By. S. F. Wheeler
I was walking down the busy main road as I tried desperately to hail a cab. It was nine O’clock on a Friday and the streets were blocked with honking cars as far as the eye could see.
“We’ll never get a cab tonight, Nathan.” Maya said watching from an empty bus bench as I waved at oncoming cabs. “We might as well walk.”
“You know downtown isn’t safe this late.” I said, almost on the road now as I tried to get a cab driver’s attention. He pulled in ahead of us and a man ran to the door. “Did you see that? He stole our cab!”
“Come on. Let’s get walking.” Maya said pulling at my arm.
Our walk was quiet until we got to what was nicknamed ‘Dark town’. It was a part of downtown where many homeless people and drug dealers stayed. A few men in dirty, tattered clothing approached us with outstretched hands. I pulled Maya along as she tried to apologize for not having change on her. I hopped over many cracks and skirted potholes in the sidewalk as we went. A lamppost had fallen into the street and no one had moved it or cleaned up the broken glass. We passed a naked man with a sign declaring he would get dressed for five dollars, and boy did I wish I had five dollars. Then, as we were almost out of dark town, a frightful sight caught our attention.
A young woman, maybe eighteen like us, was in the ally we had to go through. She didn’t seem to notice us, she was focused on a strange looking man in a deep green tuxedo. I was ready to walk past them when the girl slid a shining dagger from her sleeve. I pulled Maya back and the girl lashed out at the man with her dagger. He dodged the blade with ease at an almost impossible speed and grace. The girl too, moved almost in a blur and with a grace and delicacy I had never seen in anyone before. The man swiped at the girl and tore her jacket free. It hit the ground with a thump and she leaped at the man.
The girl bore scars of all sizes on both her arms, each one seeming to tell a story of a past fight. She let out an angry howl when the man’s fist connected with her shoulder, then took one swift swing at the man. He stood bewildered for a second then he collapsed with blood spewing from his neck, decorating the ally in crimson spots. The girl wiped her blade in her jeans then sheathed it to her belt and turned to us.
She obviously didn’t know we had been watching by the stunned look on her face when she seen us. Four startling scars, like claws, decorated her left cheek. She pushed a loose strand of long flowing black hair out of her face and watched us with bright blue eyes that reminded me of the sea.
“We should go, Nathan.” Maya said quietly.
“Listen to your girlfriend.” the girl said warningly.
“You killed a man. We should call the cops.” I said, hoping that I sounded tough.
“No I didn’t.” she said taking a step toward us.
“What are you talking about?” Maya said. I could feel her shoulders tense.
“We saw you.” I said.
“He wasn’t a man.” she said. “He was a half-breed. A demon.”
“What?” I felt compelled to say.
“You mundane type wouldn’t understand. You don’t believe in the supernatural.” she said shaking her head at the strips of jacket by her feet. “That was new too.”
“Are you insane?” Maya asked.
“No.” the girl said simply.
“Come on Maya.” I said taking her arm and slipping past the girl and the dead man. Then I noticed his clawed and furry fingertips. I looked away and kept walking. There was something extremely wrong going on here.
“What on earth should we say?” Maya asked when we got back to my house.
“Nothing.” I said steering off into the distance.
“What are you talking about. She killed a man. We seen it.” she said hysterically.
“He wasn’t a man.” I said solemnly.
“Not you too.” she said.
“You want something to eat?” I asked getting up from the edge of the bed where we were sitting. Maya just looked at me as if I were crazy. I went to the kitchen and made myself a sandwich. I was pouring a glass of Pepsi when a hand covered my moth and another one healed me still. I kicked out at whoever was behind me and was rewarded with a quiet yelp.
“Knock it off.” a familiar voice said. I elbowed her and spun to see those sea blue eyes filled with anger.
“What are you doing?” I whispered.
“Trying to find you.” she said. “Unlike your friend, you know what that guy was.”
“A monster.” I said.
“Actually he was a werewolf but close enough.” she said casually.
“So that preacher everyone thinks is crazy-” I started.
“He speaks the truth.” she said. “Almost every word.”
“Almost?” I questioned.
“The werewolves are half human half wolf demon. But I don’t believe the story of him escaping hell and having a kid with some poor woman. Either way it’s my job to kill them.” she said. “They call me a beast hunter.”
“I should be calling you crazy. Or kicking you out of my house. Or doing something, but you know… I think I believe you.” I said.
“You should, I’m telling the truth.” she said. “But you shouldn’t tell your girlfriend.”
“She’s not my girlfriend.” I said.
“Sister then?” she said.
“What? No. Can’t a guy have a friend that’s a girl.” I said.
“Not really.” she said. “But you know what I find weird?”
“Considering we just had a nonchalant conversation about werewolves and demons I doubt you find anything weird.” I said.
“Actually I find it weird how well you’re taking all this and that you haven’t asked my name.” she said.
“I’m Nathan.” I said. “And I guess I just always hoped there was something more exciting in this world.”
“I’m Neri.” she said.
“Nathan what’s taking you so long?” Maya called from the bedroom. “The movie is going to start without you.”
“You should go.” I said quietly.
“Take this.” Neri said handing me a silver chain bracelet.
“What?” I said looking at her confused.
“Nathaniel Gray.” Maya called.
“Nathaniel?” Neri said with a raised eyebrow.
“Just go.” I said taking the bracelet.
“Please keep that on. Silver is poisonous to werewolves.” Neri said before leaping down the steps.
I had just closed the door when Maya came out.
“What’s going on?” she asked.
“There was some sales person at the door. Sorry.” I said.
“Come on the movie just started.” she said going back to the room. I put the chain in my pocket and followed her.
The next morning I bumped into Neri on my way to meet Maya and Rick. As I was walking I felt hands grab my shirt. I spun with the silver chain dangling on my wrist to see Neri with a smile. She was wearing a tight leather jacket and skinny jeans with no blood on them this time. She pulled me off the sidewalk and into an ally without even a ‘hello’ or, ‘hey it’s me not a murder trying to kill you.’
“I need your help.” she said.
“You’re a beast hunter and you need help from a mundane type like me.” I said.
“Yes.” she said. “There was word that a werewolf was hiding out in the Cineplex.”
“So. What am I supposed to do?” I asked.
“Well he’s hiding really well. And they would know what I was.” she said. “So I thought-”
“You want to use me as bait.” I said.
“Yes.” she said.
“For feature reference, the puppy dog eyes don’t work on me.” I said following her down the street.
“Why would a monster werewolf hide out at the movies?” I asked as we stood outside the Cineplex.
“Why not. No one comes to this movie place anymore. It’s practically falling down. The few people who do go in there make a perfect snack for him.” Neri said.
“You mean… no I don’t want to know.” I said pushing the doors open. “Where would he be?”
“Somewhere no one is likely to go.” she said.
“So… like the basement?” I asked.
“Lets start there.” she said.
“What should I be looking for? That guy looked completely normal.” I said.
“Well they are normal.” she said. “But during the day they can shift into a normal looking wolf and at night they can shift into the beast. Or the half wolf half human monster you see in movies.”
“What if he’s in human form?” I asked as we tried to go quietly down the metal stairs. The clank clank of our shoos on metal didn’t make it easy. Especially not when Neri was wearing thick-heeled boots.
“Then you make him mad.” she said. “They’re forced to shift when they get angry.”
“Like the hulk.” I said.
“No.” Neri said looking at me funny. “Have you ever seen a green werewolf.”
“No I cant say I have.” I said. “Anyway. I’ll go left, you go right.”
“Sure.” she said making her way threw the old props and dusty movie reels.
It all seemed quiet and oddly warm. I scratched the back of my neck and felt that I was sweating. I turned around and let out a yelp when I seen the monstrous, eight foot tall, furry muscled, half human, half wolf. It had been breathing down my neck. It snarled at me with its yellowed K9 teeth and I was too stunned to move.
“Nathan!” Neri cried. “Where are you?”
I tried to answer but nothing came out. The beast growled and roared in my face but I was frozen. It lunged for me just as Neri tackled me out of the way.
“A beast hunter.” the werewolf said.
“I thought you said they could only be in beast form at night.” I said regaining my voice.
“I thought so too.” she said slashing the dagger across the beast’s chest. It barely left a scratch and it healed over almost instantly.
“You didn’t hear?” the beast said mockingly. “Lycaon has begun the moon ritual.”
“Lycaon?” Neri said, just barely managing to dodge an attack.
“The wolf demon.” the beast said.
“The preacher was right.” Neri said amazed.
“Of course he was. He is Lycaon.” the beast said snatching Neri’s arm and throwing her across the room. “He’s recruiting.” the beast smiled evilly and growled at me. I stumbled up and tried to walk back but I hit a wall. The beast came toward me and reached to claw me but Neri hit him. His sharp claws nipped my chest but I would live. I felt hot blood welling up and bent my head to see the damage, only to find there was no cut, just a faint claw mark scar like the one on Neri’s cheek.
“Duck!” I yelled when the beast swung a steel pipe at Neri. She ducked just in time then caught the pipe and drove it in the beasts stomach. He howled like a banshee before taking one last swing at Neri. She ducked out of the way and the beast fell.
“Are you alright?” Neri asked.
“Fine.” I said. “Though I would prefer not to be used as bait.”
“Did he cut you?” she asked.
“No.” I said. “Barely touched me.”
“You should be getting to your friends then.” she said.
I met up with Maya and Rick shortly after Neri left. I couldn’t focus on what we were doing though. The faint scars on my chest were itchy and I couldn’t get the werewolf beast out of my head. How was it even possible for something like that to be here? Now there was some sort of moon ritual that had Neri freaking out. I had no idea what it was, but to freak out a born fighter like Neri, it had to be bad. I got home late that night because I felt the need to walk around the park under the moonlight. I don’t really know why.
Thankfully, it was the full moon madness Halloween party tonight. At least it was something to keep my mind off the werewolf and Neri. I thought it was going to be a great night until my mother brought in my costume. A werewolf costume.
“Nice costume.” Maya said when I met her at the party.
“Yours too.” I said tapping her bee antennas.
“Hey are you alright?” Rick asked pulling his scream mask up. “You’ve been scratching like mad lately.”
“No I’m fine.” I said resisting the urge to scratch my arm.
“Man that fur looks so real.” Rick said pulling at the fur on my arms.
“Owe.” I said when I felt his tugging.
“Is it real?” Rick asked.
“No. My mom glued it on before I left.” I said scratching at it.
“In ten… nine… eight…” the host said as he counted down to the full moon eclipse. My hand began to itch so I took off my monster gloves. With a yelp no one noticed I shoved the glove back on. I took a deep breath and went to the bathroom.
“What the-” I steered at my furry clawed hand for several minutes before a pain hit my chest. I ripped my other glove off to see that it was furry too. Another pain hit my chest and sent me falling to the floor tearing at my costume. I ripped the top off and seen fur everywhere. I heard a snap when my arms were thrown back then another when my legs curled up. My muscles burned as they convulsed under the fur and I couldn’t even let out a scream of pain. My jaw snapped and reshaped until it was a muzzle, and in the mirror I could see that I was a beast. I flung the door open and ran out of the building. Thank god I still had thumbs to turn the doorknobs.
I ran to the woods and dug my nails into a tree trunk to calm myself.
“Die beast!” I heard Neri yell. I spun to see her running at me and dived out of the way. I fell onto all fours and ran off into the black forest. My wrist burned suddenly, like I had touched the sun, and I snapped the silver bracelet off.
“You can’t run forever, beast.” Neri called as she ran after me.
“Neri it’s me.” I tried to say, but everything seemed to be growls. I didn’t know how to speak English with this wolf tongue. “Neri stop!”
“You must be new if you cant speak or fight.” Neri said.
She chased me for miles until finally I had to stop. I wasn’t tired, which was weird, but I was at the edge of a cliff. I turned to see Neri at my heels with her shining dagger. I tried talking again but it came out as a whimpering howl. I took a step back as she took a step forward and I felt the edge of the cliff under my furry clawed feet. She looked down and picked up my bracelet. I whined until she looked at me funny, then her eyes widened with recognition.
“Nathan.” she gasped steering into my eyes. “No.”
I nodded with a small howl and she stepped back confused.
“But you… but I cant…” she stuttered and fell back. I reached to help her up but she pulled back in fear. She got up, turned, and ran off before I could do anything.
I woke up in the woods. I was human now, covered in dirt and scratches with my torn jeans still on. I sat up and looked around, nothing looked familiar. I couldn’t wander around the woods and risk getting even more lost, and even if I did find the city I couldn’t walk around like this. At least the itching stopped. I pulled myself to my feet and began walking.
“Wrong way.” a small voice said. I looked around but didn’t see anyone.
“Up here.” she said. I looked up into a tree to see Neri twirling a dagger in one hand as she held the silver bracelet tightly in the other.
“Neri?” I said unbelieving.
“I knew those green eyes last night were yours. You know I was born and trained to kill werewolves. I kill every beast I find and never fail or hesitate.” she said. “Until now.”
“Why didn’t you kill me?” I asked.
“I don’t know.” she said refusing to look me in the eye. “I don’t even know why I trusted you when I was trained not to trust anyone. For all I know you could have been a beast from the very start.”
“I wasn’t.” I said quickly. “I don’t know what happened. I just got itchy and then… this.”
“I know. You had the silver chain on remember.” she said. “But…”
“You can’t let me live.” I said.
“Well… no. But I can’t kill you.” she said jumping from the tree.
“Why not?” I asked. “You kill werewolves all the time don’t you.”
“But I don’t…” she said letting the sentence trail off and looking down at the bracelet.
“Don’t what?” I asked. “Don’t kill your friends.”
She stepped toward me and caught me off guard, kissing me quickly then pulling away just as fast. “Girls and guys can’t be friends.” she said turning to leave.
“Wait.” I said catching her arm and turning her around.
“What?” she asked.
“First you try to kill me and then leave, and now you kiss me and leave.” I said.
“You’re a werewolf.” she said distraught.
“I’m not bad.” I said. “I’m not like them.”
“You don’t have to be.” she said. “The moon ritual will turn you bad.”
“So chain me up.” I said.
“It doesn’t work like that.” she said desperate to make me understand.
“Then kill me.” I said sternly. “If I’m going to go bad then kill me.” I said.
“I can’t.” she whimpered. “I don’t understand. I don’t know why I fell like this.”
“You’ve never liked someone before?” I said astonished.
“No.” she said. “I’ve been all over the world and never once felt so weak, so vulnerable, so…”
“In love.” I offered.
“Yes.” she said. “And now… now you’re a werewolf.”
“Are your blaming me?” I asked.
“Of course not.” she said hastily. “But the moon ritual.”
“Stop it.” I said.
“I can’t stop a demon.” she said. “Not alone.”
“You’re not alone. If he’s a werewolf then I’ll be evenly matched with him.” I said.
“He’s a wolf demon.” she said. “Completely different. But if you can hold him off long enough for me to get a good hit… it might work. But we have to go now, I don’t know how much longer you have on our side.”
“I can’t hurt the people I love.” I said grabbing her wrist and feeling the burning of the silver chain in her hand. “So promise you will kill me if I go bad.”
“Who told you he was here?” I asked as we stood in the oldest graveyard on the very edge of town. The rusty metal fences sticking up threw the overgrown grass like demon teeth, and the crumbling gravestones and blanket of fog sending shivers threw me.
“There are beast hunters all over the place who send me my information. If any of them can get here in time then that’s great. But right now we’re on our own, and until that moon comes up in two hours you can only turn into a normal wolf.”
“That doesn’t seem helpful.” I said. “I can’t hold him off if I can’t fight.”
“Well we could wait until the moon rises.” she said anxiously.
“That’s a whole two hours.” I said. “Besides we still need to find him. Let’s go now.”
“Are you sure.” Neri said.
“If I die it means I didn’t kill him and if I didn’t kill him I would have gone bad anyway.” I said.
“Then take this with you.” she said.
“What?” I asked looking at her empty hands. She stood on her tippy toes and kissed me gently. Without her heels she was almost a foot shorter then me.
“Let’s find ourselves a demon.” I said.
“There he is. And we only have ten minutes to moon rise.” Neri said. We were hidden in the long grass just up the hill from the demon. He looked normal to me aside from being eight feet tall with the thickest brown hair I had ever seen.
“Just a few more minutes and the ritual can begin.” the demon said, his voice like growling fire. His assistant nodded and continued preparing a pentagram. As the moon rose above the horizon, the pentagram began to glow.
“We have to go now!” Neri said running out of our hiding spot. I ran after her and felt my body changing with each step. I was a small wolf, a normal one, but I was fast. I ran past Neri and leaped at the demon. Neri took on his assistant. The wolf demon was much stronger than I was, he threw me off and swiped his clawed hand at me. I dodged it then ran at him and bit his leg. He howled in anger more then pain and swiped at me again. My side burned momentarily but quickly healed over. I jumped at the demon again as Neri pinned the assistant. The moon was almost up and the pentagram was glowing brighter.
“Now Nathan!” Neri cried. I felt pain, and then clawed at the demon who was also a wolf beast now. Each time I hit him he took a step back but didn’t fall. Neri was pulling her dagger from the other beast’s neck when the pentagram lines burned a brilliant white.
“Nathan. No!” Neri screeched. I stood watching the bright lines; they seemed to be made of moonlight. “Nathan! Nathaniel!!” I looked away from the light and at Neri who was being held in a choking positing by Lycaon.
“A beast who sides with a beast hunter.” Lycaon said. “How strange. Kill her.”
“Who?” I asked.
“The beast hunter.” he said.
I grinned, “What one.”
“What do you mean, there is only one-” Lycaon was cut off by a dozen men and women with swords and daggers emerging from the fog like heroes in a movie. I felt a pricking all over me and black clouded my vision. When my eyes cleared I seen dozens of beast hunters charging at Lycaon who held one of them captive.
“Nathaniel are you alright?” the captured one asked. “Nathan? Oh no. It got you didn’t it.”
“Kill the beast hunters.” Lycaon demanded. One of the beast hunters jumped at me but I quickly threw him off with a rewarding crunch of bones when he hit the ground. The next one cut my arm so I threw her into a tree, blocking out her ear-shattering cry.
“Nathan this isn’t you.” the captured one said as she struggled to get free. “Please.”
Lycaon snapped at her and she let out a shriek that sent me running for her. I threw Lycaon back and pinned him.
“Nathan.” Neri said. “Is it you?”
“Stop the pentagram.” I said.
“You can’t stop it.” Lycaon said throwing me off. “You need the blood of a good werewolf to run over the moonlight lines of the pentagram.”
The black clouded my vision again and I threw another beast hunter back.
“Nathan no!” Neri cried. I shook away the black and looked at her. Then I charged at her with barred teeth.
“Kill her! Kill her now!” Lycaon yelled.
“Nathan I know your still in there somewhere. Please.” she said as I held her throat in my giant wolf-like hand. I dropped her and looked up at her apologetically with forest green, puppy dog eyes. I ran to her then and broke her iron grip on the dagger. “Nathan!” she cried.
“Kill her!” Lycaon demanded.
“Neri.” I said stepping into the pentagram.
“Nathan no!” she screeched. “Don’t do it. You can’t.”
“I almost killed you Neri.” I said.
“You can’t.” she almost whispered.
I drove the dagger into my chest.
Then fell to my knees with a burning pain.
The sound of Neri crying for me and Lycaon roaring at me became muffled until I could not hear them at all.
I collapsed onto my stomach, seeing the shining dagger, now covered in blood, fall out of my hand.
As I blinked, trying to focus, I seen my blood doubt the shining light of the pentagram and Neri, like an angel, driving a dagger threw Lycaon’s heart.
“Goodbye.” I whimpered.