Chapter 1

Levi lay low, crouching behind an SUV and taking deep, quiet breaths. It was dark, save for the solitary lamppost at the far end of the mall’s desolate parking lot, which flickered intermittently as moths fluttered around it and the flashy neon sign that spelled out “TRINCITY MAL” The last letter, obviously an “L,” dangled precariously from its position, devoid of any light. His nose flared in disgust at the stale air around him. It was cold, but that wasn’t much of a problem, considering how heavily bundled he was, it was just difficult to move around in his custom-made thermal windbreaker. It was thicker than wool, but fortunately, twice as comfortable.

Suddenly, a short, threatening growl pierced the silence. The young man fought against his body’s natural urges to tense up in fear –a skill that had taken him many a year to develop- and made his move. Abandoning his hiding place, he made a mad dash toward the mall’s main building. As expected, his hunter, or rather, his prey, took swift pursuit. He could hear its claws scraping against the asphalt as it scampered after him, it's heavy canine-like, snarling breaths getting closer and closer. Levi knew that he was nowhere near as fast as the thing that was chasing him, which is why he was surprised that he somehow managed to run a full thirty feet before it finally caught up. The second he felt the beast’s hot breath against the back of his neck, its foul stench invading his nostrils, Levi braced himself for the pain he knew was about to follow.

He felt its razor-sharp fangs sink into his left shoulder and his vision instantly blurred. The burning pain radiated throughout his body, paralyzing him for several seconds. That was all the time the beast needed to yank him off of his feet and toss him like a ragdoll. Levi let out a sharp cry as his body smashed into the side of an old, champagne-colored Honda Civic, hard. The impact caused the car’s entire right side to cave in on itself, shattering the windows and warping the metal around him, effectively trapping him within its grip.

Pushing aside the thought that an impact like that would be more than enough to kill a normal person, Levi assessed his situation. He was slightly stunned, a bit sore and shaken, but otherwise unhurt. The youth exhaled sharply, his breath coming out in a plume of condensed air. A sudden coldness invaded the pit of his stomach and then travelled almost instantly to every part of his body. The metal that ensnared him grew colder and colder, eventually gaining a frosted appearance. A few seconds later, he was able to pry himself free by simply smashing the frozen metal as though it were mere glass. Cryokinesis, a bit of a recent acquisition one might say. Levi was able to create and control ice, though not nearly as proficiently as he would like. The moment he had hit the car, he’d coated his entire torso in a thick layer of the stuff, in effect reducing the damage he’d taken.

By the time he was clear of the wreck; the beast was already hunkered down on all-fours in front of him, growling ferociously and bearing two rows of its wicked-looking pearly whites. The thing was huge. Its sheer muscle mass, razor-sharp, elongated nails and thick, wild mane dominated its features. It stared at Levi through crimson eyes, saliva dripping from its gaping maw. It was toying with him, Levi soon realized. It knew that it can just rip his throat out at any time, and it was searching for any sign of fear or panic to draw pleasure from before it ended his life. Too bad; Levi didn’t scare easily. He remained perfectly still, keeping its eyes in his own sights, staring calmly, defiantly even, and ready to fly at the first sign of aggression. He had been using ‘the chill’ to keep the already severe pain in his shoulder from escalating. If he let it get the better of him now, he would be done for.

           The beast bucked suddenly and howled in frustration when it saw that Levi did not fear it, lunging at him in a rage. The young man was shoved roughly to the ground and it clambered on top of him. He raised his left arm to shield himself from its claw-like fingernails, whilst his right hand clamped itself tightly around the creature’s face, successfully preventing it from ripping him to shreds with its teeth. The two rolled around on the ground, a quick scuffle ensuing. Levi flinched in pain as its nails dug into his arms, and grunted as he reciprocated by violently bludgeoning his knees into the thing’s massive chest.

           After a few seconds, the young man felt his grip on the beast’s mug beginning to loosen and he instantly began to panic. His hairy opponent sensed this and had at him with renewed vigor. Levi wheezed out a choice swear and glanced around his immediate surroundings for something, anything that could help him. He considered screaming for help at the top of his lungs, but he knew deep down that he was the only one capable of handling a situation like this. It was then he realized that they were both now directly beneath the lamppost. Transmitting a mental prayer to the heavens, he summoned all of his strength to kick the creature off of him and then scrambled a few feet, into the shadow of a pickup truck, before it was on him again. It didn’t attack just yet, much to his relief. It sensed his desperation, and wanted to savor it. However, this gave Levi more than enough time to act.

       Staring up at the beast that straddled him, he offered a grin and a mock salute as his second ability kicked in and they slowly began to sink into the ground. Or at least, that was how it appeared. Levi was actually dipping into the shadows. The sensation is similar to that of being sucked into quicksand; but, he was in total control of his descent. The shadows were his domain, his dark, viscous playground. He could traverse long distances instantly, as long as there was a shadow at the other end. It did have its limitations, though. The realm of the shadows was ever changing, ever evolving. It could be best described as a super immune system; once something alien entered it, it acted in such a way as to expel the intruder. The longer he stayed there, the thicker and denser the shadows would become. If he stayed too long, Levi would most definitely suffocate and die.

The beast on top of him, however, wasn’t quite sure what was going on. It just knew that it didn’t like it. It whipped its neck around in confusion and let out a series of startled yelps as they both sank into blackness. Levi ceased their plunge as soon as his opponent was neck deep in the stuff, and moved to a distant shadow. When he broke the surface, he found that he was back where he had started: behind the SUV. He pulled himself up out of the ground, the shadows rippling serenely around him as though they were made of water, and then slowly walked toward the creature.

Only its head was visible, the rest of its body being stuck in the darkness. The thing stared up at him with eyes of pure hatred and thrashed its head around, obviously trying to wiggle itself free and failing miserably. Without Levi to guide them, no one could leave the shadows. No one. It was for this reason that, in this situation, he favored the shadows over the chill. With the beast’s strength, and his own inexperience with the ability, it could have easily broken out if he had tried to encase it in ice.

Levi crouched beside the creature’s head, just out of reach of its snapping jaws and sighed. “1, 2, 3, 4, 5…” he began, taking a deep breath after each number. By the time he had gotten to twenty, the beast’s features began to twitch and change. By forty, its teeth, nails and hair all began to recede. By sixty, Levi was looking at a perfectly normal, rather docile-looking young man of East Indian descent, unconscious from the stress his transformation had put on his body.

Levi heaved a huge sigh of relief and sprawled out onto his back, panting madly. He was not nearly as much in shape as he should be, considering his rigorous training regimen. That, as well as the injuries incurred in this little skirmish, proved to be a bit more than he could bear.

It took a few minutes of rest before he was able to get back on his feet, and another half hour to erase any and all traces of the battle. He cleared away shrapnel, froze the blood spatters on the ground -his own blood- and sank them, plus the damaged Honda Civic into the shadows. He could just imagine the owner’s reaction when the critically outdated car turned up missing. Yup, the mall’s management was certainly going to be in for quite the morning. The thought brought a rare smile to Levi’s lips.

Finally, he pulled the heavy youth out of the shadows, lifting him fireman-style over his uninjured shoulder and made his way back across the parking lot. Levi Porter, werewolf slayer? Had a nice ring to it, though the thing was neither dead nor, technically, a werewolf.

He was, in fact, Shiv Ramlogan, alias Pothound -for obvious reasons-, one of Levi’s oldest, most trusted friends. He was what the old folks called a Lagahoo, which could best be described as more of a shapeshifter than a werewolf. Contrary to the regular legends about werewolves, beastmen and the like, Shiv’s transformations weren’t triggered by the phases of the moon, nor did he become a truly anthropomorphic beast. Though he did gain some wolf-like traits, most of the changes occur in his mind. The guy would lose all sense of humanity, revert to a primitive, bestial state and his strength, speed and resilience increased tremendously. This little incident was purely an accident, as they usually were with him.