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Monster

Summary:
I'm nothing but a monster burning in a hell that only exists in my head. There's no hope left until one harmless glance chances logic and binds two eternal enemies together in a twist of fate. Can the escape from this hell be found in an infuriating dimpled grin? Or is this another dark, dirty trick of my own mind? A forbidden passion, heat, and intense anger—this is no fairytale.


Notes:
[Disclaimer: Monster is an originally plotted fic. The ideas within this fic are not to be copied in any way, shape, or form—I have not given my consent to any manner of copying. All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the intellectual property of their respective owners. All canon concepts and characters are the property of the Twilight Saga's author, Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended. Similarities are for the sole use of fan fiction, and no profit has been or will be benefited from the posting of this fic.] Emerging Swan Award 2012, nominated into Fandom Choice Awards.


66. Cry Wolf

Rating 0/5   Word Count 5545   Review this Chapter

[A/N: Here we go! These are the final three chapters of Monster. A little warning—this might get intense for some of the more visual readers. So, expect the unexpected that you might already be expecting. ;] There's also a temporary switch to third person POV for intended purposes, so please be ready for that. See you on the other side!]

"The screams all sound the same..." - Of Monsters and Men.

Chapter Sixty Six

Cry Wolf

We are red.

Not the red of blooming roses thriving under the warmth of golden summer rays.

We are the red of the final drops of life spilling from clean innocence. Heat, blistering heat, searing like a gleam of the sun's fiery death hurdled into earth, striking each heart and igniting a blaze raging with power and the jaw-dripping taste of a fresh, torn kill on hot tongues.

We are the jolt of adrenaline through wild veins, raking out every speck of sense, sending hearts beating backwards and twisting minds into a tangled churn of hate and lust so blindingly bright it splits ears and cracks skulls straight through the middle.

We are the streaks of motion charging through the hell burning around us, crackling in the treetops and racing along the ground like long, hungry licks of raw flame.

We are not made of one, two, or three.

We are a pack. A monstrous wave of power pummeling through the spaces between the mossy green of our burning world, frantic in the race to satisfy the gnawing starvation buckled through stomachs with a vicious, demanding crave.

Fight.

I destroy the forest floor, opening the earth wherever it cuts through my path. A sea of churning shoulders, gnashing jaws, and closely packed bodies parts down the middle with a flurry of barks and howls, making way for my charge. The sky darkens above my head, a grey bed of iron devouring the last yellow spot of warmth in the sky with a single sweep. Daylight drowns, disappearing in the darkness draped above the treetops.

Poison rages, a fever cracking and popping in every nerve beneath my skin. Water sloshes over my paws as they press against the murky slime of the river, but the flame of the sizzling air sucks the dirty liquid in before it touches my coat. Wolves bound across the stretch of the river, blasting through the brick wall of separation between our world and theirs. The tolerant peace shatters, tumbling over our shoulders, lost in the bubbling waves of black-blue water sprinkled like tiny crystals of glass.

A small streak darts in my path, crazed with the rampage around him. I pull back my muzzle, shouting a warning. A pair of wide brown eyes flickers toward me, popping wide. Clumsy paws scramble, but the reaction isn't fast enough.

I collide with the little wolf, knocking him flat to the messy spread of muck and torn grass. Whites roll in the sockets of his eyes, and a yelp rings through the muzzle. He crumbles beneath my paws, kicked and blown aside. A flash of icy blues turns my way, but there's no turning back. I brush them off with a snuff, bolting for the trees.

I blast forward with a howl, my voice carrying through the trees. A dozen echoes sound somewhere behind me, rising above the rolls of thunder far behind us.

Trapped in a furnace, hell rises on all sides. The black towers of trees peel, shot through to the stems in flame. Orange light reflects in my glassy gaze. My paws steam on the moss underfoot. Raw strength pumps through me, strong and real as instinct takes control. I tear my claws into the loam, charging the gates of hell itself with a baying cluster of death stampeding at my heels.

The dim light of the forest darkens further as the a faint perfume, so fucking sweet it's rotten, flies up my nostrils like an injection of acid. A static wave crashes from my skull to my ankles, cutting through skin and bone. My throat dries, the flavors of the forest sawdust on my tongue. A high-pitched wail pierces my ears as my eyes roll, struck with an onslaught of—

A familiar hand, sure, steady, and tinted russet, shivers across a pale sheet of lined paper. Grey curls fill the blue lines from the tip of a pencil cracked deep through the center.

'He held her there with a diamond ring.'

The hand pauses. Dirty fingernails grate the smooth table beneath. A thumb rolls, and the circle of a shining diamond ring, gold like streams of sunshine, falls flat on the paper. The hand raises, flexed and ready, before clamping shut and blasting through the wood. When the fist retreats, the damage scatters on the floor. A golden dust floats to coat the stripes of wood, shatter ing in to pieces that won't ever find each other again.

I leap into the air, hurling my body a few dozen yards. I land with a strike of lightning. The pale flash bursts the shadows, sending them fleeing. My paws kick off, slamming the ground straight on. I toss my neck, snarling heated savagery as the world pulses, the forest releasing coatings of red, purple, and blue. The shadows fall back into place underneath the sheets of pouring rain, cutting me off from the fading yowls calling my name.

In the decent of darkness, another flash swallows my vision.

Yellow irises, spotted with blotches of scarlet, train on my figure. A square jaw sets, and bruised lips move around soft words.

"I'm going to help you, Jordan."

Broad shoulders roll. I blink, and there's a flash of dimples, followed by the silver glint of a blade whistling straight toward my frozen gaze.

I lunge, dead weight and channeled power, cracking a pointed branch clean off its trunk. I snuff, my nostrils blazing. My legs stretch, galloping hard and pushing, pushing, pushing toward my limit. My wolf prepares for battle, blinding cold relief with blinding hate until the edges of my vision collapse and I'm sprinting into a black tunnel of nothing.

I open my eyes, standing barefoot and naked in a clearing. The grass is silver, dipped by the light of the moon, soft and swaying in a gentle August breeze . From where I stand, I gaze straight at an intimate moment between two lovers, otherwise alone in their corner of the shadows.

Something pulls me in. I feel the friction of their bodies, even tall on two legs and far out of reach. The man shows affection with his touches, turning fierceness into something fragile. I dig my heels into the damp earth, relaxing my hands in a cool breeze.

I have to lean forward, but from an angle, I see the woman shielded by his body. Her neck rolls, and she's lost in passion as her breath hitches. Heavy lids relax, and a sense of calm seeps into her expression. The edges of the woman's russet lips turn up. Her heart rate eases, thudding along to the drumming in my ears. I fall into the beat, swaying as the scene rearranges, breaking and cracking before flying back together.

I'm her. Flat on my stomach, I lay suspended across the smooth torso of sweet oblivion. A stone body fastens me to gravity again, tying me down to a world of nothing but him and me. Once secured, the man tips his head just enough to find my waiting gaze. His eyes, warm like melted money, soften and swell with adoration. He smiles, carefully brushing away the tumble of black from my ear and filling it with the cool whisper of his voice.

"I love you."

My paws beat, slam, and skid in half a second. I jolt forward, thrown from my wolf and landing hard on throbbing joints in my human skin. There's a half-second to inhale before the agony of struggle swarms in, tying me to dangle on its deadly chains of torture.

I grit my teeth, my expression twisting. My solid mask melts as I lurch and roll and twist, digging my fingers deep into the damp earth. Rain patters on the line of my spine. I breathe in a shuddering breath and release it with an empty heave. Every nerve twitches as a searing crimson burns me alive.

"GET IT OU-!"

I wheeze, my scream lost in a bellow of thunder. My body arches in the mud, thrashing and turning until my naked skin holds a thick layer of brown. I catch the stray roots of a bush, welcoming the feeling of thorns embedding themselves deep in my palm. I force gusts of fire through my teeth, clenching my jaw tight enough to crack it clean off. Spasms shake me, hard and long and down to the bone, until my burning world is blurring out of shape and I feel myself being crushed out of my skin.

At the peak of the flames, I lift my gaze to the stormy sky visible through the curved arms of the treetops. My neck cracks, and the movement sets off a chain reaction. From the center of my chest, I split clean in half and leak heat from my skull. My face reddens, searing hot enough to melt from the bone. Crimson splatters from my dry lips, gushes from my nostrils, and trickles out of my ears. I blaze, my spine curving and my head pushing into a smear of wet leaves. I claw into the thorns, my knees driving further and further into the earth. With each jerk and spasm, gravity loosens another finger. I bleed the wolf, her poison a tiny pool of scarlet beneath my stomach.

The raging storm screams from somewhere far away. The world tips as lightning flickers, clashing with a boom of thunder. A white light ignites the world around me for a heartbeat, revealing the tall, steady statues surrounding me. I choke on dry nothing in a pathetic attempt to fill my pinched lungs. The pain is so fucking real that it almost hurts.

Through a haze, I hold my eyes open as another second of lightning brightens the forest. I gaze at the muddy circle of paws around me, pressing in to create a wall of shuddering ruffs and huffs and puffs of wordless comfort. Their presence alone lightens the chains closed around my windpipes.

They speak the language these ears understand. Not through sounds and noises, but through the questionless look of patience in watchful gazes and the sturdy ring of support wrapped tightly around the unstable shape of me sunken into the earth at their center.

For the shortest tick of a second, the heat ebbs and my core tightens, grasping a loose thread of control. I seize it, filling my lungs with the wet taste of the forest. The circle of wolves loosens as I reel back and slam myself back into my wolf skin, jolting to my paws. The greyish-black forest buzzes static for a second. I huff, shaking off the chains of hell from my shoulders. My muscles settle, the knots of my body tying tight together. I breathe in, fanning out my senses and flicking on the twisted drive of instinct. My eyes flash clear open, darkened to blue-black against the white fur of my lupine face. My lips curve back as the disease whispers through my veins, the virus igniting my fires.

And with a grind of my jaws, I dive back into the charge at the head, the pack pushing hard at my heels.

I fly through the final stretch of night-darkened forest. Wolves follow the gestures of the male and female at my flanks, spreading out in the trees. I catch flashes of their pelts in the corner of my eyes, skimming the blackened trees and blasting through tangles of bramble. Distance slips under my long, steady strides like rushing water.

It only takes heartbeats for the stench of leech to infect my lungs once again. I break into a dead-sprint up a rocky hillside, my heart hammering out circuits of spiked adrenaline. Through the trees bordering the incline, I see the muscular tower of a male step into my path, raising his pale hands to protect himself. With a low, throaty chortle, I slash my jaws through him. He bursts into a cloud of dust, left to simmer and smoke under the beat of paws clamoring up the slope.

The mountains provide no protection. I can smell each and every one of them backed into the clearing, waiting for our advance. Bullets of rain bounce off my coat, as harmless as the howling winds. Thunder quakes through the ground, and lightning explodes on the pines, breaking the world wide open for our attack.

Wolves close in, charging shoulder to shoulder, stride to stride, snarl to snarl. My heart pumps, killkillkill, as the final stretch of pines zip by. I bunch my muscles, gathering every ounce of strength within me as I round the corner and lead the dozen bodies of raging thunder behind me into the open field for battle.

I take it all in at once as time pauses for one thump of a heartbeat.

Pale, solemn figures, white in the dark of the storm, stand ready. They guard a slumped tent behind their backs, one short. The yellow sun-fried grass matches the deadness in their sockets, hollow hope in their frozen gazes. They take in the colors of the pack approaching, every stare the same.

Except one.

From the back, a skyscraper of man sticks out like highlighter on cardboard. He holds a unique scent, different from the rest, and the white of his skin glows, bright and clear as a sun-lit pond. My gaze darts to catch a glimpse of his face, unable to resist. His irises are black ice in his hardened face, but they soften ever so slightly when they connect with mine. My heart stutters, curling knots deep in my gut.

A flurry of last-second thoughts spills into the pack link. I display a single collage of images: him, them, and the crack of bone in my jaws. There's an instant response-a brief touch of acknowledgement before each mind sucks out of the pack link and time starts to regain its pace.

In the final heartbeats, I wrestle strange pictures of golden eyes and the embrace of cold arms, breathing fire.

I'm Jordan Uley. He is Emmett Cullen. I am Jordan. He is Emmett. I am her. He is him. I am. . . He's. . .

He's the scent blazing in my nostrils, cutting through my throat like the sharp silver edges of knives.

The tower of muscle is my target, waiting for me, provoking attack; challenging.

He's my target.

He's the hunter.

No.

I'm the predator.

I'm the killer; I taste the metallic sting of salty red death on my tongue, so familiar it's a friend.

I'm the heat of a billion hells that bring me to the brink of pure rule and power.

I'm the wolf, and he's the demon.

I see it now.

I see it, and I know the bottomless pits of false emotion its hungry eyes.

Touches and kisses; cracks and snaps and hisses. Bleeding burns. The hollowness of my bones as warm golden saps my strength and bends my knees.

I see it in the demon, and the moment we lock eyes, I know.

The moment we lock eyes, I feel it. The jagged punch of hatred in my veins, so hot and real. The slashing and ripping as I'm turned inside out; twisted, remade into something different. Something unreal. What I really am.

There is no such thing as Jordan Uley. That's nothing but weak, spineless, pathetic excuse of a fighter; she's someone a heart that's foreign in wolf skin.

I am the wolf.

I. . .

Ha! Jordan Uley.

What a weak, pathetic fool. She's nothing.

She's gone.

The white wolf tosses her head with a sharp snap. Her paws press into the dead grass, burning against the cold stone under her pads. She pins her gaze on the group of pale-faced vampires crouched before her, trembling prey beneath her towering might. In a heartbeat, the riling wolves will fall upon them and send them to their graves. The white wolf collects herself, bracing herself against the mountain as she sinks into a hunter's crouch. As she shifts, her gaze zeros in on the dark-haired male in the back. For a moment, her hot, blackened eyes find his.

And the moment they connect, the white wolf sees something she has been blind to before now: she sees the shining hue of scarlet swimming through the yellow, like a light of truth seeping through a maze of all of the fucked-up facades and lies buried with the person inside her.

As she finally sees, instinct breathes a whisper in her flattened ears.

Kill him.

Shadows expand and swell, swallowing the world in blackness. Thunder booms across the open sky, followed by a flash of lightning that breaks the clouds in half. They open, spilling onto the mountains below.

The second the first drop splatters against the stone, a howl echoes a crash of thunder, and all at once the two sides meet in the middle, clashing in a feral, bloodthirsty brawl to the death.

The rough edges of the mountainside fill with a pressing weight of fever, fire and ice tearing at limbs and gnashing towards throats on impact. Grass flies as fast as burning-hot tempers, and lightning dances on the edges like the feather-light angels. The frenzied grapple collides in the center, neither breaking forward. Piles of fur and muscle crowd the space with spit-filled jaws, lunging for throats. Relentless bodies return with each kick and shove, thrown back again and again until the count of failed attacks leaves wet, five-inch streaks in the ground. The flap of the tent flutters, untouched.

Every minute rages beneath the storm brewing in the clouded sky. Neither side gives way, pushing and snarling and spitting, growing hotter and hotter with every sliding tooth and empty-handed strike.

Until from the center, a mountain of white falls back, creating the slightest hole in the center of the line. Panic zips through minds like wildfire as a honey-haired male rushes through the space, charging the lone she-wolf head-on.

As he steps forward, the white wolf plants her paws down, and with a slight jerk of her head, gestures a silent order. The hulking grey of Paul twists back with a snarl, hurling himself at the unprotected back of the male. He latches his teeth deep in the curve of his shoulder, yanking him to the ground with an infuriated screech. Two runts pivot and pour over the thrashing mass with vicious excitement.

The world morphs as the scene changes. Snow-white flashes dart through the clearing, guarding and grappling and shouting lost words through thunder. The world's almost pitch-black, but the white body in the center holds it together. The white wolf pummels herself into the skull of every wolf, dividing and driving. She spreads them out and ties them together, flashing the point of canines and putting power in the cut of claws. The demons scramble, spitting and scattering, but wolves sink through ankles and gnash at torsos before there's ever a chance.

Its dull colors are painted on the bright white of lightning and the motion of a fatal rhythm. The white wolf becomes the instructor, pushing and pushing and pushing. Demons fall, and she rises, higher and higher and higher. With every weakened cry, the white wolf paces closer to the slumped, rain-weary tent, her targets set and pointed while the storm drops closer and closer to the ground, mixing and churning and bursting with the struggle of the wolves.

Death chomps on the heels of the demons, threatening to drag them under with the slightest mistake. They dance on their toes, leaping and ducking and slashing their way against the tireless pairs of fevered wolves closing in around them.

As the white wolf comes closer, one dance falters. A brown head rises, nostrils flexing, tasting the faint flavor of smoke. Flecks of images spin worry in his head, distracting him from his dance. The white wolf watches from the corner of her eye, dragging the fiery female from her battle and directing her in a charge toward the brown male's opponent. The largest pair of partners, halt, necks turning away from the female backed to press against the stone of the mountain. Icy blues harden as the grey she-wolf tears away the brown's partner. Her ears perk, attentive. The russet beside her rumbles low, nodding his head toward the trees. They let the brown male bound into the trees before wheeling back on the female demon shivering on the rock, snapping at her fragile punches.

The white wolf's ears sing with spat hisses and flail of failing strength. The pack grows, closing each demon in a circle in the clearing and taking it out, chunk by chunk. Partners crouch back to back, their ravenous eyes coal-black as they stare into the faces of the end. The white wolf's veins pulse with instinct, but she wrestles it back, content to hear the agonized screeches of their final moments.

Her paws flow soundlessly across the grass. The wolf sinks into a crouch, prowling toward the open tent. The world folds away as her senses hone in. Stale, dry blood opens her nostrils while the flutter of a frantic heartbeat thunders toward its final moments. Lips pull back over ready jaws as the white wolf braces herself against the ground, her muzzle reaching toward the flap.

A body appears out of nowhere, flashing into the space between the wolf and the tent. The white wolf snarls, throwing her weight back as she prepares to strike. Her eyes roll, turning into a warm honey stare. Thunder grumbles, followed by a burst of brightness reflecting in the irises.

The white wolf pauses. She stands raised above the head of the male demon beneath her, her teeth bared and ready to sink through the thick neck inches in reach. The male demon chuckles half-heartedly, his stone body stiff beneath his mask of calm. He holds a steady stare into the white wolf's dark blues, his lips barely moving as he whispers through a gentle smile.

"Do you want this to be the end, Jordan?"

For a half-second, the wolf freezes. Her breath blows steam across the demon's face inches from the points of her jaws. Her heavy heart stutters in her chest, and the string of command slices in half. It drifts and floats before disappearing into nothing. The male demon's words tumble through her blank thoughts, loud and clear.

"Do you want this to be the end, Jordan?"

A blast cuts off the wolf's vision. Her pupils widen, dilating to cover her eye as a searing white replaces the world and a tornado whips through her cracked skull.

Do you want this?

Want this to be the end?

The end?

The end, Jordan?

Jordan.

Jordan Uley.

Me, her, it, him. . . Him.

Emmett.

We. . .

Us.

I suck in a breath through my nostrils, blinking away the red haze of the wolf. Her influence hovers, wrapping a thick shadow of control over my brain. The sting of venom mingles in my nostrils, and the pound of the kill throbs in my veins. I plant my paws against the stone of the mountain. My gaze drops, finding the waiting, hopeful stare of Emmett, his eyes following the skim of my own. He guards the tent with his body, his muscular arms thrown across the entrance. His hair sticks to his forehead, plastered with rain, and a jagged tear cuts the front of his shirt. He holds his breath, on the edge as my eyes wander back to his face.

I show the points of my teeth, a rumble spilling from deep in my throat. There's a flash of warmth in my veins as Emmett cracks a dimpled grin, nodding his head in silent approval. I twist and lunge with a huff, hurling myself into the battle of tooth and claw.

My jaws find the ruff of a thick black neck. I clamp my hold in deep, bracing my paws against slick stone. Sam growls a low warning, but I tear him clean out of his struggle and drag him to the ground. Whipping back around, I raise my weight up and bring it down, my neck extending as I snarl warning at the tiny 'sucker frozen in the clearing a few feet away. Her golden irises widen as she darts toward the tent, not needing to be told twice.

Sam finds his feet in seconds, snarling as he rams his weight into my side. Set steady, I counter his movement, throwing my dead weight into his shoulder. Sam drops with a yelp, skidding on the surface. There isn't a mark, but the shock of the rebuttal buckles his knees.

I find the runts a few strides out. Daniel and Jackson fake lunge and click their teeth at the honey-haired male, aiming for the missing chunk of his shoulder. Daniel distracts him from the front, snuffing and smacking his paws against the ground like a fucking moron while Jackson stalks behind Jasper's shoulder. He crouches, preparing himself before releasing a snarl and hurling himself at his target.

I find him in the air and knock him out of his lunge. Jasper dodges Daniel's lash, twisting around as I slam Jackson into the trunk of a tree with a crunch. His ribs crackle under the weight, his paws churning through empty air. I snarl above his cries until he silences, going limp. I lean my weight away and he crumples to the roots with a wolfish sigh.

Shaking my head with a snap and snuff, I twist my neck to shoot a warning in Jasper's direction. He's lips twitch, his black eyes lightened with amusement. He tips an imaginary hat before taking a quick step back and sprinting across the clearing toward the tent.

Curving back to face the clearing, I'm met with the glittering stares of the rest of the pack, their teeth showing as they creep toward me, infuriated. Over their backs, I catch a glimpse of the Cullens gathered around Emmett. They seal their wounds, wincing and grimacing while Emmett watches carefully, his arms folded across his broad chest. He never leaves the entrance of the tent, strong in his place.

The silent, demanding gaze of the alpha averts my attention. I lean back on my paws, raising myself to full height in defiance. From behind me, the little wolves whimper, their minds prodding the packs' for attention. The rain lightens, but another flash of lightning ignites the black clearing with the presence of the storm-soaked pack, their eyes lit with questioning rage. Jacob prowls forward with Nicole at his shoulder, his muzzle quivering as he sizes up my stance and raises himself higher.

Have you lost your mind?

Retreating thunder crackles in the distance. The deep demand of Jacob's voice echoes beneath it, carried with the tone of the alpha. Nicole's silver body presses further into Jacob's side, backing up his words with a snarl. From behind her, another she-wolf snorts.

Give it up, Leah mutters bitterly. She's been out of hope for too long. Maybe we should put her out of her misery.

Paul growls, snapping his jaws at the grey she-wolf, threatening. Watch it, Clearwater. She'll take you to bits.

I flash curved white edges, shifting my weight from side to side, taunting. What are you gonna do to me? I direct my gaze straight into the dark stare of the alpha male, barking a low laugh. Come on, Jacob Black. Go right on ahead. Put me out of my sorry-ass misery.

Nicole growls as Jacob's teeth bare, his breathing heavy through the spaces. Jacob, please. Calm down.

The fuck is this? My tongue rolls across my teeth as I step forward, putting myself in clear reach of Jacob. He fumes, torn between the urge to listen and make reason and the killer desire to dominate. King Jacob can't hold the jewels to his crown? Go ahead! Do it.

Black eyes glint. Jacob draws back, readying himself, his paws slicing the earth beneath them wide open. Nicole falls back, her icy blues flaring with alarm. The wolves retreat in a slow, careful rhythm, all eyes set on the alpha as his control shrinks, smaller and smaller and smaller, until-

All at once, the pack falls on their flanks. I clench, hunkering down and holding my ground as the weight of the world tips and crashes down on the backs of the pack, a fresh wave of agony pressing us flat into the earth. Lightning bursts through the light sprinkle of rain, followed by the long, dreadful sound of a pained howl carrying over the trees, splitting ears and dragging whimpers through dry throats. I squeeze my eyes shut, shaking with the wind-worn pack as a flood of thoughts drowns out all else, jolts rocking through my muscles and pinning me in place.

The sharp ringing fades into a low simmer, crackling with long tongues of orange, yellow, and red dancing toward the sky. Dry land blazes, the dirt streets and wood-built houses of the village set to flame. Smoke gushes from the top of the hill, covering the whole reservation in a layer of thick ash.

And from the top of the hill, a small group of cloaked people watch through the glimmer of fire, their venomous smiles glinting in their reddened eyes.

The images flash into darkness, but the feeling doesn't end. The world quakes with the tremors of the bank, coats matted with sweat from the force of the pictures. I open my gaze and stare at the woozy blurs of color, mounds of wolves bent over in the dry mountain grass. I lean my weight on my haunches, forcing myself up as the weight of the burning torture folds my skull.

Finally, the rasp of Jared's voice crackles beneath the images, filling the blankness of the pack minds. The bloodline. . . the entire bloodline.

No other thoughts make it through. As sudden as his voice comes, it goes, blinking out like a light.

There's a heartbeat where the universe pauses, the world stops spinning, and time holds its breath.

Then everything erupts in a chain of motion and the flames spark and fly, rising from the ground and swallowing the pack whole.

I twist around and shoot back into the trees at a dead sprint, flying faster than ever before. Numb legs push tingling paws out farther, harder, quicker. I charge without hesitation, tearing through the forest without a second of nervous pause. Wolves stumble with shock, yelping and scrambling to keep up. I take point, my heart taking off with my speed, running like the strike of lightning caught in a rapid blast of the wind.

Panic surges through the pack, fueling their fires. I blaze the trail and the pack files in, rushing through towards the sour taste of consuming flames. The blast through wall after wall, taking each impact straight through my chest. The wolf stretches my core, rattling the bars of her cage.

With every stride, the air gets a little heavier, the winds a little hotter, and the world a little fuzzier.

Suddenly, a glaring ring interrupts the beat of paws and the huffs of muzzle-panted breaths. My numb legs shudder as the wet green of the forest blurs into watery smears of green and flecks of neon. Wolves whip past my torso even as my paws pound the earth, flying ahead one by one.

Everything's fuzzy, like a dream. The sea of yelps and barks fades away to a ring of creeping darkness. I force my legs to carry me farther, pushing and pushing and pushing. The forest leans to the left, bowing on one side. I can't feel my legs anymore, and my wolf howls, shouting fury at the sky. I hear each breath whistling into my nostrils in my ears, listening to them fill my lungs with tasteless fuel.

A pang in my chest stabs through my ribs with a crunch, flaring into my veins. My mind fizzes, unable to sort through the smears. I wheel, my paws slick on the nothing beneath them. I roll my neck back, suspended in the flare of white. My knees crack and my bones crunch, my jaws hanging open, heavy with the pool of spittle splattering from my rolling tongue.

I slam my weight forward, urging the wolf to hurry. I order her to run, grabbing the chain of command and yanking it hard, pulling the wolf to her paws and sending her flying.

She doesn't move.

Instead, the ground rises up out of nowhere, towering high above my head. I turn my twitching eyes skyward, wheezing thickly through my dripping jaws. The mass of smears and color crashes down on my shuddering body, sucking my legs through the soil and bringing me down cold.