Jordan squinted his eyes against the bright light. He tried scratching his head, but he couldn’t move his hands: the rough texture of the rope scraped across his wrists. The color drained from his face, his chest tightening. Where was he? How did he get here, tied to a chair? What’s going on?
Trying to remember, Jordan found his memory empty. Only blackness and slivers too short to form a comprehensive picture. Did he just wake up here?
Looking around frantically, he tried to pull his hands free. A remnant of the light obscured his vision, but he saw a small room with bare, grey walls, a musty smell filling his nose. It reminded him of the secluded interrogation rooms they used in movies. The room was empty besides a small table in front of him, with a single lamp hanging above it.
Something moved behind the lamp.
“Who are you, what am I doing here?” Jordan’s voice was hoarse.
The figure behind the lamp moved, but Jordan saw only a black shape. He closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. At least he wasn’t alone.
“What happened,” the black shape said at a sharp tone, “at the school yesterday.”
Had it asked him that before?
“The school…” With a flash Jordan’s memory started to return: images of his high school, students and teachers running in all directions, screaming, and blood… so much blood…
“I—“ Jordan’s eyes narrowed. “I’m not sure. It all happened so fast. One moment I was sitting in class and the next—”
“What happened next?” A finger tapped on the table.
“Then— where am I? What is this place? Who are you?” Jordan lifted his chin. “And why am I bound? I didn’t do anything.”
“I will tell you once you’ve told me what you remember.”
Jordan balled his fists, his muscles tensing. “No, tell me first.”
The chair scraped over the floor, and the dark shape loomed larger. “All right. I will leave you here until you’re ready to talk.” The shape was about to walk away.
Jordan’s mouth went dry. That person was going to leave him here, without water or food. What if he needed to pee— or worse?
“No, wait!” Jordan leaned forward, his voice shaking. The shape sat down, and Jordan slumped back against his chair, letting out a breath. “I’ll tell you what I remember…”
The day started like any other: I woke up, ate breakfast, and then biked to school. I met up with my friend Lewis at the entrance, and we walked to class together: history.
Everybody looked up when a stranger walked into the room: it was a woman. She seemed quite young for a teacher—compared to any teacher in our school anyways—and she started writing her name on the blackboard: Miss Monroe.
Whispering erupted in the classroom. I saw some of the students laughing and making those tiny balls of paper you can shoot at someone.
“Who’s that? Where’s Mister Thomson?” Lewis said next to me.
I shrugged. “How should I know. Who cares?”
Miss Monroe turned around swiftly, staring at each and every one of us with a smile on her face that didn’t quite reach her eyes. “Good morning, class,” she said. “Unfortunately, Mister Thomson is feeling a bit ill today, so I will be taking over. As you can read, my name is Miss Monroe.”
Two guys in the back, Richy and Deacon, were grinning, slumping back in their seats with their arms crossed.
“If you would all grab your books and turn to page 115, I believe that’s where you left off.”
Nobody moved. It is one of those unwritten rules to always test a substitute teacher. They needed to earn our obedience and respect.
The smile on Miss Monroe’s face disappeared, and her facial expression matched her cold eyes. “I’m sorry, I guess I haven’t made myself clear.” Her voice was low, barely audible. “You will grab your books and turn to page 115, or you will all have detention for the rest of the week, where we will enact the events you will learn about today to make sure you’ll never forget.”
The topic was World War II, and today we would discuss the concentration camps. There was something in her voice that left us cold, with muscles tingling. We all went silent, grabbed our books, and opened them.
Miss Monroe nodded with a smile and begun her lecture on the Jewish holocaust. I looked around; Richy and Deacon sat up straight, shifting in their seat from time to time.
Then, a high-pitched scream pierced the air. The entire class went dead-silent, staring at the door as if the cause of the scream would come through any minute. Another scream rang in my ears, sounding more like a wounded animal than anything human.
More screams followed until it was all I heard. At first, we were frozen to our seat. The next second, the whole class stood up and ran toward the door, pushing each other aside while Miss Monroe made a useless attempt at calming us down.
“Don’t run! Please, you shouldn’t all run without knowing what’s going on!” Her voice drowned in the sea of screams. She didn’t seem so scary anymore.
Lewis and I were the last ones out the door. I rubbed my side, flinching when I touched the spot someone hit with their elbow; I hoped my ribs weren’t bruised. I bumped into Lewis, who was standing nailed to the ground.
Despite the screams, I wasn’t prepared for what I saw. There were two bodies on the floor, covered in blood: one girl and one boy. I didn’t know them; they were two years above me. Three other girls were leaning over the bodies, crying, crumpled to the ground, their screams primal. Two boys were trying to pull them away. When the girls finally moved, I saw that both bodies had bite- and claw-marks, gore and intestines coming out of their stomach, their empty eyes staring into the distance.
I felt my stomach turning and heaved. When I looked down, I saw I wasn’t the only one: the floor seemed scattered with pools of vomit all across the hallway. Only then did I notice the sour smell underlying the rusty odor of blood. The world seemed frozen for a moment as I kept staring at the bodies, unable to turn my gaze away from the horror as several students ran past us. Lewis was standing in front of me as a blurred shape. He said something, but I couldn’t hear him. It was like I was underwater. I couldn’t see, I couldn’t hear, and I couldn’t breathe.
Another scream. I was pulled back to the surface. I took a deep breath, hearing my raspy breathing, and feeling Lewis shaking me.
“Jordan! Jordan, come on! We need to go now!”
He came back into focus, but I didn’t answer him. I started running, Lewis right behind me, still screaming my name.
I had to rescue her, I had to.
“Are you insane? We need to get out of here!” he said when I ran past the exit.
“It’s Paige! I need to get to her!”
Paige and I had been best friends before high school before she turned popular, and I was deemed a nerd not worthy of time. I’d recognize her voice anywhere.
Lewis said something else, but I didn’t hear him. Probably something about how stupid I was and that I never stood a chance even if I did save her. Yet he stayed with me when we neared the source of the scream.
That’s where I saw it: the beast. It was… something out of a nightmare. It looked like a wolf but larger. Its fur was all black, standing on his hind-legs, hunched over something I couldn’t see. His claws were long and sharp. It moved slightly, and I saw Paige lying on the ground, looking at the beast with terror mirrored in her eyes. Next thing I know, I grabbed the fire extinguisher from the wall, ran at the beast, and slammed it with it.
It didn’t work the way I hoped. It didn’t go unconscious, it just got furious. At me.
It turned around, and for the first time, I saw its face: the eyes were glowing red, the snout was long and pointy, with teeth that were too large to fit in its mouth. Saliva was dripping down the corners, together with what could only be blood and gore.
My stomach turned to stone and dropped to the ground. How did I even think I stood a chance against that?
It lashed out with one of his claws, and I closed my eyes. If this was to be the end, I rather not see it.
Suddenly, I felt a pair of arms grab my waist and hoist me to the side. I dropped to the floor with something substantial lying on top of me. I opened my eyes: Lewis. He jumped up, grabbing my hand to pull me to my feet.
“Come on, we gotta go!” he yelled. “It’s unstoppable!”
He was right, and I knew it. There was nothing I could do to stop something this powerful.
Paige screamed again, and I jumped, but not to run away.
“Hé!” I said to the beast. I waved my arms. “Over here! I’m the one who hit you! I’m the one you want!”
The beast turned around again, and I clenched my jaw. It looked like it was smiling as if it was amused by my suggestion.
It worked though: it came right at me.
I grabbed the fire extinguisher again, but this time I pulled the safety and sprayed the stuff all over the beast. It growled in frustration as his claws pawed at its face.
I went to Paige, pulled her off the ground, and we ran as fast as we could. We should have gone to the exit; instead, we didn’t think and ran the exact opposite way.
“Here!” Lewis said as he jumped into an empty classroom, and we followed him inside. “We need to bar the door.”
He and I started to push the desk in front of the door and piled it with some tables. The next moments were the most excruciating ones of my life; we had to wait. Would it follow us? Would it leave us alone and try to catch someone else?
“What was that?” Lewis said, his chest still heaving. “How did it get in the school?”
“I don’t know,” I said, my voice thinner than usual. “It looked like a wolf, but not a normal…” It had to be some normal wolf, it couldn’t be a monster. Monsters aren’t real. And what do I know about wolves? Perhaps it’s an exotic one that somehow got here, or escaped from the zoo or something.
Lewis and I stared at the door. We walked over to Paige and sat next to her, the three of us huddled together in a corner.
“Thank you,” Paige said in a weak voice. “It was courageous of you to stand up to that thing.”
I felt the heat rise to my cheeks. “It was no problem. We couldn’t just leave you there.”
“No problem?” Lewis said. “More like idiotic and a sure suicide,” he muttered under his breath.
“It was courageous of both of you,” Paige said. “I owe you my life.”
I turned my head. Even terrified, she still looked beautiful. I tried to smile at her, but I’m sure my own anxiety shone through. I noticed she was shivering, so I put my hand on her back to stroke her. You know, to comfort her. She leaned into me a little, and a warm sensation spread through my body. It was almost a nice moment, had there not been a student-killing-beast outside the classroom door.
I don’t know how long we sat there in silence, all too anxious to talk more. It could’ve been mere minutes, it could’ve been hours; I had no sense of time. But at some point, a loud banging on the door broke our trance, and Paige let out a scream. It was the beast.
The force with which it threw himself against the door made the desk and tables shake. The tables started to fall, and little by little, the door was opening.
I looked over at Lewis, and we nodded. We sprung up, looking around the classroom. There wasn’t anything much we could defend ourselves with. If only we’d hid in a science classroom, at least we would’ve had some chemicals to throw.
Lewis flipped one of the tables, and we both started to kick against the legs. I looked in the corner of my eye and saw the desk move, the door opening inch by inch.
“Hurry!” Paige sounded frantic, her eyes were wild.
We kept kicking the legs, but it was taking too long, we were too slow. My heart pounded, sweat was dripping past my brow, and my breaths became raspy and shallow.
With one last bang, the door flew open, and the beast jumped in. Right at that moment, the legs of the table gave, and Lewis and I were holding our weapons.
The beast went straight for Paige, and she screamed. I jumped at the beast.
I was too late.
Just as I swung the wooden leg backwards to hit him with as much force as I could muster, he threw his claw down at Paige. Blood sprayed everywhere, her scream died out. He ducked down with his head, taking a bite from her stomach.
The table leg swung right over his head.
The beast looked up, his muzzle wet with new blood. I only had eyes for Paige: there were deep, red cuts all over her face, neck, and chest. Her stomach was pulled open, and her intestines were pulled out. My vision blurred, though I didn’t notice I was crying.
I’d failed. I couldn’t defeat this beast; it was too strong. I fell to my knees.
The beast cocked its head and showed his teeth; it seemed to be smiling.
I heard Lewis scream as he charged, but the beast pushed him aside with only one swish from its arm, without even taking its eyes off me. I saw it pull back its claw, and I closed my eyes, waiting for the end…
“And the next moment, I was here,” Jordan said. He frowned, he was missing something. If this was what happened, how was he still alive? And how did he get here?
The shape shifted. “Is that really all? You don’t remember what happened after the beast came in?”
Jordan tried to remember, but there were only flashes. He’d felt the breath of the beast on his face… But then it was gone. Lewis… He stabbed the beast in its chest with the wooden leg. The beast had fallen down, clutching the leg, pulling it out and panting in pain.
“You remember now, don’t you?” The shape moved the chair back and stood.
Jordan frowned; something scratched at the back of his mind, something he missed.
“You know, the ‘beast’ as you call it, wasn’t an ordinary wolf, but you must’ve known that…”
“What was it?” Jordan stared at the shape, still searching his mind for the information. He shook his head as if it would shake the pieces into place.
“A shapeshifter, lycanthrope, werewolf… It has many names.”
“That doesn’t exist.”
“Think harder, Jordan. Your friend pierced the wolf. What happened next?
Jordan closed his eyes, squinting with effort.
“The wolf shifted… It changed to—” Jordan opened his eyes, tremors running over his body. It wasn’t possible, it couldn’t be possible. But what else could explain it? He’d seen the man lying in front of him: his history teacher, Mister Thomson.
“Good, you remember.” The shape took one step forward.
“But why was he at the school? And what does that have to do with me being here?”
The shape took another step. Jordan was sweating, trying to stop his hands from trembling.
“Sometimes, it’s impossible to control the shift when you haven’t turned for too long. It makes for an especially hungry and aggressive wolf when it does happen, unfortunately. They’re creatures of habit, and going to school was the habit.”
“I don’t understand.” Jordan looked around, shifting his hands and feet, hoping for some leeway. “Where is Lewis? What have you done to him?” Darkness crept at the edges of his vision.
The shape laughed. “You don’t need to be afraid, Jordan. I’m not going to hurt you. You’re in my house, my basement. I’ve already dealt with Lewis; unlike you, he didn’t pass out.”
The shape took another step forward and laughed, Jordan’s lungs burned as it became harder to breathe.
Mister Thomson smiled at him. “The wound hurt a great deal, I’ll tell you that. But even in my normal form, I’m quite less destructible than mere humans. Taking down Lewis was easy, and then I brought you both back with me.”
“Are you going to kill me?” Jordan’s voice shook.
Mister Thomson looked annoyed. “Didn’t I already tell you I wasn’t going to hurt you.” Then a slight smile came upon his face. “Well—not much, anyway.”
“You killed Paige…” A stabbing pain hit Jordan in his chest, tears welling in his eyes. “What are you going to do to me?”
Mister Thomson sighed. “How is your biology?”
“What?” Jordan shook his head, staring at the shape in confusion. “I don’t—what does that have to do with it?”
“Did you know, there are pathways in your spine that are connected to your brain? It’s part of your central nervous system.”
“I don’t understand.” He wanted to crawl into a hole and cry.
Mister Thomson looked at his hands, sharp claws protruding from them. He looked at Jordan with a glinting eye.
“Don’t worry, Jordan,” he said as he moved next to Jordan, a hand on his shoulder.
Breathing seemed impossible now, and Jordan was vaguely aware of the sour urine smell that came from him.
“You won’t remember a thing,” Mister Thomson said while he dug his claws in the back of Jordan’s neck.