Through the darkness I heard a voice, piercing through the haze.
It sounded urgent. Someone calling out to me.
“—Raven, shift back.”
Every now and then I would see snippets. Just stilled images flashing before me, showing pictures of a living room. Of a broken table. Of a boy.
It felt somewhat familiar but I couldn’t place it.
“Raven! —Ah, f#ck.”
…And pain. So much pain.
The voice continued to call out to me, pleading with me to do something… but I wasn’t ready.
No, instead, I rescinded into my mind further to escape.
To try and forget what was happening.
…To pretend everything was okay.
And so, I hid from it all, blocking out the images and voices. Waiting until, finally, things didn’t hurt so badly.
…Until I was sure the pain had stopped.
“…Raven,” came the voice again.
Only, this time, recognition finally kicked in.
It was Kieran’s voice and… and I’d shifted. Changing into the wolf and…—.
Oh… no, no….
Instantly, my eyes flew open…and I found myself contained within his arms, wrapped up in a blanket.
He looked down at me with a face showing signs of exhaustion, his breathing heavy.
And I immediately knew something was wrong.
I wasn’t sure how long had passed but I was back to m y normal self, implying it had been at least a few minutes.
But…there was something else too.
Something I’d come to expect from these lapses.
..I could smell the sickly scent of blood.I squirmed out of his grasp, pushing away just enough to get a good look at him…and there it was.
The source of the smell.
A large gash down the front of his chest.
Blood flowing from it…increasingly becoming worse …pooling on the ground around us.
And, suddenly, it was as if the whole world tilted.
Everywhere I looked there was blood.
Red painted on every surface, on every piece of furniture, on every wall…curtain…and lamp.
And as I frantically looked around, I felt my breathing quicken, my heart starting to race.
…Just what had I done? This was exactly what I had been afraid of and yet I’d let it happen.
I turned back to Kieran, finding his face now so pale, and I quickly moved my hands to his chest to help stop the bleeding.
Hands that were soaked even up along my forearms already.
“I’m so sorry,” I whispered.
“I-I didn’t mean to do this.” I’d told him that this was dangerous and a bad idea.
Why hadn’t he listened to me?
“Raven…it’s okay,” he replied.
I looked at him incredulously, as if he were insane for not seeing the amount of blood he had lost.
It was a miracle he was even still able to talk.
“N-no…no it’s not okay,” I stammered.
“Nothing about this is okay…You’re going to die because of me.”
I could feel my entire body shaking, feel the tears beginning to form in my eyes.
Kieran had said he knew what he was doing, that everything would be fine, and yet everything had still gone wrong.
Was it because I was incapable of being helped? Was I actually a monster? “Raven, what are you talking about? I’m fine.”
‘Fine’!?” I repeated, my voice becoming shrill.
“You’re bleeding out! I-I don’t even have time to call an ambulance. Goddammit, Kieran! Why didn’t you listen to me!?”
I kept trying to stop the bleeding but he then grabbed my hands and held them away from him.
“What are you doing?!” I screamed.
“Stop,” he ordered.
“It’s barely even a scratch.”
“N-no, no, no it’s not. How can you say that? You’re “
“Raven, calm down and look,” he said, cutting me off.
“B-but I…I’ve killed you…I-I didn’t mean to…I—.”
“Raven!” he yelled this time, forcing me to meet his eyes.
“…I said I’m fine.”
..And as I slowly looked back down at his chest, I found that the wound was barely more than a surface-level injury.
Something that had already stopped bleeding a while ago.
“W-what…? I don’t understand…”
Carefully, I then spun my head around to look at the room…and found it completely normal.
Apart from a few broken pieces of furniture, the place seemed utterly the same.
No blood in sight.
But I had seen it so clearly, smelt the strong copper smell.
There was no mistaking….How could that all be in my head?
“Come here,” Kieran said and proceeded to lift me onto his lap with ease.
I was reluctant at first, still confused by what was happening, but it didn’t take long for me to realize what this meant. I threw my arms around him in relief, no longer caring if my sudden attachment to him was weird.
All that mattered was that he was alive.
That he was safe.
“J-I’m sorry,” I cried.
“I’m so sorry. I f#cked up.”
His hand came up and gently stroked my hair, indulging my abrupt need for comfort.
Along with the blanket, his warmth was helping to calm me.
“You’re fine,” he said.
“You didn’t do anything wrong.”
“But I did,” I argued.
“I failed. I-I wasn’t strong enough. Regardless of whether it was minor, you still got hurt.”
Even after Kieran tried to help me, it was clear that I was still a failure. It didn’t matter if I was human or a wolf.
There were some things that I’d never overcome. Somehow, it felt like I would forever be a disappointment.
That this was my life now; useless to my father, and useless at things that should have been natural for me to do.
Just another screw-up to add to the list.
…But Kieran didn’t seem to like that answer.
Immediately, he pulled me away and held my face so I was forced to look at him.
“Hey. Nothing you did was your fault,” he said adamantly.
“I mean it.”
“No,” he instantly cut off.
“Take a breath and repeat after me”
‘This was not my fault”
I opened my mouth to protest but he gave me a look that made me stop.
As if telling me this exercise wasn’t negotiable.
“This…was not my fault,” I finally said in defeat.
I’d mumbled the words quietly but he still seemed satisfied by my reply nevertheless.
With a small nod in approval, he let go of me.
“Whatever that was…I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said.
“By far the slowest, most painful changes I’ve ever witnessed. But…I don’t know. It’s giving me a weird feeling. Almost as if there’s more to it.”
“..What do you mean? Are you saying there is actually something wrong with me?”
“No…not wrong with you. But maybe more…something external affecting you,” he said, his brow furrowing.
“Are you wearing any jewelry? Or have anything metallic touching you like a piercing? It’d look something like silver.” I thought about it for a moment before shaking my head.
Accessories weren’t a good idea for me given my day job.
“Okay…then how about diet? Do you drink any teas? Or regularly deal with any herbs?”
“No…,” I replied again, becoming increasingly more confused by the strange questions.
Kieran then stopped for a moment in thought, visibly trying hard to come up with something else before, finally, he asked one more question.
Only this time, I could tell he was reluctant to ask.
“..What about medications?”
And my body immediately stilled.
Yes…I had medications. I had regular medicine I took for anxiety and post-shifting side effects; mostly pain and nausea. But…that was something I had been prescribed for years.
By a doctor.
Or, at least, they were a professional…employed by my father.
Surely, he wouldn’t have though, right? Because that would mean….
“Raven?” Kieran prompted when I still hadn’t spoken.
I swallowed back the bile in my throat, hoping Kieran was wrong about this.
“Yes,” I answered.
“Yes. I have medication.”
“Can you show it to me?”
Almost robotically, I stood up and walked to where I’d left my bag, finding it on the counter.
It took a bit of shuffling before I eventually could locate it.
With everything happening so quickly, my fingers were trembling uncontrollably.
“Here,” I finally said, presenting it to Kieran.
He’d followed behind and swiftly took it from me, starting to inspect the contents immediately.
The whole time, I silently watched as he worked, subconsciously pulling the blanket around me more for comfort.
Wishing more than anything that this really would be ordinary medication.
Though it was rarely ever that simple.
“These…these are suppressors,”
Kieran said in shock, slowly looking up at me.
“They were designed and used in chemical warfare.I llegal now, of course.”
“_.I don’t understand how….”
“Raven,” he continued, voice completely serious.
“…How long have you been taking these?”
“Since my eighteenth.Maybe just before…I can’t remember exactly.”
“Years?! You’ve been taking these… for years?”
I flinched at the outburst, taken by surprise.
“Sorry…I’m just…astounded you even have these,” he said.
“Suppressors were created for a specific war. A way to stop people like us from properly harnessing their abilities. They would poison water systems and then slowly, after a few months, the victims would be too weak to fight back with full strength. Our pac— I mean ‘town’…we were, unfortunately, the ones who originally designed them.”
“_..They come from you?” I asked, struggling to take in all the new information.
“They shouldn’t be,”he said.
“They stopped production after the war ended and it was agreed to never use them again. But…I don’t know. Truthfully, I haven’t seen any in person since I was a kid, but…these look a bit odd. Their shape isn’t quite what I remember….”
And then to my utter disbelief, I watched as he picked one up…and bit into it.
“What are you doing?!” I exclaimed.
“Didn’t you just say they’re dangerous?!”
But before I could take a step to stop him, he instantly spat it back out, staring at it intently.
“It feels weird,” he said quietly.
“As if there is the tiniest bit of sensation on my palm.Barely noticeable.Almost like….”
And he went quiet for another few seconds.
The pauses and silences were driving me insane.I just wanted to know already.
“I don’t know where you got these or who made them ….” he said darkly, “but whoever is administering them to you knows exactly what they’re doing.”
It was the words I’d feared hearing and yet he was confirming it to be true. The worst case I hadn’t wanted to believe.
“.Are you sure?” I asked though I knew it was redundant to still hope otherwise.
Only, as he answered my question, it turns out that it was far worse than I’d expected. So, so much worse.
“Raven…this has trace amounts of blessed silver in it.”
“It means they were poisoning you.”
I could feel as my body started to feel light, my legs swaying, and it was only a matter of seconds before Kieran had to catch me, stopping me from hitting the ground.
“Woah, let’s get you to the couch,” he said, hoisting me up into his arms.
Once comfortably seated and after my breathing had steadied, I decided to push through and ask the questions that I still needed answers to.
“So this whole time I really was drugged…just not in the way I thought,” I said, feeling bad for initially blaming Kieran.
“Do these pills explain all of my symptoms then? Can I get better?”
“I’m going to be brutally honest here,” he said.
“And I don’t mean to scare you but…I’m just surprised you’re alive. The suppressors alone over such a long period of time would have messed with you significantly, making using your abilities incredibly difficult. I assume that explains the extreme pain, a cause for the blackouts.
But then to add in that someone was dosing you with silver? Even such a tiny amount? I mean…that’s a lethal substance. Highly poisonous, highly controlled, and impossible to get your hands on for anything that isn’t approved by an elder council. The fact that you can shift at all, let alone just stand up, is incredible.”
“But…if it was meant to be suppressing my abilities, how come I still have better senses? More strength? Faster speed? Shouldn’t that be restrained?”
“Perhaps taking it for so long made it something you learned to live with, only diluting instead of removing …. he said in thought. But then his tone suddenly changed.
“Actually…it sort of reminds me of a story. Long ago, they used to say that the Silver Saintes—.”
Abruptly, he then stopped talking without warning, quickly looking over at me a little uncomfortably.
“What is it?” I asked, still waiting for him to proceed.
But he only continued to stare, as if having a debate internally over what to say.
“Ah…nothing. On second thought, it’s not the same thing,” he said.
“Just a story.”
He was doing it again, I could tell.
Shielding me from things he felt I wasn’t ready to know about. I understood why…but it was still frustrating.
Sure, I was a little overwhelmed, but I still managed to pick up things that sounded horrifying.
He’d mentioned wars, chemicals, poisons…a world is hidden away that was full of people just like me, capable of abilities I’d once considered monstrous.
But never once did he elaborate further or give more context than necessary.
“I saw how overwhelmed you were over just meeting me so I didn’t want to rush you into this world,” was what he had said to me the other day.
Just what was on the other side of the curtain, still hidden? I didn’t end up being able to press him for more answers though as he suddenly asked me a question instead.
One I wasn’t expecting.
Or, at least, one I knew he would eventually ask…but I wasn’t quite ready to answer yet.
“I need to know where you got these,” he said, making my chest tighten with stress.
“…I need to know who gave you the medication, Raven.”
And I instantly held my breath, frozen with confliction.
Because to give such an answer meant admitting something I still wasn’t ready to believe.
Something that changed the way I viewed everything in my life up until now.
And that was that my father knew exactly what I truly was this entire time…and he had knowingly been dosing me.