It was the headache that woke me. I felt as if someone had stomped my brain into mush, then tossed it out with the trash. When I tried cracking my eyes open, light stabbed into them like needles. I groaned. What the hell had happened to me?
“Finally. Margot Lucas?”
I forced my eyes open and squinted in the direction of the voice. “Who are you? What did you do to me?” I croaked. The light was too bright to make out much more than a man-shaped silhouette. And were those bars?
“What did I do to you? You’re the one who wandered over to the dead side of town.”
“The dead side of town?” I scrambled to my feet, ignoring the pain that lanced up my legs, and stumbled against what were definitely bars. Like the ones in jail cells. “You can’t keep me here! I’m human!”
“Calm down. Don’t you remember what happened to you?”
Either the light was getting dimmer or my eyes were adjusting, because now I could make out the face of the man standing on the other side of the bars. He was of middling height, muscular, and in dire need of a haircut. The law enforcement uniform and the caste mark over his right eye completed the image of a stereotypical reluctant werewolf police officer.
“Remember what happened to me?” I repeated, once I’d recovered from the shock of his audacity. “Obviously you’ve drugged and kidnapped me for some insane reason, and you’re dressed like a policeman so I won’t protest. Well, I won’t be fooled!”
The werewolf just snorted. “I’m dressed like a policeman because I am a policeman, lady.”
“No, you’re not.” I coughed once, then twice. My throat felt like sandpaper. What had he given me?
“Look. As hilarious as this little act is, I don’t really care what you think. You’ve got a couple hours for them to call in your next of kin for goodbyes, then one of the guys from the other side will come and take you off my hands. That’s how it goes, okay?”
While he talked, my eyes continued to adjust. Behind the werewolf were all the trappings of a small police station, down to the insignias on the wall. Doubt began to creep into my mind. This was a very elaborate kidnapping ruse.
“What do you mean, goodbyes?”
The werewolf turned and folded himself into a nearby chair.”Standard procedure for transition. No contact once you cross to the other side, you know how it goes.”
“Transition to what?” It was a struggle to keep my voice even, but I managed, just.
“You really don’t remember, do you?”
“Transitioning to what?” I repeated through gritted teeth.
“Zombie. You’re a zombie.”
I stared at him. “No, I’m human.”
“You wanna look in a mirror?”
“I’m human.” There was no way I could be a zombie. It simply wasn’t possible. “There’s been a mistake.”
The werewolf stood, wandered over to a file cabinet, and rifled through a couple drawers before approaching my cell, carrying a mirror not much larger than his hand. “See for yourself.” He held the mirror up even with my face.
The face was mine, for sure. Acne scars on my chin, eyebrows that managed to make me look stern even when I was trying to appear friendly, a nose that was just a little bigger than I’d like. The human caste mark was still on my cheek, but now there was a bigger scar overlaid, an X that crossed over my nose and stretched all the way up to my hairline and down to my jaw.
“But I’m human,” I whispered.
The werewolf sat back down and tossed the mirror aside. “Not anymore.”