The Biggest Freak in Duskwood

On the night of her eighteenth birthday, Diana Velasquez falls victim to an attack that leaves her horribly scarred and an outcast. Worse still, nobody believes the truth about what happened.

The thing that destroyed her life was no ordinary animal.

During the next five months, the threat in the forest grows worse and worse. Diana has decided she’s had enough of being a victim- she’s going to use her twelve years of boxing training, and her family’s wealth of ornamental weapons, to show these creatures they messed with the wrong schoolgirl. She’s going to be a hero.

Then, she realises there’s far more to the monsters of Duskwood Forest than she thought. Their secret is both a strength and a weakness, but it can’t be beaten by brute strength alone. The more entangled in her tormentors’ lives she becomes, the more Diana starts to doubt she’s doing the right thing. She thought she’d do anything to keep her family safe, but how far is too far?


Author's note

Yo! This is something I wrote under the proverbial radar. Please note it contains graphic bloody violence, as is to be expected of me. Happy reading!

9. The Eyepatch

HARRY SPENDS A couple of minutes walking in circles and whining, just like the beast. I feel my heart thudding in my chest as I try to work out what the hell he’s doing- is he dazed? Or is he looking for something? I’m not supposed to be thinking this clearly, but I’m so shocked I’m calm. The missing chunk from my shoulder is burning, and throbbing ten times worse than the knife wound- I want to throw up, but I have to hold it in. My arms and legs are peppered with scratches, but they’re not much compared with Harry’s wounds- he’s been stabbed in the side and the face and the neck. Good. I can’t help feeling a tiny stab of smugness as I watch him fuss over his wounds, even though he must think he’s alone. What the hell does he think he’s doing? These… these wolves in the forest- these mutant beasts that killed Poppy, that I’ve been hunting for nearly two months- are people. They’re… are they werewolves? Stupidly, I look up, trying to see if the moon’s full. I can’t see it, but yeah. I guess so.

Among everything else, my mission’s become ten times harder. He’s one of the wolves. To get rid of the beast, I’ve got no choice but to kill him. I could kill him now, whilst he’s wounded and naked and utterly vulnerable. There’s a knife in my hand before I know it, and I’m struggling up on my shredded legs, ready to walk back into the clearing. It’ll be easy.

Physically speaking.

No. I duck down again as the boy turns towards me- he doesn’t see me, thank God. I can’t kill him. Not here. Not now. I crouch lower in the undergrowth, wincing as I strain my shoulder again. If he sees me, what’s he going to do?

“Hey!” Harry suddenly shouts, making me jump.


“Hey, where ARE you?” The hole in his cheek slurs his words and makes him wince in pain after every word. I feel a tiny pang of sorrow for him that’s quickly snuffed out when he shouts again. Come ON!”

I bite my fist. Oh, God- is he talking to me? Does he know where his injuries came from? Does he remember fighting me? That’s when I spot the flash of silver at his feet, underneath another tangle of bushes. My sword.

I watch him pick it up. He runs his finger down the patch of blood on the blade, then whimpers in shock and drops it, taking a step back. He huddles his arms to his chest, and I don’t blame him- it’s freezing out here. The wind’s blowing through the rips in my clothes.

“H… Hey!” Harry shouts.

I don’t reply.

“Hey! Where are you, Salem?”

I blink. Salem? So he’s not talking to me.

SALEM!” Harry bellows. “Come OUT, you fucking wanker!”

In the silence that follows, I hear something in the distance, carried on the wind- a tiny, shrill yell. Harry hears it too, and shouts again.

“I’m over HERE! Come on, you promised!”

You promised? What the hell’s he on about? I hear the distant shout again; it’s louder this time, but I still can’t hear what he’s saying. Harry does, though.

“Over HERE!”

I blink back tears as my shoulder throbs again. His shouting’s not helping, and neither’s this feeling of utter bewilderment I can’t struggle away from. What is going on?

“Over HERE!”

“Shut up,” I mutter under my breath, cutting myself off as a voice floats up from beyond the trees.

“Alright, mate. I- I found you.”

“Good! I’m FREEZING!”

“Alright. You don’t have to shout.”

Someone else walks into the clearing- another boy, also bare-arse naked. I suppose this is Salem- the Arabic boy from the gang. The one who was sitting next to Harry the night I first met them. Salem’s not covered in blood, nor does he look injured at all- he’s looking down at the ground, trying his best to cover himself. He looks frightened. Only then, as I see the two of them standing there together, am I struck by a freezing bolt of sick fear as I finally realise what this must mean. Salem’s a werewolf too. And it’s not just them. Is it?

“Jesus and Mary, what happened to you?” Salem say, looking Harry up and down.

“What do you mean?”

“Your- your face-”

“Yeah, yeah, I know, my face. I must’ve run into a branch or something. Is it- is it bad?”

“Uh, yeah. Are you sure it was a- a branch?

“Well, yeah. How else would I’ve got hurt? Hey, look. I found a sword.”

Salem blinks down at the ground, at my sword. He looks back up at Harry.


I resist the urge to bury my head in my hands, floored and relieved by their stupidity. Harry turns back to Salem.

“Am I still bleeding?” He asks.

“Harry, your entire face’s covered in blood. Your side’s a mess. Are you sure-”

“Yeah-” Harry quickly lifts a hand to wipe more blood off his face. “Yeah- I’m aware of that, dipshit.”

“Harry, I don’t think-”

“God, shut UP! Let’s get OUT of here already!”

Salem winces. “Please stop shouting.”

“Why shouldn’t I shout? It’s bloody FREEZING!”

“So you keep saying. Look, where’d you leave your clothes?”

Harry stares at Salem with narrowed eyes.

“You…” He stutters. “You what?”

“Your…” Salem’s clearly disarmed by Harry’s injuries, too scared to bring them up again. “Your clothes, Harry. Where’d you leave them?”

Harry blinks. “Uh…”

“You forgot to bring them.” He says. “Didn’t you?”

“Uh… I mean, maybe. I’ll just go back to the meeting spot and find my old ones.”

“Harry, you tore them.”


“You tore them. When you… when you changed.”

“Maybe they’ll be alright.”

“Seriously? No way.”

“Well, fine, whatever! Milo’ll be pissed, but you know what? Whatever. Where’d you leave yours?”

Salem sighs. “Under a log next to the meeting spot.”

“Can I have your shirt?”

Blinking, Salem looks up at Harry. There’s a look of disbelief on his face that I struggle not to find amusing, even though I’m biting back every urge to jump out of my hiding-spot and kill them where they stand.

Salem licks his lips. “No.”

Suddenly, I start and bite down on my tongue as a twig cracks behind me. I scramble up, realising someone else is coming, and skirt the clearing till I find another bush. Harry and Salem are too busy bickering to notice.

Milo walks into the clearing. His brown emo fringe is pushed back and peppered with twigs. He’s already dressed, and carrying a crumpled pile of clothes in his arms. Harry and Salem are now shouting at each other, still fighting over who gets which item of Salem’s clothing, and they don’t notice he’s arrived. Hatred bristles in my gut as I watch Milo standing there, arms folded, tapping his fingers as he waits for the two boys to acknowledge him. When they still don’t, he picks a denim jacket from the top of his pile of clothes and overarm-throws it as hard as he can into the back of Salem’s head. Salem stiffens, and they both turn.

“Oh!” Salem says. “There- there you are.”

“Yeah. Here I am.” Milo drawls, throwing the rest of the clothes onto the muddy ground. “Now get dressed quickly. What’d I tell you?”

“Yeah.” Harry nervously sticks his hand up, sarcasm pricking his voice. “Yeah. I actually forgot to bring clothes.”

“You…” Milo stares at Harry in horror, and I clench my fist, wishing I had the willpower to get up and take them all on now my shock’s fading away. “You forgot?”


“To bring clothes.”


“Even though I told you you’d rip out of your clothes when you turned into a nine-foot wolf at the full moon? Several times?”

“Yeah.” Harry scuffs his foot against the leaves, still clinging to his arms to protect himself from the cold. “I must’ve been in the bathroom when you went over that part.”

“Jesus Christ, fine. I guess you’re climbing your drainpipe naked, fucking idiot. At least you did something with it, Harry. Impressive for a first-time change, actually.”

“I, uh…” Harry stares at Milo as he surveys his injuries. “Oh! Yeah. Yes, I think I, uh-”

“See what I mean now?” Milo says. “Not remembering is part of the fun.”

Harry nods, the grin on his face strained.

“So what’d you think? Pretty fucking fun, right?”

“That’s his blood.” A now fully-dressed Salem points out. Milo turns to him, then back to Harry, looking him up and down.

“Oh.” Milo widens his eyes and looks closer. “So it is. Jesus Christ, what the fuck happened to you, Harry? You run into a fucking bear-trap? Is that-”

“They left their sword.” Salem interrupts again, as Harry glares at him. Salem points to my sword on the ground and Milo looks down at it, then stoops to pick it up. I bite my tongue harder to stop myself from standing up.

“Ooh, someone’s going old-school on us,” Milo says with a nasty laugh. “How the hell’d he find us? Lucky he found Harry and not me- I’d’ve ripped him to shreds. And I will when I find him, too.”

“Go on, then!” A woman’s voice suddenly yells from right behind me. I jump, and then, something slams into the back of my head and sends me flying. I tumble headfirst out of the bush and land on my face.

I spring up and turn to see Nancy, her black hair tousled, her face smeared with blood that isn’t hers, grinning viciously down at me. She’s about to hit me when I grab her by the throat and drive my fist square into her face. She staggers back a step or two, blood spewing from her nose.

“Nasty… bitch,” she splutters, a slight smile on her face. Then, someone grabs me, digging their fingertips into the gouges in my shoulder till I scream and lose control of my legs, and throws me into the middle of the clearing.

“I knew it was you, Diana,” Milo says. “Nice sword. Mind if I keep it?”

He turns my sword over, then whips the flat of the blade down onto the back of my neck. I yell. He laughs softly and drives a kick into my ribs. This time, I stay silent, but I’m choking back vomit as I struggle to yank his foot off my back.

“If…” I choke. “If- if- if you kn-knew it was me, then- why’d-”

“What? Speak up, bitch. I can’t hear you!”

“If you KNEW it was me, Milo, then why the fuck’d you refer to me as HE?”

Nancy giggles. Milo removes his boot from me and I try to struggle to my feet, but I’m hurt too badly and my arms give out, pain stabbing into me till I can barely lift my face off the mud. I hate myself- God, I hate myself. Am I going to let them kill me, like this, like I’m the animal? I want to kill them all. All this time, I’d been worrying about them, trying to warn them they weren’t safe in the woods, when all along, it was them. In my head, I leap to my feet, spit blood in Milo’s face, then snatch my sword back and cut him clean in half. I’m a hero, and I’m not going to die. I won’t go down like this. I won’t.

“I’d say something along the lines of ‘Get up, you coward’,” Milo says, laughing. “But I don’t want you to get up, and you’ve seen too much, so I think I’m just going to kill you now.”

He swings the sword, and I grit my teeth and fling myself sideways, right onto my ruined shoulder. It hurts like a bitch, but I don’t care. I stand up, my head going light- I almost fall, but I steady myself. I drop to my knees so his swing at my head misses. I pull another knife out of my pocket. I kick him in the chest, as hard as I can, and point it at his throat. Then, Nancy slaps the knife out of my hand, punches me in the face, and kicks me hard in the stomach to send me down. She’s a better fighter than Milo. My head hits a tree and I gasp, wanting to let myself pass out. No. I’m not going down like this. Or at all, if I can help it. My hand scrabbles in my pocket for another knife. I see Nancy coming for me, so I struggle to my feet and drive my knee up between her legs, then grab her by the hair, pull her against me, and hold the knife up under her throat. She spits at my hand and struggles, screaming a lot of words like “Bitch!” and “Whore!” but I hold her fast. My strength is leaking back, bit by bit. I’m not letting her get away. Milo runs up to me, but stops short as I growl and tighten my grip on Nancy’s throat.

“One… more… step, Milo.” I say. “And I’ll cut her Goddamn head off and stick it on a pole out my bedroom window. You get me?”

Milo pauses. His eyes widen as he looks at Nancy, and when I see the terrified concern on his face, I falter. I force my arms to stay tight. I won’t kill her. I’m not sure what I’m waiting for- I can’t outrun this lot in my state. The fever’s trying to drag me under, and I can’t hold it off for long. The moment I collapse, they’ll kill me.

“I just want you to… let me go…” I say. “Let me… let me go. Please.”

Milo snarls through his teeth. “You think we’re idiots? You’ll try something.”

“No. No, I won’t; I won’t, I swear. Just… please, please. Let me go. I want to go home.”

“Like fuck we’ll let you go; you’ll run straight to the police again- ah!” Nancy says as I press the blade up under her chin.

“Yeah,” Milo says. “You’ll run to the police again.”

“I won’t.” I say. Milo gives me a look, and I widen my eyes. “I won’t! I swear! I’ve already tried- they don’t believe me, do they? I mean, who would? I won’t tell. I swear. I’ll stay quiet. Look, look. Look. I know I’m- I’m like this now. I know it. I know it. But I’m… so… shocked.” I grit my teeth and lie. “I won’t believe any of it in the morning.”

“Just kill her, Milo.” Nancy growls. She digs her fingernails into my arms and the hatred boiling inside my head nearly makes me cut her throat, but I don’t. I need to buy my way out so I can recover and come back, but I’m so angry now- so, so angry- I can’t stop the wrong words from coming out of my mouth.

“Which one…” I say. “So which one of you killed Poppy?”

Milo looks at me, then curls his lips up. “What?”

“Which… one…” I growl. “Milo! Look at me! Which one of you killed Poppy?”

In my grip, I hear Nancy giggling. Then, Milo starts to laugh too. Harry and Salem look at each other, then back at us- they’re not getting involved, but I see them start to laugh too. Suddenly, I barely care about dying.

SHUT UP, BASTARDS!” I scream, tears falling down my cheeks as Poppy flashes through my head again. “Shut UP, or I swear to Christ I’ll cut you all into ribbons! STOP it! STOP LAUGHING AT HER!”

Nancy suddenly chokes, and I freeze as my arm gets wet. I look down to see fresh blood dripping onto the ground- not mine. Oh God. Before I know what I’m doing, I drop Nancy and take a step back. She crumples to the ground, but gets up- Milo runs to help her, but she slaps him away.

“Coward.” She mutters to him. He says nothing.

Milo’s still holding my sword. I ready myself to be cut down, but he stays still. I’m backed against a tree. I’ve got nowhere to run.

“Which one…” I say. “Which one? Which one of you killed her?”

Milo grins. “And fucked up your face?”

“I don’t-” I bite my lip. I’m still crying. “I don’t care about my face! I…”

“You should care, Diana. You’re fucking disgusting,” Milo says. “That face shouldn’t be out in public. That face is the face of someone who hides.  You look like you should be six feet under the ground. Whichever one of us did in your girlfriend, they were doing her a favour. She was the lucky one.”

I try to snarl, but sickness turns it into a whimper. “How…” I murmur. “Dare… you…”

I stare him down, daring him with my eyes to come and finish me off. I can tell Nancy wants to, but she’s not moving either- she’s waiting for him to do it.

“Which one?” I say softly.

Milo steps forwards, and I hold up my knife, my nerves racing, but he doesn’t raise the sword. He’s not grinning any more.

“Don’t you get it?” He murmurs. “We don’t remember. We don’t know what it is we do when we change. It’s more fun that way; it’s why we do it, get it? Any one of us could’ve killed your girl.”

He grabs me by the front of my shirt and pushes me back into the middle of the clearing. I try not to stumble and fall; I’m so, so exhausted. When I force my eyes to look upwards again, they’re all encircling me- Milo, Nancy, Salem, and even Harry, who’s still completely naked and covered in blood. My trembling hand reaches into my pocket and pulls out another knife; I hold it up, trying to stay strong. Trying. Trying. And failing.

“Where-” I say. realising the truth about what’s going on. “Where’s Gretchen? And- and that other guy?”

That other guy,” Nancy says with a sniff of a laugh. “You mean-”

“Where ARE they?” I spit. “I KNOW they’re- they’re wolves too.”

I remember the smaller, pale creature I saw poring over the carcass of the dead deer, and I realise who it was.

“I saw him. The- the guy. Whatever his name is.”

Milo swings my sword, thinking I miss the moment he almost drops it.

“You know something about being a werewolf?” He says. “The times of transformation aren’t all the same. You know- skinnier people- they take less time to change, and longer to change back.”

“Really?” I spit, getting right up in his face. “By that logic, you must’ve changed at lunchtime.”

“It means,” he growls. “Gretchen’s still busy changing back. And-”

What about me?” someone shouts from the other side of the clearing. I turn, and Gretchen freezes when she sees me.

“Di- Diana?” she stutters. She looks at Milo.

“Yeah, we caught this stupid bitch trying to kill Harry with a SWORD!” Milo yells at Gretchen. “Mind telling me how she found us?”

I look at him, seeing the anger in his eyes. “It wasn’t her.” I say.

“It wasn’t me!” Gretchen says. “I don’t even talk to her. I don’t even like her- she hasn’t been at school for the last few weeks! She was in the hospital. She was too busy…”

Gretchen trails off and her eyes widen as I glare at her.

Oh, my God.

As she walks closer, I see there’s something wrong with one of her eyes. It’s milky and glazed over, and her eye-socket’s full of shiny white scar tissue. She’d told me she had to wear an eyepatch because she’d fallen off an exercise bike. Bullshit.

She’s the red-haired beast that put me in the hospital last month. The one whose eye I destroyed with my torch.

“I was too busy healing from the injuries you gave me,” I spit at her.

She widens her eyes, then nods. There are tears in her eyes.

“Oh, God,” she says softly. “Di, I-”

Why?” I say to her. “Among everything- God, WHY?”

Milo walks forwards. Gretchen stops him, her eyes tight shut, her arm stretched out. “Please.” She says. “Please, please, no. Not her. Don’t- don’t kill her. Not- not yet.”

Milo slaps her, hard. She staggers back and curls up, holding her face. I think about helping her, but I can’t bring myself to do it.

“Thanks for nothing, Gretch.” I say. My legs feel weak, and I realise I’ll barely make it back home at all this time. My vision keeps pulsing black. I see an opportunity- as Milo walks towards us, the circle opens up. This might be my last chance. I can’t kill them.

So without my sword and without my dignity, I exhale, turn and run. They scream after me, but I don’t care. I’ll be back. I swear I will. Then, I hear crunching footsteps on the leaves behind me, and Milo shouting at me. I realise he’s chasing me. I’m dead if I stop running. So I keep going, my shoulder burning and my legs screaming and every scrap of faintness and sickness pulsing behind my eyes. I can’t breathe. I’m fast, though, even in this state. Faster than that skinny bastard.

He stops running.

“You forgot your SWORD!” Milo screams, and I hear the solid CLATTER of him smacking the sword into a tree. “GOOD! Coz if I ever hear a fucking THING you’ve said-” he’s growing quieter. “If you ever come NEAR us again, I’ll KILL you! And your entire family too! Your Mum, your Dad… I’LL KILL THEM ALL! AND YOUR DISHRAG FUCKING BROTHER! That’s a PROMISE, FREAK!”

I don’t want to stop and wonder how he knows about Louis. Probably Gretchen. But God, I believe him. So I don’t stop running.

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