By Justin Boote
Wayne peered above the gravestone and watched the large group which stood around the freshly dug grave, listening to the vicar recite his passage. Most wept uncontrollably, others simply hung their heads, hats in hand.
His eyes gleamed with anticipation. A low growl escaped his throat. Tonight, he’d have new material. He had no idea of the age or sex of the person now being covered in dirt, and it was largely irrelevant, although it was always nice to know what one was dealing with beforehand. On one occasion, it had been a young child he’d retrieved, who had evidently been subject to a nasty accident of some kind. Half his face had been missing, and what remained of his vital organs had been useless for his purposes. The shock had almost provoked his own death via a serious heart-attack. How ironic that would have been.
The family and friends-he assumed-finally began to leave. Some hugging, others hands in pockets, shaking their heads. Now they would head to a family member’s home and initiate a process he had never comprehended. Sandwiches would be eaten, beer or wine drunk, an occasional chuckle or perhaps a bellow of laughter. One might think it was a birthday party were it not for the black veils, black suits, and women weeping in the corner.
It was said that it was to remember the deceased. Why? Had he/she been forgotten for some reason? If not, why prolong the agony? How could anyone be hungry after paying their farewell to a loved one?
Finally, everyone left. Wayne was alone. He crept towards the grave, hunched down, checking to make sure no-one might detect him. This was imperative. Being caught now, when he was so close, would be disastrous. Looking at the grave marker, he made a mental note of the name and age;Jeremy Stim. 1995-2017.
Perfect; only twenty-two years old. Hopefully it had been a car crash, or some bizarre accident, that would have left enough organs in conditions for him to work with. Had it been cancer or some other disease, the risk was too great. The organs had to be in perfect conditions.
Memorizing the location of the grave, he crept away and returned home. To wait until nightfall, when hopefully his faculties would be sufficiently intact to return and claim his prize.
“Hey Mike! How’s it going?”
“Hi Stewart. Well, not too bad. Why?” This was an understatement. Mike was feeling terrible.
“I ask, because we’re meeting at the Crown tonight for a few drinks. Thought you might like to come.”
“No, thanks for the offer, but I don’t really feel like it. Maybe another time,” he said. He was sweating. And shaking.
“Ah, come on Mike. It’ll do you good to get out once in awhile. I can’t remember the last time you came out with us.”
“Sorry Stewart. Maybe next time.” Mike hung up, and slumped into his armchair. The sweat was pouring from every orifice, the muscles and veins in his body throbbing.
“No, please no. Not again,” he sobbed. He tried to think of something-anything- to prevent the inevitable. It was futile, and he knew it. He was powerless to resist. All he could hope for was that his victim that night might be some forgotten soul, lost to the underworld, where no-one would lament their departure.
Mike grimaced. The pain was always intense during the first stage. He’d tried drowning his stomach in whiskey to alleviate the changes, but it never worked. The only result was the pounding headache when he awoke the next day, lost in some abandoned warehouse or nearby field.
His chest became a cauldron. His organs burned as they expanded, his heart furiously pumping the scalding blood throughout his body. He tensed and gritted his teeth as the wire-like strands of hair began to grow all over his body and face, bristling with vitality. Claws slowly stretched from hands and feet that might have shamed Nosferatu himself.
And then, as Mike began to scream in agony, his muscles contracted and took on new proportions and strength, until-gleaming, white fangs protruding from cracked lips- his metamorphosis was complete.
A deafening howl broke the tranquil night, sending rodents, owls, and all nocturnal creatures running or flying in terror, as the creature threw open the front door of its cottage and bounded away on all fours into the night. It was ravenous, ecstatic and ruthless. A victim was needed and it cared nothing should it be its own mother it came across first.
A large cloud passed in front of the moon, obscuring the light that highlighted the gravestones.
“Perfect,” Wayne whispered. Ensuring that nobody was looking, he climbed over the short, wire-mesh fence and jumped. He ran to a large oak tree to prevent being seen by passers-by, then squatted. If his memory didn’t fail him-and it rarely did-the grave he wanted was just a few yards to his right, next to a smaller oak.
Wayne opened his rucksack and once again, checked its contents. It wouldn’t do to be half-way through the job and realize he’d forgotten his torch or even worse, the ebony handled, silver knife he used to finish. The risks were high already without receiving reward at the end of it.
Confident that all was in order, he crept to where the smaller oak tree was, and knelt. Yes, here it was; the grave marker to the burial he’d witnessed earlier that day.
Sweating with nervous apprehension of the task ahead, Wayne produced a short, folding spade and began to dig. Being summer, the soil was still soft and fresh, not like in winter when occasionally he’d had to hack at it due to the frozen ground.
After excavating half a metre or so of soil, he stopped for a cigarette. As time went by, and his disease took a stronger hold, the job was getting harder. Inhaling smoke from the cigarette, he began to cough and splutter. He was already seriously out of breath from digging, and the cigarette wasn’t helping, and now he could discern spots of blood on his hands that could only have come from his lungs.
“Great,” he whispered. “Just what I needed.”
He leaned back against the oak and, breathing heavily, wiped off the blanket of sweat that covered his face. There was still some way to go before he reached the coffin, and while haste was required before any guard came around, he still needed to recuperate. His lungs were getting worse it seemed, although- just when he had begun to lose faith in what the old Gypsy had invoked- the cancer that had ravaged his bladder also, had disappeared.
Burying the cigarette butt in the soil-can’t leave evidence of any kind-Wayne resumed digging. After another hour, his spade finally clanked on metal. Sighing with relief, he threw away the spade and brought out a small crowbar. Once more he checked to ensure no-one was in the vicinity. On another occasion, a couple of damn kids had almost provoked another heart-attack after they had sneaked in the graveyard for a session of illicit snogging. For a moment he’d considered killing them instead and taking their organs, such was his fury.
Slowly, he began to pry open the lid, until suddenly, he stopped. A bolt of fear flew up his spine and he almost dropped the crowbar. A terrifyingly loud howl came from nearby. A sound that could not possibly come from any dog or human.
Although the graveyard was situated close to a main road, few houses dotted the skyline. The village was made up mainly of fields and small woods, the only inhabitants those that made their living working away or farmers that grew and bred both crops and deer. For this reason, he had chosen this graveyard for his nightly excursions. It was small, and the chances of discovery were slim.
So where the hell had that noise come from?
Then, it came again. Closer. Long and drawn out as if some animal had trapped a leg in some vicious trap. But, by Christ, it sounded like a damn wolf! And here in Norfolk, wolves had died out hundreds of years ago.
Wayne crouched down, shivering, but not from cold. Something was in the vicinity, and getting closer. He waited a few minutes, cursing whatever it was that spooked him, until a gasp of fright burst from his lips. Two Red Deer were bolting across the adjacent field, and in close pursuit, some giant animal was sprinting after them. Wayne watched in shock and horror. Even though the light from the moon was faint, he could still discern a creature running on all fours that had to be almost the size of the deer itself; black, covered in hair and growling like a rabid bear. Eventually it caught up to one of the deer and leaped onto it, tearing into its throat with a purpose and fury, until just a few seconds later, the deer’s head came free in its mouth. The creature spitted it out and resumed its insatiable devouring of the rest of the animal, growling and slobbering as it did so.
“Jesus, what the hell is that?” Wayne whispered to himself. He poked his head above the hole he was squatting in, and watched as the creature finished ravishing the deer, emitted another great howl of triumph and sped off.
Wayne reeled with the shock of what he had just witnessed, but there were more urgent matters to take care of, and he’d already wasted too much time already.
With one great heave, he finally managed to release the lid of the coffin, and taking a deep breath, looked inside.
Despite having repeated this operation on numerous occasions, a sense of uncertainty and sadness always overcame him. On the one hand, the person before him was already dead, so wasn’t going to miss an organ or two, but at the same time, he felt like a thief, a rapist. Stealing and violating another. One who had never caused him grief, or had even met before, yet principles dictated that what he was doing was still wrong; stealing from another to sustain his own pathetic existence.
The boy’s face was at least intact. Nothing was missing that would cause nightmares later, after replenishing. In a way, he thought, this was worse. He’d had a whole life ahead of him, and something had happened to end it. Death was not biased when it came to choosing acolytes.
Now moving quickly, Wayne produced the silver knife that he had considered adequate for the job(it came as a box set for Christmas from his parents) and deftly opened the boy’s chest. The organs were all intact. Removing the heart, he placed it in a small box and climbed back out of the hole. Replacing the dirt-it was the least he could do-he grabbed his rucksack and headed for safety and the comfort of home, where he would eat the heart raw and hope that another section of the cancer that was ravaging his lungs would disintegrate.
As he approached the door of his house, another blood-curdling howl stole through the warm, summer air, sending him panicking and bundling inside.
The next day, Wayne awoke feeling replenished, vibrant. Tentatively, he lit a cigarette. Poised, awaiting the first bout of coughing to hit him, he dragged on the fumes and blew out the smoke. Nothing. He took another, longer drag. Nothing.
“I don’t believe it,” he said, smiling. No blood, no manic coughing fits for the first time in weeks.
“God damn that old Gypsy!” One, maybe two more sessions of grave-robbing and he thought he might at last be fully cured. With the heart he’d eaten last night, that was now seven. The gypsy had said not to stop until all signs of the cancer disappeared. Well, he’d stopped pissing blood weeks ago. All that was left was the cancer in his lungs.
Sighing, he lay back in bed, took deep, long drags of his cigarette and recalled the encounter with the old gypsy.
“You are dying man!”
Wayne looked up. He was sitting on a park bench having just vomited-again.
“I know, thank you,” he said.
“I know you,” said the gypsy.
Wayne looked at him. The gypsy was old, he had to be at least a hundred judging by the wrinkles that adorned his entire face. Straggles of grey hair blew wildly in the wind. The old man was so gaunt Wayne wondered if a stronger gust of wind might blow him over and yet there was something in his eyes that suggested a strength far more potent than a few meagre muscles on a withered body. They pierced straight into Wayne as though they could detect every secret, every hidden memory that lay behind the grey mass between his ears.
Wayne looked away. He felt as though he was being inspected by some voyeur surgeon on the operating table.
“What do you want?” he asked.
“You work at bank.”
“Correct. What do you want? A loan?” Wayne chuckled, provoking a bout of coughing.
The gypsy ignored the comment, but remained passive, staring at Wayne. “You help me, I help you,” he said.
“See, I knew it. How much do you need?”
“Money-nothing. But your bank has possession of our land where we stay for now. Allow us one more month at site. We leave, I help you.”
“And how exactly can you help me? You a doctor or shaman or something?” Wayne shook his head and chuckled again.
“Do not joke with me. You help, I help.”
Wayne stopped chuckling and looked at him. The old guy was probably senile but he at least looked serious.
“Okay, sorry. But how do you suppose I might help you stay for another month on the field?”
“You are bank manager. You decide if we stay or go.”
“Okay, let’s say I do let you stay. Look at me. The doctor has said I have another six months left to live at most. My bladder and lungs are ridden with cancer. I’m finishing work this very week to ‘get things in order’, as they like to say. How can you help me?”
The gypsy sat down beside him and produced a small knife.
“Give me your wrist.”
“Hey! What do you think you’re going to do with that?” He edged away, wondering if he’d have the nerve to punch or push the guy should he become aggressive.
Wayne looked at the gypsy. From the harsh, intense look in his eyes he appeared deadly serious. Well, what damage could he do that might be worse than that already inflicted upon him? He stuck out his arm and tensed, ready to retaliate should it become necessary.
The gypsy began to mumble something unintelligible in his own language and with his free hand, placed it on Wayne’s stomach.
Immediately Wayne felt a warmth inside, as though the sun’s rays were penetrating directly at his intestines, and then, before he had even realized, the gypsy made a small slit in Wayne’s wrist and began to slurp at the wound, drinking the small stream of blood the slit had produced.
“Hey! The hell you doing?” he exclaimed, as he tried to release his arm and failed. The grip the gypsy had on it was surprisingly strong.
“Tomorrow,” he said, “no blood. Only urine. Remove order for expulsion from field, and I will show you how to cure completely.”
The gypsy’s prophecy had proved correct. The next morning Wayne had almost forgotten about his encounter and had only remembered when he looked suspiciously into the toilet bowl. For the first time in weeks there was no blood swimming in the bowl.
I don’t believe it! He felt a rush of adrenaline and joy course through him. Maybe there was something in what he had said after all. But he had slit his wrist in the process of demonstrating his evident power. What would he do to cure him completely? Cut his arm off?
After ensuring that permission was granted for one more month to the gypsies at the nearby field the old man had told him what he needed to do.
Wayne had almost thrown him out of the bank in his shock and disgust. The gypsy told him that he needed to remove and eat the heart of those recently buried to regain his health; thus the tissue and organ would regenerate in his own body and, at the same time, remove all malignant tissue.
Wayne stared at him aghast, disgusted.
“You’re telling me I have to become a grave robber-a ghoul?”
“If you want to live, you must do it. If not, you die. Your choice.” With that, the gypsy left. Wayne never saw him again.
Wayne spent several days pondering over his situation. Being a divorcee with no kids he didn’t have to worry about being interrogated as to his sudden late-night excursions, but the thought of digging up a recently buried person, risking the humiliation of being caught, and then actually eating their organs filled him with a repulsion and dread only comparable to when he’d been told he had cancer in the first place. This was a perfect example of the cure being worse than the diagnosis. And yet, the gypsy had been right. What were his options? If he was caught and sent to prison, at least he wouldn’t be there for very long, or have to worry about ‘getting his things in order’.
So, after an important session with a bottle of whiskey he kept as pain-killer, he did it. And fortunately, it hadn’t gone too bad. Primarily terrified about being caught, he’d dug up the grave and been confronted by his first dead body. The young girl looked asleep. He’d half-expected to be confronted by a writhing mass of maggots and worms but because she’d only been buried that same day, he had been spared.
And then, he had taken the heart home. Almost vomiting just from looking at it, he took several shots of whiskey and forced himself to eat it. Slowly at first, only minute bites and forcing himself to think of the long and fruitful life he’d have ahead of him if he persevered, until it was all devoured. His first human heart was now battling against the disease inside.
So, a week later, he had repeated. Until now. Only one or two more. But there was something else that bothered him; the something that had ravaged the deer in the field opposite, and then made that terrifying howl. Wayne had seen enough movies to recognize the kind of animal associated with that kind of howling and he didn’t like it, but worse was that only a few weeks ago he would have dismissed it as paranoia. And yet, a few weeks ago, he had scoffed at an old gypsy who had offered him a cure for cancer.
He decided that the next time he returned to the cemetery, he’d take a larger knife with him.
Mike opened his eyes, looked around and then at himself. He was naked.
“Shit,” he exclaimed. Sitting upright, he scanned the field he found himself in. It looked familiar somehow, and then he saw them. In the adjacent field were gravestones; it was the local cemetery.
“Well, at least I’m not too far from home this time,” he muttered. Rising to his feet, he checked that nobody was in the vicinity and began to scamper away in the direction of home. As always, he had no idea how he had come to end up in the field, but the circumstances that led him there, he did.
He had been fishing one night in a river that ran through the larger of the surrounding woods. At night was always the best time; no-one else would be in his spot and he enjoyed the secluded and peaceful atmosphere that reigned. The only sounds were the owls that called to friends or loved ones, or the occasional scurrying of some small animal or rodent. In order to get to the river, one had to park the ca, and then walk for at least ten minutes through the wood until reaching the path that led to the river. From there, there was no continuing any woodland stroll and the clearing was small. Thus few people knew of its existence. It was his own secret fishing hole.
And then, one night, he had heard a noise in the wood. It sounded like a bear or some such creature was in pain or ecstasy; a deep, resonating howl emanating from close-by. He’d heard strange noises before and sometimes the silence contrived to enhance the screams and shrieks of the nocturnal hunters that patrolled in search of food, but this was something completely different. He knew of no animal that could possible make such a sound-at least one that still thrived in this part of the world.
And then it had begun to draw closer. Heavy panting mixed with a thick growl like some rabid dog was pacing the area. Loud cracking of twigs and branches as it approached suggested that it was big as well. A rabid fox maybe? He could hear it sniffing the air; for what? Food? Increasingly nervous, he fumbled in his fishing bag for any utensil to ward off the animal should it approach. All he had was a small knife for cutting bait and line.
Taking it in trembling hands, he gripped it and stood up. He thought about throwing something in the direction of the panting in the hope of scaring it away, but before he could even stoop to collect anything, something huge came charging through the clearing and, growling and roaring incessantly, pounced at him.
Screaming in terror, he thrust the knife in the path of the creature as it landed on top of him, sending them rolling around on the floor. The knife must have found a direct hit, because the creature let out a piercing howl of agony as jaws clacked manically in its search for flesh. Mike writhed and struggled to avoid having his head ripped off by the hairy beast, as he withdrew the knife and stabbed it once more. Another shriek of pain filled the night sky, until, without realizing the danger, both fell entangled into the cold river’s water.
Such was his panic and terror that Mike didn’t even feel the cold as the water engulfed him, but the creature that had now released its grip, apparently did. It became a wriggling mass of fur and claws as it desperately tried to swim to the opposite bank and escape, splashing and roaring in panic but it was evident that swimming was not a strong point as it was dragged down the river by the strong current, constantly being sucked under and re-surfacing again, until it disappeared from view.
Mike managed to swim to the nearest bank where his fishing gear lay, and dragged himself out, laying there breathless, trembling and in shock, yet when he eventually managed to calm down, he noticed the deep cuts in his arm where the creature’s claws had struck him. Three weeks later, the process was complete.
He could never recall exactly what he did when he transformed, only what he learned from reading the local newspaper. Should a person or animal be found mauled or decapitated in or around the nearby woods, he knew he was responsible. And yet, occasionally he had flashbacks; a sense of power, of malice, of a great feeling of ecstasy and adrenaline that flowed through him like a tidal wave as he prowled the night sky. All were afraid of him; he was the master of the universe and nothing could stop him.
He’d recall a smell of blood and how the desire to rip and tear into flesh would be almost overpowering. Bursting through undergrowth in pursuit of his prey, smelling their fear which only enhanced his heightened state and need for nourishment. And then; entrapment, as he’d sink his enormous teeth into…
He stopped. Something else had happened last night. He had smelled something different. Something that only a finely-tuned and sharpened sense of smell could detect. And he knew it for what it was.
It had been the smell of fear and adrenaline, yet mixed with death; of decaying organs and tissue. As he had chased the deer through the field, it had come from the one opposite. What was it? Stones came to mind. An abandoned settlement? No, there was no such place. And then it hit him; the graveyard. Something had been uprooted. Someone or thing had desecrated a grave, but for what terrible purpose? He decided, curious, that when transformation was dormant, he would hide among the gravestones and keep a vigilance for the imposter.
Wayne finished his cigarette. There was only one left in the packet, and it would save until hopefully his last excursion into graverobbing was carried out later that night. It wouldn’t be the wisest thing, he considered, to finally rid himself of lung cancer and then cheat the devil by continuing to smoke, and thus provoke it again.
No, after tonight, he’d begin a new life. Perhaps start working out at the gym, cut back on the liquor intake. And, he vowed, he’d never visit a graveyard again, not even if it was his elderly mother’s funeral. He still felt certain remorse for his acts and the threat of discovery was ever-present, but it had served a purpose. Thinking about it, he might even put flowers on the graves he’d dug up, as a final thank you.
But that was for later. Wayne grabbed his backpack, and headed, stealthily, for the cemetery.
There it was; the burial he’d witnessed earlier that day. Only a handful of people had been present, and no-one had been crying, so he guessed that it was either someone from out of town with no family or an elderly person who had outlived their own acquaintances. The gypsy hadn’t said anything about age being important and had they suffered cancer or some other disease, he’d know. He had, after all, done his research into autopsies and surgical operations on the Internet.
Nervous as always, he set about digging up the fresh earth. An owl hooted nearby, provoking a short gasp of shock.
“Damn thing, go away,” he spat. Tonight, he was especially tense. That howl he’d heard previously had scared him badly, and he’d read in the newspaper about some strange mutilations occurring in the vicinity, both animal and human. The police were being especially vigilant, and there was a sense of dread and stupor in the village. As added protection, he’d brought with him a larger knife, similar to the first; ebony handle with a long, curved, silver blade made in Spanish Toledo.
Half-way through removing the earth, he stopped. His heart skipped a beat and then began a manic jig in his chest, as if awakened from its lethargy. A twig had just snapped nearby, followed by another. He was not alone.
He peered over the top of the hole he was digging and looked around, while his free hand fumbled frantically in his rucksack for the bigger knife. The owl hooted again and took flight, disturbed from its vantage point on the arm of a large oak tree. Another cracking of twigs. Whatever was out there was heading in his direction. But what? A local constable? A hungry dog? The…the thing…?
Shit. His chest a great empty chamber, all breath having evaporated from his lungs. He clutched at the knife and decided to confront whatever it was that approached. Were it to be a policeman or security guard, there was nothing he could possibly say to defend his actions, and, being so close to success, prison was not an option. He would fight to the death if necessary and it would be on his head alone to assume the psychological consequences of murdering a living person.
As Wayne climbed out of the grave, he was stopped short by a voice;
“You sick pervert! What the hell do you think you’re doing?” it asked.
Wayne looked up. A man stood before him, heavily bearded and wearing jeans and a jacket-no uniform or badge in sight. So convinced had he been that an officer or guard had finally caught him, that he was lost for words.
“Know the person buried there, did you? Come back to pay final respects?” the man asked.
Wayne finally found his voice, although he was trembling slightly in anticipation of a probable fight.
“Actually, it’s a bit more complicated than that, and rather difficult to explain, so why don’t you leave now, and pretend you never saw anything,” he said rising to his feet, the large knife hidden behind his back.
“Well, you could say I’m used to strange occurrences and explications, so why don’t you give me a try?”
Wayne looked at him. He was big and muscular, giving him the appearance of a body builder or professional wrestler. His eyes seemed void of colour. He found it impossible to discern the colour of his irises and they stared into him with a malice that sparked an icy shard to fly up his spine. A sneer on his face suggested a grave lack of humour and a lack of qualms about breaking his neck should his response be sarcastic.
But Wayne was no spindly figure either. At six foot six and a firm body developed through weeks of backbreaking digging, he tried to ascertain rapidly if he might be a match should the inevitable happen. With the knife in his hand, he thought he had a good chance. He tried to change the subject.
“What are you doing here anyway? Surely up to no good either.”
The man’s response left him aghast.
“I smelled you the other night.”
“What? What do you mean: you smelled me? I know I’m probably not the most regular user of showers, but even so. Besides, you haven’t answered my question.”
“You were graverobbing, just like now. I could smell your fear and the organs of the cadaver you were removing. You’re sick. I want to know why, and I might let you live.”
I might let you live. Not; I won’t phone the police. There was something seriously wrong about this guy and the outcome did not bode well.
He took a firmer grip on the knife behind his back.
“I told you, and actually you’re not too far from the truth. I am sick, and I need the organs from the dead to recuperate.”
“Bullshit. You a necrophiliac as well?”
“Don’t be stupid. Do I look like one?” he said and then regretted doing so. What does a necrophiliac look like? Or a graverobber for that matter?
“So, are you going to answer my question? If you smelled me the other night, what were you doing out here?”
The man produced what might have passed for a smile. “Hunting,” he said.
A realization came over Wayne. The deer, the howling. His original, preposterous thought was maybe not so ridiculous after all. He looked at the man’s hands. They were huge, as were the unnaturally long nails that protruded from each finger.
“It was you! The howling the other night. The thing chasing the deer. My God, what the hell are you?”
“One who has certain needs just like you. Sustainment is the word that comes to mind. Although I believe there is a small problem here. I have survived for a long time with my…condition, and now here you are, putting in jeopardy everything. How long will it be before someone discovers what you are doing, begin to patrol the area, and thus; put me at risk?”
“Well, I thought you were doing quite a good job of that yourself. You have the police and the whole village in turmoil and scared half to death.”
At this, Mike’s features began to change. He crunched his nose as a low growl began to emanate from his permanently sneering mouth, showing teeth that were unnaturally long and sharp. His eyes grew wider, darker if possible, the eyebrows becoming as one, as without warning, he launched himself with both hands at Wayne’s throat, the growl slowly developing into a piercing howl, as gnashing teeth searched for his jugular.
Wayne shrieked at the sudden attack and was thrown backwards, edging precariously towards the grave he had just dug. With one hand, he pushed Mike’s chin upwards to avoid having his throat ripped out, while at the same time produced the knife from behind his back and thrust it into Mike’s side.
Mike howled again, this time in great pain as the knife sunk in; it’s silver edging causing him more harm than the knife itself. In their struggle, both toppled over; Mike raking furiously at Wayne’s arms and throat, while in return Wayne withdrew the knife and thrust it again and again in Mike’s stomach.
The change was instant. The buttons split on Mike’s shirt as his chest began to expand like an inflatable balloon. Claws extended from giant hands. Spittle flew from exposed and jutting jaws-fangs snapping furiously still searching for a hold on Wayne, but the wound had proved too much.
Never had it felt so much pain as when the knife entered. It had been invincible. A creature both created and cursed at the same time to rule the night, to devour all that dared cross its path, and yet, this graverobber-this ghoul- had defeated it.
As life began to ebb rapidly from its body, in one final burst of grim determination, it managed to rake one clawed hand across Wayne’s face, almost removing his nose with the force of the attack.
Wayne screamed in pain as the werewolf rolled on top of him, trying his hardest to sink the knife further while the blood from his disfigured face seeped into eyes and mouth, only for both of them to fall directly into the hole in their tussle, the werewolf breathing its final putrid breath as it came to land on top of him.
Gasping and wheezing in relief, Wayne managed to squeeze his way out from under the creature and climbed out of the hole. All thoughts of organ manipulation were now forgotten as he staggered to a nearby tree and slid to the floor.
A werewolf! A God-damn werewolf! But these were the invention of comics and movies. How could such a thing exist in the 21st Century? It was one thing having a gypsy provide some kind of remedy to remove cancer, but a damn monster? This implied that maybe vampires and ghosts, and all kinds of demonic creatures existed also. But, he reasoned, that was a philosophical debate for another day. Right now, there were more important things to worry about.
Carefully removing his blood-soaked shirt, he put it to his bleeding nose, grimaced and looked around the graveyard for any signs of onlookers or anyone that may have been alerted to their fight. The howling from the werewolf must surely have woken the dead, he thought, but; despite the pain, chuckled at the pun.
Satisfied that he was safe, he struggled to his feet, collected his utensils that were now strewn around the grave, and crept away.
A week passed. All signs of the cancer that had ravaged his body had vanished. Not a single cigarette had he smoked since the fight at the graveyard, not because he was afraid of provoking cancer again, but simply because his body didn’t require the nicotine anymore. He thought it rather strange that he had been able to give up smoking so easily, yet there were other things that had him more concerned.
His shirts no longer fit him, although his stomach was a perfect example of muscular development. Where previously he had shaved every three or four days, now he was forced to shave every morning and the razor that usually lasted for months now had to be replaced weekly. His finger and toe-nails required a serious snipping daily as well.
Wayne sat, sobbing, while downing what remained of the bottle of Jameson he had begun earlier. All he had ever wanted was a simple life where he wouldn’t have to worry about how to pay the next bill, where the next meal came from, and a clean bill of health.
And yet, circumstances, fate, or simple bad luck had seen all his hopes for the future thrown into jeopardy because of some disease that still resisted all attempts to eradicate it. He had been popular at the office, promotion seemed a very real possibility, and the secretary had started looking at him in a way he had almost forgotten existed.
All this had gone to ruins because his simple, primitive desire to live had seen his fate-through pure coincidence- put into the hands of a simple gypsy, with a special gift. He had been in the wrong place at the wrong time doing the wrong thing, when two worlds collided; one where a creature that should not have existed outside of the comic books, had been prowling the woods and fields, and his own world where he was obliged to carry out a task that belonged in the realms of the horror movie.
Since discovering that the curse of the creature would now be transferred to him, he had spent the long, lonely days and nights contemplating suicide. It seemed paradoxical. Just when he had finally been cured of cancer, and thought he could finally enjoy what few pleasures life might provide him with, here he was wishing he was dead. The idea of roaming around the countryside in a manic, malicious desire for blood-regardless of where it came from-filled him with a terror far greater than having to dig up a grave. Aside from the fight two weeks previous, he couldn’t remember the last time he had been put in a violent situation. A vision of the wolf huffing and puffing on the piggy’s door came to mind, except this time, he had an idea that the piggies might be replaced by some poor soul sitting at home watching television or asleep in bed.
Wayne was also something of a coward. The courage required to end his own life-in whatever way he saw fit-he simply didn’t possess. He’d read stories of those that had put a gun to their heads and it had gone wrong, leaving them in a vegetative state, throwing themselves in front of a bus or train, only to awake in hospital with all their limbs missing. Quite simply, he couldn’t do it. All he could do, was finish the bottle of whiskey and hope and pray that the next day, when he read the morning newspaper, he wouldn’t see a headline that insinuated some bestial creature or madman was on the loose and savaging the villagers. Which of course is what had been happening, and he, inadvertently, had stopped it.
Wayne grimaced. His blood felt as though it was boiling inside. His bones expanding, ready to explode. Tears poured down his face, their route made difficult by the wire-like hair that was rapidly growing across his whole head. He fell to the floor clutching his chest, as the buttons on his shirt began to pop and fly across the room.
Ten minutes later, Wayne was gone. In his place, a creature with only one thought in its head, began to howl. The front door blew across the garden, as it burst outside and began sniffing the air. It was hungry and knew instinctively a place where fresh food could be acquired with minimum effort. By simply digging a soft hole. It had, after all, been there only a few days before.
By Justin Boote