A Choice of Devils

Sharon’s note: This story was built around the first line. If the rest of the story sucks, that’s fine, but the first line is solid. 🙂 Warning: Swearing and a not nice protagonist.

“You are going to die here. Whether or not you walk away from that is up to you.” Annabel wiped the blood off her knife in short, angry strokes. She hated this. She hated doing this. She hated herself for doing it, but she didn’t have a choice. Maybe if she kept telling herself that, she’d believe it.

The man known as Drop spat blood on the floor next to where he sat. She had knocked out one of his teeth while interrogating him. “What the hell are you talking about? Dead is dead.”

Anna put down her tools and really looked at her captive. When she’d snatched him off the street, he’d been dressed nicely, black slacks and a silky red button down shirt that contrasted amazingly against his dark skin. Well, it had. Getting splattered hadn’t improved it, since red didn’t actually hide blood. There were also smudges of grime from the various times she’d thrown him around. Even though it was currently empty, it had been a storage room, and the smell of cooking oil lingered like a ghost. Some must have spilled, because it mixed with the cobwebs and dust to give the floor a light coating of slime.

She walked towards him, the heels of her cowboy boots clicking against the floor. He braced himself and lifted his chin in challenge. “Go ahead. Hit me again, bitch. I’m not telling you anything.”

“I knew that five minutes in, but I had to try.” She leaned down, studying him in the light of the single, bare bulb. “You’re tough, I hit you pretty hard. You’re also brave, and didn’t even flinch when I pulled out the blades. According to your file, you’re also smart.”

“Too bad you’re not.” He surged forward to headbut her, cracking his forehead into her nose. Stunned, he fell back on the floor, eyes unfocused. That had been a good shot. She rubbed a hand across her face. It hadn’t hurt, but it hadn’t been comfortable either. 

Time for a demonstration.

Anna snatched the front of his shirt, balled it in her fist, and lifted him into the air. Drop’s eyes focused and widened. She’s allowed him to see a little of her strength before, but now she hid nothing as she brought him close to her face and bared her fangs at him.

“Fucking cowgirl vampire!” he howled as he kicked at her. She chuckled as she dropped him. 

“Right on the first try.” She backed up a few steps and allowed him to scramble back to the wall. To his credit, he wasn’t just staring at her in terror, but his eyes were flicking around the room, looking for aid or escape. There was none. “Look, Bremen said that I was to kill you whether you give up where Sid is hiding. I have to do it. Bremen made me a vampire, so I don’t have a choice. I also can’t hurt him. What he didn’t tell me was that you had to stay dead. Here’s the deal; I turn you into a vampire, and you kill him for me. You get to live, for a value thereof, and I get my freedom.”

His look turned calculating. Anna’s guess had been right. He was quick. “And how bad does being a vampire suck?”

She considered the question a moment before shrugging and answering honestly. “It has its upsides. Strength, speed, and powers that I’ll teach you. You have to drink blood, but that’s not as hard to come by as you might think. You’ll develop a very bad sun allergy, but as I understand it you work mostly nights anyway.”

“What about you and me?” His eyes bored into her, and it was more uncomfortable than the headbutt. “You’d have the same control over me that Bremen has over you, right? What if you and I get crossways?”

She chuckled humorlessly. “Then you can do what I did, and wait a hundred a fifty years to find a loophole and do exactly what I’m doing now.”

Drop was silent for a full minute while he thought, then nodded. “You got a deal. How do we do this?”

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Good Boy Pt 9

Sharon’s Notes: Having someone you can talk to is important, even if you don’t expect them to answer you back. Always make sure you have someone to talk to. Even if it’s just a beloved pet. Warning: Author speaks her secrets to the bees.

Baskerville danced and grumbled at me as I opened the front door. I rushed to the back to let him out. He clamored after me, huffing at the exertion. 

“Dad needs to put you on a diet,” I informed the dog as he rushed out to find a good patch of grass. 

My brain churned over everything I learned. The existence of werewolves, fated not-quite-true love, and last, and possibly least, the fact that Sam was looking for a committed relationship. It was the very definition of things happening too fast. 

I followed Baskerville outside to sit in one of Dad’s decrepit lawn chairs and stared up at the stars. The sun bleached plastic swayed under my weight for a moment before deciding to hold. A cold nose touched my hand and I smiled down at the old dog.

“What about you, huh? Did you know that Sam was a werewolf?” I rubbed his ear and his tongue lowled out, dripping drool onto the grass. “Is it weird that I don’t think I mind? He doesn’t turn into a man-eating monster or anything. It’s the other stuff I can’t wrap my head around. Shapeshifting wolf men are fine, but magically selected dating? What the hell even is that?”

Bask flopped onto his back for belly rubs, and I obliged. It had always been his price for listening to me work out my problems. “Sam said humans don’t feel it because they have no magic. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to feel that kind of instant connection to someone. Sure, he’s hot, and I definitely like the way he looks, but that’s attraction, not . . . whatever the hell this is supposed to be. It’s not fate, or if it is, it’s the non-fixed kind. Sam said I don’t have to act on it if I don’t want to. I can just walk away. He doesn’t want to. He’s ready to settle down and have a family.”

I stopped petting and Baskerville grumbled in complaint. I resumed out of habit. “That’s the sticking point, isn’t it. Not anything supernatural, just that I’m not sure I’m ready to commit. Hell, I don’t even know if I want kids, much less if we could have any. I didn’t think to ask. Oh, hell. What does that say about me as a person, Bask? I don’t know what to do with my life, and that has me more worried than werewolves.”

I put my hands over my face and they smelled like dog. He rolled to his feet and put a paw on my knee. The poor old thing didn’t move well anymore, but he was trying his damndest to climb into my lap because he knew I was upset. I gathered him up and the chair trembled in an effort to hold us both. No matter what else was going on, it helped a lot to know that a dog loved me.

“You know what? I think that I’m going to stick this out a little longer. Give it at least until Dad gets back to decide if I even want to try to make this work. After all, it’s fate recommended, not mandated, right?”

Bask wiggled, trying to lick my face and the chair broke.

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Liminal Spaces Pt 9

Sharon’s note: I understand the need to know. I’m a very curious person. That being said, the character that charges in stupidly with no plan and a manic need to follow something are kind of annoying. You know they are going to get people killed, the author is counting on them getting people killed, and the only thing up in the air is whether or not the idiot themselves die. That being said, they are such fun to write. They make moving the plot easy. Warning: Author plans to have a little fun with this.

“Not every patient that came to this hospital was human. Monster though he was, my father thought of himself as a healer. He welcomed those with strange afflictions and promised that he could heal them.”

“What were they?” My thumbs trembled over my phone.

“Every kind of thing.” The leer on Ernie’s face sent a shiver up my spine. “Those cursed by the moon to change their forms and hunt men, those who were brought back from the dead to feast on the blood of the living-”

“Werewolves and vampires. You’re saying that he experimented on werewolves and vampires?”  I would have scoffed at the idea before I saw ghosts.

“Among others. They all came to be made human, but only found pain and death.” He laughed, and it was bitter. “Not a single one of my father’s special patients lived, though it took a very long time for them to die. Their ability to heal was a curse, and one he hopes to pass to me by cutting out a vampire’s heart and sewing it into my chest.”

“That . . . sounds painful.” I swallowed hard.

He shrugged. “Not for long. This was well before the invention of heart transplants. Despite everything my father did to me beforehand to make me survive the operation, I was dead before he even got my heart all the way out.”

I stared at him for a moment. He looked bored, and slightly amused. “You are oddly calm talking about your extremely horrific death.”

He and Kathy laughed. She strolled over to pat me on the shoulder. “Death is traumatic, but you either have to come to terms with it or you become a screaming maniac like that guy in hydro.”

“What happened to him?” 

“He was locked in a tank full of water and drowned. Even werewolves need to breathe.” Ernie shook his head. “He never leaves that box, and if anyone gets close enough to grab he pulls them in and tries to suck the oxygen out of their lungs so he can survive. He’s killed two people.”

“One of them is still huddled in a corner murmuring monosyllables.” Kathy rolled her eyes. “Death craziness is contagious.”

“Don’t be harsh.” He glowered at her. “He’s only five years dead.”

“I wasn’t that crazy right after I died, and McBride killed me personally.” She crossed her arms and turned her attention back to me. “You want to talk about being stuck in the past, the evil doctor keeps killing people because he thinks it will hide his special experiments.” 

“Well, it’s worked so far. No one knows anything about this.” I said, focusing on my notes. When they were quiet for a long moment, I looked up. They were both frowning at me, hard. “What?”

“Please don’t justify anything that man does.” Earnie’s glare made me gulp.

“Sorry. Does this mean that you won’t take me to see a non-crazy supernatural? I’d love an interview.” 

“What are you, stupid?” Kathy swiped at me, and her hand passed through my head. It felt like walking through a cobweb that left a sticky residue on my brain as it passed through. “I brought you down here so that you’d be safe. Your ass is staying here.”

“Oh, come now. We can take her to talk to Elizabeth. She’s a very pleasant lady. We don’t even have to go out into the main building. She’s down in the tunnels.”

Kathy grabbed my shoulders, hands solid this time. “Maggie, listen to me. This is a horrible idea. Please, just stay here.”

I shrugged off her hands. “I have to know.”

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Carnival Girl Pt 11

Sharon’s note: Romance is a complicated genre. Romance means lots of things to different people. As a reader, I prefer romance to be either a subplot or at least diluted with something else because most of the time, straight drama is boring. Something else needs to be going on, and that means the lovebirds need to spend a lot of time apart. Warning: This might be as close to the author gets to a third act breakup.

“Is it just me, is the haunted house bigger and scarier than it was earlier today?” Jim couldn’t say exactly what the difference was, but what had seemed cheap and ramshackled in the light of day was sinister in the dying light. 

“I don’t remember what it looked like earlier, so I couldn’t say.” Wendy closed her eyes and licked her lips. “Multiple people bleeding. We have to move.” 

She pulled away from him and raced inside, a long staff suddenly in her hand. Jim chased after her, and the second he crossed the threshold the sound of screams assaulted him. It took everything he had to keep up with Wendy as she took each turn at an impossible speed. The cardboard ghost sprung out in front of him and he staggered back. 

“Wendy! Wait,” he called, flinging himself forward and punched the ghost as he passed, ripping it off the post and sending it to the floor with a slap. A roar drowned out the human screams. Jim couldn’t hear the clatter of the animatronics for the cacophony, and the smell of blood and rot was strong enough to gag him. 

In the room of hanging chains, a man and a woman were huddled together on the floor, an unattached pair of legs lying in front of them. A crack exploded through the air. Jim fumbled for the cleaver on his belt as he turned to face the noise. Half obscured by the chains, Wendy’s staff collided with the head something that was the shape of a man, but was far too large to be human. Whatever it was toppled backwards and crashed into the floor, shaking the building. 

“That was an ugly sucker.” Wendy pushed her bell over her shoulder, making it chime cheerfully.

Jim crept closer, and caughts a glimpse of something between a man and a toad before it dissolved into a black puddle that reeked of rot and made him wretch. “God, what is that thing?”

“I don’t know. Some kind of squamous thing.” She petted his back while he heaved. “I don’t think it used to be human, not if it dissolved that fast.”

He wiped off his mouth. “Do they do that a lot?”

Wendy shrugged. “Sometimes. Are you good to go? I bet there are more of these things around the carnival.”

“What about them?” Jim gestured to the people huddled in the middle of the room with his chin.

“Oh, right. See? That’s why I need you around.” She grinned at him before strutting over the couple, dragging her staff on the ground behind her. “Are you folks okay?”

“Ron is dead, and my arm. . .” The man held out his arm, and Wendy glanced at it. 

“Oh, yeah, that looks like it hurts. It won’t kill you, and most likely you won’t lose the arm. You need to get to a hospital though. You are going to need a lot of antibiotics. Make a run for the exit. There’s about to be a huge commotion, so you’ll probably make it.”

“Wendy, that guy’s like, really hurt. We can’t just tell him to run and hope for the best.” Jim straightened up and stumbled over. “We have to help them.”

Wendy bit her lip. “The thing is, while we stop everything to help them, who are probably going to be fine, other people are going to die.”

Jim watched as the woman helped the man to stand, both of them pale and shaking. “I’ll take them then. You can go on.”

Her eyebrows shot up and she inglined her head to the rancid pile of goo. “Do you really think you can take one of those on by yourself?”

He stiffened. “I think I’ll do alright.”

Wendy shrugged and wandered in the direction of the exit. Her staff clattered over the floor. “Suit yourself. Be careful, and come find me when you’re done. Just follow the noises of battle.”

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Good Boy Pt 8

Sharon’s note: There are all sorts of different types of relationship. No matter what type your trying for, always be honest and straightforward about what you want and it will save you a whole lot of heartache. Warning: Author believes that in depth communication is totally romantic.

Sam sat with his legs crossed, hands tucked under his thighs to stop them from fidgeting. He’d only put his pants back on after he reverted to human, and I got to watch his very nice chest tense, every muscle easily visible. Poor guy, he was so nervous. As much as I was enjoying the show, I had to put him out of his misery.

“It doesn’t bother me that you’re a werewolf.” I reached over to pat his thigh. “I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t just have my entire world view shifted, but that doesn’t change how I feel about you.”

His cheeks turned scarlet. I’d bet that if he’d still been a wolf his tale would have been wagging. “And, um, how do you feel about me?”

“I like you, beyond that, don’t push it.” I smirked and he chuckled, finally relaxing. “So, what made you decide to reveal this?”

He rolled his shoulders and rubbed at the back of his neck. “I . . . like you a lot. I could see things between us getting serious, so I don’t want to start them out with a lie. Even one of omission.”

“Oh.” I looked down at my hand where it braced on the blanket. A tiny spider crept towards my thumb, and I flicked it away. I’d decided after my last break-up with an immature jerk who refused to commit that I wanted someone who was in it to win it. It was refreshing to hear someone be that straightforward, but I hadn’t been expecting it. “So, anything else I need to know?” 

Sam took a big, nervous breath. What could he have to say that was bigger than being a werewolf? “So, along with werewolves, magic is a thing. As a creature of magic, I’m prone to . . . feelings. Some call them animal instincts but it’s more than that. We can sense things that we shouldn’t be able to. One of those things that I’ve seen but never experienced before, um, you, is the, um, mating call.”

I raised an eyebrow. “And what is the mating call?”

His face was so red and his head was ducked so low he looked like a vulture. “It’s where, through magic, we recognize someone who would be a good mate.”

I frowned. He couldn’t be serious. “So it’s, what? Love at first sight?”

Sam was startled into a snort. “What? No. That is a myth. This is more like a magical dating algorithm. Like any relationship, it requires work.”

“So you’re saying that you’re magic told you that we were highly compatible, and you should swipe right?” I snorted. This was ludicrous. 

He looked down at the grass and ripped up a handful. “Kind of. I asked you out because I’m lonely and well, I’d heard a lot about you. I think your dad was trying to set us up and I wasn’t opposed. You sounded pretty amazing.”

“Yeah, well, Dad’s partial.” My lip curled involuntarily. I knew it. I wasn’t mad, but I knew Dad was up to his old tricks.

“He’d made a big deal about you watching his house while he was gone, and I’d planned to find a time to introduce myself anyway. When I saw you from the park . . .” Sam licked his lips and blushed. “It was like getting hit with a ton of bricks. I always thought other wolves were exaggerating when they said things like that, but it’s true. It’s not love, but it’s like I knew how all the things your father told me about you fit into my life. From there, it would be really easy to make it love, and, uh, it doesn’t hurt that you’re beautiful.”

The sheepish, hopeful grin he gave me was painfully cute, but the cogs in my head were turning so fast I was surprised I couldn’t smell smoke. I needed time to think, but I didn’t want to accidentally burn any bridges. I bit my lip for a second then said, “I’m going to need to mull this over. How about we eat dessert first, then talk more about us.”

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Liminal Spaces Pt 8

Sharon’s Note: I don’t like most horror pacing. Tension is great, but a lot of horror waits too long and thing gets boring. It’s like in a movie, the camera zooms in on a character’s face. And stays there. Forever. I’m a story driven reader. Staring at a character being scared does nothing for me. Warning: Author is wondering why a lot of the flaws in romance are the same in horror. It’s not related to anything, it’s just weird.

A small light popped into being as Ernie struck a match. He lit a lantern that looked about a hundred years old, but was way brighter than I would have expected. I turned off the flashlight to save the batteries. In the flickering light, the room looked more creepy than it did with the flashlight. 

It was half office, half bedroom. A desk and filing cabinets sat at one end, a small, institutional type bed, a battered old arm chair and a small bookshelf on the other. Ernie gestured at the chair, so I sat.

“What do you want to know?” Ernie grunted.

“Everything!” I pulled out my phone, almost bouncing. This was the interview of a life time. “Tell me your story? Who are you? What was your relationship with McBride? What kind of things did you see while this place was functional?”

The look he gave me almost had me apologizing but he and Kathy exchanged glances and he cleared his throat. “I’m afraid my part in the history of this place might disappoint you. Of course you’ve heard that I’m McBride’s bastard son?”

“Yes.” I was typing as fast as I could, thumbs fumbling at the screen. I would have loved to record, but I didn’t know if ghosts could be recorded. 

“Not true.” When my eyes snapped up, he chuckled. “My parents were married. My father dallied with her when they were younger, and she got pregnant. If his parents had found out, they would have cut him off. Despite his many other sins, my father did have a sense of honor, so they were secretly wed. She died when I was fifteen, and I was given a job here.”

“So, why was there so much animosity between you two?”

“Other than his refusal to acknowledge me? How about the monstrosities he committed?” He shook his head and Kathy walked over to put a hand on his shoulder and he gave her a grateful smile. “Mostly it was the fact that he killed me.”

“Why? What happened?” I had to smother my excitement. I didn’t want to seem insensitive. 

“I am not normal. While I am not the mutant that Kathy had told me legend paints me as, I had many physical problems when I was alive. My father decided that one of his experiments would fix me. It was a long, painful death. For days I suffered infusions and transplants. When I finally expired, he burned my body and buried me in a mass, unmarked grave with the other experiments.” He stared at the ground while he spoke, eyes unfocused, shoulders so tense they shook. There was a new scent in the air like formaldehyde. 

I nodded, happy I could provide some comfort. “They found those bones in the garden. All the bones were given a proper burial and-”

“There were two graves. The humans were buried in the garden. I was buried in the other one.”

“Ernie, she doesn’t need to know about them.” Kathy held up a warning finger, a hint of panic in her eyes. 

“Know about what?” I perched at the edge of my chair, looking between their faces. 

“Too late now.” Ernie grinned, but it was mean and a little mad. “Are you sure you want to know? Knowing opens a whole new, dangerous world.”

“Emphasis on the dangerous,” Kathy muttered.

I shrugged. “I have to.”

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Carnival Girl Pt 10

Sharon’s note: I am not a fan of the reluctant hero. I want a hero that is totally down for these shenanigans, and is ready to go out and slay some dragons. Or, you know, ride it like a real hero. Warning: Author’s birthday wish every year is to run away with Doctor Who.

There was a different clown at the booth. His makeup was less scary, more rounded lines and primary colors, but there was a quite smugness to him that made Jim uneasy. More unnerving was the fact that his only comment on the cleaver was ‘good luck’. 

“Where are we going?” Everything about the carnival seemed a little more sinister in the dark. Or maybe it was his imagination and the fact he knew evil magic was afoot.

Wendy looked around, biting her lip, then lit up. “Oh, I remember! Let’s stop by the photo booth.”

“That guy seemed a little off to you too?” Jim nodded sagely.

“What? No, not really. I just want to get our pictures before things go sideways. I won’t remember after the battle.” Jim’s shoulders dropped, and she patted his back. “It’s okay. You’re just having jitters. Relax. Pay attention, but don’t get over excited. Getting too amped up is how you get friends impaled on forklifts.”

He frowned. “That’s really specific. Did that happed?”

Wendy shrugged. “I hope not, but probably.” 

The woman at the photo booth kept licking her lips and watching the clock. “We’re about to close. Hurry up and get your picture.” 

Jim looked at the time. “It’s only eight thirty. The sign says you close at nine.”

“Yeah, well, we’re closing early today, so hurry up.” The woman was hugging herself tightly, eyes darting around the crowd. 

Wendy spoke while she dug through the pile of photos. “You know that there’s something going on here. When you close the booth, get far away. Things are going to get crazy, so take anyone you care about with you. Aha!”

With a flourish, Wendy pulled the picture out of a stack and held it out proudly to Jim. He looked at the photographic evidence that she’d kissed him, even just on the cheek, and couldn’t do anything but blush. She stuffed the picture in her pocket and grabbed his arm, tucking it against her side. 

“Hey.” She poked his shoulder. “Where were we earlier where we smelled something wrong?”

Jim raised an eyebrow. “You mean the haunted house?”

“Yeah. I bet that’s a good place to start.” She pulled him along. He glanced back to see the woman at the booth leaving things where they were and running away.

“Well, she got the hell out of here.” Jim touched the cleaver hanging from his belt. “She’ll at least be safe.”

“I’m really proud of you.” Wendy hugged his arm. “You are being so brave, and finding out about magic didn’t even shake you.”

Jim dipped his head and grinned. “The whole magic and thing is just kind of cool. I’m even a little jazzed about battling real evil.”

Wendy patted his arm. “I’ll make sure I save someone for you. Me, I’m hoping to get this over with quick so we can get another funnel cake, then maybe I can go back to your place and sleep.” 

“Do, um, do you want to stay the night?” Jim was quickly calculating how he could manage it. His dad got home at two, but he always went straight to bed, so if she slept in Jim’s room, and he got her out in the morning before his dad woke up. . .

“Probably not. I don’t sleep for long.” She flicked her bell so it jingled.

“Insomnia?” He asked, sympathetically. His dad had experienced really bad insomnia ever since his mom died.

“Kind of.” Her eyes narrowed, and she sniffed the air. Her voice changed, and her sweet smile turned predatory. It made her even prettier. “Fresh blood. Seems like the fun is starting. Come on. We don’t want to miss it.”

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Hard Hunting: The Hospital Pt 4

Sharon’s note: People can learn a lot from animals. I’ve met several disabled dogs, ones that were blind or deaf or had three legs, and they don’t seem to care. They learn how to deal, then get on with their lives. It’s not as easy for humans, and my theory is it’s because we’re badly trained. The hardest thing to deal with when you’re disabled is the mental hurdles you throw at yourself. There’s this weird feeling of shame, like the fact that you’re hurt is your fault. I don’t know where it comes from, the urge to think that it’s a failing, but somewhere we all pick it up. We should be more like dogs, and instead of blaming ourselves, get on with things. Warning: Author knows just how much harder that is than it sounds.

I splashed water on my face. It wouldn’t hide the red eyes and slightly raw nose, but it washed away the tears. If I didn’t leave the bathroom soon, the nurses would come looking for me, so I opened the door to find Sean next to my bed in his wheelchair, flicking through channels on the TV.

“This is why I don’t have cable anymore. There’s never anything on.” He threw the remote on the little table next to my bed with a clatter that made me wince.

“Not that you’d have the time to watch it even if you did.” I hobbled forward, the left wheel of my walker creaking. 

“Hey, you’re out of the chair.” Sean beamed at me, swiping a hand through his steel-gray hair. Even being parapalegic, my mentor was one of the lucky ones. A lot of hunters didn’t live long enough to get older. Days like this, it didn’t feel like I was going to.

“Yeah, I just can’t get off of this thing yet.” I tapped the handle as I maneuvered around so I could get into bed. The tiny knob on the side of the wheel caught the edge of the bathroom door, jolting my entire body. I closed my eyes and swallowed down a curse. 

“Bad day, huh?” Sean’s voice was soft, understanding. It made me want to hit him.

“No, I’m not dead. It’s supposed to be a good day.” God, I hated how bitter I sounded. I dropped onto the bed and grabbed my legs to help them up. “Sorry. It’s just that I’ve been here for months. I work my physical therapy every day, but things are going so slow.”

“How’s the pain?” 

“You know me, the pain doesn’t really bother me, it’s just . . .” I tucked the blanket back over my legs and took a couple of deep breaths. I would not cry again. “Is this it, Sean? Is this as good as it gets now? I keep losing little bits and pieces, and I fight like hell to get them back but . . . I’m tired. No matter how much I sleep I’m still so tired. Even if I have energy physically, I feel like I’m fighting with myself just to get up in the mornings, because I need a break from being tired.”

He moved his wheelchair expertly so that he faced me. If I had done that I would have hit the walls. “You know what you’re feeling is normal, right?”

“Yeah, I know.” I crossed my arms, like holding them against my stomach could suppress the sick feeling.

“And you’re talking to the shrink, right?” He put a hand on my ankle over the blanket.

I shrugged. “I don’t like this one. She’s talking about expectation management, but I’m not ready to accept that this is normal now. Not yet, anyway.”

“I’ll make sure they get you someone else. We don’t want you kicked out because you punched a member of staff.” He grinned, and it was contagious.

“You mean like you did?” The story of Sean punching a nurse while hallucinating from a witch’s spell was one that got passed around every year at the Hearth Christmas party.

“I didn’t get kicked out over that. Everyone knew I wasn’t in my right mind and no one held a grudge.” His mouth twisted as he tried to keep a straight face. “I even sent the nurse flowers.”

“Yeah, I think he appreciated that less than the punch.” I giggled.

Sean took a deep breath, and assumed a more serious expression. “Look, I did come to check on you, but I also need a favor.”

My nose wrinkled. “Not a lot I can do in here, but sure. What do you need?”

“Rumor says that the Frankenstiens have one of their special agents in here for one of their special surgeries.” He looked as unhappy as I felt. The group called themselves the Ambrosia Institute, but everyone knew them as the Frankenstiens. Their group trademark was grafting parts of the creatures they hunted into their bodies to make themselves stronger. In theory I didn’t have a problem with using the corpses of dead prey, even Hearth had its own labs for research purposes. My problem was that the Frankenstiens were sometimes more excited about getting a new part than they were worried about the guilt of the creature they hunted.

“They do all their mods in house. What are they doing here?” I snarled the words.

“I don’t know, but rumor also says there’s a rare VIP creature in the hospital right now. The Frankenstiens have broken the truce in places like this before in order to get a new body to play with.” 

Sean was right to be worried. The hospital was one of the few truly neutral places where anyone could come to heal. If Hunters broke the truce, it might not matter that it was only one group that did it. There would be a war, and war always caused collateral.

“Okay, I’m your eyes. If I even get a hint that they’re up to something, you’ll know.” It felt good to have a job, even if it was just recon.

Sean patted my leg. “That’s my girl. Now, do you want lunch? I was going to send out for burgers.”

I smiled. “Please. They keep trying to make me eat healthy, and if I’m going to be on a stake out, I need junk food.”

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Good Boy Pt 7

Sharon’s Note: I don’t like most reveals of the supernatural. So many times it’s done clumsily to put in some cheap tension. The reveal of the magic should be powerful and dramatic, but don’t do it at the cost of your characters. Don’t make them stupid just to create conflict. There are better ways. Warning: Lack of a character doing something poorly, when he knows how to do it right.

Kennedy park was little more than a dirt parking lot and a picnic table in the middle of the woods. Sam was already there, spreading a traditional checkered cloth over a patch of ground by the trees. 

“Too cool to use the table?” I sauntered over and he gave me a sheepish grin.

“The table is so rickety it’ll break if anything bigger than a squirrel sat on it. Besides, this is more . . .” He gestured around us in general, seemingly at a loss for words. 

The woods were beautiful. The leaves on the trees and scrub were so vibrantly green that they almost glowed. The grassy scent of acres of forest dominated every other smell. I didn’t know why it would be a better experience from the ground than a table, but I would take his word that it was. “Authentic?”

“Yeah.” He ran to his car and brought back an honest-to-god wicker basket. “I, uh, brought a lot of food. Hope you’re hungry.”

“Starving.” I dropped down on the blanket and patted the place next to me. He handed me down the basket and the sudden weight was startling. He must have packed it full. 

Sam sat next to me and began to rapidly unpack the food. His movements were sharp and nervous. What did he have to tell me that was making him so jittery? I put a hand over his while he was pulling out a bottle of wine and he nearly jumped. “How about you tell me whatever is eating at you.”

His shoulders slumped. “I was hoping to have a nice lunch first, you know, in case things go wrong, which is stupid. God, I’ve talked people through this exact situation a dozen times. I know how to do this.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Now you have me super curious.”

“Yeah, I know. I need to tell you, no dancing around the issue.” He took a deep breath and straightened up. “I’m a werewolf.”

“O-okay.” I stared at him, waiting for the punchline.

“No, I know what you’re thinking, and I’m serious. Hold tight, I came prepared for a demonstration.” He hopped to his feet in a fluid motion and backed a dozen feet towards the woods. He started shucking clothes and I was starting to feel very uncomfortable, but he stopped at a pair of swim trunks. “I’m going to shift forms into a wolf. It sounds horrible, but it’s fine. I will be in complete control of my faculties, and you will be completely safe. If at any point you get scared and want to run, I completely understand. The way to your car is unobstructed, and I won’t chase you. Just remember, please, that you’re safe.”

I was frozen. Was he joking? Crazy? Right, and my whole definition of what was real was about to shift? I was intrigued, nervous- CRACK!

The sound of bones and joints cracking was wet, thunderous and sickening. His face stretched out and fur tore from his skin like a wave. I couldn’t watch the change in his body, it made my stomach churn, so I watched his eyes. Their deep brown lightened to a rich amber, but he kept my gaze, even though he trembled with the change. It took about a full minute, then the biggest wolf I’d ever seen. His shoulders were even with my heart, and his massive head hung low while he whined. Was it still Sam?

The wolf laid down, then rolled over to show his belly. It was only then that I noticed the swim trunks were still on. Sort of. The pull string had broken and the material hung awkwardly on canine haunches. The massively fluffy tail was trapped with one of his legs. It was so ridiculous, that I laughed, even through my awe.

He rolled back to his stomach and his tongue rolled out in a dog-like grin. I stood slowly, and he dropped his head back to his feet. His tail would have wagged, but it kept jerking against the shorts.

“Still you, Sam?” I kept my voice calm and soft.

He gave a short melodic howl, and I let out a breath. “Okay. I accept the whole werewolf thing. Can you change back? I have a whole boatload of questions.”

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Liminal Spaces Pt 7

Sharon’s Note: I started this note like five times. There’s a few things I could think of to talk about, but I’m not really feeling serious topics today. You know what? Let’s go with this; Do something nice for yourself today. Even if all you do is take a quick look in the mirror and tell yourself that you look great. In fact, do that no matter what else you do. Be kind to yourself. Warning: Author is going to go watch some cartoons and drink some hot chocolate. It doesn’t have to be a bad day if you don’t let it.

The morgue was all the more eerie for being unremarkable. My light bounced off of the white tile wall and ceiling. The walls were the same, but the two long walls were a grid of dull metal drawers. Opposite of where we came in were two doors, old and wooden.

“How long has it been since this place has been used? It still has a little bit of a chemical smell.” I wrinkled my nose. It was faint, but irritatingly persistent. 

Kathy shrugged. “I don’t know. Earnie might. Come one, even if he won’t show himself, his room is the most comfortable place to wait.”

“Won’t he mind me hanging out in his room?” As we walked across the tile, only my footsteps echoed, and it was a jaring reminder that I was hanging out with a ghost. “So, you want me to just hole up here until morning?”

“Until just before morning. I’ll take you close enough to the main hall to find the way out on your own. We can’t appear during the day, and we’re limited in what we can do, but some of us would still have the ability to confuse you and get you lost. They’d do it, too. The assholes.” She put her hand on the doorknob and looked back at me with a sad grin. “McBride was a monster, and some of the others here . . . they were just as bad.”

I frowned. “Nothing in my research ever showed that criminals were housed here.”

“Never officially.” A male voice said behind me, and I spun. The man who stood in front of the exit wasn’t a monster. He was tall, and hunched, and he was really, really hairy, but he was just human. A nearly seven foot tall wild man in a lab coat.

“And here I thought I was going to have to beg for you to make an appearance. Maggie, this is Ernie, Ernie, this is Maggie.”

“Nice to meet you.” I waved, unsure how you’re supposed to greet a century old ghost. 

He inclined his head, but addressed Kathy. “Why did you bring her here?”

“Because your father’s going to be looking for her and this was the only really safe place I know.” She put her hands on her hips. “Are you really going to say that she can’t stay here?”

Ernie growled like an angry dog. The glare he shot made me take a step back. “You can hide here.”

I blinked, surprised at the answer.  “Well, thanks. Would you mind answering some questions?”

He grunted and waved his hand. The door behind me slammed open and I squeaked. He stalked past me into the room. Kathy patted my shoulder. How had I not noticed last time that there was no warmth to her hand. “Don’t worry. He’s really a pussycat. And that was probably a yes.”

She followed Ernie into the darkness, and I swallowed hard. I was in a haunted asylum, hiding in the morgue, hoping a local urban legend would keep me safe from one of the most sadistic psychos in recent history. If I wasn’t seeing it, I wouldn’t believe it. No one else was going to. 

I had to know more.

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