Image Source: Spangdahlem Air Base
I: WRATH OF THE WEREWOLF
What a horrible night to have a curse. The sky is dark and almost void of stars, illuminated by the dim lamp posts placed scarcely along this road of gray stone. It’s terribly worn and broken in several places, as it is older than the wooden houses that surround it. The streets are empty and silent not because nobody lives here, but because everyone choose to stay indoors on a night like this. A night of horror, a night of doom, a night of the full white moon. It shines above us so clearly and hauntingly that even those that hide feel its presence looming over them relentlessly.
‘Are you not afraid?’
The phantom asks with only a mild interest. Its pale glow like mist flowing beside me. It mimics her looks with haunting precision, from its long auburn hair and sea-green eyes to the thin shape of its figure and the sluggish way it moves around. It resembles her so much, yet forgets the liveliness she used to have.
I finally answer, rubbing the top of my black cane.
“You’ve subjected me to so many devilish creatures I’ve become somewhat of an expert on them. I know that, most of the time, these things have a reason to appear. They have behaviours and weaknesses, like animals and humans. I know for a fact that werewolves exist, but I refuse to believe they only come out because the moon is full.”
The ghost shakes its head slowly and glides upward to stare at the sky.
‘I wouldn’t mock the supernatural.’
‘After all, didn’t you say that’s how I was bound to you?’
Suddenly it turns to me and painful memories resurge, as if its eyes themselves had the power to wound me. An ignorant mistake, a powerful hatred, cries of agony, walls of scarlet, a voice that wasn’t mine, sorrow too extreme to describe, nothing but emptiness inside. After that dreadful night I had nothing left to live for. It was when I peered over the edge of the mansion’s balcony that she came to me, hauntingly beautiful and completely oblivious to the sins I had unwillingly committed. Her appearance awoke in me a strange sensation of hope. I felt that perhaps, if I take care of her now as I did then, I could somehow achieve some sort of redemption. If I hid from her the true nature of her death, I could maybe preserve the innocence that I had taken away.
What I did not know was that this second chance wasn’t given to me without a price. At first I just thought myself terribly unlucky, but as the months went by it became incessantly clear that her very presence attracted other supernatural beings. Even if she didn’t want it, they would come anyways to kill me. On top of this, I am the only one able to see or hear her. The only way someone else would realize there’s a spirit among them would be if she levitated something. She, like other ghostly beings, can go through solid objects and move them without touching them.
Even now she glides between walls as if they were mere illusions.
“I suppose you’re right.”
I mutter, glancing at my pocket watch. Midnight isn’t for another two hours, but I doubt werewolves keep track of time.
“Let’s find an inn and call it a night.”
The phantom gladly floats back down and wraps her arms around me in a cold embrace. It almost feels like she’s here, her round cheeks pressed so closely to mine. Lilith…
She suddenly shudders and lets go of me, levitating back up while frantically looking around.
She whispers worriedly.
‘I can sense them.’
“How close are they?”
I ask as I break into a jog and nervously clutch my cane, thinking about the knife in my pocket. Unfortunately, I’m neither brave, nor adept at fighting monsters. I’d love to be courageous enough to face a werewolf and not cry out in fear, but then again I’d love it even more if I was far away from them.
‘The pack is a few miles into the center of the city, but one of them broke off and is heading towards us fast!’
As the image of a ravenous werewolf tearing my limbs from my torso becomes more and more vivid in my head, I desperately look around for a place to hide. I search and search and search, but all the buildings around me are boarded over. I’m sure it’s only my imagination, but I think I hear its footsteps nearby. Rapid, heavy, hungry footsteps. Soon the ground will tremble and I’ll be able to hear its ragged pants, see it raise its large muzzle in the air on the hunt for human flesh. It will be all over then, when its glowing red eyes gaze down at me and it snarls, ready to devour me in multiple pieces. It can’t be…it can’t be…
A human voice, male and young, pierces my frantic thoughts like a cannonball to a ship. I turn to see a man around my age dressed in black and holding two silver pistols, looking at me as if I were insane.
I have so many things to say to him that I choke on my words and stammer, completely paralyzed.
“You shouldn’t be out this late. ‘Specially not with that damned thing hoverin’ above our ‘eads.”
He says, raising an eyebrow.
“I-I didn’t realize they would come s-so early. Where can I hide?”
I struggle to answer. He scoffs and shakes his head.
“No’ere now. You’re better off followin’ behind me. I’m a trained werewolf hunter, see? I was s’pposed to join the rest of the crew at the centre, but I’m runnin’ a tad late.”
A werewolf hunter. Never thought I’d come face to face with one in my lifetime. It takes a brave and noble man to stand up to those hellish beasts, and this country doesn’t have many of those.
“Come on now, I’ven’t got all night!”
He beckons, and I follow. He goes down the street in a jog that’s clearly light for him, but difficult for me. The long tail of his black trench coat bounces and flows with his pace and his dark boots make clopping sounds when hitting the brick below it. He’s much like me now that I think about it, only I carry a hat and a cane and he does not. His dark hair is long and messy unlike mine, and he’s much more physically fit than I. His shoulders are broader, his arms are larger, his skin is darker and his palms are rougher.
He says with a finger to his chapped lips. It is now, right as I am about to ask a question, that I realize there is still a lone werewolf looking for me.
“Oh, there’s a-”
He covers my mouth almost angrily, raising his handgun and staring at the ground.
“One of ’em is sniffin’ ’round the corner. Yer lucky I was ‘ere, they don’t usually venture off into this side of town alone.”
“Don’t move and don’t make any sound. Lemme show ya how it’s done.”
He grins with both guns up and leaps into the street beside us. I dare not follow, but curiosity grips me enough to make me peek my head around the corner.
About a dozen meters away from the hunter and me stands a tall figure of darkness and horror, with glowing eyes the colour of blood and sharp claws about the size of my entire face. It towers over him despite being hunched over and stands on its two hind legs, its muzzle already snarling at him.
“Die, ya piece o’-”
Before the burly man can finish his sentence, the beast pounces at him, closing the gap in an instant and barking so loud my knees quiver.
The hunter fires two bullets into the werewolf’s chest and dashes to the left, but the animal’s far superior speed allows it to catch his right leg with its claws. He cries in pain and shoots again, but the werewolf is already too close and he can’t move quickly with the deep gash on his leg. The beast howls from its wounds as well but is still able to knock its opponent against the wall with a quick backhand swipe. This blows the air from his lungs and forces him to drop his weapons. It limps forward, blood seeping from its chest, and contently devours the poor man’s head in a single snap of the jaws. I can only watch in horror and repugnance as the hellish creature dines on the rest of him, taking its time to savour his flesh. It is not easily forgotten how abruptly a leg can be ripped from its torso, or how much of a mess the internal organs can make on the sidewalk. Soon the creature’s dark fur is drenched in blood belonging to both man and beast.
I’d like to run away, I’d love to, but my legs aren’t moving and I’m scared I might alert it to my presence if I so much as breathe too loud.
After it’s done it whimpers like a dog and limps toward the moonlight. The hunter ultimately failed, yes, but it seems the werewolf doesn’t have much longer to live either. It’s far away from its pack and the moon isn’t going away for several hours. It howls in a strange mix of anger and pain, then sits to lick its wounds.
It is now that I realize the very paradox of werewolves. They’re, above all else, a bloodcurdling abomination of man and wolf, two of the most dangerous animals in the world. By adding the two together, you get a being that far surpasses both in deadliness. Many tales describe them as men with the characteristics of a wolf, or enormous wolves with the intelligence of a man. I see before me, under the warm moonlight that governs them so, something entirely different. Neither man nor beast have claws that long, teeth so large, ears so perceptive, limbs that quick, a mind that cunning, or a hunger so insatiable. Truly, there is no more perfect killing machine than a werewolf, and I made the mistake of not running away upon hearing its name.
Suddenly the monster perks its head up, sniffs the air for a moment and then turns to directly face the corner I’m hiding behind. My heart starts beating a thousand miles an hour as I realize I’m now the targeted prey of the greatest hunter on Earth.
Lilith calls my name and I’m finally able to move, my overwhelming fear clouded by her soft voice.
The werewolf starts to slowly crawl towards me, unable to stand due to the bullet holes in its gut. I suppose that by studying it and understanding its true nature, I’m no longer as frightened as I was before. Clarity finally strikes my mind as I try to find a way to kill it. The only reason it’s not lunging at me is because it thinks I’m paralyzed by a panic attack, so trying to run away would be a bad idea. The only weapon I have on me is my knife, but the last thing I want is to get close to that monstrosity and I doubt I have either the strength or the aim necessary to throw it. I’m completely helpless in this alone…
But I’m not alone.
I whisper, trying not to speed my assailant’s advance.
“Pierce its eye with it.”
My family’s blade rises from under my coat and levels itself, the pommel touching my chest and the edge brushing against the fabric. I dart my eyes between the animal and my deceased companion’s dual pistols, only about a meter apart.
I yell and jump at the guns while the knife flies directly into the beast’s left eye, stalling it. It howls but keeps its gaze on me, no longer moving slowly. I may be weak or fearful, but I’m neither an idiot nor a bad marksman. My father made sure of that to a painful degree. One quick bullet to the other eye and the werewolf is now completely blinded. I hold my breath and slowly move back, watching it wail and swing its long arms desperately. If it wasn’t so severely wounded, it would probably use its ears or snout to figure out where I am. I’ve heard tales of these things hearing your heartbeat or smelling your scent from miles away. At this moment, however, it seems it’s in too much agony to care about me anymore.
BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!
A werewolf’s hide is incredibly thick, but not impenetrable. I let out a heavy sigh of relief, happy to no longer be in any danger. Finally, I kneel against the brick wall and Lilith glides down, smiling at me.
‘I told you they’d come.’
I groan, picking my hat and my cane from the ground.
“You know, Lilith would’ve asked me if I was ok right now. Or at least mention she was glad I didn’t get ruthlessly ripped apart. If you want to be more like her you should keep the ‘I told you so’s for later.”
She then stays quiet as I get up and drop the guns back on the mutilated corpse of the werewolf hunter.
‘Shouldn’t you keep those?’
She asks a frown.
I shake my head, picking my knife from the werewolf’s eye.
“They’re not mine. I’d rather let his loved ones believe he killed the werewolf himself. Besides, I like to think I’m a better man than that. Proper men have no need for these barbarities. If I can avoid bloodshed and resolve things with only words, I can keep the honour and civility that defines the Walker family.
Lilith rolls her emerald eyes so hard I can practically feel the earth move. That’s more like her.
‘Good luck talking down a pack of werewolves. Tell me again how well your words worked against that horde of imps.’
Dear Lord, I hated the imps. Tiny, sneaky, and most of all evil buggers. I had the chance to get harassed by six of them, all very happy to burn through most of my belongings and annoy me with their crooked grins and high-pitched shrieks. It was a dreadful affair, one I’m glad is over.
I can feel the ground rumble beneath me again as Lilith abruptly turns to the other end of the street and glides closer to me.
‘It’s the pack.’
Her soft, ghostly voice whispers. Her breath is chilly and her words resonate in my head, as if my mind was a steel tunnel and she was trapped in it.
‘They’ve left the center and are heading south now.’
I nod and start running south as well. There’s no point in trying to find an inn, so I’ll have to leave whence I came.
‘Where will you sleep if you flee the city?’
I answer between huffs and puffs:
“It hardly matters. A hard log in the woods would fare me better than the jaws of a dozen hungry wolves.”
Oftentimes I realize that to any other person who’d happen upon me while I speak with Lilith, I’d appear to be a crazed man talking to voices in his head. Sometimes I wonder if this is true. I wonder if the overwhelming guilt caused me to hallucinate the figure and voice of my victim. I wonder if all of these monsters are simply a figment of my imagination. How then, do objects float around me? How did my knife fly out of my coat on its own? How did I even know the pack was coming? Why am I constantly plagued by demons and monsters? Are they hallucinations too? No, I refuse to believe I’m insane. The ravaged corpse of the werewolf hunter tells me enough about my sanity. I doubt I would have been able to survive so long without a sound mind. Besides, between a reality in which my entire family is dead because of me and one where Lilith lives, I choose the latter. I suppose this is all that rests of us now, one and a half nobles fleeing from a group of monsters in the dead of night. Forever cursed to face the creatures of darkness and horror, we are Walkers of the night.
Originally Published at www.bandersnatch.ca