The "Red Fang" story will continue next weekend as things start to get a little "hairy" for Nathan and Marisa. So stay safe and have fun everybody!
The "Red Fang" story will continue next weekend as things start to get a little "hairy" for Nathan and Marisa. So stay safe and have fun everybody!
After a five-hour drive to Columbus Ohio, and now coming to the end of a 12+ hour flight, I’ll be touching down in Fairbanks very shortly. Isabella tried getting Otto to come with me, but I pointed out that this was more of a solo trip. As knowledgeable and talented as Otto is, I’m the one who has more of a direct connection to the wolf. The recent dreams have proven this to me, and even this high up, I think I can feel the gap between me and the errant Sangui-Sapio shrinking. Or maybe it’s just wishful thinking. I’ll know for sure once we touch down.
The flight crew are asking us to shut down our electronics. I’ll take this up once I’m back on the ground.
Three hours later…
Okay, so much for my ‘solo’ mission. Apparently, Isabella has been acting as the eyes and ears for Lisa and Marisa without my knowledge. How did I find out? Well, coming off the plane and finding Marisa at the gate holding up a sign that says, “Congratulations on your sex change, Sis… er Bro!”, which included a photo of me in my ‘Nadine’ persona, was a huge hint. You see, I’ve only ever let Isabella take photos of me in that form, so I knew it had to have been her doing.
I was tempted to walk in the opposite direction, only I had this horrible image of Marisa running after me yelling, “So? How’s the new plumbing working out?” I know how tenacious she can be. So instead, I simply walked right up to her and said quietly, “Thanks for going the sibling route, instead of something like, ‘Congratulations on the sex change, Honey. When do I get to try out your new equipment?’.”
She laughed and said, “Ooo… I’m saving that for next time.”
“Me and my big mouth,” I murmured as we headed for the baggage area. “So, how did you land all the way up here. I thought you were riding the rails with our Karneval Schatten friends?”
Karneval Schatten, as the name implies, is a traveling carnival made up of people and beings from various Para-Earths who at one point or another found themselves stranded in this world. By traveling and presenting themselves as performers, they’re able to hide their ‘strangeness’ from the folks of this world. And like Otto and me, they seek out incursions from other Para-Earths and try to return any creatures/beings land up here. If they cannot return the ‘visitor’ to their reality, they will add them to their ranks if possible. However, in cases where the intruder is hostile or more dangerous, they will contact me or Otto to help contain the being.
They travel by an unusual train which can actually travel through various Para-Earths and reappear in this world at a variety of select locations that act as beacons for them. Just don’t ask me for the mechanics of how the train does it because I have no idea. Nor do my carnival friends to be honest. They ‘borrowed’ it from another Para-Earth traveler, who had been gathering and imprisoning them (and eventually me) for purposes I’d rather not go into right now.
Damn, just thinking about that day still makes me shudder. I swear if it hadn’t been for Brandon Elliott, and his grandson Peter, God only knows what might have happened to us and this world.
The rest of my reverie was interrupted by Marisa.
“Once I heard you were coming here, I asked them to drop me off,” she explained, brushing a stray blonde hair out of her face and back into the hood of her parka. “I was ready to head home anyway and figured I could catch a lift back with you after we find your… friend.”
I halted in mid-step and frowned at her. “My sister sent you the article too?”
“No, I found it,” she laughed, “Who do you think sent it to her the others in the first place?”
Eying her curiously I asked, “So, you’ve been keeping an eye out for possible ‘incursions’?”
She nodded. “Incursions, strange phenomenon, sightings… after all I need material for my children and Young Adult ‘fantasy’ books don’t I?” Then she bumped me with her hip saying, “Unlike some people, I don’t have over a century and a half of life experience to draw upon.”
“Touche’,” I conceded. “When are you going to finally try releasing one of them?”
“I want to have a good number of them completed in case I hit a dry spell so I can keep releasing stories in a timely manner. That way the audience doesn’t wind up getting frustrated that it’s taking so long between books,” she replied as we started walking towards the baggage area again.
“Five, but I want eight at least before I start publishing.”
“Eight?” I frowned as we reached the baggage carousel. “Why so many?”
“That way I can safely put out two per year with plenty of room for travel or…” she paused to snatch my bag which had just appeared on the conveyor belt, “Life getting in the way for a good four years.”
I had to admit she had a point. I often wished I still had a few books set and ready to go some days. But ever since I moved back to the family mansion, I’ve had a number of distractions (which included her and Lisa) to deal with. And this ‘werewolf’ business was only the latest.
As we made our way out the doors of the terminal I could see how much snow had fallen recently. Marisa must’ve noticed it too and promptly huddled closer to me as we walked through the parking lot. Since she is almost as tall as me meant she could rest her head on my shoulder, and promptly did so.
“You didn’t by chance rent a car, did you?” I asked.
She shook her head. “I caught a taxi and came right here. Besides, I wasn’t sure if we’d need a car, skis, or a snowmobile.” Here she paused and looked at me, “Then again, we could just rent a dogsled and tie you to the front. You’re so strong we wouldn’t need a full dog team.”
“You just want an excuse to get a leash on me,” I blurted and instantly regretted it.
“Well now that you’ve brought it up…” she began.
“Uh-oh,” I muttered, looking up. “It’s starting to snow again.”
Marisa frowned, “So? I thought you loved the snow?”
“I do, but with it falling that means no moon or Northern Lights to help us find my ‘friend’ as you call him,” I explained and looked around. I blew out a breath. “I’ll have to reach out mentally to try and get an idea…”
“FOUND HIM!” Marisa cut in and pointed.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Otto raised one bushy eyebrow and asked, “Nathan, what did you do? Come clean, now.”
“I got hurt during a hunt,” I replied distractedly, as I pulled up a new tab on the computer and began searching for the nearest flight to Alaska. There was one leaving that evening from Columbus, Ohio. I could easily make it if I started getting ready right away. Booking a seat on the plane, I got up and began making for the door only to find both Otto and Isabella blocking me.
“You do know I can easily mist past the two of you,” I pointed out.
“Are you so sure?” asked Otto, pulling out an oversized fireplace bellow. It took me a moment to realize the bellow he was holding was the one I kept next to the fireplace. As usual, I never heard or saw him grab it. He’s a sly one, let me tell you.
Knowing the clock was ticking for me to get to Ohio I told them, “Fine, follow me upstairs and I’ll explain while I pack.”
That got them to let me pass, and the three of us headed upstairs. I told them all about my visit with my friends in Fairbanks and how I’d headed for the Boreal Forest after leaving them.
As we reached my bedroom Isabella headed straight for my closet and pulled out a couple of suitcases, one of which was almost as big as her. Not that she had any trouble handling it. Since I accidentally infected her my Sangui-Sapio (a story for another day), she has the same strength, speed, and weaknesses I possess. And although she has the body of a child, unlike me she has been growing at the normal rate of any 12-year-old girl. Though I suspect, that like me, this will slow down considerably once she reaches adulthood.
In the meantime, Otto urged me to continue my tale and I complied.
Since they already know about my tendency to ‘go native’ when I’m up in Alaska, I was able to gloss over that part quickly. Finally, I got to the part about meeting up with the pack of wolves, and how I’d won their confidence with my mist trick.
“Since the hours of night are so long at that time of the year, I wound up staying with them almost a week,” I explained. “Since we were making kills pretty regularly, there was plenty of blood to keep me sated. Plus, it was pretty cloudy at the time, and we were keeping under the tree canopy a lot, which made things even easier for me to stay in wolf form.”
“Sounds like you were having a lovely time,” Otto nodded pleasantly, as he sat on my smiling. “So, when are we going to get to the ‘Oops’ part of your story?”
I stood there holding a stack of underwear in my hands, and just stared at him. “What makes you think there’s an ‘Oops’ part coming?”
“Because it’s clear from your reaction to the article that you suspect you accidentally infected one of those wolves with your Sangui-Sapio companion,” he answered calmly.
“Psychology?” I asked.
Otto shook his head. “No, I simply recognized that look you get whenever you’ve goofed something up,” he teased, then his expression became serious. “So how did it happen? You’re usually very careful about not ‘sharing’ your gifts.” His eyes darted to Isabella ever-so-briefly before looking at me again.
As I mentioned before, infecting my sister had been an accident. It had happened back in 1863, shortly after the Sangui-Sapio and I had formed our bond. I hadn’t learned about the mistake until decades later, mistaking her for a ghost at first.
“And how did he take it?” Otto inquired.
“He wasn’t exactly thrilled about me, but he knew I was effective in helping bring down prey so he tolerated my presence. But during that last hunt, errors were made. He wanted us to go after one of the younger bison. Unfortunately, I could tell already that the herd was keeping a very good defensive ring around their young. No matter how much the pack harried them, they wouldn’t break rank. That is, except for one older bull who at that point was wide open.”
As usual Otto was already ahead of me, saying, “Let me guess, our young alpha saw this as an opportunity to firmly establish himself as leader. Am I correct?”
I nodded. “Oh yeah. Mind you he was a good hunter, but I could see he was going to be seriously outmatched.”
“So, you jumped in to try and help him?” my sister asked.
“You called your blood back?” Isabella repeated with a frown.
“Whenever I bleed, either me or Sangui-Sapio can call the blood I spilled back into me through the skin. Unless something prevents it from reaching me, like being ingested for instance,” I explained.
“Like the Cannibal Killer you fought three years ago?” Isabella continued.
I nodded. That guy had lived up to his name and had taken a bite out of me, along with a chunk of the Sangui-Sapio. He’d been injured in our fight before he bit me. And since the Sangui-Sapio’s first instinct is to preserve life, it went to work pretty quickly on him, making the guy nearly as strong and hard to stop as me.
As if reading my thoughts Otto spoke again. “If this is indeed the case with the wolf, why is the creature taking a humanoid shape? From what you’ve told me in the past, the Sangui-Sapio normally just adapts to its new host’s form. It only tries to shapeshift the body briefly, in or to protect or help the new host. Otherwise, the host appears to be normal. Yet, according to the article, the creature seems to have taken on a humanoid shape and was having rough time of it. Now, why would a wolf do that?”
Once more I thought back to the dream. In it, I was having trouble keeping my wolf form. “I don’t know,” I replied, finishing up my packing. “Which is why I have to get up there as quickly as possible, before that poor creature accidentally winds up infecting another animal or even a person.”
TO BE CONTINUED...
Upon entering the study, I saw that they were all gathered around the computer on the big desk where I work on my novels. There are two computer monitors, which makes it easier for me to do research on one while I work on my story on the other. At this point though they had the story on only one screen and their heads were all in the way, so I couldn’t see what they were looking at.
As I strained to look over their heads, Penny suddenly said, “You’re up early, Nathan.”
I did a doubletake. She hadn’t even turned around to look at me. And I know I didn’t cast a reflection on either monitor. I swear the woman has developed some kind of “Mom Radar” ever since she gave birth to her son Richie Jr. four years ago.
Then again it may just be a survival tactic she developed growing up in Detroit. She doesn’t like to talk about her childhood. But one time she did tell me you needed to have eyes all over your head to survive not only the neighborhood, but the apartment building you lived in too.
Before I could respond to Penny’s observation Isabella spoke up again. “Lisa’s visiting some museums over in Charleston for one the college classes she’s taking, and Marisa’s travelling with our carnival friends. He doesn’t have any reason to be tired enough to stay in bed.”
At that point Otto looked at me and waggled his bushy eyebrows at me saying, “You poor boy.”
“An American Werewolf in Alaska?” I read aloud incredulously.
“I know,” cried Penny turning to me. “Alaska has been part of the United States for decades, so of course any werewolf that turns up there is going to be American."
“I would have gone with ‘Red Fang’ myself,” added Otto.
I stared blankly at him for a moment, which earned me an eyeroll from my oldest friend.
“What?” I cried, wondering what I’d done this time.
Richard came to my aid. “He’s making a joke off of the title ‘White Fang’. You know, the novel by Jack London that takes place in Alaska?”
“Never mind, Richard,” Otto told him, “Apparently, he doesn’t read modern books.”
“Modern!” I exclaimed, “That was written in 1906. If that’s modern, what do you consider ‘classic’?”
“The Dead Sea Scrolls, anything you were able to check out of the Library of Alexandria…,” I supplied helpfully.
“I wish,” he sighed.
Laughing I excused myself and went to get some coffee. Otto is way older than me, yet in spite of our being friends for the last 120+ years, I still don't know exactly how old he really is. Oh, he claims he's given me plenty of hints over time (which I know he has), it's just... I have a problem with numbers. It's called Dyscalculia, which is a kind of dyslexia only with numbers instead of letters, which throws my calculations off whenever I'm doing math. I barely passed my classes at the universities, which made me kind of blase when it comes to doing casual math problems, outside of research or for a class.
Heading back to the study, I found only Otto and Isabella were still there. “Where’d Penny and Richard go?” I asked.
“To wake Little Richie up from his afternoon nap,” Isabella answered, then turned back to Otto asking, “If the creature is real, do you think it might be another Para-Earth incursion?”
“It’s possible, but none of my calculations predicted an opening taking place in that area recently,” he replied.
This piqued my curiosity and I slid into one of the chairs vacated by Penny and Richard, in order to check out the article. There were a few photos, but since they were taken at night, so the lighting was not great.
Heck, I’ve seen photos of Bigfoot (which never do him justice, FYI) that were more recognizable. And that includes the fuzzy grainy shots like this one.
Turning to my old friend I asked, “Otto? What did you mean when you said you’d have called this article ‘Red Fang’?”
“Well, if you read the article, you'll find out,” he replied curiously.
Obediently, I did as he instructed. The description of the creature varied somewhat from witness to witness. However, they all agreed it looked humanoid with tufts of hair on its back and misshapen limbs. According to those who got a better look at it, one or more of the creature’s limbs was longer than the rest, which made it hard for the thing to get around. Perhaps that was why it seemed to vary running on two limbs and then all four. However it was only towards the end of the article that two people described the creature’s coloring not as reddish, but red. Almost blood red, to be specific. Looking back to the title of the article, I saw that the encounter had taken place on the outskirts of Fairbanks.
I suddenly found myself thinking back to the dream, and now an uneasy feeling was sweeping over me.
As if knowing my thoughts, Otto observed casually, “Of course, the creature could have made a kill and was simply covered in the blood of its victim.”
I shook my head. A century and a half on this, and a number of Para-Earths, has taught me that if something seems ‘sus’, then it probably is.
Just then Isabella said, “The article said this wasn't the first sighting of the creature. There have been reports of a red wolf type of creature being spotted as far back as April. You were in Alaska back in January? Did you see the creature while you were there?”
At that moment I remembered a particular incident that had happened during my visit. “I think, I might have…” I replied.
TO BE CONTINUED...
I’ll sometimes wake up to find my little sister Isabella curled up next to me. She has her own room and bed of course. When mom and dad were still alive (back in the 1860s) she used to sleep with them on cold nights or when she was feeling poorly (which was fairly often after her bout with Scarlet Fever) in their room, which is now mine. And of course, since we’re the only actual family each other has these days, I don’t mind having her with me on those nights when she’s missing them. I can’t blame her. Even after one hundred and sixty years wandering this Earth, I still miss them myself. So having her share my bed once in a while can be a great comfort for both of us.
Anyway, from the looks of my sheets and blankets, it’s a good thing she hadn't joined me. Oh, they weren’t torn or anything, they were just all over the place, as if I’d had a very restless sleep. Mind you, I felt well rested. Which is surprising since I did have some rather active dreams. I was back in Alaska, out on the tundra with the stars and the northern lights above, and a pack of wolves all around me.
This is nothing unusual. Whenever I go up there, I usually head for the woods and take one of my animal forms and roam the land. It’s one of the few times I can just let loose with my powers and experience nature in ways no human being can really appreciate. I enjoy the enhanced senses of my nature forms and experiencing the world as they do.
And one of those forms I take is that of a wolf. Whenever I take this form, I like to seek out a pack to run with. When I find one, I’ll use of the greenish mist I can exude and allow them to ‘breathe me in’ so to speak. Once they do, I have access to their minds to a degree and can ease any misgivings they have of my presence and can even get them to let me join them for a few nights. We’ll huddle together, roam, and even hunt.
Now, in addition to giving me my vampire-like abilities and needs, it also gave me incredible recall of all the things I’ve ever experienced in my life. People, places, events, you name it. I have perfect recall of all of it. Even little things I glimpsed ever-so-briefly, or heard in passing, I can remember as clear as day. But I don’t just have access to my own memories, I also have access to the Sangui-Sapio’s memories which includes those of the other creatures it had fused with before we met.
While this might sound as if my head should be pretty crowded, or that I might have a hard time holding onto my identity with all those memories, I don’t. I’m the most complex being the Sangui-Sapio has ever bonded with before, and I have such a sense of self that it isn’t a problem. Furthermore, my other half makes sure it doesn’t let itself or those other memories try to ‘take over’. Our relationship is very equitable.
However, I do sometimes get cravings to explore my… I guess you would call it, more primal side. Which is part of the reason why I head to places like Alaska, Norway, the Black Forest of Germany or any other place remote with woods and open spaces.
Last night I dreamed about being on a hunt with a pack of wolves I met earlier this year. I’d spent New Year’s Eve up in Fairbanks Alaska to welcome the new year with some old friends. On New Year’s Day I bid them goodbye and headed into the Boreal Forest where I could cut loose a bit. As I hoped, I eventually encountered a pack of wolves. After the usual sizing each other up and exuding my mist, we became quite close and I wound up spending an entire week with them. I was almost sorry to leave. Maybe that’s why I dreamed about them.
Anyway, in my dream we were on the hunt once more, but for some reason there was a nervous tension in the pack. And as much I hate to say it, this feeling seemed to be directed at me. There was no outright hostility, but I was noticing how some of the pack kept eyeing me or moving slightly away as we ran. Sadly, I couldn’t blame them. Even I could tell something was off about me, but before I could really figure out what it was, the scene changed. I found myself alone and on the outskirts of a town and being shot at by some of the townsfolk. I was still in wolf form at the time, which in and of itself was weird because I never go where there’s people when I’m shapeshifted. Yet it felt like I was having trouble keeping my form. I could feel my limbs stretching at times, throwing my balance off as I ran.
I kept calling out to the pack as I ran. I could sense they were nearby, yet none of them answered. Eventually, I finally spotted them way off in the distance, but I could tell they were not happy to see me. They weren’t exactly hostile, but they weren’t welcoming either. If anything, they seemed frightened and confused… then I woke up.
It’s weird. I’ve dreamt of the pack a few times in the last couple of months, which is something I’ve never done before.
With that thought in mind, I headed down the stairs with a little bounce in my step.
TO BE CONTINUED...