The Refuge - Chapter One

The Refuge - Chapter One

A Chapter by Faeshifter

I was weary rather than worried when I finally reached Mona’s. I could blame the frantic traffic for the rapid cooling sweat at my pits and down my spine. Leaving the Golf beached half on the kerb I trekked back to Mona’s front door. It was worthy of congratulations that I’d managed to find the house at all. My stepsister had forcibly downsized since her divorce two years ago and this was my first visit.

A family crisis had been a trump card for getting out of clean up duties at home. The party that had strewn across three floors of near derelict house had left a tidal wave of dross in its wake. I blamed that same party on the throbbing in my head. My fingers automatically tapped the sunglasses pushed into my hair. They would seem an affectation in Suburban Watford; a street lined with overgrown 4x4’s and neatly trimmed hedges but no more so than my regulation black combats and thickly drawn eyeliner. Laughably I was wearing what I termed as my camouflage.

The generic UPVC door opened half way, I could see Mona’s distorted outline through the faux stained glass panels. I almost fell into the house; my feet refusing to leave the doorstep in a bid to cling onto my irritation. Until I entered I could hold onto my cosy warm annoyance with Mona, it was a familiar friendly place to find myself. Six AM panic-stricken phone calls and A12 dashes were not familiar, well at least not for my family. Mona had navigated a marriage, divorce and the birth of two children without needing my presence. Whatever it was that was going on I wouldn’t be able to pretend it was only a bad hair day once I stepped inside her house.

Mona was having a bad hair day. She was having a bad hair day of epic proportions. As she pressed the door closed behind me I had to hold on to the wall for support at the sight of her.

Her long blonde hair hung in tangled ropes framing her semolina complexion. Every line on her face was etched in sharp relief. Deep hollows beneath her eyes seemed to be drawn in purple crayon; I had to squint just to see that they weren’t actual bruises.

My mind raced through the possibilities. Discarding the more fantastical ones. This was Mona. She was the ice queen second only to my mother in being impervious to the real world. Since I would be the last person on her ‘in case of emergency’ list I had to disregard a lot of options. The house was too quiet; the girls weren’t home. If the emergency were connected to them I would have heard about it via my mother at a later date.

The stunned silence drew out into tangible awkwardness. Had this been anyone else I would have thought to comfort them. I didn’t know how to soothe Mona. I tapped my shades, reassured that they were still tucked into my hair. I turned my head away from Mona at the sound of a soft whine from the end of the hall. A furred black muzzle poked out behind the door and then edged back out of view. Mona had two dogs. I frowned, taking a single step towards the cowering creature. Dogs never failed to bound up to me. I wasn’t great with people but dogs just loved me.

“What’s going on Mona?” Panic made my tone sharper than intended. It jerked Mona from her lethargy, her eyes shot to mine and then dropped to the floor.

“I didn’t know who else to call.” She murmured. Drawing the edges of her dressing gown more tightly together she struggled to take a deep breath. Whatever her intention it didn’t fortify her for she let it out with a shuddering sob. “He turned me.”

Mona blindly grabbed my forearm. Long manicured nails bit into my skin, twisting at they curled around the muscles making me gasp. My mind was trying to untangle her words as my hand grappled to unhook her hold on me. As I unlatched one hand the other gripped me like I was a lifeline.

“Mona!”

She blinked glassy eyes at me. “You don’t understand, I can’t do this Sassy. I can’t. He turned me. I can’t.” Mona shook her head in wordless frustration at my incomprehension.

I couldn’t translate her words when she was leaning into me like that. Her face inches from my own. Her stale breath rushing over my skin. My throat contracted with the effort of holding my own breath. My fingers itched to touch the shades in my hair but I couldn’t yank my hands free from her grasp. Hot awareness spread like fire across my back and up my neck. It was too early in the day for this, I hadn’t eaten, had my run. I turned my eyes to ceiling in a bid to calm the racing of my heartbeat, away from the woman who was not my stepsister today.

“Look at me!” Mona shrieked.

I flinched back from her but had nowhere to go. The dogs whined from the kitchen. I agreed with the sentiment. I wanted to make a noise very similar to that myself. With a growl of frustration Mona pushed back from me. I took advantage of the distance and drew in some much needed breath.

I let out all that air in a ragged gasp. Mona had twisted away from me. Turning her back to me she dropped the edges of her dressing gown. Her back was a mass of blackened etchings. For a moment I couldn’t see what it was. It was like someone had run their fingers through soft dry sand. Only this wasn’t sand this was skin. Someone had run their fingers along the length of my stepsisters back. Eight tracks followed the contour of her body from her shoulder blades disappearing into the folds of the dressing gown. It couldn’t have been fingers though because the tracks were thickly scabbed with dark black blood. The edges ragged, peeling away from the creamy perfect skin between.

I swallowed dryly. Rolled my tongue to try and wet my mouth. The hair on my arms was standing upright. I dragged my shades down to my nose. Only when they were firmly in place did I breathe again.

Breathing helped. It helped calm the curdling panic in the pit of my stomach. It edged my pulse to an almost normal rhythm.

“You were attacked by a werewolf?” My tone was as incredulous as if I’d asked if she was on drugs.

“Lion.”

Mona issued the correction dully as she pulled up the gown and drew it tightly around herself once more. With the disclosure made she seemed to shrink back into herself. Hunching her shoulders she turned and hobbled away to the kitchen. My mouth moved forming words but unable to speak. How? Who? Why? When?

I stood speechless watching Mona’s slow, tentative progress along the narrow hallway. It looked like she might shatter at any moment. As she entered the kitchen the dogs skittered around her and cringed towards me. Their tails wagged a beaten tattoo. Patting them seemed to clear my head a little.

With a final pat on their overfed bellies I followed Mona into the kitchen. The kettle boiled loudly in the corner of the room, two mugs sat before it.

“How?” I finally asked as I flopped down on to a straight-backed chair. I simply didn’t know where to start this conversation and had little enough connection with Mona to help with the navigation.

The room was dim. The blind above the sink was still drawn against the daylight. The kitchen was littered with mugs and discarded spoons. The counter dusted with coffee granules, some of which were congealed amongst splashes of spilt milk. It was most un-Mona-like.

“Friday night.” I had to crane forward to hear Mona’s mumbled explanation. She had her back to me, the collar of her dressing folded in on itself from her hasty attempt to recover herself. “We were… I had… In bed. When we were in bed.”

“You had sex with a werelion?” I might as well have been asking if she’d streaked across Everton football pitch or said the f-word in front of the pope. Even my crowd didn’t seek out sex with werelions and there wasn’t much they wouldn’t do for thrills.

“I didn’t know he was a werelion.” The irritation made her sound much more like my stepsister.

“I didn’t even know you had sex.” I spluttered. I waved my hands at her incredulous expression. It was a relief to witness the return of Mona’s censure. “Okay so the two children might have been a clue.”

The exchange of petty irritations set me onto more comfortable ground. The woman now slamming sweet milky coffee before me on the table was my stepsister. I hadn’t recognised the woman in the hallway who had ripped the air from my lungs and gouged my arms. Mona I could deal with. Mostly.

“You look ridiculous with those things on.” She snapped at me indicating my sunglasses.

“Habit.” I pushed them back up into my hair. Technically Mona knew the worst about me; I shouldn’t need to hide around her. Their absence made me feel unbelievably vulnerable in Mona’s modern kitchen. “Why did you call me?”

“Who else could I call about this?” She jerked her head to indicate the scratches along her back. “Mum?” her laugh was hollow and humourless.

“She raised me.” I didn’t think that Sybil was such a bad choice, for Mona at least. My mother actually liked Mona.  I shook my head to clear it. “Mona you’re going to be a werelion. Are a werelion.” I corrected. I should be more afraid of her. For her. If I was a nicer person I’d have been worried for her. For that matter if she’d been a nicer person I might have worried for her.

She shook her head, the rat-tail hair swung limply about her hunched shoulders. She looked at me like I was being silly.

“No. I can’t do this. I don’t have… I just won’t.”

“What you don’t have time to fit it into your schedule?” I barked with outrageous laughter. Only my stepsister could look at this and work out how to fit it into her diary. “This isn’t a case of drop kids off at eight forty five, one to two fifteen change into Werelion. Pick up dry cleaning on way to school.”

Mona laid her hands flat on the clean wooden tabletop. She’d barely risen to eye level with me and I was wondering how fast Lycanthropy kicked in. Was she dangerous already? Was she stronger, faster? She did that sucking up the air trick once more. Like it had thickened within the room and I had to struggle to suck it in. My chest burned from the effort.

“Don’t do this Sassy.” She growled at me. An actual real life growl came from the throat of my middle class stepsister. “Don’t piss about now. You’ve got…” She waved her hand about wildly as if trying to pick a word from the air between us. “Powers. Use them.”

I was busy talking myself down from my panic attack. My chest was going up and down, I figured it must only feel like I couldn’t breathe. So the cold sweat running down my spine and into my waistband was only a figment of my imagination. Her words hit me like a slap. Figment be damned it felt like a pretty real slap to me.

I rose to my feet. The air seemed thinner. I gulped in a blessed lungful and focused on her words.

“Prissy step-b***h of mi-on you will no longer be a lion.” I wriggled my nose Samantha style. Temper helped close the door on my magic. All of my inner alarm bells were ringing with the panic Mona was stirring up. I hadn’t been this close to losing it in nearly ten years. With an imagined foot against that figurative inner door I looked at Mona. Actually looked at her.

She had two years on me. She’d always been taller but once again she was thinner too. I spent seven long years growing up under her mighty shadow. Tall, thin, and terminally girly; she was everything my mother could have wished for in a child. She looked for a moment like she could have kissed me. Then she realised.

“That was bullshit wasn’t it.”

“It was.”

“Get out.” Her words were conversational. No melodrama or hysterics, no hand to the forehead. “Just leave.”

I was already kicking myself for not obeying. “You can’t just tell me this and send me away.”

“You can’t help me.”

“Nobody can take this away.”

“Then go.”

Mona collected up the untouched cups and carried them to the row of untouched cups by the sink.

“You’re going to change next full moon.” Saying it aloud made it suddenly possible.

“It would seem so.”

“The girls.” My nieces were the only good thing in my family. They were the only reason I attended the gatherings; that and the last thread of duty that I possessed.

“I won’t lose them.” Mona was growling again.

“Then we’d better work out exactly how to stop you eating them.” I snapped.



© 2010 Faeshifter


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I loved this chapter! I agree with Taylor and Paris France! This was amazing

Posted 9 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I think this is a very good start. I didn't see a single mistake in this. I agree with Paris France :) I wish I could say more but I did really enjoy this

Posted 9 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Well, an interesting start. I know that’s a generic statement, especially when “Interesting” can be a code word for, “Well this is different…” Which, I must say, is exactly what this chapter is. Different. But in a good way. I have read several paranormal/ fantasy books, and yet have never come across such a dramatic and unique opening chapter. I have never heard of a ‘Werelion’ but it is a welcome and creative change from the stereotypical werewolf.
That being said, I think you have the beginning to a good story. Something quite unlike those same genera novels already out there. However, I had a bit a conflict with your style. I enjoyed it. I am glad to encounter a fellow author in our modern-day that actually inserts plausible vocabulary into their writing. But I felt your writing style didn’t quite fit the time period or the setting in this chapter.

2)The exchange of petty irritations set me onto more comfortable ground…

1) Whatever her intention it didn’t fortify her for she let it out with a shuddering sob…

Although these sentences (and many more) are very, very well written, I couldn’t help think the chapter was set in 19th centaury England instead of modern day. This however, is just my opinion! You are still a very gifted author! : )

Also, I found certain words that were misspelled throughout:
Cosy (cozy)
Kerb (curb)
Realised (realized)
But really, no bit deal.
All in all, I enjoyed reading this and looking forward to seeing maybe a little more development in the main character, Samantha.
Well done, my friend!
God bless : )

Posted 11 Years Ago


I love this! Its really well written and has a lot if detail.

Posted 11 Years Ago


I enjoyed this very much, it is definitely a piece I could find myself getting sucked into. I applaud you on your alteration of the overused werewolf style, it's not that easy, which is odd considering lycanthropy is hardly used by else outside of, well, wolves. I'm interested to see where this will go =)

Posted 11 Years Ago


You have come up with a VERY interesting twist on what had become a much over tapped genre. This makes it supremely interesting. I could find absolutely no technical flaws and your style is "HD descriptive". You had said something about describing facial expressions and actions as part of dialogue when you reviewed my story.I was actually unclear as to what you meant until I read this.

These Werelions are new creatures to most of us, and I for one and very interested in their traits and characteristics. Already we know that their children are unsafe in their presence ... at least when they are transformed.

You are really quite a gifted writer and I am certain that if you persevere, you will be wildly successful.

Posted 11 Years Ago


Interesting start! It reminds me of the Anita Blake series in tone. Couple of minor corrections: curb instead of kerb, a couple of unexplained acronyms, but they could be for later. I know when I cc/paste from word to the interface on writerscafe, punctuation gets messed up. But i will keep reading for sure.

Posted 11 Years Ago



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Added on October 9, 2010
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Author

Faeshifter
Faeshifter

Colchester, England, United Kingdom



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Hi, I want to tell stories that people never even knew they wanted to hear and I want to tell them well. Don't tell me I'm amazing because I'm not, yet. In return for an honest critique I will read .. more..

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