The morning rat wasn't staying down.
Doubled over on her knees, Luna had spent the last fifteen minutes emptying the contents of her stomach onto the ground. Dragon, watching from a short distance away, whimpered at his master. Luna was breathing heavily, her stomach rolling almost constantly now. Her periods had stopped entirely, and shortly after that, the lancing pains in her groin had started. She could barely walk some days, and eating and drinking was a chore, as sheer force of will was necessary in not throwing everything back up.
No, she was not pregnant. She had checked in a panic, and there were no signs of anyone having their way with her. She was a smart enough teenager not to sleep around, as she couldn't raise a baby in a frozen wasteland, and neither did she want one. She couldn't be dying, either; she had kept herself alive so far, using her wits and survival knowledge taught by Jim. All of her water was boiled and purified, and she traded for fresh food whenever she could. Shelter was easily found or made, no matter how full of holes the structure might be, and she kept clear of strangers. Radiation poisoning was a possibility, but wouldn't her hair being falling out as well?
"The signs of radiation poisoning and panic are supposed to be the same," someone once it a case of hypchondria brought on by paranoid thoughts? Maybe. Then again, perhaps it was a side-effect of starvation she had never heard of, or just a really persistent bug. If that was the case, why wasn't she getting her monthlies, then? And why, too, had going to the bathroom become a strain, as if inflicted with ever-constant constipation?
Luna groaned, slowly moving back into a sitting position. Her head swam, her eyes wet with tears from the strain of vomiting. She made a choking noise, tipping over on her back like a cheap lamp; the lancing pains started again, and Luna's breathing was heavy with exhaustion. Dragon walked over to his mistress, nuzzling her cheek as he let out a low, long whine. One hand lifted weakly to scratch him under the chin.
"It's okay, buddy..." Luna mumbled, her fingers moving to the dog's ears. He leaned into her touch, wagging his tail slowly. "S'okay..."
Dragon's ears flattened, his tongue giving the teenager a few, reassuring licks. Luna smiled tiredly, and with some effort, pushed herself up off of the ground. Her knees went weak, a particularly jabbing ache nearly bringing her down, but she managed to stagger back to her current shelter. The old, cardboard box she slept in had been lined with scraps of styrofoam; the building nearby must have been some sort of warehouse for the latter. Nestled into a little "cave" made by a mattress leaning against a wall, Luna winced at having to squeeze in to not knock said mattress over. Dragon followed her diligently, his body heat most useful; the presence of two bodies in the shelter made it feel like room temperature in a warm house. It didn't take long before Luna drifted off into slumber, even with the sharp sensations that plagued her lower abdomen.
Some'un was new in the area. She could see it, hear it, with snow all moved off things and new marks e'eryway. Tracks, person and doggy, too bigger than lil' feet — a biggun was near. Ohhh, the bigguns didn't like her part of the broken-down town, oh no they didn't! Was how she knew that the biggun was new. The little'un (which she really wasn't) licked her lips — dogs were 'sposed to feed you lots if you could catch 'em.
She knelt, her hunting stick sharp, always looking. Her stick was broken, metal, maybe a small pipe some-once, but now it was hers and sharp. Perfect for scaring bigguns so she could takes 'em things; she prowled like a kitty-cat now, she felt so much like'un. Her body was springy — always so springy — and her eyes had a hungry light. She was grinning wide with happy greed, and she had to stop herself from giggling at finding at the biggun. The others would eat long with yummy doggy, their bellies full and round, and the little'uns would stop crying so much for food. She hated when the little'uns cried, even if the older'uns called her a little'un; when they cried, they brought baddies at night to 'em. Baddies with sharp claws and scary teeth, no less, and who really liked the taste of kids!
That so-called "little'un" would show 'em all. She'd scare that biggun away and takes that doggy as her prize, or she'd beat the biggun's head in with a rock — or better yet, stick 'em with her spear — before the biggun even knew that hit 'em. It wouldn't be long 'fore she found dinner and the biggun person, she knew it!
Despite being curled up in a ball, Dragon was not at rest. His nose and ears constantly were twitching, and at a moment's notice, he could spring into a whirl of growls and snapping teeth. The squeaks of rats, their pattering little feet too quiet for any human to hear, tempted him; his legs were getting stiff, and he longed to run around to get the blood flowing. His mistress, however, was in no shape to be chasing him around, sleeping even now in a haze of unrelenting pain. Something was off about her scent, a sick, unhealthy odour only he could detect wafting from her lower abdomen, reeking of slow and consuming relentlessness. It was as if the healthy flesh was somehow withering inside her, eaten away by what he could only guess was little food. The dog found himself wracked with doubt; had he not been a good hunting hound? Had the quarry he killed at her command, which he pursued so relentlessly until it was too tired to run any further, not been enough to sustain her? True, it appeared as if the unending winter had gnawed at both of them, but she was finding it hard to eat. Everything he brought her ended up on the ground, coughed back up like a bad hairball.
Dragon sighed. His mind kept wandering back, in these uncertain times, to when his former masters became sick. There had been a little girl, far more energetic than Luna, and a mother and a father, all of whom treated Dragon well. They had, despite the endless winter, kept Dragon's mother alive with a diet of rats and scraps; in return, she hunted for them and pulled along a small sleigh. He could still remember watching as the beautiful, powerful bitch, a purebred husky of black and white, loyally followed the father out into the rubble beyond; her children guarded the house via their kennel. There had been five of them, all varying degrees of black and white, with orange and blue eyes of all kinds. They had been happy, up until that one day the father was gone for a few days, and when he came back —
There was a rustle of cloth, not from behind him where Luna lay. The crossbreed's head perked up, eyes alert, ears tuning in to the most sensitive of sounds. Though he couldn't see much for the trash bags, he heard the whisper of a cold breeze, and the breath of a smaller, younger human; the smell of sweat and an unwashed body had become ranker with adrenaline. His upper lip curled, and he let out a long, low growl. Luna stirred behind him, weakly lifting her head.
"Dr...Dragon? Whatsa matter, boy...?"
The ever-so-light footfalls of the nearby intruder stopped where they were. Dragon slowly rose into a sitting position, the hairs on his hackles and back rising.
The doggy was close, so very close. Doggy had gone and growled at her, and she heard a sad voice, a sleepy voice. It didn't sound like a biggun voice, though; more like an older'un's. Maybe it was just a big-footed older'un who was with the doggy? Maybe, yes, maybe so. Getting the doggy was what she wanted, so she'd get 'em's doggy or the older'un would givvit! If the older'un didn't givvit, then she'd stick the older'un in the belly, quick and easy!
She wanted to let the doggy come out. If the doggy came out, then the older'un might not come out, be too scared. She was scarier than an older'un, scarier than a baddie, a... A... A beastie! Yess'um, a beastie, that's what she was! And like beasties, she got'em, she got her food any nobody'un would stop her! Not an older'un, not the doggy, not no one; in fact, maybe she could make it come out better...
She took her stick, her pipe, and hit it against a bag. Rustle! went the bag, all loud-like and sharp, a sound like a hunting stick's end. "Bark! Bark!" went the doggy, angry; she knew where it was, she hearded it. Rustle! went the bag again as she hit it again, and she giggled, oh yes she giggled loud.
His hackles rose higher at the insane giggling. There was a human out there, no doubt, smelling of youth, femininity and body odour. It was a smell eerily similar to Luna's, though distinct, as all individual human scents were. Unnerved and confused at the same time, he made a low, uncomfortable sound, something between a growl and a whine in the back of his throat. He backed up, trying to keep more of Luna hidden where she lay, sensing the worry and confusion in Luna's unseen stare.
The dog edged backwards again, his jaws parting slightly in a snarl. Something rustled and crackled loudly in front of dog and master, and moments later, a small, black bag came flying, the squeal of disturbed rats drowned out by Dragon's furious barking. Luna yelped and covered her head, the trash hitting Dragon on the top of his shoulders; he yelped, but then lunged forward, standing on his back legs and planting his front paws on the trash heap.
Her doggy was out. She had scared him bad and he was out. "BARK BARK BARK!" went the dog, flashing those white ugly teeth, those teeth. She'd get 'em, she was not scared, she never be! Doggy wasn't as bad as a beastie, doggy was stupid!
She tooked her hunting stick, put it nice and high. Licked her lips, she did, all nice and sharp, and looked at the throat. One poke, one stick, and bye-bye doggy — then food! Yummy, yummy food...and no older'uns being bossy. Her kill, her food, no givvit! Hers!
"What's going on out there?"
Luna had not seen a feral youth since leaving Jim. Maybe the odd, childish shadow that betrayed their presence, or an impish giggle in the night, but never as close as she was now. Dragon was glaring and baring daggers at the intruding child, who was backing up, a broken metal pipe in her hands. A mop of shaggy hair — brownish, down to her waist and ridden with filth and tangles — hid wolfish eyes that peered through with a primitive gleam. The young girl's posture was hunched, careful, as if she were expecting any sudden moves to come her way; she moved like a cat out of range. Dragon looked ready to spring at the little monster, who, borderline thin and clad in the most tattered of winter-wear, barely looked innocent at all.
That was one time Luna would justify why Jim had pointed a gun at a child.
"We've got no food!" snapped Luna, waving away the girl. She flinched, bendng over slightly at the jabbing pain in her gut. Managing to stand up slightly, she continued with, "Y-you've got n-no business here! Go! Shoo! Move on!"
The feral didn't waver. Instead, she took another step back, but then lifted one hand. Her stance was sturdy, her eyes locked on Dragon as she pulled back her spear. With a deft throw, the metal projectile hurtled towards Dragon, Luna just pulling him out of the way in time as he barked and snapped savagely.
No! She had missed! She had missed the doggy, and her hunting stick was stuck! Stupid biggun had grabbed the doggy, but Enid would take it back, she'd take it back, she would!
Quick-sharp, she jumped, ran, yells loud. Her nails, like beastie-claws, grabbed at fur, quick-sharp, and she bit'em! Doggy yelped as her teeths, her beastie-fangs bit'em, and snarled loud. She held on, she not scared, ripped, shaked her jaws; doggy was angry, eyes buggy, all snappy-snappy-jaws-fangs-barkbark —
He bit'er! He bit'er! She screamed, she screamed loud; big teeth in her side, sink 'tween bones, make lots of blood and hurt. Enid grab doggy by neck, grab and choke it; she hold on, she hold on tight, make him let go. Doggy jumped, dancing like silly girly, moved which-way and that and all growls as it did. She bite again and again, make teeth-marks, make it bleed, but it bite tighter. Harder. Shaking, tearing, ow, ow, ow, it hurt!
She not get anywhere with this. Doggy would kill her, make her food any which-way. She had to fight harder, be stronger — she let go of him and then lunge at his face, his eye —
Adrenaline was coursing through her a mile a minute. The pain in her belly was still there, but barely noticeable as she held the broken pipe aloft. Luna stared, amber eyes wide, as the feral slumped to the ground. A large lump was forming over the back of her head, and though there was no blood on the pipe, Luna could tell it hurt. The girl was stunned, staring up blankly in shock, but then her face wrenched in pain as blood flew.
Dragon had not stopped tearing into the girl, and as she slackened, he went mad with the taste of her blood in his mouth. The little girl screamed as his fangs ripped into her, shaking his head even more savagely then before. A substantial splatter was all over the ground beneath him, and for a moment, the child's light brown hair and eyes faded. There was the tear-filled blue and sunny yellow of Stella II, and it was her that was screeching, her being torn to pieces by an overprotective, angry dog. Luna's blood became an ice-ridden flow, raging through her with every panicked heartbeat, and her foot swung upwards.
Dragon yelped as the foot connected with the side of his jaw. He let go, releasing the feral and bolting a few feet away, cowed by the rage, the volume of Luna's voice. The young woman frantically pulled off her coat, the feral — no, just a little girl — writhing madly upon the ground. She swung at screeched hoarsely in broken English at Luna, demanding to be let go, to be spared; Luna pressed the coat as tightly as she could upon the wound. Into her arms she took the child, trying to prop her up to prevent shock. Legs up, or head up? Luna thought, trying to remember which to use for injuries around the ribcage.
And all the while, as the girl kept fighting, her warm blood beginning to form spots on the outside of the coat, Luna wept. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry..." she whispered, over and over again, trying to calm the little one. Dragon remained where he was, ears and head down, tail between legs, whimpering.
End Chapter Ten: Beastie
TO BE CONTINUED
The World of Darkness copyright White Wolf Publishing
Text copyright me
The first eight chapters of Regret, Desire, Hope: The Triangle Chronicles are now available as a PDF, for when you're on the go and/or want to read it offline. The link to download the book is on my FF page.