Chapter Two - Wolves in the City
Nathan stepped through the portal and into an alleyway between two clubs. The air smelled of sweat, vomit and alcohol. Alasdair struggled through the portal with gritted teeth and John followed suit. Everyone but Nathan seemed to find it difficult to travel through the portals. To Nathan it was as easy as stepping through a doorway, but Alasdair had once described it like walking through treacle. He gathered his energy and slammed the portal closed as soon as the other two were through. “Seriously, do the voices never bother you?” asked Alasdair.
“What voices?” asked Nathan, frowning. He could hear the sounds of talking and singing over the loud beat of the clubs, but his hearing wasn’t so sensitive that something like that would cause him much annoyance.
“When you step through the…never mind.” said Alasdair, sharing a somewhat significant look with John.
“…right.” said Nathan. “We’ll meet back at this spot at about 4am. If you’re late you’re running home.” Alasdair and John both nodded. Alasdair looked slightly green and Nathan felt almost sorry for him. It was tough, having a conscience. He tried for a reassuring smile as John turned away, but Alasdair merely grimaced back at him. Alasdair and John stepped from the darkness of the alleyway and into the moonlight as casually as they could, but Nathan could see them both shaking. They’d both be off to more discreet places, the local park where they could snare unsuspecting junkies and hobos. They never killed anyone conspicuous enough to be missed. Nathan wondered why he was going after a girl who was none of those things. She might be boring, plain and a little disappointing but she worked. If nothing else she had colleagues who would look out for her. He couldn’t figure out quite the reason he was so drawn to her. He always killed inconspicuously, even ethically. He killed would-be rapists and drug dealers, homeless psychos and pimps.
Nathan shook his head. He could put his guilty feelings into a drawer and work on them after he had killed his target. He waited for a gaggle of girls at a hen party to pass the entrance of the alleyway before he stepped out. He was stood between two clubs, their music and lights competing in order to draw in the most drunks willing to part with their cash for vodka and cheap energy drinks. He inhaled deeply, searching out her scent. She wasn't in either of the two clubs next to him, but one across the street. The music wasn’t playing quite as loudly as in the other clubs and the lights weren’t quite as bright, but there was a buzz of people in the smoking area outside. He crossed the street and approached the queue. He hoped to get in with little fuss as his ID would show he was 66 years old.
As expected the bouncers waved him through. His height and frame made him look older but more crucially made the shorter bouncers afraid of any kind of conflict with him. Most of those in the smoking area were men, and the smoke was a slight burn on his sensitive nose. Underneath it all though he could smell the girl. He opened the door to the club. It was lively, men of all ages dancing with each other to something Nathan vaguely remembered from the 80s. There were few women there, and the men seemed generally healthier and less portly than the average man on the street. That was when Nathan realised this was no ordinary bar. It was a gay bar.
He knew this kind of place existed, of course. He wasn’t completely oblivious to changing laws and events, but when he was human these kinds of places just weren’t allowed. Meetings between homosexuals had been limited to secret gentleman’s clubs and - in the case of those less affluent, back alleys and public toilets. It amazed Nathan to see all these men so publicly and happily flaunting it in a way no one had when he was younger. The dances were so much more vulgar too, grinding and dropping in a way that would’ve been considered very inappropriate in the sixties. Nathan picked his way through the crowd, carefully avoiding the mass of sweating bodies. He could smell drugs in the air. He kept an eye out for the girl, before finally catching sight of her back disappearing into the women’s toilet. That was fine as long as he knew she was here. He headed towards the toilets himself and leaned against the wall next to the door. He would flirt with her and offer to take her home, then strike. Normally his kills were quick and efficient, and for the first time in a long time he was playing the long game. “Um, excuse me?” said a voice to his side. he turned, and facing him was a man almost of his height, of around twenty or so. His skin was tanned and his eyes blue. He held two drinks in hand, and offered one to Nathan. “For you.” he said. Nathan took the drink with a wary smile. He had hardly drunk in the last 50 years, and never on a full moon. I’ve got it under control. He thought to himself, and took the drink. He gestured to the nearest open booth and they both sat. Nathan periodically checked the toilet door for the shop-girl, not wanting to lose sight of her again. “I’m Jay, by the way.” said the man. “Oh, I’m a poet and I didn’t even know it.” He chuckled to himself, clearly already tipsy.
“Nathan.” he replied, holding out his hand to shake.
“Oh, how formal.” said Jay. “Sorry, I don’t normally do this kind of thing… buy people drinks, I mean.” Nathan gave his best smile. He didn’t know how to react to a man so openly flirting with him. The only person he regularly talked to was Alasdair, and Alasdair usually did enough talking for the both of them. He took a gulp of his drink in order to avoid any awkwardness, and almost spat it out. God, that’s strong.
He needn't have bothered keeping an eye out for the girl as it turned out. The second she left the toilet she looked around, and upon spotting Jay headed straight for their booth. “Hi.” She said, giving Nathan a curt nod. “Did you get me that drink?” she asked Jay. Jay grimaced and nodded towards the glass that Nathan was cradling with one hand. “Anything for a lay.” She said under her breath, and Nathan was pretty sure it was too quiet for anyone else to hear under the noise.
“I’ll get a round in.” said Nathan, standing and striding to the bar. It only occurred to him when he got there that he had no idea what it was that he had just been drinking or what was considered fashionable now. The bartender gave him a long look, lingering somewhere between impatience and appreciation. He glanced in the fridge behind the bar. “Three… of the orange ones.” the bartender nodded and grabbed them from the fridge, popping the caps off one by one. Nathan handed over his cash, grabbed the change as quickly as he could and walked back to the booth, drinks in hand.
“You bought those?” asked Jay incredulously. “You must like your drinks piss-weak.”
“Sorry.” said Nathan. He felt like a dinosaur out of his own time. He put the drinks down on the table and sat down awkwardly. He took a sip of his drink. His taste buds were assaulted immediately by the sweet sugariness of the drink. The girl took hers but Jay gently pushed his own away shiftily. The girl spoke, then. “Beth.” she said, holding out a hand.
“Nathan.” he replied as he reached out his own hand. She was sweating slightly in the warmth of the club, and her eyes looked slightly smudged.
“Did I serve you earlier? In the shop, I mean… I work in the co-op.” said Beth.
“…Yeah.” said Nathan. Already this was turning out to be a ridiculous idea. He had no idea why he’d chosen this girl to kill tonight, rather than some homeless sod. He’d met a friend and there would be CCTV footage of him in the shop.
“You’re not a regular here and not a regular at the shop, I’m guessing you’re not local?” she asked.
“Not as such, no.” Nathan replied. “Well, I’m from Cardiff, but I haven’t been back in a long time.”
Cardiff as Nathan remembered it was an industrial town in decline. Wales was hardly a pinprick on the world map, and its pride and joy was past its prime and terrified of moving forwards into the modern age, clamouring for its Victorian heyday to somehow come back. In the few visits he had made since being turned, he could feel it changing beneath his feet into the modern, vibrant city he was now sat in the middle of.
Jay scrambled out of his seat over Beth’s lap. “He never does this, you know.” said Beth almost conspiratorially, leaning in towards Nathan. “I’ve never actually known him to buy someone a drink. He likes to be all aloof in the corner of the room until someone notices him.” Nathan wasn’t quite sure how to reply, having not been in this situation in a long time. Romance wasn’t really on the werewolf agenda. Then again, was buying someone a drink really a romantic thing to do? It had been so long. Jay came back to them with drinks in hand, three plastic glasses with brown stuff swimming at the bottom. Jay and Beth drank them down in one, so Nathan followed suit. Jesus Christ! He spluttered as what tasted like toxic cough syrup hit the back of his throat. It was horrible, and he had to stop himself retching at the taste. So many years of red meat and water had made his taste buds so much more sensitive to new flavours.
“I don’t drink much.” he said to explain as Jay and Beth laughed. Nathan reached for the bottle he’d bought earlier, using its merely slightly sickening taste to wash down the vile drink he’d just had.
“You don’t say.” was Jay’s only reply. Nathan hadn’t eaten all day in preparation for the night’s hunt and he could feel a slight buzz in his head like he hadn’t in a long time.
“Amelia!” said Beth, as she stood and knocked the table, spilling drink everywhere. A pretty young woman walked towards the table. She was blonde, with dark lipstick that contrasted against her very pale skin. She looked just as excited as Beth. The penny dropped in Nathan’s head. Lesbians. His plan was going from bad to worse as time went on. “Coming downstairs?” asked Beth.
“I’ll meet you down there.” said Jay, as Beth and Amelia headed towards a door at the back. “I’ll get the next round in, just for the two of us.”
Nathan’s old watch ticked closer to midnight, and he was thoroughly drunk. Jay had plied him with drinks and seemed to be acting like it was some kind of competition as he knocked them back as quickly as he could. Nathan did his best to keep up with little success. They had graduated from the little booth which they’d been inhabiting to the claustrophobic dance floor. Jay knew most of the words to most of the songs, and those which he didn’t he seemed content to make up as he screeched them above the music. Nathan knew almost none of the words but was happy to watch Jay make a fool of himself as everyone else seemed to be doing. He could hardly believe the theatricality that Jay put into every dance move. He danced as if his life depended on it. Nathan found himself laughing properly like he hadn’t in a long time, when the wolf’s voice came unbidden into his head.
He mentally swatted it away. No, he would not be killing Jay, or Beth for that matter. Whatever had compelled him towards Beth was ultimately stupid, He would leave at 3am and find some homeless soul in Bute Park, then leave Cardiff without harming a hair on her head. Jay beckoned him over, smiling and Nathan slunk across the dance floor towards him. He had a few hours to enjoy, anyway. I could even keep in contact, go for a meal. Nathan swatted that thought away too. It was even more ridiculous than the thought of killing him. -Kill him- said the voice again, a voice which Nathan recognised as that of the wolf. He so rarely allowed it to speak when he didn’t want it to. He often liked to imagine it curled up in a dog-crate inside his mind until he let out to attack. Jay was singing even louder as Nathan approached, and Nathan awkwardly attempted to dance with him. The last time he’d done any proper dancing was around to 50 years ago. California Dreamin’ was a pretty popular song at the last club he’d been to, and all the men and women had dressed impeccably, as it was an occasion. In this day and age Nathan seemed the most well-dressed at the club in his simple shirt and trousers. The music continued as Jay sang, and moved in closer to Nathan.
Nathan moved in too, his arms winding around Jay’s waist automatically…
Jay leaned in towards Nathan, placed his head on Nathan’s shoulder as he danced, and Nathan’s heart beat faster in the giddiness of the moment.
-Kill him now-
Nathan felt Jay’s head move against his neck, sending tiny shivers down his spine. Jay started to kiss his neck gently. Nathan felt a thrill like the wolf did when it killed.
-Let me rip, tear, claw-
Nathan’s hands travelled up to Jay’s face. He pulled Jay in even closer, he wanted to kiss -kill- him, wanted to get close to his body -that wet, warm heartbeat- and kiss those lips -tear out his throat.- Nathan hadn't felt the wolf this powerful for so long, he had always been good with control. He wouldn’t, couldn’t let it get the better of him. “Ow.” said Jay under his breath. “You’re scratching me.”
“Sorry.” said Nathan, thinking he might have gripped Jay too hard, but as he moved his hands he saw a flash of black. Horrified, he saw that his fingernails were starting to elongate, the hairs on the back of his hand thickening as his bones stretched the skin to breaking point. “I have to go.” said Nathan as he pushed Jay away from him slightly harder than intended. Jay knocked a couple of the patrons over as he himself fell to the floor but Nathan was already running, knocking aside men as he pushed open the door and vaulted the tiny fence that surrounded the smokers area. He took a sharp left and ran down the street. He needed to -riptearkillnowplease- find somewhere to turn out of everyone’s sight.
He could see an alleyway ahead, a skinny little crevice between an old Victorian building and a multi storey car park. And Nathan could smell -yesiwantitnow- the scent of drug infused blood at the end of it, some poor hobo who wouldn’t know what hit him when the wolf got what it wanted. He took the left down the alleyway and felt the change properly take hold. His shirt ripped as his chest expanded and his ribs pushed through the skin. The wolf seemed to come from under the skin, fur pushing through as his gums split and mouth widened to accommodate the huge white fangs that were pushing through. Nathan became one with the wolf as it consumed his mind.
-He wanted blood and he wanted it now. Rip, tear, kill, claw. Blood! He wanted blood. But where? He had smelled blood in the alleyway, but where had it gone? He searched the alley, but there was no man at the end of it, no heroin riddled food bank. He wanted, needed blood. But wait, a voice, calling him, calling his name!- No please that’s Jay. -Oh. Young, healthy flesh, virtually untouched by drugs- no, no please not him -I want it, want it now!- Don’t kill him, please anyone else -and there he is at the end of the alley. Hang back, wait, a good hunter knows to wait before a kill - please don’t kill him at all -And…now! Rip, tear, kill, go for the jugular! Yes, blood! Tastes good!- NO!
Nathan was himself again. His clothes hung off him like rags as he collapsed over Jay’s body. His chest was marred by the deep claws of the wolf and his throat was almost completely torn through. His shoulders were bloodied and crushed by bite marks. For the first time in fifty years Nathan felt terrible for making a kill. He held Jay in his arms, desperate to hear him breathing again, or to smell the rush of adrenaline that would signal that Jay’s body was fighting to keep him alive through his wounds.
“He’s dead, isn’t he?” said a voice from the mouth of the alley. It was Alasdair. “I had a premonition you were going to do something you’d regret…I tried getting to you as fast as I could…”
Nathan stood, dropping Jay’s body to the ground. He wiped the one tear that had escaped from his eye. -Just another human.- “I just want to go home.” he said, readying himself to open a portal. He raised his hands into the air, waiting for the familiar sensation that meant he could open a portal.“Nathan, wait.” said Alasdair. “Listen.” and Nathan listened. Underneath the sounds of the city, beneath Alasdair’s heavy breathing and his own fast beating heart he could hear the tiny, fluttering noise of Jay’s heart bringing him back to life. “He’s about to suffer a fate worse than death, if he’s anything like me.” said Alasdair. Nathan nodded and opened a portal as he’d intended. Only now, there would be one extra passenger. Alasdair grabbed Jay’s feet and Nathan grabbed his shoulders and they lifted him. For the first time, Nathan felt the difficulty as he passed through the portal, and for the very first time he heard the whispers.