Horror Holiday Fiction

Hi, my name is David and I'm a recovering werewolf.

[This is when you say “Hi, David!”]

Every week I attend my local Recovering Werewolves meeting, RW for short. My wife and my kid think that it stands for Retired Wrestlers. Yes, I know I know, it's not exactly ideal to lie to the people you love, but in a way, a retired wrestler is not too far from the truth. Except that I don't wrestle with other people, only with my inner wolf.

I see my alpha Jim twice every week. Alphas are like our mentors, or sponsors if you will, that give us advice and help keep us from going back to our werewolfy ways.

But why would you not want to be a werewolf? one might ask. Yeah, why wouldn't you? Imagine waking up in the morning God-knows-where with every part of your body aching, your mind blank about what went down the previous night but praying that you at least managed to keep your body count to a minimum, and taking your "walk of shame" back home past a couple of ripped-out livers and half-eaten hearts, while occasionally slipping on piles of guts mixed with blood. What is there not to love?

Look, it's not like we the werewolves don't know that it's not exactly "woke" to go around ripping organs out of human bodies – in fact, most of us feel really badly about that – but the alternative is no picnic either. To put it into terms you might be able to relate to, it's like trying to hold down your lunch when your stomach is turning like a blender and all you want to do is bow down to the white porcelain god (sorry about the gross imagery). Granted, it can be done, but most of us need a bigger reason to stop being werewolves than a mere guilty conscience.

Personally, I have two reasons. I met Reason Number One eight years ago – my wife Annabeth, who is a full-human, or a "fuller" – and a couple of years after that, we welcomed Reason Number Two – my daughter Gretchen, who we in the werewolf community call a "waswolf," a half-blood. My family knows nothing about my wolf-side nor will they ever, but Gretchen's fate is not in my hands, nor paws. Whether she'll suffer my fate or not, we'll find out when she's older, but every night I pray to any god that will listen that she doesn't end up like me.

How does a recovering werewolf best avoid a wolf-relapse, then? The first rule is to make sure your watch is exactly on time. Forget Twilight or Teen Wolf or wherever it is that you get your werewolf knowledge. The process of "turning" when we turn into our glorious wolf-selves happens every night precisely at midnight. If you are to, say, fight your nemeses even a minute before, you're basically no more powerful than a yapping lapdog. Anyway, if you're a recovering werewolf and your watch is right on time, you'll be able to anticipate the turning and prevent it.

The second rule is to do your very best to avoid your nemeses – vampires. The trouble is that those vile blood-suckers are not easy to recognize unless they show their true selves. The good news is that that works the other way around, too. There's no way they can recognize us until we've turned. There's a famous philosophical thought experiment in the so-called monster world that goes something like this, "Who would win in a fight between a vampire and a werewolf?" That question's similar to what full-humans know as the "chicken or the egg" paradox, in the sense that it has no answer. In other words, if there's ever a showdown between a vampire and a werewolf, there's really no telling who'll win, but one thing's for sure – it's not going to be pretty.

The third rule is one I'm about to break: avoid suburbs. In theory, suburbs are great because they are completely vampire-free zones but they're also a hotbed of triggers. Trust me, getting a sudden impulse to chase after some poor lone jogger, to fetch a frisbee, or to dig a hole in your neighbor's garden is not exactly something that screams "respectable citizen of society." But my alpha Jim thinks that this is a step I'm finally ready for – my trial of fire if you will – and so, after eight years of recovery, I now find myself and my family in the middle of a quiet suburban neighborhood, unpacking the last of our things.

So far I'm glad to report that it's not all a trigger-filled minefield here in the suburbs. Quite the contrary, actually. The best thing about living here is the people. Ever since we started hauling our stuff in a couple of weeks ago, our doorbell hasn't stopped ringing with neighbors greeting us with their big grins, casseroles, and homemade pies. They've made us feel welcome, and now, instead of dreading this new phase of my life, I feel excited.

My favorite people here so far are my next door neighbors Karl, his wife Betty and their two young boys. Ever since we showed up here, they've been helping us with the move, showing us around, introducing us to the rest of the neighborhood. Today is Halloween, and we're officially moved in. I needed to unpack and do some work around the house, and what did Karl and his family do? They offered to go trick-or-treating with Annabeth and Gretchen, show them around, entertain them. Man, I just love my neighbors!

It's been a long day but I'm finally done. I chuck the rest of our things onto the shelves, fold the empty cardboard boxes, sprawl down on the couch, and look at our new house that's bright and pristine, a blank slate, a new beginning.

I glance at my watch – it's 11:28 pm – and just like on cue, I hear laughter outside. I jump up and run to the window. I look out and there they are, my girls and Karl with his family, walking towards our house. Annabeth and Gretchen are dressed as witches whereas Karl and his family have all decided to go as vampires. I shudder at their costume choice, but decide that I will just have to let this one slide.

I open the door and step outside where Karl greets me with a friendly smile. "We come bearing gifts," he says and hands me two plastic pumpkins full of candy.

I take them and shake his hand. It feels unusually cold but maybe it's just because my own hands are always hot as an oven. “Thanks for showing my family around, I really appreciate it." I nod my head in the direction of the kitchen. "Come on, let's go get a nightcap."

"Are you inviting us?"

Karl's funny that way. I'm holding the door open for him and his family and he still needs to ask me. Maybe it's some suburban thing.

"Karl, you don't have to ask, you know that," I say and give him a grin.

He smiles back, but is still hesitating. "I need to hear you say those words, neighbor. It's just... you know... can't be too careful these days."

I'm not sure what he means, but to humor him I open the door wider and say, "Karl, my friend, consider this an open invitation." Something flashes in his eyes.

"Now get your ass inside, it's cold as hell out there," I say with a laugh and hold the door open as the little vampire family steps inside.

Annabeth scurries past them. "Come, come! Make yourselves at home," she beams, heading to the kitchen, proud to show off her new house. "What's your poison, Betty? Karl?"

But before anybody has a chance to reply, Karl suddenly stops and lets out a cough. Almost as if on cue, Betty and the boys freeze in their tracks and exchange alarmed looks.

I turn to Karl. "Hey, you okay there, buddy?"

He looks up at me. His eyes are red and watery. "I'm sorry," he says, his voice suddenly hoarse. "But do you have fresh garlic in the house?"

Annabeth and I look at each other. "Umm, yes," she admits guiltily. "Everybody's been so sweet and brought us these amazing casseroles, but I felt they were missing just a little bit of garlic, so..."

"I'm so sorry," Karl says. "This is really embarrassing but we're extremely allergic to garlic. We cannot even be in the same room without our throats closing.”

"Oh gosh, I'm so sorry, Karl," I say genuinely concerned, then a moment later add, "I'm sorry, 'we?'"

"Yeah, all of us. The whole family," Karl says.

"Huh. Quite the coincidence."

"Well, it's hereditary," Karl says. The vampire make-up he's wearing is incredibly good. I cannot tell where it ends or begins.

"That explains the kids," I say, "but your wife, too?"

Annabeth puts a stern hand on my shoulder. I notice it's much warmer than Karl's. "Babe, what is this, a third degree?" she says. "Karl is obviously seriously uncomfortable."

I give the family in front of me a quick once-over, then shake my head. "Yes, of course," I say. "You're right. I'm really sorry. I tell you what. It's late. Why don't we air out the house, you guys can go get some sleep, and tomorrow morning we'll all take the kids to the park."

"Yay!" Gretchen next to me shouts, and jumps up and down but Karl's boys look like I'd just threatened to slaughter their grandmother. Karl opens the door behind his back, a cool breeze comes in and seems to wash his discomfort away. "Umm, Dave, that's really nice of you, neighbor, but we're busy tomorrow."

"Oh, that's too bad. All morning?"

"I'm afraid so."

This isn't the first time I've asked. The last time they refused, too, said they had other plans, but later I saw their silhouettes in their house, curtains drawn all the way down. I didn't think much of it then, but now...

"Next time, then," I say and give a conciliatory wave. "Thank you again. And sorry. Have a good night now!"

I practically push my neighbors out the door. Then I slam it shut, try the handle three more times to ensure that it's locked and put the chain on.

"Gretchen," I say, turning to my daughter, "it's time for you to go to bed, young lady."

She looks at me with confusion. "But daddy, it's Halloween! You promised!"

"Dave, we did tell her she could stay up longer today," Annabeth says.

I glance at my watch. It's 11:46. "Well, it's almost midnight. That's long enough."

"But daddy-"

"Until midnight," I repeat. "If it was good enough for Cinderella, it's good enough for you. Good night."

Gretchen looks at her mother for help, and Annabeth looks at me with judgment, but I barely notice. I run to the other side of the house to make sure that all the windows and doors are bolted shut, and I'm half-way down the stairs to the basement, when the doorbell rings.

"Don't open it!" I shout, but too late.

I hear the door creak open and Annabeth's voice call out, "Honey, it's Karl! He left one of the bags of candy here."

"Okay, I'll check," I say. "Annie, could you go tuck in Gretchen? I need to talk to Karl about something."

Without waiting for an answer, I push past my wife to the door. She stares at me for a moment, shakes her head at my rudeness and then walks away.

"Hey, neighbor," Karl greets me. "Lucky you were still up. I'll just get that bag and be on my way."

He tries to come in but I step in front of him, blocking his access. He looks up at me, surprised. "What's going on, neighbor?" he says with a tentative smile. "I thought you said we had an open invitation."

"I did," I admit with a nod. "But in my defense, that was before you turned out to be a vampire."

Karl is quiet for a while, then lets out a confused laugh. I don't laugh, just stare at him until he realizes I'm serious. He falls quiet. If he was considering doing the whole but-vampires-aren't-real spiel, he seems to think better of it now. "Was it the garlic that tipped you off?" he says at last.

I nod. "Among other things," I say. "You haven't exactly gone out of your way to hide your true nature, have you? For God's sakes, you decided to go as 'vampires' for Halloween!"

"That's because it's expensive to get a new costume every year," Karl says defensively.

I think about that for a moment and nod. Sounds reasonable enough.

He looks at me for a long time. We both know why he is here. "Dave, listen. If I had a choice..."

"You do have a choice, Karl."

He shakes his head. "I really don't."

"You've got the whole neighborhood. Isn't it a little suspicious to go for your next-door neighbor?"

He sighs. "Most of the neighborhood is my kind."


Wow, I think. It's just like me to move to a freaking vampire community! What happened to no vampires in the suburbs?

I shrug as nonchalantly as I can. "Well, surely there are some neighborhood pets-"

"No," he interrupts me. "They were the first to go."






"David, please," he stops me. "If there was another way, I swear. You're the first fresh blood any of us has smelled in ages."


I spin my head around and see my daughter skipping down the stairs. I leap in front of her. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Karl's pupils dilate.

"Go to sleep, honey," I tell Gretchen.

She frowns as he sees Karl at the door, and turns to me. "Daddy, is uncle Karl a real vampire?"

On the outside, I look okay, but my insides are crumbling down. The most devastating moment of the past eight years is this – realizing that my daughter indeed takes after me.

There's a short silence. "No, honey," I manage at last, my throat thick, "that's his Halloween costume, you know that."

She doesn't look convinced but I press on. "Off to sleep you go, kiddo, uncle Karl and I have things to talk about."



She sees from my face that I mean it, and it's only when she's climbed all the way back upstairs that I can finally breathe again. I turn back to Karl, who lifts up his hand. "Look. It's just you, Dave. I'll spare your child."

I scoff. "And how long 'till you get hungry again?"

"I can skip a couple of human dinners."

"Really? 'Cause I heard you're fresh out of squirrels, raccoons, and family pets."

His expression is growing impatient. "To be honest with you, David, this isn't really a negotiation."


"I don't care how much you lift at the gym, I'm still hundreds of times faster and stronger than you."

"I don't doubt that." I glance at my watch. It's 11:58

"So, I'm gonna go for your neck now if you don't mind."

"I do mind actually."

"David, please don't make this harder for me."

"No offense but your comfort is not exactly in the forefront of my mind right now."

He nods to indicate he understands. "Very well, Dave. You're a good guy, so I'll grant you one last wish. What would you like?"

"For you not to do this."

"Anything but that."

"Fine," I say and take a look at my watch again. "I'd like you to give me 38 seconds before you kill me."

He gives me a puzzled look. For a moment I think that he's onto me, but then he shrugs and lets out a hoarse laugh. "O-kay. I've waited for two weeks for my dinner, so I guess I can wait for a few more seconds."

"Thanks, neighbor, I appreciate it."

And I really do. 34 seconds, 33 seconds, 32 seconds.

We are quiet for a while.

"Just out of curiosity -" Karl says at last, breaking the silence.


"Why that request?"

I shrug. "I just needed some time."

"For what?"

20 seconds.

"To think, I guess."


15 seconds.


"Such as?"

"Various things."

"Come on, give me an example."

"Well, for example, right now I'm thinking about how in 2 seconds I'm going to really disappoint my alpha."

It takes Karl exactly 0.2 second to connect the dots and by then it's already too late. The moonlight hits my eyes, and I feel my limbs starting to grow, my hands and feet turning to claws, my fangs getting pointier and sharper. It feels like I've been holding my head under water for eight years and I'm finally drawing a blissful breath of deep pleasure mixed with tremendous guilt. I take a look at Karl who seems frozen in place. "Good, doggy. Good, doggy..." he whimpers, but I can barely hear him anymore as I'm too consumed by my own thoughts echoing in my head. This is the last time, I tell myself. The absolute last time. Promise me! But before I can promise myself anything, those words are drowned out by something else, the other me, roaring deep inside so powerfully that I have no choice but to surrender, and then sweet oblivion takes over and I finally let myself go, to be myself, the full-self, the werewolf that I am and always will be.

October 31, 2020 03:49

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