Cold Sweat

It was happening again. Cassandra woke up in her bed in a cold sweat, naked. She was soaking wet, her hair dripping. She smelled of the river. This wasn't the worst that had happened; sometimes she would wake up with blood on her hands and face. When that happened she threw her sheets in the trash and ran into the shower. There she would scrub her body until it was red and raw, crying.
What's happening to me? She wondered; Normal people don't wake up with their body smeared with blood, that metallic taste of it in their mouth, not knowing why.
But that wasn't all. There were the dreams. She had nightmares of vicious snarling, pale fur flying, screaming and blood. There was always the blood.
Cassandra thought she might be crazy. She knew that other people, like her adoptive parents, would think she was crazy, so she didn't tell anyone. Just disposed of the dirty sheets and tried to go on with life. Tried being the operative word. It was hard to act normal when just that morning you had been covered in blood.
Cassandra sighed and untangled her legs from the sheets, put her bathrobe on and made her way to the bathroom.
After her shower, she came to her room and flipped her CD player on, turning it to her favourite song.
"I don't want to understand this horror, there's a weight in your eyes, I can't admit..." came Raine Maida's unique voice singing 'Thief'. She loved music, Our Lady Peace especially.
Cassandra dressed slowly. I'm crazy, that's the only explanation, she thought.
"I can't see that thief that lives inside of your head..." Cassandra stopped the CD, cutting Raine off in mid-syllable. The last thing she needed to be hearing about was horrors and thieves in your head.
Cassandra could hear her parents talking downstairs. It was strange. She could always hear, see and smell better than anyone she knew. She didn't know why.
"I went to check on her last night and she wasn't there. I'm telling you, Ann, something's not right with that girl," her father, Mike, was saying. They were talking about her. She listened a little more closely.
"There's nothing wrong with Cass," Ann said sharply, "Maybe she was in the washroom."
Cassandra could picture Ann at the stove, cooking eggs, and Mike sitting at the kitchen table with his coffee. She decided she shouldn't listen anymore. She put the music back on. Loudly.
As Cassandra stood at her mirror, brushing her long, feathery, honey blond hair and applying makeup to her unusual amber coloured eyes, it occurred to her. She hadn't left the house at all last night. Why wasn't she in her bed when Mike came in? Maybe, like Ann said, she'd been in the bathroom. Maybe.
When she got downstairs, Mike gave her a weird look, but neither of her parents said anything.
"Hey, Cass. How about some breakfast?" Ann asked, her usual cheerful self. Cassandra shook her head and glanced at the paper sitting on the table. Front-page news on the Pine River Review was some murder. Something made her pick it up and look again.

Man Eaten Alive

By, Michael Walters

A man was found dead this morning of what looks like a vicious animal attack. The Chief of Police, Dennis Richards, told us "It looks like a big dog or wolf. Maybe it's the same one that has been killing animals all over town. What a wolf would be doing in Pine River, I don't know, but we will not rest until we've caught it and returned it to wherever it came from."
The body of Patrick McLean was discovered behind Andy's Sports Bar...

The article went on to describe the state of the body. Cassandra didn't get to read the rest of it. A sudden wave of dizziness washed over her. She dropped the paper.
"No! Please, stop!"
Rooowrrrrr...
Snarling. Blood. Fur. Screaming. NO!
"No!" Cassandra opened her eyes with a start. She was lying on the floor of her kitchen, Ann and Mike leaning over her.
"Cassie, honey, are you okay?" Ann asked anxiously, helping her to sit up. Cassandra put a hand to her head.
"Um, yeah. I'm fine, Ann. Thanks. I should be going now, I'm going to be late for school." Cassandra got up, and grabbed her backpack.
"Mike, maybe we shouldn't go on that trip..." Ann looked at him.
"No, Ann. Go, I'm fine. Really." Cass assured her. Ann and Mike were going away for four days, and they were leaving this afternoon. They'd been looking forward to it for months. Cassandra smiled at them, and, kissing Ann goodbye and waving to Mike, she hurried out the door.
"Cass! Cassandra, wait up!" Cassandra jumped a mile. It was Jeff, her boyfriend calling her. She turned.
"Jeez, somebody needs to switch to decaf," He said, grinning. He put his arm around her shoulders.
"Bad night," Cassandra said. Jeff nodded understandingly.
Jeff had longish black hair reaching almost to his shoulders and bright green eyes. He was tall and lanky. Cassandra was tall too, at 5'9". She was naturally very strong. They were both seventeen years old.
"So, what's up?" Cassandra asked, shrugging his arm from her shoulders. He looked at her strangely, letting his arm fall back to his side.
"The sky. Are you sure you're okay?" he asked.
"I'm fine," Cassandra snapped.
"I was just asking."
"Yeah. I'm sorry, I'm just kind of stressed."
"Uh huh. Um, Cassie," Jeff was fidgeting. Jeff never fidgeted.
"Yes?"
"I, um, I don't think this is working anymore."
"What? What's not working?"
"This. Us," Jeff was looking down at the ground. Cassandra stopped. She just stood and stared at Jeff, her eyes burning into him. Finally he glanced up at her.
"Why?" she asked.
"You've just been so... moody lately, always snapping at me and just trying to start a fight. I don't think you're happy either." Jeff looked at the ground again.
Cassandra felt tears filling her eyes, but she wouldn't let him see her cry, "Damn it, Jeff, why now?"
He shook his head, "I'm sorry, Cass. We can still be friends."
Friends? Friends? Cassandra gritted her teeth, "No, Jeff, I don't think so." Then Cassandra simply turned and continued on her way to school alone. She felt his eyes on her, but she refused to turn and look.
This was shaping up to be a great day.

When Cassandra arrived at school, the first person she ran into was her best friend, Sheena. Cass stopped when she saw her.
"Cass! How are ya?"
Cassandra burst into tears. Sheena raised her eyebrows.
"That good, eh? Come on, girl, lets get you to the washroom before your mascara runs all over that flawless face," Sheena said, putting her arm around Cassandra. Cass had to chuckle.
"It's waterproof," she said. Sheena grinned.
"That's my Cass; prepared for any situation."
When they arrived in the washroom, Sheena asked what was wrong. Cass told her about Jeff.
"Oh, that..." Sheena began. What followed was a rather... colourful description of Jeff that had Cass laughing after a minute.
"What does that mean?" she asked at one point. Sheena shrugged.
"I don't know. I just made it up. I thought it sounded good." Then she continued with the stream of insults. No one messed with Sheena Carrol's best friend.
"Stop!" Cass gasped, laughing, "I can't breathe!" Sheena's dark brown eyes sparkled.
Sheena was black. She had beautiful, long, thick, shiny black hair and wide brown eyes. She put her arm around Cassandra again and they walked back outside.
"So that's all he said? It just 'wasn't working anymore'? I can't believe him. You know he doesn't deserve you, Cassie..." Sheena was saying. She noticed Cass looking over her head, "What? What are you looking at?" she turned around.
"That guy. He's been staring at us since we came out," Cass said, "The one under the tree."
"Hm. I don't recognize him. He looks too old to be a student. A sub, maybe," Sheena shrugged, "Who cares, let him stare. He must be entranced by our stunning beauty."
Cassandra laughed, "Maybe. He's coming over."
The guy was tall. He had hazel eyes and short blond hair and he looked to be in his late twenties or early thirties.
"Hello ladies," he smiled at them. Cassandra nodded a greeting, not saying anything. She tended to be suspicious of people she didn't know.
"Excuse me, but you are Cassandra Ross, am I right?" he asked, looking at Cass. She nodded again.
"Who are you?" she asked.
"I'm Matthew Powers, or just Matt," he held out his hand to her. She didn't shake it, and he let it drop to his side again. Obviously thrown off a little, he continued, "May I speak to you alone, Cassandra?"
Cassandra glanced at Sheena, not answering. "It's important," Matt said.
"Go, Cass," Sheena gave her a quick hug, "I'll see you later." Matt started to lead Cass away.
"Bye, Sheena, and thanks for this morning," called Cassandra. Sheena just grinned and waved.
"Okay, who are you and what do you need to talk about that's so important?" Cassandra demanded, turning to the strange man. He let go of her hand and smiled.
"I am your cousin. I have been keeping track of you since you were adopted."
This caught Cass off guard. She didn't know anything about her birth parents or where she came from. Ann and Mike adopted her when she was thirteen, and before that she had just gone from foster home to foster home. She had vague memories of her real parents from when she was a baby, but really, everyone she'd known as a parent, she'd called by their first name.
"Cassandra, I need you to be honest with me. You have been having dreams? Waking up in a different, ah, state than when you went to sleep?"
Cassandra's eyes widened. She swallowed, "How do you know?" she whispered. He kept that infuriating smile on his face.
"I know because I know what you are. Most of our kind doesn't have to suffer as you do. You're not crazy, Cassandra. It is simply because you were brought up among humans with human beliefs. You cannot accept what you are, so your mind blocks it out."
"What am I?" she asked, almost afraid of the answer.
"You are like me. A shape shifter. A metamorph. A werewolf, if you want to use the human term for it," Matt answered. Cassandra closed her eyes for a moment. Then she burst out laughing.
"A werewolf? Excuse me, Mr. Powers, Matt, whatever, I have to get to class."
"You don't believe me."
"No, I don't believe you. A werewolf? I mean, come on. I don't know how you know about my dreams or what 'state' I wake up in, or why you're coming to me now, but I do know that werewolves do not exist. Therefore, I cannot be a werewolf, and neither can you." Cassandra started to walk away, when Matt called after her.
"You will not have peace until you accept it, Cassandra." She waved a hand and walked into the school.

Matt should have known it would be harder than just telling her. The girl was too far into denial. Any other her age would be enjoying the change every night, running on their long, strong legs, and hunting. Never humans, though. They must never kill a human. It wasn't that they were afraid of being caught. The humans would never catch a werewolf, but they would be able to tell from the body that it had been no normal wolf that killed it. The bites were too large, the claw marks spread too far apart. Werewolves were not really wolves, they were much larger, fully twice the size of the biggest arctic wolf. Their eyes glowed red with an intelligence that no natural animal possessed. They knew from experience that to be found out by humans would only lead to trouble. Besides all that, the killing of humans was forbidden by the Goddess long ago when the first of their kind was created.
He would keep working on Cassandra. She would come around. He only hoped she came around in time.

Cassandra was still chuckling when she arrived at class. Werewolves. Why not vampires, witches and goblins too?
Something was bothering Cass, though. Why did she get that strange feeling of dizziness, a feeling almost of remembrance, from this morning when Matt told her that? Cassandra felt a tiny flicker of doubt, but quickly extinguished it. Werewolves did not exist.

Walking home that afternoon, Jeff caught up with her.
"Cass? Come on, Cassie, talk to me," he pleaded. Cass just kept walking, staring straight ahead, "Cassie..."
Finally she turned to him, "Screw off, Jeff. You could not have picked a worse time to break up, and then you have the nerve to say 'we can still be friends' as if I should be grateful that you're allowing pitiful, little old me to be your friend. I've got news for you, you arrogant S.O.B, I am not as defenseless as I look. So you know what? Don't piss me off. Now, get out of my air and don't ever talk to me again." Cassandra, having said this and gotten the satisfaction of his shocked expression, turned and continued on her way home.
"You're going to be sorry you said that, Cass!" he yelled after her. She flipped him the bird without bothering to turn around. "Bitch," she heard him mutter under his breath. She chuckled.
"You say that like it's a bad thing, Jeff," she called. She didn't stop to think how odd it was that she'd heard him say something so quietly from halfway down the block.
A few minutes later she arrived at her house. Matt was sitting on the steps.
"Do you not have a life?" she asked as he stood up, "I mean one that doesn't involve telling people that you're a werewolf and so are they."
He grinned, "Oh, I have a life. One you can't imagine. Come with me, Cass. I want to show you something."
She sighed, "Listen, Matt. I don't need any more stress right now. I really don't. So if you could maybe just leave me alone, and never bother me again, it would be much appreciated." She started to walk past him and into the house. He grabbed her arm as she passed. She glared up at him, "Let go. Now."
"You have to accept it, Cass. Before you kill again. You have to learn to control it." He said, dropping her arm.
"Kill again? What do you mean kill again?" she asked, beginning to feel the now familiar dizziness.
"The paper this morning? Front page news. I believe the tasteful headline was 'Man Eaten Alive'. His name was Patrick McLean. The body was found ripped apart, most of his organs missing, the ones that weren't were on the ground around him in pools of blood."
"No! Please, stop!"
Rooowrrr...
"Help me, someone! Ahhhhhhh! No!"
Sobbing. Begging. Snarling. Blood. Screams. Silence.
"Oh, God," Cassandra opened her eyes. Tears were running down her face. Matt was kneeling next to her, looking down.
"Do you believe me now?" He asked quietly, knowing what had happened to her. She got to her feet. Matt followed.
"No," she growled angrily, "I don't believe you. Now stay away from me!" she ran into her house.

Matt watched, and shook his head when the door slammed behind her. If only she could grasp the true beauty of what she was. She was not confined to one shape, as most creatures were. She had real power, real magic.
He didn't want her to hate him, but he had to make her understand. She had to accept it before she killed again. He may have to take desperate measures. But that could wait until all else had failed. He would tell her the story of how they became what they were first.
If he could get her to listen.

Cassandra ran to her room, crying. Lucky Ann and Mike weren't home. She would have had trouble explaining.
No, I'm fine Ann. I just found out I might be a werewolf, that's all. And I sometimes wake up covered in blood. Yep, that's why I go through so many sheets. And guess what? I killed that man in the paper this morning. What, Mike? Werewolves don't exist? Wanna bet?
She turned the CD player on. She needed music. Maybe it would drown out her thoughts.
"Take these plastic people, read their lips, now let it linger, is there anything that makes them sound sincere?" The Our Lady Peace CD was still in the stereo.
"Come on, tightly hold your hand, take a deep breath, give them the finger," Cass sang along to One Man Army. She tried to forget all that had happened that day. She glanced at her calendar. Full moon was tomorrow night. She loved the full moon, the milky white light it cast.
Cass tried to keep herself busy, so busy she didn't have time to think, until she went to bed.

The next morning she woke up in the same state she went to sleep in, oversized Mickey Mouse T- shirt that was her nightgown and all. No strange dreams, and, she saw from the newspaper, no violent deaths. Maybe it was over. She didn't stop to wonder why she unconsciously associated her dreams with the killings.
She got ready for school quickly, packed her bag and walked out.
"Cassandra..." Matt began. He was on her doorstep.
"No! Get away. I don't want to hear any more of your delusional crap. Leave me alone," Cassandra interrupted.
"Cassandra, you will listen. It will only take a few minutes," Matt stood in front of her and didn't let her pass. Finally she gave up.
"Okay, Matt. What now?"
"I am going to tell you the story of how the first werewolf came to be."
Cassandra rolled her eyes, "You really have a one track mind, don't you?"
Matt smiled, "Yes. Now, listen.
"Long ago there was a girl in Greece named Stella that worshipped Artemis, the virgin goddess of the hunt. She would pray for hours to her goddess at her private shrine deep in the woods. She would leave offerings of whatever she could; flowers, a rabbit she had caught, it didn't matter, as long as she left something. Whatever she left was always gone the next day.
"One day her father gave her the news that she was to marry. This upset her because how could a married woman worship the virgin goddess? Stella fought her father, crying, rationalizing, even begging. When she realized he would not give in, she ran to her shrine in the woods and prayed to Artemis to save her.
"Artemis heard Stella's prayer. She knew of the girl, and liked her. Not just because she was so devoted, but because she was also intelligent and beautiful.
"Artemis appeared before the girl, with her bow in her hands and her hounds at her side.
"'Stella," she began, "You have long been my devoted follower, and a dear favourite of mine. I shall save you by turning you into the greatest hunter of all, the wolf. Do you wish to accept this gift?'
Stella thought for a moment, because, though she did not want to marry, she was not sure she wanted to be turned into an animal for all time, even the magnificent wolf. She knew this was not a decision to be made lightly. Artemis sensed the girl's indecision.
"'If you so choose, you do not have to become completely wolf. I will make it so you may travel between shapes as often as you like.'
"At this, Stella's eyes lit up, 'Oh, yes, please. I beg of you, O Artemis, grant me that gift.'
"Artemis nodded. As Stella bowed her head, on her knees before the great Goddess, grey fur began to spread across her body. Her legs grew thinner and long, ending in paws with razor sharp claws. Her face elongated into a snout and her eyes turned a deep amber colour. Her ears grew large and pointed and moved to the top of her head. Her spine grew out into a tail.
"Fully wolf, but not a true wolf for she was much larger and stronger, she threw her head back and howled. Then she looked at Artemis gratefully. The Goddess smiled.
"' Look above, beautiful creature. The moon is full. As I promised, you may go between shapes as you wish, but on every full moon hereafter you must change. You will not be able to fight it. Also, you must never kill a human. They are to be pitied because they are weak and do not have your unrestricted freedom and strength. Now run and be free!' With that, Artemis and her hounds disappeared, and Stella took off running in pure joy," Matt finished his story. Cassandra smiled.
"That's a nice story, Matt. I've always been interested in Greek mythology, and Artemis was always my favourite. But, she never existed. That's why it's mythology."
"Oh, but she did exist. The Gods and Goddesses of the past exist still."
"Uh huh," Cassandra stared at him, "Ah, I have to get to school now."
"Cassandra, why is it so hard for you to believe?" Matt asked, getting angry.
"I guess just because I have been told since I was a baby that werewolves do not exist. They're just stories. And you are some delusional lunatic trying to convince me otherwise," Cassandra began to walk away.
"I am your cousin, Cassandra! Not 'some delusional lunatic'. I'm blood relative, a member of your pack. It is important that you at least think about what I've told you," Matt yelled after her, knowing full well that she could have heard him if he whispered.
Cassandra didn't respond. That was the problem; she couldn't stop thinking about what he told her. That tiny flicker of doubt she'd felt yesterday morning when they'd first met was growing into a full-fledged flame. Soon it would consume her, and that thought scared her. She hated fire.

Matt was getting frustrated, and desperate. It was full moon tonight, and he knew Cass couldn't control herself if she wasn't aware. He didn't know what she would do.
There was nothing he could do about it right now. Already he was feeling the pull of the moon, willing him to change. He knew he could control it, at least until dark. He sighed and started home to think about how to approach her next.

"So that guy from yesterday won't leave you alone?" Sheena asked.
"No," Cassandra mumbled. She felt strange, almost a pulling sensation.
"Maybe you should call the cops."
"Nah, he's harmless. He'll give up eventually. Right now he's just an annoyance."
"Speaking of annoyances, I've got some bad news for you, girl. Jeff is spreading around a rumour that you were cheating on him and you're pregnant," Sheena told her.
Cassandra stopped short, "What? How could he do that? My God, I never thought he would stoop that low. No one believes him, though, right? Right? Sheena?" Right then she noticed the number of people whispering and staring at her. She put a hand to her head, "Oh my God. They are."
Sheena sighed, "I'm sorry, Cass. About six people came up to me this morning asking if it's true. I said no, of course, but it's all over the school."
"Thank God it's Friday," Cassandra muttered. Sheena smiled.
"It just hasn't been your week, has it Cassie?"
Cassandra rolled her eyes, "There's the understatement of the millennium."

All day Cassandra put up with stares and whispers. She saw Jeff once. He called to her, but she just gave him the finger without a word. She was happy to finally arrive home and not find Matt sitting on her doorstep.
As with the afternoon before, she tried to keep herself busy until bedtime. By then the pulling sensation was almost unbearable. She curled up under the covers and tried to ignore it. Before long, she was asleep.

Roowwwrrrrr
"What the... oh my God! Help me!"
Grrrrrr...
"No! Oh God, please! Don't kill me! I don't want to die! Ahhhhh! HELP!"
Blood. Screaming. Snarling. Howling. Blood...

"Ahhhh!" Cassandra awoke screaming. It was morning. She looked down at herself, and screamed again, then she started to sob. She was covered with blood from head to toe. It was even in her hair. She had the coppery taste of it in her mouth. She ran to the bathroom and vomited. Crying, she went through the routine of bunching up the sheets and putting them in a green garbage bag. Then she turned the water in the shower on so hot it almost scalded her and started to wash the blood off. Almost an hour later, she emerged from the steamy bathroom and put on her white terrycloth bathrobe. She put the garbage bag containing the soiled sheets in the can outside. Then she picked up the paper and brought it inside. She screamed again when she saw the headline-

Pine River Wolf Takes Second Victim

By, Michael Walters

A body was found early this morning, believed to be another victim of 'The Pine River Wolf'. Seventeen-year-old Jeffery Donald was apparently attacked while walking home last night...

Jeffery Donald. Jeff. Cassandra put the paper down, in shock. Jeff was dead. Jeff.
Bang bang bang, "Cassandra, open up!" It was Matt. Almost in a trance, she walked to the door and opened it. Matt walked in and took her by the shoulders, "Cassandra, you should have listened to me."
She looked at him with tear-filled eyes. Matt put his arms around her and let her cry. When she was finished, he said to her, "Come on, into the kitchen. I have to show you something and I don't want to ruin your carpet." Cassandra followed him without a word.
In the kitchen, he let go of her hand and turned to look at her, "Watch," he said. He closed his eyes.
Black fur began to spread over his body. He fell forward onto all fours. His clothes ripped at the seams as he grew larger. In a moment, there was a huge, pure black wolf standing in front of her. His shoulder reached almost to her chest. Cassandra cringed back. He looked at her with dark brown eyes, then stepped forward and licked her hand. Don't be scared. The wolf put his head down, and before long Matt was standing there again. Cassandra blushed- his clothes had not survived the change.
"You can do it too, Cass," Matt said, paying no attention to the fact that he was stark naked, "Just think about the wolf, what it's like to become her. Want it."
Cassandra nodded, no longer doubting him. She closed her eyes and imagined the strength, the raw power of the wolf. She felt nothing, but when she opened her eyes, Matt was grinning. She looked down at herself. She saw white paws. She looked back. A pure white body. She started to move and was startled at her own grace.
"You're beautiful," Matt said, "Cassandra, we have to leave here. You have killed two humans, which is strictly forbidden. We must leave now and we can never come back."
Cassandra turned back into a girl, again feeling nothing, "And what about my parents?"
"I'm sorry, Cassie, but we have to go."
Cass nodded. She understood, "Just let me write them a note, okay? I can't just leave without a word."
"Yes, but hurry."
Five minutes later, she was done.
"Let's go," she said, closing her eyes. In a minute, they were both wolves. They barely fit in the kitchen together. Matt opened the back door with his teeth. Then he started to run, Cassandra following.
As they ran together, black and white, night and day, Cassandra finally knew the meaning of sheer freedom.

Two days later, Ann and Mike Ross arrived home to an empty house. There was a note on the kitchen table-

Dear Ann and Mike,

I am truly sorry. I know it must seem that I am ungrateful for leaving you like this. I'm not. You will never know how grateful I truly am to you; you took me in and treated me like a real daughter. I had to leave for reasons I cannot explain, but maybe I will be back some day. I can't tell you where I'm going and I don't want you to look for me. I want you to know that I am happy and safe.

I love you with all my heart,
Cassandra

THE END

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