So normally I have my last excerpt on the day of its release (a couple our early, but the day on the calendar is the day of release) but it seems this week this works just as well so… here’s the last one
The sound of a gun going off was just that—a sound. Dan was surprised the wanker hadn’t shot up into the sky, but then he would have had at least the same amount of weapons training as Dan, so, really, he should have more.
He didn’t cringe away, but just stood there, even as he was sure they would shoot out one of his legs. Even as he knew what was about to come, it wasn’t going to be good for him.
“You ready, Princess,” Marty sneered, his voice like acid, a bubble of craziness waiting to spill onto others.
“I’m not joining,” Dan said. His fingers had long since clicked on his phone and started recording the whole conversation.
“Sure you’re not.”
Yeah, like Marty even wanted him there. The sarcasm coating Marty’s words was enough. The look on his face, and the smirks from the other men around him, told Dan all he needed to know.
He was going to be hunted, and when they caught him, they were going to rip him apart piece by piece, only giving him the relief of death when he spilled all his grandma’s secrets—or gave them the key to the door.
The men laughed. Every fucking one of them laughed as if they were in on a joke Dan wasn’t aware of, which was utter bullshit, but who was he to quibble. The chorus rang around the dead land as if it was supposed to be there.
Dan stood still, trying to absorb the shiver wanting to run through his body, but he couldn’t stop every single hair rising up along the back of his neck. He really didn’t want to be in this position. Didn’t want to be seen running away from the scary men, but facts were facts and he was about to do just that.
They were all relaxed, at least the seven he could see. It had surprised Dan to see so few of Marty’s men. It upset him slightly to see that Craig obviously wasn’t a part of the living world anymore, since he wasn’t among them, but that was life as a hunter, and he sure wouldn’t be shedding tears for him, at least not here.
Marty stepped forward, and Dan had to lock his knees in order to keep himself from taking one step back. He was going to have to force himself to run, and there was no way in fucking hell they would see him as any more of a coward if he flinched.
Marty was a stocky man, though thick in more ways than one. He made a person fear him as strongly as they’d respect him, and if wasn’t for that craziness in his eyes, he might have gotten Dan among his ranks, rather than having to run after him like the man was about to do.
Dan almost smiled, especially when Marty cocked a hip and rested his shotgun barrel on his shoulder like some fucking dramatic cowboy. His smile was a little less mean and a lot about trying to fool an idiot he was giving it to, or wanting to get Dan to drop his trousers and offer up his arsehole.
He tried not to roll his eyes as he noted the relaxed position of all the men. Though Dan knew they were alert, he just had to hope they were all about to underestimate him, because he’d really like to get out of this cemetery without a bullet in his back.
Marty opened his mouth, words spewing from its depths, but Dan had long since stopped listening. He shifted his weight just slightly before he took off, judging the distance and the route on a sprint from the minute details as he came across them and the memory of how he was getting out of there when he’d watched the same men he was running from carrying his gran to her place in the ground.
Shouts ran out behind him as well as those from a few close by that probably would have hit him if he hadn’t made a split second decision to turn when he had.
It seemed they didn’t want him dead, or all their sharp shooters were dead, which Dan couldn’t seem to make himself feel too bad about, since they were shooting at him.
He made it to the trees that stood on two sides of the church, which was another reason his gran had liked the place. It was private, old and an awesome place to haunt if she managed to save her soul from wherever it was destined to go.
The tree’s coverage didn’t stop him, but only made Dan a little more careful where he stood and what he touched. The group of men behind him were trained hunters, and they tracked things much scarier than Dan, for a lot longer than he’d been alive.
Tree limbs slapped at his face and pulled at his shirt as he made his way through the bush. The natural rubbish softened his footsteps and made him sluggish as he pushed himself farther and faster than he’d ever gone before.
Dan wasn’t a hunter. His gran had never seen the point in him being one for many reasons, but mostly because she thought they were all brain dead killers. She’d never had a problem with leaving Dan in their hands, but she’d never been shy in voicing her opinion. What had come out of her mouth hadn’t been pleasant, and that was before the men had left the house.
Jumping over a fallen log, Dan’s hand settled only slightly on a smooth part as he cleared it, then let himself fall onto the ground. His body up close, his back pressed back against the trunk, he tried to take in deep breaths without making a sound.
Sweat trickled down his back, sticking the hair against his neck. Fear turned it ice cold as he listened to what was happening around him, waiting for the laughs, the hands that were sure to grab him at any moment.
His mind sank into his spot on the ground, a blank bit of nothing that allowed him to think and see with a clarity that came from years of meditation. However, he was sure most of them found solace through that method, not as a kid trying not to scream and cry as his fear of dark, tight, spots clouded around him. It hadn’t helped that his gran’s favourite punishment had been a shallow cupboard under the stairs.
Dan felt the earth vibrations under his arse. The world seemed to open up under his eyelids, telling him things he needed to know, protecting him in ways he’d long since considered his superpower—so he was probably a little young when it came to him. He’d been scared enough to not change those thoughts. The ability to be able to judge and hear and feel things in a deeper level had kept him safe and sane as he cleaned out the stove for the witch in the gingerbread house.
The sad thing in that reference was how true it had been. His gran was witch-like, thin, rude, holding a cigarette between her snarled lips. She had things that made people put smiles on their faces and deal with the hag just for a cryptic message that wasn’t complete only because she wanted to hold that power over them.
Dan shook his head. He didn’t need to be thinking about this, at any time, but definitely not now. Not when there were bigger and worse problems facing him than his past
Breathing in, Dan let his head fall back onto the log. He didn’t feel anything from around him, not a word or sound. So had they left, not bothered with him because he’d gone into the woods at night?
No. That didn’t sound right. It wasn’t as if this wasn’t their hunting ground, and hell, werewolves wouldn’t even be here for another night. So, why weren’t the hunters there? Had they given up on him?
Dan shook his head. That didn’t sound right either…
It was more likely they had a tracker on him, or that they knew something he didn’t, which would be true since he didn’t know a whole heap, except that he only had a key in his pocket and knowledge of where he was going from vague memories from childhood and maps of the internet.
A branch snapped behind him, making Dan’s heart leap into his throat. So, they were there. If they were that good, he had no fucking hope of escaping them—not by hiding.
Shit. Shit… Fucking shit!
Dan’s finger ran into his hair, clutching at the thin strands and pulling in quick, sharp jabs. The pain soothed him in a way he wished it didn’t, but the knowledge that it still affected him made him feel human, or maybe it was more. It connected him to the world where he didn’t spend most of his time trying to look and act normal as his guts were bleeding onto the streets.
He needed to get out of there. That was clear to him before his mind found the need to tell him the fact. Of course, he needed to leave the fucking bush. He needed to get across town and into an old pine farmyard. At least in there, he’d have an advantage. He’d grown up learning the trees and his direction with them. His gran dumped him in the middle of a woods, blindfolded, sometimes even unconscious, with the knowledge that the only way he’d survive was if he got himself home. His gran sure as hell wasn’t going to come looking, or report his arse for others to come find him.
Dan had slowly but surely learnt the layout of most of the pine tree yards. It ended up being a simple way of the farmers planting a new set of trees that would have him knowing where he was, or how old those trees were. It had only taken about six times being dumped in them for him to realise he needed to pay close attention to what was happening with those trees around town.
Shifting himself around, Dan took a deep breath, trying to centre himself as best he could before starting on the slow, agonising, journey, and that was just to the other side of this section of bush.
The Rub of My Werewolf by Bronwyn Heeley
Publishing on the 15th of June 2014