My best friend Cham Carson lived alone with her dad in exurban Montreal. The Christmas morning after my eighteenth birthday found me scaling the wall of her house and crawling through the guest room window. It's not as bad as it sounds.
I had been staying with the Carsons for a few months while things blew up at my own broken home, and by that point, my gracious saviors were used to my monthly departure every full moon for the lycan transformation. If Cham ever got caught coming home at dawn, she'd be in for a verbal lashing, but I had a good excuse. I didn't even have to sneak in like I was doing, but I didn't like to wake everyone up by clambering through the front door.
I closed the window behind me, pulled on a fresh set of clothes, and huddled next to the radiator to melt the snow out of my hair, shuddering and fighting the urge to vomit--with the taste of blood in the back of my throat, it was tempting.
I had my own phone in the guest room, and there was one voicemail waiting for me. I gave it a listen and immediately regretted it.
"Hey, Kiera, what's up? This is Dyllan Brooks, we have French Lit together fourth hour, remember? We were going to hang out last night, but you flaked out and never called me back. Anyway, give me a ring whenever you get the chance. If...y'know...if you want to."
I didn't flake out on Dyllan. When I promised to meet him, I'd forgotten about my prior obligation to Madame la Lune.
I tried to call him back and he didn't pick up.
Cham's dad came in then with a warm smile on his face and a mug of hot chocolate in his hands. "Merry Christmas, princess!" he said, and as I stood up to greet him, he handed me the hot chocolate and hugged me. I drained half the cup in one pull, not noticing as it burned my throat.
I hadn't been living in his guest room for long, but Wilhelm Carson had taken to treating me like he did his own daughter; that is, like I was five. I never minded, though. It was a refreshing change from the rough life I was used to.
"Hey," said Wilhelm as the hug broke off, "I was thinking we could go for ice cream at that new place down the street. Sound good?"
"Sure. Is Cham coming?"
Wilhelm rolled his eyes. "She just left. Said she was going out for brunch with some boy, Dyllan Brooks."
Great. Just great.
I wasn't so much bothered by Cham stealing yet another guy from me as by the fact that she'd ditched her dad on Christmas. People with nice families always take them for granted, I've found, just like how pretty people don't realize they're pretty until they become disfigured and humans don't appreciate their humanity until they get bitten by werewolves.
"Puh-shah. Cham doesn't know what she's missing," I said, pulling on my jacket as I left the house with her dad.
As we walked the few blocks to the ice cream parlor, I felt slightly overwhelmed by the crowds of people in the streets. One of the side effects of lycanthropy is withdrawal from society. For me to go among people so soon after scavenging the woods as a bloodthirsty animal--it was surreal.
"Think they'll have any meat-flavored ice cream?" Wilhelm joked as we entered the parlor.
I stifled a snicker. "Crude lycanthrope humor. Nice."
I ended up ordering only a coffee, to both of our disappointment, as I wasn't sure of my ability to keep anything else down. He started to say something as we left, but my attention was captured by a shout of "Ho ho ho!" from the middle of the square. I glanced in the direction of the fake Santa and said, "That's exactly the type of language towards women that's setting feminism back centuries."
"Huh?" said Wilhelm.
It was a ho joke. I thought he'd get it. He's a pharmacist. Pharmacists are smart. Smart people get jokes, right?
"Want to go sit on Santa's lap, Kiera?"
I looked at Wilhelm incredulously, but then decided, Hell, why not? I'd never had a chance to be a child, and in a semester's time, I'd be off to college and wouldn't get any more opportunities. So I sat in the costumed weirdo's lap.
"What do you want for Christmas, little girl?" the fake Santa asked me. In that moment, looking at the people passing by, I wanted nothing more but to start over, to live the uncursed life of an average human being, but I couldn't tell him that.
"It's too embarrassing," I said, and he blushed as I scuttled off back to Wilhelm.
"He looked flustered. What'd you wish for?"
I sighed. "Normalcy."
"Aww." Wilhelm put his arms around me and stroked my hair. "Don't say that. There's nothing wrong with your condition, princess. You're just special is all."
There he goes again treating me like a little girl, I thought, but his words still brought tears to my eyes. "Thanks, Mr. Carson."
"You call me Dad, okay?"
As I nodded in compliance, I wished for that moment never to end. It was a tragedy, really, that I had to wait until I was a legal adult to experience a father's love.
The happiest moment of my young life embedded in a grand tragedy.
In the middle of the sidewalk, under a sprinkling of snow, in the secure embrace of my best friend's dad, I started crying in earnest.
by Mindy MacKay
Some wounds never heal, especially when brutal genocide is involved. Hunted to the brink of extinction in the nineteenth century, the mutants are a staggering society, but they fight on.
The time is now over a hundred years after the series of massacres that crippled mutantkind. The place is Montreal, Quebec. The rallying point is The Paralysis, a group of rebellious superhumans headed up by Isabella Sordeno, who has taken on and defeated even death in the name of mutant civil rights. The stage is set for revolution.
Enter Kiera Graves, hired killer extraordinaire. With her chaotic nature and insurrectionary spirit, she seems like the perfect catalyst to get Isabella’s uprising on its feet. But when she takes the struggle too far by destroying an overseas death camp, she inadvertently unleashes a virus that threatens to smother the globe, and as if it wasn’t bad enough that she managed to break the world, a local prophetess soon predicts that her lover is fated to die at her hands.