The sound of the front door slamming shut echoed in the darkness that engulfed the hall. There was some shuffling and grumbling before a hand hit the switch, light flooding the entrance and revealing a young adult boy fumbling with his clothes.
Jacket and shoes were thrown onto the carpet as Sky stumbled into the kitchen. He grunted and swore his way to the countertop, letting the strap of his bag slip from his fingers and drop onto the floor to clutch the marble edge instead. Sweat rolled down his temples, dripping from his chin.
One of those drops hit the floor, causing a ripple that broke the surface of his shadow, a black mass rising from its depths, growing and swelling until it hovered over him. Its movements were far from graceful, tendrils twitching and quivering in the fluorescent glow.
Blinking his eyes open at the sudden decrease in light, the boy stood up straight and turned to the cabinets, hands forcing them open, groping around till he found what he was looking for.
Turning around, he slid down onto the floor. Hands shaking, he took a tentative bite out of the dark chocolate bar he had fished out. At once, a warm feeling rushed through his body and he could almost feel his blood sugar and serotonin levels rising.
“I hate archery, Ink, I really do hate it,” he whispered to the symbiont, rubbing his shoulder with his free hand. “I swear I’m never stepping foot in those stinking grounds ever again!” There was no response to his outburst, but he felt a shift in the air and suddenly there was a black wolf resting beside him, its dark muzzle nudging his arm.
The wolf’s thick fur was soft and warm to the touch, but Ink was still shaking, the sharp teeth tugging at Sky’s sleeve, willing its host to stand up.
“What’s wrong, Ink?” he asked, petting the soft mane in an effort to calm the restless symbiont. “You were acting strange in the archery grounds as well,” he muttered, frowning as he remembered his horrible afternoon at the archery range. “What was that all about…?”
Then, for some reason, his brain chose that precise moment to remind him of something important.
“Mom?” he called, squinting his eyes at the dark corridor beyond the kitchen door. Rising up, he made his way to the study, followed closely by the wolf Ink.
The door to his mother’s study room was open, but that alone wasn’t cause for alarm. She wasn’t inside.
“She must be in the lab,” he told Ink, who had yet to set foot, or in this case paw, on his mother’s study. She never did like to have him there.
He ignored Ink’s odd behavior and went to the expensive laboratory that was his mother’s pride and joy, something she managed to convince the company she worked for to offer her, free of expense. He often wondered how she did it, but then would quickly remember he was talking about his mother, the woman with the PhD in Biology and an iron fist the size of Alaska. It was sound proof, so his mother wouldn't have heard him coming home.
He dialed the code, passed by the changing room and entered the lab. There was no one there, not a living soul. Still managing to remain calm despite his increased heart rate, Sky checked and double-checked every corner of the lab and, only then, the rest of the house, running around opening and closing every door he could find.
Finally, he had no choice but to address Ink, who hadn’t moved from his spot at the study’s door, sitting still as a statue as it stared at its host with black beady eyes. Sky knew what that meant, he just didn’t know if he was ready to face it yet.
He stepped into the room and this time Ink did as well. The wolf trotted towards the oak desk, a paw lifting to claw at a book that rested close to the edge. But Sky didn’t need that. He had already noticed it, the empty space on one of the shelves. It stuck out like a sore thumb in a room belonging to such an order and symmetry obsessed woman.
Then he snapped.
Taking out his cellphone, the blonde’s fingers flew over the keys, calling the number that his mother had given to no one but him. It barely rang before disconnecting. He tried her normal number, with the same results.
Finally, he hesitated before calling the next one. His mother’s work number.
‘“Don’t call my work number.”’
Face bathed in the glow of the screen, his fingers moved on their own accord, pressing each individual button before taking the phone to his ear. It rang for a while and then…
“The number you have dialed is no longer in servi-”
The phone fell to the floor with a thud.
“Ink, destroy it,” were the calm words that slipped through the boy’s lips. In the span of a second, the wolf was gone, the mass of black ink snatching up the phone and shrinking to the size of a marble. There were absolutely no sounds, but when the creature expanded again, only a few small pieces of metal and dust remained scattered on the tiles.
‘“You know what to do. Remember what I taught you.”’
Wasting no time, Sky went to the supplies room, where he ordered Ink to drill a hole in the exact place his mother would keep reminding him of. There he found a bag he knew was packed with everything he would need. While Ink destroyed everything he deemed too dangerous to keep, Sky turned off the lights one by one and closed all the curtains.
He went through each room, snatching anything else he might need. The last thing he took before calling the police on the pre-paid phone he found in his bag was his jacket and the chocolate bar. He kept the call as short and direct as possible, being careful with the information he gave, and then went on to join Ink at the back door.
“Let’s go,” he whispered as he opened the door, letting Ink fly past him and on to the garden. He ran in the cover of darkness, trees and Ink, stopping only when he reached the road. There, he watched Ink change into a sleek racing motorcycle and, as silent as the night, they rode off, never looking back.
He was heading towards the college dorms, like his mother had said, but he had another place in mind. He just hoped the lowlifes who took his mother wouldn’t find him there.