Walking Wolf Road (Wolf Road Chronicles Book 1)

BOOK: Walking Wolf Road (Wolf Road Chronicles Book 1)
4.47Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

 

ISBN-13: 978-0-692-26517-7

ISBN-10: 0692265147

 

WALKING WOLF ROAD

 

Copyright © 2010 & 2014 by Brandon M. Herbert

 

All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the written permission of Brandon M. Herbert or Wolfgate Productions. Book content and cover art are the creation and property of the author, Brandon M. Herbert, and Wolfgate Productions

 

This is a work of Fiction, all of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

 

Printed in U.S.A.

 

Book design, illustrations, and typography by Wolfgate Productions

Dedication &
Acknowledgements:

 

It is said, that behind every great man, stands an even greater woman. I’m far from a great man, but I have a beautiful woman who loves me, believes in me, supports me, and puts up with my crap. That's gotta mean I'm worth something, right?

 

I love you so much Julie, without you, I would be nothing!
 

Thank you Julie, Nick, Mom, and Dad; for all the love, help, and encouragement you’ve given me as I’ve fought my way down this long difficult road. Thank you to my editor Debra Ginsberg who gave me the hard truths when I needed to hear them.

Special thanks go out to those of you who have stood with me since the very beginning. In particular I would like to thank my family, Justin & Nic Wiley, Lance Hartzman, Melissa Sauer-Locy, Jaclyn Hebb & Victoria Fair, for their support and encouragement over the years. Joel Deaton, Jordan Dail, and Jacob Atteberry; who know why. Shout outs to my old MySpace friends Jet, Fel, and Haley who remember the original 51 chapters, The Pack forum members, and therianthropes everywhere: we are not alone.

 

This book is dedicated to every young person, therianthrope or otherwise, who has felt like they don’t belong; alone, hopeless, powerless, or bullied.

Transformation happens when you choose to let it.

Howls.

~
B

 

 

Chapter 1 – Bitten

 

It chased me.  

The thing had no face or body, but it pursued me like a wall of darkness, malice, and hunger. I ran with all my might down the forest path, surrounded by dark forbidding trees and hateful eyes.  

My vision narrowed as I ran until all I could see was the gravel of the road right in front of me. My lungs burned from fear and exhaustion, and the scar on my calf burned like a hot coal. I felt the thing at my heels as I slammed into a pair of fog-wreathed wrought iron gates.

I strained at the bars but the gates were locked. I screamed as the dark void reached to devour me…

“Jimmy! Are you even listening?” My stepfather, John, barked at me, snapping me back to reality. John, Mom, and I sat in the office at my new high school, a worn grey desk between us and the spiderlike student counselor.

“Sorry, sorry, I’m just tired…” I rubbed my burning eyes and bit back the comments on my tongue; I’d barely slept for weeks. Partly because that damned dream had haunted almost every night since John announced that we were moving to Colorado. The rest was thanks to John packing our lives into a moving truck last week and dragging us almost halfway across the freaking country.

Thanks John.

Isn’t it funny how the moments that define our lives the most are almost always the smallest? A scattering of almost inconsequential seconds steers our course; the proverbial flap of butterfly wings producing the hurricanes of our lives. Single sentences, concepts, and choices—especially choices—make or break who you are and who you will become.

What makes it worse is when the choices aren’t yours.

Senior year. The year every high-schooler looked forward to with hope and anticipation; I just wanted out. I put in eleven years of this crap, and for the icing on this shit cake, I got to spend twelfth grade in some hicksville high school halfway across the continent from everything I knew. Not that I’d felt particularly attached to my old school in Chicago, I didn’t have any friends to miss either, but being a senior and a freshman at the same time kinda screwed with my head.

“This is important, now pay attention and quit daydreaming,” John hissed in my ear, while Mom stared straight ahead and refused to look at me. The counselor’s dark beady eyes scrutinized me through black-rimmed glasses, his gaunt face etched with a scowl. I couldn’t help but wonder what he saw when he looked at me; a dullard or a miscreant? I knew better than to expect anything else as I watched the judgments form in his head.

“Where were we,” the counselor said, his voice reminded me of two rocks grinding against each other through a layer of oil. He pursed his lips and deep creases folded like fault-lines around his mouth. “Oh, yes, Jimmy should still be allowed to graduate this year as long as his grades stay high enough, though the academic probation means he’ll be suspended if they fall below the minimum.”

“We understand, don’t we?” John looked pointedly at me, and I muttered my consent while they slid what little pride I had left across a cheese grater.

“I sincerely hope you do. You can’t afford to fail a single class, and if you receive more than three Cs you won’t make the cutoff
either. So Jimmy,
do
you understand?”

“Yes.”

“Good. Now, about this discipline record.” I flinched. “You’re in Colorado now, not Chicago, and
any
signs of aggressive behavior, vandalism, gang paraphernalia, or drugs will be dealt with swiftly and severely, am I understood?”

“Mr. Spritari, Jimmy’s never had a problem with drugs, and he was the victim in every incident on that report.” Mom finally spoke up, but the counselor looked at her like she’d just told him that Santa Claus vacationed with Bigfoot in the Bermuda Triangle.

“I’m sure that’s the case, Mrs. Walker—”

“Mrs. Mason, if you please,” she corrected him, irritated.

“My apologies Mrs. Mason,” he said, sounding anything but apologetic, “but we have a commitment to keeping our student body safe, a commitment I take
very
seriously, and his record indicates a history of altercations. I want to stress that we’re taking a risk even admitting Jimmy to this school, and he will be watched very closely.”

John grabbed Mom’s hand to stop her from saying anything else and nodded, his jaw muscles clenching.

Mom and John signed the stack of papers while the counselor built my schedule. The office receptionist let us out through a side door, and I walked behind John. He loomed like a middle-aged line-backer, and I could tell from the way the muscles bunched on his shoulders that a storm was brewing…

This was gonna suck.

John slammed his hands down on the kitchen counter. I flinched and looked away while Mom stared at a stack of unpacked boxes, silent, refusing yet again to stand up for me. My six-year-old half-brother Jacob watched wide-eyed and silent from the stairs in the hallway, trying not to be noticed. Jake didn’t have to worry, though. John never got this mad at his own son.

“This is unacceptable!” John brandished the papers from the counselor’s office at me like a weapon, crumpled in his clenched fist. His sandy blond goatee made his livid face look even redder.

“You heard the guy; they’ll still let me graduate this year if my grades stay high enough.”     

John’s blue eyes hardened as he scowled. “What are you going to do about this?” His voice was quiet. Dangerous.

“Do my homework, ask for extra credit, kiss the art teacher’s ass,” I looked down at the floor as I pushed my glasses back up my nose, “Listen,
Dad
, I’ve tried really hard—”

“Do you think this is some sort of game?” he shouted in my face. “This isn’t playtime anymore, Jimmy! You need to sort your shit out, pull your nose out of those stupid fantasy books, and grow up! Your grades
now
are going to decide how you live the rest of your life, not to mention whether or not you get into college!”

I flinched at the cursed ‘C’-word and clenched my shaking hands into fists. “Yeah John, and hauling us through a five-day gauntlet of McKentucky Fried Taco Kings and carryout Chinese, to some town in Colorado I’ve never heard of, and doubt
anybody
else has either,
days
before Jake and I start school is bound to do marvelous things for my G.P.A! I guess you’ve conveniently forgotten what happened when we moved to Chicago. And Miami. Oh, and amazingly enough, even Corona! Of course, that couldn’t
possibly
have anything to do with my grades dive-bombing, oh no!” I gestured sarcastically while I ranted.

My rage was getting harder to control, almost sentient, as if a dark dragon had coalesced inside me from the torn and broken fragments I tried to lock away and hide. I could almost feel it move inside me…

“Excuses never hold water in the real world son, so stop making them and start doing the damn work.”

Something snapped inside me at the word ‘son’ and I laughed.  

“You know what, John, I’m sorry.” My voice reflected the cold rage that sliced through my blood as the dragon stirred inside, “I’m sorry I’m stupid. I’m sorry I’m a disappointment. I’m sorry I’m not good enough to have your goddamn genes. Maybe—just maybe—someday you’ll call me ‘son’ because you’re proud of me. Not because you married my mom and think you fucking
have
to!”

I moved toward the back door, but John grabbed my jacket as I pushed past him. I pulled myself free and then turned around and shoved him over an unpacked box. He tripped and fell, while Mom finally remembered how to move. She went to John, not me.  

“Don’t you fucking touch me John; you’re not my father, so stop pretending you care!” He yelled something incoherent behind me as the back door banged against the wall behind me. I shoved the gate open and ran down the alley.

A dark angry haze clouded out everything as I tripped over sidewalk and curb alike, until the burning pain brought me to my knees panting. My heart thundered in my ears as I sucked at the thin mountain air and pressed a hand to the aching scar on my left calf. I was in poor shape to begin with, soft and round, far from the football Adonis John wanted. At least a heart attack would bring a welcome departure from my usual shit.

My glasses slid down my nose on the sheen of sweat and tears, and I shoved them back into place as I looked up and realized I’d stumbled into a park. The grass was dry and browned in spots where the trees couldn’t keep out the sun’s heat, and a couple shabby picnic tables sat near a dense copse of massive elm trees.

Behind me, I heard John’s voice yell my name. I glanced over my shoulder, and then limped deep into the shadow of the trees. I knelt behind the thickest trunk I could find and watched John drive by in the SUV. He stuck his head out the open window, and slowed down as he called my name. I shoved the tears out of my eyes and let my head fall back against the trunk with a dull thud as he drove away.

Dammit…

Damn
him

No matter how hard I tried, no matter what I did right, there would always be something; some minutia or monstrosity somewhere, somehow, that was utterly insufficient. Nothing was ever good enough for that bastard. Sometimes the temptation to set it all on fire just to show him how fucking awful it
could
be was almost irresistible.

I looked back at my quests for his approval with shame. How stupid could I be? How could I have honestly expected a father’s love and pride from a man who only took the job because marrying Mom came with a package deal?

John’s not your father; that guy didn’t want you either…

I dug my nails into my palms. Only pain lay down that road, and witlessly as I often stumbled upon it, I would
not tread its familiar path again this time. I’d walked it enough to memorize every last twist and turn of the tragic tale.

As my rage drained away into the dragon’s hole, I went cold and numb inside. I took a shaky breath and slowly forced my blurry eyes open. They cleared as I focused on the sunset blazing through the mountains. The world fell silent apart from the drone of cicadas and a dog barking blocks away.

Why couldn’t I pull myself out of the past, even as my future shredded because of it?

Why couldn’t I?

The last of the sun’s rays caught on the edge of the world, and on that shard of light I prayed for the first time since I was a small boy.

“It’s gotta change. My life, my grades—my world—
everything
needs to change.” Exhausted, I closed my eyes again as the clouds burst into flame and the sun vanished, but the glowing blobs lingered on my retinas like eyes in the darkness. Exhaustion overcame me and I slipped back into a familiar nightmare…

BOOK: Walking Wolf Road (Wolf Road Chronicles Book 1)
4.47Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Saving Gracie by Terry Lee
China Lake by Meg Gardiner
As I Close My Eyes by DiCello, Sarah
Violetas para Olivia by Julia Montejo
Time Warp by Steven Brockwell
Dead Calm by Jon Schafer