Clearing Away the Traces

Lone Wolf
Photo: Lone Wolf by h.koppdelaney

This is an excerpt from Under the Midday Moon, the novel I’m working on for NaNo. Adam (as mentioned here) is the main character’s best friend.

This bit of the novel was inspired by the prompt “Traces” provided by the The Daily Post. Since it is a first draft, it is likely to contain errors, typos, and other such idiosyncrasies. Read at your own risk. (~_^)

* * * *

From the front, the house looked normal. Snow had settled over the night, layering the roof and ground with an inch of white, softening the edges of things. As the morning sun rose, bringing with it golden light that made the white bark of the birch trees glow, I could almost believe that last night hadn’t happened after all.

Mom sighed, the sound laden with exhaustion and got out of the car. She slammed the door hard enough to rock the car. I followed her into the house.

“Jesus,” mom said. She stood in the middle of wreck of the living room, looking like stunned survivor of a minor apocalyptic event. The couch was overturned and disemboweled, bits of fluff protruding from the rips in its fabric. The coffee table was crushed, wooden legs splintered and splayed, glass top shattered. The book shelf near the fireplace was collapsed in a heap, books and knickknacks and photo frames mounded in a newly formed hilltop. Shards of broken glass and ceramic were scattered around the room, tiny reflections of light like deformed constellations.

Mom just stood there and stared down at the stain of blood on the rug, which had soaked into the fibers dried to a crusty black. I looked away from that spot. I didn’t want to see it, didn’t want to think about what it meant for Adam, stable but still unconscious back at the hospital.

“Jesus,” she said again and shook her head. She came back to me, glass crunching beneath her feet, and wrapped me in her arms. “It’s going to be okay, you know. We’ll all figure it out. We always do.”

I didn’t hug her back, not believing anything she said. She married dad, promised to love him and be by his side forever, but that was a lie. She was leaving him and dad was missing and Adam was torn up, and nothing was ever going to be okay again.

She kissed the side of my head and let me go, heading away to survey the damage to the kitchen and the basement.

I crossed my arms over my chest, trying to hold in the warmth. It was almost as cold inside as it was outside, due the gaping hole where the sliding glass door used to be. Snow had drifted in through the opening. A bouquet dried flowers lay on the ground amid the remains of my mom’s pumpkin colored vase. Mom had put the fresh cut flowers on the shelf to bring color to the room. Later they were left behind and forgotten weeks ago after mom left to go live at the studio apartment in town. Dad and I hadn’t even noticed them after she had gone. Now the flowers were dried out and shriveled, but they somehow retained most of their bluish purple color, their petals dusted with crystalline snow.

I stepped out through the broken window and the snow on the porch crunched softly beneath my tennis shoes. My toes were freezing, since I hadn’t bothered to put on socks when Althea and I had rushed Adam to the emergency room the night before.

The layering of snow covered my dad’s paw tracks, erasing his trail when he fled the house. With the sun up now, he must have changed back, leaving him naked and shivering in the cold and probably still hurting from his shotgun wound.

We needed to find him, especially since tonight he’d change again and would be just as dangerous. Even though I couldn’t see his tracks, I could still smell the blood he’d shed and I followed the scent toward the tree line.

“Don’t even think about it.”

I turned at the sound of mom’s voice. “What?”

She stood on the porch in front of the broken window, which looked like a gaping wound in the side of the house. Her arms were crossed in the universal mommy pose that allowed for no arguments. “I don’t want you running off right now, trying to find your dad. Anyone could come along at any minute. We need to get this place cleaned up.”

“But dad—”

“—can take care of himself,” she finished for me. “You have no idea how far he’s gone. It could be miles. Besides, it’s not the first time he’s got himself into trouble like this.”

“What do you mean? He’s never gotten out before.” I pictured the basement with the ironwork cage doors that had held solid each full moon as long as I’ve been alive. It had never give out — that is, not until last night.

“When he was younger, before he came to Anchorage, he had trouble figuring out how to keep himself caged. He got out a few times back then. But as far as I know no one got hurt.” Mom said the last part bitterly, as if to emphasize not like now.

I hated her a little for that, for blaming him when really it wasn’t his fault. He couldn’t help becoming the wolf.

“Mom, there’s only six hours of daylight left.”

“I know.”

“Six hours. That’s nothing.”

“I know, Claire. It’s not nearly enough time to get the basement fixed, but we have to try. What’s the use of finding John, if we don’t have anywhere to put him when he changes?”

As much as I didn’t like it, she had a point.

“C’mon, Claire. Get in here so we can get started.”

Behind me the wind hushed through the empty tree boughs and the sun glinted on the fresh snow. It was quiet with no sign of my dad, no sign that anything was moving around. I sighed and follow my mom back into the house.