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Authors: Kenya Wright

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BOOK: Caged View
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“Do you want to talk about this?” La La
jogged on my right, trying to keep up with my pace.

“No.”

“Maybe I can go check for you, so you don’t
have to.”

“No. In fact, I’d rather have you go home
and not come with me.” I caught one tear with the back of my hand
as it leaked out the corner of my eye, hoping she hadn’t seen
that.

“I’m staying,” she whispered through rushed
breaths as she trotted along.

She saw the tears.

“Fine,” I muttered.

“Fine.”

* * *

The tram dropped us off in front of the
factory and then sped off with a wobbling back wheel that made a
clanking noise.

Blood coated every air molecule within a
three-block radius of Linderman’s Blood Factory. I would have
suffocated on the stench if not for La La’s lavender scent wafting
from her pores.

We’d both maintained a thick silence between
us the whole tram ride, lost in our own thoughts.

Linderman’s Blood Factory had been in
business since the first year of the habitat. The huge facility
produced blood products, everything from medical to beauty. They
were the habitat’s top exports to the Humans living outside of
Santeria.

If a Pureblooded supe needed to make some
extra money, all he had to do was drain some of his blood into a
cup and take it to the factory. Linderman officials handed out cash
without any questions. Other more desperate and unethical Supes
simply attacked unsuspecting people, drained them, and dumped their
bodies behind the factory. Bloodless supe corpses packed the
dumpsters in the factory’s alleyway.

If Joe murdered my mom, he’d most likely
snack on her until she wasn’t fresh, and then drain the rest to
give to Linderman’s. It was the most logical thing to do for a
cold-blooded killer in the habitat. It was why La La and I were
heading toward the dumpsters.

“I still think you should let me search
first,” she insisted, breaking the quiet.

“So somebody can jump out of the shadows and
take you, too?” I passed Linderman’s on my left, heading to its
alleyway.

“We don’t even know if Fiona is dead.” La La
shook her head. “Truthfully, she’s probably hiding or—”

My mom’s scent hit me before I even turned
the corner, fresh maple syrup poured over warmed ginger. I sniffed
some more. It was her scent, but not completely. It had a stale
after effect, like it had been left out on the counter all night,
decaying.

I halted, shivering with fear. My feet
planted themselves to the pavement as if they’d been covered in
cement and had completely dried. I couldn’t move forward. Every
cell in my body cried out in agony.

She’s gone.

“Mom,” I whispered.

Tears dripped down my face in hot lines. My
throat instantly became hoarse.

La La rushed into the alley.

A bang sounded, maybe the lid of a dumpster
as it hit the brick wall. I don’t know. I was frozen. I could
barely think.

Silence passed for a few minutes, and then I
heard a faint cry escape La La’s lips.

She muffled it somehow, but the noise still
managed to echo off the alley’s walls and reach my ears.

My legs collapsed under me. I stumbled to
the ground and stayed there.

La La approached, sat down next to me, and
wrapped her arms around my shoulders. Tears streamed down La La’s
cheeks and dripped to her shoulder.

“I saw her,” she said.

I have to do something.

I gently moved her away. “Not now. Your body
will only distract me.”

She inched away, but her eyes remained
focused on me.

I rested my elbows on my knees and put my
head in my hands.

So many thoughts and scenarios ran through
my mind, but none of them brought my mom back or would take away
the suffering. The only thing that I kept coming back to was that I
could kill Joe.

Something about that option lifted my
spirits a little. To watch his breath leave his body would
definitely be satisfying, at least for a few moments.

“Go home, La La.” I roused my cheetah from
his slumber. He’d been napping since the tram ride.

“What are you going to do?” she asked.

“Just leave.” I ripped my shirt off.

Yes?
My beast asked and then he
caught our mom’s scent of death and came to the realization that
she was gone.

A primal yowl erupted from my lips.

He tore apart my flesh, pushing through and
claiming my body as his.

La La backed away. “No, MeShack. Don’t—”

I dropped to the littered ground and
screamed as my bones broke in each arm and leg, and then reshaped
in seconds. My clothes shredded and scattered to the ground. New
muscles formed around the new bones. A burning sensation pulsed
through me. My heart changed position within my chest. My neck
cracked backward, stealing my breath, as it transformed into my
cheetah’s neck, stronger and more durable for impact. Claws ripped
through my fingers and toes. Tan and black fur sprouted from every
pore, spreading across my entire body.

When it was all over, the cheetah licked our
paw.

I peered at La La from his eyes. They gave
me an amber view. I could make out every detail around me.

He cleaned us to his satisfaction and then
stalked around La La.

“Can you shift back so we can discuss this?”
She held out her hands in front of her, slowly edging back. Her
eyes flickered to an orange gleam and brightened against the
darkening sky.

“I can’t let you do this,” she said as fire
formed around her hands.

My beast pushed out
our
own flames
from
our
mouth. They seared the pavement, leaving black
marks and steam. The power to create fire was a present from La
La’s father. I’d gone through a lot of pain to get it, but was glad
he did it.

She simply waved her hands to extinguish the
blaze. “MeShack, the Vamp could hurt you.”

I took control of the cheetah body and
snarled at her.

Calm down
, the beast said.
This is
our mate.

She formed two fireballs in front of
her.

I leaped away and increased my speed,
knowing she couldn’t catch or keep up with us. No one could, except
Mom.

Another howl ripped from my throat.

“MeShack!” La La yelled from behind us, and
then she was gone.

Nothing but miles lay between as I raced
back to The Castle.

* * *

Fifteen minutes later, I charged past the
wooden sign and soared over The Castle’s front steps.

Those same hookers from earlier jumped up
from their chairs and shrieked. One dove off the edge of the
porch.

I crashed head first into the door. Wood
exploded around my body as splinters from the door fell to the red
carpet. The front room was empty.

My head ached, but I shook it off and
galloped through the house, tracking Joe’s scent.

He’d been pimping my mom for years and
supplying her with any drug she ever wanted. I knew his scent like
I would’ve known a relative’s, if I had any of them.

The old carpet tore under my claws. Hookers
peeked out of their rooms.

“Get Joe!” a female yelled behind me.

Yes. Go get him.

I caught the Vamp’s odor. It smelled like
burnt fish.

I banged against the hallway’s walls,
growling and knocking over red and black chairs.

Men scampered out of bedrooms, darting away
from my jaws as I snapped at their feet. Hot saliva dripped from my
fangs in thick tendrils. None of the clients shifted into their
animal forms or tried to stop me. They probably had wives and were
scared they would be caught in the middle of a brothel brawl and
exposed on the nine o’clock news. Regardless, they ran out of the
house barefoot, tripping over unbuttoned pants and holding their
clothes.

My tail slammed against the windows in the
middle of the hallway and shattered the glass.

Where are you, Joe?

The burnt fish odor stopped at the last
bedroom door. I crashed into it, splintering more wood. It
scratched against my fur.

I stalked around the bed, sniffing for
him.

The bed rose in the air.

Joe yelled something in a foreign language.
I jumped back as the mattresses and box springs crashed into the
wall.

Joe advanced toward me, baring fangs and
black claws.

I snapped at the Vamp, scratching dead
flesh. It healed as Joe twisted in mid-air and landed five feet
across the room.

“You’re here about your mom, huh?” Joe’s
blue eyes changed to crimson red. “I didn’t want to do it, but it
was the third time she stole from me. I had to make her an example
before others did—”

I snarled so loudly, my head vibrated with
the force. Fire pushed out of my nostrils. I was seething. The
taste of rage dripped from my fangs.

“Look, she told me to tell you she loved
you.” He raised his hands in front of him. “Shift back and calm
down. This was between her and me.”

I leaped for him, pouncing on him with
extended claws. He fell back, and I took that moment to clasp onto
his crotch, tearing it off and spitting it out.

Blood burst from the ragged hole, gushing
down his jeans.

Joe’s loud screams thundered throughout the
room as he grasped with his hands for what was no longer there.

He dropped to the ground.

I opened my jaws and dug my fangs into his
chest. The taut flesh battled against my teeth as I ripped him
apart.

Joe boxed my ears, but I never released
him.

My mom’s face flashed in my head: golden
eyes, olive skin, and long wavy hair that fell beyond her
waist.

You’ll die tonight, Joe.

His blood seeped into my mouth as I tore his
heart out. It beat against my tongue.

Without hesitation, I pierced it with my
fangs, watching Joe’s body go still. Black lines crept along his
body, transforming his skin into a gray and black husk. His mouth
was open. His eyes focused on something far away and distant.
Rotting flesh replaced the burnt fish scent immediately.

I dropped the heart into his mouth and spit
the Vampire’s blood out next to him.

“Hey! Someone called the Habitat Police. You
better hurry!” The Mixbreed that had talked to La La and me earlier
stood in the doorway. “Take the back door and run.”

Reality hit me.

I’d taken a life. I did it in the most
horrific way possible and had still felt no relief or peace, just
an overwhelming sense of injustice and grief.

Gazing at the dead Vampire before me, I
blinked.

His blood dripped into my eye.

I took a life and my mom was still gone.
Those two truths together pushed me over the edge. I drifted into
my core, giving the cheetah full control of our body. My mind
twisted and then sank into a safer place where only silence
rested.

Take us home
, I said.

I collapsed into darkness, a kind of
nothingness that existed within me. A hushed gloom soothed me like
a warm blanket on a cold evening. My eyes were shut tight,
picturing my mom and thinking of everything that we’d left
unsaid.

I do love you, Mom.

I’d quit telling her that I loved her years
ago, even when she would hold me to her and kiss my forehead brand,
begging me to say it.

Now it’s too late.

I balled up into the fetal position and
thought of the times when there were no drugs in her life or home,
just the warmth of her skin and the smell of her hair as she read
to me and kissed me goodnight.

* * *

Minutes turned into hours as time slipped
past without notice.

Hot water poured over my skin. I shook my
head, blinking in the darkness.

“Come back to me, MeeShee,” La La whispered
within the downpour of water.

Should I come back?
I asked the
cheetah.

No
, he said.
I like her touching
me.

Touching?

I rushed out of the darkness and surfaced to
witness La La sponging my naked body with soapy water.

At some point, while my beast was in
control, he had shifted us back to Human form.

La La hated being immersed in water for long
periods of time. It made her weak and unable to create fire minutes
later. The fact that she’d gotten in the shower with me melted my
heart.

I stiffened, wondering what else had
happened between her and the cheetah, while I had lain within the
darkness.

Does she know you’re in control?
I
asked.

Yes, and she is not afraid
, the
cheetah said triumphantly.

I gazed at La La through his amber view.

Water soaked her violet nightgown. The
fabric stuck to her skin like glue, outlining every delicious
curve. Her hard nipples poked out through the material.

I silently thanked the god Shango for giving
me a distraction from my sorrow.

Give me rein
, I said.

Later
, my beast groaned.

Now!

He howled. It came out deep and rose
throughout the bathroom, startling La La.

Her eyes widened. She held the thick, brown
sponge a few inches away from my chest and gazed at me as if unsure
of what to do next.

“What’s wrong, Beast?” she asked.

They’d also been communicating somehow. A
tiny bit of jealousy pinched at my gut.

The full moon comes next week,
I said
to my beast.
I’ll give you control on that night.

The cheetah retreated back into my core,
dragging his claws against my ribs.

I gritted my teeth at the pain.

Don’t you think you’re being a bit
petty?
I asked him.

He didn’t respond.

“MeShack?” La La whispered, staring into my
eyes.

“Yes.” I let my head fall back into the
shower’s aim. Blistering water sprayed along my face and trickled
down my shoulders. I shook my head. My long, drenched hair splashed
around, dripping water onto La La’s face.

BOOK: Caged View
7.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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