Xia Leafsong is the best Templar the Temple of Seven Gods has seen in a hundred years. Though her reputation as the Crimson Blade makes her legendary, she finally meets her match against the Black Wolf. This encounter changes everything as the death god awakens from his slumber and pulls them both into a world of gods, love and betrayal.
Kara gave the white wolf a natural pain killer and sedative. It was a good alternative to the pharmaceutical drugs. Since they were slightly human and slightly canine, she wasn’t sure how animal drugs would work on them. Fearful of an event happening she couldn’t control in a home ER, she played it safe and gave him the most universal herbs she had.
The first dose didn’t help at all. So she had to clean out his eyes listening to howling and snarling. The black wolf snarled in a pattern. It wasn’t the steady growling of a dog warning you, but broken in different lengths. Kara had no doubt he was giving her a clear threat in his language.
“I’m helping her.” Kara told him firmly but calmly. “So you just stop your threats right now, sir.”
When the first dose had worn off, the vet gave the white wolf a slightly higher dose. This time, it helped a little, but not much. It wasn’t until three or so in the morning that she found the right dose – twice the dose safe for a human.
Kara recorded everything she learned. She set up cameras to record. Kara blinked as the cameras moved around the room on their own. That was odd. Had she programed them wrong? Then they stopped, making her skin crawl.
Her cell phone rang. When she went to answer it, static was on the other end. She checked the number. It was her house phone.
What the hell?
“Calm down, Kara. It’s okay. You’re just hallucinating. You’ve been awake too long.”
So Kara tried to calm her racing heart and fumbling mind with calming tea. Eventually sleep found her, even if her alarm was set for only five hours of sleep. She was glad the clinic was hers, because there was no way she could go to work tomorrow.
Waking from a terrible nightmare, I rolled over to see the human sitting next to Fringe. She was stroking his head. Our host scratched his ear. I let out a little growl.
Get your hands off my puppy!
She faced me with a look of confusion. Muttering words in a soothing tone, our caregiver offered me a drink. It smelled strongly of medicine. She motioned to drink. I gave her a doubtful look before putting it down. She gave a sigh and shook her head. Picking it up, she put the cup to my lips.
When I still didn’t drink, she pointed to my leg.
So it’s to soothe my pain. But will she continue to be so…fresh – with a sleeping patient?
I hesitantly drank it. Then, I focused as much as I could on the machines around me. I would learn, so I could communicate. The faster I could talk to these creatures, the faster we could go home.
Slowly, my eyes healed. The pain began to recede. Every day Pyr told me he what he learned about the creatures from the thing called technology. Computers, phones and cameras told him a lot. They were called humans. They were far relatives of the gorilla, and their language was something our tongues and throats couldn’t produce. He’d tried. It was painful to even attempt it, and came out as guttural gibberish that frightened the one called Kara.
The one taking care of us was named Kara.
“We need to find a way to communicate. So far everything I’ve tried only frightened her. But I’ve studied enough about technology and their language. All I need is the stuff to do it with.” Pyr told me.
“How are you going to do that?”
“…don’t worry about it. I know how.”
It’s not like I can do anything anyway. At least Pyr is walking. Even if it is on crutches, he’s able to move around now.
That had enabled Kara to leave the house, since he’d taken over my basic care like bathroom and nutrition. She still handled my medical care, but I was starting to learn the different medicines she was giving me.
“I’m in pain.”
“Kara isn’t here.”
“…the medicine for my pain is a sharp-smelling, bitter liquid.”
“She keeps it made in doses.”
“I could give you the wrong stuff.”
“If you do, I’ll spit it out. I know what it tastes like.”
“Doesn’t it make you loopy?”
“I’d rather be loopy than in pain.”
“Is it addictive?”
“I don’t think so.”
“How would you know?”
“It’s very similar to the sky rose.”
He offered me a couple different mixtures before I swallowed the right one. This time, it didn’t make quite as loopy. I was pleased that I didn’t crave the loopy feeling as I grew used to the medication.
“I need something to eat.”
“Did you notice it’s still daylight outside?”
“Is it?? I can’t tell yet.”
I heard him in the kitchen. There were already pre-made meals for us in there. At first she’d tried to feed us vegetables with our meat. After the third time we didn’t eat it, she stopped. He’d learned to heat the meat up a couple different ways; today he chose the faster way before giving it to me and sitting on the bed.
“The light’s making it hard to sleep.”
I thought as I ate, trying to think of the medicine she’d been giving me. None of it was for sleep, but I’d had no problems with it. “When did she leave?”
“About four hours ago.”
“…she won’t be home for another four. I don’t know the plants well enough to help you, even if I could see.”
He was quiet for a while. I heard the hum of her computer, and knew I’d lost conversation for several hours. I was content to listen as I thought back to when I’d first met Pyr.
The night was cold, but I didn’t care. I’d needed to get out of there and just walk. It wasn’t until I saw the willow by the stream, and the small home a few feet away, that I realized how far from the village I’d gone. I paused, considering going back. The hut belonged to an eccentric wolf who practiced magic. He was a sought after healer, but most people avoided him.
‘Does he really talk to himself?’ I wondered absently, feeling half curious. ‘Is it because he’s always alone?’
Longing crept up, like a spider up ivy. What was it like, to get to choose that fate? To choose to be separate and live alone was only a magic user and healer could choose to do.
I wasn’t sure why I walked forward, or why I knocked on his door. I just…did. I’d, of course, been there once or twice before. Everyone needed a healer every once in a while. When he opened the door, he looked at me expectantly.
“Um…I…I’m sorry to bother you. I don’t even know why I came here.”
His gaze studied me for a moment before saying “Come inside.”
“I-I don’t need medicine. Or lessons. I can’t use magic to save my life.”
He left the door open as he went inside. Still having no clue why, my paws followed. When I went in, he set out a game of stones and bones. “Let’s play a while.”
“I – I don’t know how.”
He gave a firm frown. “What’s wrong with your parents, pup? What boy doesn’t know how to play stones and bones? Sit down. I’ll teach you.”
“But, I’m not -“
His intense gaze made my sentence die away. I sat down, and for the first time, as he taught me, I realized something.
I felt at home.
“How did you know?”
He stopped what he was doing. I felt him staring at me. Finally, he said “You told me.”
“No I didn’t. I didn’t even accept it until you insisted.”
I heard him shift in his seat. “Little pup, you don’t have to use your words to speak.”
Watching Fringe sleep was the highlight of the long, endless days. I knew the light was a big reason I had trouble sleeping; Fringe had always been able to sleep through a hurricane. I couldn’t help but smile slightly at the sight of his leg half off the bed, his arm at an awkward angle and his little snore.
We need to communicate with our host. I should be working on that instead of watching a pup sleep.
I glanced at the clock and let out a heavy sigh. It was time to communicate with Kara.
My name is Pyr Fen.
I am not from your world. We did not intend to come here, and cannot speak your language. Forgive me for utilizing your currency. I will find a way to repay you, but it was necessary. I am a wizard. I have been using your machines to learn of your world. They heed my magic. Do not fear when they obey my will. We will not harm you.
My friend is called Fringe.
She is a healer. She wishes to learn more of the medicine you have been giving us.
We come in peace. We are not a threat. We just want to find a new home.
I’d just finished the last word when she walked in. She froze to stare at the computer.
“Holy. Fucking. Shit.” Kara whispered hoarsely. “You asshole. Fringe might look female, but he’s a man.”
A shiver of surprise and unease coursed through me.
How did you know?
“His brain is male. You need to stop being a complete prick and address him properly. Is Fringe his given name? Does he even want to go by that?”
By the Light, she supports him!
He chose that name. His given name died when he came to me.
Kara paused, the look on her face gradually shifting from one emotion to the other. “…it’s a little better here than it used to be, but I thought…well. I’m glad you’re okay with it, anyway.” Kara cautiously approached me. “You understand me?”
I shook my head.
“Can you speak human words?”
Again, I shook my head.
“Damn.” She looked at the computer screen. I’ll reactivate my card, but tell me the next time you need money. I’m never in desperate need of it, but I still have bills, you know. I can’t just let you spend it however you please.”
We need what I purchased.
“I understand. Just ask next time.”
We are grateful.
Now…please stop flirting with Fringe. He cannot mate until he’s well.
“W-what? I don’t flirt with him!”
The camera images loaded to show Kara petting Fringe. She whispered soothing words of encouragement to him.
Do not lie. The cameras see.
Kara’s cheeks flushed deep red. “I-I wasn’t flirting on purpose! I was trying to comfort him!”
For a moment, I was simply stunned. As it dawned on me she had no real interest, I let out a throaty laugh. Half of it was relief. She took a step forward, a look of concern on her face as she reached for me before pausing. Suddenly realizing I was laughing, she gently tapped my arm.
“Oh shut up! I didn’t know it was sexual! Explain to him I have no intention of…mating.”
My laugh died down. On the computer, I wrote:
“Tell me about them.”
He replied calmly. “They’re culture is very similar to us in history, but alters suddenly when something called science overtakes magic. Magic never was a very powerful force here. Religion and science are in a constant fight for a more powerful cultural hold, and it’s caused a lot of death. Males are dominant in the species, but women are increasingly equal to them. They struggle with a lot of the same social issues we do. Except…people like you…have rights.”
“People who aren’t the right gender, or like the same gender…people who are different in their orientation and identity are gaining rights here. They’re being protected and laws are being passed to make sure they have safety and equality. There’s a long way to go, but it’s come a lot further than us.”
My heart beat a little faster, and all the disappointment from rejection swelled into joy. “Really?”
“Yes. They use science to alter your gender. It’s a long process, one you can’t start yet.”
“That’s wonderful!” I felt my tail begin to wag. It thudded wildly against the bed. “What else?”
“There’s a war going on, but it isn’t where we’re located. It’s some distance away…” He was quiet for a moment. “I can’t figure out why they’re fighting. Their information system isn’t always honest. Let’s see…corruption in government, a language we can’t speak, a split history…well, the rest you can find for yourself. The parts will be here soon.”
“How long will it be before I can talk to them?”
“I don’t know. Getting the stuff isn’t the challenge. It’s building it.”
I let out a soft sigh. “At least you’re good at building things.”
“This is an entirely different kind of building. I had to order special tools. But it’s not beyond my understanding.” He informed me in a matter-of-fact voice that assured me he at least knew what he was talking about. “It’ll just take time. Maybe by the time your eyes heal, you can talk to our caregiver.”
“Ok.” My mind drifted off to home in the silence that filled the room.
Kara returning home brought me out of my half haze, half sleep state. I greeted her, and was both happy and surprised that I recognized her sounds were a return greeting. I heard her ask Pyr a question. Since he didn’t answer, I guessed he was too engrossed in the things that had been dropped off for the translation collar.
Kara approached me with a new-smelling cream to attempt to put on my eyes. It smelled almost hot, making me pull away. There was no way she was switching medicine this close to my eyes healing. I pulled away a few times before I reached up and gently took her arm, making the human pause. She gave a nervous chuckle.
Lowering her hand slowly, I carefully got to my feet and located the right medication. Returning to the bed, I handed it to her. She gasped, clearly taken by surprise.
I suppose she wasn’t expecting a fellow healer to land on her doorstep.
I understood if she wanted to change things, but I wasn’t taking the risk.
Besides, she could have easily just mixed it up.
After applying the medication, she began to reorganize her table. I nodded in approval. It had gotten a little chaotic lately. They had a short conversation while she did so. Curious, I asked what it was about.
“She asked why you slept so much. Our lunar cycles were shorter than theirs.”
“What are their cycles?”
“Twenty-four hour days. Daylight is around sixteen hours, while night is about eight – except on two special days that is given great honors among those who still follow a very old religion, the autumn equinox. On those days, it’s twelve hours each.”
“Their calendar is the same as ours. We just have shorter days and nights.”
“When will you finish that?”
“I’m not sure, pup. Have some patience. You’ll be able to communicate with them soon. Until then, focus on healing.”
“Okay…” Kara put her hand against the gauze, shielding her eyes. “Close your eyes.”
I closed them. In the little time I’d been here, I’d learned several phrases she’d had translated most often. She slowly peeled off the gauze protecting my eyes. She spoke again. Pyr translated as she spoke.
“It’s very dim in here. So she wants you to slowly open your eyes.”
I very carefully opened my eyes. Blinking my eyes against the light, I let them adjust to sight after so long not being able to see. The world looked so strange. Half the colors I couldn’t quite see. There were a few I could I didn’t know the name for.
The house’s structure was slightly unusual. Most the things in the house were unfamiliar. Other than furniture and art, the human’s world was the strangest thing I’d ever seen. They even used foreign material to build with. The most interesting of their dens was its fascinating magically ability to produce light as if it were the sun. Pyr sat at a table in the center of a smaller room. He was fiddling with an array of unusual trinkets spread out on the surface.
“What is all that stuff?” I asked.
“It’s for communicating with humans.” He replied absent-mindedly. Then he paused, and looked up. “You can see?”
Kara shined a little light into my eyes, making me growl and flinch.
The growl fell away when I saw her. She was definitely different, as I’d been warned. Her features ape-like in many ways; the lack of muzzle and the shape of her face reminded me of one. Her main source of fur was on top of her head. It draped down to her shoulders in a straight line. Otherwise, most of her skin was furless. It had tiny hairs running along it, but I wasn’t sure I could call that fur.
I cocked my head. “Where’s your tail?”
He translated it on the computer, which had been placed between our beds.
She let out a melodious laugh and spoke. He translated it to “Humans don’t have tails.”
And then he added “Aren’t they so strange looking?”
I studied her for a while longer. “Yes, but not in a bad way. She’s different, but she’s got her own beauty.”
He cocked his head, looked at her, looked at me and shook his head. “I don’t see it.”
She said something. He typed on the computer.
“Hey, don’t leave me out!”
“She’s just asking when the collars will be done. I told her I’m almost through. It won’t take much longer, and I won’t have to translate everything between you two.”
Pyr got up and fetched me something to eat as Kara mixed more medicine. She’d switched medication and started using a liquid solution. I guessed there was still some treating left to do for my eyes. Taking the entire dose was important; just because I could see in dim light didn’t mean medicine wasn’t necessary.
Pyr nodded at me. “I’m glad to see your eyes are healing.” Then he sighed and shook his head. “Though, I suppose this will start a whole new slew of questions. You puppies never stop asking old wolves things.”
I have a feeling I wasn’t the only one afraid I’d lose my eyesight.
Kara had been tireless to make sure every last bit of the infection had been chased away, while juggling work and keeping Pyr from completely running her house. I wasn’t sure how she managed the last part, because he was good at taking charge; sometimes even if it wasn’t required or wanted.
For a couple hours, Kara actually sat down and started to teach me her alphabet. It seemed a good idea since Pyr was working on the communication collars. He said he was hung up on the programming. When I asked him what programming was, he said it was like a combination of giving orders to and teaching a child. The computer inside the collars we’d wear didn’t know what or how to do what he asked, so he had to piece together how to make the concept understood.
He had his work cut out for him, apparently, since he spent most of his time muttering and growling.
Maybe the machine is stupid.
I, on the other hand, was quite enjoying my learning. She would say every letter to me as she wrote it. I would copy her letter until she found it acceptable. It wasn’t long before I understood them enough to write my own letters out beneath them. When she began to copy them too, my tail thumped against the chair’s back.
“I’ll be done with the collar soon.” Pyr told me the day I began walking through the house on my own. “And Kara said you shouldn’t need any more medicine. We still shouldn’t let too much light in the house at once, but the localized artificial light seems to be fine for our work.”
“I want to go outside.”
“Ask her when she gets home.”
We were quiet for a while before I couldn’t help but ask “Are you sleeping ok, Pyr?”
“Because you look tired.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m okay, Fringe. I just can’t sleep like I used to. The moon cycle is different here, and it makes me…restless.”
“Just – don’t overdo it, okay?” I gently touched his shoulder for a second. “You’re important to me.”
Kara came in, pausing when she saw my hand on his shoulder. An odd expression passed over her face for just a split second. I didn’t have time to understand it. She asked a question. Pyr wrote; Just talking. I’ll get back to the project in a little bit. She’s restless and wants to go outside.
He translated her reply to “She said it’s fine if it’s not bright. So I’m guessing dawn, dusk and night is fine.”
I blinked at him. “I understood some of what she said.”
He looked at the computer, looked at me. “Do you want to learn more?”
“Come over here and sit.”
The rest of the day he showed me how to use a computer, and then put me on a program that he promised would help me understand her language. I was enthralled immediately, and found a new way to spend my leisure time.
It was so quiet. In the darkness, it felt too quiet. Every one of my muscles was on edge, waiting for the ambush. Waiting for Isis to strike; waiting for a child to sneak into camp and –
A hand touched my shoulder, making me whip around to seize the arm and pin whatever had grabbed me. Instantly, a familiar scent reached m nose. I relaxed completely.
“Rick. What are you doing here?”
“I didn’t feel right leaving you in here all alone. It doesn’t even have a proper window.”
“Basements tend not to.” I replied in an attempt to be cheeky. “Rick, you shouldn’t be down here. You should be…”
“Up there? Lying next to a woman?”
“You’re married to that woman.”
“But I love you.”
“I-I – I love you too Rick.”
“Can we be together – just one more night?”
I shifted uneasily on top of the man. Skin against fur, sheath against jeans. I felt my tail wag. “Someone’s happy to see me.”
“You’re naked. Did you expect it to stay down?”
“Well…I need help falling asleep.”
His lips pressed against my nose. I gave him a lick-kiss, and our last night together began.
“What the HELL?” A voice shouted from the stairs. “What the FUCK is going ON?”
I shot up, hand reaching for a gun that wasn’t there. Rick sat straight up, looking around with the same alert intent. We didn’t relax when we saw his wife.
“I better go talk to her.”
“Rick, be careful.”
“Hellen won’t hurt me, Delta.”
I still had a hard time following him up. When I heard shouting, I couldn’t take it anymore. I rushed upstairs. She threw a glass at me. I delved out of the way, snarling at the woman. When she threw something else, I charged her to pin her down.
“Delta! Stand down!”
I resisted the command for several seconds before getting off. When I realized what had happened, I shook my head as I backed several feet away. “I’m sorry, Rick.”
“It is NOT FINE. He could have killed me!”
“Delta has PTSD. It’s why we were honorably discharged. Of course he’s going to return to root instinct when you throw glass at him!”
“I want a divorce!” She stormed out.
He grabbed his keys. “Let’s go, Delta.”
I didn’t even question him. I got in the car with him. We went to the woods, taking a long walk.
“I love you, Delta.” He said, pulling me to him for another kiss.
“I love you too.” I tilted my head curiously. This was all so strange.
“I need to think. Go on ahead. I’ll catch up.”
“I don’t know…I don’t want to leave you alone.”
I growled at the command, and pulled away to obey.
I was almost half a mile away when I heard the gunshot.
NO!! I’m too far!
Taking off toward the sound, I knew I was too late.
Today we are celebrating the cover reveal for FIREBALL by Nazarea Andrews. Fireball is an adult contemporary romance, standalone novel, and it kicks off the brand new River Street Bar series. It will be released on March 8! Add FIREBALL to Goodreads BIG NEWS Nazarea is re-launching her READER GROUP. You can get […]
A thousand tiny kisses
Upon your lips
Beneath the covers
Chasing away the cold
Driving away the sorrow and fear
Together for good
You and I
Against the world
We find our own cheer
Fire in my lungs and sharp, stabbing pain pinning down my chest woke me. Bright light seared my eyelids. I let out a low growl of pain and fear. I couldn’t open my eyes; they seemed almost glued shut. A whimper echoed in my ear beside me. I could feel damp fur pressed against me.
When I tried to move, piercing pain erupted through me from my leg and chest. Letting out a howl of agony, I lay still again. Pyr’s growl in my ear burned concern through me.
“Pyr,” I breathed.
“Fringe.” He panted out.
Relief rushed through me as I realized he was okay – at least enough to speak my name.
Strange smells and noises surrounded me. I could tell I was outside – but the ground I lay on was dry. It didn’t smell wet at all. Rather, it smelled like grass and dirt. No slap of water caught my ears; not even a trickle of a stream. The wind was a consistent, powerful whistling.
And there was something else; something acidic and hard and hot; something that smelled almost unnatural. A loud roar occasionally came and went so fast I couldn’t determine what it was. Only that the creature was fast, with a dark, hot stench. It smelled almost like a sword on fire.
The sound of a lumbering, heavy footstep at an odd gate was coming towards us. It was bipedal, but the sounds coming from its throat were as odd as its scent. It was almost like a gorilla, yet different. It wasn’t light enough on its feet, either.
Please don’t be a gorilla. Please don’t be a gorilla.
A twinge of panic pulsed through me. I tried to get up, but the slightest movement sent agony reeling through me. My head spun even with my eyes swollen shut. The creature approached me at a hurried gate before stopping dead and dropping down to kneel right before me. A soft, furless hand pressed to my neck. I yelped in shock.
There was a gasp. The scent of panic wafted off from the bizarre creature. It called out; more of them rushed toward us. There was a lot of chatter. Loud, blaring screams. The acidic scent grew stronger. We were surrounded by the primate-like things; pure agony tore through me as I was lifted into the air and set on top of some hard thing. Something wrapped around my body, preventing me from moving.
I felt myself moving through the air on the hard thing. The acidic scent surrounded me, blocking out the light. I heard Pyr grunt next to me. He was here. A furless hand wrapped around my furred one. Soothing noises whispered close to my ears as things were pressed to me. Beeping. Steady beeping.
It was so very cold. I lay in a hard bed, in a place that smelled like nothing but Pyr, me and the lingering scent of the strange creatures. It was too clean. Beeping and dripping echoed through the room. My throat was raw and painful. My chest had been wrapped.
From here I could hear quiet voices spoken in that odd, guttural language. The energy in the place was rushed and cold, with an undertone of hush. The slight scent of blood and illness lingered somewhere beneath the scent of too-clean. I could hear the opening and closing of doors.
The sense of urgency followed the beings as they came into the room. Cursory hands brushed along my body, making me gasp, groan and growl.
“That hurt,” I growled out. “Stop.”
The hands pulled gently away.
Can it understand me?
I felt a slight tug on my arm. Soft, business-like voices filled the room. I could smell confusion with a slight hint of fear, but heard only urgency in the voice. As I lay there, I realized there was only one female in the room. And she as the one obeyed.
Primates are patriarchal.
“Where am I?” I tried to ask. There was quiet a moment before they started to speak amongst themselves again. So I asked again – in vain.
They clearly can’t understand me either.
“…can you see?” Pyr asked quietly.
“No.” I whimpered. “My eyes won’t open.”
“They look swollen. The swelling is going down, though. We seem to be in a place of healing. Their way of healing is strange and invasive. It feels unnatural.”
“…what does it look like?”
“We’re on beds divided by a curtain made of a strange material. Everything is white. There are odd devices that seem to display information. The furless creatures with flat faces don’t seem to like the information, from their hurried gestures and urgent tones when approaching them. They keep looking for something on us. I don’t know what it is.”
“Is that why they moved me and felt along my back?”
“I think so.”
“…they’re furless and have flat faces?”
“They have fur on their heads. Otherwise they wear white coats over dull-colored clothing to hide their bare skin. Most of them are pale, but some of them are darker
My ears perked.
“Is someone writing?”
“Yes. They do it constantly, but I don’t see a proper quill. They don’t dip it in ink, either.”
This entire world is strange.
All we could do was lay there and keep one another company. The others had become quiet. Only the female remained in the room. It didn’t take me long to realize she was there to observe. She seemed intent on watching and listening to us. It wasn’t long before I drifted back off to sleep.
“Fringe.” Pyr’s voice woke me from a restless slumber full of pain, water and flat-faced, skinless and faceless creatures howling and roaring. “Fringe, their devices – they heed my magic.”
“Their machines – they heed my magic. I can communicate with them through magic.”
“And?” I swallowed. I was so thirsty. It hurt worse than it had before my sleep.
“Maybe I can communicate with them as well.”
“The strange primates?”
“…tell them I’m thirsty.” I replied as loudly as I could.
“None of the things here can do what I ask. They’re designed to work only a specific way.” He was quiet for a moment.
Then, the thing beside me began to let out a piercing sound that made me growl in pain and flatten my ears. There was a rush of feet into the room.
The sound stopped.
After a frenzy of activity, the animal seemed to calm a little. I reached out to take her arm. She let out a scream as fear rolled off her. Whimpering, I pulled back.
“She’s afraid, but she’s watching.”
I made a gesture of drinking from a cup.
An almost electric energy pulsed through the air as I felt her stare at me. The scent of fear faded. She slowly backed up before running out of the room. There were hurried voices.
These animals never slow down, do they? They’re always in a hurry.
Shortly, she returned – and gave me a cup. It was smooth and cold, clearly not wood. But when I pressed it to my lips and began to lap, blessed water slid down my throat. I drank slowly, letting it soothe the raw, dry and sore tissue. It was cold as water from a spring. I felt ice brush against my tongue. It was crushed into tiny pieces. I lapped them up too.
When I’d had my fill, I handed it back. I heard it set down next to me on something. There must have been a table there. The now-familiar sound of scratching told me she was once again writing this down. She recorded the information from the machine, too. There was a little more of their funny language before there was a prick on my arm. I felt a slight pain, liquid shoot through my arm.
Soothing sounds from the human were quickly meaningless as my heart began to race and pound so hard my head spun. I felt as if it were in my throat.
“Fringe? Fringe? What’s wrong?” Pyr began to growl and snarl. “What did you do to him?! I’ll kill you!”
The lights flickered as my heart slowed so I could hardly feel it – could hardly breathe. The machine went insane as my heart sped back up. Pyr was snarling wordlessly in anger. The two men from before rushed in with something strange. They put it on my chest – and lightning shot through my entire body. Howling in pain, I begged them to stop.
A firm command.
The lightning shot through me again.
My vision blurred, but my heart began to beat evenly again.
I heard a beeping in her hands. Then an odd ring, ring, ring. A voice echoed from her something near her face. Both voices were frantic. There was another beep and then she began commanding the men again.
From all this excitement, I drifted off to sleep again.
A new woman was in the room. Her scent was like sunshine and flowers, and her voice like honey. A gentle hand began to stroke my head and scratch my ear, pulling me to full wakefulness. I felt a twinge of heat rise through me. Her voice whispered soothing things in my ear, even if I couldn’t understand her.
A low growl came from across the room, but it sounded muffled. I couldn’t understand what Pyr was trying to say. It was as if he were gagged.
I felt…spacy. The pain was gone. My thoughts were foggy and slow. My senses didn’t seem as sharp. I could only lay there, panting and trapped in my own molasses thoughts. With surprise, I realized belatedly that the pressure in my eyes had reduced quite a bit.
The swelling had gone down. I could partially see through a thin slit.
“Look, I didn’t know, okay?!” Brandy snapped angrily. “I was trying to help her! She can’t breathe properly, can’t see and is in a lot of pain. I don’t know how much she understands of what’s going on, but – well, I – Kara, they talk to one another. Not in English, but they talk. They’re not just barking and growling. It’s structured language.”
“I need you to get an ambulance around. They’re coming home with me. I have a room set up for animals I can’t leave alone even for a few hours.”
“D-don’t tell anybody, okay? I don’t know what they are, but I know they’re sentient.”
“That’s obvious. Did you do anything else that I need to know about?” Kara demanded in frustration. “Maybe give the male a sedative?”
“I gave them a standard MRI. They’re brains are very human in a lot of its structure. But the female’s brain…Kara, her brain is male.”
“What does that mean?”
“The way it developed, the way it thinks, it’s male. There are differences between the male and female brain. It’s one of the reasons people get sex changes.”
“Are you telling me she’s trans?”
“Yes. I am.”
My god. I thought that was only a human issue.
Kara nodded. “Very well. I’ll remember that if I can find a way to communicate with them.”
She approached the white wolf to study her closer while waiting on the ambulance. There wasn’t just swelling in her eyes. They were red, and full of some awful sludge and grit. There was pus starting to form.
Damn it. They didn’t get the sediment out of her eyes. They’re infected.
His breathing was irregular. He kept clenching her fists – a very human gesture. And he kept swallowing. Kara noticed an empty cup next to the end table, so got more water. When it pressed to his paw – hand, he brought it to his mouth and lapped at it. Kara gently stroked his head.
“It’s okay, sir.” She told the white wolf. “I’ll fix you up.”
Even if he couldn’t understand her words, Kara knew the wolf would understand the emotion behind them. It’d be hard to save his eyes, but she would do her damnedest. There was no telling what impact eyesight made on this animal’s life.
Kara rode in the ambulance with them. The nurses helped her set them up in the sterile room. The black, aging wolf growled and grunted. He barked. The white wolf responded in a similar way. The two traded this back and forth, telling Kara that her sister was right.
They were talking.
It was light. The light in the room didn’t seem like it was from the sun, however. It was yellow and hard, rather than the soft white light from the sun or moon. Vague shapes colored the edges of my vision, with movement my sluggish mind couldn’t follow.
I absently licked the hand stroking my head.
She smells so good.
My mind thought absently. I licked her again. She let out a light and melodious laugh. I couldn’t help but begin to groom her affectionately. Her soothing words and gentle petting encouraged me to continue.
Then, suddenly and without cause, she pulled away.
Letting out a sigh, I lay still. It felt as if I weren’t quite in my own body. It reminded me of a plant that killed pain, even in my current state of mind. I vaguely wondered if they’d dosed me with the sky rose. I heard her walk over to Pyr. There was shuffling, growling and she walked out.
“They’ve moved us.” Pyr told me.
I hummed in acknowledgment.
“Don’t you care?”
“Mm-hmm,” I garbled out.
“The machines are called computers.”
“What is wrong with you?”
“I’m high.” I answered in a matter-of-fact tone. “Pain killer.”
“By the stars, this is bad…”
“No pain.” I reiterated.
“At least there’s mercy in that.” He sounded like he’d said it more to himself.
I let my mind wonder as he played with the machines around us.
Just as the key locked the office doors, Kara’s phone rang. She grabbed it and blinked in surprise to see Brandy’s name.
“Is everything ok, sis?” The vet skipped the hello’s as she headed for her car.
“I have a situation. I need your help.”
“How in the world can I help an emergency room doctor?”
“It’s…complicated. It involves some kind of dog, and I really need you here. I think you’ll want to take them back to the clinic with you.”
“It’s nine at night. I just closed the clinic. Take the dogs to emergency vet while you take care of their owners.”
“It’s not as simple as that. Please, Kara?”
Worry wormed its way into her. Brandy sounded really upset. “Okay, fine. I’ll be right there.”
“Thank you.” The evident relief in her voice quickly intensified my concern.
As soon as Kara got in the car, she found it hard to stop at traffic lights and obey the speed limit. Brandy wasn’t an animal person. What had her calling Kara after a twelve hour shift?
Brandy met Kara at the door. There were bags under her eyes. Her lips were tugged in a tight, thin line and her steps were hurried. No matter how Kara tried to coax information out of her, she wouldn’t say anything. When they came to a stop at a room with two police officers, the vet’s frayed nerves were shredded.
Kara came into the room. Brandy shut the door behind them.
And Kara froze.
What the hell was she seeing?
Lying on the beds were two wolves. But their spines were erect, their forelegs arms and their forepaws were…hands. With opposable thumbs. The black one with a graying muzzle had a broken arm, a broken leg and was hooked up to IV’s. His monitor seemed to be malfunctioning, because it was doing things she’d never seen them do before.
“Should you get that looked at?”
“We don’t know their vitals anyway. The machines aren’t accurate.”
Looking across the room had her heart in her chest. The other wolf was white as snow, with streaks of blood through her fur. Her eyes were swollen completely shut, her chest wrapped and one of her legs were broken. She let out a low howl of pain, making the wolf across from her growl. Kara noticed he was muzzled.
“Why is he muzzled?”
“Because when she went into coronary arrest, he tried to kill the nurse closest to him. He’s also strapped to the bed in case he tries to get out of it again.”
“She went into coronary arrest?! Why?”
“We gave her a very small dose of morphine for the pain.”
“What the hell is wrong with you?! She’s a wolf! You can’t just inject her with random shit like she’s human