Hemanth circled August, his dark eyes narrowed and drool dripping from the corner of his mouth. Steam rose from his nostrils as he breathed in and out, his bare chest rising and falling in a broken rhythm. August moved toward his weapons and crouched down to pick up his pistol with his left hand. Hemanth howled again, this time following it with deep coughing sounds, like sharp barks.
The sounds echoed behind August, not far away. August sighed and looked at Hemanth. "Listen, Hemanth. I don't want to fight you and your buddies. I sure don't want to kill anyone." He switched hands, putting the pistol in his right. "Can you understand me, Hemanth? At all?"
The creature's face twitched. He showed no signs of understanding, but snuffled and coughed again.
August sighed and slipped the pistol in his belt and the knife in his sheath. Crouching deeply he jumped straight up, grabbing a branch and hauling himself into the tree, climbing rapidly.
Hemanth leaped forward, grabbing for August's receding feet and missing. He scrabbled at the tree, climbing after the big man.
"So you have the sharper claws, but you're still human enough to climb," August muttered. As Hemanth drew close to him, August shook his head. "Sorry, buddy." His booted foot kicked out and landed on top of Hemanth's head, knocking him loose from the tree. He dropped to the ground and slowly got back up, looking at August. Short snuffling sounds came from his mouth.
A cry of pain came from the forest, followed by another. "Those would be my traps, Hemanth." August didn't smile. "Please tell them to leave. If you can understand anything, please tell them not to do this."
Four more people from Fort Collins appeared, three men and a dark-haired woman. One of the men had a gash across his thigh, fresh blood flowing down his leg. What little clothing they had was in tatters, though knots in the woman's shirt indicated she had some periods of lucidity, times when she tried to be more human than animal.
"Damn it." August shouted down to the five creatures prowling around and looking at him. "Dan? Is that you? Fight it, man."
One of the men looked up at August and snarled, his bald head gleaming dully from the coals still glowing in the fire pit. A small scar ran from the corner of his mouth to the middle of his jaw line. The woman climbed the tree toward August and he kicked her back down. She landed on her back and Dan and one of the other creatures started climbing the tree.
"So, you might still know your name, at least well enough to respond to it. And you can use some strategy, crude as it is." August felt the anger well up inside him, a slow burning sensation in the pit of his stomach. "Well," he muttered, "this won't be good." His boot caught Dan on the top of his bald pate but he didn't fall. Grabbing the branch above him, August bent his knee and sent a vicious kick to the other werewolf, who fell from the tree, bones cracking.
"Hemanth! Dan! If you have any sense, you'll leave right now." August pulled his knife from the sheath and cut through a branch as thick as his arm, trimming the smaller branches from it rapidly. He kicked Dan again. This time Dan fell, but jumped back up growling.
August's head started pounding and the anger made his vision swim with red. "Enough!" he shouted, a roar in the tops of the trees, overwhelming the growling noises made by the wolf-men below him. He slipped his knife back in his sheath and dropped down to a lower branch, the short wooden club now in his left hand.
The creatures looked at him and growled, while one of the men and the woman tried to climb the short distance to August.
They didn't need to.
August yelled, a primal sound of fury and rage and dropped the ten feet to the ground, his feet apart and his right fist touching the earth. The scream from his lungs erupted again as he swung the club catching Hemanth on his left shoulder and propelling him into a nearby tree. He didn't get back up.
With a giant hand, August lifted the woman-creature by the throat and threw her into Dan, sending them to the side of the clearing in a tangled heap. His club caught one of the others on the side of the head, crushing his skull. August grabbed the bloody corpse by the ankle and swung it like a doll at the final standing creature, catching him in the chest and knocking him five feet into the bushes.
The yell erupted from August's throat again, his fury pushing him toward his enemies. The club caught Dan in his right arm as he stood up. Dan's yelp of pain eclipsed the sound of a bone cracking. Sensing the danger, Dan ran into the trees, followed by the woman. The man who flew into the bushes scrambled away. August screamed again, the prehistoric sound erupting from his throat like an avalanche. He advanced toward the prone body of Hemanth, who now struggled to sit up. August raised the club with his left hand, his eyes blazing.
"August?" Hemanth's voice was a whisper, his eyes clear as he stared at the club moving toward his skull. At the last second the club moved to the side, slamming into the tree and shattering into a thousand shards of wood.
August stood looking at Hemanth, the fire in his eyes cooling, the anger seeping from his chest. He looked at the dead body on the ground. August sank to his knees.
"August? Are you okay?" Hemanth's voice was quiet as he pulled himself to his feet. His hand touched August's quaking shoulder.
"We'll get you to Holden, Hemanth. We'll convince him to find a cure for you and the others." August sighed, a heavy, deep sigh that shook his entire body. "I'm sorry for your friend. I didn't intend to kill anyone..."
"What...what happened to you, August?" Hemanth asked in a whisper, as he looked at the tossed earth around the campsite.
"You're not the only monsters to walk the Earth, Hemanth."