The True Death
Chapter 2: Crystal Norris
Crystal Norris was the prettiest girl in all of Hot Shot. She always had been, long as she could remember. Her momma had been pretty too, with a pair of sparking blue eyes and a figure that everyone in town wanted writhing beneath them.
Crystal had a figure like that too.
She’d had dreams once, when she was a little girl. Dreams about runnin’ off and joining the circus. She’d jump through hoops and her trainer, a man that looked a lot like Kevin Bacon from Footloose, would love her. He’d know her secrets, and he’d love her all the more because she was special. She’d go to high school and they’d get married, leaving Hot Shot behind forever.
The first time Crystal got pregnant, she was thirteen.
Everyone had been so proud and happy about it. Her daddy had bought her a new dress to wear and she’d gotten extra food so the baby would grow big and strong.
The baby was perfect, with a mess of blond hair and ten tiny fingers and ten tiny toes.
But he was dead. Still born.
Crystal went cold after that. No one told her it wasn’t her fault, that she was young, and that her uncle, who’d fathered the child, had a history of still-born babies, probably because his own parents had been half-brother and sister to one another.
They just left her to sort out her own grief.
She’d never cared much for Felton growing up. He was a mean boy who loved pulling her hair and he’d once put a toad in her bed. She’d never forgiven him for that. But soon it became obvious that she was going to have to be someone’s girl, or she was going to be everyone’s girl. So she’d given herself to him. It wasn’t so bad. They were close in age, and he had his sweet bits, when he’d pick her flowers or grab her a Coke in town, or a catch her rabbit when they’d shift.
But she always longed for something more, even though she knew it was her duty to continue their line. She wondered sometimes, if in some other part of the world, if there were others like them, a little group just looking for some new blood too.
She’d known Jason Stackhouse was a special man from the moment she laid eyes on him. He was handsome as the day was long and sweet as sugar. And he was a simple man. Crystal figured there was lots of room in his head for Ghost Daddy. She’d resisted his charms for a while, knowing that her daddy wouldn’t understand. He thought that they’d be fine, that there were more than enough of them to keep the line going, and that if they were going to breed with anyone, it should have at least been shifters or, as a last resort, Weres.
But Crystal knew that wasn’t how it was meant to be. Just like Ghost Daddy had made them, they needed someone to do it again. They needed to make someone who could save them.
Jason was just the type of person to do it. She sat, purring and rubbing her belly, day-dreaming about babies she’d never have. She believed she was pregnant and was even starting to feel her body change, but it was all in her head.
Sam Merlotte sat on the couch in his small, hot trailer behind the bar he owned. He flipped channels on the television, snorting when he came across Game of Thrones. He loved the books, and they’d done a great job translating them to the small screen, but they had been off on one little detail. Well, it was a rather large detail actually. In reality, Dire Wolves had been fucking monsters of beasts the size of a pony. On the television show, they were no larger than an average wolf. He was a shifter. He knew animals, and he didn’t like it when Hollywood didn’t get their animal facts right.
The phone rang, and he clicked off the television before answering.
“Are you ready?” He smiled at the Luna’s sultry voice on the other end of the phone.
“Ready as I’ll ever be,” he joked. “I’ll meet you at the logging road.”
He liked Luna, he really did. She came with baggage, but hell, he had a shit ton of his own, so that didn’t matter. She had a kid and a Were for an ex who kept an eye on her, but that didn’t scare the shifter. If the only thing the guy could change into was a wolf, Sam would just change into a bear and kick his ass. Fucking Weres, thought they were so great. Cocky one-trick ponies if you asked him.
She was Native American, and her family had some strange traditions, well, strange to a guy who’d raised himself and had no sense of family or history. He’d learned all he could about shifter culture on his own; there hadn’t been anyone to hand down generations of stories to him. When he’d finally found his mother he’d been sorely disappointed. He didn’t want to find out anymore about her than he had to. Trashy bitch.
Luna was meeting some relatives for a bonfire – or some kind of get together that he didn’t really understand – but she’d invited him along. He wasn’t sure if she’d asked him to come because she felt sorry for him or she was worried about her ex coming around. Hell, maybe she really liked him. All he knew was that they were going to smoke a peace pipe around a fire and end up naked before they shifted and got out some of their animal energy.
He grabbed his keys, heading out to meet her without stopping to check in at the bar. He was tired of the work he put in there and never having anything to show for it. Not to mention, his fucking brother had come in and stirred shit up and he’d ended up with a hot vampire as a waitress somehow. It just wasn’t the same anymore.
Parking behind a small line of cars on the old logging road near Hot Shot, he got out looked around for Luna. Some twigs cracked, and he watched two small foxes come out of the brush, shifting into humans in mid-step. Luna and an older man with long hair and a heavy gut stood before him, naked.
“Sam, meet my Uncle Edgar.”
“Nice to meet you.” Sam held out his hand and the man reluctantly shook it but didn’t say a word.
Luna rolled her eyes at her uncle and smiled at Sam. “You’re over dressed. Get naked and we’ll head to the campfire.”
“Do you always sit around the fire naked?” he asked, confused. He’d expected the naked part of the evening to come later.
She laughed. “Sam, we’re Native American and shifters. We don’t spend a lot of time in clothes. The idea is that if the spirit moves you – you should shift. Clothes just get in the way.”
“I see,” Sam said, nodding his head even though he didn’t understand.
He’d never been spoken to by a spirit, but hell if he was going to tell her to get dressed. Quickly, he got undressed and stashed his clothes in his truck before following them into the woods. They walked until they reached a small clearing with a fire burning off to one side. A group of six or eight people sat on logs around the flames; Sam could tell from the way the ground was worn the firepit was used fairly often. They stepped into the light and Luna made introductions before they took their seats.
The oldest looking man began to tell a story about their ancestors who had taken in a sick woman. She had turned out to be a pure Were panther. It took months, but their medicine man nursed her back to health. During her confinement in their village, she had fallen in love with the chief’s son. She was seen as a gift from the spirits to their tribe. The couple was to be married, but on their wedding night, the village was attacked and overrun with Were panthers.
Sam listened intently, angry at the Were’s for brutalizing the village, attacking at night and during a celebration when the tribe’s guard was down. The smoke from the fire shifted and he felt a shiver down his spine. There was powerful stuff at work.
Edgar passed Sam what looked like a joint. “Breathe in the offering the earth has given us,” he said, eyeing Sam intently.
Never one to go against the crowd when it came to mind altering substances, Sam accepted.
And things got a little crazy after that.
All of a sudden, there was a dark figure in front of him.
“What the fuck are you?” Sam whispered, reaching out to touch it. Everyone around him had shifted and was doing their various animal things. Edgar was licking himself in the form of a monkey, and Luna was a beautiful swan preening her feathers.
The figure spoke in a soft, but powerful voice. “I am the creator of your kind. I am,” he paused for dramatic effect, “Ghost Daddy.”
Sam narrowed his eyes and peered into the mass. “What the fuck?”
“Sam Merlotte, it’s time you and I met.”
Sam gasped, as the form merged with his. He felt stronger, more alert.
“Shift,” the voice, which was now inside him, whispered.
Sam closed his eyes, and when he opened them, he was something he’d never been before. A mother-fucking Dire Wolf. The last animal he’d seen that impressed him.
“Now, we’re going to take a little trip, Sam Merlotte. You’re going to help me out with something.”
Sam, not in his right mind and feeling mighty good as a pony-sized wolf, let out a deafening howl as he ran into the dark swampy forest.
“Where we going? And who are you? What’s a Ghost Daddy?” Sam asked the new voice in his head.
“I am known by many names and exist in many forms. I am your father, and your father’s father, and his before him. I am the first shifter.”
Sam felt moved by the spirit. So moved that he let out a motherfucking Dire Wolf howl, which was frighteningly loud, like the roar of a dinosaur in his head. The spirit of Ghost Daddy was telling him to move and Sam didn’t feel the slightest urge to fight it. He started to run as fast as his four legs would carry him, not slowing down until he reached the edge of Hot Shot.
Ghost Daddy drew in a deep breath, smelling the air as if he was looking for something and Sam couldn’t take it anymore.
“What the fuck are we doing here? These shifters are in-bred wild-cats.”
“No shit,” Ghost Daddy mumbled. “This, Sam Merlotte, is a big fucking problem. A mess that’s gotten out of hand that needs to be taken care of.”
“What does that mean?” Sam asked, just as Ghost Daddy got a whiff of something that he thought smelled like a large cat in heat.
He lurched forward, running again, this time Sam knew where he was headed. No matter what he did, Sam couldn’t turn Ghost Daddy away from the wretched smell of slutty panther. He ran through the middle of the ramshackle village that was Hot Shot. The entire area smelled of panther, but he felt himself veer immediately to tiny house where the scent of the female was strongest. He loped through the open front door, startling the Were in her human form as she sat on the couch, gently rubbing her belly.
She jumped to her feet, her eyes wide. “What the fuck?”
Sam growled, as he felt himself shift into human form, but it wasn’t his form. Suddenly, he was a dwarf the size of Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones. He had to stop watching so much television; that shit was seriously rotting his brain.
“Ms. Norris, I presume,” Sam said, in a proper accent of some sort. “I have a bone to pick with you.”
“Who the fuck are you?” she sneered, obviously underwhelmed by his form.
“I am Ghost Daddy.”
Sam wondered what the fuck he’d smoked. He’d never been able to shift into a person before.
“Ghost Daddy?” She snorted. “You ain’t Ghost Daddy. Ghost Daddy is a bad ass panther.”
“I am Ghost Daddy, and I know what you did.”
“What? That I brought new blood into our lines?” She had her hand over her belly again as if she was heavy with child.
“There’s nothing in there,” Sam heard himself say. “You might have forced that redneck to fuck you, but his seed didn’t plant.” He couldn’t believe the words coming out of his mouth. This Ghost Daddy was a cold fucker. “Time to change your ways.”
“I don’t believe you,” Crystal spat out. “You left us when we needed you most. Now that I’ve seen you, I don’t believe any of the stories I heard about you.”
Sam then felt himself shift again. This time, into Kevin Bacon. Crystal was still unimpressed.
She eyed him up and down and yawned. “So what, you’re a skinwalker. Big fuckin’ deal.”
“Shift, my misguided child,” Ghost Daddy spoke, through Sam. “It’s on, bitch.”
Crystal growled and transformed, and once again, Sam felt himself do the same thing. He hated being a pussy of any sort, but a Ghost Daddy Panther was kind of badass, he had to admit. He stood a full head over the smaller female cat, who was now purring and licking her haunches.
“I tried to reason with her, Sam Merlotte. Time to take out the trash.”
“What do you mean?” Sam asked the voice in his head.
“Bitch has fucked with creation. You can’t just make a Were panther. It’s unnatural. She’s made us vulnerable. Do you want our kind to end up like the fucking vamps? Every dumbass kid looking for a sports scholarship pays some idiot to bite him? I can’t have it.”
“What you gonna do to her?” Sam asked, as he nuzzled her. She was in heat, he knew from the smell. He didn’t like being a pussy, but he wouldn’t mind getting some.
“There’ll be none of that,” Ghost Daddy said, cockblocking him. “I’m going to fight her to the death. Her and I, out front in front of all of them, so they know this won’t stand. If any of her kind cut in, I’ll kill them too.”
“I don’t want you messin’ up my skin, Ghost Daddy,” Sam whined. This shit could get ugly.
“I’ll protect your skin. Don’t you worry about that.”
He cornered her and let out a roar loud enough for the entire shitty village to hear. She shot out into the dirt yard as other panthers began to come out of their homes, creating a circle around her. Ghost Daddy walked into the middle of the crowd, roaring again and slashing his paw in the air. Sam didn’t speak panther, but he figured the spirit was telling them shit was on.
The first one, an older male jumped on him, but Sam easily swatted him away, tearing off part of his ear in the process. He backed off, as Sam went for Crystal.
They circled one another for a few minutes, tails swishing, ears alert. Eventually, she stumbled and he attacked, swiping at her with his claws and snapping his jaws at her jugular. She hissed at him as he pounced on her and repeatedly beat her head against the ground, before gnashing at her with his teeth.
A few of the other were panthers looked like they were thinking about jumping in, but most were too young or old to offer any serious resistance, as Ghost Daddy Sam ripped Crystal to shreds. They rolled and fought, kicking up dust and splattering blood on the crowd of onlookers.
When it was over, Ghost Daddy Sam stood above the naked body of the thin woman, panting. He was still in panther form as he turned to survey the crowd. They sat on their haunches, heads lowered in respect. He roared at them a few times and Sam figured he was warning them not to fuck with creation again, then he sauntered off into the night
When Sam woke the next morning in his trailer, he was completely unharmed.He didn’t remember getting back to his truck or driving home, yet his old pick-up was parked outside. His cell phone sat on the table, blinking with an alert for voice mail.
There was only one message; it was from Luna. “Sam, what the fuck happened last night?”
He set the phone back on the table and put his head in his hands. He wondered the same thing. What the fuck had happened?
It was later that day when he ran into Andy Bellfleur at the bar. Andy looked stressed and tired, like he’d aged ten years.
“What’s up, buddy?” Sam asked. “Rough night?”
“Some fucking cat mauled one of those inbred Hot Shot hillbillies to death. I spent most of the night at the crime scene. A fucking mess.”
Sam tried to stay calm, but knew he had to at least ask a question or two. “Really? What the fuck? Those people keep to themselves most of the time. You think it was one of them?”
“Hell, yeah. It’s always someone you know. It was probably one of her brother-cousins, but nobody out there’s talking.”
“Damn. Well, good luck with that. You know what,” Sam said, relieved. He smiled as he handed over his beer. “Lunch is on the house.”
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