Hidden Wolves

Hidden Wolves

Hidden Wolves

The six men, dressed in their fatigues, rifles in their hands, guns at their hips, and knives strapped to their legs, walked as quietly as they could through the woods. It was Fall, and the crisp leaves threatened to give them away at every step. Terrence, the Lieutenant, signaled for them to stop. Everyone hitched up their rifles, ready for anything. Terrence wasn’t sure what he heard, but it was off to his right. The woods were still dark, but morning would come. Unfortunately, not as quickly as he wished.

“Eyes open, everyone.”

“Yeah, right,” Donald hissed. “Can’t see shit out here.”

Terrence ignored him and took another cautious step.

“LT, did they follow us, do you think?” This came from Darrel, the baby of the group, the one they all thought of as a little brother. He was green in many ways, but loyal and willing to step up when needed.

The marauders were attacking a village when Terrence arrived with thirty soldiers. It was then he realized his small army couldn’t do much against the hundred who were intent on destroying and pillaging the small community. And as they entered the small town, what they saw were bullet holes in the buildings, shattered windows, battered doors, and empty buildings. The marauders, it seemed, had done their worst. And as they searched the town, they came across a few townspeople lying dead in the street, and still others missing altogether. It was as if one moment they were in their beds and the next gone.

And then there were the dead marauders.

Terrence had never seen such gruesome marks on a body… and he was in the military! As he and his group began dispersing to help, or at least try and find someone still alive in the village, but the enemy pinned them down. Losing several of his men, he realized they were in danger and he organized five of his best to lure the enemy away to save his men. Even though outnumbered, they tried to lead the enemy off into the woods. Terrence wasn’t sure whether the attacking group followed them and it was anyone’s guess. They hadn’t heard the enemy. No gunfire rang out, and no traps had sprung.

They maintained enough of a lead to keep ahead of the marauders, but it seemed they were being watched—a new threat? He didn’t need this additional trouble.

“Eyes out,” Terrence said. “Keep alert.”

The woods were dark, and morning was on its way, but still taking its time. A crunch in the distance, and everyone froze, rifles ready.

“We’re sitting ducks,” Donald grumbled.

“Shut it!” Carson hissed as softly as he could. “I think it came from over there.”

When Terrence turned his attention in the direction indicated, he heard nothing. But behind him, he did. He turned quickly, unsure of what he would see. A large shape loomed in the darkness, its lighter color allowing it to stand out in the dark morning.

“What was that?” Quan asked, swinging his rifle around.

The others did the same until realizing they needed to keep watch in each direction. They all stood back-to-back, in a circle of six.

“There!” Ramon shouted, leveling his rifle.

“Don’t fire!” Terrence said, chopping down on Ramon’s arm.

Thankfully his finger wasn’t on the trigger, but the shout could have given them away. They tightened their circle, backs to each other. Despite the thread of gray light, it was near impossible to see. Whatever was out there, it was quiet now.

Then, dark shapes solidified.

“Drop ‘em!”

“Shit,” Terrence said, but ready to fire.

“No one’ll get hurt… just drop ‘em.”

Terrence knew a lie when he heard one, but they should have kept better watch, maintained their lead. A man stepped out from the woods, and a few of his men followed. The rest stayed within the trees, half-hidden by trunks and shadows. They all wore brown, not like the fatigues he and his men wore, but similar in appearance. Terrence and his men stood their ground, knowing any wrong move could lead to gunfire. Slowly he lowered his rifle to the ground, nodding to his men to do the same. They kept their hands up, palms out as they did so, maintaining eye contact. Slowly, they all straightened once again.

“Now that wasn’t so hard, was it?” The man sneered. “Won’t help you, anyway.”

“Take me as hostage,” Terrence said immediately. “Let them go.”

He studied the man before him. His uniform sported elbow and knee pads, so they could lie in wait on hard ground for long periods of time—wait out their enemy. But this man wore shoulder pads, his uniform a tad fresher, someone who let his men do the dirty work. In the gray light of the morning, Terrence couldn’t tell the color of man’s eyes or hair, but all of them looked relatively the same in stature and, of course, uniform. And it would be foolish to think they were not a threat. Hopefully, drawing this group out into the woods gave the others a chance to regroup and fortify the village.

“Go? Like they’re just going to go… leave us all in peace? No. We’ll stop the threat now.”

“You can use me for negotiating… I’m a lieutenant.” Terrence’s words seemed to run together.

“Woo-whee! Boys, we got ourselves a lieutenant!” He leaned in with a sneer of a smile. “Maybe you might be worth something, but your men ain’t.”

Terrence took a steadying breath. He made his play, and it failed. The man before him lifted his rifle as his men circled around, tightening them to stand even closer together, their shoulders touching. This was it. He tried… tried to keep the others safe and his five men. The man before him placed the tip of his finger on the trigger. Terrence raised himself up, straightening his back, staring the other man down with all the contempt he could muster, and hoping he could disarm this man without killing his own men in the process. He wasn’t about to go down without a fight.

From the side, a cry from one of the marauders, cut short.

Everyone jerked their heads, side to side, scanning the trees, on the alert. Terrence bent his knees, arm down, fingers stretched. His eyes darted around the dark woods. The man in front of him was half-turned and Terrence crouched further. Another cry, longer this time, then cut short. Another one—missing.

“What… in… the… hell?” the man before him asked, scanning the woods, his quarry forgotten.

“There!” another of his men called out. Then his cry cut short, and he was pulled into the trees as if on a string. His rifle dropped where he once stood.

Terrence reached for his rifle, groping for it blindly, while keeping his eyes on the woods. A dark being raced by, and he pulled the muzzle up with a jerk, fumbling to get the rifle into position. The man before him, the one who was unimpressed with Terrence’s rank, raised his own firearm, then ran into the woods, scattering shots in an arc as he left. Terrence rose, rifle at the ready, hoping to shoot the man, but he was out of sight. A moment later, Terrence faced a light tan—being—a furry creature who materialized in front of him. Its muzzle crinkled, then its ears angled back, the grimace slowly fading. But Terrence was in fight mode, and he took aim, firing a shot. It was moving even as he pulled the trigger. It yelped, growled, and took a man in brown with it as it disappeared into the woods.

Soon, staccato gunfire, snarls, growls, screams filled the forest, echoing off the trees. Chaos was all around, and the rifles swung in all directions. Terrence barked out orders to his men, and they stood back-to-back again, a circle to face all directions. The men who had them pinned were all gone now, either run off or taken.


Darrel was the one who spoke now. All five turned to him, but he wasn’t looking at them. He was staring down at his chest, his hands red. He stood about ten feet from them, and Terrence shoved down guilt. When he gave his command, he expected them all to fall into formation. He should have made sure his men were grouped. Then they heard a growl. Darrel stared up at a beast unlike anything anyone had ever seen. It was wolf-like, dark fur, sharp claws, teeth… it stood upright and towered over him. Its muzzle slowly receded from a fierce grimace and its ears tipped back.

Darrel seemed transfixed, even raising his hand to it… the stupid fool! He was almost touching it… another inch.

“Son of a bitch!” Donald shouted and pulled his handgun.

At the same time, one of the marauders appeared, rifle aimed at the creature’s back.

“No!” Terrence yelled a moment too late.

The creature jerked and roared, causing Darrel to stumble back and fall. Then it darted back into the woods, right into the marauder, carrying him away. Screams of a dying man echoed a second later.

“Oh-shit, oh-shit, oh-shit!” Carson muttered, falling to his knees beside Darrel.

“Hell!” Quan said, also sinking to his knees. “Hold on Darrel… hold on.”

Terrence removed his hand from Donald’s wrist, the gun pointed down. He released him with a shove, glaring at him. But even as he wanted to blame Donald, he didn’t know what the creature was about to do. However, for a moment it seemed as if it were… but now, because of Donald’s rash actions, Darrel got hurt. Terrence spied Ramon and called his name.

“Yeah, LT?”

“Keep an eye out,” Terrence barked. “Quan, you too!”

“They just came out of nowhere,” Donald sputtered.

“Yes, sir,” they replied and turned to scan the now quiet woods.

“What were those things!” Donald yelled.

“Shut up, Donald! Keep an eye out. Shoot to kill.”

Donald turned away, looking in the opposite direction. Terrence rushed to Darrel. Another scream rent the air and all, except for Darrel, were on alert. A moment later, a body flew toward them, landing hard on the compact earth beside Terrence. His face had claw marks, his torso… and his throat ripped out. Terrence’s face screwed up in disgust and he shoved the man over, so he laid on his stomach, his face in the dirt. He searched him for weapons and did not find any firearms or knives.

“What in the hell?” Carson whispered.

Terrence knew he needed to take charge. “Darrel? How are you, man?”

“… I’ll… I can…”

“Easy. Just take it easy. Carson?”

“A bullet… and a slash across his chest.”

“Hell,” Terrence muttered. “If he’s still breathing, he’s still alive. All right… When we were looking over the map yesterday, I remember seeing a clearing… a house about a mile from town. We’ll head there.”

“Sure that’s safe?” Donald asks over his shoulder, eyeing the body. “We still gotta get through the woods and those… things out there.”

“We have no choice,” Terrence said, getting to his feet. “Get him up.”

He stepped back while Quan and Carson hauled up Darrell. They held him between them, and he immediately sagged in their hold. Terrence stepped in front and ducked to look at his man.

“Darrel! You with me?” Terrence got in his face.

Darrel’s eyes fluttered, and he mumbled in the affirmative, but his eyes remained closed, and his head drooped. Terrence glanced at both men, who nodded, ready to move. They’d carry the man out before they’d leave him. Terrence gave the order to leave. Donald and Ramon took up the rear, keeping watch on each side, and Terrence led. Carson and Quan grunted occasionally but kept pace. They trudged through the woods, the dark of the night changing into the gray of the morning. Terrence hoped this was the right direction… hoped everything would still be the same.

“He’s losing a lot of blood!” Carson called out.

Terrence didn’t reply, scanning the woods. There! He recognized the trail. Any longer and he would have thought it was gone. And even if the home was unoccupied, they would break in and hole up for the time being.

And if it was occupied…

“LT, we need to stop,” Quan said.

“A little further,” Terrence told them. “It’s not much further. Hang in there, Darrel.”

He tried to sound encouraging, but he was concerned. The sun had been up for an hour now and it warmed the air around them. It peeked through the trees, lighting their way. Darrel hung limply between the two, feet dragging more than walking. And after another quarter mile, they reached where Terrence was aiming for.

~ ~

Elise wrapped her forearm, which was already healing, cursing herself for being clumsy. If she hadn’t moved when she did, it would have been worse. Though she should have expected it, it still caught her off guard.

After all these years…

She tugged her long sleeve over the wrap and checked the bread baking in the oven, which would help warm the kitchen. She glanced outside the kitchen window, noting the sun chased the shadows further away. She turned and continued her task, making a breakfast of oats, fruit, and honey. She’d need to go to the basement cellar and bring up the canned goods for lunch later. As she stirred the porridge, lost in thought, she jumped with a startled cry when her door burst open.

Six men came through it, loud and wild. It was utter chaos, and she stared wide-eyed, warily watching the group who hauled a man in between them. The tall dark one issued orders, unaware of her presence for the moment. They crashed through, bumping the kitchen table and knocking over a chair as they passed by and into the living room. The man between them seemed unconscious and his feet dragged. They brought him straight to the sofa and laid him down. Elise crept over to the wall, where the living room began and watched them. They worked on their man with practiced ease.

She heard fabric ripping and jerked back in surprise when the bald, dark-skinned man stood before her. He grabbed her arm, getting her attention, and demanded supplies. She told him where they were, and he left to retrieve them. A man kneeled beside the sofa by the one they hauled in. A moment later, the one who got in her face reappeared, carrying her good towels and another took his knife out to rip strips out of them. Another started sewing with quick jerky movements. After a few more minutes of chaos, the frenzied orders finally subsided, and the men collectively sighed. But none of them looked happy.

“I hope you at least got the son of a bitch.” The one kneeling by the sofa said to the dark-haired man standing about six feet from her. He glanced in her direction but returned his attention to the injured companion.

The man to the side of her leaned on the opposite wall, his jaw clenched, and anger radiated from him. She looked at him curiously, then swung her gaze to the next man who spoke.

“Shit, this is bad. I don’t know, man.” The kneeling man spoke again.

The one standing beside them said, “If we ain’t got no doctor, he ain’t gonna make it.”

She stood still, unsure of what to do, what to say as they one by one became aware of her presence. She took a step back when all eyes, save for the one on the couch, looked at her.

“Our friend had a run-in with…”

“Shut up, Carson!”

Her eyes strayed to the one standing by the sofa. She remained quiet, watching them all, and he entered her view. He had always been tall, but now he filled out his uniform.

“Ma’am,” he said. “Name’s Terrence.”

She met his eyes in a direct stare for a moment. So, this was how it was to be…

She scanned the room again, noting their fatigues, the scuffs, tears, and soil stains. The war had raged around the town about a mile from here, causing the villagers to rise and defend themselves in the early morning. She was safe, mostly, but should have known eventually they would invade her place. She shouldn’t have put it past him… or any of them.

“We just need to stay here for a little while. Our friend is hurt, but I promise we’ll be out of here in no time.” He looked around at the others. “The one on the sofa is Darrel. The one near you is Donald. And Carson, Quan, and Ramon.”

She hadn’t gotten a good look at Darrel, but the others, starting with Donald, had brown hair and eyes. Carson was blondish with blue eyes. Quan was Chinese with black hair, and Ramon was Hispanic with dark brown hair. Terrence stepped up to her, and she stepped back warily.

“Be nice to know your name,” he said, keeping his tone light.

Her brow furrowed. “Elise.” She looked over her shoulder. “I’m making oatmeal… would you all care for any?”

Oatmeal wasn’t the most satisfying meal for a group of hungry men, but it was evident she wasn’t kicking them out any time soon, and she wanted them, at the very least, comfortable. She figured feeding them would help in this. When they agreed, she placed bowls on the table. A few made use of the bathroom, but the one named Donald sauntered in, looking her over, and it made her self-conscious. She tugged on her sleeve, hoping he wouldn’t notice.

She stirred in the fruit to cook and set the honey out on the table. Right now, it was all she had for them until she could select from the cellar. She made coffee, but already knew one pot would not be enough. She set cups out on the table, pouring to the rims as they took their seats. Their rifles hung behind them.

She scooped the coffee grounds once more. Turning to the fridge, she found chicken broth and poured out a cup’s worth to heat. Once the pot of oatmeal was ready, she carried it to the table, letting them serve themselves, and by this time, the broth was ready. While they busied themselves, she took the broth to the living room. Here, she got a good look at Darrel.

He had red hair, looked younger than the others, and had a crease between his brows. She kneeled beside the sofa and gently put her hand under his head and lifted to spoon broth into his mouth. On reflex, he drank. She spoke in soft tones to him and gradually the crease on his forehead smoothed out. She surveyed the long gash diagonally across his chest. The towels they used for bandages did little to hide the wounds. She set the bowl down and picked up a tattered bit of cloth to look under it. The cut was jagged, deep, and long. Even she could tell he wouldn’t make it.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered.

She put her hand over her sore arm, pressing lightly. She knew what to do and picked up his left arm. She held it gently, peeling back the sleeve for a moment. Then she re-covered his arm, setting it beside him, and picked up the bowl again, slowly feeding him the rest of the broth. She knew it would help him, if only for the salt content. When she made to stand, she realized she was being watched. She sank back on her heels and looked up at him, waiting expectantly.

“Thank you,” Terrence said with a dip of his chin.

She studied him for a moment, then dipped her chin curtly. “You’re welcome.”

She got to her feet and carried the bowl back to the kitchen, where the others were finishing up their meals. The men spoke in low tones and her attention turned to the kitchen window, wondering how long it would take.

“Would’ve been better with bread,” Donald muttered.

Terrence backhanded his shoulder as he entered the kitchen, and Elise remained quiet. The aroma of it still filled the kitchen, but the bread she would need for lunch… especially if these men were still here. She glanced at it, covered with a cloth. Then she turned around and watched them all warily. It wasn’t every day six men barged into her home… especially where she lived. But after the attack in the village, she should have realized the peace had been broken.

“Is it just you six?” she asked.

“Yeah, we got separated from the rest of us,” Terrence replied.

“What happened to him?” She jerked her chin in Darrel’s direction.

“Shit, lady!” Donald said. “What didn’t happen? One minute we’re walking through the woods, the next we’re running for our lives—”

“Donald!” Terrence barks.

“Hell, we don’t even know—”

“That’s enough, Sergeant!”

Donald shut up, but he wasn’t happy about it. He shoved his bowl and stalked into the living room. Elise stayed where she was. She knew enough about feral animals to stay away from the irritable ones. Quan stood, gathered the empty bowls, and brought them to where she was.


She met his eyes for a moment. “Oh, uh, sink. Thank you.”

“Yes’am.” He dipped his chin to her.

He deposited the bowls and headed into the living room. A moment later, Ramon and Carson did the same. Terrence stayed behind.

“Thank you… you didn’t have to.”

“It’s no problem.” She turned from him and started the water for the dishes.

A moment later, Terrence stood beside her and rinsed them, stacking them to the side. They worked in silence. It seemed right, with him beside her. He turned to survey the kitchen table, spying the pot.

“I’ve got it,” she said. “Maybe your friend needs… help.”

She met his eyes, and he dipped his chin before leaving. Elise grabbed the pot and rinsed it out. There was no food left in it. They had scraped it clean. She’d have to figure something out for herself. She finished washing it, setting the pot upside down, and jerked in surprise.

“Real nice…”

Warily she eyed Donald.

“… of you to cook and all.” He glanced over into the living room for a moment, then walked further into the kitchen.

“Did you need something?”

He looked her up and down, a leer in his eyes. “Maybe… what are you offering?”

“There’s water… or juice…” She pressed herself against the counter. Sometimes this happens, and it doesn’t make it any fun for her. “I can start another pot of coffee.”

He quirked a leering smile at her and sauntered over. At his height, he stared down at her and her breath came short.

“Nice,” he said when her chest heaved. “But I think you might have something else to offer.”


Both jerked and Elise couldn’t keep the relief off her face. She willed the throb in her arm to go away and curled her fingers into her palms. Carson eyed them and jerked his chin.

“Stop botherin’ her.”

“I ain’t bothering her… am I, Ee-leese?”

She flicked her gaze from Carson to the man in front of her, keeping quiet. She didn’t trust her voice. Donald smirked at her again and winked before backing off. He shouldered past Carson, who met her eyes for a moment, then he, too, turned back to the living room. Elise sagged her shoulders, exhaling. It wouldn’t have been the first time she had to defend herself, and she could do so, but she didn’t want any trouble because of one man who thought he could take advantage of her. She’d have to watch him.

Elise dismissed him from mind and glanced out the window, noting it wasn’t even noon yet… and these men have near taken over. Her hand rested on the heavy wooden shutters. In the woods beyond her place, she thought she saw movement. Scanning the trees, whatever it was, disappeared and was gone before she could make it out. She didn’t think it was a… villager. She turned to face the living room and slapped her hand over her heart.

“Something out there?” Terrence asked.

“Just trees.”

It would do her no good to mention she thought she saw something. It’s not unusual for all the increased army activity as of late—on both sides—and she didn’t know if she truly saw anything in the first place, even if it was the other side she was concerned about. The other side who ran through the village pillaging and plundering. She was glad for Terrence’s help in the matter and knew the villagers could pick up the pieces.

“Thank you for taking us in.”

“I had no choice, apparently.” She stared him in the eyes, a challenge.

And she wasn’t backing down from it. If she could help her town in this way, then she would do it. Terrence pressed his lips together and nodded.

“Yeah. Well, our man will heal, and we’ll be gone. But it looks like we’re here for the night.”

“I figured.” But his man wouldn’t heal like Terrence thought.

“The shutters look new,” he commented.

“They are. It will provide relative safety, and the locks will hold.”

He studied the simple locking mechanism. It was a lever which slid into two closed hooks. He glanced at the door and realized the door had one as well, sturdier, however, for the width of it.

“We’ll fortify them anyway and keep watch. We’ve closed the ones in the living room.” His gaze swept over her. “What happened?”

Her brow furrowed. He raised her arm, his fingers on the bandage hidden under her sleeve. She swallowed.

“Nu-nothing.” She pulled her arm and straightened the sleeve.

“You’re wounded?” He tried for her arm again.

She pulled it back, her hand at her shoulder. “I’m fine. It’s nothing.” She tried to stare him down, but looking in his eyes brought so many memories back.

He ran a hand over his bald, black head. “Elise… I’m sorry we barged in like this. I was… I mean, I knew you were here.”

Her gaze slid over to the living room. This was a conversation she did not want to have.

Changing the subject, she asked, “How is he?”

He exhaled and followed her gaze. “Unconscious still… He’s like our kid brother.”

She glanced at him. “I’m sorry. I hope he—”


A terrible yell emitted from the living room. Terrence raced inside and Elise was on his heels a second later. Darrel screamed in pain, his back arching up off the sofa. He writhed, his head whipping side to side. Outside, a howl lifted eerily. Elise turned to the window in the living room. The shutters were closed, but she knew what was out there. The others inside were too busy to hear the howl as they each worked to hold Darrel down. Amid the struggle, Terrence met Elise’s eyes.

“Do you have anything to knock him out?”

She rushed from the room, straight to the bathroom. She yanked open the medicine cabinet and found a sleeping aid. Grabbing it quickly she raced back to the living room and shoved it in Terrence’s hand.

“At least two of them and it will take a about ten or fifteen minutes for it to work—”

“It’s fine.”

He uncapped it quickly and palmed two pills. He directed the others to hold Darrel’s mouth open and thrust the bottle back to Elise. She recapped it, hoping two was all it would take, and stepped back as Terrence force fed Darrel the pills. He still thrashed about, but after ten minutes, he finally relaxed. His arched back slowly lowered to the cushions, and the men didn’t have to hold his limbs as forcefully. Another five minutes and he relaxed completely. Elise loosened her grip on the bottle and returned it. She slid it back into its spot and slowly closed the medicine cabinet. Her reflection stared back at her; the low light caused her eyes to glow for a moment. The sedative would work for a while, at least. Walking back out to the living room, the men turned to her.

“Can we put him in your bedroom?” Terrence asked.

If the men were to keep watch, or have rotations, she knew they needed Darrel secured somewhere. It was best he go there. She nodded and the two of them hauled the limp body into her room. She walked back into the kitchen and continued prepping lunch for everyone.

“Can’t sleep, huh?”

She stiffened, but did not turn around, knowing it was Terrence. She remembered his voice and was doubtful she could ever forget it. She kept on her task, unsure how to reply.

“Sorry. None of my business.”

“No, it’s not,” she told him. But she didn’t have problems sleeping anymore.

She reached for the gumbo pot she used earlier and set it on the stove. Then she pulled out a small bowl of potatoes. She’d make stew for them all. She glanced at the stairwell leading to the basement. She had canned beef about a month ago, ready to go at a moment’s notice. She prepped many jars since she wasn’t sure how safe it was in the woods and traveling to the village and back to her home could be dangerous.

“I’m glad you’re okay,” he muttered and left.

Elise looked over her shoulder, then descended the stairs. She flipped the switch at the bottom and low light cast deep shadows. But she knew this basement. It was wide open, and as large as the upstairs. The floor was dirt, compact and hard. There were shelving units along the wall, save for the gap where fives steps led to two locked cellar doors, and one would have to push up to get out. She angled around a freestanding row of shelves and perused the jars, looking for the oldest to use first. There was enough to last two years if she did it right. Except now she was depleting her stash with the six men upstairs. Five, she supposed, since Darrel wouldn’t be eating. At least, not for a while.

A shuffle on the dirt floor made her stop. Peering through the shelves, she stiffened.

“What’cha doin’ down here?” Donald asked.

Her gaze flicked from him to the stairwell. She couldn’t get to it without passing by him and hurting him now wouldn’t benefit anyone. Besides, despite his demeanor, they needed him and putting him in his place would have to wait. He grinned at her.

“I need a few jars for lunch.”

She searched the shelves… there was an ice pick down here… somewhere. Of course, it wasn’t anywhere near where she was now. She moved a step for every one Donald made.

“Do you want… help?”

She was at the end of the shelf, and he was at the start of it. They both stood still.

“I’ve got it, thanks.”

She flicked her gaze away to a jar. When she looked back, he was gone. She straightened up, looking for him. She heard the shuffle a moment too late. With a squeak, he pushed her back against a shelf and it pressed into her back. Her hands circled his wrist.

“Let me go,” she whispered, her breath hitching. “Donald, you don’t want this.”

“Been alone for a long time, haven’t you?” He leaned in, his face angled to her jaw.

“Let me go!” she said more forcefully.

His fingers tightened, and she choked. She tried to pull his hand away, willing herself to stay calm.

“I’ve been alone,” he said.

Her eyes flashed. “What? You and your buddies don’t—” she choked off, eyes watering at the corners.


If he didn’t stop squeezing, she’d have to…


Elise jerked her gaze to Terrence, who walked around the shelf. Donald released her, and she moved off a few steps, eyeing both warily. She knew she had nothing to fear from Terrence, and she wasn’t afraid of Donald either. But if she had handled Donald, it would have caused a riff, and she didn’t need that hassle right now.

“Just having a friendly conversation,” he said. Without looking at her, he asked, “Right, Elise?”

Terrence’s eyes flicked to hers.

“I’m getting food for lunch,” she whispered and moved off.

“Ramon needs your help.” Terrence watched Donald leave.

His boots clomped up the wooden steps. Elise grabbed a few jars, tucking them into her arms. She near dropped them when she turned around the shelf corner.

“You okay?”


“Elise… I…”

“What?” she prodded.

“It’s complicated.”

She snorted at him and pulled the light, heading back up the stairs. A moment later, she heard him coming up behind her. Terrence walked into the living room, and she heard him speaking in low tones. A moment later, a shot rang out. She froze, at first not understanding what she heard. Then shouts echoed off the walls, followed by more gunfire. A body grabbed her and spun her down to the ground. She landed on top of Terrence, then he flipped her and pinned her underneath him. His handgun was out, pointed toward the kitchen window. A few more pops, and she heard a yelp from the living room.

“Everyone okay?” Terrence shouted.

“Carson’s hit!”

“Shit… Bad?”

“I closed the shutters… I’ll be okay,” he groaned.


Everyone froze. Terrence got to his knees, then his feet, still crouched, angling up to look out the kitchen window.

“I know you’re in there! Don’t care much for what you did to my men—tracked you here!”

Terrence peeked out quickly. They were all dressed in brown and dotted throughout the trees. He recognized the one he had words with only a few hours before.

“Just come on out and no one will get hurt!”

Terrence swore, looking at his feet. “Carson? You good?”

“He’s out, LT,” Quan replied.


He exhaled and crouched-walked to the door, then slid up the wall. The counter impeded him from getting a good look out the kitchen window. Elise stayed on the floor, but on her stomach, looking up at Terrence.

“We have you surrounded. No one is getting out without us knowing! And we’re a patient bunch… either way, we’ll get you, eventually.”

“Is there another way out of here?” Terrence asked her.

“No. The cellar, but the doors open to the back of the house… and if they’ve surrounded us…” Elise pressed her lips together. “Let me tend to Carson.”

Terrence nodded and crouched down in front of the counters. Elise crawled her way to the living room and discovered Carson had a bullet in his abdomen.

She looked at Quan. “Help me move him to my bedroom.”

He grabbed an arm, and they pulled him as quickly as they could, resting him on the floor. Once situated by the bed, Quan left to assist the others. She noted the window was shuttered and was thankful for it. Elise pulled open the man’s shirt, knowing immediately there was no hope for him. Carson would die. Her arm throbbed, and she glanced at Darrel. He was still out. She grabbed Carson’s left arm and peeled back his sleeve. His eyes fluttered open, and she paused, making eye contact. Slowly, his eyes closed and a moment later, she pushed his sleeve back down, concern across her brow. She crawled back out to the living room. The other four conversed in loud whispers, border lining on turning into a shouting match.

“And I’m telling you, I didn’t see no one back there!” Donald insisted.

“And you want Ramon to just waltz on out there?” Terrence asked.

“We’d cover him.”

Ramon glared at Donald. “I ain’t doing shit like that. You want to go… then go.”

“There’s some cover if you go out through the cellar doors,” Elise said. “The woodpile is there. If they’re back there, you can take them out from relative safety.”

Terrence looked at her for a moment, then at the men.

“I’ll go,” Ramon said, conceding. “I’m the better shot.” He glared at Donald, who flipped him off.

Terrence put his hand on Ramon’s shoulder. “Be careful.” He looked at Donald. “Go watch the front.”

Donald grumbled and crawled over into the kitchen.

So far, it was quiet. No shots rang out… no one shouted commands. Elise got to her knees and looked to the window. Through one of the gaps, she saw something walk by, a shadow. She gasped and fell back. Terrence and Quan were on alert immediately.

“Go back to the bedroom.” Terrence grabbed her arm and gave her a handgun. “Do you remember how to use one?”

“I remember,” she whispered.

They held eye contact for a moment, then scurried to the bedroom.

~ ~

When Terrence turned back to Quan, he caught Donald in his peripheral.

“You know her?” Donald asked.

Terrence rolled his lips in.

“LT?” Quan asked. “You do? How?”

“Long time ago.”

“And you knew she’d help,” Quan said, looking away.

“I hoped,” Terrence replied. “But we have other matters to worry about right now. Donald, get back to the kitchen.”

A shot rang out, and they hit the deck. A hole appeared in the shutter in the living room. Quan and Terrence crawled over to the window. Quan peered out, and a shot rang out. He dropped, breathing hard. Another shot echoed from the bedroom, and Elise screamed.

Terrence got up and ran. The window behind him splintered, and he heard a thunk on the door in the kitchen. Shots rang out, and he grunted, crashing into the hallway wall, his hip on fire. He struggled with the door as his men got off shots. Quan yelled out a cry, suddenly cut short. Terrence slammed the door shut. Someone broke the window and Elise was nowhere to be seen. His men were still lying prone.

“LT!” Quan’s voice called out.

Terrence looked at the window and crossed to it, angling his body to the side. At the start of the woods, he saw the man he fought earlier, and he had Elise by the neck. He grinned and pulled her away. Terrence swore and hit the deck as another volley of shots rang out. Then he crawled into the living room. Quan’s unseeing eyes stared at the ceiling.

“They got Quan!” Donald shouted.

“You hit?” Terrence yelled.


“They took Elise.”


Terrence glared at him. “Fine. Stay here and rot, asshole.”

Terrence crawled to the basement stairs and slid down them until he could take them normally. The cellar doors were open. Ramon! He crouch-ran to the doors. One was open, and he cautiously climbed up the stairs, rifle ready. The firewood stack provided cover, but it wasn’t a failsafe. Then he saw Ramon’s rifle lying on the ground. He crossed to it and checked it. It was empty. He left it, swung his rifle around, and scanned the woods.

~ ~

Elise used what strength she had to haul up Ramon, but his leg was bleeding badly, and he was pale and sweating. A man shoved them forward and here she lost her balance, crashing hard to the forest floor. She laid there, stunned by the jolt and felt Ramon’s arm across her chest. He hitched a labored and pained breath and rolled over.

“Get up!” one of the men shouted and kicked Ramon’s leg.

He howled, grasping his leg, and passed out. Elise scrambled to her knees, ineffectually trying to protect the fallen man. For her efforts, she received a boot in her chest, and she fell back. She laid there staring up at the man who dared to kick her.

“Easy,” the leader of them said. He reached down a hand to her. “I’m Delon.”

She eyed his hand and scooted back. He withdrew it.

“We’ve been looking for you,” he continued.

Elise kept her hands beside her and did not reply. Her eyes strayed to Ramon, who did not move, and she was worried about him. They shot him in the thigh, and she didn’t know how he was still alive. But if she could help him, she could prolong his life.

“We need to rest,” she finally managed to say.

Delon looked down at Ramon. “I don’t care about him.”

“If you keep him alive… you can use him as collateral. Let me tend to his leg.”

Delon considered her for a time and finally dipped his chin. He shouted orders to his men to keep watch.

“I need your knife,” Elise said, challenging him.

After a moment, he handed it over, watching as she cut her long sleeve off from the shoulder. It was all she had, and she would need to be quick. She handed the knife back and scooted over to Ramon.

“You hurt?” Delon asked.

She looked at the bandage on her arm. “No.”

She took it off, dropping it to her side. There was no blood or blemish on her arm any longer. Delon looked away while Elise checked Ramon’s pulse. It was thready, but he still had one. She adjusted his leg, and he groaned. She mumbled soothing words to him and hoped she could be quick… unnoticed. She snugged the sleeve around his wound the best she could, and while Delon and his men kept watch on the woods, she pulled back Ramon’s sleeve on his left arm for a moment. He jerked, and she covered his arm once again. Delon turned around.

“Come on, we wasted enough time.”

“Ramon?” Elise whispered. He groaned, but it was weak and breathy. Despite wrapping his thigh, the blood didn’t stop. “Come on, you need to get up.”

Delon swung his rifle around. Elise stood. She looked at him, then beyond into the woods. It was quiet, but maybe not for long. She doubted Terrence would let these men take her. She knew the others wouldn’t stand for it. Delon aimed his muzzle down and at Ramon’s chest.


The shot rang out.

In shock, Elise sank to her knees. “Why?” A tear rolled down her cheek.

Delon grabbed her arm and hauled her up, dragging her away. He released her when she stopped struggling. She hugged herself as she walked, willing Ramon to be okay. Perhaps he’d still make it. Perhaps Terrence would come. She sensed the others knew and would do what they could. And as they walked, dusk arrived, chilling the air… stirring the night creatures.

They arrived at a camp, and she noted it was a camp quickly erected, a temporary setup, one designed so it could be broken down quickly… at a moment’s notice. It is these woods, these types of camps, which allowed them to raid her village and come close to her home.

It was what made her do what she had to… to do what she did to protect her village.

Delon shoved her down near a firepit and kept walking. She glanced around, noting he might have left her, but two of his men did not. She settled in, staring at the fire and gently rubbing her bare arm. It didn’t hurt any longer. Not that it hurt much after the initial shot. She heard footsteps approaching and refused to look up until a canteen showed up in front of her face. She angled back and met Delon’s eyes. Slowly she took it from him and drank, refusing to say thank you.

A howl echoed through the woods.

She froze, and so did Delon. Activity in the camp picked up and Delon smiled. She recapped the canteen and set it down, scanning the trees. Another howl sounded as if answering. Delon adjusted his rifle into the ready position. His men disappeared into the woods, as if hiding… as if ambushing.

Fear lodged in her heart. Delon glanced down at her.

“I was wondering when they would come.” He fished into his pocket.

Elise felt something fall into her lap. She jerked and picked it up. It was a shiny silver bullet. Her heart fell. She closed her eyes.

~ ~

Terrence left Donald and picked up a trail. It seemed someone was injured and after about a mile, he discovered who it was. Terrence sank to his knees beside Ramon, knowing he was dead… he didn’t even have to check. He rubbed the back of his neck. He had to find Elise.

“God speed, buddy.”

Terrence stood, his hip twinging slightly, and he pressed a hand to it for a moment. It was a flesh wound, and he was lucky that was all it was. It stopped bleeding and now was only uncomfortable as his gear bumped it occasionally. He found the trail and followed it about another mile before resting against a tree. The trail he was following was clear, and it seemed no one was trying to hide their tracks. Everything about this screamed trap, and he wasn’t such a fool that he’d walk right into one. He scanned the sky, noting it was darker now. In another hour, it would be even more difficult to see, even with the moon’s light. The familiar pull, the excitement of the hunt, the edginess he always felt… crawled to the surface.

He’d take them all out.

Terrence heard the first howl when he was on the edges of the camp. He hunkered down, rifle ready. Hopefully, the trouble coming would see the threat and take them out. Hopefully, Elise would be okay. Maybe this time… things could be different. He crept along, using the bushes and trees as cover. As he crouched, rifle ready, another lone howl sounded. Beyond him, he could see the camp, but he could not see Elise.

He was about to make his play when a shot rang out.

Startled, he checked his torso and breathed a sigh of relief. He half stood; rifle pointed out. Another shot. He ducked reflexively and soon chaos erupted. He dodged behind trees and waited. Staccato bursts of gunfire seemed next to him at times, and at others, in the distance. He heard howls and grunts, screams, and the cries of men. He peered into the camp and did not see Elise. Then, across the camp, he saw her, hauled away by the one who confronted him and his men earlier.

Instead of charging through the camp foolishly, he ducked around the sides, using trees as cover. He almost made it unscathed and yelped in surprise. Fire burned across his biceps. It was a nick, but it hurt—another lucky shot. He inspected it briefly and carried on, rifle ready. To the left and right, in front and behind him, he heard the noises of gunfire, fighting, howls and screams. Then one of the men landed before him, deep gouges in his chest. He gasped and blinked, clearly in shock. Terrence kneeled to him.

“Who’s the leader of this group?”

“Dogs,” the man gasped his last.

Terrence shoved to his feet, rifle ready, disgusted how even at death, the man still threw out a slur. He took a few steps and paused. What he thought were trunks seemed too bulky… and they had arms and legs. Two dark and hairy figures emerged from the trees. They snarled at first, and Terrence lowered the rifle slightly. Their ears angled back, and one took a step, hairy hand outstretched. A memory slipped into his brain… these two acted the same as the one in front of Darrel had. Then they both whipped their heads to the side. A moment later, they snarled and leaped away.

Terrence released the breath he didn’t know he was holding. He tried to see where they had gone, but they were hidden in the woods. Confused, but knowing he had to continue, he made his way around the camp, looking for any sign of Elise and the other man. Eventually, he found tracks and ahead of him, and Elise was being dragged behind a man.

~ ~

“Let me go!” Elise tugged out of his grasp.

Delon turned to her; handgun aimed at her chest. She stopped immediately and kept her hands up, shoulder level, her eyes on his. She wasn’t afraid, but it would do her no good to get shot. And pain wasn’t anything she wanted to go through right now.

“It took me a while to figure it out. It took me a while to see why those villagers were able to fight back so well. Why we couldn’t see them coming.”

He gripped her arm, hauling her in, the muzzle of the gun at her heart. He sneered at her and thrust her away. Elise stumbled and fell to her side.

A growl echoed in the woods.

“Show yourself!” Delon yelled, gun swinging around. More snarls filled the surrounding space. Delon aimed the gun at Elise. “I’ll kill her.”

Growls faded into the woods, into the night. Delon pursed his lips and swung away. He remained quiet for a time, as if listening.

“Tell them to come,” he told her.

“I will not.”

He swung the gun first and was tackled. A shot rang out, and the gun bounced along the ground, out of reach. Another rifle fell off to the side. Terrence squeezed hard around Delon, making sure to stick the landing. But Delon was near as big as he was and as strong. Soon, the two were grappling.

Elise scrambled to her feet, trying to reach Delon’s gun. She bent to retrieve it, but a moment later, another of Delon’s men arrived and he tackled her like Terrence had done to Delon. She gasped for air as the man’s weight pressed down. She turned under him, clawing at him, trying to get him off her belly, but he was too big for her. All around them in the woods, gunfire, shouts, growls, howls, and cries rang out, and it was difficult to tell where in the woods the chaos originated from.


Terrence struggled with Delon even as he called to her. She fought the man on top of her, who reached for the gun. Out of the woods, a furry creature arrived. With a roar, it stretched out its arm and decapitated the one on top of Elise. She scrambled backward, away from the creature, casting about for the gun. She saw it, half-hidden under fallen leaves and sprang for it. The creature moved over to Delon and Terrence. Elise picked up the gun.

Delon pummeled Terrence, and the creature slashed out. Another shot rang out from the woods. Delon screamed in pain, falling backward. Terrence grimaced, his hand at his side. Slowly, he brought his hand out, staring at it, the red on his fingers. For a moment he was confused, then he made a pained face, and pressed his palm against the wound. Elise stood and aimed.

“For my clan,” she said, and fired.

Terrence fell back, and Delon slowly dropped to his knee. “I don’t—”

“Understand?” she asked. “You will.”

Another furry creature arrived, two now, and they stood surveying the dying men. Elise was sorry she couldn’t save Quan. He would have made a fine addition.

“Elise?” Terrence croaked, lying on his side.

She turned to the creatures. “Delon’s men have silver bullets. Be careful. Go! Finish them off. Do not let any escape.” She waved the creatures away, and they ran to do her bidding.

“No!” Delon called out, grimacing as he pressed his hands to his gut.

Elise walked over, staring down at the dying man. “I’m going to let you die slowly… so you can hear the cries of your men.”

“Terrence!” another voice called out. Donald ran into view, his rifle at the ready, and he aimed at Elise. “Bitch! I knew we couldn’t trust you.”

“It’s true Donald, I am a bitch… but not in the way you think.” She leveled her gaze at him.

A howl echoed through the forest. Screams, cries, snarls, and growls. Chaos. Donald’s rifle swung around, scanning, ready to fire.

“They won’t come by this way until I call them,” Elise said.


“Yes, we already discussed this. Now move out of my way so I can tend to Terrence.”

“I’m not letting you anywhere near him!” He swung the gun around.

Terrence groaned, his life’s blood soaking into the earth. She didn’t have much time.


Elise slowly turned to the voice. She was happy to see him, and this meant the others would be okay, too. While she hadn’t doubted, they had been wounded, and wasn’t sure how long it would take.

“Darrel?” The rifle muzzle dropped slightly.

“Aim that someplace else.” Darrel still wore his torn clothes.

Donald pressed his lips together and aimed the rifle at Elise once again, glancing at Darrel suspiciously.

“How are you… alive?”

Darrel glanced at Elise and back at Donald. “There are many things you don’t understand.”

“Lots of things,” another voice said.

“Ramon?” Donald backed up a few steps.

Elise cast a worried look at Terrence. He wasn’t curled into himself anymore, lying flat now. She didn’t have much time. She took a step. Donald’s rifle raised.

“Let me help him,” Elise said.

“No way.”

“Donald,” a new voice entered the conversation.


“Let her help, man. She can save Terrence.”

Carson, Darrel, and Ramon stood around Donald, with Elise making a box around him. Elise glanced at Terrence, whose chest didn’t seem to rise and fall any longer.

“She’s a…”

“Donald! You’re not saving him… let her. Look at him… are you helping him by delaying? Do you really think you can carry him out of the woods to the nearest doctor—before he dies?” Carson growled.

Donald glared at Elise, and the muzzle pointed down. She shouldered past Darrel, quickly kneeling beside Terrence. She didn’t waste words by calling his name. She lifted his arm, pulling back the sleeve and turned his forearm, fleshy side up. Her lips parted, her eyes glowed, and her teeth lengthened. Maybe she felt a slight jerk in his body, she wasn’t sure, but she felt his blood fill her mouth. Slowly, she extracted her canines, which receded, and she sat back on her heels.

“You bit him? Stupid bitch!”

Donald flung backward from Carson’s hit, and he stood over Donald, who pressed the back of his hand against his mouth. He wisely didn’t move, nor say anything more. The chaos in the woods began to settle down. Now, it was random gunfire, screams, growls.

“What now?” Ramon asked, his eyes on Terrence.

“Carry him back to my place.” Elise stood.

“With all those things out there?” Donald asked from where he sat.

“Those things aren’t as bad as you’re making them out to be,” Elise told him. She crouched in front of him. “Now, you have two choices. Come with us or stay out here with those things.”

She didn’t care what he did. Carson picked up Terrence easily. Elise led the way, and Darrel and Ramon flanked her, followed by Carson and Terrence. Donald, eventually, stood and followed.

~ ~

“Will it work?”

Terrence thought he heard Ramon’s voice, but how ridiculous! The man was dead. He’d seen it with his own eyes. He kept his eyes closed, but his brow furrowed, and he felt gentle fingers over the crease, trying to ease it away.

“You three leave now. Keep Donald under control… I don’t really like him.”

“Neither do we,” Carson muttered and led the way out.

Terrence’s lips quirked slightly, but his eyes remained closed. Beside him, he felt the bed dip and his hand encased between two softer ones.

“I saved your men’s lives… except Quan. It was too late for him. I’m sorry.”

He squeezed her hand.

“And I saved your life. I’m sure you can feel it within you. The burn where you were bitten, the fire in your veins.”


“Shh. Just rest. Your body is almost healed.”

He listened to her leave, remembering the days gone by when he first met her. He should have stayed, but duty called. She was hurt and told him to go… to never come back. But when he heard of the village, the marauders who steadily moved closer, he had grown concerned and volunteered to go into the heart of it… to see her. In hopes of getting to her to make sure she was okay. He opened his eyes, staring at the ceiling, flexing the fingers in his hand.

He could feel the fire in his veins. It seemed to work its way through every one of them. Like hot spots of heat, pulsing sporadically. He crawled his fingers to his side and could only feel a slight indentation of where he had been shot. But even as he rested his fingertips there, he could feel the dip of it rise. Slowly he turned his face to the side, looking at the door, which rested slightly ajar. He could see even clearer than before. He could hear people speaking in the kitchen…


His body came alive, surging with energy and strength. He swung his legs over the bed and tested his weight. He flexed his arms, turning the elbows up as far as he could. He bent over, down into a crouch, then stood. He’d never felt strength like this before. He grabbed his clothes, dressing quickly, and exited to the kitchen.

Immediately, the three who were like him turned to him. Donald entered the kitchen a moment later, standing aloof from everyone. Terrence surveyed his men; thankful they were all right. Then he focused on Elise.

“I was a fool to leave all those years ago,” he told her.

“I know… but you’re back now. You can stay. All of you can stay.”

He knew he wouldn’t leave, just as he knew the three men would follow him wherever he led. He turned to look at Donald.

“She won’t do it,” he said.

Elise crossed her arms. “I don’t like you as much as you don’t like me,” she replied. “You’re not worth my time.”

Donald scowled. Terrence took a seat at the head of the table. Elise walked to the stove.

“Perhaps if you earn it,” he told Donald. “Then maybe it will be considered.”

“She won’t let me leave either.”

Elise set a pot of stew down on the table and stared Donald down.

“You can’t. People who find out about us either turn into one of us, or they die. There is no in between.” She took her seat at the other end of the table, gazing at Terrence.

“So, I’m a prisoner?” Donald asked.

She turned to him, slow blinking and assessing him. With a grin, she said, “No. You’re not a prisoner. You could… run.”

The others chuckled, and Donald sat back in his chair, trying to appear unconcerned. A glow showed in each of their eyes, and Donald paled. Elise reached for the ladle and spooned out stew for herself before she passed it to Terrence and the rest of them.

“If for some reason, we do deem you worthy, Donald,” Terrence said pointedly. “Elise is mine.”

He looked across the table at her and she met his gaze straight on with a quirk of a smile.

“All mine.”

-Short Story, by author, T.L. Humphrey

Let's Make it Happen

Get in touch today for a free consultation. You have everything to gain!

Ready? Contact me today, and let’s find out what I can help you with!

You can also reach me here at [email protected].