Harold White had a hard life.
A few years ago his wife, Emily, had died in a traffic accident, leaving him to raise their two children. For the thirty-five year old man without a college degree this presented a considerable challenge; one he didn’t think he could have handled without the help of his and Emily’s parents.
Many times he felt guilty about leaving the kids with their grandparents. Taking care of kids was hard work and his and Emily’s parents were not getting any younger. Harold also dearly missed spending time with his kids.
However, the food wasn’t going to pay for itself. Harold worked in construction during the day and, after his wife died, he had taken the night shift as a security guard at a local mall.
When he had taken his second job, he had been nervous. He was a big guy, usually the biggest big guy in the room, and working in construction for most of his adult life had helped him build muscles he could be proud of. People usually thought twice before messing with Harold.
However, just because Harold cut an intimidating figure did not mean he had any taste for violence. As a matter of fact he found it unpleasant.
Harold hoped he would never come across a real criminal. Guns were scary and having big muscles didn’t make you bullet proof.
Thankfully his job had yet to involve violence of any kind. Most nights he just sat in the security room and looked at the cameras. Occasionally he would go out and take a walk around the mall to stretch his legs.
It was a very boring job. He had ended up falling asleep more than once and woken up with back pain. Harold had to remind himself he was going it for his daughters.
At least that was how it had been before.
Now, he welcomed the monotony. He welcomed the squeaky chair and the dark room devoid of any other human presence, just himself and the monitors.
He welcomed it because Harold White had a secret. It was a secret he could not tell anyone.
Harold White was a monster.
It had started a few weeks ago. The changes. The urges. The transformation. God, the transformation. Sometimes he wanted to dismiss the whole thing as a dream. Pretend that first night hadn’t happened.
He still felt it beneath his skin, the monster he had become just waiting to get out, like he was wearing nothing more than a paper-thin disguise. He could feel the urge to lash out, to break, to tear…
Sometimes he caught himself just about to transform, about to turn back into that monster. He could feel his bones begin to shift and fangs start to form. When that happened he fought it. He fought it with every inch of his being.
He stopped visiting his kids. He couldn’t face them, not while the urge was still there. If he lost control while he was with them… he didn’t even dare to imagine it.
He would have stopped working during the day if he wasn’t desperate for the money. What he had done instead was to stop talking all together. He didn’t socialize. He didn’t mingle. He just went about his work with single-minded focus. While he knew some of his co-workers were shooting him odd looks, his bosses weren’t complaining.
Harold snorted. Of course they wouldn’t. He hadn’t been weak to start with, but ever since that day he had been as strong as an ox, literally as strong as an ox. He had been doing double the work he usually did.
No that the increased strength made up for the negatives in any way, Harold thought, putting a hand on his forehead. He slumped into his very uncomfortable chair.
Just what had happened to his life?
For a moment the middle-aged man just sat there looking at the monitors. Like usual, they showed nothing. Barely anyone was walking around at 3:00 am in this part of the city. It was soothing in a way, to stare at nothing at all.
He was so damn tired. Not physically. That rarely happened nowadays. Mentally, however, he was a mess.
He couldn’t deal with all this.
Harold wanted nothing more than to close his eyes and forget about it all. Maybe if he was really lucky, he would wake up for real this time.
Because this had to be a nightmare.
“Don’t you get tired of this?”
Harold nearly fell out of his chair as he whipped around to face the intruder. He stood up and put a hand on his nightstick, the chair falling behind him.
There was nothing in the room.
He moved his gaze from corner to corner of the dark room, but did not see anyone. Had he imagined it?
“Who’s there?” He asked. Had he fallen asleep without noticing? How could there be anyone else in the room? It made no sense, yet he knew what he had heard.
“Easy there,” said the same voice. “Sorry for the shocker, but it’s cool. I’m a friend.”
A tall young man with blond hair and green eyes stepped out of the shadows. He wore a yellow jacket, ripped jeans, and a white shirt.
How on Earth had he missed him?
He rarely bothered turning on the lights, but that was no excuse to have missed another person in the same room. How had the guy entered the room in the first place? He had been staring at the camera monitors for crying out loud!
How had he missed this guy entering the room?
“Who are you? How on Earth did you get here?” He asked, taking a step back.
“How else? The usual way. Our way,” the guy said, his tone suggesting Harold had just asked a stupid question. “But seriously, I get trying to keep up appearances, but don’t you get fucking tired of this shit? Really don’t know how you can handle it. Let’s face it, we were not made to be cooped up in small rooms like this one. Didn’t you have enough of that the first time?”
The guy spoke as if they were old friends and for the life of him Harold couldn’t figure out why.
“We? I have never seen you in my life,” Harold said. “No, you know what? I’m going to have to ask you to leave. We closed hours ago.”
As he spoke, Harold slowly inched towards his desk. He just needed to hit the silent alarm under the desk and this guy would be the cop’s problem in less than five minutes.
The intruder just rolled his eyes. “Oh, come on,” he said, throwing his hands up. “Stop pretending.”
“Use your fucking nose,” the blond said, tapping his own. “It’s not the easiest thing to miss, you know?”
“What?” Harold was honestly baffled. “Nose? What are you even talking about?”
At his words something changed in the intruder. His smile and easy-going manner disappeared. He frowned and leaned forward, looking at him. Really looking at him. Harold felt himself freeze as that green gaze analyzed him.
“Oh, I see how it is,” the blond said, voice cold. “You’re just another one of those failures. Just another. Stinking. Failure.”
Harold’s eyes widened as he saw the intruder grow before his eyes. He could hear the bones cracking and shifting.
It clicked. “You,” Harold said, backing into his desk, his fingers pushing the alarm. “You are one too.”
It was all he managed to get out.
Harold saw a flash of gold.
It was the last thing he ever saw.