Time flies, especially when I’m hustling to get things done. As usual, writing distracted me last night, but not the writing I was supposed to be doing; minds are finicky like that sometimes. So I’m up, bright and early, doing the work I’m supposed to be doing (and not getting donuts, but I’ve been craving cream filed donuts since last night, so today will probably begin and end at Dunks). To get ready for God’s Play’s two week blog tour, I’m gonna share an excerpt from the book! While I’m writing away, enjoy, and if you’re already bought and started reading the book, congratulations–you’re awesome.
My hands tingle, and my feet are numb. The barrier between my human form and my jackal form is dangerously thin. I push away from the bar, drop a tip, and walk into the drizzle. I don’t bother covering my head and press the paper to my chest like a talisman. I autopilot down to the bridge; it’s a metal serpent grown old and fat and beached across the river, and it can’t get up, can’t move. Below it, down along the wharf, huddles a neighborhood of slum warehouses.
I approach the address, the red-bricked front attached to the large, aluminum box. A gaudy sign sits in the window. From a narrow lane, I watch five figures appear out of the fog. They walk in a V formation like a flock of geese. Hunters. I’m a bit pissed for muscle-clenching fear, but I muster a cold sweat for them. I’m too young to remember the old wars― before the shape shifting, when the hunters banded together with an exploding human population to hunt us. It was pitchforks and torches. But it’s a lot more difficult to convince people that shifters are monsters. We look human most of the time. The hunters go to the warehouse and slip into the side door. I twitch my ears, but there are no shots or yells coming from inside that dump. Then, I see why. Another pack materializes in the mist. These five arrive from different directions, three padding on four legs, and the others stalking in on two legs like B movie horror monsters. They enter through loosened panels close to the ground and slide under like shadows. Fennis, the big wolf in the front, goes inside last.
It’s a nature documentary, except there’s nothing natural about it― monsters hunting hunters hunting monsters. I want to see the BBC cover it. I could be filming it right now― if I had a camera and some balls, I’d be famous. But I’m not close enough, so I go in for a better seat. I’m about to emerge from the alley when two of the beasts limp from the back door. I smell their blood, which makes my mouth water. One of them might make it, but the other staggers like a drunkard. I hope it’s Fennis. He deserves it, if only for drinking that shitty scotch before a hunt.
I let them pass and slide through the open back door. The inside reeks of blood, the sweet smell of death and food. I wire my jaw shut and hunch forward, using my enfeebled human nose. I sniff the first bodies in the back before seeing them. A beast and two hunters, all ripped to ribbons and stabbed with claws and metal. I pass over them, stepping on a gun. I kick it under a sofa and head towards a faint glow.
My boots squash on the carpet, and I try not to slip on the gore. There are two more downed creatures and an older man, lying on his stomach; his entrails reek, and I skirt away from him. I pick up the flashlight. A faint, wheezing gasp catches my attention.
Her hat sits crooked on her head, revealing the ginger hair beneath. Her skin is ashen grey. I look down at her, not wanting to get too close to the blade she clutches in her hand.
“It was a trap, didn’t you know,” I tell her. It’s all I can say, a weak eulogy. My little joke lands flat amid the blood pools and bodies.
She nods and mouths the word, ″Toby. Toby.”
I knit my brow. “Don’t know what that means, love.”
“My son. He… get him out,” she wheezes. The blood pumps from her side. She’ll be dead in minutes, but I get the message.
“Probably dead, too,” I tell her. She shakes her head, using her last breaths to insist her son is alive. Her brain churns to a stop― her eyes going blank and unfocused. A frown creases my face while I watch this warrior woman die. And she died like a warrior should― proud and strong in battle and not wasting from old age. If she knew what I was, she wouldn’t have hesitated to take a stab at me, so maybe it’s for the best. I was too chicken-shit scared to come and die in battle, but she wasn’t. So I honor her last wish and go looking for her son.
When I stand up, I scan the battlefield. There’s a faint rasping ―breathing and a heartbeat― someone struggling for air on my left, gasping in a way that suggests they’re not about to die. I walk over to the dead feline. I roll away the carcass to get at the human body underneath.
And then an iron-fingered grip clutches my ankle, nails digging into the skin above my sock. Every cell of my flesh convulses with a thousand itches, which shoot up my body like rug burn. My skin becomes raw like it’s covered in bug bites. I’ve felt this before, but not for a long time. I stagger, twist my leg, and tug away, pulling deep breaths into my lungs, breaking off contact with the hand. But it’s too late― I’m covered in ebony fur, and I convulse in my clothes, unable to even curse while my face reshapes itself.
I stagger backwards. The damage is done. My hands sport matching sets of two inch black claws, and I’m staring down a canine snout― the one for my jackal face. My real face. The air is alive with blood; when my senses expand, it crashes over me, trying to pull me under and drop me in a rip tide. I’m salivating― I need to run, but there’s the boy, hidden beneath the dead feline. He’s attached to that cursed hand gripping my ankle. He lifted the Veil, the protection that keeps me hidden in my human shape.
That little bastard. I’m just lucky my jackal shape is of the anatomically incorrect bipedal monster variety.
Even when I yank my leg from his grasp, I don’t shift back. Not that I expected to. My heightened senses are awash in the delicious scent of blood and fresh meat. I have to get out of here. I grab a large drape, wrap it around the boy, and carry him away. When I leave, even my animal hearing can’t find another breath in the entire warehouse.