Blood in the Snow

The blizzard ravaged the dark forest, but Oksana kept moving. Trudging through the thick snow was difficult in only a simple shirt and jeans- especially with such a deep gash in her side, though she knew it would heal eventually- but she had no time to dwell on such things. The pack was far behind now- no doubt they intended on leaving her for dead- and she needed to focus on getting somewhere warm and safe. Somewhere where no animals would pick up on her scent and come to her, looking for a fresh meal.

The wind bit at her exposed face. Armies of flurries attacked her vision, and she lifted her free arm to try and block them out. Blood trickled over the fingers of the arm that she had clamped over her wound, and dripped onto the snow like hot water, melting the ground beneath them. She squinted and tried to look ahead. At first there was nothing but trees and the blackness between them. Then she saw...lights! Yes, lights from a village! She let out a soft gasp of relief and trudged faster now, almost at the clearing up ahead.
Suddenly, she found herself pitching forward and falling, tumbling down a hill. She landed in a heap at the bottom, causing the powdery snow to puff up like a cloud of dust. Pain rang throughout her body as she spat the stuff out of her mouth. She tilted her head to one side in an effort to flip her dark hair out of her face, struggling to prop herself up on one elbow. Then she looked up and squinted to take in her surroundings.

The lights were even closer now. They shone from the windows of the small houses just a few feet away from where she landed. What luck, she had landed right beside a village! She was so close...

She didn't have the energy to get up. Her body ached, half-frozen from the cold, and was now soaked in blood. She tentatively pressed her hand to the gash in her side again, hissing at the pain. It didn't help. She closed her eyes, exhausted and defeated, and waited for darkness to take over.

Voices from up ahead caught her attention.

"Over there! I told you I saw something!"

"Shit, Vera! That's a person!"

She squinted and saw two black figures coming closer and closer; a man and a woman, as she could tell from their voices. The closest person, the woman, knelt down beside the fallen girl.

"Hey! Are you okay?" Her voice was faint and distant. Somehow, Oksana was able to nod. The next thing she knew, she was being half-walked, half-carried through the door of the closest house. Heat blasted her as she entered the room, wrapping itself around her like a warm blanket. She found herself being led into a small living area, and the three lowered themselves down onto the battered couch. The man reached above her and tugged down the grey blanket draped over the top of the couch, and wrapped it around her shoulders. The woman looked up at him.

"Get her something to drink. Something warm."

The man nodded. As he left the room, Oksana noticed that he was young- early twenties, perhaps- with dirty blonde, spiky hair and a scruffy beard.

The woman turned to look at her again. She looked to be the same age as the man, but with brown hair that was cut short, like it had been hacked off with a pair of scissors. She had a silver ring in her left nostril, and her almond-brown eyes were rimmed with thick eyeliner, and were currently full of concern as she looked at Oksana. "Are you okay?"

Oksana nodded. She gently touched the area where her wound was, and felt no pain. It had healed nice and fast.

The girl noticed, and her eyes widened at the sight of the huge bloodstain. "Oh my god, what happened?" She asked, reaching out to lift Oksana's shirt and examine the damage.

Oksana shot up a hand instinctively and grabbed the girl's, shocking them both. She cleared her throat. "I'm fine, trust me." She said, tugging the blanket closer around her by the tassels.

The girl frowned, but withdrew her hands and folded them in her lap. "What's your name?" She asked.

"Oksana."

She smiled faintly. "That's a nice name. I'm Vera. This is Mikhail," she gestured to the blonde man who was now walking out of the kitchen area with a steaming black mug.

"We only have coffee. I hope that's okay." He said.

She took the cup and held it gingerly, smiling her thanks. She took a sip and it burned her lips. He pulled up a wooden chair sitting in the nearest corner, and lowered himself down on it beside Vera.

"So, what were you doing out there?"

"It's complicated..."

"We'd like to know, so we can help you," Vera said.

Oksana bit her lip, tightening her hands around the mug. She wasn't sure what to say that wouldn't raise suspicions among these people. "I...got into a fight with a family member. It wasn't pleasant. Then I got lost in the woods, and found my way here."

Mikhail made a noise of sympathy. "So you're all by yourself?"

She nodded again. They seemed to believe her. Good.

"You can stay here for the night if you want." Vera suggested. "The storm's pretty bad out there still, and you had a pretty big fall."

"Oh no, I don't want to impose..."

"No, we insist. We have a spare room. I'll set up the bed in there for you, and you can spend the night until the roads get cleared out tomorrow."

Oksana smiled softly. "Thank you."

They sat in silence for a moment.

"Could you tell me where the bathroom is?"

"Sure. It's at the far right of the hall."

She thanked her and stood up, keeping the blanket draped over her shoulders. She made her way down the dingy grey hall and opened the door at the end on the right side. The bathroom was small and bare, but clean enough. She shut the door behind her and let out a heavy sigh. In the mirror she looked wet and haggard. Her dark brown hair was tangled and there were dark circles around her chestnut eyes. The bruises on her face and her split lip were already fading away. She sighed and lifted up her shirt to check her wound. Her skin was healed and smooth, as if there had never been a mark there in the first place. A heaviness weighed on her heart as she reflected on the events leading up to her abandonment in the forest.

She never meant for her imprint to be on Konstantin. It was forbidden for anyone to connect with the Alpha in such a way, unless the Alpha was the one to initiate it. She knew this, and when it happened, she desperately tried to hide it. Her attempts were fruitless, since the rest of the pack could see it from a mile away. And the speed at which they turned their backs on her...even her own mother wouldn't meet her gaze as she looked, pleading for her to see that she hadn't meant for it to happen.

And then the punishment. It cut her deeply to the core.

Konstantin had beaten her mercilessly, and even tore into her side with his fangs. Despite her screams, the rest of the pack kept their faces stoic. They had already separated themselves from her.

She laid there, her face swollen and stinging, clutching the deep gash in her side, unable do nothing but listen to the crunching of footsteps as they walked away. Then, there was nothing.

She was officially an exile.

As good as dead.

She felt the overwhelming urge to cry, but couldn't even muster up the tears. She just let out another heavy sigh, which helped relieve the weight on her chest somewhat, before leaving the bathroom.

Vera had left the door to the spare room open, revealing a bare bed with a folded quilt on the end, as well as a thick grey sweater and a pair of sweatpants. She smiled; she was thankful that these people were so kind as to let a stranger stay with them. After changing out of her wet, blood-soaked clothes, she flattened out the blanket and curled up on the white mattress, wrapping the quilt around her like a cocoon. Before she knew it, she had drifted off to sleep.

It wasn't until she woke again in the early hours of the morning that she knew she had made a grave mistake.

She laid on her side in the small bed, clutching at her stomach. The hunger rumbled painfully through her, as strong as it always was this far along in the moon cycle. She needed raw meat.

The thought of tearing the warm, dripping flesh of some living creature made her mouth water, and she felt her senses sharpen at the thought.

Vera and Mikhail were sleeping in the next room. She could hear their soft breathing and feel the steady thumping of their hearts; the warmth of their bodies- blood and tender meat. Drool began to seep down her chin, and she rubbed her face against the pillow to wipe it away.

She had to hunt. Now. Either that, or risk hurting the people who let her stay with them, blissfully unaware of what she really was.
She rolled over and sat up. Slowly rising to her feet, she crept over to the small window and pushed the pane open. She climbed out and landed on her feet in the snow. The heat caused by her hunger made it bearable to be out in the cold. She inhaled, scanning the area for any smells that weren't human; that would be acceptable to eat.

She picked up on something across the street. With her focus set on a target, she made her way through the thick snow. The lights were off in the small house. She could hear faint breathing, and she knew that its inhabitants were asleep. She continued down the side of the house towards the backyard. The chainlink fence was dented, making it easy to open. It opened with a creak and she kept going. The yard was mostly bare, except for a bare, twig-like tree, and a brown doghouse. A german shepard was sleeping inside; she could smell it from across the yard.

She bared her teeth and sauntered forward, having found her meal.

The next morning, she woke up to the sound of someone screaming outside. She stretched as best as she could, then got up and looked out her window.

The woman from across the street was on her knees in the shovelled street, screaming, and holding her dog's severed leg. Oksana's blood ran cold as she watched the neighbors beside them rush outside to see what was going on.

How could she have been so careless? In her rush to satisfy herself, she hadn't bothered to hide the remains! She might as well have left a trail of blood right to her door! She cursed herself, turning away from the window and punching her pillow in frustration. Why didn't she think about that?

She sighed and clenched the pillow's softness between her fingers as she contemplated what to do.

She would have to leave tonight. The moon would rise tomorrow; she could feel it. But she had nowhere to go. She wouldn't return to the pack. That would be a death sentence. She folded her arms and continued to sort out her plan as she made her way to the bathroom. She shut the door behind her and gazed at herself in the mirror. At least she had made sure to clean any blood off of herself before going back to sleep. She looked healthier too- colour had returned to her face and there were no marks left on her. She grabbed the brush resting on the edge of the sink and started to work through the thick tangles of her hair.

When she was satisfied with her reflection, she left the bathroom and went to the living room. Vera was sitting on the couch, silent while the woman's screams continued to be heard from outside. She perked up when she noticed Oksana standing there.

"Hey!" She said. "How was your sleep?"

Oksana smiled back and sat beside her on the couch. "It was nice. Thank you for letting me stay here."

"It's no problem. I'm glad you're feeling better. You look much better too! Those bruises faded so quickly!"

Oksana didn't answer. The woman outside was crying now, and the sound made her stomach churn.

"Isn't it awful?" Vera piped up. "Mikhail went out just a second ago, but he told me that she said some kind of wild animal got into her yard and attacked Dima, her dog."

Oksana made a faint sound of agreement, pulling her knees up to her chest. All the more reason for her to leave, she thought.

Vera must have noticed her discomfort, because she quickly responded.

"I'm sorry if I upset you."

Oksana shook her head. "You didn't, don't worry. It just..." She rested her cheek against her knees. "...brings back bad feelings, I guess." She felt a soft brush against her shoulder, and looked up to see Vera gazing at her with sympathetic eyes. Eyes that she knew she didn't deserve.

"You can tell me if anything's bothering you, you know. I know that we've just met, and well, we're still complete strangers, but we...I would love to help."

Oksana's throat tightened. This poor girl was sitting across from a monster- the very beast responsible for that poor woman's screams outside, and she didn't even realize it! She just nodded silently, knowing that Vera would interpret her tears as ones of relief rather than guilt.

It was officially settled- she would leave tonight.

Night fell, and Oksana was preparing for her departure. She had found a large duffel bag stored at the top of her room's closet, and packed her old clothes- which Vera had so kindly washed- into it. She felt a twinge of guilt for her technical theft, but put it out of her mind. Compared to the uncertainty to come once she left the village, this was necessary.

She lifted the bag and started to walk over to the window. She stopped when she felt a small twinge, as if someone had pricked her with a pin. It faded in a split second, and the Change hit her harder than it ever had before. She cried out and lurched forward. She held out one hand to prop herself up on the windowsill, as she desperately clutched at her stomach. Why did it hurt so badly? It hurt in the past, of course, but never to this degree!

Then she realized why. This was her first transformation alone. Being amongst a pack while it was happening dulled the effects. Something to do with pheromones, she remembered her mother explaining to her a long time ago. Only now that she was alone was she feeling the full force of it.

There was a sharp crack as the bones in her spine broke and arched, and she screamed in pain as she fell to her hands and knees. Her bones and muscles expanded, cracking and stretching her skin, breaking apart and fusing back together again.

She gagged and spat out her teeth as they loosened and fell out. She watched in disgust as they landed on the ground in front of her, along with a waterfall of blood. Blunt fangs grew in their places, causing her gums to sting. That pain was hardly noticeable compared to the agony of her skull cracking as it elongated into a muzzle.

Her screams turned into repetitive whimpers as her nails fell out, only to be replaced by razor-sharp black claws. Her grey sweater and jeans split as her mass grew. They broke apart, and landed on the ground beside her.

Her spinal column jutted out from under her skin, which sprouted dark brown fur. Her vocal cords thickened and her voice grew deeper and deeper, taking on a growling, animalistic tone.

At long last, the pain subsided, and she laid there, panting and shaking in a pool of her own blood. The sensation didn't bother her anymore, though. All that she felt now was hunger, and an awareness that the blond meat-man was entering the large room down the hall.

Blood-tinged drool dripped from her new mouth, and the slits of her pupils dilated in the middle of her glowing, yellow eyes. She snorted and flicked her pointed ears before slinking over to the door and nudging it open.

She followed the low sound of his breathing, keeping her own to a minimum. He was humming a song to himself as he turned to close the door behind him. Just the sheer smell of his succulent flesh and marrow was enough to make her growl with need.

He froze at the sound, and slowly turned. His eyes widened into a look of horror as he noticed her rounding the corner toward him. He fumbled with the doorknob, but to no avail.

She bared her teeth and let out a roar as she leapt at him. He screamed, but his voice sputtered out once she sank her jaws into his throat. A thick stream of blood gushed into her mouth and she tore out a chunk of him, and she swallowed. He gurgled as she flung him to the ground and went straight for the abdomen.

His organs were soft and wet and covered in his sweet juices. As she continued to eat, he grew limp. She devoured each inch of him, piece by piece. A faint sigh escaped his lips, and he grew still. She lifted herself up to gaze upon his lifeless face, and she nibbled at the flaps of his ears, and his cheeks and his eyes.

The sound of a door in the hall clicking made her jolt her head up. The girl with the soft eyes walked into the living room and gasped in shock when she saw the image in front of her. Oksana grunted and dashed over to her. The girl backed up against the wall, and Oksana straightened up to stare into the girl's eyes. She leaned close and inhaled her sweet smell. The girl...Vera, turned away and shut her eyes, her breaths turning into sobs.

Oksana jerked back a bit. A faint memory overtook her for a moment; an image from her meat-self's mind. This girl in front of her showed her mercy when she had come, injured and abandoned. She had become a second home to Oksana, and she refused to give that up.

She lunged forward and bit down on Vera's shoulder; hard enough to break the skin, but not enough to cause a significant injury. Vera cried out, the sound a mix of pain and fear. Oksana clasped her front claws around her arms to hold her in place. She fell limp as she passed out.

Oksana withdrew her teeth, shuddering as she forced herself to avoid licking at the exposed wound, and hoisted Vera onto her back. She padded around the remains of the blond boy and broke down the door by its hinges. Its fall caused the snow to fly up around it. She continued to walk through the empty streets, and then broke into a run across the unshoveled piece of land that separated the houses from the forest. With her claws she dug her hands into the earth and climbed up the hill. She stopped once inside the forest to catch her breath. Then she continued to lumber through the forest.

When she was deep enough that she could no longer see the opening between the trees, she stopped by the nearest tree. She reached an arm around, slid Vera's body off of her back, and laid the girl against the tree. She let out a small whimper in her sleep. Blood dripped down her arm and onto the snow. As it melted, the drops grew like tiny red flowers blooming through the white ground.
Oksana looked back at the girl- her new pup- and saw that her lips were blue and she was shivering. Oksana snorted and curled herself around her. Vera sighed and leaned against her warmth. Oksana wrapped her grotesque arms around her. She would be there for her when she woke. She knew that Vera would be angry with her once she discovered the truth, but she could contend with that when it happened. The girl's first Change would be painful, but Oksana would do what she could to help her survive.

The exhaustion of her own Change and her subsequent escape immediately hit her and she yawned. She nuzzled into the girl's brown hair, the colour of chestnuts, closed her eyes, and immediately fell into a deep slumber.
Snow began to fall once more in the forest.