Isaac forced himself to take a slow breath, and then another, and then one more. As long as he focused on the steady in and out of his breathing he would be alright. He would survive. He would live to do this again and again until one day he would be dead before the lid closed on the box, and then his box would become his coffin. He used to wonder how long it would take for someone to notice he was gone. If anyone at school would notice him being absent or if no one would notice anything except for an empty desk where someone used to sit, but they couldn't quite remember who. It would be easy enough for his father to pick up and move on without anyone realizing anything was wrong. His father could withdraw him from school, say they were moving out of the state, and then go. No one would ever guess that the new man in town had once had a wife and two sons. Isaac spent a lot of time thinking about how his body might be hidden - if his father would burn him until there was nothing but ashes, or maybe sink him in the ocean, or bury his body somewhere in the woods. He hoped that maybe he would be buried in the woods, because then someone might find him someday. Then someone would see him.
It wasn't a voice Isaac recognized, which only meant that it wasn't his father's voice. No one else knew where he was. The only people who would have come for him were all on the other side of a grave. Isaac shivered and pressed his arms tighter against his chest. He had hallucinated before when he was in the box, but usually only when he was locked in there for a long time after he'd done something really bad. Isaac couldn't remember what he'd done, which didn't bode well for when his father finally let him out and asked if he'd learned his lesson this time. He also couldn't remember being forced into the box this time and he couldn't remember the frantic struggle that came right before the lid closed, the struggle that always left his arms aching and covered with bruises. His arms didn't even hurt. Isaac wondered if this was it, if he was finally dying and he didn't even know it yet. He didn't think he minded, it actually sounded kind of nice when people talked about dying. Rest in peace, they said, and he was honestly more interested in the 'resting' part than he was in the 'peace'.
"Isaac, open your eyes."
This voice was higher pitched, a woman's voice. Isaac wondered if it was his mom. It had been so long that he couldn't remember what her voice sounded like at all. He'd been told that she used to sing them lullabies at night and that seemed like something a mom would do. Isaac used to try to imagine it, to guess what songs she might have sung to them, but in the end that had proved more painful than comforting. He had started singing to himself in the night, not even realizing that there was sound moving past his lips, and he tried not to think about that now. Isaac didn't sing anymore, not ever.
"It's okay, open your eyes. I know you can hear me, Isaac."
Isaac kept his body absolutely still. If he stayed still he could pretend that there weren't walls all around him and he would remember not to struggle or fight or panic. If the woman's voice was his mom's, and maybe it was, he didn't understand why she wanted him to open his eyes. There wouldn't be anything to see. He couldn't see anything inside the box and had learned to keep his eyes shut so that he could pretend that if he opened them he would be able to see. Pretending was Isaac's last resort. It didn't do any good out in the open where he had to be on his guard. Pretending wouldn't make his father's hands go away, but it did keep him from going crazy inside the box. At least Isaac hoped it did; sometimes he thought he was already crazy. Sometimes he thought he was already dead and didn't know it yet, which was probably on the list of things crazy people thought.
"Isaac. Open your eyes and look at me."
It was the first voice again, the male voice that wasn't his father's voice. It wasn't his brother's voice either; Isaac still remembered what his brother sounded like. He remembered what his brother sounded like whispering for Isaac to hide, and he remembered what his brother sounded like when he screamed for their father to stop. He remembered what it sounded like when the front door shut and his brother was gone. There had been a promise, that he would come back for Isaac, but Isaac didn't let himself remember that.
There was a roar that shook Isaac's bones, a noise louder than thunder and hail, and Isaac's eyes snapped open. He blinked rapidly, trying to understand why there was light and why he could move his arms and legs and sit up without hitting his head. He hadn't been stripped down to his underwear; his boots were still on and he was wearing a leather jacket that was soft and warm against the skin of his neck. Isaac slowly looked around the cavernous room, taking in the mess and the three people gathered near him.
"He's dead and I'm alive," Isaac said, the words making his throat hurt. He remembered all at once; his father dying, taking the bite from Derek, becoming powerful and strong and not having to be afraid of anything. Even though his entire body was shaking and he felt dizzy and thirsty and dazed, Isaac knew he wasn't weak anymore.
"Isaac?" Erica asked, her eyes telling that she was frightened even more than the way she was crouched on the floor. Boyd was sitting a few feet away from her, watching Isaac with a deep frown.
"What happened?" he asked, his voice still rough. He looked around the room again, desperately hoping that there might be some water nearby and that he might be allowed to have some. He turned to Derek and tried to ignore the shiver of fear at the thought that Derek might not let him have some, that he might let Isaac curl up on the floor here and die of dehydration.
"One of the Hunters sprayed powdered Wolfsbane at us. You were lucky enough to get it right in the face and inhaled good and deep," Derek said, folding his arms and walking away. He came back a minute later and bent down to hand Isaac a bottle of water. "We weren't to sure you were still with us for a bit there. You'll feel pretty bad for the next couple of days. Don't plan on leaving the den for a bit, you're no match for Hunters even at your regular strength."
Isaac stared at the water bottle he was holding, the outside slick with condensation that felt like the first drops of rain on the desert of his skin. He wanted to take the cap off and drink, just like when his father had finally let him out and left and he would stagger to the sink to drink straight from the faucet, but a water bottle wasn't endless. Finally he licked at the side of the bottle, the moisture there enough to ignite his dry tongue.
"You sure you're with us?" Derek asked, staring at Isaac with a nearly wary shift as he edged back. "Some people say that Wolfsbane can drive a werewolf crazy in sufficient quantities."
Isaac tipped his head back and looked at all the open space around him. Maybe he was still inside a box, but at least now it was a much bigger box. "I think I've been crazy for a while now," he heard himself say as he closed his eyes.