Jake ran through the forest, past the trees whose dead limbs grabbed and tore at his clothes, through shrubs and thorny blackberry, stumbling over roots and sticks. Cobwebs stuck to his hair and he wiped at them, sobbing and calling.
He heard several shots ahead of him and ran toward the sound.
Jake suddenly felt something grab his foot and shrieked, stumbling forward into the dirt. The taste of soil and rotting leaves in his mouth, he flipped on his back and scrambled upright. A man lay in the dirt, pale-skinned, naked and emaciated, dark hair pooled around his face. A red hole blossomed with blood in the middle of his chest. He wasn't moving. Jake turned around and threw up, stomach heaving even after nothing but acidic bile dribbled from his lips. Eyes watering, Jake heard more shots ahead, wiped his mouth with his jacket sleeve and lurched to his feet without looking back. He staggered through the forest toward the sounds of shooting. Something howled through the trees.
Jake finally caught sight of a small clearing ahead and approached, a wave of relief sweeping over him as he glimpsed his father's dark figure ahead. He quickened his pace until he heard a loud snarl. Jake paused and slowed, stopping behind a clot of blackberry shrubs. The full moon shone down on a small field, bright enough to render two figures circling each other. Several corpses littered the edge of the field, men and women, all emaciated and contorted, covered in dark bullet wounds.
His stomach lurching, Jake shifted his view towards his father. His clothes were torn and disheveled, pants patched in dirt and torn in several places. He limped slightly off a leg stained dark by a particularly large tear. His face was contorted in an expression of fury and obsession Jake had never seen before, and it scared him. Across from him, a huge creature crouched, snarling. Its pelt was dark brown, and it was larger and leaner than a wolf, with huge forearms and glistening golden eyes, muzzle shuddering as it snarled feigning left and right, Greg's shotgun following it with every movement. It suddenly lifted itself on its hind legs, roared with an intensity that froze Jake's heart for several seconds, and threw itself at his father. Two shots rang out and the beast stumbled to the ground with a yelp, Greg darting aside to avoid its lashing claw. Rounding on it, Greg pulled out his handgun and planted three more bullets into the thrashing creature's forehead, and it stilled.
A silence settled over the clearing. Nothing but the sound of his own pounding heartbeats and the whispering of the trees echoed through the forest. The customary hoots of the owls and doves and the cries of the late summer cicadas were eerily absent.
The lycanthrope suddenly shifted, startling Jake, becoming smaller and slimmer until the fur had disappeared and left behind a large man with a dark beard and full head of jet black hair.
Jake took a step back and a stick snapped under his foot. Greg swiveled around, raising his gun until he noticed Jake, eyes widening.
"Jake," he said in surprise. Without thinking, Jake turned on his heel and dashed through the forest. "Jake!"
He threw himself past shrubs and trees, dead leaves crackling beneath his feet. He stumbled once, twice, over a root, running until his legs screamed and his ribs cramped and he collapsed on the ground, scrambling behind a large tree. Jake drew in his knees and clutched his head, sobbing hysterically.
What was happening? What were those things? Were they human? Why was his father killing them? Why was his father killing? Why was his mother dead? How was she dead? Mothermothermother.
Who was he running from?
Jake rocked back and forth, biting into his arm. His clothes were stained and sullied, his arms covered in scratches and dirt but numb from the cold and shock. His muscles cramped from running.
He heard something rustle in the bushes and froze immediately. Heart pounding, Jake's eyes darted around, searching the darkness for sights, sounds. He heard something whimper softly. He wiped his nose on his sleeve and shakily stood up, crouching past a large shrubbery and paused as the sounds got louder. He stopped and glanced around the bush, holding his breath.
The body of a woman lay prone on the ground, her face buried in the leaf litter, long dark hair spread around her. She was also naked, her skin dark and her figure thin. Two bullet holes in her back wept and spilled a web of blood down her sides, but she was still. Jake swallowed as nausea racked his stomach again and shifted his gaze.
Beside the woman, whining and growling, a small pup as tall as his knees tugged at her arm. It prowled up and down beside her, glancing up and sniffing the air before barking and yelping, nudging the body with its head as if to push her upright.
Jake stood and took a few steps forward. The pup's head snapped up and it lowered its ears, growling as it noticed the intruder.
"Get out of here," Jake said hoarsely. He cleared his throat. "Go."
The pup snarled and crouched defensively over the body, hackles raised.
Jake turned his head as he heard his father's voice nearing, getting closer.
"You've got to go," he insisted, approaching. The pup growled, then whined as Jake stepped forward. Its body shook uncontrollably.
"It's dangerous," Jake insisted in a loud whisper. "He'll kill you!" Jake nudged the pup with a foot.
The pup backed away a step, but didn't move, golden eyes fixed on Jake.
"Go, get out of here!" Jake snapped, clapping his hands. The pup scrambled into the nearby bushes and disappeared right as Jake heard running footsteps crunching in the leaves. He glanced up as his father approached, wide-eyed and breathless.
"Oh God, Jake," he gasped and fell to his knees, hugging Jake tightly. "Are you alright? Are you hurt? Damnit, Jake. You shouldn't have seen that."
Jake stood stiffly, eyes momentarily settling on the dead woman over his father's shoulder again until Greg stood up and dragged Jake by the hand into the forest. Jake glanced back and caught sight of a young boy with dark shaggy hair and glittering black eyes crouched beside a tree, watching them leave. He blinked and the boy vanished.
"Why didn't you stay at home?" Jake's father asked.
"She scared me," Jake replied, turning forward. Greg glanced at him, expression impossible to distinguish in the darkness. He swept Jake up off his feet and carried him in his arms until they exited the forest. Jake gripped his father's leg and stopped as they began to approach the house.
"I don't want to go in there," he said. Greg crouched beside him and caressed his head, wiping at some dirt smudged on his face.
"Don't worry," he said soothingly. "We're not going inside."
Jake nodded and looked up, suddenly noticing two dark figures standing outside their house beside a sleek black car. He stared. "Who are they?"
"Friends," Greg affirmed and stood up, leading Jake by the hand.
One of the men stepped forward, tall and hawk-nosed with short-cropped blond hair and pointed features, and gripped Greg's hand.
"Thank you for coming, Alastair," Jake's father said.
"My condolences about your wife," the man said in a low voice, thickly accented. "We've been tracking the pack for a while now. We heard reports of attacks on livestock at nearby farms, but we didn't expect them to stray so close to human habitations."
Greg nodded, one hand stroking Jake's hair. Jake resisted the urge to shove it off.
"Those things… were they…?" he broke off, and the man named Alastair nodded. Greg sighed bitterly. "I should have listened."
"It was perfectly reasonable for you to be skeptical."
"Still. If I had only taken precautions, Helen would… she…" Greg paused, and Jake saw him choke. Alastair placed a sympathetic hand on Greg's shoulder.
"There was nothing you could have done. Those creatures are ruthless, cold-blooded. You're lucky you and your son are still alive. If those lycanthropes hadn't been half-starved and weakened, they would have killed you both. It was foolish of you to go after them on your own. Brave, but foolish."
Something howled in the distance, filled with rage. Jake shivered, and the hawk-nosed man looked up, eyes narrowing.
"You didn't kill them all," he noted. Greg shook his head.
"I only killed a dozen or so. I don't know if that was the entire pack. I didn't find the one that killed Helen, though. They were too small."
Alastair nodded. "You will have to be wary now. A vengeful lycanthrope is a dangerous thing."
"What about my son," Greg said. Jake didn't look up. "He… he's seen far too much. His mother… No child should have to see that."
"I concur," Alastair said. "Fortunately, I know someone who can help. Sylar."
A man stepped forward, and every nerve in Jake's body suddenly went rigid. He gripped his father's pants tighter.
Sylar was not physically intimidating. Slim and scrawny, he barely reached Greg's shoulders, and was dressed in a dark suit and tie, a black fedora on his head like a mafioso straight out of the prohibition era. His hair was straw blond, almost white, and curled around his cheeks and neck. His skin was a nearly opaque, ashen color. His nose was small and pointed, his face round with jutting cheekbones that appeared more corpse-like than attractive, brows nearly invisible, lips wide and thin, curved into a lazy smile. But it was his eyes that chilled Jake to the bone - drooping and half-closed, but entirely black, with brilliant yellow irises and slit black pupils. Jake felt his father tense lightly. Sylar held out a hand and Greg hesitated before shaking it. Then Sylar's gaze turned on Jake and he kneeled.
"Hey there, little fellow," he greeted, smiling crookedly and revealing a row of pearl-white teeth. "I'm going to make the bad memories go away, alright?"
Jake stepped back, but his father put a hand around his shoulder.
"It's alright, Jake," Greg said soothingly, though his eyes remained fixed on the kneeling man. Jake tensed as the man reached out but didn't move. Sylar placed a hand on Jake's head, his touch cold and immediately making Jake want to run away as far as possible.
Jake felt something intrusive stab into his head and he opened his mouth to scream when everything went black.
Jake opened his eyes, gasping wildly. He tried to scramble upright, but something was holding him down.
"Jake? Hey, calm down."
Jake stopped as Mishka's voice shoved him back into the present. He glanced around, realizing that he was still in his room, though he was no longer in bed. The lights were on, wind and rain steadily lashing at the windows. He glanced down, suddenly noticing a pair of arms wrapped loosely but firmly around his waist, flesh cool against his hot bare skin.
"Don't move around too much, you'll get nauseous," Mishka warned from behind. "Breathe."
Jake silently obeyed, leaning back against the fae's chest. He felt tired, as if he'd slept for a week and his body had just shut down. He breathed in and out slowly, waiting for his heart rate to slow before speaking again.
"What happened?" he asked. His voice was hoarse and his throat sore, as if he'd been screaming, and his mouth tasted of bile.
"You ruined my chance at a perfectly good night of sleep," Mishka replied. Jake rolled his eyes but the fae continued. "I woke up to your hysterical screeching and tried to shut you up, but you wouldn't wake. Your eyes were open, but it was as if you were in some kind of trance. You started hyperventilating, so I had to get you off the bed and calm you down."
"How… how long," Jake asked. His mouth felt dry. Mishka unwrapped one of his hands and offered a glass of water from nearby. Jake grasped at it, sucking desperately at the cup.
"Hey, slow down. I don't need you getting sick on me again." The fae held the cup firmly from below, preventing Jake from inhaling the contents down too quickly. After emptying the glass, Jake sighed, collapsing back against Mishka, who wrapped his free arm back around Jake's waist.
"You nearly threw up on me," Mishka said with a hint of derision. He pointed at a nearby trashcan, which emanated a slightly nauseating smell, and Jake looked down.
"Sorry," he mumbled. His hand reached up to idly finger at the pendant around his neck. "How long was I out?"
"Not sure," Mishka admitted. "Maybe an hour or two. Your spasms varied though. Most of the time you were just jerking around, mumbling. Sounded like some nightmare."
"Not a nightmare," Jake said, shaking his head. "Memories."
"When those men captured me at Liverpool, my dad revealed that they'd tampered with my memories, ten years ago, after my mother's death. I needed to know why. I had Doctor Vaska remove the barrier to that memory in my head, and I guess everything came back tonight."
"Shit," Mishka said. A short pause descended over them, and Jake was thankful that the fae had decided not to pry. He noticed his wrists were slightly bruised.
"What happened here?" he asked, holding up his arms.
"I had to restrain you when you started thrashing. You tried biting your own arm off, at one point. I got a little rough."
"I see," Jake said with a chuckle. "You're surprisingly good at this." He felt Mishka shrug against his back.
"My sister would sometimes erupt into violent seizures during some of her more intense visions. She would get hysterical and I'd have to calm her down, keep her from hurting herself or others. My parents were scared of her when she did that, so I got a lot of practice."
"Oh," Jake said quietly, regretting the sensitive topic, though Mishka hadn't seemed to mind. His breathing and heart rate almost returned to normal, Jake glanced down at the hands around his waist. He suddenly realized that he was clad in nothing but his checkered blue boxers, and felt his skin heat up where the fae's long, pale fingers rested on his stomach. He shifted slightly and the fae's hands parted, almost reluctantly. Jake pushed himself up to his feet and turned around, hoping his face didn't look as warm as it felt.
"Well, thanks," he mumbled, offering a hand. Mishka, dressed in sweatpants and a loose tee, narrowed his eyes but accepted Jake's hand. He was lighter than he looked, Jake realized as he pulled the faery up.
"Was there anything important you found out about in the dream?" Mishka asked. Jake nodded.
"I think so."