I couldn't believe my ears, but I knew damn well I had heard the creature's exact words! Before I could react it spoke again, "Mar-is-a.... please... end..."
It knew my name... and it was asking me to kill it!
My eyes fell to the rifle on the ground between us. Then I looked to him. His human/wolf shaped face was nothing like the old wolfman movies I watch with my father. Nor was it anything like the faces the more modern movie-makers have come up with. This face was literally moving and reshaping constantly as I stared at him. Only the wolf's eyes themselves never changed, and were watching me the whole time with that pleading look in them. I could see tears running out of those eyes, they were red just like Nathan's. It was those tears that got me.
Instead of reaching for the gun, I reached for the animal to pull him close. At first he tried to recoil, but then it seemed to realize that I was trying to do, and let me put my arms around it's huge neck.
You might think I was crazy for hugging such a creature, but how could I not. The poor thing was in agony. Trapped in a body that was not sure what shape it should be taking. It's mind filled with images and memories of another life, a human's life no less. A human who could shift his shape and become other creatures. Walking on four legs, or two, or six... wait, SIX?
Where the hell had that come from? Nathan never turned into anything with six legs. Now my own mind was becoming confused. I was seeing creatures now, things not of this world. Some reminded me of prehistoric beings I'd seen in books or documentaries, but were still quite different. I held up one of my hands and it was like I was looking at several different images all at once, each layered on top of the other. One of them almost looked like a pseudopod, while another had claws with seven fingers/toes.
What was happening to me... the answer suddenly hit me. The Sangui-Sapio! My tears, the wolf's tears, they were both running down my face. Just as the wolf had accidentally ingested some of Nathan's blood during that hunt, now some of that mixed blood had passed into my skin. The same thing had happened with Isabella all those years ago. When she had slowly been dying in her brother's arms, his tears had fallen onto her skin and been absorbed without his realizing it.
Now, I don't want to sound like a complete idiot here. Between what happened with Isabella, and that Cannibal Killer who bit Nathan a few years ago, I knew he could infect someone else pretty easily. But he never mentioned the memories.
Okay, technically he did. Many times in fact. He's always teasing that he has an eidetic memory, but because he's been around for over 150 years, there are a lot for him to sort through to find certain memories. But he never mentioned the 'other' memories. The ones that were not his. Mind you, I'm not talking about the one's I was getting from the wolf in my arms. There were other memories. Old ones, from other Para-Earths...
But I pushed them aside. Right then I only wanted to focus on the wolf's memories. We were connected now in a way I never dreamed possible with any creature, human or animal. The poor thing's anguish ran far deeper than I had first imagined. After having accidentally ingested some of the Sangui-Sapio, it had felt stronger, tired less easily. It had taken down a full moose by itself and the pack had eaten well. And of course with every kill there had been blood, more than enough to satisfy.
At first this all was fine, but then the nights started getting shorter and he had found the sun becoming uncomfortable and needed to stay in a den. Not that the pack really minded, they were more active at night mostly. But when the nights became shorter and the sun lasted longer and longer, he had had to dig a den and could barely come out unless they had eaten well the night before.
The pack had tried to stick by him after first, but with his inability to hunt as often they began to grow restless. The final straw though had come when he began to 'change' physically. It had happened while he had been sleeping. He had been dreaming, or actually remembering things that had not happened to it, but to another.... namely Nathan. There had been a fight, in a place with stones and death. It was standing on two legs, instead of four and... had awoken with a start hitting it's head on the ceiling of the den. Instinctively, it raised a paw only to find the toes of that paw had elongated. So had the leg attached to it.
Confused, it scurried awkwardly out of the den (which seemed much smaller than it had remembered) and into the clearing where most of the pack lay. The shock of seeing what had happened to their leader was too much. At first the pack growled, then caught his scent. Confused and frightened they bolted would not return. No matter how hard he tried to catch up with them, they kept running. Only his mate occasionally would stop and look. She even tried approaching him, but then his body would shift some more terrifying even her to the point that she fled.
Alone, and unable to hunt properly, the wolf had started following the smells of food wherever it could find some. Successfully killing sick or wounded prey to satisfy the need for blood. Eventually, it found prey caught in traps and would take from them, but then it began running afoul of humans.
They had always avoided people. People had long sticks that lit up with a loud noise. Occasionally, this was followed by pain and blood. He had lost prey and even some of his own pack to those noisy sticks. The creature now knew it was called a gun, but how it knew this was confusing. There were so many memories filling it's mind. So much confusion... and the dreams. Those terrible dreams! Places and creatures it had never seen or experienced, yet it could remember them.
But recently, while feasting on a trapped deer, a man had shown up and used his fired his gun. He had felt the piercing of the... bullet, rip through his side. Instinctively, it turned and ran, but on two legs instead of four. More shots were fired and several hit, but it managed to get away. When it was safe, the wolf had lay down in a cave. With no pack to feed to help keep it warm, it expected to die all alone and forsaken. But instead of death, the pain simply went away and the wounds healed.
"That's when you realized, you couldn't go on..." I murmured aloud, still holding the creature close. "No pack, all alone, and afraid that this painful existence might not ever end."
"Ma-ris-a..." it said once again, in that same broken manner as before. I understood now that it recognized me from Nathan's memories. As that thought passed through my mind, I realized I had Nathan's memories now as well. That startled me. Nathan's thoughts and feelings... were in me now as well. And I now knew him in ways I'd never dreamed of before.
Suddenly, the both the wolf and I gasped. Pain! Red-hot stabbing pain ripped through our chests. Unable to help ourselves we collapsed to the ground and rolled apart. The pain was beyond belief and the next thing I knew, everything went black.
TO BE CONTINUED...
(A thousand apologies for leaving you all on this much of a cliffhanger, but I promise not to keep you waiting long for the next installment - Yours Respectfully, Allan)