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Detroit: To Be Human

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A bright, blinding, white light. Ruthless, rough hands mercilessly grabbing her with bruising force. Snarling. Biting. Resisting. Fighting back. It’s all a blur of memory.

“Feral werewolf.” The shadow in front of her speaks into his walkie-talkie. She can’t make out the shadow’s features, but he’s armored heavily, his uniform’s camouflage material covering his arms and legs and a sturdy vest covering his chest, shielding his organs. The vest has silver either implanted or sewn within it, somehow. The sharp, metallic, bitter smell, imperceptible to humans, makes her nose scrunch up in disgust and she tries to squirm away from the squadron’s leader. Of course, it causes the two others holding her to tighten their hold, and wrestle her into submission, believing her actions to be a sign of aggression. Her wolf is trembling inside with unbridled anger—at the unjustness of this situation, at the loathsome “professionals” daring to use such barbaric behavior in the presence of a child, but most especially at the perpetrator of her current abuse.

The house seems to perpetually reek of his foul odor, no matter her efforts to squelch the gag-worthy stench. He’s oblivious to the amount of restraint she has to use to force civil interactions with him. Her wolf...far less polite, but she cannot give in to its desires, no matter how much she wishes she could.

He’s downstairs—no doubt lounging in the living room (only kept clean thanks to her efforts) in front of the television, a beer probably in hand. If Todd Williams has any sympathy suddenly growing in his cold heart, any remorse for his actions, he’s skillfully suppressing it. He is, after all, the one who called with claims of a “feral werewolf”. Furthering his lies, he’d accused her of turning feral and attempting to attack his defenseless nine-year-old daughter, unprovoked.

Of course, Kara had done no such thing. She was merely up in Alice’s room tidying up a little, one of her many tasks she had been hired to do. The meek, shy little girl had been sitting in a corner of her room, where a little fort was constructed with sheets. Inside, a few books and stuffed animals remained; Alice’s own little wonderland where she could escape this harsh reality.

Kara, sadly, could empathize with the poor girl’s desire to escape the dismal reality they lived in. The home of Todd Williams was a gray, depressing, pitiful place. Shadows loomed everywhere, but Kara was happy to admit she had found a rare, precious glimmer of sunlight within the walls of the house.

That glimmer was little Alice Williams.

That glimmer is growing dim...The brunette child is crying, begging the armored men to stop. Of course, they hold no pity for the little one’s upset, ignoring her hands that fruitlessly tug at their belts and uniforms, in a desperate attempt to get them to release the werewolf.

Kara knows something has to be done. Alice is going to be hurt otherwise, if her resistance doesn’t cease. The men are ordered to halt anyone who dares interfere with their missions...Using brute force on even a child is barbarically permitted.

“Alice, stop it!” Kara doesn’t mean for her voice to take on the deep, guttural, animalistic growl it does. It makes her own hair stand on end in fear, chilling even her own blood. It doesn’t even sound like her voice...It sounds like a wolf. She closes her eyes momentarily and then re-opens them, turning her gaze around to peer at the little girl. Kara doesn’t need to see her reflection to know her eyes have turned from blue to her wolf’s golden brown shade.

Alice looks so small, defenseless, and stricken. The child has recoiled into the wall, so near her little sanctuary that all Alice has to do is roll over and she can burrow into her nest of blankets, shielded from the scary outside world by a bedsheet printed with a cute floral design. She doesn’t do such a thing though, and instead only stares up at the werewolf, silent. Tear tracks stain her face, a few tears leaking past every few seconds, her brown eyes glassy. Alice sniffles once, and draws her well-loved stuffed fox, Timothy, close to her chest, as if the toy will protect her...

Protect her from the big, bad wolf.

It hurts Kara more than she can express, seeing the little human who she’s grown so attached to recoil away from her.

The leader speaks into his walkie-talkie once more, but Kara doesn’t pay attention. Her eyes have focused intently on the frightened girl, and her wolf is repeating a mantra over and over—something about taking the pup and running away, far away from putrid civilization.

“We don’t belong in their world. We want to run free. We want to hunt. We want to be reunited with the moon. The pup will be safer away from these foul beings. Hunt. Safe. Protect. Protect. Hunt. Kill—”

“Shut up!” Kara growls, silencing the voice of her wolf. The voice has been white noise, up until the end. She refuses to kill for no reason. Hunting, for sustenance, is a whole other matter, but killing in cold blood…

Kara pushes the thought out of her head, and gently speaks to the girl, her voice soft and slightly imploring. “Alice…”

Weight plows into her, and Kara grunts from the force. She turns her head around. Alice screams in fear. Thunderous footsteps pound up the stairs. Kara grunts as one of the men wrap their hands around her neck, in a restraining hold. Another comes forward with a black, muzzle type of mask that will tie around Kara’s face, keeping her snout restrained should she morph into her wolf’s form.

Kara’s blue eyes widen in fear, as the black shadow nears closer and closer.

“No!” Alice cries out. “Kara!” her voice is plaintive, frightened.

“Alice, no!” Desperation infects the wolf’s veins. She can’t let the child risk herself.

“Alice!” Todd’s voice sends Kara’s blood ablaze with anger, but she is in no position to confront the man. His voice paints him the image of the concerned, loving, protective father thundering up the stairs to protect his daughter from the monster in the closet. It is a lie only Kara is aware of. “Alice!”

Alice silences, stiffening. Kara grits her teeth together. She grunts as she is wrestled into the muzzle.

“No…” Alice’s voice sounds so defenseless and weak. Kara sees a shadow pass over her, and her last sight of her sweet little girl is Alice in Todd’s lap, the man murmuring words of comfort as the nine-year-old cries for her werewolf. The muzzle’s black leather surrounds her, except for the eyeholes permitting her sight of the crying girl.

Her wolf growls possessively. “He has our pup. Finish him! Finish him off! He is not—”

“Silence!” Kara is pleased when the voice obeys immediately, leaving her alone. She cannot phase right now, no matter how much she wants to. That would surely get her taken away for longer than they have planned.

However long that is, Kara does not know...She just hopes this is not her last time she will ever see Alice.

“Kara…” Alice plaintively reaches out for the blue-eyed female.

Kara is forced to her feet roughly, from where she was on her knees against the carpeted floor of Alice’s bedroom. Her arms are held behind her back in a vice-like grip, and the werewolf grunts as she is shoved and maneuvered out of the room.

“Alright, mutt, let’s go. We don’t want trouble,” one of the men say.

“Alice!” Kara grunts, trying to get over to the girl.

“Hey! Hey! Whoa!” Two of the men block her path, and one of them roughly shoves her forward. The leader stands just outside the door, waiting. “Keep it moving, beast!”

“I’m sorry…” Kara chokes out, tears in her eyes as all fight leaves her body, and she has no choice but to be ushered out.

The sight of that muzzle will haunt Alice for the foreseeable future…

 

Two weeks.

Kara isn’t sure how long she has been in this snake pit, but if Todd’s words can be trusted (they probably can’t be, but she doesn’t know anymore), then she has been in this cage, in these white rooms, for two weeks.

Her memory is fuzzy. She has some vague recollection of lying in a fetal position in a small space, a little body, warm and soft, cuddled against her; a feeling of peace...and then confusion, being grabbed, being wrenched away from the small, warm, toasty space. A petite hand brushing against her as she’s dragged away, as though trying to grab her to pull her back into their little hiding place--so much like a cave that, if Kara has to admit it, she doesn’t want to leave it. The memories are growing hazier, so Kara isn’t sure whether she dreamt that or not. However, she knows she remembers a voice--her wolf--snarling in a hissed voice.

“Shred them. Rip them apart. They call you a beast. How about we prove to them exactly what kind of a beast we are?”

Next, Kara remembers the flashlight’s white light blinding her. She remembers cruel, rough hands manhandling her like she’s an unruly animal. She remembers hearing someone--a child--crying, and then her nose being assaulted with his stomach-churning odor--her wolf growling, tugging harshly against the chains and bonds of her humanity. Next, a needle.

Then, nothing…

It’s as if the past two weeks had not happened...Kara doesn’t remember much, except pinpricks of pain, and one horrifying instance (which she desperately hopes was just a bad dream) in which she opened her eyes, and was phased into her wolf’s form, laying in a bright, white room, on a cold, metal table, strapped down. The antiseptic smell of a lab or doctor’s office infiltrated her nostrils, making her hackles rise. The rest of the time was either filled with blissful, silent darkness, or a dream...A repeating dream about the forest, a full moon, a wolf pup, and a ceremony turning into a war.

She’s had it three times since the start of her stay, and every time she wakes up, Kara is haunted by a hollow feeling in her stomach, and a sensation like something isn’t quite right.

Luther, she thinks to herself when these feelings come, but she quickly pushes thoughts of her fellow werewolf aside.

She can’t think about the past right now….

 

The sky is gray and overcast, the sidewalks and street seemingly abandoned as the car slowly rumbles down  the road. Kara silently watches out the passenger side window. There’s something...off...about the suburban area. She would have thought there would be children playing outside, but not a soul can be seen. A few of the yards hold evidence of children in the vicinity--a red, rubber ball, a swingset in the yard, a baseball bat left on the porch, a tricycle--but the area is eerily quiet, like a ghost town.

It’s unsettling, but Kara smartly remains silent, choosing not to comment. Todd isn’t exactly her ideal choice of conversationalist, anyway. Kara catches a whiff of his scent--musty, with the smell of alcohol and...something else...clinging to him. It’s nauseating by itself, but mixed with the hot, stuffy air of a car with no working air conditioning, it is almost unbearable.

Kara reaches over, and the soft whirring of the window rolling down is the only noise until it’s down all the way and wind blows past them. The air is a bit nippy, and has a faint scent of gasoline to it, but it is a welcome alternative to Todd’s smell. His stench is one of the most unpleasant Kara has ever been around.

“Hey!” the gruff bark makes her jump. “What’re you doin’, mongrel?” Todd doesn’t take his eyes off the road.

Her hand tightens on the door handle, and a low growl bubbles past Kara’s teeth, inaudible to Todd’s ears. She grits her teeth, and tightens her lips into a straight line, before sitting up straight and turning to Todd with a soft smile--the plastic smile he expected from her as his “hired help” around the house.

Piteous really, as the money Kara received from Todd every two weeks wasn’t even half of the typical pay you would assume a babysitter would receive. Add that into the female werewolf also doubling as a housemaid, and the family’s cook, and her monetary situation could only be described as tragic. Kara had hoped to save up enough to get her own place to live somewhere in human society, perhaps in an apartment somewhere in Detroit, but those dreams were down the drain, especially since Todd expected her to buy groceries with at least half of the money she received from him. His excuse (or explanation...?) a grumbled answer about him being generous enough to give her, a “flea-bitten mutt”, a roof over her head, when he could have left her to rot with the homeless of Detroit, scrounging in trash cans for her next meal.

“I was feeling nauseous,” Kara says evenly, in supply of an answer, complacent and near-emotionless, just as Todd likes. “I thought some fresh air would help ease my stomach.”

Todd groans, and grumbles something under his breath about it not being easy to travel with dogs. Kara ignores him, instead closing her eyes, and allowing the wind to blow against her face. She can almost imagine the blissful freedom of running through the woods with her pack nearby, the wind in her fur, the full moon shining down on her, a tiny little pup running beside her feet, trying to keep up…

Kara startles, her reverie ceasing as the car comes to an abrupt stop near the sidewalk beside the house. Todd grumbles bitterly under his breath as he slings his seatbelt off and throws his door open. He closes it harder than necessary, and the noise makes Kara wince, as she rolls up her window.

“You comin’?” Todd asks, but she knows he doesn’t expect an answer. He groans in disgust, turning around and irritably marches up the sidewalk. He doesn’t spare her another glance, and for that, Kara is grateful.

With a sigh, the werewolf unfastens her seatbelt, and exits the slightly beat-up vehicle. She bows her head, closing her eyes as she does so, and inhales through her nose, enjoying the sharp, refreshing sting of gelid air. Autumn is nearing from the feel of it. Kara draws her hands up, rubbing her upper arms in an attempt to warm up a bit as she looks around, surveying her surroundings.

Todd’s incoherent grumblings begin to raise in volume. Kara briskly walks across the front yard, and up the few steps onto the wooden porch. Todd waits at the front door, his hand on the knob. He notices that she’s avoiding eye contact, and he only has to tilt his head down barely an inch to make eye contact with Kara, and when he does, the human gives a snide little snicker, the corner of his mouth upturning into a smirk.

Kara resists the urge to snarl, knowing he’s attempting to provoke her, and the male shoves open the front door, walking inside.

“Like I said, you’ve been gone for two weeks, so the place is a mess.” A mess is an understatement. Empty beer bottles line the breakfast nook, along with what appears to be empty boxes of Chinese takeout (one still with a pair of chopsticks sticking up in it, giving an indication there was still food inside, and that perhaps Todd had been too lazy to put the leftovers in the fridge). Empty pizza boxes are stacked nearby. The sink is full of dirty dishes, and two full bags of trash lay tied and waiting by the refrigerator. Kara pans her gaze to her right, where she sees the state of the living room and dining area across from the kitchen. There’s two glasses and three dirty plates on the square table. Two of the chairs are tilted askew, one is straight and pushed into place, and the fourth chair is knocked onto its back, as if whoever was sitting there had got up with great force, like they were mad.

The thought sends fear--pure, raw fear--through Kara’s veins, and her eyes widen imperceptibly. She scans the area around her, finding nothing, and tries to hide how her breath is quickening.

Todd’s voice finally becomes her focus, again. “--and I shouldn’t have to remind you that you take care of Alice.”

Kara jolts to attention abruptly. That name--Everything else might be a nearly indecipherable haze, but Alice...Alice is something here the blue-eyed woman definitely remembers.

“Alice. Where’s our pup? What has that lowlife done to our--”

“Stop. Stop. Stop! Please! No! Stop it!” Kara begs the wolf within to calm down. Her body is shaking, and she prays that Todd does not notice. She can’t afford to phase. Not now. Not when…

“Where did that brat get off to?” Todd growls under his breath. “Alice!”

Kara gulps, her body tense. Todd is muttering and snarling under his breath, eyes closed, fingers pinching the bridge of his nose.

A familiar, sweet, light perfume fills the air, muting Todd’s overpowering scent, and Kara sighs softly in a mix of rapture and relief, a soft smile transforming her beautiful features. She can’t describe her current feelings, except she feels...human...for the first time in two weeks. Upstairs, the padding of sock-clad feet is heard rushing against carpeted floor, and, in barely contained joy, Kara looks upstairs.

A small nine-year-old with brown eyes and brown hair slowly walks downstairs, her left hand wrapped around the bannister, her other arm wrapped around her stuffed fox. Little Alice is clutching Timothy in a death grip. Her attire consists of jeans and a white sweater with a pink heart in the center. She’s only wearing socks on her feet, and Kara notices, with a little smile, that the socks are white with red and orange leaves on them. Adorable. Alice’s gaze seems to be focused on her socks, but Kara assumes its to make sure she doesn’t trip on the stairs.

“Hello, Alice.” The child’s head snaps up at hearing the warm, maternal-sounding voice. Alice’s face is pale, and her eyes bear shadows underneath them--not prominent, but they are there, as though the little girl is not feeling well, or hasn’t been getting proper sleep. Kara notices it, but doesn’t comment--she mentally reminds herself to ask Alice later, when Todd is out of earshot.

“Oh, there you are,” comes Todd’s gruff, growled murmur. “This is my daughter, Alice,” he speaks, words directed to Kara this time. “You look after her, and make sure she stays out of trouble. Gets homework done. Bath. All that junk.” Todd gives a growled sigh, running a hand down his face, as though he’s exhausted. Kara looks at him, and plasters on that soft, fake polite smile.

“Shall I start cleaning downstairs?” the werewolf asks of the mortal.

Todd grumbles. “Yeah, yeah...Just stay out of my way.” He plods off to the living room, muttering something about werewolves, and “mongrels”, and “disgraces to humanity”.

Kara is relieved to see him go. She turns back to the stairs and gasps, surprised, before looking down. Alice has walked the rest of the way, and is sitting at the bottom of the stairs. She looks so tiny, her knees drawn up to her chin, holding her stuffed fox close, stroking the back of Timothy’s head repetitively as she stares into space. It takes all of Kara’s willpower not to scoop up the little girl, and carry her bridal-style back to her room, making sure she’s safe and comfortable, away from the monster that masquerades as her father.

Kara laughs under her breath. “You’re rather quick, aren’t you?” She kneels down at the bottom of the stairs, in front of Alice.

The child gives a brief, fleeting smile and nods in return. Her little frown soon reappears, and pretty brown eyes become unfocused. Alice looks away from Kara, focusing on nothing.

“Alice…” Kara ventures, reaching out a hand, delicately brushing a strand of hair behind the girl’s ear with the utmost care. “Are you feeling okay?”

The child nods slowly, but Kara has a feeling it’s not the truth. The werewolf glances into the living room, where Todd is sitting in front of the TV, watching what appears to be a hockey game. Occasionally, his grizzled mutters carry through, but nothing he says is understandable.

Kara turns back to Alice, and leans forward. She pretends to ignore the way the little girl flinches and whimpers ever so softly as Kara settles near her ear.

“Alice,” the werewolf whispers, “it’s Kara. Don’t you remember me, little one?”

Affirming to Kara that, yes, she is fast, Alice spins around, before soundlessly running upstairs, back to her room. Her door shuts quietly, and Kara is left at the bottom of the stairs, alone, to silently ponder what just happened.

With plenty to think about, the werewolf begins her chores.