Old family wounds won’t paper over new ones as Lily deals with the return of her brother.
Wolves II Award
The night Toby came back, I was burying the bones of yet another child, the remains of my son’s feed. He called my name and took long strides towards me. I dropped the shovel. There he was, the one who had spent years in a basement with me, who had promised to be by my side through blood and fire. He called my name in darkness, and after twenty years, I still recognised his voice at once.
As suddenly as he had left, my twin brother returned.
For so long I had been angry, hurt. When he turned up at our cave that night, his head shaven and his brown eyes unnaturally bright, I wanted to scream and tell him to disappear, to slap him and wipe that smile off his face. Instead, I hugged him and let my tears fall.
We’d spent nights talking about the years apart, laughing and crying. We ached listening to each other’s story, pain creeping up through our hearts as though we were the other person, as though we actually journeyed that story ourselves. We talked about James, and I lied that my husband died of pneumonia. We talked about Victor, about me locking him inside a cage at turning time. We talked about our father, the man who trapped his children in the basement upon finding out their little changeling secret.
We talked about everything.
Everything but a name.
Naturally, the things we try not to talk about usually echo the loudest in everything we do. I saw it in the way Toby played with Victor, hunted for him, loved and cared for him in every possible way existing in the mind of a man who had lost. And in that mind, what he could have done then became the motivation for everything he did now. It drove him. Consumed him.
“Victor needs to learn how to survive,” he said to me one night. “All you’re doing is bringing food to his mouth. He ravages his meal but has no idea what his mother went through to get him that body.”
I defied his logic. I am the mother of my child. I know what’s right for him.
Failing to convince me, Toby took matters into his own hands.
Last night, he went hunting. After locking the cage with Victor throwing himself against the bars from the inside, I lay down, meaning to rest for a short while.
When I woke up, Victor was gone.
Toby was standing next to the empty cage, smiling, excited.
I sprang to my feet but he quickly blocked my path. “Give the boy a chance. He’ll return, I promise.”
“How could you do this to me?” I shouted, pushing him back. “I should have never let you back in my life. Get out! GET OUT!”
“So you are still mad at me for having abandoned you. Talk about holding grudges,” he shook his head. “I tried to change your mind but you wouldn’t listen.”
“Really?” my voice broke. “Like how you tried to change Dad’s mind about locking Richard in the basement with us?”
“Don’t what? Don’t talk about our baby brother?”
“No, I will talk and you will listen,” I screamed. “Richard’s dead. He turned, he had no human meat to eat, he was too young, so he died. Nobody could do anything about it. Nobody! Our father could have, but he was a fool thinking if you and I could starve through turning then so could Richard. And you, what did you do afterwards? You couldn’t face it so you ran away like a coward. Victor is not Richard. He does not need your saving.”
“I’m a coward, but what about you, Lily? What happened to James? Don’t lie. We’re twins. I know exactly when you lie.” His eyes lit up. “Your boy ate his human father, didn’t he? And what did you do? I’ll bet you stood by and watched.”
I shut my eyes, shaking my head to get rid of that image.
“Do you know whose fault all this is?” Toby continued. “Humans. Because of them, Richard is dead. Because of them, James is dead. No more trying to spare them, Lily. It’s time we let Victor out. It’s time you come out of hiding and act like the queen that you are.”
“Are you crazy?” I screamed. “How could you send your baby nephew out there into the humans’ world? They’re going to kill him.”
“Whoa, relax, sis,” he said, putting his palms up. “You’re welcome to take the piss out on me, but trust me, no harm will come to Victor. As long as he stays a big bad wolf, the sheep will stay away.”
“He is a child,” I roared. “The moment he’s fed he’ll turn back, and then they’ll rip him apart. He doesn’t know how to control the changeling.”
“Oh, but he does,” Toby winked. “We’ve been practising.”
“Well, he still hasn’t got the hang of it when it’s turning time. But afterwards? Man, you should have seen your boy,” he snapped his fingers. “Just like you and me.”
“Why haven’t I been told?”
“You would have freaked out. To you, Victor is never ready for anything. I had no choice but to train him myself.”
I gritted my teeth, “What else are you keeping from me?”
Recoiling as if avoiding a smack, he said, “I took him out hunting for some kids when he was still… what’s the word… sober?”
I looked him dead in the eye. “You what?”
“Twice, and he loved it.”
My fist flew into his face but missed as he quickly stepped back.
I threw back my head and screamed. Long, sharp teeth pushed through my gums. Blood boiled in my eyes. Black fur started to spread all over my face and body. I opened my palms, my fingers stretched, claws forming at the ends. A deep roar replaced my scream. I was on four, bigger, stronger, ready to kill. I gave another monstrous roar, and when I looked up, Toby was howling and punching the air.
“THERE SHE IS! THERE’S THE QUEEN. COME ON, GIRL, COME ON!”
I gave him exactly five seconds to turn.
Shed of human flesh, two beasts charged towards each other.
Canines sank deep. Claws ripped into meat. Deadly roars echoed.
The night was coming to its end.
The mountain watched on.
I’m coiled up on the cold, hard ground. We’ve regained consciousness as early sunlight spreads across the land. There’re deep gashes on our faces, arms, and necks, wounds that will heal in a few days. Grunting and spitting red saliva, Toby turns onto his side.
“Shit, Lily,” he chuckles softly. “You really wanted to kill me, huh? Whatever happened to sticking with each other through blood and fire?”
“Why else do you think you’re still breathing?”
Turning away, I close my eyes and think of Victor. I have to find him and bring him home before he kills more people.
Before the people get to him.
Before he loses the last bit of control and forever remains a mindless creature, a bloodthirsty animal.