In the eerie pre-dawn silence, Shana crouched down on top of the cold, concrete enclosure above the roof-top door.
With one leg tucked underneath her, she knelt in position. Still as a statue. Her gun, held in her left hand, pointed out before her at a slight downwards angle. And in her right she held her makeshift shit-bomb. She was in the perfect position for an ambush.
Deep breaths girl. Focus. Focus. Focus . . .
If there was one lesson that Shana had learned from her father, that stood out above all others, it was the importance of always being at the top of your game. This often meant not being liked, or even trusted, by her fellow hunters. Her easy confidence was misread as arrogance, and her willingness to take the front line in any fight, mistaken for cockiness. She knew that many of her peers thought of her as a "glory seeker"; assuming that she fought as hard as she did, in the hopes of securing a place for herself in the legends of the future. Let them think that though, if it kept them out of her way and off her back. Shana had little interest in the social politics of the hunter community; and if they ever formed a union she might just have to take them out herself!
Her confidence came from her absolute belief in the truth of things. If you faltered, then you failed. To stop beliveing in yourself for a even a second could be your undoing.
So, what went wrong tonight then?
Yeah, good question.
Shana had never met a wolf yet that she couldn't take down. That's not to say that she emerged from every fight unscathed, but her battle scars would heal much more quickly than any wolf could regrow it's head. She was known for her coupe des grace approach to every kill. No sense in just shooting a wolf when you could cut its head off and make sure the job was done properly. It was better for everyone that way.
But then . . .
But then what, Shana? Huh? Did you just have a moment of forgetfullness? Did every single lesson that has carried you through your life so far just slip your fucking mind!!
It was those stories. Those stupid, campfire ghost stories. Passed on from one hunter to the next for hundreds of years, and probably embellished with each retelling. Somehow, they had gotten inside of her head and started to eat away at her self assurance.
She remembered waking one night, about three weeks ago, drenched in a cold sweat and clutching the sheets in a death grip. It had been so many years since Shana could remember having a nightmare, that during her first few waking mintes she couldn't distinguish between reality, and the terrifying dream. Her mind had conjoured up images of wolves, so ferocious and savage, that she thought they would be able to tear themselves straight out of her head. If that was what the wolves from the old stories were really like, then she was doubley glad to have been born in the modern age. Undoubtedly though, they had been no different to the ones that she herself fought now. People were just a lot more superstitious in previous times, and far more willing to believe in werewolf propoganda. The tales of wolves with human intelligence and cunning, in addition to their strength and regenerative skills, were more than likely started by genuine "glory seekers"; desperate to make a name for themselves as the mightiest of hunters. After all, in a this kind of game, reputation was everything.
Retrospect was a marvellous thing though.
Being afraid of wolves in her dreams seemed so foolish now, as she perched there above the open doorway, waiting to face a monster that she had no idea how to kill.
Focus, Shana. Focus. You can psychoanalyse yourself later.
Clearing her mind of every thought, except that of aiming her weapon, Shana closed her eyes and listened.
At first there was nothing.
And then . . .
The barely detectable sound of clawed feet, padding against a concrete floor. The wolf was inside, but she had not heard the door break. Clearly it was attempting to be sneaky, but her honed senses registered its steps on the metal stairs that lead up to the roof exit. When she heard the sound of crunching glass she readied herself for action. Sure that she could hear it breathing right below her. Wondering if her proximity had been close enough atall for it to have her scent.
Shana could sense the sky still gradually getting lighter around her, and desperately wanted to chance a look at the horizon. Would she be able to see a first glimpse of the early morning sun?
Concentrating so hard now that she could feel a pain starting to throb behind her eyes, she remained focused on the doorway directly below her.
The wolf finally began to emerge.
She could have waited until it was fully visible, but there seemed little point. As soon as she had a clear shot of the back of it's head, she fired.
The wolf let out an angry growl and was jolted forwards slightly. Only momentarily stunned though, it turned its gaze directly upon her, and leaped straight into the air. Whether by luck, or misjudgement, its huge paws only just reached the edge of the enclosure that she was perched upon.
Without wasting another second Shana immediately smeared the contents of her right hand into the wolf's huge, black eyes.
It howled in agony and recoilled from her, losing its grip on the edge of the concrete as it did so, and stumbling backwards across the rooftop.
This was her chance. Slim as it may be, it was the only one she had gotten so far.
Shana leaped down onto the rooftop and fired three more shots at the flailing wolf; then turned and bolted inside, heading straight for the stairs. She practically flew down them, her feet barely making any contact, and once she hit the ground she sprinted in the direction of the entrance. Behind her she was vaguley aware of the sound of the wolf, skittering across the broken glass of the office windows, as it attempted pursuit. This noise only spurred her on faster. As she reached the entrance, Shana could see the first rays of sunlight glinting off the windows of the building opposite.
Wolves couldn't be hurt be sunlight, but it was the moon that gave them their power, and once the sun rose they were bound to change back into human form. And once this change began they were unable to control its progress, and were weakened by it.
Now it was payback time.
Once in the entrance Shana turned to face the wolf. Already its pace had slowed and movements seemed less precise. If it really was smarter than your avergage wolf, then it knew that hiding from the sun wouldn't stop the change. It had paused, for the moment, seemingly considering its options. Levelling her gun directly at the wolf Shana walked forward and began a wide cirle around it. Still gowling, but obviously weakened, the wolf watched her every movement.
"Not long now my friend."
The wolf growled again, and slumped forward slightly.
"I wonder if you really can understand me? No matter though I guess, soon you can go back to living inside nightmares: where you belong."
Shana took a step forward, ready for the execution . . . just as the rickety metal staircase behind her finally collapsed. At the sound of the enormous crash she jerked round in surprise, even as her brain told her body to stay still.
Teeth clamped down hard on her arm.
Crying out in pain Shana dropped her gun, and with her free hand swung a fist into the wolf's muzzel, knocking it sideways and losing huge chucks of flesh in the process.
This brief distraction was all the wolf needed. With a final growl in her direction it staggerd off as best it could, which was still quite fast compared to an injured human.
She had lost her chance.
But that thought paled into insignificance compared to the new ones rapidly forming in her mind.
Getting eaten by a werewolf was one thing. But getting bitten by one? Well, that was a whole different heap of trouble.