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Available until 7/1/2018

Chapter 1

Running. Chasing. No . . . hunting.
That was it. Awareness flooded her senses, as if she was part of the wolf as he crashed through the forest hunting his meal. She could feel the rush of adrenaline as the scent of its prey came closer. The wolf toyed with the small animal; he could've caught the creature at any moment, but she could feel that he missed the thrill of the chase.
Sage could feel the bristles of the ferns as they brushed against the soft underbelly of the wolf's pelt. The pungent scent of fear coming off of the prey heightened the thrill of the chase. The wolf swallowed its saliva in anticipation, making Sage feel as if she were the one doing the swallowing.
The strangest part of it all was that she could actually see the little pouf of the white tail on the deer's butt as it fled. It felt like more than just a dream. She could see the hazy outline of the forest around her, the strange coloring of the leaves, and the way the wolf used the smells to enhance its vision, as if it was her doing the action. It was all very surreal.
Tired of this game, the wolf pounced, grabbing the deer by its haunches and throwing it to the ground. Its victim made one final protest before the wolves' jaws clamped down on its neck, killing it almost instantly. The fact that every time the wolf killed, he did so humanely, as if he detested seeing its prey suffer, even though the kill was necessary for his survival. That was the only thing she appreciated about these dreams.
The deer’s blood entered the wolf’s mouth. The taste of the hot, coppery substance passed by Sage's tongue, as if it were her jaws attached to the creature’s neck. When the hot blood hit her system, her stomach growled in satisfaction. She was alive!
Sage woke up abruptly, sweat pouring from her body, and her sheets tangled about her limbs. She hated these dreams. Swiping at her hair, she pulled it off of her face and wiped the sweat glistening on her brow. Her breathing was heavy and labored, as if she'd just run after the deer herself. Hell, at this point, she wouldn't have been surprised to smell the rotting carcass in her pristine bedroom. These dreams had occurred often enough, she was almost amazed that she hadn't killed something.
Her room was black as pitch, the only illumination coming from the alarm clock that she couldn't see anyway. Carefully, she inched her hand to where the clock was supposed to be, but it was further than she thought. She stretched out on her belly, groping for the stupid clock, knowing what it would say before the button was pressed. If history had taught her anything, it would be the middle of the night, and she'd be up, wondering what to do with the rest of her time.
Her long fingers found the clock and expertly touched the button.
"Saturday, three-twenty-three a.m.," the clock said in its strange electronically human voice.
A protesting groan escaped from her lips. “Every friggin Saturday. You’ve got to be kidding me,” she complained to the room. “This has to stop.”
She swung her long legs out of bed, pulling the sheets with her to try to keep the room somewhat tidy. Janice was coming today. And even though Sage couldn't see the mess, she hated having others see it. Walking the twelve steps into the bathroom, she picked up the toothbrush where it was always kept, brushed her teeth, and then replaced the brush in the exact same spot. Two hand-spans from the edge, against the mirror she never used, and into the container that made a tinking noise when it was dropped in.
Sage opened the shower stall to start the water. This was always a bit tricky, because it had always been difficult for her to find the right temperature, even when she could see the knob. She bathed quickly and efficiently, following the same routine for what felt like centuries but was really only about fifteen years.
Dressed in her customary jeans and tee, Sage went out to start the morning coffee. Unconsciously, she counted the twenty-six steps to the kitchen, the exact distance to reach the pot to brew her addiction. Some people smoked, some drank, and still, others gambled. Sage drank coffee. She swore the heavenly brew was more addictive than crack, but having never tried the stuff, she couldn't be certain. There was just no way she'd last an hour awake without it. 
On days like today, a few extra cups were mandatory.
She opened the blinds on her third story apartment. Why, she couldn't say. Perhaps, it was because it was part of her routine and made her feel like she was still normal, not handicapped. Ah, well.
With her coffee cup in hand, Sage walked over to her artist’s table and sat down. Sipping the hazelnut brew, she felt the edges of her paper. Her right fingers memorized the edge she had to work with, while the other carefully grabbed a charcoal pencil from the cup on the windowsill.
She started drawing the forest from her dream. The ferns gently swaying in the wind as the wolf captured the scent of his prey, the bark of the trees he hid behind, and the delicate webbing of the early morning spider's web as it sparkled with a light coating of frost.
She drew everything she envisioned in her dream, expertly shading and highlighting shadows and flickers of light as the sun's rays passed through the foliage as if she were still able to see the paper she was working on. Her fingers traced the lines, so she could see the accuracy of her work.
She was on her fourth cup of coffee when she heard Janice's uneven gait moving about outside her door. Her friend had a bum hip that acted up in winter, causing her to walk with a slight limp, while dragging her right foot every so slightly on the floor. Sage didn't think anyone else noticed, but she was different and sensed things others didn't, even before she lost her sight.
Sage opened the door with a big smile on her face. "You're early today," she said by way of greeting.
"I figured you'd be up already. You're always up early on Saturday," came Janice's reply. "Are you drawing already?"
"Another wolf?"
"The same one. Wanna see?" Sage was already walking back to her work, trusting that Janice would follow her, after shutting the door to her apartment.
"Wow!" Janice exclaimed over Sage's shoulder. "That's fantastic! I think it's your best one yet! I still can't believe you do these. How do you even know what you're drawing?"
Janice shook her head. “You boggle the mind. I’ve been working with people who have disabilities ever since I can remember and have never seen anyone with your gift.  Even if you weren’t blind, this drawing is a masterpiece. The detail is exquisite," she said, almost to herself.
"I dreamed of him again. He was chasing a deer today," Sage replied with a grin, hiding how much the dreams actually bothered her.
"Well, he's beautiful, and you're amazing," Janice replied, placing the drawing back onto the table. "I'm having a cup of coffee, okay?"
"Sure. What's on the agenda for today?" Sage asked as she rolled up the drawing, placing it carefully into a tube for her agent, when he stopped by later in the month. He promoted her work at exhibits, providing her a nice profit, while keeping her identity hidden from the public's prying eye.
"I was thinking, we might try visiting with the dogs again," Janice suggested, her tone hesitant.
Sage groaned.
"Oh, stop that. You need to get out, do things, and meet people. You can't stay cooped up in this apartment for the rest of your life," Janice admonished, playing out their weekly argument. "Wait. Before you start arguing, I know you go out. I'm also aware, how much walking with your stick bothers you. If you had a guide dog, you'd appear to be just a normal woman walking her dog on the streets of Detroit."
"Ugh," Sage groaned, flopping onto her plush couch, face buried in the seat cushions. "I don't want the responsibility of a dog. I hate being interrupted when I'm working. You know I can't stop my drawing once I've started. The rhythm gets all wonky, and the work gets all messed up."
"You’re here all alone without any protection, and I worry about you. Detroit isn't a safe place for a single girl," Janice countered. “I know you’re going to say you’re self-sufficient, skilled in self-defense, and can take care of yourself. It’s just, after knowing you for the past fifteen years, I truly care about you.”
Sage sat up, turning her green gaze directly onto Janice.
Janice shivered.
"You mean, because I'm blind, I'm defenseless," she replied with a bite of bitter anger.
"No, Sage. I mean, you're a beautiful, young woman, who lives in one of the worst crime-ridden cities in America. I care about you. More than just as my client. You've become my friend, and I'm terrified of something happening to you," Janice admitted softly.
Sage heard the sincerity in the older woman's voice. It was her undoing.
"Fine. Let's go look at the dogs," she relented with a sigh.


They came home hours later, with bags filled to the brim with food, collars, and an empty carrying case. Sage was cooing and petting the little ball of fur in her arms, sounding positively gushy. Janice smiled to herself as she opened Sage's door, letting her and Patches into his new home.
Just as Janice shut the door, Patches leapt out of Sage's arms, his little bell jingling as he explored every nook and cranny of his new home. Sage smiled with delight.
"Where do you want everything?" Janice asked, while she placed the bags out of the way onto the counter in the kitchen.
"Well, he can jump onto the counter, so let's put his food and water next to the sink." Sage felt around the counter, then pointed. "Here."
Janice followed Sage's instructions implicitly, knowing her friend needed things in exact places, so she could continue to function and feel like a normal person. The toys were placed in a bin next to Sage's drafting table, and the scratch post was placed on the other side of the couch. The litter box was the only thing that Sage couldn't figure out what to do with.
"I don't want it in the bedroom or living room, because it'll smell bad, and his scraping will wake me up. There's really no room for it in the bathroom, so that leaves the patio or the hall closet. What do you think?" She asked Janice, looking directly at the her with a perplexed look on her face.
"I think you should've gotten a dog. What the hell are you gonna do with a cat?" Janice bit back, exasperated.
"He was just too cute. Cats can be good guard animals, too. I've heard of lots of cases of them protecting their owners," Sage said in defense of her new pet.
"How do you know he's cute? You can't see him, remember?" Janice teased gently.
"He sounds cute," was Sage's reply.
In her defense, Patches was a cute cat. All black without a single patch on him, he had a tear in his ear and a scar across his nose.  He was a fighter, just like his new owner.
Janice sighed.
"Why don't you keep his litter box in the hall closet with the door cracked open for him? I'll clean the box out when I do my visits, okay?" Janice placed the extra bag of litter on the top shelf of the closet, after situating the box on the floor.
Janice smiled, watching Sage's face while she listened to the tinkle of the bell as the cat explored it's new home. There was a look of pure joy on her face that Janice hadn't seen in a very long time. If the cat gave her that look, she'd happily scoop poop.
Janice went about cleaning the things that were difficult for Sage to do, then straightened up the apartment and made her bed. Scheduled to see Sage three days a week, she typically stopped by every day to make sure her friend was okay. She really did worry about her.
"Hey, a bunch of us are going out for Matt's going-away celebration next week. Would you like to come?" Regularly inviting Sage out to do things with her and always receiving a decline, Janice was surprised, when Sage seemed interested.
"Where're you going?" she asked, making a clicking noise with her tongue at the cat.
"There's this club Matt likes called Fang. I've never been there, but figured I'd go and have a drink or two, since he's leaving," Janice replied off-handedly, trying to hide her excitement at Sage's interest.
"Sure. Do you want to pick me up, or should I meet you guys?" Sage replied, scratching the cat's ears and smiling at him.
"I'll pick you up at eight on Friday. See you tomorrow," Janice said, as she gathered her things then left.

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