flowers from a bush, selected for their vibrant colour and curious ideas. Did he actually know he was the werewolf? During the course of the last four months, since they came here, he'd been getting increasingly paranoid, increasingly separated and quiet. Did he know what he was doing? Did he well and truly know what was happening?
She didn't know, but part of her hoped he didn't. Waking up one morning and realizing you were a monster can't have been nice. She almost pitied him. Almost.
Questions like these ran circles within her head, running around her in a dome, following her and chasing her around, until she heard something outside. She froze right there, paralysed with sheer terror, trembling in fear and confusion. Outside, something heavy shifted the gravel on the driveway. Something ran a long, curved claw along the paintwork of the car. It didn't work. None of the cars did. They just sat there, with no real purpose, rusting away slowly.
The footsteps stopped at the door, the long claws clicking on the flagstones right outside it. Then, something knocked. She almost smiled. At least it had manners. With a reluctance, she slipped from her bed, still fully clothed, picking up the large cricket bat in her long-fingered, slender hands.
Within seconds, a loud splintering noise reached her ears. She winced as she heard her front door slowly being reduced to kindling. After little more than a minute, everything was silent once more. Beneath her feet she heard the snarling breath of the beast below her. She heard it sniff the air before it began to move again. Its claws clicked along the bare wood of her stairs. Every single passing moment was excruciating, every little sound that was made by the creature below seemed magnified tenfold, echoing in her home, leaping from wall to wall.
She let out a shaky breath, suddenly aware of how terrified she was. Adjusting her grip slightly, she moved toward the wall beside her door, leaning against it, and poising to attack. She probably wouldn't be able to do anything, but she could try, at least. There was no point running. There was no way of escaping anything. A silent tear fell from her watering eyes, as the shock of it all started to hit her body, but not yet her mind. The sound of the creature's rasping breath could be heard as it padded down the hallway outside, pausing occasionally, before it came to a halt, right outside the door. It stayed there for a while, not making a single noise. She took in another, ragged breath, putting one hand to her mouth. She felt as though her very breathing was making to much noise. To her sensitive ears, she felt like her breath was the only thing the creature could hear. The dull thud of her heart in her chest and the pounding of blood in her ears was the only thing to remind her that she was, in fact still alive.
She slipped back into total awareness as the werewolf scraped a single claw against the door. She imagined the paint curling as it was torn from the wood. There was no doubt that it was merely testing, checking to see if the door really was made of mere wood. After a few more moments silence, it started working on this door. It gave way even faster than before, and she had to scramble out of the way to avoid being impaled with inch-long splinters.
At first she couldn't see it. It was shrouded in the shadows, as they blanketed it in a dark cloak almost matching its fur. She readied her bat, preparing to swing as soon as the werewolf started moving toward her. And it didn't take long.
She didn't have much time to react. The wolf leaped for her without so much as a snarl. It hurtled toward her, paws outstretched, teeth bared, ready to bite. It probably didn't expect the blow that hit it square on the muzzle. A surprised whimper emerged from the creature as it veered off course, instead crashing into the bed, shaking its head as it regained its bearings.
She took a deep breath, glancing at the bat. Even without a second swing, she could tell it wasn't going to take the force she needed to give it to hit the werewolf. Although, what use would hitting it do? The most she would achieve would be to knock it out. That wouldn't be for long, and it wouldn't be a permanent solution either. In fact, there was no permanent solution. This was how the game was meant to be played and they'd learned the hard way that they didn't want them to cheat. She braced herself as the werewolf stood up again, saliva dripping from its draws, eyes flashing with anger. It still felt good to hit the darned creature in the face. Even if it was all for nothing.
Everyone in the room was silent, watching the scene take place with attentive curiosity. Some had their heads turned, others cringing as they watched the young woman being murdered by the beast. Well, in fairness the murder had happened a few minutes ago. Now it was merely mauling her dead body, lapping at her blood as it dripped from her corpse. After a while, a man stood up. He looked over at his team, waving a hand to someone at a computer. The footage was quickly cut, and everyone turned to him.
“Thoughts?” Was all he said, striding toward the centre of the screen. A quite murmur spread through the gathered, as thoughts were discussed.
Someone's hand rose. “From what we've observed...” They stared, after the man nodded toward them. “This creature... the 'werewolf' cannot control its actions. It shows no hesitation as it kills its victims, and perhaps views them as nothing more than... for want of a better world... 'toys'.”
Another piped up in retaliation. “What evidence? It could have just resigned to the fact that it was now a monster, and just gone with it? Or it could have begun to enjoy it?”
“Last time I checked, our subjects weren't sadistic in any way.”
“And when was this? When they were first admitted? Minds change after that long being imprisoned.”
The man up front sighed, holding his hand up for silence. It came in only a few moments. The pair who had begun arguing avoided his gaze. “Anything else?”
“It looked like it was in pain when it transformed.” Someone muttered, from somewhere near the back of the room.
He nodded in agreement, stroking his chin in thought. Again, silence fell as they all pondered his thoughts. “To be expected when your bones, skin, muscle and organs are being warped in such a short space of time. Like growing pains experienced by younger children.” He looked down on them, his arms now crossed at his chest. Everyone turned their attention back to him. “A second test has been ordered. Begin choosing those for the next experiment, and commence the termination of the surviving beast.” He started walking down from where he stood, pausing at the steps. “I want the body in tact with as little damage as possible. The Science Division want to analyse it.” With that, he continued on his way and left the room.
Behind him, an organised chaos was left, as everyone within got to work, tapping away at keyboards, scanning through large record books, searching databases for the next twenty subjects.
Near the back of the room, a quiet conversation had begun between two of the gathered. “What do you think of this one?” One of them said- a dark-haired woman.
The other leaned over, scanning her screen. “Eh, depends on what mood we want in the village.” He shrugged, returning his focus to his screen. A few seconds later he pulled up another profile, and scanned through it. “What about her? They'll probably need a calm one, right?” The woman was silent for a few moments. “Nolene?”
“Hm?” She looked up, peering at his screen, squinting to get a better look. “Maybe. Put her on your pending list, see if anyone else agrees.”
He complied, opening up a quick document and pasting the name 'Adeline Marsden' onto it.
“Onwards to finding more, maybe not quite so willing, subjects!” Nolene said, with a singing, almost cheerful, quality to her voice.
Adeline sat up, stretching. A long yawn escaped her lips. She put a hand up, trying to suppress it. A head appeared from below, eyes glinting as it grinned. “What do you want, Christina?” Adeline muttered, swinging her legs around to dangle down off her bunk. She looked at the other woman, eye to eye.
“You yawned.” Christina stated, her smile not fading.
Shrugging, Adeline slid off the bed, landing with a soft 'thud' as her bare feet hit the cool stone floor. “What of it? I can yawn, can't I?”
“Oh I don't know about that...” She said mysteriously, putting one hand to her chin as she pondered a suitable punishment.
Adeline sighed. “Stop being weird, will you? I want my breakfast, and it's better if it's not contaminated by you being... strange.” She made a gesture toward Christina, as she changed from her sleeping overalls to her everyday overalls.
When she looked back, Christina had already retreated back into the grey blankets of her bed. “Pfft, suit yourself.” Came the muffled reply, as she went back in to hibernation mode.
“This is what I mean by being weird. One moment you're up, all... happy and stuff... and the next you're back in bed trying to go back to sleep.” Adeline walked toward the door, first slipping her feet into the shoes to the left, before putting a hand on the handle, holding down the latch with her thumb as she pulled it open. Christina didn't reply, instead burrowing further down into her bedding. Another sigh reached Adeline, as she slipped through into the corridor. The door shut behind her with little more than a click, as the latch feel back into place. She ran a hand through her hair, glancing down the corridor at the countless other doors. A few people, wearing the exact same clothing as her, idled around outside rooms, chatting about meaningless things. After a few moments of glancing around, she set off to the right, heading for the dining hall.
It wasn't all that bad here. Sure, they'd been taken away from their homes and all, but... they all had room-mates, they could mingle with the other 'prisoners, and various activities were held throughout the days to keep them occupied. The only mildly troubling thing was how each week at least five of them disappeared without a trace. Most of these people had been room-mates, and those left did not have a clue where they had gone. Adeline imagined the facility was similar to a prison, with its high, barred fences, bland uniform and uncomfortable bunk beds. A few ex-inmates had said it was better than a prison, though. Or at least, the food was.
Life in the Facility was fairly standard. Every day the canteen would be open, providing food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It stayed open for most of the day, shutting only from ten at night until six in the morning for a quick clean and a switch of staff. When the inhabitants were not eating, sleeping or chatting to one another, there was a variety of events, activities and jobs to be done. Small hobbies were entertained by groups of them getting together, while the staff provided basic materials needed for the task they wanted to complete.
For example, a small group of painters had gathered. Paint, paper, pencils and pens had been distributed between them, and they often gathered in one of the many courtyards to draw. Another group, those interested in martial arts such as Karate had been given a large room with mats, so they could spar against each other. Adeline herself joined in with a group of people who liked to run, trying as hard as they could to beat each other in races, to run longer than others, and such things.
All in all, life at the facility sometimes got boring, in Adeline's opinion at least.
She walked into the canteen, grabbing a tray from the pile and heading over to find herself some breakfast. Today was Friday, according to the Calendar. Adeline didn't care for the date, though. After little more than a month, things like time started to become irrelevant, those living in the Facility quickly became bored of keeping track of such things. With nothing like work, school, or even life in general to look forward to and dread, time had no place in their lives.
Adeline sat down at a table near one of the windows, picking at her bland cereal with her spoon, head resting in one hand as she stared at it. She wasn't particularly hungry.
The screech of a chair along the floor was what brought Adeline from her daze. She looked up, surprised to see a few people, dressed in work clothes, walking toward her. A quick glance behind confirmed that it was indeed her that they were walking toward. Across the other side of the room, another person had been approached, and was slowly standing up, abandoning their half-eaten breakfast. Adeline suppressed her fear, sitting up straight as two of the people came up to her table.
“Adeline Marsden, Subject 4792?” Was all one man said, looking down at a clipboard, before looking back to her.
She didn't know about the Subject part, but she was most certainly Adeline Marsden. “Yes?” She answered, standing up as she did so.
The second person- a woman- motioned behind her. “Would you please come with us?”
Adeline obliged, shuffling along behind as they turned and headed back toward where they had come. She could feel everyone staring at her as she walked across the room, and couldn't help but wish she was smaller. Who were these people? She had never seen anyone other than the grey-uniformed inhabitants of the facility. Even the cooks were people who lived and slept in it, volunteering to cook for a while.
They took a winding path through the facility, turning this way and that, passing doors to rooms Adeline had never seen. They went up a few staircases, then went down a few, until they came to a halt. As they had walked, more people had joined their small group, each with at least one grey-uniformed person. By the time they reached their destination, Adeline could count at least nineteen others. She could see Christina among them.
It was cold in this corridor, and the only door was the one in front of them. The way they came was now dark. Adeline shivered, rubbing her arms. After a few moments of silence, the doors in front of them opened, and the group filed in. She was shown to a chair by the man who had spoken first, before he left the room through another door on the opposite side.
When all of the greys had been seated, the doors closed on both sides. All of the other people had left, leaving behind them an awkward silence.
The light above their heads flickered as the doors opened again, and a woman stepped in, holding a bunch of papers. Her heels clicked as she walked across the stone floor, stopping as she reached the edge of the circle. She smiled at them all, yet her eyes were devoid of any hints of a smile. Adeline watched her carefully, finding herself sitting straighter in her chair.
After a few moments spent just looking around at them all, she spoke. “Greetings, Subjects 4783 through 4803. Consider this your briefing.”