by Edison T. Crux
Season 3, Episode 4: Beast Rising
Will’s heart pounded.
His pulse was too fast. Blood raced to his overactive brain. His palms were slick with sweat. He knew what he had to do, but nerves kept him locked in place.
Alright, Will told himself. Take a deep breath, calm down, and do it.
Easier said than done.
After a solid minute standing in place, Will finally mustered the strength to take action.
He rung the doorbell.
Eliza answered a moment later, and the breath caught in Will’s throat. Her hair was silkier than normal, like red velvet. She wore crisp designer jeans and a glittery pink blouse. It was normal for Eliza to wear makeup, but she clearly spent more time on it today—everything from eyeliner to blush to lipstick. Her rose-scented perfume completed the effect, and it left Will speechless.
“Hi!” she said exuberantly. “You ready?”
Will gulped. “Mmhmm.” Feeling he had to say something, he added, “Y—you look great.”
Eliza gave him a million-dollar smile. “Thanks! Now let’s go. I’ve got a busy day planned for us.”
It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon. The snow was almost gone, and everything came to life after the cold winter—the grass was a vibrant green, the trees began to bud, and the air carried the fragrance of a hundred plants eager to soak up the sun.
They had agreed to forget about the White Wolf for a day, and spend some real time together. Eliza had the whole thing planned out, but kept it a surprise.
It sounded like a great idea when she suggested it, but as Saturday grew closer Will became increasingly anxious. This was a date! A real, proper, boyfriend and girlfriend date. Even though they had been “dating” since last summer, they never really went on a regular date. Before the Fair, the looming threat of the Beast kept them busy—and after the Fair, Will spent most of his time recovering from the loss of his hand.
That made this their first date, and Will was a mess.
All morning he paced his great-uncle’s cramped living room. This was new territory for him. Honestly, the thought of facing down this White Wolf scared him less—at least Will had experience battling monsters.
Ready or not, Eliza took him by the arm and they got into her car.
As the day went on, Will’s anxiety lessened. She drove him to Lake Geneva. Despite being nowhere near any ocean, Lake Geneva was a bustling beachside city about ten miles southeast of Elkhorn, with open-air markets, gorgeous homes, and boats. The beach hadn’t opened for the season, but downtown Lake Geneva was still filled with people.
They started out by shopping. They looked at fun, tropical clothes, tried on silly hats, and each bought a pair of oversized sunglasses. Eliza insisted on making Will try on half a dozen outfits at each store—most of them made him feel ridiculous, but a few actually looked good on him.
Then she took him to a locally-owned ice cream parlor that made the ice cream on site. They sat on the patio overlooking the lake, eating sundaes loaded with nuts, hot fudge, and caramel. Eliza did most of the talking throughout the day, which was fine by Will. He enjoyed the sound of her voice. By the time he finished, not only did Will feel five pounds heavier—he also felt relaxed for the first time all day. He should have known better than to worry.
They grabbed a quick dinner, then went to the Showboat Theater to catch a movie. It was a romantic comedy, and Eliza burst into laughter or “awws” at all the right moments. Will didn’t care much for the movie, but he realized this was the first film of any kind he’d seen in months. It didn’t matter if the movie was predictable and bland. The simple act of going to the movies—or out shopping, or to get ice cream—was a profound change for Will, and it felt good. For one afternoon, he was an ordinary kid doing ordinary stuff.
Will couldn’t help but wonder if this was where he belonged, not Garlock Manor. It wasn’t too late to turn his back on Enoc, and live out the rest of his teen years with some semblance of normalcy.
Eliza was giddy by the time the credits rolled, hyped up on sugar and the warm feeling of a happy ending. “That was so good!” she said as they walked out of the theater. It was already dark out, with an occasional crisp spring breeze.
“Thank you for all this,” said Will. “Really, I had a great time with you today.”
She bit her lip and grinned. “Who said it was over?” Eliza took his arm and led him around the back of the theater.
“Wh—where are we going?” Will asked. This was the opposite direction of her car. The opposite direction of everything, for that matter.
Giggling, she said, “Come and find out.”
Eliza led him through a grassy field behind the Showboat Theater. A knot tightened in Will’s gut; they were obviously not supposed to be out here. It was after dark, they were trespassing, yet Will couldn’t summon the courage to say no to Eliza. So he let himself get dragged along, despite the growing guilt at the misdemeanor.
They crossed through a line of trees that divided one field from another. On this side, there were gentle hills and patches of trees—and not much else, as far as Will could tell. He was relieved to see trees obscured the view of this field from both the street and the theater. They had a private park, all to themselves.
“How did you know about this place?” Will asked.
Eliza held his hand, and led him further along. “Some kids at school talk about it.” She found a spot atop a small hill and laid on the grass. “Come on.”
Tentatively, Will got down on his back. They laid next to each other in the silence of the night, staring at the stars above.
“This is nice,” said Will. “It’s… peaceful out here.”
“Yeah,” she agreed, then scooted closer to him. “And we have it all to ourselves.”
They were close enough that their bodies touched. Will’s heart picked up its pace. Eliza nestled into his arm and looked at him, eyes sparkling like the stars above. For what felt like forever they stared at each other, their eyes speaking with the raw honesty words couldn’t capture.
I love you
I love you, too.
What are we doing?
I know. Me too.
Eliza kissed him. Her lips lingered longer than usual, and with her next breath she kissed him again. Her hand caressed Will’s cheek. Before Will knew it, Eliza had climbed on top of him and was kissing him with more passion than ever before.
Will felt hot from the blood racing through his veins. They had kissed plenty of times before… but never like this. He was off-guard and overwhelmed.
Then, something snapped.
All of his fear—his anxiety—his nerves—washed away in an instant. In fact, his very identity was pushed aside. Will Lewis was lost for the moment.
In his place was the Beast.
With surprising force, he flipped Eliza over and pinned her to the grass. He no longer saw Eliza Fillmore, and held no loyalty to her—all the Beast saw was prey. And oh—what prey she was! Her aura glowed with a magnificent light. She exuded far more life than the average person.
And she was his to take.
Through Will’s body, the Beast kissed her hungrily. With each touch, he took a piece of that immense vitality. His own aura pulsed with renewed vigor.
At first, Eliza didn’t protest. She was surprised by his sudden boldness, of course, but didn’t see it for what it was.
“W—Will,” she muttered, attempting to slow him down. “Stop—let’s—ow!”
The Will-Beast dug his hand so tightly into her wrist, it began to bruise. His prosthetic was not as strong, so she was able to free one hand and push him back a few inches.
“Will, take it easy, let’s—”
He growled at her—actually growled!—and for a moment his eyes flashed yellow.
That’s when Eliza panicked.
She writhed to get out from under him, but the Will-Beast wouldn’t let her. He pressed his lips into hers, drawing out her sweet life force. Eliza kicked him—hard—then shoved him with all her might. The Will-Beast was off-balance, but lunged for her again.
It wasn’t until she hit him square in the jaw that he stopped.
That’s when the Beast retreated, and Will’s persona came crashing back.
Eliza scrambled away from him and hurried to her feet. “Stay back!” she yelled.
Memory of the last few moments returned bit by bit. Will nearly vomited as he realized what he’d done. “Eliza,” he panted. “Oh my god, I’m so so sorry. I don’t—”
“What the hell was that?” she insisted. She kept a good five foot distance between them.
“I’m so sorry,” Will repeated. “I don’t know what happened, but… I think it was the Beast. I guess—I don’t know—something triggered it.”
Eliza stared at him with her mouth open. “The Beast? What are you talking about? Will, the Beast is gone, remember? You destroyed it months ago.”
He took a deep breath. “Not exactly,” he admitted. “Mr. Orrick has been teaching me to harness the Beast’s power. I’ve never had any luck with it until now, though…”
The look she gave him could cut through metal. “He’s making you use the Beast?!” There was undisguised outrage in her voice. “Will, are you out of your mind?”
It occurred to him that he’d never mentioned that part of his training before now. Or any part of it, for that matter; the shame of his constant failure kept him quiet about the goings-on at Enoc. And without that crucial piece of context, this incident must have been even more frightening for Eliza. Will’s heart sank to the bottom of his gut.
“I am so sorry,” he said for the third time. “I feel terrible. I promise I didn’t know that would happen.”
Eliza looked disgusted. They locked eyes, and once again they said everything they couldn’t put to words.
I am so sorry.
I can’t believe you did this.
I didn’t mean to.
You can’t control the Beast.
I’m only trying to protect people.
You’re becoming the monster.
That was what stung the most. Will saw it in her eyes, as clear as the stars overhead. She thought this training was making a monster out of him.
Eliza shook her head and said, “I’m going home.” Then she ran back towards the theater.
Will didn’t follow her. He’d call Barbason, get a ride back from him. But the last thing Eliza wanted was to be in close quarters with the Beast again.
Besides, maybe she was right.
Maybe Will was just a monster.
Or would be, if Xavier Orrick had his way.
Will collapsed onto the grass, and stared at the stars. Now he felt no peace—only inescapable loneliness.