Hunted: Part 4 | Jeanette Stampone


Hunted: Part IV

 Jeanette Stampone

For Wolves IV Award


The room spins and the sharp voices of my uncle and father merge into one, becoming nothing more than a deafening drone filling my head. A distant scream reverberates through the house.

Then, as if a blanket has been thrown over me, I am plunged into darkness. The only sound is the rush of blood pulsing through my ears.

“Toby?”

My eyelids flicker open. Mum’s face leans in and she kisses me gently on the forehead. “You passed out.”

“Who screamed?”  I ask.

“It was you. Don’t worry, it’s going to be OK.”

I sit up and grab my mother’s arms. “How can it be OK? What’s happening? Please someone tell me!”

On the sofa, Uncle Mick wraps a bandage around Jamie’s bloody leg. My brother lays motionless with his eyes closed and his fur-covered chest slowly rising and falling. 

“Bullet just scratched him,” Uncle Mick says. “A bit of rest and he’ll be good to go.”

“Go where?”

“Out there, to his home.”

“But this is his home!”

Uncle Mick sighs deeply. “Home is where you’re loved and feel safe.”

The room is still slowly spinning. I blink in attempt to focus on my father standing in the kitchen. It is the first time I have seen true fear in his eyes. He’s never scared of anything, my Dad. But I see it now.

Uncle Mick ties the bandage and stands, facing Dad.

“Do you want to tell Toby, or shall I?” he says.

Dad glares at him. “This is not the time.”

Uncle Mick grins as he turns towards me. “Well, looks like I will tell him then.”

I shrink into my mother’s arms as his wide smile reveals a set of gleaming white teeth.

Mum’s voice is barely audible as she pulls me close. “You can’t—”

“I was eight years old.” Uncle Mick says, interrupting my mother’s feeble protest. “Mucking around in the forest. Then I saw him and he saw me. I tried to run but had no chance. Thought he was going to kill me, but he just bit me once and then bolted. After that, I felt different. Saw shrinks, counsellors, the whole works. They said I had behavioural issues. Post-traumatic stress or some shit. Got put on all sorts of medication and then a few weeks later, fur sprouted everywhere. The family told everyone they were home-schooling me, but I spent my days locked away in the shed. I was just a kid. I was scared. No-one gave a crap though.”

Dad shakes his head. “You were out of control.”

“Yeah, well you had the good life, didn’t you, Bro?”

“Get the fuck out of here!” Dad yells. “I should never have called you.”

Uncle Mick laughs in my father’s face and crouches beside me. His bright blue eyes sparkle as they look into mine. “Did your Dad tell you that he deliberately let your little brother go into the forest? Truth is that nobody wants the likes of us around.”

“Get out!” Dad screams, pointing to the door.

“Alright. But I’m taking my son.”

The words whir through my head as I try to make sense of what I just heard. “Your son?”

“Yeah, you’re old enough to work it out,” Uncle Mick says, winking at Mum.

That’s when Dad’s fist smashes into my uncle’s jaw sending him shooting across the floor. Blood drips from his mouth as he reaches for the table, pulling himself up. He stumbles to the sofa, scooping Jamie in his arms and slinging him over his shoulder.

“No!” Mum screams, as he staggers towards the door.

I can’t let this happen.

Pulling myself away from my mother’s arms, I dart towards my uncle as he opens the door. To my surprise, he calmly turns and greets me with warm smile, gently taking my hand in his.

“You’re a good lad. We’ll see you soon.”

Then, without warning, he yanks my hand to his mouth. I try to pull back but it is too late. I yelp as razor-sharp teeth rip through my skin and excruciating pain jolts up my arm.

He releases his grip and they’re gone, disappearing into the darkness.

Mum and Dad rush to my side and I stand in the doorway, clutching my bleeding hand. And as the winter wind blows through the house, a freezing, tingling sensation creeps through my body, as if ice crystals are forming within my veins.

I wonder how long it will be.

 


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