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Horror Fiction Urban Fantasy

James collapsed on the side of a tree. Its rough bark clawed the skin off of his forearm, when he tried to brace himself with it as he fell. His sides were solid pain and his legs had turned to warm liquid. His lungs fought to regain the precious air that kept James alive. He'd run farther than his weak human body was capable of and still the werewolf effortlessly chased him through the forest.

James tried hiding on the opposite side of the tree, hoping that the creature wouldn't notice him and just pass right by; its insatiable hunger blinding it to all but what was right in front of it. He panted and wheezed, trying to be as quiet as he could.

When a werewolf stalks its prey, it can be as silent as a leaf slowly falling on the forest floor. But when it engages in chase, it releases a torrent of growls, pants and crashing of its great paws onto the earth. They are calamities as they charge through the woods. If you were fortunate enough to be able to try running away, you would be certain that it was coming for you.

James brought his knees to his chest, making a fist of his body, and listened. As he listened, he prayed to any god, angel or saint that may have been listening to make him invisible to the rampaging monster. A devil would even suffice, if it kept him alive. He didn't listen when people told him not to cut through the woods. Especially, not at night and absolutely not in Rock Bridge.

************************************************

Three months ago, he took a reassignment with his company. It was a typical case of an overworked car salesman, tired of dealing with big-city people and their big-city attitudes, so he can do his best to separate them from their big-city money. “Why don't you have the car in the commercial?” They would ask. And, “What do you mean, I'll have to wait, if I order from the factory?” If they needed to bring their car in for servicing, they would often say, “This is a piss poor way to run a business.” Or something like, “This shouldn't take nearly this long. I want it fixed, within the hour!”

Taking the abuse from customers and pretending that it didn't bother him, made him feel old and tired. As soon as there was an opening for a new dealer at the Rock Bridge lot, James packed up and moved.

************************************************

“Why do people say 'I'm going to get on the plane' when getting in the plane would make so much more sense?” Asked the girl sitting next to James on the park bench.

“I'm sorry?” He responded to her. He noticed the peach sundress with red flowers that she wore and the legs that she crossed as she sat on the bench.

She looked up from her laptop and noticed James. “I'm sorry. I tend to think out loud. I was so involved with this that I didn't even see you sit down.” She tucked a lock of her raven black hair, behind her ear.

“May I ask what you're doing? It must be interesting.” James asked.

“It's only interesting to me.” She sighed and added. “That's the problem. No one wants to read this stuff.” She shook her head.

“Are you a writer?”

“You could say that. I've been trying to be, anyway.”

“Oh, wow. Have I heard of you?”

“I doubt it. I still haven't been published.” She offered her hand for him to shake. “I'm Cindy.”

James took her hand and shook it. “Now I've heard of you, Cindy. I'm James. People get on planes for the same reason they get on boats.”

“What's that?”

“You asked why people get on planes instead of in them. It's the same reason they get on boats.”

“And what would that reason be?”

“Because it's short for 'on board'.”

“Really? It's that simple?”

“Honestly, I have no idea. It sounded good though, right?”

Cindy lowered her eyes and smiled an honest, toothy grin.

************************************************

James held his breath as the werewolf charged passed the tree that he was hiding behind. It had lost his scent, so it stopped and doubled back. It sniffed the leaf litter on the ground and the bark of the surrounding trees. But the night air was cool and damp, making it hard to pick the scent back up. So the beast patiently stalked the area, sniffing the air for any trace of James. The full moon highlighted the black, wire-like hairs that ran down its spine as they stood on end. And the clenching muscles that padded its shoulders and neck like armor.

“Please, just go away.” James thought, as if the thought would somehow form a magic spell to repel the beast. “For the love of God, just go!” He pleaded in his thoughts, though he knew they wouldn't do any good. He could hear it crush the dead leaves on the ground and draw air into its huge nostrils, searching for him. James knew he only had seconds left in this world.

************************************************

“See, you can't go by the movies.” Said Cindy, chewing a bite of her Salmon. She pointed her fork at James, like a pencil.

“What do you mean?” Asked James, cutting up his chicken.

“Well, in most movies, they show that you become a werewolf by getting bit by another werewolf, Right?”

“Right. It happens like that in just about every werewolf movie.”

“If you think about it, how likely is that? You have a beast as fast and as strong as a wolf, who is way bigger than a dog, attacking you. Seriously, what are your odds that you'll come out alive?”

“If it were me? None.” James dunked his chicken in a white sauce that came with the meal that he decided could not be authentic Greek.

“Right! As with most people, including me. Humans are slow, clumsy and weak. We wouldn't stand a chance.”

“That's why we invented guns.”

“On the nose. We wouldn't stand a chance against a real animal.”

“So a werewolf attack is out, in your book.”

“Completely. I've been doing research, of what's available, anyway. Most werewolves are the victims of curses.”

“That's something you can do?” James asked, taking a sip of zinfandel.

“Well, if you go by folklore, that's how it's done. It's usually something you get someone to drink or rub on them.”

“Wow. I'll be sure to check my drink.” Cindy laughed. “Your Salmon is getting cold.”

Cindy laughed again. “Sorry, I get excited when I talk about writing. This has to be the weirdest first date conversation.”

James raised his wine glass. “Here's to weird. May normal never show its face.” Cindy clinked his wine glass with hers.

************************************************

The night air grew quiet and James couldn't hear the werewolf, anymore. He listened, but all he could hear was the normal chorus of insects and frogs. He had to know. So he leaned to the side of the tree and turned around, just enough to see that side of it. He tried to move as stealthily as he could, which meant slowly. He took his time, inching to the side, doing his best to time each movement with a distant frog croak or a cricket chirp. And after what seemed like an hour of this, he could see that it was still there. It was facing away from him and standing still. It looked like it was watching something, far off. Maybe just beyond what it could hear. James knew that if he ran, he would be dead in an instant. So he waited.

************************************************

“Honey? Are you here?” One night, James came home and Cindy wasn't there, like she normally was. Most nights, he'd come home from work to music playing as she typed away, in the den. But that night, he opened the door to silence. Even though all the lights were out, he checked the house to make sure nothing happened to her. At first, he didn't know what to make of it. If she went somewhere, she would've sent him a text or left him a note just to say, “Hey babe. I wasn't kidnapped. My writers group is having a thing and I'll be home late.” or something so he didn't worry. But there was nothing.

James decided to call her and just ask where she was and if she was okay. If she was at the hospital, he shouldn't bother sitting down. But he called and she didn't pick up. He started to get worried. Maybe she really was at the hospital. He imagined scenarios where she was in an accident on the way home and they didn't have his phone number.

Then, he saw the single rose standing in a small, clear glass vase in the middle of the dining table and it made sense. Its velvety red petals seemed to laugh at him. He didn't buy it for her. Not that one. He loved to come home and surprise her with a rose, but the last time he did was weeks ago. It was clear that she'd met someone else, they gave her the rose and that's where she was.

James didn't know what to do with the realization, once it came to him. When young boys talk to their fathers about women, somehow this never comes up. Should he go rampaging through town, looking for her? Should he go about his business and talk with her when she got home? He picked the second option, but anything he tried to do just seemed pointless. He washed the dishes but realized they were all hers. She would probably want them back. He started to do a load of laundry but realized that he loved it when she helped him pick out his clothes. She always had a giggle when he came out of the dressing room and looked ridiculous because something was way too tight. That wouldn't happen, anymore.

The more he thought about it, the more it hurt. The more it stewed in his mind the angrier he got. How could she do this to him? Wasn't he good to her? Didn't he remember every birthday and anniversary? The thorns of the rose on the table seemed to smile as they stabbed him in the heart. James picked up a wooden chair from the dining table and smashed it against the granite countertop. He screamed, as it exploded into splinters.

James decided that Cindy should have to pay for this and for the rest of her life. He had no idea how, though. It's not illegal to cheat, especially when you're not married, so he couldn't exactly sue her.

Then he remembered what Cindy had told him on their first date, that werewolves are changed because they were cursed by someone. And he remembered the little shop that was on the first floor, below the restaurant he took her to. Mrs. Lovette's. The front window had that sign about palms read, tarot, fortunes and all that. She had to know something. Maybe how he could do it or where he could get it. Something. He couldn't bear the pain of Cindy being so blatant about what she's doing. She may as well have spit in his face.

***************************************************

The beast sniffed the cold night air, once more, hoping to catch a trace of James' scent. It stood the height of a man, at the shoulder and two men wide. The fur around its mouth was still stained red from its last kill. Its fangs ached to be sunk into animal flesh.

The werewolf turned away, intending to keep searching farther downfield. Then James' cell phone buzzed in his pocket. If it wasn't so quiet in the woods, it may have gone unnoticed. But the artificial sound stood out like the female lead in a movie and demanded its attention. As the buzzing cut through the sounds of the night, the beast turned in its direction and walked closer.

******************************************************

James stood in front of the red-painted door to Mrs. Lovette's. It seemed to ask him if he was sure. He checked his phone to be sure she hadn't tried to contact him on the way down. She didn't. So he knocked. The sound of every wrap seemed to solidify what was happening in his mind.

After a moment, nothing happened. He told himself, “This is stupid.” He shook his head and turned around to head home and deal with it, like a grownup. Then the door opened.

A short woman with long bushy grayish-brown hair appeared in the doorway. Behind her was what looked like a house with different colored crystals and eagle feathers set up on the TV stand, a wall shelf, the coffee table and almost every other horizontal surface that he could see. She was dressed in a one-piece black dress, like a muumuu but thicker and lacier.

“What is it?” She asked. James thought he'd interrupted something, from her tone of voice.

He pointed with his thumb to the window. “Your sign out front?”

“You here for a reading?” She asked. “Follow me.” She started to walk away.

“Actually, I was wondering if you knew anything about curses.” James asked, sounding as academic as he could.

“Curses?” Mrs. Lovette stopped in her tracks and turned around.

“Yes?”

She sized him up, looking at his tailored dark blue pinstripe suit and black wingtip shoes. “Do you have cash?”

“I do.”

“Come in and shut the door behind you.”

************************************************

James tried frantically to find a button that would silence his phone, while it was still in his pants pocket. He pushed and poked on every lump that was under the fabric, but it just ignored his attempts and kept buzzing. As he sat curled up behind the tree, he could hear the werewolf slowly walk in his direction, crunching leaves as it came for him. Maybe it thought the tree was making the noise and it was confused. James gave up and dug the phone out of his pocket to unlock it and silence the alarm. His feet kicked against the leaf litter as he tried to straighten his leg out enough to pull out his phone, all the while knowing that every crunch of leaves could mean a bloody and painful death.

************************************************

“That feels good, baby.” said Cindy as she laid face down in bed. She held her pillow to her face with both arms, while James rubbed in the cream that Mrs. Lovette gave him into the bare skin of Cindy's back. He snubbed his nose at the smell and tried to keep her from hearing it. It was rusty brown and had the constancy of what he told himself was dried modeling clay and not dung, even though that's what it smelled like.

“You deserve it.” He told her in as loving a voice as he could manage as he continued to rub it in. James never did mention finding the rose on the dining table or her not coming home, that night. When he woke up the next morning, she was there and it wasn't. He knew she forgot about him and tried to hide her infidelity. She would have a nice surprise coming, once the curse took over. She would learn. She would never be able to have a boyfriend, let alone a husband. No one would want her, once they found out that she was a monster. Then one day, someone would shoot her with a silver bullet for being the demon that she is. That's what she deserved.

************************************************

James finally wrestled his phone from his pocket and unlocked it. The alarm shut off and a notification showed that he just received a voice mail. The date on it was the afternoon before he came home and found the rose on the table. It must've been delayed, somehow. The voice-to-text printout of the message read, “Hey babe, it's me. Don't freak out when you see the rose on the table, when you get home. I had lunch with Dad and he had a rose with him. I think it was supposed to be for Mom. You know how they are. Oh, and remember I'll be late getting home. My writers group meets tonight and we're supposed to critique each other's work. Love you!” She did send a message. The cell phone company must've had problems delivering it and he just now got it. He silently cursed them as he began to cry.

James looked up to see Cindy's huge yellow eyes, directly in front of him. He expected to see some sign in them that she recognized him. Instead, all he found were the instincts of hunger that drives all animals, including man. Cindy filled her massive snout with his scent and let those instincts come to a focus. She growled and let saliva drip from her jagged teeth. Now that she was this close, James realized that his head could fit easily in her mouth. He knew that if he tried to run, she could decapitate him with a flick of her enormous head. James froze in shock and couldn't breath. He wanted to tell her that he was wrong, that he only did what he did because he loved her so much and that he would spend the rest of his life trying to undo his crime.

James did his best to calm himself, took a breath and forced out, “I'm s...” before she bit him in half and ate him.

Remember, revenge never works the way you want it to. Remember to ask, before you assume. And above all, if you ever cut through the woods at night, remember the story of the Rock Bridge Werewolf.

November 30, 2020 01:07

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6 comments

Skyler Woods
16:21 Jan 06, 2021

Hey Jeff, I loved your story and I was wondering if I could narrate it on my YouTube channel. The video would premiere on Sunday and I'd send you the link.

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J.S. Johnston
06:39 Jan 12, 2021

Sorry, I'm late getting to this. You have my permission to narrate it if you still want to. Just make sure you give me credit and put a link to the story in the video description. :-)

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Skyler Woods
11:54 Jan 12, 2021

Here's my channel link. https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCqzn6XayDL943A-25stFesA/videos

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Skyler Woods
11:55 Jan 12, 2021

I hope you like it.

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Skyler Woods
11:57 Jan 12, 2021

I don't know if I said this already, but the video will premiere at 5:30 pm today. You'll see your video within my channel listing. I did the artwork myself.

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J.S. Johnston
15:37 Jan 12, 2021

Got it. Thanks! I'm looking forward to it!

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