Chapter One:

Birthday

"Hello?" I called out, seemingly to no one. The wind blew louder, icy whips lashing against my back. A voice whispered to me.

"Come to me. Find me. Seek me. Know me." The voice rang out to me and strangely sounded as if the air itself had found a voice. It seemed like the wind was speaking to me, leading me, as it whipped against my naked back. Crimson rivers run down my tan skin, torn and broken by the sharp air and equally sharp branches. But I can't feel any of it. I can only follow the voice, which only repeats the same words, over and over again, haunting me.

My heart pounded in my chest, feelings of anxiety pulsating through me. Labored breaths left my lips as I parted the brush to form a path; it's so dark I can hardly make out anything. I'm led further by a shimmer of light, the reflection of the full moon on the lake in the distance, one white eye unseeing in the middle of a frigid pool .

Where am I? I don't even know anymore, I feel as if I've walked along this path a thousand times. It feels like people other than myself have walked this same path millions of times. But I didn't know where I was headed. I just kept listening, listening to that voice in the air and loosing myself in my attempts to find the owner of that voice.

What was even stranger though, more strange than anything else, was that the voice was familiar. In fact, I was sure I knew the voice and the owner's name was right on the tip of my tongue but lost in the hazy confines of my mind. "Where are you? I can't see you. Tell me where you are!" As my voice raised the icy wind howled in aggression until nearly becoming a storm, forcing me to shield my eyes to keep the debris from blinding me, as sand, sticks, and leaves came flying at my face.

The answer I receive isn't a new one. "Come to me."

I resist the urge to growl in frustration. "Look, I can't help you if you don't tell me where you are! I can't do this anymore. Just tell me where you are or I'm leaving!" I threw my hands up in defeat, taking several more steps towards the river in the middle of the woods.

Lifting my leg up over an uprooted tree root, I froze in mid motion. The wind had stopped, just like that. No warning, no reason for it. It just stopped. It's completely silent, the voice has gone and rather than feeling comfort, I break into a new sweat, my labored breaths turning into pants and I felt the sensation to bolt rise up within me. My body just wanted to burst into a run and get as far away from this place as I can.

I don't.

Instead, I take a step forward towards the river and I feel my throat constrict with how beautiful the sight in front of me is. I can see the reflection of the full moon in the surface of the water, its ivory glow making the water seem like liquid silver. Every star in the sky can be seen within its depths and it almost feels like my body has found its way into the heavens. Except that's the problem.

I can't see my reflection. I look at where I should be and I see nothing. Every muscle in my body tenses and just one, solitary cold breeze blows against my bloody back, chilling me to the core.

Spinning around, my eyes searched in desperation for another being. I couldn't see anyone, but I knew I wasn't alone. "Hello?" I repeated. Perhaps I had finally found the owner of the voice?

"You've found me."

Spinning back around, my eyes immediately glanced down into the stillness of the river to see startling golden eyes staring back at me. The eyes of the wolf. I placed one foot behind me in an attempt to back away.

I was never able to. As soon as the heel of my foot touched rock and dirt, those same eyes in the river developed a face; a long lean muzzle along of onyx black appeared out of the river, the entire body of the wolf launching itself at me. Launching itself right at my neck, it's curved fangs glittering like diamonds in the moonlight before piercing into flesh.

I screamed.

Then, luckily enough, I woke up. My alarm had never been so welcome in my entire life. The mere sound of the repetitive beeps in their high pitched tempo was equivalent to the sound of angel's singing. I lurched up out of my bed, my body glistening with sweat, chest heaving in my heart's desperate attempt to burst from my chest.

I'd had that dream for the last six weeks. The same dream with the exact same outcome and every time it scared the shit out of me. Waking up in a cold sweat was not my cup of tea and worse than that, waking up afraid that a wolf would be chewing on my neck didn't sit well with me either. Plus I was pissed about this, today was my eighteenth birthday and it was suppose to be something that should have started off happy. Instead, it already felt like it would just be another day complete with nightmares and sweat-soaked sheets.

"Riley! Are you up yet? You're going to be late for school!" Sighing, I pulled the covers away from my legs and rolled out of bed. Mumbling about over-bearing mothers, I forced myself into standing and stretching. It took about a minute for my mother to realize what day it was. "Oh my God! I'm so sorry! Happy birthday, honey!" Still stretching, I rolled my eyes. Typical mom, always had too much on her mind and even more on her plate.

Oh well. Nothing I could do about it. "No problem, mom. Thanks." Pulling my closet door open, I stared down at the mounds of clothing crumpled and dumped haphazardly on the floor. Shrugging, I opted for my staple look. A wrinkled t-shirt and hole ridden dark jeans, along with my equally staple converse, the toes of which were kept together by this month's best fashion accessory: duct tape.

Yawning again, I threw the clothing onto my bed and headed towards my bathroom. Even though the sun was shining through the blinds in my room, I couldn't resist the hiss that came out as I scrunched my eyes at the harsh artificial light, the blinding white tiles and walls, not to mention the porcelain sink and toilet not at all helping. Weird but lately, my eyes seemed more sensitive than they had ever been before. Coughing a few times, I parted the shower curtain and hopped in, turning on the water only to yell as near freezing water hit my skin. Talk about a shock to the system. If the dream hadn't already woken me up, I sure wouldn't be able to go back to sleep now after being doused in ice water.

All in all, the cold water didn't bother me too much after the initial shock. I knew we had to skip out on the gas bill this month and with gas came the hot water heater, so I gave another shrug and washed off my body and rinsed at top speed, brushed my teeth at an even faster speed, dried off, threw on my clothes and a beanie to cover my messy brown hair, and ran down the stairs.

There was no way to resist the smile that tugged at my lips. My mom really was great in her own strange, little way. She stood with her back facing me, mumbling to herself as she made me a birthday Toaster Streusel in the toaster. Her dirty blonde hair was pulled up into a messy bun, several strands sticking out, her thin and narrow body covered by a bulky apron as she worked.

"Mom." I called out to her, still smiling while crossing my arms, my back leaning into the doorframe. She turned, her bright green eyes staring into my own brown eyes, the lines of age leaving her face as she sent me a blindingly white smile. "Save that for yourself. I'll just wait to eat until lunch." She needed it more than I did. We were a far cry from being rich and we probably didn't even make it into middle class either. Now that I was eighteen, everything would be different. I wouldn't let her starve herself anymore just so I could have something to eat. I could take care of her now and I would. I promised myself I would.

However, my mom was stubborn. So, it was no surprise when she shook her head frantically at me with a certain steel in her bright green eyes. "Don't be silly Riley. It's your birthday, you need a treat. Besides you have to take this, alright? I don't think I'll be able to bake you a cake this year and…" Her voice cracked as tears pooled in her eyes. There was nothing in this world that I hated in this world than seeing my mother cry.

Crossing the room, I quickly enveloped her in an embrace, kissing her forehead gently. "Alright. Alright. Stop the water works; you don't need to make me feel bad to make me eat." Relief filled me when she let out a few chuckles in between several sniffles. Warm hands cupped my face, as my mother forced my face down to look at me. I was about 6'2 and she was only 5'9, so it was a regular occurrence in our household.

Wiping tears from her eyes, she shook her head. "I just can't believe that your eighteen now. You're all grown up. I'm so proud of you. Don't roll your eyes at me." She warned and crossed her arms across her chest, frown lines forming on her forehead. Really, how could I not roll my eyes? Sometimes my mother really did sound like she took lines directly from some of the family sitcoms she saw on television. "Really, I mean it Riley. I'm so proud of you. I'm so proud of who you've become, how different you are from…" She stopped and I tensed, knowing exactly why she had.

She meant to say my father. She meant to say that I was different from my father and should have said it, because I was damn proud to be nothing like my father. I never met the man, but he had done something to my mother, he had broken her and I didn't know how or why. Sometimes I would look at old pictures of my mother, before she met my father, and she looked so different, so independent and free-spirited, her eyes were brighter, happier then. Now, she just seemed like an imitation of the person she had once been, her eyes were shadowed and she even seemed fearful at times. It was as if she thought someone would come after her and kill her, sometimes her eyes would dart around the room when there was no sound, as if she was just waiting for someone to rush in and kill us both.

Several times in my life, she would tell me my father was a monster. The way she said it though, made me really think he was when I was a kid. There was never any boogey-man for me, just my father. He was the one I was afraid would come out of my closet and hurt me and my mother. Now I didn't fear him, no, I just hated him with a passion. Funny thing was I didn't even know the man's name. In all honesty, I didn't need to know his name, because if I did, I'd track him down and kill him for all he'd done.

What I truly hated though, was that I didn't even need his name to find him. I looked almost exactly like him, or so I imagined. The only features my mother and I shared were pronounced cheekbones a sharp, aristocratic nose. Other than that, I must have looked exactly like my father. My wild, untamed brown curls must have been his, as well as brown eyes, my broad shoulders, and slightly crooked smile. I knew I looked like him because though few and far between, there were occasions when I would see my mother looking at me with a grimace out of the corner of my eye. Needless to say, I hated looking like him almost as much as I hated the man himself.

"I know." I whispered gently, removing her slightly calloused hands from my face before reaching behind her to take the cooling treat from out of the toaster, allowing my body to take the same path to frost the flaky breakfast treat. My mother sighed but didn't bother trying to stop me; she knew I hated having her do things for me. Looking around, I spotted my backpack draping off the side of the chair, stuffing the two squares into my mouth, I slipped both of my arms through the holes. "Bye mom." I mumbled as I scrambled for the door, but with the streusel in my mind, it sounded more like, "buff munk," but she understood well enough, her final goodbye a yell for me not to come home too late from school.

The streets of London were always busy or so it felt like. Seemed like I could be up at four in the morning and I'd still almost get run over at least once. But it really didn't matter as I turned the corner streusel now in hand, a smirk touching over my face at the sight of my best mate, Jacob Prowley, attempting to catch nuts in his mouth. Silently I shook my head, I couldn't believe we were still friends since the first day of elementary education and I still couldn't recover from how much he had changed. Gone were the platinum blonde locks I had known in place for a forest green colored mowhawk, his chubby body thinner and lankier than my own. All that remained to prove he was Jacob were his mismatched eyes, one brown and one green, along with the strangely addictive, mischievous grin that was perpetually on his face.

I decided to let my presence be known after watching him fail at swallowing the sixth batch of nuts since my arrival by coughing. Mismatched eyes looked up at me before his grin stretched wider across his face. "Riley! Happy birthday! Must be nice to be legal, eh? Can't wait until we can both get shagged up and down the wall by Mrs. Kidd without her getting arrested." Rolling my eyes, I playfully shoved him out of the way before stepping ahead of him onto the sidewalk, slowing my pace to allow him to catch up.

Jacob really was the atypical teenage boy. All he had was sex on the brain, to the point that I had found myself stuck in several bad situations. I'm still not sure what was worse, getting caught for peeping or having been forced to see a 70 year old showering. Shivering at the memory, I turned my attention back to my friend in an effort to repress that moment back into the darkest confines of my mind. "Thanks. So what's the plan for today?"

His grin widened to the point of obscuring his entire face and I cocked my head to the side. Maybe I just had an over-active imagination, but I swear, sometimes he really looked like some sort of Cheshire cat hybrid. "Well, I was thinking it is your eighteenth birthday and that's pretty damn cool. So," He threw an arm around my shoulders, grinning malevolently at me and immediately I started shaking my head, that grin always meant trouble. "I was thinking," he continued, not at all to be deterred from his pursuit. "Why don't we take a break from school today? Say, what if we, I don't know, go to a Murdered Phoenix concert instead?"

"What? There's a concert in London today? I never even heard about it. How did you get tickets?" Despite myself, I couldn't keep the excitement out of my voice and that just caused that grin of his to take on a near demonic level. I was caught, there was no way I could go to school now after hearing about my favorite metal band coming to London and on my birthday of all days! Hopefully my mother could forgive me just this once. She did want me to have fun after all.

Jacob quickly shook his head. "Not in London, in Edinburgh." Opening my mouth in protest, I was cut off when a hand adored with silver rings was pressed into my face and against my mouth. "Don't worry about it! All we have to do is get to King's Cross and then 4 hours and we're there. I've already got it all planned out. You have to let me do this for you, all I got you last year was grounded for three weeks. Let me make it up to you, we might see some attractive ladies needy for a good time?" Wiggling equally green eye brows at me, I gave up with a slow nod. If I said no, I'd be harassed all day long and really, he did owe this to me and it was Murdered Phoenix.

"I knew you'd say yes!Thank God you did actually, because the tickets are non-refundable and then I would have blown two months worth of allowance on you." We never were the sort of friends to be sappy around each other, but I really didn't know what I would do without Jacob. We'd been friends for so long it would be a strange world to wake up without seeing him around somewhere. In fact, I didn't want to think about it. Instead I let him ramble on and on about how awesome the concert would be and tried to keep my mind off that stupid bloody dream I kept having, the memory of it coming back to me after the strange incident with Jacob's hand.

Unconsciously, I rubbed at my neck. This time I almost seemed to feel the fangs dig and tear into my flesh. Maybe it all was anxiety about getting new responsibilities now that I was eighteen. Yes, that had to be it. I refused to believe it was anything other than that. Obviously the wolf was some sort of analogy to my coming of age or something like that. Glancing at a still ranting Jacob, who had now taken to flaying his arms around as we walked, I wondered if I should tell him about the dream.

I'd never hidden anything from the boy beside me and I don't think he'd ever hidden anything from me. In fact, I don't think Jacob's the type of person to keep things to himself at all. His eyes are too honest and kind to keep things from anyone and at times I really wish I was like that. For some reason I've never been too outspoken, Jacob is quite literally, my only friend and I even keep my mother in the dark about most things. Maybe I just liked being a solitary person or maybe I just didn't want to worry people who cared about me, I really didn't know. At the moment though, it was the latter and I didn't want to bother Jacob with my problems, not when he was so excited about the concert. Plus, I was hoping his enthusiasm would rub off on me some more and I could stop feeling weird about a stupid nightmare.

"Off to King's Cross then?" I threw in randomly, cutting Jacob off from saying something perverted about our latest substitute teacher.

"Yes! Wait, let's grab something to eat first, I'm starving to death. By the way, you alright, Riley? You've been holding that Toaster Streusel for a while now, does it taste that bad?" Jacob's voice lifted with concern, his mismatched eyes a reflection of that concern in his voice.

I blinked and looked down at my hands, watching as frosting dripped down my fingers. What was wrong with me? I'd forgotten all about it. Maybe there really was something wrong with me and it was more than the dream. "Uh, no. Just slipped my mind I guess," I murmured, taking a bite of the now lukewarm breakfast for effect.

"If you say so," his voice was still laced with concern and I sighed at having ruined the mood.

Attempting a smile, I broke off a piece from the untouched square and handed it to Jacob, who took said offering with a suspicious look. "Here, this will hold you until we can get something better." Thankfully enough, the words were enough to reform at least a small smile. I really hated it when people worried about me.

Jacob gave me a pat on the back and removed his arm from around my shoulder. "It's your birthday. You shouldn't be giving anything to anyone." There was a pause and I knew what was coming next. "Unless you're giving a good shag, of course."

I laughed and for a moment I thought that being eighteen really could be a great thing. After all, it is suppose to be a day you never forget.