Title: Not all who wander
Summary: After leaving La Push, Leah finds herself staring into the abyss and discovers what happens when it begins to gaze back at her. Prequel to Scream Ferocity.
Disclaimer: All recognisable characters and content belong to Stephenie Meyer. I am not making a profit off this story
Characters: Leah Clearwater. Demetri. Aro. Mentions of La Push Pack
Warnings: Pretty dark and depressing but nothing explicit.
Archiving: Please PM me.
Author's Notes: This story is a prequel to Scream Ferocity. It explores the events that happened after Leah finally snaps and leaves.~
"We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey."
Chapter One: Cold Days and Long Nights
A slow, cold drizzle of rain wakes her from a dream. She opens one eye, preparing for the burst of daylight as it hits her retina. Her first vision is of the sky, dark and dreary as usual, clouded with the rain that has already seeped through her clothes and soaked her down to skin. Newspaper and boxes rustle around her. She sniffs the air. Noodles, fresh from the packet, first pot of the day. Time to move on before the cops come.
She makes it over the chain wire fence two seconds before three men in uniform appear. She hears their boots hit dirt before she sees them. They are merciless in their hunt for trespassers-kicking boxes, rattling bins. One catches her eye as she backs away from the fence. Within a second he has disregarded her. She knows he is thinking the same thing they all do. She is scum and nothing else.
Sometimes, she thinks they might be right.
A man grabs her arm. His hair is stringy and open sores cover his scalp. "That is my apple," he mutters in broken Cantonese. His features are Asian but she knows that means nothing. This is the kind of place that attracts the hopeless and the desperate from all over over the world.
"Fuck off," she hisses but she tosses him the rotten apple anyway. It will taste better on a human tongue and she has a lot more skill than he does when it comes to finding breakfast.
She runs for a little while longer, putting as much distance as she can between her and the cops and when it feels she has run far enough, she slows into a walk. The air in Shanghai tastes fresh and bitter. The density of the land is palatable and even amidst the desperation and struggle that has become her life, she manages to find beauty in the sprawling emptiness that surrounds her. A little further and she comes to the river that she uses every morning to bathe. It never quite gets rid of the dirt-or the smell, but even she has her standards.
She scrubs her skin with a handful of evergreen shrub leaves. It's a trick she's learned from one of the nameless few whose faces barely linger in her memory. She chooses to forget because it's easier that way.
After she is done washing, she tips her head back and sniffs the heavy air. It doesn't quite reach her gut as it usually does-not surprising, she's already been there for three months after all- and she knows that it is time to move on.
Her journey into town is short and it only takes her ten minutes to steal enough money to pay her fare out of here. She doesn't allow herself to feel guilty; she's only trying to survive. She will leave by boat-the first one heading out—for two reasons. The first being that she doesn't fancy the long trip into the city, and planes are easier to track. Whether anyone even cares enough to look is left to guessing.
She eyes a fishing boat and scans the huddle of men for the Captain. He meets her eye and she smiles at him. She moves slowly towards him, affecting an air of shyness to mask her nervousness. She's beginning to get antsy and would like to get out of here as quick as she can.
"Hi, I'm in a bit of a jam. I lost my bag with my passport in and they won't let me travel out of here. Could you help me?"
He continues to smile at her and she knows he hasn't understood a word she's just said. She tries again applying her limited knowledge of Cantonese but gets only slightly more of a reaction. After a good ten minutes and numerous hand gestures, she manages to strike a deal. He'll get her as far as Hong Kong but at a cost. She accepts. It isn't the first long night she's spent pretending that she is somewhere other than underneath a sweating, hulk of a man but maybe it won't be so bad this time. This Captain is pretty cute.
"Thank you," she says, still sweet. She doesn't want to test the waters until she's safely on that boat and far away from shore.
She is about to board when out of the corner of her eye, she sees a group of guards watching her. Their surrounding pattern is familiar, pulled from the hunting tactics in her head. They are closing her in. She doesn't give them a chance to get any closer-she's heard the stories of what goes on in prisons here. She takes off in a run, laughing because she knows they can't catch her. It is only when she stops that she realises she really is screwed.
She has a good reason for wanting to get out of this shithole. The marketplace mutterings of bodies found savaged are becoming more and more frequent. There's enough there for her to recognise the signs. Leeches. And by the body count racked up in this month alone, she's guessing more than one. She can't take the risk that they will catch wind of her, not without a pack to back her up.
She stands and surveys her surroundings. There's a faint scent of wild dog leading deep into the forest. She wonders if that might be considered cannibalism for a moment and decides not. She's something else entirely.
Following the trail on foot seems to be her best bet, at least until she can determine that the forest is empty. The locals have more sense than to wander around out here but tourists have often proven to be a little stupider. It wouldn't be the first time she's had to pretend she was some stark raving nudist but better for them to believe she's a nutjob than arousing their suspicions.
A sickening smells floods her nostrils and for a moment, she panics. Very few things turn her stomach quicker than the stink of leech but her brain quickly squashes that possibility. It's not sweet enough to be leech though there is still a faint undertone of vampire stink. This smell is raw-rotting. She spots the mangled mass of hair, a white foot poking out from underneath the dirt. It's a bad cover up...more than likely done by someone who knows that this area is off limits to most. Probably hoping that if someone did come across the body, they'd blame it on the dogs.
"Damn bloodsuckers," she mutters to herself.
She inhales, trying to pick up the lingering scent of the vampires who fed here. Not that she has any plans to follow them. She may be desperate and bitter but she's not suicidal, not yet anyway. If she can track the scent, she'll know which way they headed out and then she can start running in the opposite direction.
For a moment, she just stands and looks at the body before her. The smart move would be to find some dry wood and burn the evidence of the leeches existence, and by default, her own... but this rotting mess was once a human being. Even the dead deserve some dignity and whatever family she has left behind deserve their closure.
It's a decision she never gets to make.
Her senses flare, picking up a new scent. A human scent, and something sharp and metallic. She can hear muttering, too low and too distant for her to make out what is being said. The sound moves towards her quicker than she feels comfortable. There's no pacing. The movements seem urgent and focused. She kneels low and disappears into the surrounding foliage while she assesses the situation. There's something about it that is making her panic and the feeling is too new for her to stake her life on it.
She decides to run.
She phases, picks the direction furthest away from the incoming echo and runs, feet pounding dirt, flinging up mud and leaves in her desperation to get away. Something in her gut tells her to keep running and never look back and right now, she's more than happy to obey. She skids to a stop as something whizzes past her head. Bullets?
She veers left where there is more coverage and hurtles through shrubs and flora. If she's right and they are human then they shouldn't be able to follow. Brambles and thorns catch on her fur and thrashes from side to side to try and untangle herself. She's panicking even though she knows it's dangerous to do so.
It doesn't take long to break free but when she does, she finds herself glaring at the barrel of a gun. The man holding it is masked and more like him surround her at the exits. She picks the most unpredictable move and lunges at the one with the gun. He manages to get a shot off and she feels a sharp, stinging pain hit the back of her neck but she shakes it off and snaps at him again. She catches cloth between her teeth before a wave of dizziness overwhelms her and she feels her jaw slacken. Another man breaks rank and dashes forward to help his team mate. His actions give her an exit and she breaks off in a run again, collapsing as another hit takes her legs out from underneath her. She lays on the ground panting, voices echoing above her head.
Her tongue goes numb as something strong, herbal in taste, floods her mouth. She can't move. Whatever they did to her has turned her limbs to jelly. She manages to move her eyes and take note of the dart sticking out of her hind leg. Her vision flickers and fades. The last thing she thinks is that it's a real bad day to die.