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The Monster I Am

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                                                 A Lunar Curse                                                      

Feet pounded against the pavement, the sound of rapid thudding and heavy breathing filling the silence of the night. The moon was high above the sky in its waxing gibbous state, illuminating two figures, one running from the other. Buildings, signs, and cars blurred into simple shapes and colors as the figures blew past them at high speeds. They rounded a corner, sliding on their feet as they turned. Ungraceful in their turn, the figure in front slipped, falling over and hitting pavement with a loud ‘smack!’. The figure behind the other fell to their knees and grabbed the other's hands, pulling them behind their back.

“Add ‘Running from an Officer’ to your list of charges,” A deep accented voice said, belonging to the umber-skinned woman on top of the suspect. She produced cuffs from her belt, attaching them to the suspect's wrists. They grunted in frustration, thrashing around in an attempt to throw off the officer.

“Go fuck yourself,” They snapped. The officer stood, pulling the suspect with her.

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be held against you in the court of law,” The officer said, her voice carrying smugness. She began to guide the suspect back towards the corner.

The suspect was led to the crime scene by the officer; a neighborhood with identical one story houses. Some varied in shape, but most were simple box designs. The more interesting ones had picket fences or lawn furniture sitting on the deck. Lighting up the dark of the night were the headlights of police cars and paramedics parked in front of one of the box shaped houses. Two paramedics were retrieving a concealed body on a stretcher, while multiple officers circled around the house, covering the walls with bright yellow ‘Do Not Cross’ tape.

The suspect, a man that looked to be in his early 30’s, was shoved in the back of a police car. He lunged forward in an attempt to escape. The officer intercepted him and shoved him back in. She slammed the door shut on him, scoffing as he continued to bang at the door on the inside.

“You taking him back to the station?” An officer asked the other. They received a curt nod in response. Walking around the car, she opened the door to the driver’s seat and stepped into the vehicle. The roar of the engine starting did nothing to mask the screams of rage of the man in the back. The officer frowned as a deep pulsing started in her temples.

Threats, racial slurs, and pleads were uttered by the man throughout the drive, though he did cease banging on the door, instead choosing to kick at the seat.

“I’m not at fault here!” He screamed, “He shorted me on a deal!” The officer raised an eyebrow. Did that man confess to the crime so soon? She reached a hand up and rubbed her temple, letting out a soft chuckle. The officer returned her hand to the steering wheel.

“You have the right to remain silent.” She uttered for the 5th time. The man shook his head from side to side.

“You’ll see! Wait till they check the house and count the money.” He growled. The officer breathed out heavily through her nose, squeezing the steering wheel tighter.

“You have the right to remain silent.” The man continued on a tirade.

They arrived at the station soon after. The man had stopped his struggling and screaming a few minutes before the ride ended, leaving them in a tense silence that lasted even as the officer led him towards the station. He stayed silent until they stopped in front of the holding cell. Rather than walking in and taking a seat at the bed, he stood still, staring off into the cell. The officer sighed in annoyance, uncuffing him and pushing him forward. He stumbled, but turned around, staring at her with eyes that betrayed no emotion.

“He was my brother,” The man said quietly, averting his gaze. The officer glanced in his direction. “Was. He stopped being my brother a long time ago, he became different. I was doing the world a favor, ‘killing’ him for the time being. You'll see soon.” He spat out. The officer rolled her eyes.

“Save it for the trial,” She turned on her heel and walked away.

--

She sat at her desk, neat except for a stack of papers at the corner of it, and a nameplate that read “Garnet Clarke” on the front of the desk. Garnet stared down at the report in front of her, partially filled out. She rubbed her head, feeling her headache come back full blast at the sight of it.

“Go home, Clarke,” She heard a voice say. She sat straight up, staring at the officer in front of her.

“Captain?” Garnet inquired. He let out a sigh and folded his arms across his chest.

“We had this guy before; once for robbery, and another time for possessing illegal substances. I can handle the rest of the information. Go home, it’s two in the morning, get some rest. You’re on call tomorrow,” He replied back with a certain sternness that meant he wasn't willing to budge. Garnet stared at him for a moment. She nodded and stood from her chair.

“Alright. I'll see you next shift.” The captain gave her a wave of his hand in acknowledgement.

Garnet sighed as she stepped out of the station, shivering at the cold. She strode over to her car, opening the door and sitting inside. She fooled around with her phone for a moment or two, checking unread messages before she started the car. She drove away from the station, and into the night.

Keys jingled in the steel lock, and Garnet let out noises of aggravation as it refused to turn.

I really need to replace this damn thing.

A click sounded; Garnet pulled on the knob and entered the house. Once inside, she let out a sigh of relief and shut the door behind her, relocking it.

“You're home early,” The tone was nothing short of sarcastic, and as Garnet turned around she caught eyes with Pearl, sitting in the dining room on a cushioned chair, sipping from a white coffee cup.

“Shift was about to end when I got called in. Took longer than I thought,” She strode over to the pale woman and leaned down, pressing a kiss on her lips. “Didn't mean to keep you waiting.” She finished as she pulled away.

“You’ve been staying later and later,” Pearl brought her cup to her thin lips and sipped at the liquid.

“Can't help that,” A seat was taken opposite from the pale woman. Garnet settled into the cushioned seat and sighed contently- much better than the office chair she had to sit in. “Want to go to bed?”

“After this.”

A hum in reply. They didn’t engage in conversation, much more content with enjoying each other’s silent company. A few minutes and several sips later and Pearl finished off her drink. Garnet stood from her seat and offered to wash the dish. Once that was done, the two women headed for the bedroom down the hallway next to the right side of the dining room.

Pearl had no trouble going to sleep; she was knocked out and snoring- something she always vehemently denied that she did- by the time her head hit the pillow. Garnet stayed up a little longer, thoughts still scrambled from work and brain refusing to allow her to rest. She stared out a large window, next to her and Pearl’s shared dresser, eyes focused on the white glow of the waxing gibbous.

It lured her to sleep within ten minutes.

--

The next day Garnet barely took a bite of the breakfast prepared for her by Pearl before she received a call from the captain, needing her to come in after all. Her aggravation was apparent by the tight line her lips were in as she dressed out of her pajamas and headed back into the living room to the front door. As her hand wrapped around the knob, the sound of Pearl walking up to her drew Garnet’s attention. The pale woman flashed her a small smile. She drew up on her tiptoes and planted a kiss on Garnet’s cheek.

“Drive safe.” Despite the aggravation, Garnet found herself smiling.

“Don't worry.” She turned the knob and left out into the brisk morning air.

Garnet preferred to keep the silence, so the radio remained off during her drive. When she arrived, she parked her car in its usual spot, stepped out, and headed into the station right into the locker room. It took her only a few minutes to get into uniform and the moment she finished dressing, she was directed to her desk and the paperwork on it. Garnet sat down and noticed, with a surge of annoyance, that the captain did not in fact fill out the rest of the report from last night. It was untouched.

Her pointer fingers dug into her temples and began to rub in circles, a deep breath letting out through her full lips. Picking up her pen, she began to write.

Within an hour, the rest of it was done and she spent the next hour or so answering the calls that came in and writing the paperwork required for it. Most were mundane: neighbors being too loud, stolen items, public disturbances. Few required a transfer call to an on-duty officer, and soon the hour she spent on the calls and reports bled into multiple, until the yellow glow of the setting sun poured in through the large windows in the room. The rhythmic drum of fingers on the wood of her desk drew her gaze upwards. The captain stood staring at her.

“Think you can go off desk-duty for a bit? One of the officers had a family emergency,” He didn't need to say it twice.

“Yes,” Garnet rose from her seat and barely resisted running out of the room, all too happy to do something other than sit at a desk. Even if she would be sitting in a car now, at least it’d be a change of scenery.

A change of scenery that became old as Garnet sat in her squad car, parked at the boardwalk and staring out at the beach, the silence only broken by the quiet radio chatter of other officers and dispatch. Her head pressed against the window and her fingers drummed on her muscular thighs. A breath blown out from her nose blew away some of the black curls of her hair from her face.

“I’d prefer the paperwork at this point,” At least she would have something to do.

The light of the setting sun cast over the beach, coloring the water yellow and red and turning the few people playing in the sand and ocean into black silhouettes. The beams from the sun gleamed harmlessly off her shades, and as if she remembered them being there Garnet adjusted them so they were higher on her nose and hummed a tune to herself.

The sun set into night, the full moon hanging high in the sky, and as if the day were repeating itself, she got a call in just as her shift was about to end and just as she began to drive back to the station.

‘Calling all available units. 10-11 down Beach City highway.’

Garnet threw her head back and groaned. Her hand snatched the radio and she opened the channel.

“Injures?” The radio crackled with white noise before a response came in.

‘Standby.’

With a deep frown, Garnet brought her radio to her lips again “En route,” She shifted the car into reverse and pulled out of her spot.

Looks like I’ll be late again.

When Garnet arrived at the scene, much of the work appeared to be handled, but she still stepped out of her car and headed past the police cars parked along the road and grassy areas beside the asphalt. A few officers were conversing with each other. She headed to them first.

“Everything under control?” Garnet asked as she stepped up to them. One of the officers, a wide-eyed man with a shaggy beard, turned toward her with an odd grin.

“You should have seen the size of that thing, Clarke. It was huge! At least twice as big as you!” The corner of her lips briefly tugged down. The officer beside the wide-eyed one cleared his throat.

“Yes, it is. We were told to handle crowd control; Parks is giving out orders.” Garnet nodded and she headed off into the forest beside the road, where she could spot the gleams of flashlights. She ducked under tree branches and stepped over lines of police tape before she found the grouping of other officers. Some were hanging out by the trees and talking to a civilian, others were kneeling over something, and a few were calling in their radio for aid. Garnet strode to the kneeling officers first. A strange cold feeling swept over her as she approached, sending a shiver down her spine. Taking in a deep breath, Garnet shook off the odd feeling and took the last few steps towards the officers.

Her blue and brown eyes widened underneath her shades as she took in the sight.

What the hell?

A creature, at least eleven feet in length and as wide as three men standing together laid in a bloodied heap on the ground. Its shaggy, midnight-black, fur kept most of its injuries from showing, but the hair was matted and wet with blood. Its left leg was severed at the knee, ivory bone sticking out, threads of muscles lying across the grassy floor. Half of its face had been blasted off from a shotgun shot, revealing bone stuck with flaps of skin, its ear hanging by a few threads of flesh, and just below it a crater that revealed mashed grey matter and gore.

“You can get closer; It's dead as shit.” The voice was of an officer she recognized- Jasper Harrison. With a grunt, Garnet dropped to her knees and examined it further, brushing aside some of the fur to look at the injuries and occasionally trailing her eyes up to look at the structure of its head. Its jaws were opened, revealing sharp yellowed fangs almost as long as Garnet’s index finger. The stench of rot wafted from its muzzle.

It resembled a mix of a wolf and a bear. She had never seen anything like it.

“What do you think it is?” One of the others murmured, shining his light into the opened eyes of the beast. They were dull with death, but through the fade Garnet guessed that they had once been a bright red.

“I don't know. A grizzly?”

“Aren't those only in Alaska?”

“Grizzlies don't have black fur, dumbass.”

“If you look at it from this angle, it kind of looks like a Saint Bernard”

“Those dog’s ears don't stick up though.”

“So?”

The chatter of the officers went ignored as Garnet continued looking at the monster. With a huff, she leaned back on her soles and drew her flashlight from her utility belt, shining it on the creature, the light gleaming off of the large fangs adorning its gum line. Mismatched eyes continued to examine the beast, its unnervingly humanoid body, its massive paws with thumbs that looked opposable, its-

Did it just move?

 Garnet could have sworn she saw its nose twitch. Her eyes narrowed as she focused on the feature, searching for another motion.

Its chest rose up.

“Hey, its breathing!” One of the policemen called out. The words were enough to send the officers scrambling away in a panic from the beast. Shaking off the momentary shock brought on by a dead thing breathing, Garnet staggered away from the rising body, but she didn’t move far before the monster jumped up and lunged at her at an incredible speed, a gargled, bone chilling roar escaping from its maw.

The weight hitting her chest knocked the breath from her lungs and sent her falling to grass, the beast on top of her in moments, and Garnet couldn’t move or take a breath before its claws and teeth descended upon her. White hot pain exploded through her chest and shoulder as claws ripped through her bulletproof vest with ease and sunk into flesh, sending stars into her vision and drawing involuntary screams from her throat.

“Get it off!!” She managed to shout. Her heart pounded in her chest and in her ears, overpowering the noise of gunshots and panicked yelling. She felt adrenaline pulse through her, fight or flight taking ahold of her as Garnet tried to smack the paws away and kick the beast off. A large paw descended on her head and a nail scraped along her neck to the underside of her jaw, grazing the skin. Instincts to protect her head overpowered the fight or flight, and Garnet stopped her flailing to bring both arms up and cross them over her head.

A loud roar. Teeth sunk into her forearm.  Her vision exploded with white, and Garnet thought she would pass out then as hellfire coursed through her veins down her arm and into her chest. It would have been a mercy if she did. The monster began to tug, letting her know she was still very much awake. It pulled her arm away with ease and loosened it right from the socket with an audible ‘pop!’ The action tugged her entire body up, and claws raked along her back as the beast grabbed ahold of her.

A shot rang out and the beast’s head snapped back, a roar sounding from it as it let Garnet go. She fell back to the grassy ground with a pained, breathless yelp, and through her fading vision she saw the beast take off into the trees, fast even without part of its leg. She heard the sound of yelling voices, barely aware of being crowded around as she rolled over and looked down at her body. Bloodied and torn.

Her ringing ears overpowered the sound of her hyperventilation, her neck tingling with prickles of fear and panic. Adrenaline flooded out of her system along with the blood pouring from her wounds, and she lost her strength and fell onto her back, forced to stare up at the full moon as darkness clouded her vision and pulled her out of consciousness.

-

She found herself in the bedroom, back at the house and Pearl at her side asleep. Jolting up, Garnet slapped her hands around her chest and shoulders. No scratches. She clutched at her wrist. No bite. Relief flooded her. It was a dream.

She turned to Pearl and shook her shoulder, intending to tell her all about the nightmare. Pearl didn't respond. Confused, Garnet drew her hand away.

“Pearl?” It was only when she talked that she noticed the metallic tang in her mouth, a familiar taste of something she couldn’t recall. Her hands and mouth felt wet, she noticed seconds later. She lifted the appendages into view.

Blood stained them from her fingertips to her elbows.

“Wh-what?” Without wasting a moment, she clapped a hand over her mouth and felt it, and when she drew her hand away there was more blood. Red and still fresh, the scent filling her nose.

Dread filled her.

Garnet darted to Pearl and forced her over onto her back.

A carcass. Pink coils of intestine hung out of her torn stomach, the inside a mess of meat and chewed organs. Teeth marks lined her once pristine skin and her dull eyes stared at the ceiling, mouth open in a scream never completed.

Agonized. That was only word to describe the scream that Garnet let out as she gripped at her girlfriend’s shoulders and brought her close to her, looking her over again and again and still not believing that it had happened. Eventually she dropped her down on the bed and instead Garnet planted both hands on either side of her and arched over her body, looking at her, trying to find life in the dull eyes as a droplet of blood fell from her cheek and hit Pearl’s neck.

“Pe-Pearl?” A shaking, bloodied hand moved up to the cold cheek of the pale woman and caressed it, smearing red across the white skin. “Pearl?” Tears beaded at her eyes.

A gleam in her peripheral brought her attention to the window, and to the ivory moon outside, round and full. When she looked back at Pearl, she was gone and Garnet was hanging over an empty bed. Alone. The taste of blood in her mouth. Stomach full.

“Let go.”

Her hands fisted into the fabric of the bedsheets, holding tight as her body racked with sobs. Where was Pearl? What did she do to her?

“I’m sorry.”

“Garnet, let go.”

“I didn't mean to!”

“Garnet, let go!”

“Where are-?”

“GARNET, LET GO!”

And just like that; she was awake.

Her teeth were clenched together, thick lips pulled back to bare them as she kept her eyes narrowed in on the woman in scrubs she had in her iron grip.

It took her more than a second to realize where she was, and an even longer second to realize what she was doing. The poor woman’s face was an unhealthy shade of purple, big brown eyes seeming like they would pop out of her skull from how tightly Garnet was squeezing her neck with a single hand. Garnet’s face fell from its hostile expression as she loosened her grip and snapped her hand away. The nurse let out a gasp of air, darting away as she grasped at her own bruised throat, letting out small wheezing sobs as she struggled to breath. She wasted no time dashing for the door, sparing frightened glances back at Garnet’s way as she did so.

Garnet blinked, drawing her hand back close to her chest as she turned it over and examined her palm. Clean.

‘What happened?’ She asked herself. She couldn't remember anything other than her dream. She looked around the room. A wooden nightstand next to her bed, chairs near large windows overlooking a parking lot, a heart monitor next to her bed and along with it an Iv drip, and a trolley with trays of food atop its metal surface. She was in a hospital room.

‘But why?’ She answered her own question when she tried to sit up and her body responded with waves of pain and nausea. A weak gasp escaped her as she fell back to her bed. Chest rising and falling as she took in shaky breaths, Garnet kept her eyes to the ceiling. The lights hurt. Where were her glasses?

“Garnet!” The door to her room slammed open, startling her enough that she jumped up, pulling at the tubes attached to her and sending fresh pain through her body again. A weak grunt escaped her, despite her wanting to scream instead.

Pearl swallowed as she took a step towards her, hesitant, perhaps even fearful. Garnet eyed her down.

She was alive; no hole in her stomach, no lifeless eyes, her mouth open in surprise and not in an unfinished scream.

“Pearl,” She gasped out. At the sound of her name, Pearl’s face lit up, and she sped over to her so she could kneel by her bedside and take her hand.

“You said my name!” Pearl exclaimed, squeezing Garnet’s hand. She brought it up to her face to deliver a quick kiss to the knuckle. The dark woman opened and closed her mouth, no words coming forth; she instead communicated her confusion with a raised eyebrow. The pale woman did not seem to notice it. Garnet squeezed her hand back as a reassuring gesture, noting that her blue eyes were shimmering in the light, more so than usual. Squinting her eyes for a better view allowed her to see the tears brimming in them.

“Pearl,” She murmured out. She tried to lift her other arm towards her. A blinding pain ripped through it, and she choked out a cry as she quickly returned it to its resting position. Pearl leapt up from her spot, eyes wide.

“Don't move!” A scathing remark was on Garnet’s tongue, but she refrained from saying it because it was obvious that Pearl was out of her mind with worry for her. She sucked in air, flexing her fingers and toes as she waited for the pain to pass. Everything hurt.

The door opened again; this time a balding man walked in, somewhat cautiously. Once he spotted Garnet up and Pearl at her side he relaxed.

“Ms. Clarke,” He began, “Was there a problem in here earlier?”

At his words Pearl glanced at her, curious. Garnet swallowed as best as she could with her dry throat.

“I-I woke up… I-I was choke-choking a nurse,” Her voice broke and sounded wheezy, no doubt a result of not using it in a while. The doctor nodded.

“I've heard,” There was still some caution in his step as he approached her bed. Pearl squeezed her hand ever-so-slightly tighter.

“Did you stop in time?” Her girlfriend asked her. Garnet nodded. The doctor stepped over by her side.

“How are you feeling?” He asked. Garnet swallowed again, taking in a deep breath through her nose.

“It hurts,” She responded. The doctor frowned.

“It shouldn't. Is the medication not working?” He asked the question more to himself than to Garnet. He brought his clipboard-previously tucked underneath his arm- up to his face and squinted as he looked at it.

“You were prescribed Vicodin,” He brought the clipboard even closer. “Perhaps I should increase the dosage.” He mumbled the last part.

“Vicodin?”

“Yes. Have you been taking it or are you still refusing?” He asked, glancing up at her. Garnet blinked.

“No… I've been asleep until now,” At her words, the doctor seemed confused, and even Pearl shot her an odd look.

“No, you've been awake for the last three days,” Pearl corrected her, getting up from her kneeling position.

Awake?

Garnet furrowed her eyebrows, trying to recall the last few days. Nothing. She could only remember the nightmare and nothing else. She looked up to Pearl. despite how much it hurt to crane her neck in that particular direction.

“I don't remember being awake,” She said. A sudden tension seemed to fill the air. Pearl and the doctor exchanged glances, communicating something between each other. Pearl gave her hand another reassuring squeeze with her gaze still kept away from the dark woman.

“You did come out of a medically induced coma. Memory loss may be a side effect,” The doctor sounded unsure as he flipped a page up on his clipboard and examined something, his bushy eyebrows furrowing and his lip quirking downwards.

“What did I do?” Garnet asked. Another glance was exchanged between her girlfriend and the man. Irritation rose up in her at the sight. She unconsciously squeezed Pearl’s hand tighter.

“Well, you did choke a nurse,” The doctor started. He shifted his weight onto a different leg. A hand caressed over Garnet’s cheek. Her eyes flicked towards Pearl. who was staring down at her with worried eyes.

“’Patient Clarke has been ripping her Iv lines out and making attempts to escape from the room. Any attempt at getting her back in the bed has been met with physical violence and repeated refusals to cooperate.’ That was listed as a reason for sedation,” The doctor said. He flipped to another page. “Any attempt to enter Patient Clarke’s room is met with verbal abuse and physical retaliation should a staff member get close to her. Patient also refuses to take medications and to eat, only doing so with reluctance when prompted by a visitor,” At the last sentence, Garnet looked to Pearl, who offered her an awkward smile and a shrug of her thin shoulders. A frown tugged at Garnet’s lips, and her forehead creased into stressed lines. Her mind brought her back to the caution the doctor took in approaching her, and how Pearl had a mask of fear on her as she walked in. It made sense now, but there was a different question burning in the front of her mind.

“Did I hurt you?” The thought of it terrified her and Garnet was sure it showed on her face. She only relaxed when Pearl smiled a bit wider and shook her head.

“No. I was the only one that you let close to you,” Her thumb swept over the dark woman’s knuckles.

“Did I do anything to you?” At that, Pearl’s smile faltered and she looked away from her face. Garnet’s eyes widened at a sight on her neck. It was peppered with several small bruises and the occasional scratch mark. Pearl twisted her head back, as if she realized that she had made a mistake. Garnet’s eyebrows sloped downwards and a cold feeling washed over her.

“Pearl…”

“It-it's nothing.”

“I-”

“Don't worry about it. You weren't yourself,” She was quick to shut down her guilt and worries. Pearl gently tugged her hand out of her grip and turned to the doctor.

“When can she be released?” She asked. The doctor tsked.

“Another week wouldn't hurt, but she can be discharged in about two days should she feel well enough,” The way they were talking, as if Garnet weren't even there, made irritation spread throughout her being. She clutched at her bedsheets, grip tight enough that her knuckles turned white, and bared her teeth on an odd, but strong, instinct. The doctor and Pearl carried on their conversation as if they hadn't seen Garnet’s reaction, and she supposed that were the case because they haven't even spared a glance in her direction. Like she became invisible. She settled back down on her bed and pulled the sheets up to her neck, grunting when her arm protested the movement.

She flexed the fingers of her left hand, feeling pain travel down the ligaments to her forearm. Garnet forced her arm out through the sheets, despite the liquid fire that shot through her arm at the simple movement. Through the tears that sprung up from the pain, she looked at the white wrappings on her wrist.

“What happened?” She murmured to herself. A hesitant hand reached up to the bandaging, alternating between touching it with her fingertips and drawing them back. Her lips tugged down into a frown. She reached forward yet again and felt the bandaging. Rough, grainy; almost like sandpaper but not as coarse. She traced her fingers up and down the bandaging, feeling for a groove she could dig her fingers into. Her nails caught on something. She began to scrape them down and pull.

“Garnet, what are you doing?” Pearl’s voice was close. She must've walked to her bed sometime while Garnet was distracted. The dark woman didn't answer, all too focused on tugging her bandaging down. Pearl frowned and moved to reach for her hand.

In hindsight, it wasn't the best idea.

The sudden movement in her peripheral triggered something deep with Garnet, and she couldn't hold back the strange noise that escaped her throat, nor could she hold back the hand she used to swipe at Pearl’s chest. Her nails didn't do as much damage as she hoped they would, but the force of her strike was enough to make Pearl cry out and stumble back, clutching her chest and letting out labored breaths as she tried to regain the air knocked out of her lungs.

Garnet curled her lips back to bare her teeth as her eyes narrowed down at Pearl.

No one in the room moved.

“Ms. Clarke,” The doctor started, taking a step towards her. Garnet didn't look at him, still bristling. “I need you to calm down.”  Garnet didn't take her eyes off of Pearl. Pearl didn't dare to move, staring at the dark woman with what could only be perceived as fear.

And like a switch was flipped, Garnet snapped out of her stupor.

Confusion flooded her. Her right hand moved up to scratch her neck as she looked around in an attempt to get a sense of her surroundings.

“What happened?” The last minute was blur, but the mix of shock and fear on the expressions of both the doctor and Pearl told her that whatever happened wasn’t anything good.

Garnet realized she was still hunching over when a pulse of pain shot from her chest to her stomach. With a grunt, she fell back on the bed and squinted her sensitive eyes at the ceiling. Why wasn't anyone saying anything?

“What happened?” She repeated, an edge in her voice this time. Again, silence. She snapped her head to the side and glowered at the doctor and Pearl.

“What?!” Impatience filled her.

“You…” The pale woman paused. Her fist clutched the fabric of her shirt in a tight grip. “Nothing. Nothing happened.” At this, the doctor shot her an incredulous look. Pearl shook her head and took slow steps to Garnet’s bed side. A hand rested on her forehead and stroked back curls from her eyes. A deep breath escaped from Garnet and her fingers flexed. She wasn't telling the truth. She knew she wasn't.

“Don't worry,” Pearl made to move her hand back into her hair but Garnet caught her wrist and pulled it away from her head. Her touch didn't feel right. She didn't want to be touched. And even the offended and hurt look on her girlfriend’s face didn’t make her want to change her resolve.

“What’s wrong with my wrist?” Mismatched eyes focused on the bandaged appendage. The mix of offense and hurt left Pearl’s face as her eyes looked to the mentioned body part.

“That’s where you were bitten.”

“Bitten?”

“By the bear.”

“A bear?”

“Well, they think it's a bear,” Pearl gave a shrug of her thin shoulders. “It isn't certain until they catch it.” Garnet was utterly confused. She stared hard at her wrist.

“Bitten?” She repeated.

“It mauled you. You’re lucky an ambulance was already en route for other injured people. Otherwise the blood loss would have killed you,” The doctor chimed in.

“It was a close call.” A smile spread over Pearl’s lips. She deposited both hands in her lap and took a seat on the side of the bed. It dipped with her weight. “I'm glad you’re okay.”

“How long was I out? Including the three days I was ‘awake’?”

“A month.”

“A month?!” Garnet repeated, face taking on a look of shock. She had been out that long? Pearl nodded. Dread balled up in Garnet.

“H-how-?”

“Your body needed time to heal,” The doctor interrupted. He strode to the door.

“It still does. You need to rest as much as possible and take your medication at the scheduled hours. Eat if you can,” He took a moment to nod at Pearl, before the doctor disappeared out of the doorway. Garnet’s cheek twitched; she didn’t like him. The door clicked shut and movement at the corner of her eye made Garnet’s head snap to the left. Pearl’s hand was hovering in the air, as if she were trying to reach for her. Slowly, the hand drew away and fell back into the pale woman’s lap, and Pearl’s teeth dug into her bottom lip.

“You were acting so odd the other night,” She said.

Garnet listened with confusion while Pearl seemed split between finishing her sentence or not.

“You kept growling in your sleep.”

--

The week passed by, the minutes blurring into hours and the hours blurring into days. At 7 PM, Garnet was discharged and she found herself sitting in passenger seat of Pearl’s car, staring out the window while her hand fumbled with the bag of prescriptions given to her. A deep breath was let out as the dark woman closed her eyes and leaned her head against the cold window of the passenger seat.

“Tired,” She murmured to Pearl. She barely slept the past week; either she kept waking up at ten minute intervals or because of nightmares. She couldn’t help but shudder as she remembered the nightmares, each one as horrific as the one of Pearl, each one leading her to wake up in a cold sweat, terrified. Each one leading her to fear sleep. They were worse than any other nightmare she had before.

“I know. We’ll be home soon,” Pearl didn’t take her eyes off the road as she responded. Garnet hummed and scratched at her bandaged wrist, trying and failing to satisfy an inch underneath the white cloth. The slight contact on the appendage made ripples of fire spread under the skin; not painful, but uncomfortable. A grimace crossed over Garnet’s face as her hand snapped away.

She stared down at her wrist for a time, before her eyes trailed up to her shoulder and the bandaging peaking under her shirt sleeve. She shifted in her seat, arching her back as best as she could with the bandaging around her torso constricting her movements. The scratches on her back and chest protested by throbbing, and Garnet let out a small whimper despite her attempt to contain it.

A hand pressed down on her thigh and the dark woman flinched, blue and brown eyes shooting to the body part. The touch didn’t feel as bad or overwhelming as it did while she was in the hospital, but it still didn’t feel right. Garnet kept that to herself, however, not wanting to create a fuss over something that seemed so small. Hesitantly, she raised a hand up and set it over the pale one on her thigh, and out of her peripheral she spotted Pearl turning her head to look at it and smile.

The car ride was silent for the rest of the journey and they reached the house quicker than Garnet thought they would. Pearl insisted on helping her out of the car, but she declined, choosing to hobble across the walkway herself.

Nothing changed, Garnet noticed as she opened the door, though the main room was immaculately clean.

She stress-cleaned.

A frown pulled at her lips as she was reminded, not for the first time, of the extreme worry Pearl went through during her period of unconsciousness. She made a vow to make it up to her, and Garnet hummed as she stepped over to their leather grey couch and took a seat. Pain shot through her back, drawing a hiss from her lips as she settled back into the cushioning.

“Are you alright?” Came her girlfriend’s worried voice. She was in the process of shutting the door and setting the bag of medication down on an end table near a window.

“Fine,” Garnet grumbled as she rubbed at her back. “You’d think these scratches would heal after a month of being in a coma.”

“You weren’t in a coma; those are caused by head injuries.” Pearl gently corrected. She headed for the couch and sat down next to Garnet.

“Then explain being out for an entire month.”

“You were seriously hurt.” Pearl leaned her head down on Garnet’s shoulder, letting out a small breath through her nose. The contact caused the dark woman to stiffen, though Pearl didn’t seem to notice the sudden tenseness from her girlfriend.

“What’s for dinner?” Garnet tried her best to relax, but her body wasn’t having it.

“Are you hungry?” Pearl lifted her head, looking at Garnet with questioning eyes. She nodded.

“A little.”

“I’ll go make us something.” With that, Pearl stood and Garnet repressed a sigh of relief. She rolled her shoulder back and settled further into the cushioning. Tingles of pain shooting through the scratch marks on her back made her wince, but she didn’t move from her spot. As if her body remembered her exhaustion from before, Garnet grew very tired, to the point where her eyelids kept involuntarily closing. She brought her head back and stretched out her legs, getting into a comfortable position.

Ten minutes won’t hurt.

Pearl would be done with dinner by then and they could call it an early night. Satisfied with this, the dark woman allowed herself to drift to sleep.

--

Garnet awoke to a pitch black landscape and an immense pain in her wrist. A hiss escaped her as she clamped her hand over it, as if it would help dispel the pain. A light shone on the side of her face, and the dark woman looked up to see a full moon hanging above her, outlining tall trees but nothing else, as if the landscape was absorbing all the light it was generously being given.

Sweat trickled down her neck, and Garnet couldn’t seem to take her eyes off of the ivory sphere. It was as if it had her under a spell. A low growl. Garnet managed to break her gaze to look to the front of her.

A large, wolfish monster crouched back into the brush of the landscape, blending in with its midnight-black fur, the only thing that kept it from disappearing entirely were its crimson eyes and yellow teeth. It emitted another low growl and took a step forward. A sense of familiarity washed over Garnet; she’s seen the monster before. She stepped back, heart pounding in her chest and prickles of fear stabbing her neck. It drew forward again, and they continued this dance until Garnet’s back hit a hidden tree and she couldn’t bring herself to move away, forced to stare in horror as the monster approached.

It pulled its lips back in a snarl, showing off its razor sharp teeth.

It lunged before she could blink and its sharp teeth clamped down on her wrist, and flashes of white strobed in her vision as the pain exploded through her arm. Garnet tried to scream, but no noise left her lips. The monster pulled away from her arm and licked its maw, backing away before tensing as though it would lunge again.

“GARNET!”

--

Garnet jolted from her rest, the sudden motion sending waves of pain down her back and chest. A pained groan escaped from her lips and she fell back onto the couch, resting a hand over her aching chest. Above, Pearl looked on with wide eyes and a mouth opened in alarm.

The aching and burning of her wrist brought Garnet’s attention to it. Blood had turned the white bandaging red. The sight made the dark woman’s eyes widen.

“You were screaming.”

Garnet looked back to Pearl, her expression almost mirroring hers. She remembered how she tried to scream in the nightmare, and how no noise came out.

“I was having a nightmare,” Garnet shook out her hand, dispelling some of the pain in her wrist but not a large margin. Pearl’s eyebrows furrowed with concern.

“Are you alright?” Garnet gave a nod.

“Yes.”

“We’ll change the bandaging after dinner,” Pearl said, reaching out a hand towards Garnet’s wrist. Instinct seized her mind; Garnet jerked her wrist away before the pale hand could come into contact with it.

“Don’t touch it!”

She was baring her teeth and lowering herself again, every part of her tensing in preparation to attack should Pearl come any closer. Her eyes, wild and angry, held a challenge in them: Come closer and see what happens. Only when Pearl shrunk away did Garnet relax, but her eyes still held the challenge and the warning in them.

“What has gotten into you?!” Pearl met her with an equal amount of anger. Garnet flinched back in surprise, eyes widening before she blinked in quick succession. Confusion filled her; what happened? She searched Pearl’s face for an answer, but all she found was hostility. A dark hand came up to her shoulder and began to rub it.

“Wh-what?” A small voice answered the question, and Pearl relaxed and her features softened. “What did I do?”

“You-“ A flash of anger replaced the softness, but only for a brief moment before Pearl relaxed again. “Nothing. Nothing happened. Let’s go eat.” The pale woman didn’t wait for a response before she spun on her heel and headed for the dining room that connected directly to the main-room, separated only by a square arch-way. Mismatched eyes stared at her back as she left. A bandaged wrist raised into view and they looked at that instead, at the blood that bloomed on the side of it.

A frown pulled over Garnet’s lips, before she lifted herself from the couch and followed her girlfriend into the dining room.

--

The sound of rustling cloth. A low growl that split into a whine. Quick panting.

Garnet slapped a sweaty hand onto the cloth of her bedsheet, fingers digging in and pulling back close to her torso. A whimper spilled from her throat and the dark woman curled into the fetal position, face strained with stress and fear. Her arms and legs twitched, as if they were trying to perform an action but were held back by an invisible force. Garnet’s entire body jolted and the woman let out a yelp, hands balling into fists and pulling the white, sweat-soaked bedsheet out of place. Beside her, Pearl shuffled along the bed, no doubt roused from her sleep by her panicked noises. Another yelp escaped Garnet, and the bed dipped as her girlfriend moved.

“Garnet?” A pale hand came to the dark woman’s shoulder, and the moment it made contact with the body part Garnet relaxed, though quick pants still escaped from her lips. The hand stroked soothingly up and down the dark woman’s strong shoulder, and into her ear the pale woman whispered soft reassuring words.

“Don’t worry. It’s just a dream. I’m right here. Shh.”

The quick pants turned into regulated breathing, and Garnet’s eyelids fluttered open. Through the window, the waxing crescent shone down on her side of the bed, alluring her to stare and focus on it with eyes that widened and pupils that became pinpricks.

It was like a spell had been cast over her; suddenly, Garnet didn’t feel so tired, or scared, or tense as she had been when she awakened. Though a burn started beneath her skin that refused to ebb away, and her skin dampened with sweat.

A headache formed behind her eyes. Garnet squeezed them shut.

She flipped over onto her other side and faced Pearl. As if the spell had been broken, the headache went away, but her skin still burned. The worst of it was in her wrist, which burned and ached worse than before.

“Are you okay?”

Mismatched eyes flickered up to meet worried blue ones.

“Can you close the curtains?”

A confused look greeted her strained face, but with a shrug of her thin shoulders, Pearl complied and slipped out of the bed, padding towards the window. Garnet let loose a sigh of relief when the room darkened. The burning and sweating stopped; she felt better.

“Thank you.”

“What were you dreaming about?” Pearl asked as she slipped back under the covers and shuffled close to the dark woman. Garnet’s lips pressed into a thin line.

“I was… being chased.” She replied. An eyebrow raised at her.

“By what?”  

Silence. Garnet couldn’t remember. The dream was already blurry in her memories. She shook her head at her girlfriend and shrugged her shoulders. Pearl nodded and rolled back over.

“Try to get some sleep, Garnet. You really need it.” Was all she said before she settled further into the bed and pulled the covers to her nose. Garnet bit into her lip, eyebrows furrowing as she looked down at her bandaged wrist. Her eyes widened. Somewhere in the midst of her tossing she managed to loosen the bandaging, leaving the wraps hanging loosely around her wrist. A dark hand reached to tightened them and retie the knot, but hesitated. Instead, Garnet unraveled the bandaging with a slow, cautious motion.

The bite mark’s burn and ache went away the moment the last of the bandaging came off, a soft sigh leaving Garnet’s lips at the relief. The mark itself marred the top and bottom half of the left side of her wrist. She alternated between turning her hand palm-up and palm-down so she could examine the bite mark, something she wasn’t able to do when Pearl changed the bandaging earlier.

A hand came to one of the indented wounds and the work of stitching on it. A simple poke sent white flashing through her vision and an excruciating pain down her forearm. Teeth gritted in anguish, Garnet let out a whimper as she jerked her hand away. Waves of pain spread up and down her arm, lasting what seemed like hours when it was only seconds.

A rattling noise echoed through the room as the air conditioner kicked on, heated air blowing through the vents. The gust of air blew a curtain aside, and bright moonlight shone down on the bite mark. Temptation rang through Garnet. She forced herself to look back at the moon. A dark figure ducked out of her vision just as she viewed the window. Before she could even snap out of her shock to look around, the curtain settled back into place, casting the room in darkness once more.