We live our lives, day-by-day, content in our knowledge of the world. The only pressures stemming from the normality of life. Getting a job, raising a family, any attempt for our own happiness is all we want.
This is your last chance.
Science explains our origins, our passions and even our most insatiable desires. Magic doesn't exist, vampires are myths, and shape-shifters are pagan beliefs from when we cowered from our own shadows.
You've felt it though: a feeling that the world isn't right.
That shadow that followed you wasn't your imagination. The big dogs that you see in your front lawn aren't normal. Something seen in the mirror and gone when you turn around. Someone's watching you when you're alone in your own home.
Congratulations. Your normal life is over.
No matter how hard you try, you can no longer ignore what you've known all along. That chill you feel in a warm room. Why people you don't know greet you on the street. Finding yourself in another place, if only for an instant.
The veil around your mind has been lifted.
The world isn't as cut-and-dry as science makes it. There's more. Much more. Creatures hunt the night under the full moon, stalkers feast upon your blood in the dead of night, and eccentrics manipulate reality in front of your eyes.
Welcome. It's a World of Darkness.
* * *
A circle of candles sent lengthened shadows up the gray-tone walls. Each candle was a different size, their wax dripping down the sides onto the floor. Next to the candles on the floor were various objects. Video Home System tapes, magazines, lingerie, and several crystals were being coated with various colors of candle wax. The candles lit up the room just enough, small points of light in the darkness.
The room itself was bleak beyond the circle. Bleak, if one ignored the symbols drawn into the walls and ceiling. Symbols that resembled slash marks etched with a large knife into the walls, or drawn by hand. They resembled strange hieroglyphics, decorating every exposed area in the room.
Outside of the illuminated circle were collections of various rags and junk. Light showed dark dried liquid on various clothing, caked into the fabric. The piles arranged to two corners of the room, stacked a few feet high, pushed out of the way.
Inside the circle of candles was a young woman. She was nude, the candlelight illuminated her body in a dull orange glow. Her breathing was almost silent in the strange room, where she had been taken against her will. Ravished, raped, used only for her captor's wishes, her spirit was broken her mind catatonic to what was now going on.
Her captor was sitting outside of the circle, staring at the flickering flames. It was nearly time for him. Nearly time to begin. He scratched his torso as he tried to go over everything in his mind. His nails left long red marks along his skin, looking as if he had let them grow, then filed them to a sharp point. Hair covered most of his body in thick tuft, covering his chest, shoulders, even down to the backs of his palms.
The light was weak, but was strong enough to note a difference in his features as he stood. His height was above average, even giving way to the fact that he was large. Not fat or bulky, just built and toned. His face was almost human. The lines of his nose and eyes were angular, protruding outwards slightly, giving him a more feral appearance. Shagged facial hair grew out wildly from the sides of his jaws, matted and clumped.
"Almost..." he forced, his breathing irregular, almost frantic.
"Do not put off the ritual any longer," another voice echoed in his ears. "We have waited long enough for you to start the process..."
He turned to the voice, and nothing was there.
Of course nothing was there. Nothing that could be seen.
The voice had come to him through an ancient tongue. A tongue that he remembered spending days and nights perfecting. The tongue that only few could learn.
"Enough stalling," the voice said again, harsher. He looked in that direction, and there was a massive gray wolf standing to his right. It looked every bit like a normal wolf with a healthy coat of fur. Except for the empty black eyes staring at him. "You must begin..."
"Yes, yes," he muttered back as he walked to the piles of junk and cloth in the back corners.
He bent over, moving with a fever matching his erratic breathing. Digging through the items until he found something. Pulling it effortlessly, he was disappointed that it wasn't the object he was looking for, but instead what remained of a human foot. Frowning in disappointment, he dug again, pulling on something else, this time causing the upper torso of someone to fall to his feet. Again, not what he was looking for.
The piles of cloth and junk were more than that, they were piles of bodies. Pieces of humans and wolves that he had brought back here, to his little secret place, and indulged himself in his desires. Sometimes he took their teeth and ate them after death. Others he had gnawed on their bones while the moon was high in the sky. If there was a method to his madness, it escaped everyone. Even him.
Finally he retrieved a knife, yanking it from an earlier victim. Blood soaked the blade from where it had been, and he licked it. A bolt of pain raced through his mind as he slightly cut his tongue on the cold metal. The cut wasn't bad, but he relished in the pain it brought.
He staggered over to the circle of candles, and the woman lying there. Staring at her, he was finding it difficult to avoid ravaging her body once more. But, he was being watched. And his guest did not like to be left waiting. The man glanced back at the wolf. It's features still. No movement of the tail, no twitching of the ears, no movement of the whiskers. Just a dead stare with those black, shark-like eyes.
Taking the knife the man cut both of his wrists, the metal causing his skin to burn and smoke as he let out a snarl of pain. Blood dripped down onto the floor before he let it drip into the circle, swinging his arm to let the blood fall upon the girl's unmoving form. He did this for several minutes, his blood never never stopping and the wounds stayed open.
Finally he stopped. The offerings were in place, and the blood had been spilled. Letting the knife drop to the floor, he began to chant. Sounds, not words, flew from his mouth. A combination of hushed tones, snarls, growls, chirps, and other odd sounds came from him. His hands made wild gestures, his long nails reflected in the low light. He stomped his feet, a howl bursting from his throat as the strange chanting continued.
The wolf just watched, its eyes staring at the man as he continued the ritual.
More the man continued with his animalistic chanting and howling. But there was more. He wasn't simply going through the motions, he was putting his own energy into it. Something unseen, yet tangible was flowing from his own body into the girl who was laying in the middle of the circle. More of this substance was being drained from the crystals covered in wax and blood, into the girl as well.
It couldn't be seen, but the man could feel it happening. Like letting out a sigh after a cold drink on a hot day. The slow washing away of his own energy into his actions.
The girl was laying on her side when the ritual had started. Illuminated only by the candlelight, her body was covered in sweat, blood, and other substances, decorated in a similar fashion as the markings on the walls. As the ritual commenced, she could feel something, like a mist, hang around her, being absorbed.
She started withering on the floor. Something was wrong. Her eyes wide open, yet empty of any emotion, even fear, she felt but didn't comprehend the sensation of energy being absorbed into her. Filling her body with the sensation of several emotions.
Her body arched and jerked as more and more energy was sent into her body. It arched up, pushing her stomach as high as it would go with the curve of her spine. Something was working its way inside of her, and her face was contorted into a silent scream. The sensation coming from this was a combination of pleasure and pain. So painful that if she had her mind, would be erotic.
The thing, inside her, was growing, ready to birth. And using the woman's body as a host.
She registered the pain, but could not scream, as her mind was being filled with more pleasure than pain. More and more energy flowed into her, feeding the thing now working inside of her. Something could be seen slithering around inside her body, under the skin. Getting bigger with every mote of energy offered it.
A final burst of energy from the man and the crystals around her. She gasped as she felt the thing inside her taking shape and form. No longer telling pleasure from pain, her eyes rolled back into their sockets as blood trickled from the corner of her mouth.
Then the sensation stopped.
In what could be called an explosion of blood and energy, the woman died. The candles were blown out as her blood splattered the walls in a horrific display of power. Smoke rose from where she had been. The man had been knocked back from the force of the blast, landing on his rump and staring at the smoke now filling the room. The wolf just stared at him. No sense of emotion or thought given away by its still form.
Sitting dumbfounded, the man stared at the smoke. Thoughts of failure raced through his mind as he looked at the wolf, standing off to the side. Had he failed the ritual? Was it supposed to end like that? Why wasn't the wolf tearing him apart if he had failed? Should he run? Would he have to start over again?
A soft coo grabbed his attention, and his eyes snapped back to the smoke as it now started to clear. Even with the candles blown out, he could perceive the darkness as if a light was on.
A thin arm lifted itself out of the thick of smoke, open palmed to the ceiling. The arm was thin, feminine, wrapped in a long black arm warmer covering it right past where it disappeared into the smoke still clinging to the spot. It moved gracefully, almost teasingly before it disappeared back into the smoke.
It was another tense second before he saw a form rise from the smoke. The form was humanoid, a tight black dress clung to the body as it rose up on her hands and knees. She looked back at him from over her right shoulder and he could see a glowing red light coming from behind the hair that hung in front of her face.
He just stared as she rose, a thin ,beautiful, woman standing before him. Her long black dress had a slit running up past her hip. Long black hair waved down to her rear, even snaking around her shoulders. A swirling dark tattoo of some sort snaked its way all down the right side of her body, from her face, arm, and down to her feet. Her shoes were stark black heels, giving her an even taller appearance.
"Ooo," she cooed, a soft purr in her voice. "It's so," she stopped looking for the word. "Wonderful."
Softly she walked towards the man, her footsteps silent on the blood covered floor. He stared up at her, shock in his eyes.
"It... It worked?" he said exasperated.
Bending down, the woman looked into his eyes. Hers were a nice violet, the same color as her lips. "Oh yes my little servant... It worked." The spot where her right eye was supposed to be started glowing red through the hair.
She leaned down more and planted a kiss on the man's lips.
A burst of power flew from her into her minion. His body buckled and twitched from the power flowing into him, muffled yells and screams caught dead on her lips.
As the woman unleashed her power into the convulsing man, the wolf looked on. Its black, soulless, eyes watching everything. Silent as death.
* * *
Chicago was always a busy town. Late at night everyone had somewhere to be. Even in the less splendid section of the major city, people were moving about. Taking the train, walking to and from clubs, stumbling home after being kicked out of a club.
As a public transit train roared past an apartment building, one of the tenants was fast asleep in her bed. She didn't live alone. Four of her closest companions shared the apartment, either sleeping on the floor or taking one of the other rooms, depending who was busy.
She was a white haired beauty. Not old by any means, but fairly close to being considered an albino. Attractive to anyone who saw her, however her attentions weren't towards love or affection of any kind. Many didn't even have the nerve to hit on her.
It wasn't that she didn't care at all, or had no emotions. The opposite was true. She had a deep hearted attachment to the People.
She wasn't a human. She was something more. A creature united of the spirit and flesh. Able to walk between the physical and the immaterial.
She was a werewolf, and her name was Doomwise.
Doomwise was a prophet among her fellow werewolves. As creatures tied to the spiritual side of the world, they had a large responsibility on their shoulders that humans wouldn't care about, let alone know about. Prophets were listened to, as their dreams often had a large impact on a pack's territory.
She, however, was a prophet among prophets. Every dream she had came true with such devastating accuracy, that whenever she spoke everyone listened. Putting aside their heated territorial disputes to solve a much larger problem. Of course, this gained her a bit of notoriety as well, hence her name.
Images passed through the sleeping woman's mind.
Plants growing with a feverish speed, overflowing with a lushness that surpassed anything known. Enveloping her in a land, pure, and healthy. Energy flowed from everything. Water, to rock, to tree, and even into her. The sensation of this essence was so intoxicating, nothing like she had ever experienced in her life. She could perceive everything. Every rustle of leaves. Every step an animal made. Every scent one could imagine.
Without warning there was a loud, deep, howl. It was sorrowful, aching, and one of death. Doomwise felt the ground shake, the plants and animals wither to death. A separation. Something cut off the energy she felt from the world, nearly killing it. Tearing the world asunder, drawing streaks of red across the sky like blood. She knew the reason. She knew the cause.
Sorrow gripped her.
The perception shifted again. Red stained the sky as she tried to concentrate on the images before her. A city-scape. Barren, dead. The skyscrapers were hollowed wreckage as the black clouds littered the sky. She heard laughing and turned to see nine human figures standing around on top of rubble, their eyes glowing bright red.
Energy seemed to flow into them from everywhere, and she tried to see the source. When she found it, a greater fear tore at her heart.
Bodies. Hundreds of hundreds of dead human bodies covered the ground. Some skeletons, others freshly killed, and all in the throws of death. It wasn't only human bodies, wolves were scattered among the dead as well. Stacked like mountains in the horizon. Their fur matted with dried blood, skins torn from their bodies leaving the flesh to rot.
It made the werewolf want to lash out. To unleash the sorrow at the scene of death and destruction before her. The death of her kind.
A howl pierced through the laughter. A strong howl of anger and Rage. A howl of the hunt. There was a similarity in the howl. Something matching the roar from earlier. Not on the surface, but the howl was from the same creature.
Images shifted once more. This time, she was surprised to see not the wolf god, but a werewolf howling to the sky. Muscles quivering under the fur as its hands flexed, prepared for battle. Legs tensed and cocked, ready to lash out and fling it forward.
Hope started to fill her heart as she saw the werewolf before her. Then it changed to confusion as she saw the moon form behind the shapeshifter, still howling. The moon started new, then swiftly changed phases. From crescent, half, gibbous, and then to full. At the full moon, the heavenly body started to glow so bright, that it enveloped Doomwise in a bright light.
She awoke with a start, as the train finished careening past the apartment, leaving a long whine as it went along the tracks. Doomwise breaths were sharp and shallow. Wide-eyed she was surprised she hadn't shouted in her sleep like many dreams from the moon had done before. Quickly she grabbed a robe and walked into the living room of the apartment.
Two figures were in the living room, one was laying on her stomach on the couch in the corner, a long spear at the ends of her fingers on the carpet. The other was a canine, curled up in the shadows under the window across the room.
Doomwise looked around the room. There should be two others in the apartment, but those packmates were probably on patrol, and she wasn't sure when they would be back.
Normally the dreams wouldn't affect her this much, but this dream had the werewolf scared. She had seen death before, but not death on that sort of scale. Flipping on the light in the larger room, she closed her eyes before trying to adjust them.
The young woman on the bed was up instantly, grabbing her spear and panning the room with her eyes, half expecting a brawl. She had aimed and was ready to attack the white haired woman before realizing what was going on.
"What? Shit Doom," she said sleepily. "What's wrong? I nearly put this spear through your head."
"It's another dream, so put your weapon down!"
"Hey, don't get shitty with me." the woman snipped back. "You're the one flipping on lights in the middle of the night."
The red haired canine in the corner was waking up as well. His fur was a rusty crimson, as he stretched out, opening his jaws into a large yawn. Shaking the sleep from his body as he stood up, continuing to stretch.
"Was it another dream?" the wolf asked in the spirit language, a speech heavy with a growling rasp.
Doomwise nodded at her pack mate, still in his wolf form. "Where are Elias and Kalila?"
"Still on patrol," Dana replied, rolling herself over, facing away from the light. "Won't be back for another hour or so." Heartsblood, the wolf sitting and scratching behind his ear, was silent as his pack mates talked.
The prophet sat down in the middle of the room, trying to calm herself. She needed to think through the dream. To pick out the message between the imagery. Giving names and meaning to the places and things.
Something stuck out in her mind. The cityscape shown to her by the moon goddess' graces. There was a notion that stuck to her mind as she reviewed the dream over and over. A good thing, perhaps, were that prophets could remember their dreams with such clarity, that it was almost as if they re-lived it.
Doomwise thought about the buildings in her dreams. Something about them seemed familiar. They weren't Chicago buildings, they were scattered too far and so few skyscrapers that it couldn't be the Windy City. Yet it was so familiar that Doomwise was positive she had been there multiple times.
She sat there for a few minutes as she tried to recall the images of everywhere she had been. Werewolves weren't one to take pictures of their victories like trophies. They were a bit more conservative in what they took. A piece of their fallen enemy, a spiritual fetish from another. The prophet worked through her memories and the vision, mentally comparing places and landmarks.
Then it clicked.
"Denver," she said with a shocked realization.
"What?" Dana replied, half asleep on the couch.
"Denver! We have to go back to Denver!"
"Huh? Are you crazy? Last time we were there we nearly got our selves killed kicking Gurdilag's big ass."
"Yes I know," Doomwise replied. "But this is worse. Much worse."
"Doomwise's predictions have never been too far off the mark," Heartsblood chipped in, nearly a whisper.
"You got a point there fuzzball," the woman replied as she forced herself off the couch. "Fine, I'll get the others back here." She reached for a cell phone nestled in next to some of her bladed weapons at the edge of the couch.
Doomwise nodded. She knew where they had to go.
She just didn't know what to do when they got there.