Chapter 4 - An Answer: Part 2
“Have you never just been a tourist?” Simon was asking Amoc.
“I’ve never had the opportunity.” Amoc tried to explain. “Things… keep me busy. Travel is never for leisure.”
“Well that sounds miserable.” Simon was disappointed.
“Plus, well…” Amoc continued trying to explain. “It just doesn't feel right, being out here in the open with so many people around.”
“Oh relax.” Simon began. “Nobody knows that you’re an American…”
“Don’t you dare say it.” Amoc attempted to cut Simon off.
“...Werewolf in Paris.” Simon finished, undaunted.
Amoc only responded with a deep, resigned sigh. It was a good thing very few people here spoke English. Simon just couldn’t help himself sometimes. It was also a good thing he really liked Simon.
“I mean, just look where we are!” Simon resumed, making a grand gesture to the architectural marvel behind him. “That’s the Eiffel Tower! The madman built an apartment up there! I’ve wanted to come here forever. You can’t tell me you haven’t just wanted to just go somewhere with no obligations.”
“Yeah, it’s nice.” Amoc conceded. “It really is. It’s just new and weird.”
Paris had been a very nice trip so far. The food was amazing, the history was amazing, it was all amazing, and he had been kind of a grump, while Simon had been enthusiastic to a fault. The attitude really wasn’t warranted, Amoc admitted to himself. He vowed to do better.
“So are we going to climb it or what?” Simon asked.
Starting right now.
“Let’s do it.”
The Eiffel Tower is really deceptive in its scale, Amoc realized. As you get closer, it becomes apparent just how truly massive it is. Simon was possibly regretting his choice of climbing the stairs as he realized just how many steps it took to get to the first level, never mind the second. It wasn’t an issue for Amoc, of course. Simon made it, only partly out of breath. The view, however, was very much worth it.
“This is why being a tourist is great.” Simon stated, looking out over Paris. “The experiences… especially when shared with a friend.”
“I…” Amoc began to respond to Simon’s obvious pandering, but the sound of sirens had been increasing for the last minute or so.
Those sirens were now becoming impossible to ignore. There was also another sound behind them… like a rolling thunder.
“What the hell is going on over there?” Simon asked, looking in the sirens’ direction.
Multiple police cars came flying out of a street between buildings on the edge of the Tower’s park. Behind them was a swarm of people moving at what seemed like an impossible speed. Screams started as the mass of people washed over bystanders on the street. They got closer to the Tower and it became clear that these people were not humans anymore.
“We need to get the fuck out here.” Simon said as he began heading for the steps.
“No!” Amoc grabbed Simon to stop him. “We’ll never make it down in time.”
Several people were now pointing down and shouting in French, clearly horrified. Amoc looked to see what they were pointing at. The husks of what were once people had started climbing the Tower, and they were rising at an alarming rate. They were killing anything that got in their way on the ground, and would have the Tower fully surrounded in a matter of minutes. Amoc thought he saw some of the fallen getting back up.
“Fuck! What do we do?” Simon asked, his tone desperate.
“We fight.” Amoc was already starting the transformation.
Simon desperately looked around for any kind of weapon, and picked up a chair as the horde arrived at their level. Screams came from all directions as they started attacking the living. Amoc finished changing into war form and dove into the melee.
Amoc woke up in his bed inside Logan’s house. It was still dark outside. The dream lingered in his memory as if he had really been there. He had never been to Paris, and certainly never with Simon. They hadn’t met until a month ago, and the dream was clearly from a time before the apocalypse.
Amoc lay there in the dark, unable to shake the dream or go back to sleep. After a while, there was a knock on his door.
“Hey, it's me.” Simon said from the other side of the door. “Are you decent?”
Amoc found the question amusing. Especially since Simon had seen him fully nude several times prior to changing forms. Humans all had different ideas of what “decent” meant. He was wearing boxers, which seemed to be good enough for Simon. Amoc got out of bed, walked over to the door, and opened it. Simon was wearing long underwear and a shirt, and regarded him with incredulity.
“How you aren’t cold sleeping like that I’ll never understand.”
“You know if you wanted to make out, there are better openers than that.” Amoc replied, trying to sound serious.
Simon just blinked for a moment. Amoc chalked up a point on catching Simon off guard. It wasn’t often he could manage it, but occasionally he did.
“Funny.” Was Simon’s sardonic reply.
Simon’s expression then became more serious, and he stood there for a moment as if he was trying to figure out what to say next.
“I had another dream.” Simon began. “They’ve gone international now. I was in Paris…”
“At the Eiffel Tower. With me.” Amoc finished the sentence.
“So you had it too?” Simon asked.
“Yeah. I had a feeling it wasn’t normal.”
“We climbed the Eiffel Tower’s steps, and then the horde came… you changed and attacked them. And that was it.”
“That sums it up, yeah.” Amoc confirmed.
“I’ve always felt like I wasn’t in my own skin in the other dreams. Like I was just witnessing things that had happened to other people. They never repeated, it just seemed like an endless parade of different memories of the beginning of the apocalypse. But this one… this was me. But it never happened. We weren’t in Paris when the apocalypse started.”
“No, we weren’t.” Amoc again confirmed.
Simon sighed and gave an exaggerated shrug.
“I wish I knew what any of this meant, and why I’m dreaming about it. Now apparently I’ve dragged you into it too.”
“You’ve not dragged me into anything.” Amoc calmly responded. “This is The Veil at work. I don’t know why it’s doing this, but I’m going to talk to Logan tomorrow about the next step in figuring it out.”
An awkward pause filled the air, as Simon stood there in the dim moonlight.
“How did you get out of the city?” Simon asked. “I only saw it from the water, it looked like complete chaos.”
That was a question Amoc had been hoping to put off for a while longer.
“It was chaos.” Amoc began, lowering his voice.
They were the only people in the main house besides Jade and Logan, but he wasn’t going to risk anything until he had talked to Logan.
“You remember how a while back I asked you to never think of me as human?”
“Yeah, it was kind of scary.” Simon admitted.
“That was the point.” Amoc let that statement linger for a moment. “I may look like it, sound like it, and act like it, but I am not human. A lot of Garou would call me ‘high functioning’. Others had less friendly names for it, but the main thing it meant is that I was better suited to living in a city than most of them.”
“Not all Garou can safely be among humans.” Amoc continued, carefully gauging Simon’s reaction. “Some don’t have that ability to switch the beast off. Some can, but it’s only a toggle. A few like me can dial it up or down as needed, when needed. The day the apocalypse started in the city, I turned that dial way up, and I left it there until I was out. Anything… or anyone that got in my way… wasn’t in my way for long.”
The silence following Amoc’s last sentence was deafening. Simon was holding a neutral expression, but little tics indicated it was being tested. It went on for some time before Simon said anything.
“You did what you had to.” Simon finally said.
“I’m not proud of it.” Amoc rationally understood how heartless it must have sounded. “I wish there had been another way. The city was losing blocks by the minute. If I hadn’t… I would have died with the rest of the city.”
“And I wouldn’t be alive today if you had. You don’t need to justify anything to me.”
Amoc still felt he needed to. He wasn’t sure if Simon’s acceptance of it was a good thing or a bad thing. That wasn’t something he was going to figure out right now, and there had been enough grim talk for one night.
“So…” Amoc resumed after a few moments of quiet. “If you’re just going to stand there and stare at my abs all night, people are bound to start talking.”
Amoc leaned back into a more suggestive position to emphasize the point. Simon blinked again. Amoc chalked up another point. He was on a roll tonight.
“God you’re filthy.” Simon’s tone went sardonic again. “I’m going to try and get some sleep.”
Amoc couldn’t help but grin as Simon turned to leave the room. He considered Simon a good friend, and enjoyed poking at him in ways that occasionally made him uncomfortable, or just made him laugh. Both at once, if he could manage it. Maybe it also helped clear the images of undead attacking Parisa, which was what a friend would do after a bad dream. Or a brother.
We’re not that close yet, but maybe eventually.
Amoc laid back down in his bed, and likewise made an attempt at getting more sleep.
Amoc was up for the sunrise the following morning, sitting on the porch of the main house looking out over the lake. He had been here many times before, in this exact spot. It was peaceful, and beautiful. It was almost enough to make him think nothing had really changed, and that he would be back in the city in a few days. That, of course, wasn’t going to happen. The world had changed, even if out here it looked largely the same.
But things had still changed even here. Most of the people in Logan’s compound were new; the only familiar face was Doc Williams, a retired doctor from the Chicago area who had been with Logan for a number of years now. He had one of the small cabins. The people that were out hunting had been here for seasonal game when the apocalypse kicked off, and had wisely opted to take up permanent residence. There was also a couple that had just been looking for a long vacation away from civilization. The rest were the few survivors that Logan had found during trips south in the early days of the dead rising.
Logan was taking Amoc out to one of the other changes this morning: an island in the middle of the lake that had been set up as an emergency refuge. Undead can’t swim, so if a horde was spotted, they would move to the island temporarily, and wait until it left. Roaming hordes were uncommon, but unpredictable in their movements, and the island had seen use.
Logan exited the house and walked over to Amoc.
“Ready to go?” Logan asked.
“Yes.” Amoc replied while standing up.
They both walked over to the water’s edge and got into a small metal-hulled fishing boat that only had an electric trolling motor for propulsion. Amoc had been on this lake many times fishing with Logan, and this was a familiar routine.
“So they know?” Logan opened with the question when they were sufficiently far out on the lake to avoid being heard.
“Yeah, they know.” Amoc confirmed.
“Have they seen you in war form?” Logan bluntly opened his questioning.
“Simon has seen the change twice, as well as the wolf. Jade has seen my war form once, but not the change.”
“And they’re good with that?” Logan’s tone was disbelief.
“I think so. Simon fought next to me, while I was in war form, to get out of New York, and later Montreal. Jade was there when I killed an undead Garou war-born.”
“Je n’ai pas compris. Undead Garou war-born?”
That had Logan’s attention. He was wasting no time getting right into the meat of Amoc’s adventures over the last month.
“That was the second one I’ve come across.” Amoc explained. “The first went into the Hudson. The second I killed in Montreal. I didn’t think we could turn. I saw my own kind die fighting the horde, one by one, and none came back. At least, not immediately. Maybe it just takes longer, but it’s obviously possible.”
“Merde.” Logan swearing in French was never good. “That’s terrifying.”
“You’re telling me.”
The trolling motor quietly whirred away. Logan was clearly thinking about that revelation.
“And it’s just you now?” Logan said after a few moments.
“From the city? Yeah. The only other Garou I’ve come across so far were undead.”
“Thanks.” Amoc began. “I just hope there are others out there that changed course before it was too late.”
“Hey, you’ve still got me.” Logan assured Amoc.
I do, and I’m really, really glad you’re still among the living.
“Have you thought about telling them what you are?” Amoc asked, referring to the people of Logan’s compound.
“Of course. Every day. But it scares me to think about how they’ll react. Maybe they’ll think I’ve just gone crazy.”
“Or maybe they’ll understand.” Amoc offered.
“It’s not the same for me. I’ve not needed to change to protect them. They’ve been out here, isolated from the worst of the apocalypse. I can’t imagine what Simon and Jade must have been through to survive in a city. Seeing you in war form obviously doesn’t have the impact on them it once would have.”
It was a fair assessment. Logan’s people had enjoyed a relatively peaceful post-apocalypse existence out in these woods. Simon and Jade had both been through hell.
“What have you told them about yourself?” Logan asked Amoc. “About what you used to do?”
“Simon has some idea now, but he’s been more interested in our world in general. Jade hasn’t been with me long enough to have gotten much.”
“Simon had an incident with The Veil.” Amoc stated.
“Merede!” Logan exclaimed. “And you want me to reveal myself to the others? This is one of the fears I have about doing so!”
“It happened in Albany.” Amoc began explaining. “Something was not right there, but it didn’t feel dangerous. The Veil was very close. Closer than anywhere I’ve felt before. He went Dreamwalking. I was there when it happened, so I got him back.”
“And what if you hadn’t been there?” Logan reasonably asked.
“I don’t know. But I was. And it hasn’t happened since. He is, however, having dreams that aren’t… natural.”
“Sacrebleu! It just keeps getting worse!”
“I didn’t really think about it at the time, okay? Everyone I knew was dead and I was in a really dark place. I made a choice to try something different, and now I’m trying to deal with the consequences. I freely admit that. But I would do it again.”
Amoc paused to collect himself. Getting angry with Logan wouldn’t help anything.
“I need to find a Guide, Logan.”
Logan just stared at Amoc for a moment.
“On that I think we can agree. Lucky for you, I know exactly where we can find one.”
That was a surprise.
“We’ll go tomorrow.” Logan left no room for argument in that statement. “Today I need to do some thinking on what you’ve told me. None of this is discussed with my people.”
“Of course.” Amoc assured Logan. “I told Simon and Jade the same thing when we got here. This is your decision to make, not ours.”
“You’re right about that.” Logan wasn’t happy; Amoc was throwing his generally peaceful existence out here into chaos. He couldn’t entirely blame him, but he hoped to be able to bring Logan around.
The discussion ended as they arrived at the island and checked on its supply caches, noting things that needed replacing or refreshing. Some perfunctory discussion of supplies and weather was conducted, but nothing further on the topic of things involving The Veil. They returned to Logan’s compound, and William Savage fell back into the old ways for another day.
The following morning went much the same as the previous, though this time Amoc and Logan took backpacks, as they would be gone for most of the day. Jade and Logan had been integrating well with the compound’s residents so far. Simon had a lot of mechanical and construction skills to offer, and was already working on some ideas for improvements. Jade, as it turned out, had been working on her medical residency when the apocalypse happened, and Doc Williams liked the idea that he wouldn’t have to be there for every bruise and scrape.
Amoc himself could offer some help in keeping the power systems Logan’s compound depended on in good working order, though his options were obviously limited if things started breaking down. That was a subject to bring up with Logan on another day. Mostly he just hoped that what his small group had to offer Logan would make up for the challenges he was also bringing.
Again Logan waited until they were far enough away from the compound before getting to the real topics of discussion.
“He’s a Gargoyle.” Logan began. “Calls himself ‘Draki’. He came to me a few months after the dead rose, while I was out scouting. I don’t know why he chose to hang around here, I suppose the cities have little to offer them anymore. Scary to think we may be one of the largest pockets of humanity still left. In any case, I wasn’t going to turn down help from someone that can fly.”
If Garou could be considered soldiers in the war to keep the dark parts of the world at bay, then Gargoyles were the scouts and observers.
“So that’s your secret, then.” Amoc surmised. “That’s how you stay ahead of any roaming hordes.”
“Yes.” Logan confirmed. “And why I haven’t bothered fixing those useless radio beacons.”
“Did you think about what I said yesterday?” Amoc attempted to return to the subject.
“You said you were in a dark place.” Logan responded by not answering Amoc’s question. “Why were you back in New York City when you found Simon?”
Nothing got by Logan. It was not a question Amoc had been looking forward to answering. He decided it was best to just put the naked truth out there.
“I went there to die.”
“Que?” Logan was genuinely shocked.
“Everyone was dead.” Amoc began the retelling. “I never found my family. So me and a bunch of other Garou vowed to throw ourselves at the horde until it was either destroyed or we were all dead. It was so fucking stupid, but we were angry and had nothing else to lash out at. Death was the only possible outcome. We were a few dozen Garou against tens of millions of undead. The result would have been the same if we had decided to attack humanity before the apocalypse. I watched them all fall to the horde, one by one. I was the last, but Death never came for me.”
“Merede.” Logan said quietly. “I had no idea.”
“No one did.” Amoc continued. “It felt like I was cursed to be the only one that would remember them. So I kept at it for months. I finally found a horde the size of which I hadn’t seen since the early days. I thought it would be the one to call Death. That night is when I found Simon, raging like a Garou to keep Death away. It woke me up. I had been absent for so long at that point, just going through the motions of battle. I made a choice to save him. I didn’t know why at the time, and I’m still not sure I do. But three people are still alive today because of that choice, and I don’t regret that.”
A silence followed Amoc’s confession. They walked through the woods for a time with only the sound of trees moving in the wind, and leaves crunching under their feet. Logan was clearly still processing everything Amoc had brought him.
“It’s been liberating.” Amoc broke the silence. “I’ve gotten to know Simon without having to constantly think about the filters I need to have in place. It’s let us do things that I would have never thought possible before. He had my back in the city when I was having to focus on that undead Garou, which was really fucking metal of him. I know discovery would have meant death before the undead, but it doesn’t matter now. He saved my life as much as I saved his.”
Again there was quiet as they walked.
“You make a good argument, I will give you that.” Logan finally said. “But we will need to think on how to manage the consequences of bringing them into our world.”
“So that’s a yes?” Amoc asked, hopeful.
“It’s a maybe.”
A ‘maybe’ was progress. Amoc would take it.
They were close to the clearing where Logan would meet with Draki, and it became apparent that something was wrong. Amoc had caught an alarming scent in the air.
“Blood.” Amoc said. “Have your hunters been in the area?”
“I smell it too, and maybe, but they wouldn’t be that messy.” Logan was unsettled.
Blood was a scent that would most definitely draw the horde, if left uncleaned for too long.
Then they both saw the clearing at the same time, and in the middle was a statue. The figure looked to Amoc like a dragon hybridized with a human; something that would have been perched on a large European castle. It was bent over and clutching its chest. The source of the blood scent became obvious; there was an alarming amount of it dried up on the ground.
“Merde!” Logan exclaimed. “Draki, what happened?”
The statue remained inert. This must be the Gargoyle.
“This is bad, if he’s gone to stone and isn’t changing back.” Logan was visibly worried.
Amoc got closer and studied the injuries as they appeared in stone. The cuts were short but deep, and numerous. He knew of only one thing that could cause such injuries.
“He’s had a run-in with the horde.” Amoc stated.
“Trust me, I know what one of their victims looks like.”
“Merde, this means there’s one in the area.”
Logan was right. Amoc couldn’t get any scent, but that only worked out to a few miles, and didn’t mean there wasn’t a horde dangerously close.
“We need to get back and prepare to move to the island.” Logan stated. “But I can’t leave Draki out here like this.”
“So we take him with us.” Amoc offered a plan. “He can sit in the middle of the compound and no one will think anything of it. I’ll warn Simon and Jade.”
Logan stared at Draki for a moment. He was clearly torn.
“Those injuries are serious, Logan. He can’t heal like we can, he could need days to be well enough to fly again. That and he’s going to need medical help, and if you ask Jade to do that instead of Doc Williams, they’re going to ask questions about who you’ve got in the house. I’m sorry, but you can’t put this off any longer.”
“Merde! I know!” Logan exclaimed, loudly.
“It’s terrifying, trust me, I know.” Amoc tried to assure Logan. “We lived our whole lives in secret, and everything about this feels wrong, but they’ll understand. This isn’t the same world anymore.”
Logan turned to look at Amoc. He was clearly angry. Logan had been warming to the idea of a reveal at a time and in a way of his choosing, but that rug had been unceremoniously pulled out from under him.
“Grab his back, you’re stronger than me.” Logan ordered. “I’ll get his legs.”
Draki was heavy, but manageable for two people with greater-than-human strength. Even so, the few hours it took to get back to the compound were tiring.
It would have been quite the confusing sight, if the Gargoyle ability to be seen without being seen wasn’t so powerful. No one batted an eye at them returning to the compound carrying a statue. No one except Simon and Jade, but Amoc’s signal for silence made sure they understood this was a delicate situation. They placed Draki down in front of the house.
“You.” Logan pointed at Amoc, quiet but still clearly angry. “Find that horde, and my hunters. Do whatever it takes. I’ll get prepared here.” His tone then softened a bit. “Nothing stupid, understand? You will come back here in one piece.”
“Understood.” Amoc confirmed.
As angry as Logan was right now, Amoc knew it wasn’t directed at him, even though he probably wanted very much to be angry with Amoc. He left his backpack and shoes on the porch, signaled for Simon and Jade to stay where they were, and took off at a run into the woods. When he was well clear of the compound he transformed into the wolf, and set off on the hunt.
Fully clothed and back in human form, it was well past dark by the time Amoc got back. The compound had no lights on and was quiet, which made slipping back in without notice quite easy. He guessed this was part of Logan’s emergency routine. Less light and noise, less things to attract the horde. The compound hadn’t all evacuated to the island, at least; Amoc could still smell a number of people present. Draki was still a statue in front of the house. Logan was on the porch, and motioned for him to come inside.
“Ten miles west.” Amoc whispered, getting straight down to business. “Umm… fifteen, sixteen kilometers I think? Headed south. A couple thousand bodies maybe.”
“Bien.” Logan was relieved. “We stay dark and quiet, and they shouldn’t be a problem.”
“Hopefully nothing turns them.” Amoc warned; roaming hordes were unpredictable.
“Hopefully, yes. We still don’t know why they roam out here at all. What about my hunters?”
“I lost their trail at the water’s edge. There were signs a boat had been dragged into the lake.”
“Then they’re probably at the island.” Logan surmised. “We placed a few boats along the lake, for just such an emergency. They won’t try to get back until it’s light again. Bon. This could have been much worse.”
“Does this happen often?” Amoc asked.
“In the early days, yes. Less so these days. It’s been a couple of months since we last had to go through this.”
They stood there in the dark for a moment before Logan spoke up again.
“I’m sorry about earlier.” Logan apologized. “None of this is your fault, but it may have seemed like I was blaming you. In fact if you hadn’t shown up, I wouldn’t have gone out to find Draki, and we would have been blissfully unaware of a horde being within twenty kilometers of the compound.”
“I understand.” Amoc truly did. “It’s a lot happening very quickly.”
“Yes.” Logan left it at that.
“Where the hell have you been?” Simon had come down the stairs, demanding an explanation from Amoc, though he was thankfully also whispering.
Logan simply gave Amoc an expression that said ‘not my problem’, and went back outside.
“Logan wouldn’t tell me anything.” Simon resumed, motioning to where Logan had just been. “Then he orders the whole compound dark and quiet, and says you found evidence of a horde out there. Also, what the hell is that statue doing out front, and why doesn’t anyone else think it’s weird?”
“One question at a time.” Amoc began. “First, an apology. I’m sorry, it was an emergency, there wasn’t time to explain. There was a horde out there, but we didn't know how close.” Amoc lowered his voice further. “We don’t know exactly what happened right now, but someone that does potentially know, is that statue.”
Simon drew in closer as it became obvious they were talking about non-human subject matter.
“Holy shit.” Simon matched Amoc’s lowered volume. “That explains why nobody thought it was weird. He’s a Gargoyle.”
Simon definitely had been paying attention during their talks about the hidden world Amoc belonged to.
“Yes.” Amoc confirmed. “Draki is his name, and he’s hurt. I think he had an encounter with this horde. That’s why we found him as a statue, and why he can’t turn back. It’s also why Logan… isn’t exactly trusting right now. Draki has been his secret to staying ahead of the roaming hordes, and he can’t help Draki without revealing what he is to the whole compound.”
“Is he considering it?” Simon asked.
“I made the argument. I think he is. It’s just all happening faster than he would have liked.”
“I mean, I think it’s worked out okay for us.” Simon reasoned. “You do still kind of scare the shit out of me in war form, though.”
“Good to know I’ve not entirely lost my scary face.” Amoc concluded, somewhat amused.
The night and following day saw no horde attack, though questions were already starting about where Amoc was going for hours at a time. The horde had continued south, and was far enough away now that they could have had a marching band in the compound and it wouldn’t have drawn their attention.
Logan’s hunters had also returned the following morning. They had lost their kills, but escaping the horde had been more important. They reported that the horde had caught them unaware, and a chase ensued. They didn’t think they had any chance of reaching one of the escape boats in time, that is, until they heard yelling in the forest, and the horde was pulled away. Amoc now had a good idea of what had happened to Draki.
Of course that also brought with it more questions. The pressure was mounting on Logan, and Amoc didn’t envy him right now. The evening of the second horde-free day, Logan came to Amoc in the main house.
“I’ll start with Doc.” Logan was ready. “He’s known both of us for years. He was a surgeon in Chicago for decades, and I’ve never seen him flinch away from anything. I trust him enough for this, I think.”
‘Doc’ Williams was indeed a steady hand. Amoc imagined the things he had seen in over 30 years of practicing medicine. He was in his 60’s now, and had come to Logan’s compound to get away from all of that. He certainly seemed to have found his peace out here, as he had remained a constant while others had come and gone, and didn’t seem to mind handling the light medical needs of the compound.
“Okay.” Amoc responded. “This is your show.”
“Right.” Logan was trying to psych himself up. “Human faces would be good to have in the room as well, can you bring Simon and Jade over while I’m bringing Doc?”
“Of course.” Amoc thought it was a good plan to ease Doc Williams in.
They had moved Draki into the basement earlier in the day, and Logan had explained the plan to him. Even in stone form, a Gargoyle could see, hear, and think, so Draki would know what was going on. It was how they observed humanity, and Amoc could only imagine what had been going through Draki’s head for the last few days. Logan went to get Doc Williams, while Amoc went to find Simon and Jade.
They all converged on the basement. It was a bit of a ‘man cave’, as Amoc would have described it. There was a large sofa, TV, multiple game consoles, a gaming table, and other odds and ends. Logan often said that living off the grid didn’t have to mean living in austerity, and this room was certainly an example of that ethos.
“William!” Doc exclaimed as he came down the stairs to find them all waiting. “You’ve been here for days now and I’ve barely had a chance to talk to you. What’s going on?”
“I’m going to defer to Logan for this.” Amoc replied.
Doc looked at Logan.
“What do you see when you look at that?” Logan asked Doc, pointing to Draki.
“That old thing?” Doc replied. “Always was a really interesting statue, never told me where you got it, though.”
Logan gave Amoc a glance. Draki’s ability was still working. Amoc nodded for Logan to continue.
“You have never seen it before.” Logan said, flatly. “It wasn’t in this compound until two days ago.”
“What are you talking about?” Doc was incredulous. “You’ve had it down here for years. Will, hasn’t that been here as long as you have?”
“Logan’s telling the truth, Doc.” Amoc confirmed.
Simon and Jade of course knew what the statue was, and where it had come from. They had seen through to the other side of The Veil, and those illusions no longer worked on them. Amoc noted they were both trying to maintain a neutral expression, but it had to be unsettling to see the reaction from the other side. This was why humans that had been exposed to this world didn’t live for very long afterwards… and if they did, they usually went crazy.
This was different, though. Both sides were represented in this room, and they were trying to be as careful about it as possible. There would still be consequences to this, Amoc knew. Simon was his reminder of that. He hoped, however, that Simon’s extreme first experience, meeting Amoc in war form while fighting for his life, had been a major cause for that. As well as whatever was going on in Albany.
“Ah, very funny.” Doc resumed. “Get Doc out of his cabin and wind him up a bit, I got it. Very funny.”
“No joke.” Jade stated.
“I’ve been known to pull a prank or two, but this is no prank.” Simon confirmed.
“Seriously, what are you lot up to?” Doc was getting annoyed.
“Harold.” Logan used Doc’s real name, and it got his attention. “This is not a joke. There is a world next to yours that you aren’t aware of. Everyone in this room has seen into that world, except you. That’s why you think that statue has always been here. But I know I could stand here all night and try to convince you of this, and you wouldn’t believe me. So I need to show you.”
Logan began undressing. This was only the third time an intentional revealing had happened as far as Amoc knew, and the first two were both perpetrated by himself. Amoc was intently studying Doc’s reaction as an observer this time. This was his role in Logan’s plan, and to make sure no harm came to Doc.
“I don’t need to see you naked, son.” Doc tried to joke, but his voice was tense.
“I want you to remember that it will still be me.” Logan tried to assure Doc. “It will still be the Logan you’ve known for years. It has always been me, you’ve just never seen me this way before.”
Amoc could smell the adrenaline building in Doc now. He was genuinely scared, and Amoc couldn’t even imagine what must be going through his mind right now.
Logan was down to just a pair of boxer briefs. He closed his eyes, and started the transformation. It wasn’t entirely unlike Garou transformations, though the Shifter's single form was still mostly human. Logan’s skin turned gray, and a mottled mix of brown and black fur appeared on nearly every exposed area of skin. Logan’s muscle mass significantly increased, fingers and toes lengthened, and claws formed out of every nail. Last to change was Logan’s face, which morphed into a hybrid of lupine and human, with a longer snout and large canine teeth. Like the Garou transformation, it sounded more violent than it looked, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t painful. Logan’s breathing slowed as the transformation stopped, and he opened his eyes, which were now yellow.
Doc Williams had watched the whole transformation frozen in silence. He remained that way for several moments until Logan finally broke the silence.
“Doc.” Logan said, his voice considerably deeper. “Are you okay?”
Amoc could hear Doc’s heart pounding.
“You’re…” Doc began, trying valiantly to remain calm. “You’re a werewolf?”
“No.” Logan asserted. “I’m a Shifter. William is a Werewolf.”
Doc turned to look at Amoc, with a look he recognized. He had seen it before in Simon. It wasn’t fear of Logan or himself, it was a realization that every natural law he held as true had suddenly been invalidated. The distinction between Shifters and Garou was largely irrelevant at this point.
“It’s true.” Amoc confirmed.
“And them?” Doc pointed to Jade and Simon.
“Human as they come, both of us.” Simon stated.
“And that.” Logan pointed to the statue in the back of the room. “Is Draki. He’s a Gargoyle.”
Doc turned to look, and Amoc saw the realization happen in real-time. The illusion was gone. This was going to work.
“What happened to him?” Doc asked. “He looks like he’s in pain.”
“He is.” Logan confirmed. “He’s going to need your help. Draki is the reason we’ve not had trouble with hordes for a long time now. Something happened with the last one, and he got hurt. He turned himself to stone to save himself. William has been standing in as well as he can, but, no offense, he can’t fly.”
“No offense taken.” Amoc idly thought about what flying Garou would look like.
Doc studied Draki for a few moments, then looked around to everyone in the room, before looking back to Draki.
“We’re going to need a sterile space.”
Fucking metal! That’s the Doc Williams I know! Just had your world turned upside down, but you see someone hurt and you want to help. Told you, Logan!
Amoc looked over to Logan and saw an expression of pure relief.
The questions only increased the following morning as they began work turning the basement into an operating theater. Logan stayed upstairs to keep people out of the house, leaving Amoc to manage things in the basement. He had no idea what Logan was going to tell them, but that was Logan’s business, not his. By mid morning, the space was ready.
“It’s no operating room, but it’s the best we can do out here.” Doc approved as he looked over the space.
Amoc had moved the one stainless steel table in the house downstairs, and it had been scrubbed within an inch of its life. The space had been surrounded with tarps that were also scrubbed, in order to control dust and other contaminants. Doc’s medical instruments and supplies were laid out and ready.
“God only knows what Draki’s blood type is, so transfusion is right out.” Doc explained the plan. “We’re going to have to work to close those lacerations as fast as possible. Jade, you’re going to have to work independently or we won’t be quick enough, we know he’s already lost a lot of blood, so the faster the better. Sutures don’t need to be perfect, they just need to close the wound. Got it?”
Amoc imagined Doc sounded like a professor in medical school right now.
“Understood.” Jade was ready.
“You two.” Doc said, addressing Amoc and Simon. “Are going to be my nurses today. Basically just give us what we ask for, do what we say. Got it?”
“Got it.” Amoc and Simon both said simultaneously.
Doc was in his element. Possibly also taking comfort in a world he knew very well being tied to one that was completely alien.
“Good. Scrub in.” Doc ordered, and they did so.
“You should also know I can’t risk anesthesia, given I have no idea how his metabolism would react. Combined with blood loss, it’s too big an unknown.” Doc looked at Amoc. “I may need you to keep him down.”
“We’re ready. Bring in the patient.”
Amoc went over to Draki.
“It’s time.” Amoc said quietly to Draki’s stone figure. “I know this is going to hurt like hell, but we’re going to help you.”
The stone began fading, and slowly the muscular, bipedal dragon that was Draki changed to flesh and bone. The moment Draki began moving he let out a scream of pain. Transforming while injured hurts a hundred times more than it would otherwise. Amoc had done it a couple of times in an emergency; he knew that pain, and winced sympathetically.
Draki’s knees buckled and he almost went down, but Amoc quickly caught him. Amoc held Draki there for a moment while he recovered from the change.
“Logan?” Draki’s gravelly voice asked.
“Upstairs, trying to keep a lid on this for now.” Amoc replied.
Draki wasn’t wrong. They probably heard that upstairs.
“I know, but that’s Logan’s problem right now. Come on.”
Amoc imagined few humans had ever seen a Gargoyle in the flesh, never mind one as obviously non-human as Draki. Eyes were wide in the operating room as Amoc assisted him onto the table.
“If you don’t mind.” Draki began once he was on the table. “I’m going to pass out now.”
Within moments of laying back on the table, Draki was unconscious. It was plainly apparent he was in a lot of pain. Doc directed Amoc to move Draki into a workable position, which was somewhat complicated by his wings. Amoc noted the membranes were damaged in several places.
“Let’s begin.” Doc said as he moved his medical tray into position.
“Blood pressure is stable.” Doc reported. “I have no idea what’s normal for Draki, but I’ll take stable for now. It means we've likely got everything, and there’s no internal bleeding. I’m tentatively going to call the operation a success.”
Draki was still unconscious. The operation had taken a couple of hours. Mentally it was one of the most taxing things Amoc had ever done. He had a lot more appreciation for what people like Doc and Jade went through to become a doctor.
“Draki’s got tough skin, those sutures were not easy.” Doc commented while cleaning up. “But that’s likely part of how he survived the attack. The risk of infection I think we were able to reduce or eliminate, assuming it’s a risk for him at all. Now we wait, and hope he wakes up, as there’s nothing else I’m willing to risk beyond the saline IV.”
“Thanks Doc.” Amoc was genuinely relieved this had gone as well as it had so far.
“When I wake up tomorrow and I’m still sane… thank me then.” Doc retorted. ”Now since we don’t have fancy monitors here, we’re doing this old school: watch rotations. Will, you’re first. Everyone else, go get some air.”
Amoc nodded, and walked over to have a seat on the sofa that had been shoved to the far wall. Simon, Jade, and Doc went upstairs. Logan would presumably be informed of the operation’s result momentarily. Looking over at the table, Draki’s chest was rising and falling in a steady rhythm.
“You haven’t corrected him, yet.” Draki was already awake, but still had his eyes closed.
Amoc blinked. He hadn’t expected Draki to be conscious this soon. It was a good sign.
“Doc Williams.” Draki stated. “He still calls you ‘Will’”.
Draki must have been awake for a minute or two now. It was easy to forget how good a Gargoyle was at observing unnoticed.
“Ah. Yeah…” Amoc began. “Would you believe me if I said it slipped my mind?”
“Not really, no.” Draki wasn’t buying it. “You’re afraid he’s not going to see you as the same person anymore.”
Draki was good at cutting through bullshit. It was no wonder he had been recognized as a Guide.
“Yeah.” Amoc admitted.
“Do I need to point out the irony of that?” Draki asked.
“No.” Amoc knew what the pointed question was aimed at. “It’s what I’ve been pushing Logan to do, and I’m afraid to do it myself.”
“Exactly.” Draki confirmed.
“Doc’s been here for years now, and he’s always been fun to hang out with. He’s got the best stories about Chicago and all the stuff he’s seen over the years. But he only knows William Savage. He doesn’t know Amoc. And he’s the only part of my past that I still have besides Logan.”
“What do you think Logan has been struggling with in your request?” Draki asked, right to the point.
“The same thing.”
“You already knew this.” Draki’s statement was cold truth.
Drkai let him think on that for a time. His eyes remained closed, chest rising and falling in a steady rhythm. Eventually, Draki moved a clawed hand to his chest, opened his eyes and turned his head to regard Amoc.
“Don’t discount yourself just yet.” Draki began. “You did something I couldn’t bring myself to do.”
Draki is a Guide, what in the hell have I possibly been able to do that he hasn’t?
“You took the first step.” Draki answered Amoc’s unspoken question. “You built a bridge with Simon. And I hope you’re not the only one, or the last. What’s left of the living is too scattered, too vulnerable. Separate, we won’t survive this. Together, we might have some chance.”
“That’s…” Amoc was at a loss. “I took a wild swing with Simon, figured anything had to be better than just… waiting to die.”
“Someone had to.” Draki affirmed the choice. “I admit I’m ashamed that a Garou was able to do what I couldn’t.”
There were no Guides among Garou. It was no slight to mention their well-deserved reputation for not being diplomats. Garou were good at ending threats with violence, and little else. Amoc may have been considered ‘high functioning’ Among his own kind, but there was no time before the apocalypse where he could have envisioned doing what he was doing now. Had he really changed so much already?
“Now I would love to explore this turn of events in greater detail with you.” Draki began again. “But I am in a considerable amount of pain, and would like to try and meditate in silence for a while. Feel free to join me, if you wish.”
Amoc took Draki up on the offer.
Logan came down to the basement after a couple of hours. His expression told Amoc that things had changed upstairs. It said those things were never going to be the same again for the three people in this room. Or anyone in the compound for that matter.
“Logan.” Draki greeted him from the recliner he had moved to about thirty minutes prior.
Logan stared, obvious surprise on his face.
“How are you already up?” Logan asked Draki.
“I had excellent treatment.” Draki credited Doc and Jade.
“He’s also just one tough Gargoyle.” Amoc added. “He was awake again within minutes of the procedure ending. Don’t worry, Jade observed when we moved him, he’s fine.”
Draki was an incredibly incongruous image in the recliner, which had been draped with clean sheets to keep it at least somewhat sterile. His wings were splayed out to either side, fully relaxed, damaged sections obvious. Gargoyles typically wore very little clothing, in order to keep their weight and wind resistance down when flying. He was more bandages than clothes at this point.
“What happened?” Logan asked.
“I made mistakes.” Draki flatly stated. “I missed a horde, and it nearly cost your hunters their lives. I tried to draw it off. I misjudged the distance of one tree branch.” Draki pointed to his damaged wing. “I found myself on the forest floor, and the horde was on me. I turned to stone to save myself, but not before they had done significant damage. After they had lost interest, I knew my only chance was to make it to our meeting point, return to stone, and hope for a solution when you found me.”
None of them said anything for several moments.
“They know.” Logan broke the silence. “Everyone knows now. I showed them what I am.”
That was it then. No more secrets, no more hiding.
“Good.” Draki stated, simply.
“How did they take it?” Amoc asked Logan.
“Well…” Logan began. “The vacationers freaked out a bit. Everyone did I think, but they were the worst at hiding it. Doc is working on diplomacy. No one has run off screaming into the woods so far. But they haven’t seen you change yet.”
Logan had pointed to Amoc. The compound residents definitely hadn’t experienced a Garou transformation.
“We’ll ease them into that.” Amoc was sure it would be an event.
“We’ll be stronger for this.” Draki spoke up again. “Days like today will become a distant memory, and someday we’ll wonder how we ever survived without each other’s help.”
“Is that a prediction from The Veil?” Logan asked Draki.
“No.” Draki explained. “It’s already happening.”