Prolog - Tainted Snow
My feet hit the icy ground. My breath comes quick, causing my view to get blurry as the cold wintery air turns it into mist.
Snow is falling mercilessly from the grayish sky. Snowflakes are melting on my overheated skin as I run for my life.
I know he’s close. I know he’s toying with me. With his prey.
It’s a hopeless chase. Hopeless for me, but even though I know the outcome, I have to try.
I don’t want to die. Not yet.
My lungs are burning, but the adrenaline coursing through my veins drives me. It makes my legs push harder, even though I know it’s only a matter of time.
He can smell the blood dripping from my wounds. Leaving an easy trail for him to follow.
Funny how your brain already knows it’s over, but your body refuses to acknowledge it.
I can feel my strength dwindling. That’s when everything starts to move in slow motion.
I can feel each snowflake stinging my burning skin. Feel each short breath leaving my lungs.
My head turns in panic, searching franticly for my pursuers. The vibrant red color of my bloody footsteps against the pure white snow. A glowing red path marking my end.
I see the dark shadow moving on all fourth. A dangerous predator. Skilled and born to kill.
Regret floods through me. Regret that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I knew it was dangerous to walk the streets alone. I didn’t want to wait. Home wasn’t that far anyway. Besides, nothing ever happened. Until tonight.
The Wolves. They caught my scent, and I was stupid enough to run. I dared them to chase me. Stupid.
I remember my grandmother telling me to stay calm. Always stay calm, even when you fear for your life. When danger is growling in your ear.
Stay Calm, Mika!
I’ve never been good at that. I’ve always followed my instincts first and lived to regret it. Not tonight though. Tonight will be the last time I made that mistake.
I hear the growls coming closer. It freezes my blood, making me trip over my feet. As I hit the ground the air leaves my lungs and pain washes over me like a tidal wave.
Slow-motion again. My hair flares around my face, my eyes close and my lips part in pain. I hear the pounding of paws on the frozen ground. They are coming closer.
Snow is falling from the blackened sky. Tiny white dots, making it seem like I am still moving. But I’m lying still.
The snow crunches dangerously under its paws as it slows down and begins circling me. It’s prey.
I hear him sniff the air. Cold, crystal-clear air. The only scent besides the cold is mine. Blood and fear, mixed into an intoxicating cocktail for the wolf.
Quick sniffing noises stem from the black shadow. That’s all he is to me right now. A shadow behind the wall of snow. I don’t want to look. I don’t want to die.
My eyes shift to find something else to take in. Something to calm me. The bare treetops winding their branches together like boney fingers. It’s an eerie, but beautiful view.
The wolf howls triumphantly, but to my ears, it sounds like a newborn's cry.
I was born on a night like this. Snow falling, trapping my mother inside the da. A fire crackles as her screams echo through my grandmother's cottage at the edge of the forest.
I hear her heartbeat as she holds me. I can feel her lips kissing my forehead, as I try to make sense of all those new sensations. And then she whispers my name. Loud and clear.
It’s the first and the last thing I’ll ever hear. “Mika.” Her voice carries through the woods, and I can feel the smile on my lips before a dark shadow blocks my view.
Claws dig into my flesh, as he presses me down into the snow. Violating its purity with more blood.
The fear in my eyes reflects in his black pupils. I don’t want to be afraid. But what else is there?
Fear floods through my body like an unstoppable disease. It’s worse than death. It makes me wish for it. For it all to end.
I smell the fleshy, bloody breath of the beast as he hovers over me.
Powerful. Strong and undying, like the plague his species has become.
Violent hunters of the night. Creatures of the moon. My beautiful, innocent moon.
My eyes fly shut as pain shoots through my body. Making it jolt up against the furry body pressing me down.
Sharp teeth rip through my skin, poisoning me with its disease. Marking me for death.
I am bitten and I won’t survive. The female body can’t change, can’t bend to this monster's demands. It will perish.
All I can hope for is for the beast to kill me before my body tries to transform. Before agony will tear me apart. Limb by limb.
Death in its cruelest way is here to take what will be left of me. Of my broken soul. Finally collecting the last debt my family owes.
His howl sounds so far away as life slowly creeps away from me. It will be the last thing I’ll hear. Or will it?
I can tell as the weight is lifted off me, that the wolves are fighting. A whimper, as bones break, teeth snapping at each other. Fighting over their prey.
Maybe it won’t be death who’ll take me. Maybe one of those creatures will eat me. What are they waiting for?
Hot pain shoots through me before the darkest blackness swallows me.
The girl bleeding in the snow. Red marking her hopeless flight. Darkness, marking the end. Darkness, marking the beginning of what seemed impossible.