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31 August 2016 @ 03:20 pm
But the Horror of the Shade: Chapter Five  

Chapter Five

Nina was very nervous about this, but she really needed more help than she could give Tom by herself. She just couldn’t control what was going to happen and she couldn’t afford to ignore helping him.

His fever had broken the night before, true, but he was still clearly ill. She needed to get access to some better medical equipment. Once she’d revealed that news to the others, they’d had a planning session and decided that Annie could rent-a-ghost Nina and Tom into the hospital, thus, hopefully, circumventing any vampire interference and keeping protection for Eve at the house.

As far as Nina knew Annie was the only ghost who could transport someone who was alive with her when she teleported from place to place. Maybe all ghosts could do it but all ghosts hadn’t broken into the afterlife and taken down the king of purgatory. Annie was extremely powerful and most of the time she simply acted like a fun aunt. Whenever they’d talked about it before, Annie usually said that she’d rather be a fun aunt than a miserable tyrant. Nina could respect that and be grateful for it.

“Be careful, yeah?” Mitchell said, rubbing his hands nervously on his denims.

“Extremely careful,” said George, kissing Nina.

“Don’t forget to be careful yourselves, boys,” Annie said.

Annie placed one hand on Nina and the other on a supine Tom and before Nina could blink, she’d passed through some kind of gray mist and appeared in the MRI room at her hospital. She hopped into action immediately, attempting to make the most of the time when everyone else locked up and went to lunch. Her credentials would have to be logged into the machines but she’d deal with that later.

Annie skipped back and forth slightly.

“Be still, please,” said Nina. “I have a feeling your presence might muck up my results.”

“Sorry,” said Annie. “Just a bit excited is all. I’ve never seen the inside of one of these things before.”

“It’s okay,” said Nina, positioning Tom where she wanted him.

It was a long and slow process and finally she was done, but it felt like much longer than it had really been. Annie had popped back home twice and said the boys and Eve were fine, but Nina still didn’t like not knowing what was happening.

They were waiting for the results when Tom suddenly lurched up and hit his head on the tube.

“Out,” he screamed, “let me out!” and beat his hands on the sides.

Nina hastily pushed the button and ran into the other room. Tom had been unconscious for so long she hadn’t bothered trying to alert him to what she was planning. He was thrashing and she tried to avoid his limbs while she calmed him down.

“It’s okay,” she said. “Tom, you’re with friends; it’s okay.”

“Tom, you’re fine,” said Annie. “We’re helping.”

Tom didn’t listen to either of them and with alarm Nina saw that he was falling to the floor, his back arching like her own did when she was transforming. There was the cracking sound of breaking bones and Tom kept screaming.

Nina backed off, there was nothing she could do now and this room was as secure as she could make it for the moment.

“Annie, let’s go,” she said, running into the monitor room and slamming and locking the door.

Annie went with her and they watched Tom transform in silence while Nina tried to figure out what to do. The machine spit out her results next to her and she picked it up, skimming it while keeping one eye on Tom. She powered down the machines automatically, erasing her hours long work.

“Why is this happening now?” Annie asked, though it was obvious she didn’t really want an answer.

“Have you ever transported a werewolf before?” asked Nina, who didn’t have an answer anyway.

They’d never had cause to try as far as Nina knew.

“Nope,” said Annie.

“Care to try?” asked Nina.

“Oh, I just knew you were going to say that,” said Annie.

The wolf Tom was slumped on the floor and he suddenly leapt up, snarling. Nina couldn’t help but flinch and wait for the destruction of valuable medical equipment.

He leapt at the wall several times before finding his way to the door.

The wolf started pawing at the door, growling. Nina waved, trying to get his attention.

Tom saw her and flashed his fangs but then he shook his head before he came and sat down next to the window, as if he was waiting for her.

“Is he…?” asked Nina.

“Is that actually Tom?” asked Annie at the same time.

“Tom?” called Nina softly, remembering to press the microphone.

Tom’s ears lifted and he howled, and then began pacing, his nails digging into the floor.

“He’s really there…” said Annie in awe.

“Tom, can we come in there?” asked Nina.

“Nina, don’t,” said Annie.

“Just get me out if there’s a problem,” Nina said, certain she was about to do the stupidest thing she’d ever done in her life.

Annie nodded and Nina slowly unlocked the door and entered the room. Tom growled at her and she stopped. She advanced again after a moment, holding her hand out. Tom didn’t move and she went closer. Finally, she was close enough to let him sniff her hand and he made a whining sound and then licked her palm. Nina let out a breath and smiled at Annie who looked amazed. Tom then howled and banged his head against the wall and Nina could hear the sounds of other people outside beginning to wonder what was happening. She stuffed the results she was still holding in her pocket.

“I’m getting us out of here,” said Annie, popping up next to Nina and putting her hand on her shoulder and then stretching out to Tom.

Tom snapped at Annie’s fingers but while Nina was still processing the information, she discovered she was standing just outside the basement while Tom was inside the cage and Annie was standing in the middle of the bars.

“Uh, that’s new, isn’t it?” asked Nina.

“Not really,” said Annie, smiling. “I have a whole bag of tricks.”

“Glad you made it to the party,” said Nina.

There was the sound of rushing feet on the stairs and Nina’s heart stopped before she realized it was George and Mitchell, Mitchell carting Eve on his back.

“What the bloody hell is going on?” asked George as they stared at the wolf Tom now howling and smashing against the walls, acting much more like a normal wolf transformation.

“We’ve got a bit of an answer,” said Nina.

“Tom’s a wolf,” said Annie.

“Oh, hell,” said Mitchell.


“What’s going on?” repeated George, still not sure he could believe his eyes. Tom as a wolf was doing his utmost best to get out of his cage and there was no full moon outside and George himself was human as was Nina and, again, Tom was a wolf. “I knew it, I’ve finally gone mad,” George said, leaning against the wall and putting his hand to his head. “It was bound to happen sometime but I’d hoped for a few more sane years.”

Annie laughed and attempted to squeeze her tiny arms around George’s far above her shoulders. He didn’t know why she still kept trying to do that after all these years. It only worked when they were sitting down and even then she couldn’t quite get all the way around.

“We’re all seeing it, George. It was amazing. He just turned, right in the middle of Nina’s MRI. She got close to him and he licked her and everything. It was a bit weird, that bit. But then he got all snarl-y and I brought everyone back home. It was slightly hard actually, a challenge, if you will.” Annie brought her hands together gleefully. “So great a distance with two live people and one of them trying to bite my hands off, marvelous!”

“Ahh, Annie love,” said Mitchell, pulling Eve around so that he was carrying her instead of her trying her best to pull his windpipe out the back of his neck. George knew full well how that felt from his own experience playing piggyback. “Perhaps we’d better cap the wonders of ghostly travel and concentrate on the ‘very not under the influence of a full moon’ werewolf in our midst?”

“Oh, right,” said Annie. “Sorry, got all excited.”

“Congratulations, though,” said Mitchell.

“Thanks,” Annie said, beaming.

“Oh bother,” said George, ready to slam his head against the wall. “Can you two just focus!”

Eve popped her head round and looked at Tom curiously.

“He’s wolf,” she said solemnly.

“That’s right,” said Nina, going and taking Eve from Mitchell.

“You not,” said Eve and she stuck her thumb in her mouth. “Daddy not,” she said around her thumb.

“It’s okay, baby,” said Nina. “Let’s go upstairs and get some food.”

“We eat lunch,” said Eve.

“Then we’ll have a snack,” said Nina. She headed upstairs and mouthed to George to watch Tom. “What would you like?”

Her voice faded as she went up the stairs and George and Mitchell were left with a bouncing Annie, apparently still exhilarated from her recent rent-a-ghost experience.

“Tell us what happened from the beginning,” said Mitchell.

“Right,” said Annie, and proceeded to do so with a lot of unnecessary hand gestures, George thought. He was beginning to get quite the headache.

“So, Eve’s bite did all this,” said Mitchell. “Made it possible for him to change when there was no moon.”

“But he was almost cognizant,” said Annie. “I mean, George is pretty good nowadays with remembering afterwards what happened and Tom’s always had more memories than either George or Nina, but this, this was like he could control himself.”

“For a while,” said George. “Then he tried to kill you.”

“There was that,” said Annie, “but it was only his first time.”

“So there’s going to be more, of course, there is,” George answered his own question. “Why wouldn’t there be?”

“Just calm down, George,” said Mitchell. “You’re both so loony I can’t think.”

“I like that,” said Annie. “You’d better watch it, mister, or I’ll-I’ll, well, you won’t like it,” she sputtered out.

George rolled his eyes.

Tom had been spending this entire conversation heaving himself at the walls but all of a sudden he stopped and sat down on the floor, tongue lolling out, for all the world looking like a dog on holiday. Then he suddenly whined as if he was in pain and lay down. George watched, fascinated, as the body arched and the bones split and the wolf howled in pain until the scream became silent and then vocal again as a human scream.

George had never seen anyone else transform or return to human form as he’d always been too busy transforming himself. The barest glimpses of what he’d seen of Nina when they transformed together were always shrouded in a midst of agony. It was quite grotesque and yet George couldn’t tear his eyes away until what was left was a huddled, naked Tom on the floor.

Mitchell quickly grabbed the blanket and spare set of clothes that were always kept right outside the cage and tossed them inside, leaving the door unlocked.

“Should you unlock that?” George hissed. “What if he suddenly transforms again?”

“Then I’ll zap him back,” Annie said confidently.

George sighed, resigned, and then turned to his friends.

“Do I look like that?” George inquired.

“Sometimes worse,” said Annie quietly.

George nodded, his thoughts preoccupied, as Mitchell stepped closer to the cage.

“You all right, mate?” he called.

There was a silence before Tom answered, his voice hoarse.

“Middling, but I’ll be fine. Don’t feel sick no more.”

“I think your body’s finished doing whatever it was going to do,” said Mitchell. “Come on out when you’re dressed, we’ll be upstairs.”

“Okay,” said Tom.

Mitchell herded Annie and George up the stairs where they found Nina hovering, one eye being kept on Eve, happily eating on the counter.

“Did he change back?” asked Nina. “I could hear it.”

“He seems fine,” said Mitchell.

“I am fine,” said Tom sturdily, coming up behind them. “Just the usual aches.”

Nina instantly put her hand to his forehead and turned his head this way and that, looking in his eyes.

“No fever anyway,” she said. She grabbed his wrist and checked his pulse. “Pulse normal.”

“I feel fine,” said Tom.

“What happened?” asked Annie.

Tom shrugged.

“Don’t remember much after I felt sick. Was dreaming about running. Woke up in the tube thing and panicked. Suddenly I was getting to be a wolf and it hurt and I was gonna wait until I woke up again, but I heard your voice, Nina. Smelled you. Didn’t want to hurt you.”

“But you got savage again pretty quickly,” said Nina.

“Was hard,” Tom said. “Me wolf wanted out but I didn’t want it to. It’s strong.”

“I think you got back control again at the end,” said Annie encouragingly. “You stopped being wolf-y right before you transformed.”

“I could see you guys talking and hear it,” said Tom. “Wanted in, I guess.” He looked at his feet. “Do you know why I transformed?” he asked finally.

“I think you were scared and your body tried to protect itself,” said Nina.

“Your body’s ultimate protection is the wolf,” said Mitchell. “Eve’s bite must have allowed you to be able to access that without the moon. That’s…that’s-”

“Horrible,” said George, reeling. “Imagine going through it more than once a month, just willy nilly, whenever you got a bit emotional.”

“You’d be nothing but a wolf,” muttered Annie.

Nina and Mitchell both laughed and George tried not to feel indignant. Even Tom was giving a rare smile, which made him look less like a kicked puppy and more like a semi-happy puppy.

“Think about it,” said George, trying to be serious. “That’s dangerous. The only safety we have is that we know when it happens.”

“Maybe Tom can learn to control it,” said Annie.

“I think I can,” said Tom.

“Thinking isn’t good enough,” said George. “We can’t be sure. We’ve got enough to deal with as it is.”

“What’s done is done,” said Nina. “You can’t stop this, George, so stop trying to. We’ll deal with it as it comes.” Nina turned to Tom and George swallowed his next tirade. This really wasn’t the time, but that didn’t mean he didn’t have a humdinger of a reply. “Tom, I’m glad you’re feeling better.”

“Thanks,” said Tom.

“Now that you’re out of danger, but I’ll be watching you closely to make sure,” said Nina, “it appears we can concentrate on Eve. Mitchell, are you ready to study like your life depends on it?”

Mitchell turned a pained gaze to where Eve was eating and she waved at him, almost falling off her stool. Mitchell gave a half smile that made George want to cry and nodded.

“Then let’s get going,” said Annie, clapping. “Just send me out for books whenever you need it.”

That had been the plan, Mitchell knew where things were located, or at least vaguely, but none of them wanted to chance leaving. Annie was really their only option and was the only one who had any way of escaping a vampire should she get caught on the outside. Plus, she could go anywhere in the world. A handy little trick, if slightly creepy, in George’s opinion.

“I need you to get to Carl if you can,” said Mitchell, his face tight. “I don’t think he’s okay. He was running and I don’t know where he ended up or if he made it at all, so start with his last place and grab me anything they didn’t take.” He took a step forward and grabbed Annie’s face, kissing her deeply. “Be careful.”

George nodded shakily and grabbed Annie’s hand.

“Running is not cowardly,” he said. “Just go and come straight back.”

“Or else,” said Nina.

Tom nodded, apparently not feeling the need to reiterate the advice. George couldn’t blame him. It wasn’t like they weren’t being overly cautious anyway.

Annie kissed Mitchell back, squeezed George’s hand, gave Nina a salute and Tom a smile, and blew Eve a kiss before vanishing.

She was really quite scary if George ever stopped to think about it.

She hadn’t been gone long and they were all ensconced at the dining room table, now covered in a mountain of books. Nina had a laptop open on her lap and Mitchell sometimes dictated to her, while George squinted at old languages he’d fought hard to decipher their secrets.

Tom suddenly raised his head and sniffed loudly, every muscle tense.

“What is it?” asked Nina, immediately going to check on Eve, who was now coloring on the floor beside them.

“Somewhat’s wrong,” said Tom. “It smells bad.”

“What?” asked George before realizing he could smell something as well.

Mitchell stood and closed his eyes as if listening. When he opened them again he had his dangerous face on, at least that’s what George and Annie called it in private.

“Someone’s close,” he said.

“I smell ‘em,” said Tom.

George went cautiously to the window and peeked outside. It wasn’t dark yet, but there was a man standing at the front of their road, just watching the house. Nina poked her head up under his arm and looked out.

“I don’t recognize these ones,” she said.

Mitchell was busy looking out the back.

“Too bright for them to want to be here,” he said. “Those are their people. But they’re in the barn. Darker in there. They can watch at night, make sure we can’t leave.”

“Good we stocked up on groceries,” said Tom. “What about the animals?”

“Not a chance,” said Mitchell. “You go out there; you’re fodder or a hostage.”

“They need feeding,” said Tom stubbornly.

“Let it go, Tom,” said Nina. “There’s plenty of loose food to last them a bit and it’s too dangerous.”

Tom sighed, but nodded.

“Mummy,” said Eve.

George turned sharply, her tone making him instantly alert.

Eve was standing right behind them, her hand on the back of Nina’s leg, looking out the window.

“Are you okay, baby?” asked Nina, picking Eve up.

“Bad men,” she said more than asked and she buried her head in Nina’s shoulder.

George’s eyes met Nina’s over Eve’s head and his heart broke listening to Eve and seeing answering pain in Nina’s expression.

“Nothing to worry about, sweetheart,” said Nina.

“Stay inside,” said Eve. “Bad men.”

“Mummy will beat the bad men,” said George, kissing Eve’s head. “Daddy will, too.”

“Your uncles have a bit of fight in them,” said Mitchell, “and we’re nothing compared to your aunt.”

Eve gave a small laugh though George didn’t think she could fully understand what Mitchell was saying.

George rubbed his temple and tried to think. They were pretty much trapped in the house now and their only route to a quick escape wasn’t currently in the house. If it came to a fight they would be outnumbered.

“Tom, I think you might want to practice becoming a wolf on demand,” said Nina.

George didn’t know if he could agree with that, but Tom looked almost excited about it. At least that seemed to still make Mitchell uneasy.

At that moment Annie popped back into the room carrying a bag with her, but her expression was grim.

She went immediately to Mitchell and leaned into his body, her forehead against his.

“What?” he asked, with the look of a man who knew the bad news was coming.

“I’m so sorry, Mitchell,” said Annie. “Carl’s dead.”

“And they tortured him to get to me,” said Mitchell, his voice sounding as dead as his body was.

Annie didn’t say anything, but she didn’t have to. They all knew that was what had happened. George felt sorry for Mitchell, but he hadn’t really known Carl. All he knew was that the vampires were currently outside, waiting to take his daughter.