Sample of "Wolf Born" by N. Gosney


CHAPTER ONE

Chocolate wrappers all over the desk, uneaten sandwiches sitting on saucers on the dining room table, empty tissue boxes littering the sofa...

Carly sighed wearily as she surveyed the damage. You’d think that a small tornado had blustered through the house given the amount of rubbish strewn around, but no, this was merely the work of one fully-grown and very untidy man.

“It’s not fair”, she muttered to herself as she gingerly lifted a cushion to see what might be lurking beneath it. “Why do I have to deal with all of this?”

She knew the answer of course; nobody else would do it. Her boyfriend Rob was incredibly lazy, and despite Carly’s constant nagging, he never seemed to lift a finger to help her around the house. He couldn’t even throw away his leftovers, much to her frustration. Not that she had been particularly organised prior to living with Rob; Carly was prone to procrastination, and her mother had always complained about how much work she used to make for her when she was younger. However it seemed that since Carly had taken the adult step of moving into her first house with Rob, she now tended to appreciate keeping things neat and tidy.

Unfortunately Rob seemed oblivious to her desperate pleas of “put things away! Throw garbage in the trash!” and insisted on creating mini-mounds of chaos everywhere. He acted as if he were still about fifteen years old.

Carly decided that the only way she was going to be able to tackle this mess was with a little bit of help from Alice Cooper. She headed over to her computer, quickly searched on YouTube, and then smiled as the opening sounds of ‘Poison’ blasted out of her computer speakers. She picked up her sweeping brush and began to twirl around the living room with it. She closed her eyes and started to spin. She was just in the middle of belting out the chorus, when she had an overwhelming sense of somebody watching her. Her eyes sprang open and she saw two shining eyes staring through her living room window. It was dark outside, and the eyes glowed as though they were on fire. Carly let out a small yelp and instantly the eyes disappeared. She scuttled over to the front door, flung it open, and stuck her head out. She looked left and right to see if anybody was there, but nobody was in sight; she wondered if she had imagined it. Suddenly a chill came over her; the last thing she wanted was to be outside, so she couldn’t imagine what had possessed her to open the front door in the first place. Hastily she slammed it shut, locked it, and wandered back into the living room.

She quickly closed the curtains, stood still for a few moments collecting her thoughts, and then picked up the sweeping brush once again. Alice’s voice was still blaring out from her computer speakers, but Carly didn’t feel in the mood to listen to him any more. She crossed the room and turned off the computer.

“What the hell was that?” she said aloud. Then she shook her head. “You know, talking to yourself is the first sure sign of madness”, she continued. That must be it, maybe she was going mad. There was obviously a logical explanation. It was probably next-door’s cat or something. It was at times like this though that she wished she had a pet dog to keep her company when Rob wasn’t around. As it happened, Rob wasn’t around a great deal at all lately. At the moment he was with his friends - a sort of sports, beer and pizza evening apparently, so Carly was on her own. He worked full days as a mechanic, and in the evenings it seemed that he always had somewhere to be. She got out her cell phone and sent him an SMS message.

‘just seen something peering in thru the living room window. scared the hell outta me xx’

She hit send, and waited for a few minutes for a reply back, but received none. That was just typical of him; he never seemed to message her back. He was supposed to let her know what time he would be home, but she thought it was likely that he wouldn’t bother; it never seemed to be a priority for him lately. Ever since they had moved in together, Rob had seemed more distant than usual; he picked fights with her for practically no reason. She looked at her phone again, but there was still no reply from Rob.

She thought she’d send a message to her friend John instead.

‘just had a fright - somethin was staring @ me thru the window. freaked me out!’

It didn’t take long for her phone to beep at her. She flicked to new messages; John had replied.

‘grab a knife. could be a burglar’.

Oh, brilliant, Carly felt much better now that he had said that...not! She snorted and put her phone back into her pocket. She shook her head and decided to stop thinking about it; she had tidying up to get on with after all, so that was what she was going to do.

An hour and a half later, and the house was looking much more reasonable. Carly threw herself down onto the sofa and surveyed her handiwork. Everything was more or less in order, except for...

“Argh! A SPECK!”

She leapt off the chair and dived to pick up the offending white piece of fluff that was clearly visible on her dark coloured rug. Carly hated that rug. It was one of those rugs that you can vacuum up to six times in a row, and yet you’ll still manage to miss one or two specks of white fluff. Why the fluff always had to be white, Carly couldn’t imagine. She assumed it was some sort of cruel prank that the universe was playing on her. She felt sure, of course, that if her rug had been white or cream coloured, the fluff would undoubtedly be black. It was simply inevitable. Someone out there had it in for her; of that, she was absolutely positive.

“Okay fluff, I’ve got you now”, she cackled, slightly manically, holding up the small offending article and scowling at it as though she had just vanquished her mortal enemy. All at once, she heard a small scratching sound coming from her front door. Carly groaned; blasted cat. Next-door’s cat, as cute as it was, was forever wanting to come into the house expecting to be fed. Carly didn’t really mind this most of the time, but not when she had just tidied up. She didn’t really want to be faced with cat hairs after she had just strived so hard to get her house clean.

“Go away cat!” she called, a little irritably. She didn’t know the cat’s name. Her neighbours had never bothered to put a collar on the creature. Carly didn’t know whether this was out of sheer laziness, or whether they actually secretly hoped that the cat would one day run away or be catnapped. It was a sweet little thing though. The cat was pure black, and Carly, being a little superstitious, always hoped that she would gain good luck from the fact that it had crossed her path a great many times. She was paradoxically aware though that black cats are thought to be bad luck, but she thought she would adopt a British point of view on this matter. An English girl she chatted to online had once mentioned that they are considered auspicious in the U.K.

The scratching continued, and Carly began to get a little annoyed. “Darned cat is going to ruin my front door at this rate”, she said, again speaking out loud. She had a habit of doing this, and always had done, though she felt a little silly speaking to herself when walking down the street because she sometimes attracted strange looks from passers-by. It was quite embarrassing actually; it ranked up there with tripping side-ways over your own ankle (Rob called it ‘the amazing UGH-ankle thing’), or that really awkward one where you side-step to avoid somebody heading towards you, except that they side-step the same way, so you both simultaneously side-step back in the opposite direction, until you end up dancing with a complete stranger in the middle of the street. Unfortunately Carly had experienced all of these occurrences more times than she would have liked.

The scratching hadn’t stopped. Carly tutted and walked over to the door. “Go away ca...” she began to say, and then stopped, puzzled. There was nothing there at all. As she stood gazing out of her door for the second time that evening, wondering if the neighbourhood children might be playing tricks on her, she caught a fleeting glimpse of something black out of the corner of her eye. It was only for a split second, and then it was gone. It had moved so fast that Carly couldn’t be sure at all what she has seen. It was probably that cat, she decided. She looked left and right to see if she could see it, but felt a sudden pain in her neck that caused her to flinch, and she rubbed at it absently, thinking she must have pulled a muscle. “Go on cat, go home!” she called into the darkness. A low growl came from somewhere. Carly gasped...why would a cat growl? Perhaps it was a loose dog that had wandered into her garden. She closed the door hurriedly, not wanting to be mauled by some vicious stray.

“Okay, that’s it, I’m not opening the door for anything else tonight”, she vowed. “I’ve had quite enough of this!” Carly sat down and reached for the television remote control. She figured she might as well see what was on the T.V., as her boyfriend wasn’t going to be home for at least another couple of hours. She flicked through the channels. Polar bears in the Arctic; no, she couldn’t be bothered with polar bears. The secret life of a newsreader; no, she didn’t want that either. A marathon back-to-back evening of Chums re-runs. Well, she wasn’t a huge fan of Chums, not like her friend Daisy was. Daisy could reel off every episode of Chums word for word (and frequently did). Carly didn’t mind watching Chums, but it wasn’t something she actively sought out. Still, there didn’t seem to be a better alternative, so she thought she would keep it on for the time being. It was quite a funny episode, and Carly began to chuckle whilst watching it. She had seen this particular episode before, but not recently.

Carly was just getting into this episode of Chums, when without warning an almighty CRASH shook the whole house. Carly’s heart leapt to her throat and began hammering wildly, and she accidentally knocked the remote control onto the floor.

“What the hell was that?” she shouted, leaping off the sofa. It had sounded as though an elephant had rammed her house (or a car perhaps, but Carly, for some strange reason, preferred the idea of an elephant! After all, if something large is going to destroy your house it might as well be an elephant. At least that would be a story to tell the grandchildren!)

CRASH! There it was again. Carly’s ornaments fell off her shelf with a smash. “Oh God, no, not my beautiful hippo!” she wailed. Her favourite ornament had been a beautiful porcelain hippopotamus that her aunt had given her when she was about six years old. It was white, and decorated with hand-painted blue and pink flowers. Her aunt had died in a car accident less than a year later, and Carly had treasured that hippo dearly. Even though she had been only young, she had been very careful not to damage it, and until just this moment it had taken pride of place in the centre of her display shelf in the living room. Unfortunately it was now shattered in hundreds of pieces on the floor.

Carly didn’t have any time to dwell on the loss of her beloved hippo though, for a third CRASH shook the house. Carly stumbled backwards, tripped over the rug, and landed heavily on the hard wooden parquet. The house began to fall apart around her. She could hear roaring and growling coming from outside. It sounded as though something was trying to claw and barge its way through her living room wall. Absurdly, as she lay on the floor petrified, the strangest thoughts began to run through her mind.

‘Well, you’d think they could just use the front door bell’, she mused, then she realised how completely ridiculous that was. She didn’t know what she was dealing with. In order to make the house shake, it obviously must have been large. “Elephant sized I should imagine”, she said aloud.

“Oh my God Carly what is WRONG with you?” she continued. “Some huge thing is tearing your house apart and you’re talking to yourself about elephants?”

Cowering under the coffee table, she fumbled in her pocket for her cell phone. There was no way she could reach the hard-line; there were chunks of plasterboard falling freely now. Her hands were trembling so much that she could hardly reach her cell, but finally she pulled it out of her pocket.

She punched 911 and pressed dial.

“Emergency services, which service do you require?” the voice came from the other side of the line.

“I d...d...don’t know”, stammered Carly, trying to collect her thoughts. “My house is falling down… something is knocking it down. I’m inside it... you’d better send the police, oh and maybe an ambulance, I could be dead soon! Actually you might need to send the fire department soon, I’ll probably need to be pulled out of the rubble!” The gravity of what was actually happening hit her all at once, and she felt as though the breath had been knocked out of her chest. She began to cry and gasp.

“I’ll dispatch a police-vehicle to your house”, the operator said.

“Calm down, it’ll be okay. Can you tell me where you live?”

“By the time a police-vehicle gets here, I won’t be living anywhere! I won’t have a house!” wailed Carly. A large chunk of ceiling fell on top of the coffee table just above her head, and she let out an involuntary scream. “Please hurry!” she yelped down the telephone.

“Is there any way that you can get out of the house?” asked the operator.

Carly peered out from underneath the coffee table. “I don’t know; there’s something outside. I told you, it’s trying to tear down my house. If I go outside, it’ll get me!”

“How about a back door?” suggested the operator, trying to keep Carly talking. Carly knew this tactic, because she had watched many programmes such as ‘911’ when she was younger. Emergency service operators are trained in the art of trying to calm the person on the other end of the telephone down, and they keep them talking for as long as possible. This lets them know that the person is still alive. It’s supposed to be reassuring to have somebody there to listen to you when you are panicking. To be honest though, Carly didn’t feel particularly reassured in the slightest - she was terrified. She didn’t know whether to stay where she was and risk being crushed to death as the house fell on top of her, or whether she ought to attempt to battle her way to the door, and face whatever was outside.

“Okay”, she gasped, as more of the house caved in, “I’ll try and get to the door.” She didn’t wait for the operator’s response. She flung herself out from underneath the coffee table with all the agility of a pregnant warthog, and half-skipped half-fell across the room. “OWWWW!” she shouted, as a piece of brickwork bounced off her shoulder. She reached out for the door handle and tugged it; the door wouldn’t budge.

“Come ON!” she screamed at the stubborn door, pulling for all she was worth. Using strength that she didn’t even know she had, she gave the door one final wrench and it flew open. Carly threw herself outside, ran as fast as she could across the street, and dived onto the garden of the house opposite, just in time, as the building collapsed behind her. For a few moments she couldn’t move. She was lying face down in the grass motionless. Dazed and confused, she felt as though she should cry, but she couldn’t.

She wondered fleetingly if she might be in shock. She had been an ambulance cadet when she was about thirteen years old, and she vaguely remembered that if somebody is in shock, their legs are supposed to be elevated. She thought she would look a little strange though, rolling onto her back and lifting her legs into the air, so she didn’t bother. She wondered why she was thinking about ludicrous things such as how stupid she would look with her legs in their air, considering the fact that her house had just fallen down. It was as though she couldn’t think of anything other than totally irrelevant ridiculous things, because she couldn’t quite grasp what had just happened. The gravity of it was too much for her to handle right now.

She could hear panting and snarling; it was coming from over where the ruins of her house were. Carly remained frozen on the grass. The snarling grew louder. The creature was coming toward her. Every muscle in her body stiffened, and she felt ice-cold shivers running down her back. It came closer, and closer, and Carly could feel its breath on the back of her neck. She closed her eyes tightly, too terrified to move.

“Carly? Carly? Are you all right?”

Carly opened her eyes. Her neighbour, Graham, was standing over her, shaking her shoulder. Graham was a pleasant elderly gentleman. He lived alone since his wife had died three years previously. Carly didn’t know him very well, but they sometimes had a little chat if they were both out in their gardens.

Carly noticed that she was now lying on her back.

“I...I...I was on my front...” she mumbled.

“What?” said the old man. “I don’t know what you mean. You’re asleep on my front garden!” Carly sat up. “My house! My house!” Suddenly she was hysterical again. She turned around to face her house, expecting to see a pile of rubble in its place.

“What’s the matter?” asked Graham. His wrinkled brow furrowed with concern. “I think we’d better get you home, you seem a bit confused. Perhaps you’ve been sleepwalking.”

Carly wasn’t really listening to him. She was staring open mouthed at her house, which was totally intact and unscathed in any way.

“My house fell down!” she exclaimed, not tearing her eyes away from it. “It collapsed. It fell down!”

Graham looked bemused. He shook his head at her. “I think you’ve just had a bad dream dear! Come on, let’s get you home.”

Carly allowed him to take her hand and pull her to her feet. Her head ached, and her clothes were dirty. “What time is it?” she asked, putting her hand up to her forehead.

Graham looked at his watch. “2am”, he replied. “I was only outside because I forgot to take the trash out before I went to bed. Woke up in the night to use the bathroom and I remembered the garbage, so I came to take it out. I can’t miss the trash collection in the morning, my garbage cans are packed full.”

Her neighbour walked with Carly back over to her house. She was in a daze. If it was 2am, where was her boyfriend? Was he inside the house? They reached the front door and Carly turned to Graham. “Thanks Graham,” she said. “I’m sorry I was on your garden. I have no idea what happened.”

Graham smiled. “It’s okay. It’s a little strange, but don’t worry about it,” he said kindly. “If you’ll excuse me now I’m going back to bed. I have a chiropodist appointment tomorrow morning so I need my beauty sleep.”

Carly smiled wearily and said goodnight. She stood and watched as Graham shuffled back to his house, went inside, and closed the door. She then turned back to her own front door. She reached out a hand and touched it gently; it felt solid enough. She didn’t have the faintest idea how she had ended up on Graham’s front garden, but her house certainly didn’t seem to be in any danger collapsing. She assumed that Graham must have been right - she must have just had a really bad dream. She couldn’t see any other possible explanation. Her neck felt sore again, and she rubbed it once more. “Ouch” she said aloud. It was as if she had scratched it somehow. She gently ran her fingers over the rough lines she could feel there. She couldn’t think how it could have happened, but then again, nothing about this night was making much sense at the moment.

Carly took hold of the door handle and pushed hard. It wasn’t locked, and opened easily. The house inside was dark and quiet. She stepped softly over the threshold, wiped her feet on the bristled doormat and closed the door behind her. She walked into the living room and fumbled for the light switch. She couldn’t find it at first; it didn’t seem to be in the right place somehow. Carly’s head was fuzzy and in the darkness nothing looked the way it ought to. Eventually her fingers made contact with the switch, and a pale green light flooded the living room. At least, that’s the way it appeared to Carly. She blinked a few times trying to clear the cloudiness from her eyes, but the light still remained green. Everything seemed soft and very out of focus. She wondered if this was due to her wearing her contact lenses whilst she slept, so she stuck her finger in her eye, intending to wiggle her lens around a little.

“OWWWW!” she squawked. Tears poured down her cheeks, and she clamped her eye shut. She had poked herself in the iris; it started stinging. She sat down on the sofa and held her injured eye shut for a few moments until the pain subsided slightly.

Once her eye had stopped watering, she carefully re-opened it and looked around the living room. It was strange; nothing was blurry any longer - at least, not from that eye. She glanced down at her t-shirt and saw her contact lens sticking to the front of it. It was torn almost in two.

“It must have fallen out when I poked myself in the eye”, mused Carly. “But if that’s the case, how is it that I’m able to see?”

Indeed, when she closed her other eye, the one that had not been injured, and tried to see purely out of her contact-lens-less eye, everything was crystal clear. Lines were sharp and focused.

The world had never looked so crisp to her before in her life! It was incredible!

Carly decided, experimentally, to remove the contact lens from her other eye as well. It was difficult; her nails seemed unusually long that evening. She had been a life-long nail biter until recently. She had been doing this ever since she could remember. Indeed, Carly could not recollect a time when she had begun, though clearly it was unlikely she had done it as a baby. She had tried to stop when she was 16, and resorted to wrapping her fingers in sticky tape, but had only succeeded for about three or four months or so before she reverted to old habits. However, she had recently managed to quit biting her nails once again. It had been 5 months so far and her nails were still very much intact. She had gotten used to having long nails now, and was usually able to skillfully remove her contact lenses without any problems, but for some reason tonight she was struggling quite a great deal. Her nails appeared to be unnaturally long, and slightly curved. ‘More like talons than nails’, she thought, getting irritated. She didn’t want to hurt her other eye; one eye was bad enough, two would have been too much!

Finally, after a great deal of struggling (and eye-watering), she removed the stubborn article from her eye.

“Wow!” she gasped, looking around the room. What had appeared clear already with one eye was now magnified by a thousand. She felt as though she was seeing the room through somebody else’s eyes; a superhero’s eyes, in fact, for Carly couldn’t imagine that any human could see the world quite this vividly. The lines of her furniture were so sharp, that it seemed to her as though someone had drawn them in pencil like the lines of a cartoon. The colours around her were so vibrant that they took her breath away. Also, it occurred to her that she could practically zoom into objects that were far away. It wasn’t as though they became bigger, but rather they were so detailed that when she focused her gaze on them, she could make out even the tiniest features.

“Buzz, buzz”. A fly was bouncing on her living room window.

The noise was irritating, and Carly glanced over at the fly wishing it would leave. She could see every hair on the legs of the insect; she could make out every vein on its huge round eyes. The fly itself remained small in her vision, but she could see it perfectly. She had never experienced anything quite like this before.

Quite overcome with awe, Carly put out one hand to the living room cabinet to steady herself. She was feeling a little woozy; all these new sensations were throwing her sense of balance out of whack. She wondered if she might be high on some kind of drug. She hadn’t the faintest notion how she could have done this though. She had never taken drugs in her life (save for alcohol, and prescription medication when she had been ill), nor did she intend to take any, which made this all the more puzzling, as she certainly wouldn’t have done this to herself. She simply couldn’t imagine where the drugs would have come from, if it was indeed drugs that were causing her to feel so strange.

Carly decided to make her way upstairs and see if her boyfriend was there. He certainly wasn’t downstairs; the house was quiet and still. She assumed that he must be in bed. She flicked on the landing light and carefully made her way up the stairs, holding on to the banister as she went. She was afraid that in the state she was in she would tumble back down the stairs.

“That’s all I need right now, a broken neck”, she said under her breath.

Reaching the top of the stairs, she turned to face her bedroom door. She pushed it open, and the sight that met her eyes hit her like a sledgehammer. Her boyfriend Rob was lying on the king-size bed they shared; his throat had been completely ripped out. The entire room was ransacked and covered in blood. Rob’s eyes were wide open and fixed on the ceiling. Carly stood motionless for a few moments staring at the grisly scene before her. She became aware of somebody screaming, but she didn’t know who it could be. It took a few moments before she realised that the sound was actually coming from her own mouth. She couldn’t move, or even tear her eyes away. The screaming continued; Carly couldn’t make it stop. She didn’t feel in control of her own body at all.

After what seemed like an age, Carly forced her eyes shut. She still couldn’t move her limbs, she was rooted to the spot, but she managed to close her eyes at least. The thought of the horrific sight was seared into her mind, like a big ugly scar. She couldn’t push the image away. She opened her eyes again.

“What the f...?”

What she now saw before her was not at all the same as it had been a moment ago. The bed was neatly made, everything was in its proper place, and there was no sign of her boyfriend at all. No blood, no mess, and nothing to indicate that anybody or anything had been in there.

Carly sank to the floor shaking her head. What was going on? Was she losing her mind? First she thought that her house had fallen down, when clearly it hadn’t, and now this. She felt sick to her stomach and lurched to her feet. She stumbled into the bathroom and hung her head over the toilet. Nothing happened though, yet the queasiness continued. Carly rammed her fingers down her throat in desperation, but all she succeeded in doing was retching, and her eyes started to water again. She didn’t manage to bring up any vomit, much to her frustration. Finally, she slumped onto the cool bathroom tiles, brought up her knees to her chest, and put her head forward onto them. She closed her eyes and tried to clear her mind. She still felt dizzy, she had done ever since she had woken up on Graham’s front garden, and she couldn’t shake the feeling that she was missing chunks of time out of her evening.

It seemed to Carly that she had been in the bathroom for about five or ten minutes, when she heard a thudding noise coming from downstairs. She lifted her head up from her knees, stood up, and promptly fell back down to the floor again. Nausea and wooziness was flooding through her body. She tried again and managed this time to remain on her feet. It was surprising to see light coming in through the bathroom window. The glass in this window was frosted so she couldn’t tell what the light was, but it looked suspiciously like daylight.

‘But it can’t be daylight, it was the middle of the night only ten minutes ago!’ thought Carly incredulously.

She turned toward the bathroom door intending to head downstairs to investigate the thudding, but as she did so she caught sight of herself in the bathroom mirror. She gasped in shock; she was completely dishevelled. Her hair looked as though it hadn’t seen a comb in a year, and her skin was pale, (paler than usual in fact, for Carly was naturally quite pale skinned). The right side of her neck was covered in deep red scratches. She winced as she examined them; they looked as though an animal had attacked her.

“No wonder my neck was so sore earlier”, she said aloud.

However, the things that shocked Carly the most were her eyes. No longer were they their usual bright blue, but instead they were almost an orange, yellow, red colour, and they were glowing like fire, just like the eyes that she had spied through her living room window. That felt like it had been a million years ago, yet only a few hours had passed since that had happened. She hurriedly switched on the light, thinking that the glow was a result of some sort of strange reflection. However, even with the light on she could still clearly see her eyes glowing in the mirror. They looked surreal, staring out of her milky white complexion. Carly had witnessed so many strange things though this night that had turned out to merely be hallucinations, that she supposed she was merely imagining her appearance to be so unusual. She closed her eyes tightly, counted to sixty, and opened them again. She was disturbed to find that her eyes were still glowing, and she looked as messy as she had done earlier.

“I can’t deal with this right now,” she said, trying desperately to make sense of this all. The thudding had stopped, but she decided to go downstairs regardless. She turned the bathroom light off and walked out onto the landing. There was no need for her to put on the landing light, as the passage was quite bright. She glanced out of the window halfway down the stairs and saw that it was already morning. Carly didn’t know how it was possible, but somehow the entire night had gone by in the blink of an eye. Where was her boyfriend though? Her heart raced as the anxiety coursed through her body. He should have been home hours ago. She tore downstairs and searched the house for any sign that he had come home, but there was none. Finally she went over to his desk, picked up his address book, and flicked quickly through his contacts to see if he had the number of any of his buddies he had been seeing last night stored there. She found one, Jackson. It was, in fact, Jackson’s house where he had said he was going to be. She tried to call the number from her cell phone, but had not enough battery life for a phone call lasting longer than a few seconds, so she hurried across the living room and punched the number into the house phone.

“Just wasting time”, she growled inwardly.

“Hello?” a lady answered the phone. She sounded a little startled, and Carly wondered if she had woken her up. Carly assumed it must be Jackson’s girlfriend.

“H... hello. Sorry if I woke you up. I’m Carly - Rob’s other half. He didn’t come home from the lads’ get together last night. I was wondering if he spent the night at your house by any chance?”

“Oh God!” the woman wailed. Carly was quite alarmed.

“What’s the matter? What is it?”

“Rob was here, at the beginning of the night, along with Jackson, and Ian, Jackson’s brother. Gary and Devon were here as well. They were watching football on the television for about an hour, and then I left them and went for a drink with my friends. I got back around midnight and nobody was here, nobody at all. The car is still in the garage, so it’s not as though Jackson drove the other guys home. They must have gone in somebody else’s car, so I thought, but I’ve since called Ian’s fiancée, and she hasn’t seen him, and Gary’s girlfriend hasn’t seen him either. Devon lives alone...” the woman tailed off, sniffling.

Carly digested what she had been told. “Well, is it possible that they all went off in Devon’s car somewhere? Maybe back to Devon’s house? Or perhaps they just randomly decided to go to a nightclub or something? I can’t imagine why they would have, but you never know?” Carly suggested.

“No, I don’t think so,” said the lady. “None of them are answering their cell phones; Jackson’s wallet is still here, and besides, Jackson has a severe muscle-wasting condition. He has to rest a lot of the time, and often doesn’t get to leave the house. He wouldn’t be in any state to be able to go to a nightclub. It would be extremely unlikely that he would even go to Devon’s house. Anyway I tried Devon’s house phone, and nobody answered.”

“It’s out of character for Rob as well,” said Carly. “He goes out a lot but he’s usually home by midnight, so this is very out of the ordinary. Strange things have been happening though...”

“What kind of strange things?”

“Oh, uh, just strange things in general...nothing to do with them all disappearing though...” said Carly, vaguely. ‘Damn,’ she thought, ‘I shouldn’t have said that. I can hardly tell her about my hallucinations or my freaky eyes.’

“There’s something else...” said the lady, her voice beginning to tremble. “I found a few spots of blood on the driveway, just next to our front door.”

“Blood?” repeated Carly, horrified. “Are you sure?”

"Well, it was red, and looked, you know, like blood. Or red paint I suppose but it wasn’t there earlier, and we haven’t been using any red paint. Nor have any of the neighbours.”

Carly didn’t know what to say. Something in the gut of her stomach told her that it was indeed blood, but she didn’t know how she knew that.

“Oh, God...” she managed at last.

“I’m going to call the police,” said the lady, “report them as missing.”

Carly nodded, and then realised that obviously she couldn’t be seen down the telephone. “Yeah, good idea”, she said. A lump began to rise in her throat. “Sh...should I ring them too?”

“Yes, probably, I don’t know”, the woman said, beginning to wail again. Carly felt too confused and sick to cry.

“There, there”, she said weakly, “I’m sure they’re okay.” She wasn’t sure in the slightest that they were okay. In fact, she had a feeling that they weren’t, but she didn’t trust her own instincts at the moment let alone anything else. As far as she was concerned, all this could be just another hallucination.

“I could be still watching Chums!” she said aloud.

“What did you say?”

“Erm... nothing.” Carly stammered. She hadn’t realised that she had verbalised her thoughts. “What’s your name?”

“Beatrice”, said Jackson’s girlfriend.

“Oh, like the author?” enquired Carly. She didn’t know why she was waffling like this, but for some reason she felt the need to make small talk. In some strange way it was helping her to feel more in charge of her own sanity.

“I don’t know an author called Beatrice.”

“Oh...well, maybe it’s Beatrix then,” Carly said flatly. The conversation fell into an uneasy silence.

“I’d better go and make the call then”, said Beatrice. She sounded monotone now, as though the life had been drained out of her.

Carly nodded again, not caring this time that Beatrice couldn’t see her do it. “Same here”, she said. She knew how Beatrice was feeling, or at least she thought she did, for in addition to the nausea, dizziness, and confusion, Carly was now experiencing a hollow sensation inside her. She couldn’t place the feeling, but she knew she had felt it before.

Carly put down the phone without saying goodbye first. She always hated it that in movies nobody ever seems to say “bye” before hanging up the phone. Rob and Carly had often mentioned this strange phenomena to each other, and had concluded that film directors must generally be in the habit of hanging up on people in this manner, hence this is why it is always portrayed this way in films and T.V. series. Carly always thought it was quite ridiculous that the film directors neglected to include proper telephone partings in their supposedly realistic films, however, here she was, behaving as though she were an actress in a film. She didn’t care though really; it occurred to Carly, when she eventually later realised what she had done, that there were far more pressing concerns to worry about. Hanging up the telephone on Beatrice without bidding her farewell was not important in the slightest.

She picked up the phone again, dialed 911 and waited.

“Emergency services, which service do you require?”

Carly could have sworn that she had heard that voice before.

Police please, my boyfriend has gone missing, and his friends”, she blurted.

“Are you calling from number 8 Cherry Tree View?” asked the operator.

“Yes I am”, replied Carly. She knew that the emergency services operator could see her address on the screen.

“Didn’t you call a few hours ago? You reported that your house was falling down?”

Carly didn’t know what to say. “I...er...” What the hell was happening here? Had she been hallucinating so much earlier that she had actually called the police? “Erm...” she stuttered.

“Madam, I’m sorry, but we don’t take kindly to time-wasters.

The officer we dispatched to your address earlier found nothing untoward with your house, and nobody answered the door when he knocked. If you don’t want to find yourself in serious trouble, I suggest you stop calling us.” The operator sounded extremely annoyed.

“I’m really sorry, something was happening earlier, it felt as though my house was falling down”, said Carly feebly, knowing that sounded quite ridiculous. “My boyfriend and his friends are genuinely missing though. They haven’t been seen since the evening”.

“I’m sorry but they have to be missing for 48 hours before they can be officially reported as missing. I’ll make a note of your call though.”

Carly hung up the phone, again without saying goodbye; she just didn’t see the point. She felt dejected and frustrated. Nothing was making any sense, and she had no idea where Rob was. Her stomach began to rumble and she realised that she was starving.

She got up and paced into the kitchen. She rummaged in the cupboards and searched inside the fridge, trying to find something she might feel like eating, but nothing was appealing. Even her usual favourite snack of crackers and cheese didn’t tempt her. For some reason, she was craving a great big juicy steak, but she didn’t have any steaks (or indeed any fresh meat at all) in the house.

In a vague attempt to distract herself, she wandered back into the living room and fished her cell phone from out of her pocket.‘Rob has gone missing. I’m craving steak and hallucinating about my house falling down and murders and stuff. I’m feeling weird - my eyes are glowing. I dunno what’s going on with me, I feel sick’.

She was about to send the text to John, but after re-reading it she decided that she sounded like a weirdo, and deleted it all. Instead she sent a much simpler text stating, “Rob is missing. police not willing to help. dunno what to do”.

She didn’t know what she was expecting John to say really. It’s not as though he could do anything from where he was. She never found out whether or not he replied to her message though, for her phone chose that moment to bleep at her and switch itself off; it was out of battery. Carly began to pace the living room floor back and forth. She felt as though she ought to be out searching for Rob, or at least doing something constructive, but she didn’t know what to do. Her stomach began to rumble again, louder this time, and she started to feel hungrier and hungrier. She went outside and spied a squirrel running across the field. As she watched it, she became oddly aware that her mouth seemed to be producing more saliva than usual. Normally, upon seeing a squirrel, her only thoughts tended to be of the 'awww how cute' variety. Now, however, the squirrel before her looked oddly appealing. She could imagine sinking her teeth into the squirrel and gobbling it up. She felt somewhat disgusted at this thought, yet couldn’t shake the fact that the squirrel looked delicious. She was ravenous, and she didn’t know why! “Surely I can’t be so hungry that I’m wanting to eat a squirrel for goodness sake!” she said to herself. “Go and have some cheese and crackers.”

Carly tore her gaze away from the squirrel, re-entered the house, and quickly crossed the living room. She went into the kitchen and took the cheese from the fridge. Taking a knife, she cut two thick slices of half fat cheddar, and retrieved two cream crackers from one of the cupboards to accompany the cheese.

After two bites of the cheese and crackers, Carly knew without a doubt that she didn’t want any more. The cheese tasted rancid to her tongue, and the crackers were altogether far too bland. All she could think about was steak, a rare steak, the rarer the better, which was odd because Carly didn’t particularly like rare steak as a matter of course. She usually asked for her steaks well done (though she was fine with a medium as well). Today though, a rare steak was the only thing she wanted.

She threw the crackers and cheese in the trash and had a drink of water to wash the taste away. She was just contemplating where she could get hold of some meat, (wondering if it would be easier to drive to the supermarket, which was further away, or to walk to the butcher’s shop at the top of the street. The butcher was obviously closer, but it opened at unusual hours, and not every day for that matter, so the possibility of it being shut when she got there was quite high), when there came a loud pounding on her front door.

Carly felt a shiver run down her spine. She could feel the hairs on the back of her neck stand up, and she suddenly felt very afraid. The pounding continued. Carly didn’t know how she knew, but she had the distinct feeling that she knew who was outside. She suddenly felt inexplicably afraid, and decided that the best course of action was to remain in the kitchen, hidden, and hope that whoever it was would just leave.

No such luck though; the pounding continued, louder and louder, and despite Carly’s intentions at staying hidden, she felt compelled to walk towards the front door. It was as though she had no choice in the matter, her body was taking her there against her will, as if she had a connection with the person on the other side of the door.

She reached the front door and opened it.

That's just the beginning!

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This page contains the first chapter of Wolf Born by N. Gosney as a sample. This sample has been published with permission from the author and/or publisher of Wolf Born, whoever originally submitted the book for review.