Estimated reading time — 11 minutes
The thing appeared to shiver slightly. Cam squinted, trying to get a better view, but he couldn’t for the lack of moonlight. Something was rising behind it. Like someone else standing up.
But it wasn’t a person. It was an odd, wide figure, spindly and only coming up to the taller form’s shoulders. After several seconds of the thing standing there, just staring through the darkness at him, he registered that the second shape was a part of the first.
Wings? Those couldn’t be wings. They appeared tiny from the distance. Besides, people couldn’t…
Nah. No way. He hadn’t had anything to drink, but alcohol wasn’t the only factor in hallucinations.
Were those wings dripping something?
Bell clapped him on the back. “Whatcha starin’ at, Ace?”
“Can you see that guy?” Cam pointed at the dark figure staring at him. “I think there’s someone out there. Far away. Just standing there.”
Bell just laughed. “I had more to drink than you, man. And that’s sayin’ something. I don’t see nobody.” Cam managed a smile even as he watched the feminine figure uncomfortably. Bell’s classic joke. He knew alcohol would never touch Cam’s lips.
They both made their way from the entrance of the bar, away from the woods and back toward the street.
Cam was going to be graduating college soon. Only community college. His grades, he knew, would drop dead if he tried to go farther than that. He felt like he’d pushed his luck far enough in life already.
He hung out with Bell Wadington, a football player for the college’s team, the Camdon Storm Falcons. Bell was enthusiastic about football. He even wore his dark purple-gray jersey most of the time, Falcon-01. Sometimes he carried around a small foam football too, to toss from hand to hand while he talked.
He brought up the Eastern Board Boar Hogs along the way. “You know man, when you think about it from Animal Planet’s perspective, falcons can just dive-bomb hogs again and again till they dead. Ain’t no way the Boar Hogs can beat the Storm Falcons!”
Cam absently agreed, but he couldn’t get his mind off of what he’d just seen. He and Bell, celebrating a Storm Falcons victory by their brothers over at West Camdon Community, had come down to the Crow Club for some drinks. Cam stuck to soda, while Bell usually downed two or three Strikas before he was satisfied.
Cam couldn’t have gotten any alcohol anyway. They’d ID him if he tried to buy it, and he was only eighteen.
But tonight, when Bell had been ready to head out—right after a bathroom trip, he said—Cam had stepped out front to wait for him.
That was when he’d seen the oddly standing figure out behind the building, where the mossy back of it met the woods. It looked like a short-haired boy with his head down, but there was very little moonlight with no stars, so it was hard to tell.
He’d slowly raised his head to look at him. He couldn’t see the kid’s eyes. He stayed back in the trees, staring at Cam, like the form of death come to meet him as an innocent human being. How wicked.
Then came those wing-looking things. He started to wonder if Bell had actually mixed something in his Coke to try to get him to loosen up. But he’d known Bell for over a year; he was wild about football, but had no bad side.
That night, back at the apartment he and his older brother shared, he fell asleep, glad that he hadn’t gotten a view of those eyes after all. That would have made sleep impossible, for sure.
The next day, after classes, he found Bell with their usual group. They were all eating from the Buzzoo Burger inside the cafeteria, cheering about the recent victory for their relative team.
This time, Cam noticed two new people there. Two new girls. As usual, he felt himself tense up slightly. He wasn’t comfortable around girls, especially if they were pretty. These girls weren’t so drop-dead gorgeous that he’d sink into the floor before getting there, but he knew he’d have a time trying to open his mouth.
Still, best to try his luck. He’d only had one relationship before, a high school girlfriend who hadn’t lasted more than two months. It was about time he left the experimental phase.
One of them was tall and blond, and the other one—they must have been friends, because they were standing right next to each other, and kept glancing at each other when they laughed—was slightly shorter, and had light brown hair.
The blond was really chatty. The brown-haired girl didn’t seem shy or anything, but she didn’t appear to have much to say. Cam wondered which one had a better chance of showing interest in him. He wasn’t much of a talker, so he preferred to listen to other people. Likes didn’t attract in that case.
Bell looked up as he approached. “Man! If your class let out an hour earlier, we’d get here at the same time. Get your short ass on over here!” he laughed. Cam grinned as he approached, feeling better already. Bell’s enthusiasm about everything had a way of being contagious.
“We got two new girls here, arright, introductions, lemme do introductions,” he continued theatrically, standing and clapping a hand on Cam’s shoulder. “Campbell, Jessica. Jessica, Campbell. And little Miss Doesn’t-talks-a-lot over here would be Avery.” He bowed, gesturing between Cam and Avery. Behind his back, Cam made the cuckoo sign, and the girls giggled.
Those giggles both sounded shy, he realized. Man, he was terrible at reading girls.
Avery wiped something dark from her eye, making a small black smear. Cam’s eyebrows went up, and she murmured, “Mascara,” with an embarrassed smile.
Cam furrowed his brow. That was odd. He hadn’t even noticed her mascara at first; heck, it still seemed invisible, under both eyes.
He tore his concentration off of her. While the group talked in scattered twos and threes, he tried making conversation with Jessica. She was interesting right away, but she didn’t seem to get really involved in any topic. She jumped from idea to idea, never focusing on one thing for more than a minute. Cam found it hard to follow along.
Soon, though, one of the other guys stole her, and Cam was actually grateful. He felt kind of bad that he’d left Avery out, because she was keeping to herself.
“You not comfortable around folks?” he started. Hoping it wasn’t an embarrassing question, he waited for her response.
Now she was shy. “Just sometimes,” she said softly. “But Bell’s a hoot.”
“Yeah, guess I don’t need to tell you my name,” Cam teased. “He’s always got it covered.”
“I’m new here,” Avery continued. “I just met Jessica today, and she’s been here three semesters. Everyone’s been here longer than me, I guess.” She frowned a little.
Cam shrugged. “My second year’s almost up. People don’t usually begin their college in the summer. They take summer vacation from high school to get ready. Did you just get out?”
Avery shook her head. “That was last year. My family moved twice. My dad’s job used to jump around a lot, but back in January he found a good rooted position in town, so we’ll obviously be staying here from now on. Even still, I’m only nineteen.”
Cam smiled. “I’m eighteen. Age never does it justice after high school. Still leaves you guessing.”
Avery blinked. “What do you mean?”
“Well…if someone asked you, and you said you were nineteen, they’d probably assume you’d been here almost a year at least.” Shut up, idiot.
Avery just smiled. Her eyes, Cam noticed, were brown. “Would you mind sticking by me?” she asked in a low voice, as if she thought it was an embarrassing thing to say. “I mean, just to show me around a little? You’re kind of quiet. I like that. Everyone else is too bubbly.”
“I gotcha,” he agreed, nodding. Friend, he reminded his thumping heart. She said friend. Slow down there, Texas. Slo—hey—HEY! Didja hear me?! Easy, fella. There ya go.
His heart was pumping, though. “You won’t find anyone like that in the cafe, though,” he continued. “The library, mostly. But everyone in there’s studying or something.”
“Right,” Avery said. “I guess I’ll be there a lot, then.” She wiped her eye, then grunted softly with frustration and reached for a tissue. Cam’s eyes widened in surprise. He still couldn’t see any mascara.
That night, he left early. He’d finished his assignments, but the night before had left him a little exhausted. He wanted to sleep in.
It was only after he turned out his light that he saw the dark square in the window. He pulled it open and picked up the little thing. It was a note.
He turned it over in his hand, flicking on his desk lamp. It was scribbled in dark red pen.
MISTAKES ARE OKAY NOW. THEY WON’T LAST. DO YOU UNDERSTAND? DON’T BE SCARED.
He rolled his eyes. The apartment neighborhood was close to the campus. No doubt someone had sneaked over and planted it there. Just another prank with no planning behind it, probably some drunk student writing the first stupid thing to come to mind.
He fell asleep, but something nagged at his mind, something about the note that he couldn’t understand.
There’s less moonlight, I won’t last
Here it comes
Where is he? Did he see?
The next morning, when he woke up, he figured out what it was. The thing he hadn’t understood before.
When he went to his window, he saw a small splotch of red, like a drop of blood, where the note had been. It was really dry; he must have not noticed it last night for the darkness.
But the screen was intact, and in fact it was drilled into the wall from the inside. The only way someone could remove it from outside was by breaking through it first.
The note and the blood were inside. Beyond the screen. So someone had placed the note there from inside his room, not outside. His brother? Hell no. Those jokes weren’t like him.
But he found himself positively creeped out now.
Nevertheless, he had no classes today, and enjoyed showing Avery around the campus. She seemed happy as the morning and afternoon wore on, but when the sun crossed the halfway point in the sky, she kept glancing up at it, slowly growing more and more nervous.
Cam kept asking if she was okay, which almost seemed to startle her. But she assured him she just didn’t like the dark. He laughed, telling her that it was barely past one o’clock, but she seemed deeply troubled.
Cam realized it wasn’t that funny, and stopped laughing.
Just before the sun set, when they were in the library talking, still getting to know each other, Avery’s voice dropped some. She started talking a little mysteriously. Cam couldn’t quite understand the change.
Suddenly, with worried eyes, she stood up. “Come on,” she whispered. She closed her eyes tightly for a moment, then turned around and started to walk toward the nearest exit.
“Avery?” Cam called, confused. “Are you okay?”
“Come on!” she urged, beckoning desperately. “I don’t have much time, I shouldn’t have waited—” She disappeared through the exit. Cam followed, eager to keep up with her, but kind of freaked out.
At first, when he stepped outside, he didn’t see her. The sun was fading quickly. “Avery!” he called, confused.
Finally, he spotted her, just a dark shape by the trees lining the edge of the field next to the library. She waved to him and backed into the trees. Confused, he ran to her.
She was facing away, but she turned toward him. “Cam,” she croaked tearfully. He stared back at her in horror. “You didn’t see it before.”
Her eyes were running again, but it wasn’t makeup. She was crying dark tears.
She was crying blood.
Her face slowly turned paler as the seconds ticked by, and her skin seemed to shine. “Cam,” she whispered, sounding so weak, so broken.
“Avery!” he stuttered. “What happened to you? You were fine, just thirty seconds ago—” He gestured halfheartedly back to the library.
Avery slowly approached him and laid a hand on his arm. It felt wet and sticky. Looking down, he could see her fingers softly stroking down his skin, leaving trails of dark red behind.
It was so thin he couldn’t see the red, but apparently the stuff on her skin was blood, too. She seemed to be bleeding all over, out of every pore.
Her hair. It was matted down. It looked almost—
“You’re the one I saw back at the club a couple nights ago!” he cried. “The Crow Club, out by—”
“I know,” she whispered.
“Avery, what are you?” he continued, talking quickly, terrified. “A demon or something? What does all this mean?” His head was spinning.
“You could never understand,” she whispered sadly.
“What happened to you? I can help—”
“I’m too far gone. The new moon shows who I truly am. Even during the day, I still have to wear makeup to look like I’m still human.” The wings slowly rose up behind her. Thin and soaked with blood, with ratty, shriveled feathers here and there, they slowly rose and wrapped around Cam, holding him close to her.
“What did this to you?” Cam cried weakly.
But Avery shook her head. “I’d rather not say that, Cam. There’s werewolves, vampires, demons, warlocks, even the devil himself, all the things people know about. But I’m something different entirely. I was like you once, but something changed me into this. If I told you what I was, you’d lose your mind. You could never understand,” she repeated sadly, shaking her head at his stuttering protests.
“I’m sorry, Cam,” Avery whimpered. The bloody tears ran freshly down her face. She began to sob. “I would have this any other way. But I don’t have a choice anymore.”
Cam’s stomach turned ice-cold with the fear of the unknown. “Have what any other way?”
Avery’s face crumpled, and she laid her head on his shoulder, sobbing into his neck. “I’m so sorry.”
“I don’t understand,” he said weakly, feeling the warm blood from her body drip all over him as she embraced him in her arms and wings.
He felt her squeeze his hand. “It doesn’t take long,” she whispered, her voice quivering. “It doesn’t, it…oh, god, I just need to get it over with. I’m so sorry for this.” Avery let go of him and stepped back, moving to his side. One of her droopy, bloody wings remained behind his back, and the other one now faced him from the front. The tip of the wing, a scrawny sharp stem, faced his chest. Avery reached forward and gently lifted Cam’s shirt with both hands, pulling it up over his head.
“Hey!” he protested, turning to face her. But she moved with him, staying at his side. His shirt fell to the ground in front of him. Her wings still faced him in that odd manner; one behind him, and one pointing at his chest. That one slowly began to inch toward him. Avery’s hands held Cam gently by the stomach and lower back, as if steadying him.
Cam tried to jerk back, but Avery’s grip, even though it was soft, held him effortlessly in place. The wing tip poked his chest, pressing against it. “Whatever you’re thinking—augh!” he blurted as the wing tip broke the skin of his chest and entered him.
Immediately he froze. Agony ripped through him as the wing tip gently wiggled and worked deeper into him. He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t cry. He couldn’t scream. He felt the wing tip stab his heart, felt it twist and wiggle gently in the wound it had created, felt the sticky, ratty feathers softly scratching him from the inside as they entered him and shifted about.
He tried to bawl. Tried to pull away. But he was paralyzed in his standing position with his head turned toward her. Avery’s eyes had closed, and she was shaking. Her face revealed the worst of pain, emotionally greater than the physical hell roaring through his chest, and he knew she wished with everything she had that she could stop this torture and let him go.
What the f██ was she? Why did she have to do this?
“Doesn’t take long…doesn’t take long…doesn’t take long…” she whispered over and over. “Oh god…oh god…I’m sorry…sorry…sorry…”
He couldn’t utter a sound even as her other wing poked gently at and then stabbed into his back. He felt it wiggle inside him, tangling itself around his innards. He couldn’t even whimper as the sharp ends of the wings stabbed at his organs, scratched them apart, squeezed and crushed them into tiny, shriveled bits.
“I’m sorry…so sorry…so sorry…” Her tears kept coming. Her voice was quiet sobs. She couldn’t look at what she was doing. “So, so sorry…”
If he could only ask why…
But that wasn’t an option.
The tips of the wings, like syringes, began sucking the blood from his body, sucking up the destroyed organs, which liquefied in the blood. He could still fully feel every sensation. He wasn’t dead yet.
She was still squeezing his hand, and he knew she understood.
He finally felt a tiny bit of relief as the wing tips began to pull out of him.The pain lessened. His vision blurred. His eyes began to close.
He slumped lifelessly in her arms. Avery gasped with fresh sobs as she cradled him against her body.
Every new moon. Always someone.
Always so unfair.
Die, Avery thought of herself. Just f██ing die. But she’d tried suicide numerous times. She was invincible. She had to keep going on. Had to do it every new moon.
The only thing worse for Cam than the torture he had felt would be knowing what she was and why she had to kill him like this.
Some things weren’t meant for the human mind to process. But then again, Avery’s own mind was still as human as she wished she had remained. All of this was pure cruelty.
She hugged Cam’s dead body to her, kissed his cheek, and looked up at the sky as fresh tears of blood ran. New blood. Cam’s blood.
She uttered an endless roaring howl of grief, of rage, at his agony, at his unfair, tortured death, at her existence.
Credit: Kroney-2 (William)