In the Mind of the Beast

Strangers. Apathetic people rustled their feet, shuffled their papers to cover up unintended noises. They were a group, a courtroom of nonbelievers who only saw Scarlett as a side show. Court seats creaked every time she tried to shift. Her restraints, her chains, made satisfying rings against the floor. 

Scarlett hated the idea of leaving her ‘affairs’ with an austere lawyer. While the supposed opposition, the people she vaguely heard, wanted her to rot. They wanted to kill her. They wanted Scarlett dead.

The jury of disgusted faces cringed every time a picture of Scarlett’s work popped up on the monitor. It drove their decision home, long before she even had time to process. The towering judge stared at her with such disdain, hisd wooden hammer smacking hard to keep the rest of his slaves in check. 

Silence mixed with the stale dust. The proceeding didn’t last long, but there was a film of dust in the air. Someone in the audience coughed lighty, a scuffle of shoes under seats, and a sharp inhale from my own lawyer when they showed the worst image of all. 

Scarlett, from that moment, retreated into her own mind. She peered down, kept herself from making any distinct eye contact with anyone on the jury. 

Her eyes shifted between the brutal image and the judge. His expressions changed. Scarlett saw them when no one else did. She told him nothing was wrong with her. 

Scared, the judge ignored her eyes. She was a witch, a killer, a monster in his courtroom. He cleared his throat, spit away the stink of failure, and made his ruling without hesitation. The jury reading the decision was a formality, Scarlett knew. They were all against her.

When the guilty verdict came, no one was surprised. The shock came from the added decision to consider her insane. Which Scarlett would adamantly argue against. If she was allowed to speak.  

There was no spout of gasps and no tiny chorus of claps or cheers. Just a bout of ‘yup, expected that’ from the sea of pink. 

Everyone thought she was crazy. The decision, and as the officers started to drag her towards her cage, she glared at the judge and jury. 

False gods. High and mighty like the sun shining on its insignificant subjects. 

The case ended. The spectators gradually rose themselves into a tizzy. 

The lions fought over her bloody corpse. Scarlett didn’t speak a single word the entire time, no she refused to hear or see their evil. She hid behind her oily hair, slick like a spill that managed to keep the sun from her eyes. 

All the trouble over one girl who did nothing wrong. All the commotion for parents who weren’t even worth calling mom and dad. 

They wanted to create a spectacle. Scarlett was their puppet. The officers were supposed to protect her and sneak her out without anyone knowing. 

But, no, they wanted a show. The doors parted and an onslaught of reporters assaulted her senses. 

The flashes from cameras irritated her sensitive eyes. The constant barrage of questions made her ears bleed. She could taste everyone’s sweat. She could taste blood. 

Mics and recorders came within inches of her nose. She shook her head and flinched back like a puppy being smacked. 

Too many people. A man tried to lead Scarlett to a bus, handed her off to two built giants in white. 

Constant questions and chatter poured in from every side. Vultures pecking at her body. No order, just chaos waiting to create order. 

“How do you feel about the verdict?”

“What about the rest of your family?”

“Why did you do it?”

“Did you really eat your parents?”

“Do you really think you’re a werewolf?”

“Do you regret it?

Scarlett despised their horrible crow-like screeches. 

How did she feel? Like an animal in chains. Sad, depressed, because they were taking her freedom. For what? To put her in a zoo. There was no family. Yes, Scarlett thought they were pretty filling. Of course. And no. 

Why would she regret it? Scarlett had never regretted her choices. There was nothing wrong with her. She did nothing wrong. 

The buzzards scattered as she was shoved into a van. 

And taken away to the asylum. 

******

Life was scripted for Scarlett. Everyday became chunks of empty space. She rolled with the punches. Hopeless, lost, hungry, and experienced what remained of her life in slow motion and moments. 

Time couldn’t move faster. 

Scarlett found comfort in her tiny room. She found the crisp, infinite black of the night that seemed to caress her when she grew hungry. 

Creamy, velvet clouds of murky grey covered the sky and blocked the stars. 

But the moon continued to rage over existence. It was close to full, missing a sliver near the left. Shadows danced across Scarlett’s unmoving face.

So many full moons, so many sleepless nights.  

An echoed murmur of hunger and dread.  

Sooner or later they would slip. Scarlett was sure of it. The problem came from the timing. It needed to line up. She needed to have meat. 

We will have our meal.

That lost slice of the moon, shrouded in darkness, was merely a tease to her. 

Scarlett could feel the moon’s rays stimulating her entire body. A sense of power and security in an otherwise useless position. She could feel the vibrations through her veins, and she drank the radiation bouncing through the night.
She shifted to her left side, her other having been sufficiently bathed. The stiff sheets of the spring bed were tucked around her back and chest. She basked in the night glow. 

She felt a tug. 

Not yet. The pills were still in her system. 

A pillar of light gleamed off Scarlett’s forehead. 

Ah, the anticipation.  It’s unbearable.  Am I right?

“Shut up,” Scarlett said to no one in particular. She needed to get some sleep before the morning check.

Meat. Rubbing blood on our skin, chewing on still beating hearts.  It’s always best warm and wiggling.  

“I said shut up. You’re making me hungry.”

Scarlett covered her head with the pillow like it had a chance to silence the voice in her head. 

I find it hi-larious you think that will work. 

Scarlett clenched the pillow tighter and tried to force sleep. She didn’t need her voice talking to her while she was trying to relax in the moonlight. 

I’m not an alarm clock. Can’t hit snooze on this sexy beast. 

A man’s voice called Scarlett’s name. She twitched awak, having fallen asleep before she even noticed. Her door unlocked, she counted four heavy locks. Two older men entered her room clad in white. One with a clipboard and the other, an ursine physique, was purely there to look intimidating and scary. The light flicked on, the buzz started that only Scarlett could hear, as her cobalt gray eyes stared them down. 

“Feeling better today?” One man said. 

She didn’t answer. 

Like hell we would.

Scarlett only nodded and rubbed the false sleep from her eyes, lowering her head so her hair could fall over her face and separate her from their intimidation. If it was ‘the day,’ Scarlett would surely eat those two first. 

Scarlett had known them from the first day months ago, and from the start, she always detested their pedophilic stares. They enjoyed making her feel tiny and stuck in a routine.    

I would rather eat them, not that fake shit they serve to us. Fresh is better.  

Fresh was definitely better, Scarlett agreed. 

She made her bed, folded the sheets perfectly on all sides and pushed loose ends under the mattress. Fold at the top, a stunning two inches with the pillow centered, clean as the day she arrived. She dragged to the sink across the room, three steps, each a foot apart, heel to toe.

She saw herself in the mirror. Correction, she found the weak part of her. Scarlett tried to brush her ink hair, three on the left, three on the right. It continued to stick up in random places. 

When she brushed her teeth, she paid special attention to her canines. And when she got dressed, pulling on a gray sweatshirt and loose sweatpants, she didn’t bother with a bra or the slippers. 

She preferred the natural feeling. 

Scarlett exited her prison, her tomb, and the door slammed shut. She learned against the wall in her designated spot, watched as the other residents scuffed out of their rooms like an orderly camp. 

Scarlett and a boy found each other’s eyes. He stared at her with a pursed face, like he’d seen something unsavory. The same as the people from court. Like they could see something she couldn’t.

Two people were missing. And there was one more new person. An older man with grey hair, one eye closed and the other pinballing between her and the boy. 

Weird.

Scarlett thought the same. 

The army of nurses paraded them down the hall. Scarlett coughed when her ample senses caught a pungent aroma rushing through the halls. A masculine smell mixed with cheap cologne and a hospital odor that permeated their light blue scrubs. Searching through, she eventually found the aroma that kept her sane. The one hidden behind the sheet of unwanted fragrances. 

Scarlett always found that their goal was to baby them. Keep them monitored. Like she was a child. 

You’re a capable sixteen year old. You don’t need a babysitter. 

Scarlett felt like puking when one of the orderlies put his hands on her shoulders as they passed by. It sent a numb shock through her stomach. 

Sometimes they’d drift to the middle of her back. Rubbing. Caressing. Pretending to care more for the patients than the paycheck. 

And our ass.

The line to the cafeteria was as unruly as usual. The same psychotic boys and girls leaned out of formation. One was never able to walk behind someone, one unable to make left turns, others yelling at random objects, one speaking to his dead sister.  

Some really crazy people are here.  

One foot in front of the other, that’s what they constantly said.  One of the nurses, this one female, pointed out the plank above the double doors, mahogany with black and gold trim letters, small print:  Traverse City State Hospital, Michigan. They had replaced the wooden plate when Scarlett first arrived after someone had pulled it off the wall, thinking it was a brownie. 

Breakfast was a clamor to get the first servings of pancakes, ham and cheese, bacon, and grits. Never anything good. No real meat, never anything worthy of Scarlett’s stomach.  

Disgusting. Tastes like an old baby. 

Scarlett wasn’t even sure what that meant. She turned to her usual bowl of cereal. 

It took work to eat around her hair since she was too nervous to look up and acknowledge any of the flesh bags. Someone screamed, another jabbed the wall, something about monsters and the wrong number of grits.

Scarlett found that stupid. You don’t eat something you can’t count. 

Should have gone with cereal. 

After breakfast, the worst part of the day began.  

At exactly eight thirty, in groups of ten, everyone would huddle into another room with a circle of color coded chairs.  In every circle, in the biggest chair, the chair everyone wanted, was a man or woman holding a clipboard, ten sheets of paper on every board.  

Scarlett tended to notice things far faster and better than everyone else. 

You surprised?

No, she wasn’t. 

Scarlett took the seat opposite Dr. Larner, white beard and bald head as always, brown suit, the same orange pen with red ink. 

That damn pen was the worst thing to Scarlett. He used it on purpose to annoy her. The ink didn’t match the color. The cap was stored on the back, and the worst, she could hear the taps every time it touched down. 

The doctor liked to tease her with it. He’d wiggle it back and forth, fully aware that Scarlett found him a little attractive. 

Handsome little piece. 

But, Scarlett was slowly losing interest. She could smell the other women on him. He cheated on his wife all the time. Lucky for him, Scarlett was the only one who could tell, and she tended not to blather. 

The rest of the chairs filled. The doctors went over the regulations, no phones or electronics, bath buckets and towels are not to be kept in our rooms, and no physical contact with other patients. 

Rather eat than fuck.

Scarlett agreed. 

Larner started going around the room and pointing at people to talk about their issues, their goals, future dreams. One person cried for reasons Scarlett couldn’t understand. Something about progress. 

Ugh, someone always cries. 

Another commented about how he doesn’t tick when eating anymore. Someone else was embarrassed to tell everyone that she was starting to see happiness in the shadows. 

Bipolar disorder, clinical depression, borderline personality disorder, delusional disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder. Disorder, disorder, disorder.  Every person presented as broken and needing fixing.  

Scarlett spit at the concept. They were crazy. She was not. She was different. Special.

Perfect, I’d say.

“Scarlett?” Dr. Lamer said. He clicked his pen two times to get her attention. 

She looked up and wished death on the pen. 

“Scarlett?” He said again. “Would you like to share anything?” 

“No,” she said. 

Hell, no!

Scarlett could feel his hard stare trying to pierce her hair barrier. 

“You know, you’ll have to share sooner or later,” he said. “You’ve been here for a while.  You can’t just sit there and listen. Talking helps. Remember the motto:  No more hiding, only improvement.”  

Scarlett felt more eyes. Sick eyes of all colors waited on her to mutter something about hope, to beg for her life, to spout nonsense of how she was getting better. 

She debated acting for them. But decided against it. 

“Don’t you want to be normal?” 

Scarlett twitched when she heard it. 

Okay, so fucking kill this shitty doctor. 

Those words burrowed deep. She remembered her parents always saying the same thing. Her father would say it whenever Scarlett wouldn’t participate in school activities. Her mother would say it whenever she wanted to apply makeup and ‘butter’ Scarlett up to show off to the other mothers. 

Don’t you want to be normal? 

No–

Because we’re perfect. 

Scarlett didn’t see anything wrong with herself. Because she was already perfectly normal.  

They didn’t want her to be normal, they wanted her to be like them. They were imposters and tricksters who would’ve succeeded in their sick ways if it wasn’t for her.  

Hell, yeah, I know what’s best for us. 

Scarlett found direction under Her. The voice that had revealed the truth about her parents, about who and what she was. Liars, frauds, pretenders, actos, until–

We brought justice.

The line by the doctor dug up so many memories. 

Scarlett was a little overwhelmed.

I got ya, baby girl.

If there was anything Scarlett would call herself, it was patient. 

She’d been patient with her parents. Waited, and waited, and waited, so long for the full moon back when she’d discovered the truth. 

She’d changed abruptly and violently. 

Yet so deliciously.

Back then, there weren’t pills to stop her. But there was a limit to everything. Scarlett was going to teach them that eventually. 

Scarlett remembered the details. Her own screams, the cracking bone, the talons, hair and fangs, shifting muscles, the bloodlust and power–all of it allowed her to pounce the hunters at the right moment. She’d turned her parents into the prey just as she’d flipped the script and become the predator. 

Scarlett remembered more. The tastes, the textures, the smells–

Each piece she’d enjoyed was flawless and fulfilling. The liver was like a steak, the blood and bile served as sauce, with the veins becoming a plate of spaghetti. Chunks were like soft potatoes, something chewy and tasty as licorice. 

It was all delightful candy. Intestines were giant noodles of treats, bigger in her father than her mother, smothered in raspberry flavoring. The dense bones were tough at first, but Scarlett’s sharp teeth allowed her to enjoy the grainy goodness before she found the creamy, brainy center. Eyes like fruit candy, part leathery like jerky. Hearts that spewed like a chocolate fountain. 

Scarlett had enjoyed every marshmallow bite. 

“Scarlett?” Dr. Lamer tried. 

He continued asking questions, like the reporters, but she refused to provide any answers. She couldn’t concentrate on words, not when the memories made her stomach growl so loudly. 

No matter what the doctor said, Scarlett stayed transfixed on her thoughts. Her freedom. Her hope since there was nothing wrong with her. 

She wasn’t crazy. 

She was special. 

She was a werewolf. 

******

Blurry days became weeks and months. Scarlett’s patience never wavered. Even as the days blended together. The same schedule, the same pills, the same room. The same bed– 

A dreamless sleep, mind hampered by drugs, a body constricted to the confines of a simple existence. 

Scarlett wished for freedom when she caught a glimpse of the midnight stars.

To run and leap across the fields. To feed and sleep to contentment. 

Perfection.

The door unlocked, the lights flashed on, and her freedom faded away again. 

The day felt different as Scarlett followed the predestined path. And she guessed right when they added an extra visit out of nowhere. 

A visit with a psychiatrist. 

In her room, after Scarlett was escorted by the two biggest pedophiles, there were two solitary leather chairs. The blinds were open to let in an overwhelming amount of light sting Scarlett’s eyes. 

It interfered with her thoughts and actions for some reason. She swatted at the window like it was rabid bees. 

Keep it together girl!

Scarlett calmed down, started fiddling with her hair. She chewed her lower lip. 

The blonde doctor sat down and smiled like they were best friends. 

Scarlett disliked her just as much as the other snacks. 

“Hey there,” the doctor said. “My name’s Rachel. I’m just here to talk.”

Scarlett hated that the woman wouldn’t avert her eyes. She felt like a lab animal being observed and coaxed to leave her life of freedom. The doctor’s wine-colored skirt annoyed Scarlett. As did the missing button at the top of the docs matching blouse. 

She was doing it on purpose to annoy Scarlett.

Scarlett wasn’t a fragile doll. 

But, she was feeling particularly lucid. Those damn pills had taken her freedom again. 

“How are you feeling today?” Rachel said, clicking a blue pen once, and once only. Thankfully her pen color matched the ink, and Scarlett felt relieved.   

The doctor’s voice came out like velvet, a high pitch with a flawless deep undertone, like dark chocolate. Like a hefty fox. 

Like a hefty fox. 

Scarlett licked her lips. Stay patient, she told herself. Waiting is a bitch, she imagined Her saying.   

“You know I’m just going to make you stay until you talk,” Rachel said. “I want to help.”  

Scarlett didn’t want to talk to someone who saw her as crazy. 

Because she wasn’t. 

The lack of other people made her more uncomfortable. Something felt…off about the meeting. 

“I’m fine,” Scarlett coughed. She’d spoken before she realized and hid behind her curtain of hair. 

The psychiatrist wrote something on her notepad. Scarlett managed to trace her pen with her magnificent eyes.

“Are you really fine?” 

A random click of her pen.

“A bit hungry.”  

Scarlett’s stomach had been making obscene noises since she’d noticed the red hue of Rachel’s skin.

“The same hunger as usual,” the doctor said.  

Scarlett nodded. 

Rachel continued, “Have you been thinking about your parents?”

Scarlett paused, frozen like a statue. Another doodle, but this time the clipboard was angled perfectly to avoid prying eyes. 

“No,” Scarlett lied. There was malice in her voice. 

“How about your condition?  I’ve noticed you’re a bit more aware than some of the others. You seem special,” she said.

Scarlett turned colder. Of course she was more aware. She was a werewolf, not a psycho. 

“Scarlett, can you tell me what you are?” 

That’s not fair. Scarlett hesitated, she wasn’t sure what to say. It wasn’t supposed to go that way. 

“Are you a girl?”  

What was she doing?  Scarlett panicked, she inadvertently tilted her head to the side, away as some of her hair streaked around her eyes. She felt vulnerable, she felt wrong.

“Are you human?”

That’s not fair. Scarlett tried to sink into the chair and melt away. She wished for the ground to break open and swallow her whole. 

“What are you?”

Stop it, Scarlett imagined Her saying. She couldn’t turn away. It was as if she was being forced to lock eyes with the doctor, compelling answers–

“I’m a werewolf!” Scarlett blurted out. She tried to teleport away. 

“And what about the voice?  Has it disappeared?  Completely, I mean.”  

Plum, strawberry perfume invaded Scarlett’s head and ripped an answer out 

“No,” Scarlett said. 

The psychiatrist’s smile disappeared slowly, from pity to interest, the corners of her cheek bones melting through her muscles. Subtle features, detached lobes and thin eyebrows, twitched to form a complete menagerie of movements that Scarlett caught. But there was no vulnerability, no exploit to take advantage of to switch the tables. 

Rachel placed her notepad face down. “Stay here. I’ll be back in a minute,” she said with firm authority.  She caught Scarlett trying to visualize the papers on the table. “The cameras are watching.”  

Scarlett was tempted to challenge her. But she didn’t. You should, she imagined Her saying. 

As the doctor left the room, Scarlett noticed the snow covered face of Dr. Lamer at the door. There was also another, some man in a lab coat, mysterious and surprisingly chiseled. The smell of pine, which was rather pleasant. 

The door failed to latch completely closed. 

Scarlett focused and controlled her expert hearing. She closed her eyes and concentrated. The electricity travelled up her spin and licked the tips of her ears.

“How’s her progress?” Dr. Larner said, his voice hampered by his bushy beard.  

“I know it’s early to say, but I think she’s making some progress,” Rachel said. “She’s not as…feral as she used to be. She still thinks she’s a werewolf, yes, but I don’t think it’s as strong as when she first arrived. I do think the pills are working.”

“She might be building an immunity to the anti-psychotics. It happens,” Larner said.

“Well, we did keep it light at first. We could increase the dosage or prescribe another.” The pine doctor learned against the door, almost pushing it closed. 

“Wouldn’t that cause adverse effects? It’s not depression we’re dealing with. She has extreme clinical lycanthropy, three different types of schizophrenia, and a level of dissociative identity disorder that I’ve never dealt with,” Rachel said. 

Something clicked inside Scarlett’s mind. The disembodied voice leeched its way back into her mind. A parasite? No, a friend. She wasn’t a lie. She wasn’t a figment. It was Scarlett’s brain. 

Right?

Right!

Scarlett felt relieved. Goose pimples beaded her sensitive skin, and the voices blended together like a symphonic piece.  

“It would help.”

“Then, we increase the dosage a little.”

A long pause, three sharp inhales and exhales, one of coffee, the other two of ice.  

“How about…” An annoying menagerie of clicks. “Well, she isn’t dangerous anymore. I think she might be ready for a roommate.”

One step closer.

Scarlett wasn’t good with people, especially new people brought into her life by bad decisions. They would probably just act like her parents–

No, no, no, think of the opportunity stupid.

Scarlett wasn’t stupid. She didn’t like being called stupid. 

Free meal, stupid. Warm everything!

Scarlett’s stomach growled again. Painfully. Her cheeks twisted into a malevolent smirk.

“Are you sure?  What if it’s her parents all over again?”

He’s a mind reader apparently. That pen must give him mind reading powers.

“Just hear me out. I think she might benefit from being around someone her age.  Maybe someone on suicide watch so we accomplish two things at once.

The whiff of pine–

“I think it’s a pretty good idea.”

Dr. Larner groaned audibly, and said, “I mean, if you think it’s a good idea. Butif something goes wrong, it’s not going to look good. We put both of them in one of our observation rooms, the one with the one-way mirror, and observe for a week. See how that goes. Then decide if we should move forward?”

Yum! We like free meals.  

Scarlett hadn’t felt excitement in a long time. Not since the parental banquet. Or that one time she found a lost poodle–

Pills won’t hold us down forever.

Scarlett wanted to raise her arms in victory. She was getting real blood. 

Peace, freedom–perfection–almost in the palm of her hands. 

******

A week slipped by. Scarlett was led to a new, strangely girly room. Like they’d tried extra hard to make it sweet and feminine. The odd fragrances boxed her nose, and the annoyingly bright pink all over the room pained her eyes. There was a high pitched whine in the background. It seemed to dampen Scarlett’s expert hearing. 

The left wall was a full mirror, only a sliver of wall near the floor, a one-way mirror to keep watch.  

Perverts. Two beds were littered with pink sheets, kittens and puppies to tease me, the headboard barely visible behind the mountains of frilly pillows. Both beds were separated by a good distance but nowhere near a wall. 

Scarlett’s attention focused on the books. Countless books, some she vaguely recognized. 

The psychiatrist nudged Scarlett into the room where she noticed her name etched into the headboard of the left bed, the name Cassandra carved in the other.  

“This will be your new room for a bit. And, your roommate–”  

She took extra care when introducing the quivering creature trying to fade from existence behind her. 

The girl, Cassandra, was more like a frail fawn than a person. A tiny thing with nails perfectly trimmed and her hair a curly brown. 

Scarlett wanted to scalp her and stick the brown mess on her own head. 

“Come on, Cassandra. Come say hello. This is Scarlett.”

Cassandra slowly leaned her way out of her personal bubble. The dreary circles under her eyes became strikingly visible. 

Scarlett found a plethora of scars spread about Cassandra’s limbs. 

And realized what the doctors were doing. 

She wasn’t stupid. 

Just stick with the plan.

Scarlett turned feral to establish the pecking order. She seemed to present a werewolf’s strength and growled under her breath, hissing in a warning to keep distance. 

Cassandra looked away in shame. Sadness–like a baby scorned. She was scared. 

Scarlett could smell it. And, in a way, felt bad for the innocent morsel. 

“Come on. Don’t be afraid. I know it will take some adjusting, but you’ll both be observed through the mirror. If you need anything, we’ll be right there.” Just as she was about to close the door, Rachel gave one more warm smile, and said, “Everything will be better. I promise.”

Cassandra faintly smiled, genuine and small.

Scarlett did as well. 

Don’t make promises you can’t keep. 

******

  The grass was pudding across Scarlett’s stomach. Blades of green tangled with my thick black fur, and cradled me as I stalked the baby deer. She expertly hid her own scent by coming from down wind and made sure the grass only parted so she could see.

Stay calm and wait. Control your breathing. 

Creek water captured most noises. She tiptoed forward, scuttled and positioned so one swift pounce was all it took. 

A loose fruit fell. A spider’s web twisted. The fawn perked up to scan the horizon. Its tiny nose twitched. 

Wait for the perfect moment. 

Cat and mouse, predator and prey. Muscles contracted and released, the wind blew violently, Scarlett’s roar vibrated the air itself as she pounced.

******

Cassandra struggled–

Under the pink cushions. Her girlish screams and laughter echoed through the room as Scarlett tried to pin her under a house of blankets. She could almost hear the people behind the glass basking at their supposed success. To them, they were having fun, frolicking and dancing in a fun world of their own.  Maybe Cassandra’s world,  not Scarlett’s.

Her world was forest and mountain and fresh air, unlimited game, completely barren of prisons.

After a few struggling seconds, Cassandra squeezed free and chuckled her way to the other side of the room. To her, a game. To Scarlett, practice.  

Practice makes perfect.  

Scarlett agreed. 

After time passed, they both sat in their own corners, Scarlett near the bookcase while Cassandra chose to decorate the walls with art. 

Scarlett used the book as a cover. To dissect and discern movements, she noted the scars as Cassandra’s gown hiked up and down in awkward places. The scars on her arms were more fresh. Not from a blade, maybe a saw of some kind. They weren’t clean, more jagged and violent nasty wounds that would have produced a lot of–

Blood.

The more Scarlett watched, the warmer Cassandra’s smile grew. Scarlett couldn’t help but feel amused by her actions. 

Cassandra liked to stack the stuffed animals in the room. She was the leader of the pack. She gave them jobs and directed them to fulfill a directive of survival. 

Scarlett found her adorable. 

Wait, what?

Scarlett meant delicious. Delicious. Not adorable. 

Okay, good. Don’t go soft on me now. 

Scarlett accepted that Cassandra was delicious. Her sweet, puffy hair was reminiscent of a muffin. The manicured nails made her appear clean and well-mannered. Scarlett could see her back muscles twist under her tight clothes. She could practically lick the scent of kiwi in the air. 

Cassandra’s azure blue eyes were like orbs conjured from the sky. Or sea pearls that fluttered in the distance, a mix of dark and light, a soft touch of a strong embrace. 

Were her eyes always that bright? Scarlett hadn’t noticed it before. 

You’re staring at her.

Scarlett tried to tear herself away but she couldn’t. 

Cassandra smirked, stuck her tongue out, and blushed. 

Scarlett turned red as well as she broke eye contact. She felt tingly. She felt–

No, no, no–

Stop it!

Lions were noble. Tigers were vicious. Werewolves were patient. 

******

The first one got away but not this one, not this time.  

Remember: patience.  

The same meadow, the same noon sun, and the same midday breeze kept Scarlett’s scent hidden.

This time it would be different. She was determined to have meat; tasty, bloody, mouthwatering meat. 

Inch-by-inch, she started her instinctual job. 

Ready?

A roar. Scarlett used it to scare her prey. 

A whimper. Not a fawn. 

Scarlett stopped midair, she stopped time completely in her dream–

Because she could never hurt one of her own. 

******

Scarlett remembered happiness. Once when everything was fine. Then it fell apart. Dread, tired, drained, unhappy–

Cassandra leaked into her thoughts. 

Don’t forget

Scarlett hadn’t forgotten. She couldn’t. She regretted nothing because she knew that there was an eventual end goal. 

Not now, not when we’re this far.  

She needed to remember the plan. 

As Doctor Rachel entered the room, she rearranged a few things so she could “help” us. Apparently, from what Scarlett could hear, the games worried them. Partially Scarlett’s fault for being a bit more aggressive than usual. And partly Cassandra’s fault for being so fragile. And partially the doctor’s faults for being stupid, at least in Scarlett’s opinion. 

They were placed in chairs facing each other. The doctor had the usual notepad and nemesis pen. 

“Okay, today we are going to try a little activity,” Rachel said. “I want both of you to face each other.”

They do as she asks, hesitantly and slowly, but eventually Scarlett and Cassandra were staring at each other. 

Cassandra attempted to look away in embarrassment. 

Scarlett knew the secret. The faster they did the exercises, the faster they could get out of the situation. 

Cassandra was clueless sometimes, one of her best and worst qualities.  

A tiny fawn, so innocent, so inexperienced, so ripe.  

“Scarlett, pay attention.”

Cassandra’s tiny hands were out while the doctor motioned for Scarlett to do the same. 

“Now, Cassandra, you ask her a question. Scarlett, you answer truthfully, then you switch.  Think of it as a trust game. If you can communicate, you can start seeing what you two have in common.”

Scarlett waits for Cassandra to start. The nervous girl kept opening her mouth, saying nothing, then closing it, similar to a fish. 

Fish is gross. 

“Do…Do you like books?” Cassandra’s stutter added another adorable level to her timidness.  

At first, Scarlett thought it would become an annoying habit. It never became that way. It became expected. And welcome. 

Scarlett blushed and froze. 

What was wrong with her?

Nothing at all!

“Yes,” Scarlett answered reluctantly. 

There’s a slight gasp from the older woman directing them. She motions to continue. 

Scarlett swallowed through her dry mouth and shakingly said, “Do you?”

“I do. A lot,” Cassandra said. “What kind do you read?”

Scarlett huffed and was surprised to find herself missing the cute stutter. 

“Sci-fi, fantasy, and anything weird,” Scarlett said. She couldn’t stop herself. 

“Same,” Cassandra said. “I especially like Jim Butcher, Terry Pratchett, Michael Scott—“

“Stephen King!” Scarlett interrupted. It caught everyone off guard because of the sheer enthusiasm. 

The two squealed together. 

The next few hours were filled with giggles, reading, showing each other passages in their favorite novels. They jumped between genuine laughs and awkward croaks at each other’s jokes. 

She’s fodder. She’s food. Stop it!

The entire time Scarlett couldn’t think straight. 

Things were becoming–

When bugs were caught in a web, what did they do?  Did they accept their fate?  Or, did they try to wiggle out?  

Scarlett was unsure. 

Don’t lose sight, little pup. 

Werewolves were patient, they were dedicated and…

And…

Confused. 

******

The perverts left them alone for most of the day, only interrupting for meds and hourly checks, all of them probably enjoying themselves in their disgusting booths.

Scarlett rushed through taking hers. She didn’t count them like usual. She didn’t categorize them or double check they were trick pills. She shoved the entire rainbow down just so she could return to her friend. 

Weeks, Cassandra and Scarlett lived in their own universe. 

Peace. Tranquility. Companionship. The more Scarlett found herself in the calm world, the less noisy it seemed. 

Scarlett had found it fun. She’d found a friend. 

Plan

It was weak. But Scarlett heard it. 

The plan. 

The goal was to get fresh meat and blood, to finally break through the pesky walls by transforming into a monster, eating every person in the place, and making a break for the nearest forest. 

It sounded great. She still wanted it. But now, for the first time, she was thinking of alternatives. 

“ScarScar,” Cassandra said, waving her hand around. “You finished?”

Scarlett forgot about the book in her hands.

Both were huddled against the wall. 

“You okay?” Cassandra asked. 

Of course, she would notice. Scarlett felt warm on the inside. She made sure to keep her voice down so the observers couldn’t hear. 

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Scarlett said.

Cassandra continued, “You know you can talk to me. We’re best friends.”

Scarlett stared blankly. She almost dropped her book. 

Best…

Friends…

Scarlett just busted out and said it– 

“If there was a voice in your head, I mean, not your own voice, would you do what it told you to do?” Scarlett was oddly nervous about the answer. 

And, just as always, Cassandra gave a straight answer. 

“I think…,” she said. “If it’s a voice in your head, you should listen to it.”

Yes! Fucking love this chick!

Scarlett placed her book on the floor and said, “You think so?”

Cassandra nodded and smiled, “If it’s your head, it can’t be wrong. You’re too perfect to seem wrong. So, that means you’re….special.”

Scarlett hugged her own legs, pulling them close to her chest. 

Your head can’t be wrong. You heard her. 

Scarlett leaned close against Cassandra’s shoulder. She held it for a while, and when no one barged into the room to cut their bonding, Scarlett confided in her best friend. 

“Can I tell you a secret?” Scarlett said. 

They locked eyes. Intently and half lidded.

Cassandra responded with an endearing curl of her peach lips. “Of course, you can tell me anything.”

Her breath wafted through Scarlett’s hair, and she became intoxicated. 

“You have to promise not to tell anyone. It’s a big secret.”

The two leaned closer together so no one else could hear them. 

“Of course,” Cassandra said. “Anything for you.”

Scarlett inhaled deeply and pulled her hair apart. Their faces were almost touching.

“You won’t freak out,” Scarlett said. 

“No, never,” Cassandra voiced. 

As they quickly, secretly, away from prying eyes, shared the moment, Scarlett spoke nothing but truth. 

******

“And then, he ripped off his fake hand, revealing a giant golden hook!” 

Scarlett and Cassandra roared into screams and laughs, a flashlight glow illuminating their shadows from under their pillow fort. 

It had taken them days to convince the staff, it had taken them longer to get the right proportions. Stuffed animals held the corners, their beds maintained the heights, and a few chairs provided an ample enclosure they could call their own. 

The doctors seemed a bit more absentminded ever since Scarlett showed her progress. They were letting things go, bending the rules so Scarlett and Cassandra could have more time to spend together. 

“God, you’re so good at ghost stories, Scar,” Cassandra laughed. 

“I just read a lot,” Scarlett chuffed. 

It was a full moon. Scarlett always got her best ideas on those nights. It was thanks to the moonlight she could relax and have fun. It was because of the love received from the heavens that she managed to cheek her pills and finally feel clear headed. All for her bestie. 

Who’d suffered so much, Scarlett felt protective towards her. 

Cassandra was admitted because of her parents who rather rid themselves of the guilt for neglecting a depressed child. They never visit her, or call her, Scarlett was all she had.   

A group of girls at Cassandra’s school started bullying her a few years ago, and it got too much for her to handle alone. Her so-called friends manipulated the entire school into hating her and targeting her with vicious pranks. 

Scarlett would have eaten them all if she’d been there. All she could do now was comfort the sweet girl. 

Cassandra shuffled around the tent, gathered a large pillow and a few blankets, and directed Scarlett to lay her head next to hers. 

It took Scarlett a moment but eventually the two were facing each other, feigning sleep. 

After a few minutes of the two teasing each other with funny faces, Cassandra sliced the silence with a gentle whisper. 

“I hate having to go to bed so early,” she said. 

Cassandra flicked some hair out of Scarlett’s face. She blushed hard but continued to make faces.

Scarlett exhaled heavily when Cassandra’s fingers grazed her ear.

“Yeah, it’s stupid,” Scarlett said. 

Stop fucking stalling!

The voice caught Scarlett off-guard. She flinched, choked audibly. 

“You alright? Is…She acting up?” Cassandra asked. 

Scarlett nodded like she’d done something shameful. 

Cassandra’s warm eyes and touch comforted her. 

Go for it! Now!

Scarlett fought back. She pushed it all back–

Cassandra rolled over, a mischievous smirk spread from ear to ear. She said nothing and instead placed the flashlight in a way so it still appeared they were sleeping. She placed a finger on Scarlett’s lips to keep her from questioning. 

Scarlett breathed heavily. 

Methodically, Cassandra made her way to Scarlett’s side of the fort, slipping and prodding until her stomach was flat on Scarlett’s. She could feel the blood pumping through her body, smell the metallic iron in her veins. Nothing more than a temptation. 

God, just do it already.

She rolled over, the flashlight from earlier in hand, a mischievous smirk spread ear to ear.  She quickly placed a finger on Scarlett’s lips, motioning for her to keep quiet.

“There,” Cassandra said. 

Scarlett tried to ignore the beating in her neck. 

Before she had a second to think, Cassandra straddled her hips. 

Scarlett found her mesmerizing. Almost torture. A temptation. 

A delicacy.

Scarlett mimed the words, “What are you doing?”

Cassandra was staring at her mouth. She giggled softly, sweetly, and grabbed Scarlett’s shoulders, turning both over until they were snuggled together in a heap of limbs.

“They can’t see us this way,” Cassandra mouthed. 

“I still don’t–” 

Cassandra interrupted her by squeezing Scarlett’s sides with her legs, eliciting a deep groan.

Their foreheads touched, and Cassandra spoke quietly.

“Scarlett,” she said with a tenacity never seen before. “I want to make you happy.”

Cassandra unbuttoned the top of her pajamas. 

Scarlett started to fidget and panic. 

A heated star burned inside Scarlett’s chest. 

Cassandra shifted her head, puffed her body upward, and presented her milky, vulnerable neck  

No defense, no shield, just feelings as open as her skin.  

Scarlett’s whole body shivered, her excitement trickled like ice water down her spine and through every pore in her body.  

“I don’t… I mean, I can’t,” Scarlett stuttered. 

Do it! You pussy! It’s right there. Do it! Do! It!

“I want you to be free,” Cassandra said. “I finally found someone worth dying for.”

The words sounded as if they were drawn from one of their books, thoughtful and deep. She kept widening the opening in her pajamas, gripping Scarlett’s thighs tighter and tighter. She made sure there was no escape. 

Scarlett kept whispering Cassandra’s name as she struggled with her own indecision. Scarlett bit her lip and drew blood. 

The taste was too much. It reminded her too much of what was right in front of her. 

Cassandra leaned up, gave a small peck inches from Scarlett’s ear. 

“Do it,” Cassandra said. 

The heat from her skin made Scarlett sweat. The tension, the melding of heartbeats, the perfect harmony. The sweet fragrance of blood snaked its way through her mind.

Their breathing turned ragged. Whispers and Scarlett’s hesitation caused more shivers, more electricity. 

Cassandra leaned more so her neck was up against Scarlett’s lips. 

“God, I love you,” Scarlett said as she bit down hard. 

Scarlett wanted her. She needed her. 

Yes! We need her!

Cassandra sunk back into the sheets as Scarlett climbed on top of her and took initiative. 

Scarlett could feel everything. The air. The wind outside. The clouds. The warmth of the sun and moon. The tip of her nose found the next vein to take hold of, glided across neck bones that she’d save for later. 

Cassandra screamed in pleasure and pain. 

Scarlett’s razor teeth broke the frail, and tasty, flesh of the fawn. 

A river of blood.

******

The moon reached its peak. Beautifully full. 

Every sense went crazy. Muscles relaxed, eyes opened, her body stretched across the cold floor. Scarlett, after her meal, clamored out of the tent and stretched across the floor near the door. Surprisingly, no one came to interrupt her transformation. 

Cassandra’s body could still be seen motionless in the tent. 

A stream of moonlight through the window kissed Scarlett’s face. 

The change rushed her. Perfection was in her hands. 

She felt her eyes morph into slits, red and bursting with passion. Bones rubbed together and shifted to accommodate her future muscle mass. The sweat globbed off her face as she tensed and writhed, as she found the extreme heat that started to melt her. Hair, nails, talons, fangs, a stretching jaw with a mouthful of flesh. A crushing rib cage. Elongated arms. 

Her escape. Scarlett grunted loudly, still not causing a reaction to the crew that might as well been off for the day.

Scarlett basked in the sensations, she found–

Cold. 

The heat disappeared abruptly. The frigid cold flew in, and she felt it all slip away.  

The beginnings of changes conformed back to her body. 

Nothing. Cassandra was gone, sacrificed, but everything was still cold. 

The fuck!?

Nothing changed. Nothing was different. Scarlett was not free. She was a werewolf and covered all her bases, so why–in a full moon with a full belly–wasn’t she changing. 

Nothing. 

Nothing. 

Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing–

Scarlett sat up violently, touched and prodded at different parts of her body just to double check. No extra hair. She examined her teeth with her tongue. No sharpness. No snout. No fangs. 

No freedom. 

Something was wrong. 

Scarlett panicked at her lack of transformation. She started to cry, she sniffled through sobs. 

Why wasn’t she changing? 

What did they do!?

What did they do? 

Bastards stole her transformation!

Scarlett went berserk. She ripped the fort down, all the sheets crashed down and buried Cassandra’s body. 

Scarlett faced the door, anger bubbled, and she charged it on all fours, ramming her forehead as hard as possible. She wanted to tear them apart. She wanted to rip their flesh from their bones with her own teeth! She couldn’t wait until they came running through to stop her rampage. 

Her screams were primal. Untamed. Her gargles and snarls were mixed with Cassandra’s neck blood as Scarlett pounded her forehead over and over. Even as her head became coated with her own red. Some dripped into her eyes. 

She saw only red. 

Scarlett dragged her nails along the door hard enough to leave splintered streaks behind, a dent grew with every headbutt. 

Scarlett remembered the pills she’d failed to count. 

Goddamn it!

Scarlett roared louder, shaking the glass. She clawed faster, gnawing some of her fingers  to the bone. 

Nothing but an urge was inside her brain. 

With a strong breath and a tensing of her gut, she jammed her hand down her own throat in a futile attempt to get rid of the pills she’d taken hours ago. She gagged on blood and chipped nails, she forced her fingers to scratch the back of her esophagus. 

Nothing. Without warning she threw up against the wall. 

She tried again and again to find the pills. And never did. 

No strength. No bliss. No freedom. 

Scarlett collapsed into a heaping mess. Her world darkened, the moon seemed to fade away like her chances at escape. 

Nothing. Just stillness in atrocious darkness. 

What was a werewolf without a transformation?

Lightning–

Scarlett sat up in anticipation for the eventual breaking of the door and needle prick to put her to sleep. 

It never came. 

Scarlett froze when she found a figure sitting on her bed, foot nudging the dead body buried under the discarded sheets. 

Scarlett growled. 

And the man spoke, extending a hand. 

“Don’t worry. I’m here to help,” the man said, voice like wet gravel and brimstone.

Scarlett settled down, spit a piece of raw meat, as she stared down the stranger. 

He smirked in the night. 

“Please, come join me across the River of Styx and beyond the edges.”

Lightning. 

And only Cassandra’s body remained in the lonely room. 

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