TRIGGER WARNING: the following story has mentions of death, violence, and grievous injuries
He couldn't exactly call a cave home, but it'd have to do for now.
Biscuit dug through his bag to see if he had any cans left. After a few moments of searching, he finally pulled one out; preserved yams. He stuck the corner of the can between his sharp teeth and, with a grunt, shredded off the metal lid. A corner of it caught on his lip, leaving a small cut, which was quite annoying, but the pangs of hunger in his gut took his attention.
"Shit," he cursed, licking at his lips.
Sticking his cold fingers into the can, he dug some yams out and gracelessly shoveled them into his mouth. He hobbled over to the edge of the cave and looked out into the night. The forest was void of life, except for the towering oak trees that swayed in the biting wind and snow. The ground was a brilliant white, the snow's reflections of dim light from somewhere beyond the trees being the only source of light in the otherwise pitch-black forest.
Winter fucking sucked. The tips of his fingers and nose were numb and frosty, and the heavy coat, pants, and snow boots he was wearing didn't help very much to shield him from the cold.
Should he transform? His wolf-form was much warmer and better adapted to the cold; having a thick layer of fur does wonders. He decided against it; he'd been transforming pretty often this week, and, as tempting as it was, he didn't want to test his own limits. Taking on a wolf's form was one thing, but he didn't intend to become one permanently.
Biscuit recalled how a fellow shifter, whom he'd only traveled with for a few weeks and hadn't even learned the name of, had been in his other form more often than his human one. He'd been smug about his control and power in his wolf-form, constantly bragging to the other folk how he was better as a wolf than a man. It was little surprise then when, one awful day, he'd gone feral and mauled another man, and his wife had been forced to put him down with a shotgun, like a rabid animal.
Everyone knows what becomes of a shifter who gets stuck.
Biscuit had left that group shortly afterward. Maybe it was better to be alone than to see something so horrific ever again.
Once he depleted the last of the yams, he tossed the can aside and reached into his bag. He pulled out a bone-shaped toy. He'd found it at an old abandoned building. It'd been the only thing he'd discovered, besides food, that remained intact from whatever disaster took place. The toy was made of yellow, bendable plastic, with a soft red center and old dent marks from when Biscuit had chewed on it last. Absentmindedly, he stuck it into his mouth.
Using the chew-toy was certainly therapeutic, and he sat down in the driest corner of the cave and reclined against the cave wall as he was lulled to sleep.
Biscuit was woken by howls in the distance. He shot up to stand, nearly smacking his head on the cold stone ceiling of the cave. What the-?
Shoving his toy back into his backpack and readjusting his coat, he walked over, quietly and deliberately, to the lip of the cave. Biscuit pulled his hoodie up over his head, peering out into the darkness. The forest was just as quiet as it'd been all night, although the snow had died down quite a bit.
And then, out of the darkness, came a pair of shining eyes.
A wolf, and a shifter at that. Regular wolves, the ones with no humanity, were far smaller. Shifted wolves were much stranger to look at, and could be told part from regular animals quite easily.
It was covered in pitch-black fur, and it took Biscuit a few minutes to truly process just how big it was, as its body was nearly lost in the darkness. On all fours, the thing was about as tall as Biscuit himself, and large enough that he could theoretically fit his head into its mouth. It padded closer to the clearing in front of the cave, its steps practically silent; he knew that, if it weren't for the crunching of the snow, he wouldn't have even heard the beast approach.
In a panic, Biscuit dove back into the cave. He knelt in the corner and dug through his backpack, pulling out a pocketknife. It certainly wouldn't kill the monster, but it would have to do.
He crouched, his knife held in a clenched fist. His free palm covered his mouth to silence his breathing. He heard the light padding of the wolf's feet getting louder and closer.
Then, it stopped. Biscuit silently prayed, that, just maybe, it had just gotten bored and gone away to terrorize someone else.
Then, the footsteps started again, and the beast's great head entered through the lip of the cave. It looked around briefly, its glowing eyes darting the area, before it turned, looked down, and locked eyes with Biscuit.
And then, it howled, long and loud.
Thinking quickly, Biscuit leaped up and stabbed the beast square in the eye.
The wolf's howl became a whimper as it pawed at its face in agitation, knocking the knife loose and gushing blood onto the frozen ground. Biscuit took the few precious moments of distraction to push past the creature and make a break for the woods.
He had no clue what direction he was taking, but it didn't quite matter. He didn't get too far regardless, as the beast sped up behind him, and snagged the back of his hoodie with its teeth.
"Fuck!" Biscuit shouted as he reached up to smack the wolf away fruitlessly, "Let go of me!"
He unzipped his hoodie and wrestled it off in haste, falling gracelessly to the floor and grabbing his bag before sprinting off. He would undoubtedly miss this jacket, especially in this weather, but it wasn't worth his life.
The beast took a few seconds to process that it wasn't holding him anymore, and, after tossing the jacket to the side, it continued its chase.
Biscuit's face and hands were smacked with twigs and leaves as he sprinted. He heard the heavy pounding of footprints behind him and knew it wouldn't be long before he was caught again.
As he looked around frantically, horror dawned on him when he noticed silhouettes to his left and right, running at the same pace as him. The silhouettes of wolves.
Of course. The first one must have howled to alert the rest of its pack. He was completely surrounded.
Sweat beaded down his back and face. "Shit, shit, shit-"
Suddenly, a massive, hairy presence shot out from his left peripheral and tackled him to the ground, burying Biscuit's face in the cold, hard snow. The two tumbled for a bit before this new wolf - this one with dark grey fur and steel-grey eyes- landed on top of him and rolled Biscuit onto his stomach. He was held down by the monster's clawed hands, which dug into his shoulder through his shirt.
"No, no," Biscuit pleaded as he saw two more close in on them, "Please don't kill me, please..."
He felt the wolf on top of him shift into a human form, the weight on his back becoming lighter and the clawed paw morphing into a pale, cold hand. Biscuit took advantage of the shift to throw the guy off his back, but before he could stand up, he felt the guy on top grab his arm more firmly and yank his hair, before shoving his head back down into the snow.
They had all been shifters, and, while their faces were hard to make out in the darkness, paired with the fact that the guy on top of him was shoving his head to the ground, Biscuit could see multiple pairs of feet surrounding him.
"Motherfucker," The guy on the top spat out as he wrestled away Biscuit's backpack and handed it to another shifter. "See if this little shit-head has anything in there."
"Somebody help me!" Biscuit shouted out. He knew that there was probably no one around for miles beside them, but it was worth a shot. His mouth was quickly covered by a pale hand.
"Hey, shut your goddamn mouth," The guy on top scolded, "I don't know who you're with, but if they show up because you're making too much noise, we'll kill them."
"I'm not with anybody," Biscuit desperately clarified, "I was just passing through. Don't kill me. I'll leave you guys alone."
"Dude," Another shifter said to the man on top, his voice calm but urgent, "I don't think he's lying. Let's just let him go. We should just get out of here."
Biscuit managed to turn his head just a bit further up, and, as his eyes adjusted to the darkness of the forest, he was able to make out the faces of some of his captors.
The man pinning him down was pale and haggard-looking, and his messy black hair, unkempt beard, furrowed brows, and heavy eye-bags made him look quite gnarly, although Biscuit could assume that he'd be rather cute under healthier circumstances. He was pretty fit, couldn't have been older than twenty-four, but his hardened grey eyes made it clear that he'd been through some shit.
The calmer voice belonged to another man with a dark complexion and hair in long dreadlocks, which were tied out of his face with a ponytail. He had his dark brown eyes locked onto the first guy, but they were hooded and relaxed, his face much more pleasant and youthful compared to his friend. In general, he did not hold the same disheveled look.
"What are you talking about?" The first guy's voice turned incredulous. "Okay, so, you're saying that some jackass is just hiding out in these woods a mile from the assholes that attacked us? He's probably some kind of spy for them or something."
"That doesn't make any sense," the second guy argued back. "Max, why would they send one guy out into the middle of bum-fuck nowhere? And why would they even bother with a spy? Why not just kill us and be done with it?"
"He doesn't have anything in here," A third voice chimed in from behind Biscuit's head, and while he couldn't see who was speaking, this one was a bit lighter and more nasally. It seemed like this was the guy rummaging through his backpack. "There's just, like, a bunch of old wrappers, a can of string beans, and this weird toy... bone... thing."
"I don't have anything else," Biscuit tried to explain, "I'm not with anybody, I don't even know who you people are! I'm alone out here, I swear."
"I said to shut your damn mouth. I'm not talking to you," the pale guy - named Max, apparently - pressed Biscuit's head further into the snow. "You can't talk your way out of this. As if you have any incentive to tell us who you actually are. I can't trust anything you say."
"Wait! Hold on a minute, guys! Don't hurt him!" A new voice popped in behind Biscuit's view, followed by crunching footsteps.
The guy on top suddenly moved off of Biscuit to stand, and he immediately sat up, breathing heavily with the sudden weight off of his back. With his vision unobscured, he could finally see all of his attackers in full view.
Biscuit was surrounded by four men. Max and his calmer friend with the dreadlocks, but the third guy, who had the nasally voice, was a short, gangly redhead with wide green eyes, and a massive scar running from his brow to his cheekbone. His hands were drawn to his mouth in shock as the three men stared at the fourth guy; the one who'd come to Biscuit's defense.
"Oh my god! Ollie, what happened to your eye?!" The redhead asked.
The fourth guy - Ollie, as it were - had longer black hair that was tied in a low ponytail, with stray strands hanging loosely around his face. He was quite tall, and his skin was a few shades darker than Biscuit's own. He was holding Biscuit's jacket and a pocketknife in one hand.
Biscuit only realized who Ollie actually was when he saw the stream of blood leaking from his left eye: or rather, what remained of the eye Biscuit had stabbed.
Ollie smiled; it was a rather strained looking one, as if he was trying to convince those around him that the situation was better than it actually was. "He was alone in that cave. There was no one else around. He's being honest, you guys. No spy would be this underprepared."
He chuckled, as if to alleviate the tension. It didn't, but it was an effort.
Biscuit certainly hadn't thought that the shifter whose eye he'd gouged out would be his advocate, but he nodded. "Look, I'll just leave, and you guys will never see me again."
Max suddenly grabbed Biscuit by the back of his shirt and then yanked him to his feet. "No, you're not. You're coming with us."