Barbara found Kevin on the floor, lying on his side. His arms and legs lay straight out as if he were a dog taking a nap. It looked wrong and unnatural.
He whimpered in his sleep.
Barbara hesitated, almost afraid to touch him. She glanced back at Ambrose.
He sat in the doorway with his knees bunched up. His head leaned back against the frame. His eyes were closed. His eyebrows quilted up. His mouth slightly open. His arms hugging his waist.
Unfortunately, he had no advice for her.
At the moment, she was on her own.
“Kev?” Barbara knelt beside her ex. She started to reach for him, but hesitated.
What if he snaps? Can I be all that certain he won’t?
She looked at Ambrose again.
He was still knocked out.
It’s my move.
She looked down at Kevin. Sympathy overcame her fears. She stroked the long hairs out of his face.
Tears filled her eyes.
His nose had flattened and widened, creating an uncanny, inhuman appearance. Yet, it was still his face. She could still recognize it as his face.
Her tears fell and trailed down his face.
He opened his eyes.
She was relieved to see that they were still his eyes. “Kevin?”
He squeaked and whined.
“What can I do? There has to be something I can do. How can I help you? There has to be something. Anything. Kev? Tell me. I’ll do it.”
His expression turned mournful.
“I know you can’t talk, but tell me in my mind. Tell me.”
He arced his head back and howled.
She lost it.
She dropped against his flattened shoulder and cried hard as if he had died.
A hand spread on her back. “Barbara.”
She raised her head.
Ambrose sat behind her.
“Ambrose. Do something. Help him. Help him. Help. Help.”
“There’s only one way I can help him.”
He shook his head.
“Ambrose, if you love me—”
“I can’t. For two good reasons. One, his blood will taste like rotten garbage. Yuck. I may be a vampire, but that doesn’t mean I’ll bite just anyone. I still have a sense of taste. Two, it will kill him.”
She sat back on her feet.
“Is that what you want me to do, Barbara? Do you really expect me to kill him?”
She rose quickly and fled the scene.
Barbara sat in the plastic chair on his front porch.
“Do you really expect me to kill him?”
The question repeated endlessly in her head.
And she had no answer.
The front door opened.
She bowed her head and buried her face in her hands.
“Hey.” His footsteps approached her. Stopped in front of her. “Love. Look at me.”
She uncovered her face, but her head stayed bowed.
“I’m sorry. If I came off sounding a little harsh…if I’ve hurt you…Barbara. Barbara, please look at me.”
“Did you do it? Did you kill him?”
“Did you expect me to? Is that what you want?”
“I can’t say. Yes almost seems right, but how could I make that choice? How could I condemn him to death? He hasn’t done anything wrong. This isn’t his fault.” She looked up at him. “But saying No…He’s in pain. He’s hurting and…” She shrugged helplessly. “What can I do?”
“This is going to sound cruel, but this is what I believe is right.” He hesitated for a second. “Let him live.”
“Let him fight through these last few days. Let him become a full werewolf.”
“But it’s inhumane to let him suffer like that.”
“The pain will stop. He’ll be fine.”
“How can you be sure? How do you know he won’t go mad?”
“Let me put this way. When a hunter is changed into a vampire, they invariably go mad. They can’t handle the stress of becoming what they’ve hunted, of finally understanding what they’ve hunted. It cracks their minds, splinters them, throws them out of control. They become monsters. They must be staked.”
“Werewolves don’t go mad. By the time the Night Folk start coming for them, a typical werewolf has seen many missing weeks and dealt with the stress of not knowing which week he’ll wolf out. The final transformation comes as a relief. They no longer have to worry about when and where it will happen, if they’ll ruin Cousin Ermentrude’s wedding or the family vacation or—-” He shrugged. “—you get the idea.”
He came down to her level. “That isn’t to say he isn’t scared. He is. But believe me, Barbara, the fear and all of the pain will pass. On that eighth day, the pain will be gone. Kevin will be happy. He’ll be free.”